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The Marks of Running Ink

Chapter Text


 

Before

Negan had never given much credit to the notion of soulmates. Soulmates were a part of fairy tales that old ladies told little girls who didn’t know better, taught to believe in some sort of unconditional love that was certainly impossible. He made his disdain known whenever the topic was brought up for him to share his opinion.

“That’s bullshit.” He’d spit out with a smirk.

He’d seen people walking down streets with words written in their arms or backs, some were lucky to have the words appear on discreet places of their bodies. His mother had a soulmate, but she ultimately hadn’t stayed with them and never talked about them. Even though Negan had seen the words etched on his mother’s skin, right on the back of her neck. An ugly scrawl in faded gray: Another shot, double. 

Famous last words went quite literal. His mom told him that the words usually appeared tied to strong emotion, stinging as strongly as the emotion felt by the soulmate.

“Sometimes, his words burned.”

It came as a surprise then. He was twenty five, enjoying his life, having a good fuck, when he first felt it. Words. Words searing the flesh of his right arm, appearing in a neat typewriter font.

 

          Victoria Miller

 

The girl he’d been screwing was forgotten as he clutched at his right arm, hissing in pain and aggravation and cursing in every direction around him.

“Negan, what the hell?” the sexy brunette asked, a deep scowl marring her features.

“That’s none of your fucking business, girlie.” His voice was harsher than intended and the leggy woman left his place, huffed while getting dressed, with her high heels in hand.

The brunette glared at him from the door of his apartment. “You’re an asshole.”

Negan didn’t even flinch when she slammed the door. He kept his hazel eyes fixed on those two words, reflecting on the irony of this happening to him. Who didn’t like the idea of someone else controlling his destiny? He was a self-made man. And so, he decided to ignore the words that tied him to this mysterious girl he wasn’t about to look for.

He met Lucille that year.

And Lucille was all he ever looked for in a woman.

Witty, intelligent, passionate, intense, kind and loving. Her lovely brown eyes drowned Negan with their intensity and he felt himself go in their depths. They were swept away in an intense lust that grew into love. Negan was glad that no words had shown up since before he met his adorable soon-to-be-wife. Grateful was not enough of a word to describe the feeling he got when no more words had shown up whenever Lucille was around. He got himself a job, teaching PE at the local high school, which he enjoyed much to Lucille’s delight. They married the following summer and spent most of their spare time with their hands on each other. Life was good.


Four years later

“There is something in your arm, Negan.” Lucille said casually, while digging her spoon in a frozen yogurt carton. Vanilla, her favorite flavor.

Negan felt his stomach clench in nervousness as his wife approached him to check on his skin. Indeed, there were words on his skin, a name written in a childish scrawl.

 

          Victoria.

 

Damn it…It looked like a tattoo. However, unlike the last time, this one hadn’t even hurt him. 

Lucille had narrowed her eyes at him and tilted her head to the side, her dark hair swaying with her movements. She looked gorgeous when angry.

“Is there something you want to tell me, Negan?” his wife questioned, her yogurt carton forgotten. She was too damn calm.

“Well…it says Victoria, right?” Negan didn’t want to lie to Lucille, and technically, he hadn’t lied to her about his soulmate, he just hadn’t mentioned their existence. “Cute name.”

Lucille sighed and crossed her arms over her chest; her unreadable eyes were fixed on Negan, and he knew that she had discovered him in less than two minutes. Something he had kept hidden for almost five years. Negan had thought about the words for a long time, before actually discovering what the name meant and how it had come to his skin. His soulmate was a little kid. What kind of person his age got a soulmate that was a fucking kid?! Hell, he was not a pervert! Lucille was like five years younger than him, but a kid twenty five years his junior couldn’t be his soulmate, right? Negan had gone most of his life believing that he wasn’t destined to have a soulmate, only to be dissuaded of that stupid notion well into his mid-twenties. What a fucking joke…

“You’re someone’s soulmate.”

His wife saying those words made it much more real.  She sounded firm, and her tone, final. Negan felt shame and his eyes turned to the floor. Lucille approached him and hugged his middle softly, a smile gracing her beautiful face.

“So…what do we know about her?”


Five years earlier

Erin and Roy Miller checked their perfect baby girl, who was bundled in a cream blanket issued by the hospital. The girl had a perfect button nose, but the poor little thing had her father’s unruly eyebrows. She had Erin’s rosy lips, not as plum, but just as soft, almond colored skin and a tuft of soft dark hair on the crown of her head.

“Look at her, Roy, our baby girl is perfect.” 

Her husband smiled at their baby, though the smile faltered when their daughter began to cry without any apparent reason. Erin had just fed her and her diaper was changed a few minutes before.

“Why is she crying?” Roy asked, worried for whatever could be happening to his little princess.  

Erin put her daughter on the bed carefully, minding her head as the baby cried, her grey eyes scanning her body, but it didn’t seem to be that she disliked being in her mother’s arms. Tory’s tiny cries made Erin’s heart constrict inside her chest. She unfolded the blanket from around her daughter but still found nothing, so she started to undress the baby, still looking for the physical or emotional signals of distress.  

Then, Erin saw it.

Words, intense black words were seemingly tattooed on her daughter’s skin, making it hot to the touch. In legible writing, maybe that of a man, Erin read them out loud, much to her husband’s surprise.

 

          That's none of your fucking business, girlie.

“What the hell, Erin?!” Roy was reading the words too but it didn’t mean they didn’t surprise him. Those words were marring his baby girl’s skin.

“Victoria has a soulmate, Roy.” The new mother whispered, trying to memorize the words, which hadn’t left a good first impression. If she could, Erin would stop her baby girl from ever meeting the crazy person who she’d got dealt with, if it was the last thing she ever did. The young woman almost didn’t hear the words she had thought until her husband uttered them.

“Over my dead body, Erin.”


 

Chapter Text


 

Before

Tory walked sullenly towards her mom, making her ponytail swing with her every step; she was closely followed by her teacher, Miss Ford, whose expression was cold and somber.

Erin watched in dismay as her daughter rubbed her left arm defensively, giving the teacher a sideway glare. Tory’s eyes were narrowed and her eyebrows fixed in a scowl that would have been comical if Erin hadn’t known the real reason behind such an angry expression. The three of them entered the teachers’ office, with Miss Ford closing the door behind her.

“Thank you for coming, Mrs. Miller.” She said as she gestured for Erin to take a seat on the little chair in front of her desk. Miss Ford sat by Tory’s side, her bony hand resting on Tory’s shoulder. 

Her little girl was scowling so hard, Erin thought the kid would assault the woman with her pink lunchbox.


Things had been good for a while, despite the words of Tory’s soulmate showing every other day, Erin kept a record of every single one to show her daughter later on; when the time to explain the idea of a soulmate became more real. So, the young mother wondered what could have happened to get herself into this suffocating little office with her child glaring at her first grade teacher.

“I came as soon as I could, Miss Ford.” Erin hoped to keep the monotony out of her voice.  “What happened?” She’d done this so many times already, it was the ‘to go’ answer whenever something happened with Tory. 

Miss Ford’s cheeks turned slightly pink under her bronze make-up and the woman looked at Tory as if waiting for clarification.

“Well, you see Mrs. Miller, Victoria is an excellent student. She’s intelligent, curious and dedicated but-” Erin made an inhuman effort to avoid flinching at the ‘but’ and the pregnant pause that followed. “Our class is learning to read and I’m afraid your child is too advanced.”

Erin blinked several times.

“Is that a bad thing?” Erin wondered if she sounded as confused as she felt. Roy and Tory had been practicing reading since before they moved to this town and their little girl was taking to reading like a fish to the water.

“It becomes a bad thing when Victoria’s classmates ask her what her arm says and she reads it aloud, Mrs. Miller.” That was a veritable complaint, if Erin had anything to say about it, she gave her daughter a stern look but the cheeky little thing had the gall to shrug innocently.

“Tell me, sweetie, what words showed up this time?” Tory perked up at her mother’s words and stopped rubbing her arm to actually look at it.

“Do-you-like-Daddy’s-finger-up-your-wet…” Tory’s enunciation was clear though slow, but there was no way to miss the implications, even less when the reddened Miss Ford covered her daughter’s mouth with her skinny hand to stop her.

Erin narrowed her grey eyes and moved the teacher’s hand from her daughters’ face as gently as she could muster, before pulling her close to herself.

“Oh, Tory, we’ve talked about this, darling.” Sucking up to teachers was a pain, and Erin definitely didn’t want to turn off the charm in front of a woman who looked as self-righteous as Carolynn Ford did. “I’m so sorry, Miss Ford, is this the first time?”

The mousy woman nodded.

“Tory will apologize and promise not to do it again.”

“I’m sorry, Miss Ford.” The little girl intoned with an overly innocent expression. “I won’t do this again, I promise.” Erin had no idea if Tory was being sincere or just wanted to get rid of the teacher.

“Wait for me outside, sweetie. Mommy wants to talk to Miss Ford.”

“Yes, mom.” Tory jumped off the couch, thrusting her bag and lunchbox to Erin, then skipped out of the room with enthusiasm. The smile left Erin’s face but her expression wasn’t unkind as she looked at Miss Ford.

“I am very sorry, Miss Ford, you have no idea how embarrassing it is every time this happens. We’ve been in this predicament for a while.”

Miss Ford didn’t answer Erin’s apology and stayed silent for a few seconds, opening and closing her mouth a couple of times until she found the right words to voice her thoughts.

“You say you’ve had this…problem, for a while?” Erin nodded to the question, noticing how the woman had twisted her words. “Have you and your husband discussed the possibility of doing something about it?”

There was a very long and uncomfortable pause as Erin processed her words.

“Excuse me, do something about it?” 
Miss Ford’s smirk made Erin’s blood boil, her mouth becoming a tight line.

“There are treatments, I’ve heard.” Not something she hadn’t heard before.

“Corrective surgery, skin grafts, even skin colored tattoos…” Carolynn Ford grinned smugly. “or, you might consider actually looking for the soulmate of your child.” 

Oh no, she was not suggesting that… 

Erin thanked God, her stars and pretty much everything else for sending her daughter out of the room before thinking: “Damn it all.”


Tory had gone to her room and changed clothes after she and Mom arrived home. Mom was red in the face for a long while after and didn’t call for Tory to help prepare dinner. Dad had enjoyed dinner all the same and kissed Mom on her lips –gross– and thanked her. Mom had then sent Tory away to play or do whatever she wished.  

“We have to switch schools, Roy.” Mom said.

Tory was sitting on the living room carpet playing with some crayons as mom and dad talked -not as quietly as they thought- in the kitchen.

“Again? Erin, it’s only been six months!” Dad wasn’t good at keeping his voice down. “What happened?”

“Tory’s teacher! That’s what happened, Roy!” Mom was raising her voice as well now and Tory felt like covering her ears, but they weren’t that loud yet, not like the time the neighbors had called the police on her parents, just before they moved here. “That dumb bitch suggested we put our six year old daughter through corrective surgery for her arm!”

“People have suggested that before, Erin! Why do we have to put Tory through this again?” Dad sounded calm now, if a bit confused.

“I might have slapped her when she suggested we should go look for Tory’s soulmate.” Mom sounded embarrassed.

“Goddamnit, Erin!” Dad shouted, finally losing it.

This time, Tory decided to cover her ears, thinking of how much she wanted to be at Granny Eli’s house. Granny Eli always smiled when Tory showed her the words on her arm.

Tory wasn’t ready, not even close to prepared for how difficult her life was going to get due to her soulmate and his wife. 

 


Lucille was excited.

She’d planned this dinner months ago, buying the ingredients on little runs as not to arouse Negan’s suspicions. Her man had a very sharp mind when it came to her keeping things from him.

Negan had agreed with her that they would keep it small this year while they adjusted to the mortgage payments for their new home. It had a dreamy white picket fence that Lucille adored and was close to Negan’s workplace. It was definitely worth it, living in such a nice neighborhood that was big enough for them both and maybe…

The alarm of the oven woke Lucille out of her daydream, and her eyes widened with enthusiasm as she leaned close to the door of the stove’s oven. The dessert looked as the recipe described it should, which made the brunette giddy with anticipation. Using her grandmother’s bolognese recipe, Lucille had made spaghetti for dinner, because it was one of the things she cooked best. She also made meatballs stuffed with feta cheese made with top sirloin meat. She had spent most of her morning seasoning the meat, balling cheese and wishing for a glass of wine, but the end result was amazing and she was absolutely sure that Negan would love dinner.

A wine bottle was chilling in the fridge, the salad was perfectly fresh, the main dish was kept warm in the stove and the dessert was ready. The only thing that Lucille needed to do is get ready for her beloved husband.

“All set then.” She said to no one in particular, her eyes falling to the white box with the golden bow that was sitting on top of the counter. “Time to get pretty.”

 


Negan had bought Lucille a fancy flower bouquet on his way home. Even if they had decided to keep it on budget, their anniversary was important and he wanted his wife to have something nice even though peonies and lilies weren’t exactly affordable, and the heat of the summer wasn’t ideal to keep them either.

He was entering the driveway when his arm burned, which surprised Negan. Without hesitation, Negan lifted his right sleeve and read the angry black words on his flesh.

 

          I wished they stopped fighting.

 

The words made him uneasy, but he had other things to focus on, like his anniversary and his wife. Soulmate or not, it was not their time.

Negan inhaled deeply after opening the front door, he stepped into the hallway, coming close to the dining room. Lucille had the table in a fancy arrangement of dishes, cutlery and glasses that he hadn’t seen since they had received them at their wedding. His wife had lit a couple of candles as well and whatever she had cooked smelled amazing.

“Baby, all of this for me?” he joked lightly. “You didn’t have to.”

“Oh, you wish, mister.” Lucille called from behind, bantering back at him as her arms hugged him. “This is for me, for putting up with your shit daily for five years.”

Negan gazed into his wife’s brown eyes, relaxing her frown. She was all mischief today, in her tight black dress and red high heels. She was up to something, no… she was keeping something from him, what that was, he had no idea, but he let it go.

“You hungry, stud?” she asked with a sexy smile and a wink.

“For you? All the damn time, baby.” Negan kissed Lucille, wondering as he did every day, how he’d gotten so lucky.

His wife broke the kiss before it got too heated, her fingers reached for his lips to clean the bright red lipstick they had exchanged.

“You’ll have to make do with diner, my love.”

And what a fucking dinner!

The meatballs might have been too salty, but Lucille’s bolognese sauce was perfect to balance that detail. The wine was sweet and cold, and her spaghetti was amazing. The creamy custard they had for dessert was pretty fucking good even though it was a bit too pretty with the tiny little molds and little spoons to eat it.

Lucille’s wine glass was as full as when he had served it, ignoring it studiously, by drinking her water primly and religiously, which didn’t go unnoticed by Negan.

“I have something for you.” Lucille’s voice broke Negan’s thoughts. She stood up and went to the kitchen, taking their empty dishes with her; this gave him a pretty view of her delectable behind. Wait, fuck! She had something for him? Negan’s hazel eyes fell on the flowers he’d given Lucille, sitting pretty inside their vase in the middle of the table. He didn’t think his wife was trying to upstage him, she wasn’t like that, but she had a big heart and adored to make him happy. Dinner had made him happy! Fuck! His hands started to sweat and he wiped them on his jeans, straightening his back in time for Lucille to come back.

She was carrying a little white square shaped box, adorned with a golden ribbon. Negan felt like suffocating, hoping that his skin hadn’t turned red in from embarrassment.

“For you. Open it.” Lucille handed the box to him and sat on his lap. He took the box in one of his hands, circled his wife’s waist and she leaned on his shoulder.

“Sweetheart, you shouldn’t have…” 

This time he meant it.

“Oh, you’re going to love it, now shush, open.” she commanded playfully.  

Negan swallowed thickly and tore at the ribbon to unlace it with his other hand. Lucille waited patiently as he lifted the top of the box, watching Negan remove the carefully arranged piece of light yellow tissue paper, almost dropping the box.

He breathed heavily, trying to pass the forming lump at his throat as he put the box on the table, his eyes tender and incredulous.

“Are you fucking with me, sweetheart? If you are, Daddy’s going to put you over his knee.” How he didn’t choke on those words was a mystery.

Lucille’s big smile and glittery, misty eyes were his answer, but she voiced her response anyway.

“No, Daddy. I’m not joking.”

Negan enveloped his wife in a fierce hug and stood up to take her to their bedroom, everything else forgotten, even the box that had caused the commotion.

Inside the box was resting a pair of white baby shoes and a pregnancy test that read ‘positive’ in bold letters.


 

Chapter Text


Before

Tory hid away in her room for three days. All she could think was how difficult it was to understand words that had no context but could cause her so much pain. There was no point in trying to explain it, because no one understood; no one could ever get the horrible, empty feeling that was lodged in her chest, and the throbbing pain that burned her arm every other minute.

Her grey eyes scanned the skin of her arm, reading the words that had started this mess once again.

 

       That’s my daughter you are talking about! What do you mean you couldn’t do anything?!

 

Tory couldn’t fathom whatever happened to her soulmate’s daughter, but maybe the pain in her arm was indicating how bad everything was. After almost six months without any problems, free of pain and angry outbursts, Tory thought that maybe things were about to look up for her. Mom was happier these days and Dad smiled more when he talked to her.

Then, three days ago, Tory had been in her swimming lesson. Mom had been there, watching her. Their instructor, Mr. Zamora, decided to have a little competition with two kids racing at once just twenty yards and he would be watching closely for foul play.

The water was perfect, they were going to do a little dive jump and start swimming. Mr. Zamora wanted them to feel professional. After almost everyone had participated, Tory volunteered, if anything, not to go last, with all the attention on her. 

That’s when she almost died

Searing pain exploded from her arm, breaking Tory’s concentration, and making her scream, which only allowed the water to enter her mouth causing her to black out shortly after.

Tory was dead for a whole minute while in the ambulance, and once she was revived she found herself safely at the hospital, with her Mom sitting by her bed side, her own hysterics had receded. Her Dad had shouted at everyone in their proximity, making Tory cry as [her] guilt added to the pain in her arm and the sting in her throat.

And so, Tory had decided to lock herself in her room, watching her arm most of the time. She’d never seen something so haunting or so incomprehensible. The words that had caused her death were still inky black, but other words had come and gone at different times. What sounded like a doctor talking, how much her soulmate loved Lucille. Those words had come and gone, their emotions fluctuating.

Tory spent most of those three days crying, and now she was crying again, tears sliding to her temples as she looked up at the ceiling, when someone knocked on her door.

“Vicky, sweetheart? Baby, are you in there?” her Grandmother Eli’s voice sounded muffled due to the wooden door. “Open the door, my dear. Please.”

The girl climbed out of her bed, hesitating with every step. Tory’s grey eyes regarded the door with a scowl, her fists curled in determination as she put her forehead to the smooth white wood.

“You alone, Gran?” she asked shakily.

“Of course sweetie, what happens between us, stays between us.” Her grandmother answered in the complicit tone Tory loved so much. Tory nodded to herself and opened the door. Her grandmother was indeed alone, so Tory jumped into her arms immediately.

“Oh Vicky, tell your Eli everything.” Grandma murmured soothingly as her hands caressed Tory’s bedhead. “Tell me everything.” 


Three days earlier

It was an accident.

Lucille was already home when Negan arrived from work.

The house was silent, too silent, and Negan assumed that his wife had come early from work with one of her awful migraines, which she’d never had previous to her pregnancy.

With a sigh and accompanying shrug, Negan left her keys and jacket in the coffee table of the living room and walked as silently as he could as not to disturb Lucille’s rest. He entered the bedroom and he just knew something was wrong.

Lucille was indeed, lying on the bed, under the comforter and sheets, but she looked pale and sweaty.

“Baby, are you okay?” he whispered, bending a bit at the waist to survey her. She looked like shit. Her precious hair was sticking to her sweaty face, her skin looked waxy and was cold to the touch.

Lucille whimpered and Negan noticed her hands go to her stomach, clutching her swollen belly. With frantic movements, Negan pulled the covers away from his wife’s shaking form and cried out at what he saw.

A big…no, not big, a fucking enormous blood stain on the bed, on Lucille’s pyjamas, the sheets…

“Lucille, Lucille, babe, tell me what happened?” he asked, desperation in his voice.

Lucille opened her pretty brown eyes, but he noticed the glassy look in them.

“Slipped at work…fell on my ass, love.” She sobbed as pain seemed to hit her again. “It hurts so much.”

Negan put one of his hands over Lucille’s belly, which felt as cold as the rest of her with no soft kick to greet daddy. Panic washed over him, hitting him so hard that Negan fell to his knees. Thousands of things went through his mind, but he shook his head and stood up. There was no time for nonsense.

“I’m taking you to the hospital, peach.” Negan said firmly, as his arms reached around Lucille, lifting her bridal style.

Negan had entered the hospital with Lucille in his arms, screaming his head off for help, as she clenched her jaw in pain trying not to squirm. A young doctor came to his aid, followed by a couple of nurses pushing a gurney their way. Another person, medical staff, he supposed, pushed him away.

“You have to fill forms, Sir.”

He’d never written so fast in his good-for-nothing life, and for a few seconds he wished he hadn’t, because the hours stretched ahead of him. Negan couldn’t even pray. He had always detested the idea of churches and mass and [or] anything religious. Oh, but he wished he had faith now, thinking about Lucille and their little girl.

Only one sentence came to mind.

Please, don’t take them away from me.


“I’m sorry, sir.”

“Yeah…can I see my wife?” Negan felt numb and shocked as the doctor gestured for him to follow. It wasn’t a long walk to Lucille’s room.

“She will be asleep for a little over an hour, sir, if anything happens don’t hesitate to call us.”

Negan nodded dumbly and walked towards his wife.

It was an accident.

Hospital beds couldn’t be that big, because she looked so little. As he took his seat by Lucille’s bedside, Negan’s hazel eyes fell on her abdomen. It looked a bit smaller…but otherwise, she looked exactly the same. But he knew what that meant, and the realization brought tears to his eyes, a lump lodging itself in his throat.

The doctor’s early words came back slowly.

“Placental abruption, sir. The fall your wife suffered caused her placenta to…detach from her uterus.” He gestured with his hands, as if the young man was tearing something apart. “It caused the pain, the early contractions, and the bleeding.” 

“What about our baby, Doc?” Negan asked harshly.

The doctor swallowed hard. “The bleeding was too severe and we had to make a decision when the baby’s heart rate dropped. We couldn’t do anything for her.”

Negan narrowed his eyes, trying to process what he had been told. When the understanding dawned on him, he saw red.

“That’s my daughter you are talking about! What do you mean you couldn’t do anything?!” he shouted, attracting the attention of the security guards.

“Your child had been suffering already when you brought your wife in, sir. We really tried to save them both, but before we could do anything, your baby had flat-lined.” The doctor said, his voice shaking as hard as his body.

An anguished cry reached Negan’s ears and he wondered if his voice had always been so jarring and loud. He grabbed the doctor’s scrubs, his hands fisted in rage, pain, and such an absolute suffering that he couldn’t even express it.

Negan let go of the doctor’s clothes and fell to his knees, bawling his eyes out.

How am I going to tell Lucille?


Four days later

Erin sighed as her mother’s arms enveloped her in a warm hug that smelled like cheap coffee.

Erin’s right cheek felt tender as if she was trying to munch a baseball, the neck brace itched like hell and her throat was so sore she wished for a very, very cold glass of water, but the pain of her split lip stopped her from asking. Erin’s eyes were red rimmed and her skin looked ashen.

“What are we going to do, Mom?” Erin muttered, her throat hurting with the effort.

Her mother looked down, her jade green eyes pensive as her mouth set in a determined line, her jaw slightly clenched. They shared a sigh.

“Well, you will come with me, of course, Erin.” Her mother reassured her. “Your dad will be thrilled, you know he adores Vicky.”

“Mom, I don’t want to be a bother.” Erin whined in a low voice.

“Erin Susanne Stuart-Miller! You are our daughter and Victoria is our granddaughter, you are not a bother!” Her mom scolded in hissing tones. “You are not a boxing bag, you are my child, and no child of mine will let themselves be humiliated by some…some…human scum.”

Fresh tears flowed form Erin’s eyes, rolling and falling in plentiful little rivers from her cheeks to her chest.

“Now, none of that; clean yourself up, Erin. We have much to do, and still, we can’t wake up Victoria, she needs to rest.” Her mother’s quiet authority made Erin obey immediately.

“Yes, mother.”

“Good, that’s my girl.” Eli said, touching her daughter’s healthy cheek with her fingertips. “Let’s do this.”


 

Chapter Text


Before

Negan helped Lucille climb into their bed after he lifted the duvet and sheets, moving slowly and careful to avoid disturbing her stitches. Lucille said nothing, but noticed the firmness of the mattress and the stiffness of the sheets.

Everything was new.

Once she was lying down, Negan took off her shoes and covered her with the linen, then bent down to kiss her forehead. Now that she was home, Lucille noticed the tense lines of her husband’s back were, the deep frown of his brow and his blood shot eyes. He had been taking care of her and seemingly neglecting himself…it broke her heart.

“Come to bed, Negan.” Lucille murmured, making her voice audible enough for him to actually hear her.

“Yes, baby girl. Gimme a sec.” Negan took off his shoes and suit jacket, avoiding Lucille’s gaze all the while. Her brown eyes followed him until he went around the bed and laid beside her. Lucille felt a bit of warmth bloom within her when Negan’s arms hugged her lightly, a relieved sigh left her when her head took its rightful place on his chest, listening to the pounding of his heart comforted her to no end. However, her feelings turned for the worst immediately when his fingers dug the flesh of her back softly, trying to soothe the pain she knew did not affect her anymore.

Hot tears rolled down Lucille’s face, making her jaw quiver, the effort of keeping her sobs at bay made her body shake.

“I’m so sorry.” She whispered, hating the evident brokenness of her voice. “I’m so fucking sorry.” Lucille knew she sounded raw, but she felt raw, empty, and useless.

Negan knew Lucille couldn’t see his face, but his heart broke when he heard her apology. He had never been stabbed, but he figured it hurt just as much. None of this had been Lucille’s fault and she had been so strong up until now. She had stood up at their baby’s little funeral, when the little fucking casket had been lowered in front of their eyes. 

“Is not your fault, baby. None of this is.” Negan said softly, his hands combing her dark locks. “We’re going to be okay, better than fucking okay.” 

If only his voice didn’t shake so much, if only he could convince the both of them…

“I loved her.” Lucille whimpered, the sobs were shaking her hard now, her coffee-like eyes had an unfathomable look of pain. “I wanted her so much.”

“We both did, baby girl. We still love her, it just wasn’t our time.” They had shed so many tears for their baby already.

“I feel like I want to die, Negan.” Lucille’s pained declaration made Negan tense, his arms tightened around her body in a fierce embrace.

“Don’t ever say that again, Lucille. Goddamn it.” His voice finally broke. “What the fuck would I do without you?” he asked, freeing one of his hands to graze Lucille’s soft cheek with his fingers, marveling at that fact he hadn’t lost her. “I love you so fucking much. Don’t leave me, please.”

Lucille tried to swallow her tears and failed miserably as she shook her head.

“I won’t. I won’t ever leave you.” 


Southern California

Erin’s eyes were still sore, even if the swelling had gone down quite a bit in the past week.  Her current discomforting predicament was the amount of sun streaming through her window as she tried to sleep.

She was glad her parents had kept her room and the guest room separate since she left home to marry Roy. it meant Tory had a room to herself, away from her newly minted nightmares. Erin woke up at least once a night since the day it all had gone down. Most nights she woke crying or in hysterics, the feeling of her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s hands around her neck made her a quivering mess.

Erin had tried her best to keep things from Tory, but her daughter was too intelligent to fall for her antics. Her little girl just knew things were not right, but how could Erin just bounce back from a beating by her husband and be happy again in two weeks’ time?

Erin’s parents had been fantastic.

Tory was busy all day long, either playing, reading, going on little errands with her grandfather or cooking with her grandmother, and she was loving it. Erin had never seen her daughter unravel like that. Some kids in the neighborhood had even approached Tory, and she was making friends!

Seeing this planted the seed of doubt in Erin, had she permitted Roy to sublimate them both during their marriage and Tory’s life? Had he been so good at it that she had not noticed? Either way, Erin was happy for her child.

Her mother was torn though. Eli had been clear, she was going to try and take Tory away from her if Erin took Roy back, it was the only condition to receive her back home.

“He tried to kill you, Erin.” Her mother had intoned icily. “He hit you, he kicked you and tried to suffocate you, he didn’t care that Tory was watching him.”

Erin nodded meekly to everything her mother said as her father watched them with a guarded expression. Her dad had waited until Eli said her peace to speak.

Gary Stuart was usually a man of little words, but not when it concerned his family.

“If you go back to him, Erin, you will be teaching Tory that she should let anyone use her as a doormat.” The even tone and disappointed look cut through Erin. “She would end up resenting you both; better let him fight for what he thinks is his right.”

Erin cried that night until she fell asleep, then she had an awful nightmare.

Tory was with her at the park, a park that had been close to their previous house, which looked decrepit and abandoned, but Tory was playing as if the apocalyptic scenery didn’t bother her. Her feet barely touched the ground under the swing set. Erin tried calling for her but her voice wouldn’t come out. A man approached Tory and panic simply took over Erin’s body, making her shake so hard she fell on her knees. Tory’s grey eyes were big and surprised but she looked calm and Erin could not understand how her daughter looked so at peace. The young mother crawled towards the swing set until she grabbed a hold of Tory, who screamed for a long while.

Once she woke up, Erin noticed it had been her screaming.

A knock on the door of her room made Erin wake up, just in time, she couldn’t let the self-pity consume her now.

“Come in.” she rasped, sleep still heavy in her voice.

There was a pause and the door opened slowly, revealing her little girl carrying a breakfast tray. Tory had flour stains all over her. Her brunette braids were a mess between egg remains and what looked like maple syrup.

“I made breakfast, mom.” She said candidly, a smile on her face.

“Let’s taste it then, sweetie.” Erin extended her arm to Tory, who walked carefully towards the bed. Her kid settled the tray carefully, the eggs looked a bit dry, but for a seven-year-old girl it was an accomplishment, and the pancakes were fantastic.

“Did grandma help you?”

“She flipped the pancakes, mom, I can’t reach the top of the stove.” Tory said it as if it was obvious, but Erin had obviously not noticed.

Still, Erin’s heart felt full as she ate.

Her mother’s food and her father’s care had made her feel more herself, but Tory’s trial at breakfast had opened her eyes. The world hadn’t ended because she had an abusive ex, she was strong, she was intelligent and had a daughter she needed to take care of. They were going to get out of this rut, better, and stronger even.

“It’s good, baby. Maybe mommy can teach you how to do this properly.” Tory gave her a big smile, a front tooth was missing, but her girl looked beautiful, even all covered in food.

“Yes! I’m going to tell granny!” Tory jumped out of the bed, kissed her mother’s cheek and ran out of the bedroom.

Erin was left with a good breakfast, happy tears running down her face as she stuffed her mouth with pancakes.

Things couldn’t get worse from here on…

 

Right?


 

Chapter Text


  Before

Tory put her chin on her arms, half leaning and half laying on the worktable, her grey eyes dropping slightly as she looked at her Mom and Mr. Jones.

According to Granny Eli, Mr. Jones was completely smitten with Tory’s mom, not that Tory understood much about it, save that Mr. Jones liked her mom the way boyfriends do girlfriends. Mr. Jones seemed nice enough and her Mom liked him as well.

Things started right after Tory and her mom moved in with Tory’s grandparents, Erin faced the situation of her divorce and her status as single mother before deciding to go back to work. Erin knew restaurant hours for a chef were long, gruelling and not that satisfactory. Everyone had given her some sort of advice about what she could do, but the real help came from one of their new neighbours. This sweet old woman came around one afternoon to have tea with Erin’s mother and proceeded to complain about her granddaughter failing her home economy class for being too incompetent to bake a decent cake.

Grandmother Eli took the situation in her hands, offering her former-chef-daughter for the task at hand.

Tammy Summers arrived the next day, a reluctant expression on her face, with perfectly styled curls of blonde hair loose about her shoulders, and make up perfectly in place. Erin raised her eyebrows in surprise but let the girl and her grandmother in. Tory had never had such a hard time not laughing at someone. Erin still looked pristine perfect after the three hour baking class, while Tammy had flour, cinnamon and egg stains all over herself, how she did it was a total mystery.

Grandmother Eli and Grandfather Gary suggested then that Erin open a little cooking school. Granny suggested advertising little at first and a class of ten people tops. Grandpa Gary said five would be a lot but they all compromised with six. A course of three months for six people should do they said.

Tory had never seen her mother so exhausted and so happy at the same time. The month after was spent between banks, trying to get loans, looking for an adequate place and doing the advertising. It was good that Grandpa Gary was an accountant, because things with money got serious.

The little school opened eventually, and Tory saw her mother divide her time between taking care of her, helping at home and doing her classes.

That is where Mr. Jones entered the play.

The man wanted to learn to cook for his fiancée, so he entered the course with other five people. Tory didn’t exactly know what had gone down, and wouldn’t find out for quite a while, but apparently the fiancée had used the time Mr. Jones spent at class screwing their neighbour. Still, Mr. Jones had kept going to the classes, stating that he now loved cooking and leaving the classes would be unfair.

The man finished the first course and came back for seconds…and thirds.

After almost a year, Tory figured he would invite her mom on a date at least. Granny Eli had told Tory that she’d give them the chance to decide on their own, but that if they hit the mark of a year knowing each other, she’d push for dating. Tory was in on the plan, even though she thought it a bit invasive, but she was the kid in the situation, and it was not her responsibility to say anything against said plan. She liked Thomas Jones because he liked her mother, and that was good in Tory’s book.

However, Tory couldn’t get around the faded tattoo Mr. Jones had in his ankle. The words were a bit disturbing and she hadn’t dared ask about them, but said words never changed and she knew what it meant, which made it even more eerie.

“See you next Wednesday, Tom.” Erin finished.

“You bet, Ms. Stuart.” Thomas Jones flashed his killer smile, showing off his perfect dimples, his baby blue eyes glinting with sass. Tory’s mom hadn’t changed her name after the divorce, but Mr. Jones kept calling her Ms. Stuart

After Mr. Jones left, Tory stood up on wobbly feet to finally go home, her Mom was all smiles and chirping chit-chat about how fabulous Mr. Jones was. Tory was irritable and tired and just not in the mood to discuss potential boyfriends for her mom, so she snapped quite petulantly.

“Just invite him to dinner, Mom!”

“Victoria!” Erin’s gasp echoed in the car as she stopped before a traffic light.

“Come on, he is like super-smitten.” Tory sputtered, pouting and gesturing her hands in the air.

“Oh! Oh! You young lady have been talking to my mother too much!” Erin scolded. “And my mother has been watching those romance series too much!”

“Not true, mom!” Tory threw back. “And Granny says you like Mr. Jones too!” the little girl couldn’t make her smug tone disappear if she tried.

“No, no I do not.” Her mother denied stubbornly.

“Oh yes.” Tory sang, knowing her idea was already planted.

“Nope.” Were ‘p’s’ supposed to sound so snappy?

“Mom! Be grown up!” Tory scolded, imitating her own mother the best she could.

“I don’t want to!”

They stayed in silence for a few seconds before bursting into laughter. Things were looking up and her mom was no longer depressed. Tory hadn’t changed schools in over a year, and they finally lived peacefully. One could get used to that.


Lucille read the words on her husband’s arm and smiled. It was still a foreign feeling, her cheeks were stiff and her lips felt tight, but she was getting there.

 

       Mom’s got a boyfriend, Granny!!

 

What a weird thing to celebrate, not that she could be one to talk, she was celebrating as well.

Therapy hadn’t worked, neither she nor Negan were cut for that sort of thing, but Lucille had taken the anti-depressants for a while; they kept the pain at bay. Then, after seven months, she dropped them and started making strategy. Negan had been distant for a while and getting back in the bedroom was a long complicated business after the loss of their daughter, but they had a functional relationship again, after getting their feelings across.

Lucille felt bad for letting it go as far as to have to scream the top of their heads off due to the lack of communication on their feelings. Things could be worse, but they were not.

No, they were not.

“I’m leaving, peach, if you need anything…” Negan smiled at her from the doorway.

“I know, babe.” Lucille smiled back and walked over to him. Negan pouted hard and Lucille gave him a peck on the lips. “Come back for more, darling.” She flirted.

“Oh, I’m sure as fuck I will.” He chuckled.

Lucille waved at Negan from the window and then turned her back as soon as he’d left her vision reach. She was a woman on a mission.

After turning on the light, Lucille descended the stairs of their basement and found the most recent pile of boxes, labelled ‘baby’. It was the nursery stuff. She checked the boxes carefully for the things she was able to carry up, just the right things to put the nursery together nicely enough. The brunette proceeded to carry some of the boxes up, one by one.

Once she’d left every box in front of the locked door, Lucille embarked herself in a trek for the key of the room, but Negan’s usual hiding places were all empty, so Lucille did the better next thing and just took the door knob apart. Oh the woes of having a screwdriver at home!

Lucille spent the next few hours getting everything ready and took a shower after, to then lay down for a nap, purposefully leaving the door of the nursery open. It gave her a feeling of security she had lost for such a long time. This could very well be what rekindled the happiness she and Negan had experienced during the first years of their marriage.

This time though, Lucille had consulted the doctor already, who said she should be careful, one loss was hard enough on her. Another could very well mean there would never be tiny Negans or Lucilles around. Oh, how she wished for a baby boy with her husband’s hazel eyes, his mischievous smirk and those dimples!

Lucille fell asleep dreaming of chubby toes and big hazel eyes, with a smile on her face and a hand over her still flat abdomen.


 

Chapter Text


Before

Lucille used to like Savannah.

It was a good place for a summer vacation, even if the weather was horribly humid and hot enough to kill a man. She had lived in the city for a while when she was young and had fond memories of it. Those memories, however, could not quell the void of sadness inside of her.  

Lucille was exhausted of saying she was fine.

She was tired of faking how she really felt.

Losing another baby had been harder than before. Lucille remembered the pain and suffering of losing her daughter. The endless nights crying…the lack of sense her life had until one day it was gone…

This time it just happened.

There was no pain, her body had simply failed her this time. It happened right before dinner one Wednesday. Lucille was sitting at the kitchen bar, waiting for the ping of the oven when her back cramped a little. She thought it might have been just a bit of a cramp, her back had felt tight since yesterday anyway.

She felt the wetness before she saw the blood.

“Do you want ice-cream, sweet-pea?” Negan’s earnest hazel eyes were on her as he asked her, the question was distraction enough to forget the gruesome image that had Lucille petrified.

“Yes, why not? Get me some chocolate, stud.” Lucille smiled, keeping her voice jovial.

“Sure thing, darlin’.” Negan’s lips were warm and soft on hers and this made Lucille smile for real.

A sudden burst of applause drew the brunette’s attention, her chocolate eyes turned to the little event happening to her left. People wearing elegant clothes in different shades of white and cream made this little crowd.

A wedding.    

It was a good hour for a wedding, right at sunset, making the weather good enough for a party. There weren’t a lot of people at the beach, it was private after all, so, more intimate.

A little girl dressed in a satin dress wandered away from the celebration. Lucille noticed the dark brown curls tied in a high pony-tail and a flower crown on her head. The girl walked determinedly with a sour expression on her young face, she couldn’t be older than eight or nine years old.

“Can I sit with you miss?” the girl asked, her voice was soft but firm, and confident.

Lucille looked up into her big, grey eyes, framed by long, dark lashes and unruly eyebrows.

A pretty little girl.

“Won’t your mama be worried?” Lucille questioned, looking the girl in the eye. The young girl didn’t avoid her gaze, her grey eyes were unfamiliar yet familiar at the same time, they had this…thing about them, which made Lucille feel special to be in her mere presence, even when if the girl was intruding.

“No, it’s her wedding day.” 

Lucille offered the girl the spot Negan had vacated on the beach towel.

“Well, all the more reason, your parents will be worried.” Not that anyone seemed to notice the girl was absent.

“It’ll be fine, miss. She doesn’t like when people look at my soulmarks.” The girl confessed as she sat. “She says people don’t understand them.”

Lucille’s eyes looked avidly for said soulmarks as the tiny thing huffed in her sleeveless-ankle length dress. The girl was hiding her left arm. The brunette envisioned her plan of action then.

“My husband has soulmarks too.”

The comment made the girl look at Lucille, her eyes widened in surprise.

“Really?” she questioned.

“Yeah, they appear in his right arm once in a while.” Lucille smiled, remembering the petitions for puppies, double dessert, to stay up a little bit longer after bed time, the mentions school teachers and popular cartoons, sometimes complicated cooking terminology and lately of some Mr. Jones. “His soulmate is really interesting.”

The girl frowned, her pretty mouth set in a pensive gesture.

“Your husband has a soulmate…but you are married?”

“Anyone can have a soulmate, doll. We don’t get to pick who we get, but we can choose who we love.” Lucille had come to that conclusion long ago.

The little girl directed a wide grin to Lucille.

“My Granny Eli told me something like that too.” She announced with a proud smile. “She and Grandpa Gary say we always have a choice.” 

Lucille felt the blood drain from her face and her stomach drop. She knew those names.

Could it be?

She knew it wasn’t impossible, but…

“Mr. Jones is looking funny at us. Goodbye, miss. Nice to meet you.”  The girl stood up and  simply left.

Lucille followed her with her eyes, trying to drink up every little detail, memorizing her features, the way she moved and sounded.

“Bye.” She said faintly. The girl turned back, still smiling and waved at her.

The name Lucille could never forget, that stayed always in the back of her head came back with a force as she saw the girl reunite with her family.

Had she just met Victoria Miller?


 

Savannah, Georgia

The breeze hit Tory’s skin, making her feel a bit cool under the unforgiving sun.

Mrs. Jones had invited her to pick peaches and apples from the orchard that was behind the Jones’ Farmhouse. Tory didn’t exactly dislike Mrs. Jones –Call me Betty, dear.-, but she wished the woman would shut up. Not that she could say it now that they were family.

Tory had endured some of the longest days of her life while her mom planned the destination wedding. Feeling the heat of the sun on her back, the young girl thought of her mother’s dress selection for Tory as ring bearer. Satin was a big mistake. Every other girl was wearing cotton!

Well, no matter now.

Her mom and Mr. Jones were in some beach in Mexico, having the time of their lives. Tory had been offered a spot at said honeymoon but she preferred to stay ‘home’. Georgia wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the heat. The fruit smelled sweet and felt ripe at the touch, ready to eat or to make jelly, maybe for some pie.

Mrs. Jones wasn’t a good cook, but she was possessive of her kitchen and Tory was getting desperate after a week of bland food and corn bread. She would kill for some spaghetti.

After gathering a few baskets of fruit, Mrs. Jones entered the house saying something about washing her hands. Tory used these moments of solitude to sigh and make her way to the water pump she’d seen earlier, hoping the water to be not too warm.

The water poured fast into a bucket, smelling fresh and looking clean. Tory didn’t think twice before showering herself with the contents of the bucket.

A squeal left her lips when the freezing water touched her overheated skin.

“Well, would you look at that?”

Even with the damp strands of hair clouding her vision, Tory could see a boy standing in the middle of the garden, a smirk gracing his lips as the sun hit his sandy brown hair. The accent meant a local, that he was there might mean he was family she hadn’t met just yet. He also looked older than her.

“Hi.” Tory whispered, teeth chattering from the cold.

“You look like a drenched kitten.” He commented. The smirk had become a smile as Tory took her hair out of her face.

“I’m more of a dog person.” Sure snarking at him wasn’t going to endear her to anyone. “Who are you?”

“Easy, kitty.” Sandy-hair dismissed. “I’m trying to be friendly.”

Tory raised one of her eyebrows, her expression completely unamused.

“You called me wet cat in a nice way.” She deadpanned.

The boy’s honey colored eyes widened and his jaw fell in surprise, the nonchalant expression gone from his face as he laughed.

He had a nice laugh that made Tory blush. It sounded cute.

“Boy, are you right!” he wheezed. “ You saying it like that sounds a lot dirtier.”

Tory turned to pump more water in the bucket just to occupy herself with something. Once the bucket was full, the girl washed herself, slowly this time, enjoying the cold water.

“Say, darlin’, what’s your name?” Sandy-hair asked. He had gotten closer and Tory admired the easiness of his tone and demeanor.

“I asked first.” It wasn’t a lie or a bad answer. “And I live here so you can get lost if you are not answering, darlin’.” Oh, Tory hated how atrocious her accent sounded.

The boy smile, genuinely this time.

“Henry Oats.” He said, extending his hand, as if to shake Tory’s, who wanted to laugh at his name.

“Well, Mr. Oats.” She enunciated haughtily. “My name is Victoria Miller, and it’s not a pleasure.”

Henry laughed again, his body hunching over itself as he clutched his belly.

“Yeah, a California-girl would say that.”

Before Tory had a chance to beat the kid up with the bucket, Mrs. Jones exited the house and excitedly called for Henry. Henry smiled down at her and took his hand back.

“See you around, Mill.” he said, shortening her last name and giving her that infuriating smirk again.

“It’s Miller, you porridge!” Tory shouted, seething in totally justified rage.

That night, Tory dreamed of sandy-haired boys, devilish smirks and cold water. 


 

Chapter Text


Before

Summer had never been so sweet.

Tory soon forgot the heat of Savannah and the long hours listening to Mrs. Jones, who gave her permission to visit the Oats home every afternoon.

“We’ve known them for forever, sweetie.” Betty said, a far off look in her eyes. “We all thought we’d be family at some point.”

The young girl didn’t understand the last part so much, but she actually did not care. She liked Henry Oats a lot, he was thirteen and he actually took her seriously from day one. For a girl of almost ten with no friends, it was heaven.

Henry Oats took Tory to swim at his home pool, he told her of the best places to hide in the Jones Farmhouse and showed her around town on his bike. Tory noticed certain things about Henry that reminded her of herself some times.

After a whole month, Tory knew it would hurt when she went back home. Henry had reassured her, though.

“Why would I forget you?” he asked once the girl had voiced her fear.

“Because I’m a silly nine year-old who will be ten.” Tory didn’t want to lie to Henry, she trusted him, it was fair.

“Yeah, you are sort of silly.” Henry accepted, giving Tory a sideway look as they watched the sunset. “But you are the only other person I know who has a soulmate.”

Tory swore she felt the blood flow to her cheeks in embarrassment, she had no answer for his words, but Henry wasn’t accusing her of anything. However, the brunette felt the need to scratch at her arm that had been recently marked.

“Don’t worry. I have one too.”

The kids looked at each other for a while, reading the other as intently as they could, honey and grey shone under the red of the twilight.  Henry was being sincere, but he seemed happy, proud of his markings, while Tory felt embarrassed and exposed.

“We can choose who we love, Henry.” Tory whispered, finally breaking the spell, avoiding his gaze.

“Yeah, I’m sure we can, Tory.” Henry looked at the sun instead of his friend. “But wouldn’t it be amazing, to love someone so much your soul tells you it’s right?”

The awed tone of his voice made the girl look at her arm, at the black words that were fading slowly.

 

       I’ll never love anyone as much as I love you, Lucille.

 

“Maybe…” Tory gulped as she gathered her valour. “I like you, Henry.”

Henry chuckled at Tory’s dubious words  and put an arm over her shoulders. He wasn’t mocking her, in fact he was taking her seriously.

“I like you too Victoria Miller.” He declared with confidence. “You are going to go places.”  


 

 

       I like you Henry 

 

The words showed up while they were in bed and Lucille smiled, remembering the tiny girl in the satin dress. Even if she wasn’t the Victoria Miller her husband was destined for, Lucille liked to think about that confident and innocent girl as the one for Negan.

Right now, Negan was less than charmed by his soulmate.

“The new cheerleader’s coach read this, Lucille! It is not a game.” Her husband exclaimed in exasperation. “She thought I was gay!”

Lucille threw her head back, laughing heartily at her husband.

“Oh, it’s not like she should care, you are married.” The brunette said, her chocolate eyes had a sly glint about them. “And I like this. It’s about time you felt what you must put that poor girl through.”

“Excuse me?” Negan’s demeanor changed, from offended to playful.

“You have a less than stellar vocabulary, my love.” Lucille admonished. “A sailor would blush in front of you.”

Negan mockingly glared at his wife.

“Oh yeah, and what proof do you have of these claims?”  he asked.

“You said fuck twenty times in a five minute conversation once.” Lucille stated with confidence. “That couple never came back for dinner, you know?”

“Cowards and bitches anyway.” He dismissed as his hazel eyes shone with mirth.

Lucille laughed with fair indignation as she pulled away from Negan, tracing the word on his skin.

“Do you imagine this Henry person is good?”

Negan looked at Lucille intently. They usually ignored the topic of his soulmate as if they were non-existent, but lately, his wife brought the topic into conversations quite a lot. Every time a phrase appeared, she would be there to read them and ponder upon them, when she had avoided them before.

“Fuck if I know, baby doll.” Negan answered flatly.

Lucille frowned at him.

“Don’t you ever feel curious about her?” his wife asked with a serious and focused expression.

“Never. Why would I care about my soulmate, when I have you?” as soon as Negan said the words a flash of hurt went through his chest, oppressing his lungs, but it was gone before he could actually register it.

“I think about her a lot.” Lucille confessed. “She’s out there, being perfect for you but away from you.”

Negan sighed and rolled onto his back, his hazel eyes taking in the ceiling of their room. He rarely thought about his soulmate. They’d had a bad couple of years, and before that, the mere thought made him feel irritated. Negan felt absolutely no need to look for his soulmate or to know more about them. Knowing their name made no difference, because he did not care.

Maybe, if things were different…

But they were not.

“If she were perfect for me, she would be you Lucille.” He said, his tone final.

His wife smiled at him, rolling her eyes, she thought he was being stupid about it all.

Alas, Negan didn’t care.


 

Susan Jo Kelly wasn’t a beauty.

No, she definitely was not beautiful, but she was attractive and she knew how to make use of what she had and what could be enhanced with make-up and clothes.

Her blonde hair fell in lovely waves all the way to the middle of her back, framing her square-ish face. Her eyes were artfully framed by long lashes that looked dark and perfectly covered with mascara. Her lips were always stained red, no matter the hour of the day or the day of the week.

Susan made use of her curves in clothes that looked decent for a teaching position, but still made men turn to look at her.

Yes, Susan Jo Kelly was not a perfect beauty, but she made her own beauty.

The recently appointed cheerleader coach had her sight set on the PE teacher that she shared an office space with.

Her co-worker made her feel hot with just the thought of him…all firm muscle, on a tall frame with a deep voice he wasn’t afraid to use. He was a flirt, but still sort of respectful about it. The ring on his finger didn’t lie.

Regardless, Susan wanted to fuck him.

That fact that he was married, or that he had a soulmate was irrelevant. Thing was, when Susan Jo Kelly had a man in her sight, she could easily get him in her bed.

And she wanted Negan


 

Chapter Text


Before

Negan was depressed.

Lucille noticed because his usually erratic behaviour started to worsen.

Her husband was a belligerent person, boisterous on his expressions, even if he sucked at showing feelings when it wasn’t about her. This quiet man that looked defeated was not her husband.

Lucille knew her husband loved her, even if he was a flirt outside of their home, even if he made a lot of mistakes. She could remember how he had helped her bounce out of her depression after their babies had been lost. Both times he had been strong, and had been her rock. Now…For apparently no reason, Negan was inside a black hole of dark thoughts and misery.

With a sigh, Lucille placed her fork and knife beside her plate and looked across the table at those hazel eyes she loved so much, looking for any sort of emotion that wasn’t sadness. She was unable to find anything else.

“Negan, you have to talk to me.” Lucille said softly, trying to make her voice sound even and resolute.

“About what?”

“About this.” Lucille knew she wasn’t being very specific, which she made evident by signalling in Negan’s general direction with her hands. “What’s happening to you?”

Negan narrowed his eyes at her, and Lucille saw the anger behind his expression, as her husband tried to supress it.

“You’ll have to be clear, doll, ‘this’ is not very enlightening.” He retorted, sarcasm dripping from every word.

“Stop fucking with me, Negan!” Lucille shouted, hitting the table with her open palms, making him jump on his seat. His eyes widened with surprise, his mouth a grimace.

“I can do whatever the fuck I want, Lucille! What’s happening to me is none of your fucking business!”

This wasn’t going as Lucille expected. Negan usually made very clear he wanted the truth at all times. Their relationship was strong because of that. Right now, the brunette had no idea where they were failing, but she felt as if Negan had dropped a rock on her chest.

“You make it my goddamned business when you mope around without saying anything at all!” Lucille looked at her husband across the table, not even realizing the moment she’d stood up.

Negan buried his fingers in his hair. Despair, anger and frustration were dancing inside his eyes.

“It’s that fucking girl.” He breathed. If Lucille hadn’t been paying attention, she might have missed it. “I don’t know what she’s doin’ but it’s fucking me up, Lucille.”

Shocked to the core, Lucille fell back on her chair, blinking repeatedly, trying to forget the image of the little girl in the satin dress back in Savannah.

“What happened?” the words left her mouth mechanically, as if programmed.

“Fuck if I know. The little shit’s been spouting crap all around my arm. And I- I feel so much fucking pain.”

Of all scenarios, Lucille hadn’t been prepared for this. It had never occurred to her that the actions and feelings her husband harboured could damage someone else. But if Negan was saying the truth –and she was very much sure he was- this meant something bad had happened to Victoria Miller.

The icy grip of worry crawled up Lucille’s back, making her shudder.

There were rumours, stories and urban legends about people who lost their soulmates. She hadn’t been born a soulmate or got one later in life as Negan had, so she didn’t exactly know what those stories were on about. What Lucille knew however, was that losing a soulmate could be a devastating experience. Enough to make someone kill themselves.

“The marks are still changing?” she asked.

“Still.”

So, the Miller girl wasn’t dead. Even if something bad had happened to her, Lucille felt relief at Negan’s words. It was egoistic, but she still needed Negan more than his soulmate did.


 

About a week earlier

Mom and Mr. Jones had arrived at Savannah one morning while Tory was fishing with Henry, barely giving her a chance to say goodbye.

Henry agreed to keep contact, since he had her information already.

Tory didn’t quite understand the sombre expressions on her mother, Mr. Jones and Henry’s faces as they took her away. It was surprising how they didn’t even go back to the farmhouse, and Tory asked for her stuff in a quiet voice.

Mr. Jones told her, her stuff was already packed and they were going to the airport ASAP.

The bomb fell when they arrived back in California.

Her father was waiting for them at the airport.

Something bad had happened.

Something really bad.

Because her mother promised Tory that she would never have to see him again, but now he was here and something was terribly wrong.

“Your father told me the hour of your flight.” Roy Miller talked to his ex-wife with a stiff tone.

Tory noticed the way in which Mr. Jones wrapped his arm around her mother, as if trying to protect her. 

“What…how?” Erin stuttered.

“In her sleep. It was a stroke.” Roy answered flatly, his eyes avoiding his daughter studiously as Erin started to cry.

Tory pursed her lips, an early sign of anger that Tom had started to recognize, so he called for Tory to take his hand; He didn’t want to tell her the news, but Erin was unable to, and Roy didn’t seem to care if his daughter knew. 

Consideration towards his wife made Thomas Jones take the reins. He made Erin take a seat and sat beside her, putting Tory on his lap, trying to ignore his wife’s ex-husband as he turned to their daughter.

“Tory, sweetheart, do you remember last year when Mr. Connors went to heaven?”

Tory nodded, her grey eyes, earnest and worried on her childish face. “Do you remember how people were sad and weepy and came to visit the Connors’?”

Tory nodded again.

“Well, sweetie, yesterday, your Grandpa called us to tell us your Granny Eli went to heaven.”

Tom knew he had been gentle, that his tone was smooth and his words were evenly spaced to give Tory time to think, but he noticed the quivering on her lips immediately.

“Granny Eli died?” Tory asked, her voice a broken whisper.

Tom nodded.

“Oh.” Tory stood up, leaving her step-father’s lap with just that. Her stoic reaction made Tom worry instantly, but the girl simply sat beside her mother, hugging her as far as her tiny arms could reach. Not one tear left those big grey eyes.  

That didn’t mean Tory could not feel hurt.

Inside her chest, the little girl felt a big hole forming, the edges hot to the touch, destroying everything in their wake as the hole grew. Tory felt a pain so deep she couldn’t find it in her to cry. The bright white flashes of pain attacked her, but there was no way she could talk about it…so she kept it in.

A week later

Grandpa Gary was sitting on the bench that he had put together a year earlier, for him and Granny Eli to watch the sunset in peace. Now the bench seemed too big.

Tory went and sat by her grandfather’s side.

He looked so old now, his gray hair had turned completely white in the week since the death of Granny Eli. Grandpa Gary was in pain constantly now. His arms hurt, his head ached as did his tummy, his legs felt tired easily and he just didn’t want to do much.

Still, her Grandpa Gary put an arm around her shoulders and stroked her loose chocolate curls with his wrinkly hands.

They had a few minutes of peace, watching the pink-ish sunset, before Tory hissed in pain and clutched at her arm.  

I don’t know what she’s doin’ but it’s fucking me up, Lucille.

Tory huffed and turned her eyes away from her arm. Grandpa Gary smiled and took Tory’s arm.

“I loved your Grandmother very much, my little angel.” Grandpa said, stroking the fresh marks tenderly. “She was a part of me. My other soulmate.”

Tory’s eyes turned to her grandfather in question. “Your other soulmate?”

He nodded.

“Your grandmother had another soulmate. His name was Leonard.” Tory’s mouth dropped open in shock. She had never heard such a thing. “Now Leo and Eli are together in heaven.” He mussed, more to himself than for Tory.

“What happened to him?” Tory asked, unable to keep her thoughts for herself.

“Oh, he died a very long time ago. We were in the war…he saved me. He had promised your grandmother he would take care of me. We both promised her.”

Tory noticed that her grandfather was not all with her, but she let it go, as he kept talking unabashedly.

“He loved us very much and we loved him very much in return.” The far off look in her grandfather’s eyes made Tory sad. “Leo took a bullet for me. It hurt so much, my dear…so very much. For a few seconds I felt as if I had died myself.”

Grandpa fell silent for a few minutes, but Tory didn’t dare break the silence as he discovered his right wrist.

There was a faded gray line with two big words in a handwriting Tory could barely understand and under that her grandmother’s familiar style.

“He shouted my name.” Grandpa’s voice broke, as he traced his own name and the word ‘no’. “He is your grandfather as much as I am, but every time I look at your eyes or your mother’s eyes I remember his big grey eyes as they looked at Eli or me.”

Another silence took over.

“Your grandmother kissed me goodnight that day.” Big, fat tears were rolling down her grandpa’s wrinkly cheeks at this point.

Tory read the words slowly.

Goodnight my love.

The last ever words he grandmother had said.

“Don’t worry, princess.” Her grandpa Gary whispered softly. “We can’t choose the parts that tie our soul to others, but we can choose to love them or set them free.”

“I don’t understand, Grandpa.” Tory said sincerely.

“Oh, you will, my dear.”


 

Chapter Text


Before

Negan rubbed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose as he saw Lucille asleep next to him.

He felt like shit.

Negan had tried to deny it for months, he knew logically that he had to be loyal to his wife, but his biology didn’t agree with his logic very much these days. Lately, every time he closed his eyes, Negan saw radiant blond hair falling in lustrous waves instead of the dark curls that Lucille possessed.

Of course Negan was not stupid, he knew Susan had been trying to seduce him practically since they had met, two years earlier. His colleague was a gorgeous woman, he couldn’t deny that either. When he had first met her, he hadn’t cared for the way in which she acted around him, how she would be seductive and inappropriate in front of their students at the most importunate times. They were supposed to set an example of pristine conduct, which neither of them had.

Negan liked the sort of woman Susan Jo Kelly was: independent, honest and unafraid of what people said about her. He recognized strong women when he came across them, Lucille was that way too.

Doubt clouded Negan’s mind for a few minutes.

He had married Lucille eleven years ago, they had lost two kids and things just didn’t seem to be working anymore. Negan wasn’t sure if it was routine or something else that had made him feel like he was drifting away from her.

They used to fight so much.

Now most of their days were spent in peace, talking about other people, living through the motions but not actually moving on. Sex had also become routine, with their creativity in the bedroom fizzling out.

Looking back at his sleeping wife, Negan wondered if he still loved her.

He respected who she was, what Lucille had done for herself, what she had done for them, but that burning passion wasn’t all there anymore. Negan remembered, just how many times he had sworn that he would only ever love her. The words kept repeating themselves inside his head, over and over. He got out of bed and took his phone, as he texted and sent the message.

When no guilt came from his actions, Negan wondered if his marriage was truly dead.

Maybe it was.


 

Southern California

Tory was bored, yes, but her worry was bigger than her boredom.

She was the only kid in the waiting room, since no one wanted to let her into Grandpa Gary’s room. The nurses had been kind so far and she had her iPod and a book, but Tory knew that you could read the same phrase a determined number of times before giving up.

For a twelve year old, Tory knew what was happening and why. She wasn’t worried for her grandfather’s health or the fact that he would die soon. She was worried about her mom, who still needed him. 

Her grandfather was tired and he wanted to go with his soulmates. He missed them, Granny Eli’s death had taken a big tool on him.

Tory thought he was brave.

“Victoria, dear, your grandfather wants to see you.” Nurse Willis put her big soft hand on Tory’s shoulder. She liked Nurse Willis because she didn’t pity anyone, she was a truly compassionate person.

“Thanks, Nurse Willis.” Tory said. “Will you take me?”

The nurse smiled at the girl and nodded, offering her hand to Tory.

When Tory entered the room, she found Mr. Jones standing with a styrofoam cup in his hand, the other inside his pocket. Her mother was sitting by Grandpa Gary’s bed, her eyes were red rimmed and her nose was pink and raw from rubbing it too many times.

“Here you are, sweetie.” Nurse Willis left in silence and Tory went to her Grandfather, who smiled weakly at her.

“Hello, princess.” Grandpa greeted. “Come sit with this old man.” He said, patting the sheets by his side. Tory obeyed and sat beside him. “Erin, love, I want to talk to her alone.”

“But, dad!” Her mother protested immediately.

“Erin Jones, I’m still very much your father. You are going to let me talk to my granddaughter. Don’t you see I am on my deathbed? I still have to teach Victoria a few things.”

Erin opened and closed her mouth a couple of times but nodded and kissed her father’s cheek goodbye. Mr. Jones shared a loaded look with his father-in-law, exchanging promises to care for his daughter and his granddaughter now that he would be gone. They nodded solemnly to each other and the Jones’ left the room.

“You know why I called for you, my princess?” Grandpa Gary asked, holding Tory’s chin softly with his wrinkly and rough fingers. Tory nodded. “I knew you would understand, my love.” He smiled.

“I know you are tired, Grandpa. You want to go with them.” Tory whispered, feeling her lower lip start to quiver.

Grandpa nodded.

“I miss them so much, princess. They are waiting for me, wherever they are.” Tory noticed that her grandfather was smiling a bit wider.

“I don’t want you to go, Grandpa.” Tory’s voice broke.

“Princess, we never want to be away from the people we love, but sometimes that is the right thing.” Grandpa sighed. “You are so strong. I knew you were strong from the moment you were born.” Grandpa’s free hand started to caress Tory’s curls softly. “You are stronger than any of the things that have happened to you, Victoria, and you will get stronger even. Life is hard, my love.”

“Grandpa, I’ll miss you.” she murmured. “I don’t want to forget anything.”

“So don’t!” he exclaimed weakly. “And take care of that mother of yours.” He laughed and closed his eyes. “Oh, and when you see that idiot soulmate of yours, give him hell for us, princess.”

Tory nodded frantically, as fat tears rolled down her cheeks.

“My Eli would be so proud of you. Leonard too.” Grandpa made a pause. “I’m proud of you. I love you, princess.”  

“I love you, Grandpa.” Tory said.

Nothing had been left unsaid and Grandpa Gary gestured for Tory to lie down beside him as they cried. Tory watched the rising and falling of her grandfather’s chest until it stopped. She stayed very still for a few seconds and then sat on the bed.

Her grandfather had given Tory his last smile ever.


 

Negan got dressed, forcing his mind to go through the excuses he could offer his wife to explain his tardiness.

Lucille had texted him three hours before, telling him he was already late for dinner. Negan opened the message but decided not to answer.

“Leaving already, handsome?” Sue asked from the bed. She looked sexy, her blonde hair was a mess and her lips were swollen after hours of using them in almost every wicked way.

“I have a wife, sweet cheeks.” Negan said with a smirk, feeling no remorse over his actions. If he wasn’t satisfied with his wife, why limit himself to be with Lucille only?

Sue laughed and fell back on the soft sheets.

“That didn’t hinder your performance one bit, honey.” Sue sighed.

Negan’s smile grew as he thought about the mess they had made.

“I got more than enough for the two of you.” He said cockily. “I’m that damn good.”

Sue threw him a scrutinizing look as a smile appeared on her face. “I don’t doubt so, but I don’t think your wife would be inclined to sharing.”

No, Lucille wouldn’t share him, she was possessive; not that it bothered him, as Negan himself was possessive, but he thought that having more than one woman to his beck and call wasn’t that bad an idea.

“Not that she will ever know.” He declared lightly. “It was a real fucking pleasure, Sue.”

“My door and my bed will always be open for you, Negan.” The former cheerleader informed him with a sultry smile. “It was definitely my pleasure.”


 

Negan arrived home to find a plate for him on the table.

Lucille had prepared his favourite spaghetti and a note about a beer inside the fridge. Lucille, though, wasn’t home. There was a note about a doctor’s appointment at six, so she was probably on her way back home. It dawned on him why Lucille had texted him earlier.

She might have not told him directly, but Negan should have remembered.

Shit.

With a sigh, Negan decide to re-heat his food and look for the promised beer. As he waited for the food to be actually hot, Negan sent Lucille a quick text telling her that he had been at a meeting about the next tournament the school was supposed to participate in. It wasn’t a lie, and the meeting had happened, just that it hadn’t lasted four hours.

As he ate the food his wife had prepared, Negan thought of his encounter with Susan. He felt no regret about fucking his colleague, she was hot and they both had wanted it. Negan felt light and his mood seemed to suddenly improve. Maybe he did need more variety.

His mind was occupied in some irrelevant stuff when Lucille arrived, making noise with her keys. It seemed as if she had dropped everything in the hallways to get to him.

Negan raised his head as Lucille entered the kitchen, her face and neck flushed pink in excitement, her eyes shining with elation, a smile on her pink lips.

“I’m pregnant.” She blurted.

That…that was a fucking surprise.

They had agreed to stop trying for a baby after they had lost their second. Nothing had happened for almost three years and now, now this presented.

“What?”

“We’re having a baby!”

Negan couldn’t help the smile that bloomed on his face, not the warm feeling on his chest as he left his food and drink to hug his wife. His misdeeds gone from his mind as they embraced each other in the middle of their kitchen.

“I’m so happy, doll.” He told her, kissing her passionately, holding her face between his hands.

“We are going to be parents, babe!” Lucille giggled after their kiss ended. “I love you so much, Negan.”

Negan hugged Lucille again.

For some reason, he found himself unable to say the words back to her.


 

Chapter Text


Before

Savannha, Gerogia

 

        It was a real fucking pleasure, Sue.

“Soulmate’s been a shit?” Henry asked, after reading the words on Tory’s arm that just refused to fade.

“He’s cheating on his wife.” Tory said bitterly. “I hate it. He always said he’d always love her, that doesn’t seem like love to me.”

Henry let out a low whistle. “Love comes in all shapes, kitten.”

Tory sighed and took a long swig out of the lukewarm bottle of Coke that sat beside her at the pool in the Oats’ home. She didn’t like Coke, but Mrs. Oats had given it to her and she didn’t want to be impolite or be teased by Henry.

“Would you cheat on your wife if you married someone that wasn’t your soulmate?” Tory asked Henry, checking the fading words on his left upper back.

“No.” he snapped immediately. “I wouldn’t do that.”

“Neither would I.” she declared.

“Yeah, I don’t see you having a wife.” Henry mocked.

Tory narrowed her eyes at her friend and crossed her arms with a huff.

“Why not? Mom had female friends who were married to other women.” Tory said unabashedly. “I don’t see anything wrong with it, they were cool, always gave me candy bars.”

Henry nodded and shrugged. “So, you wouldn’t judge me if my soulmate is a boy?”

Tory turned to look at her friend, her eyes wide and surprised. “You found them?”

“Found him, for sure.” Henry said sheepishly, blushing as he spoke. “Address appeared on my back, my ma’ saw and I wrote to him.” He answered Tory’s unspoken question.

A high pitched squeal left Tory’s mouth as she jump-hugged Henry.

“So what happened?!”

“I’m gonna meet him.”   

Tory squealed again and slid into the pool while Henry rolled his eyes at her and followed her into the water. They were silent a while, basking in the cool of the water.

Henry was serious now.

“How are you?” he asked. “How are you really? Don’t give me some ‘I’m-fine-shit’, kitten.”

Tory narrowed her eyes at Henry, leveling him with a cold grey glare.

“I’m sad, but I’ve been sad for a long while.” She answered sincerely, as Henry said, she couldn’t just lie and say she was okay. “I’m glad we moved here.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” Henry said solemnly. “How is your mom?”

“She’s holding on, sold my grandparents’ house right after they decided we’d move here.” The girl sighed. “She misses them so much.”

Henry sighed as well and looked up to the clear blue sky. “Things will get better with time, I suppose.”


 

Negan arrived home in time for dinner.

Lucille had called him earlier asking for take-out from a restaurant that was almost half an hour away from home, but he had obliged. The past three months had been good. Things seemed to be better, but Negan wasn’t sure, since he kept meeting Susan every other day to have a good fuck or sometimes a quicky in some secluded classroom, away from the prying eyes of their students.

Yes, Negan was happy that he and Lucille were having a baby, but he wasn’t ecstatic.

Lucille was the one doing things, keeping everything afloat, letting her take the reins was easier.

“I’m home, doll.” He hollered, expecting Lucille to come and get her dinner. Negan placed the bags on the kitchen bar and then returned to the hallway to leave his car keys and jacket. “Lucille, the food’s gonna go cold!”

In the silence of the house, Negan heard something hit the hardwood floor easily.

“Lucille? Is that you, baby girl?” Negan asked, loud and clear. If he wasn’t wrong, the sound came from the baby’s room, so he picked the poker by the chimney on his way to the room.

“Lucille?”

This time a quiet thud reached Negan’s ears, followed by a groan. 

It was Lucille.

Negan threw the poker away and ran to the baby’s room to find his wife on her knees, sobbing quietly as she rubbed the floor with her hands. Negan turned the lights on and almost fell on his ass at the gruesome image.

Lucille was kneeling on a pool of blood, seemingly trying to wipe it away with her bare hands. And he didn’t even need to ask what had happened. He knew.

Negan stepped carefully into the room and kneeled beside his wife.

“Lucille, doll, we have to take you to the hospital.” He said softly.

“But the blood, I want to clean this up, it’s the baby’s room Negan.” She responded, just as softly as he spoke. “We can’t have this mess.”

Negan felt his eyes fill with tears and shut his eyes hard.

“Don’t worry, we’ll clean after we come back.”

“But-” Lucille started to protest but Negan hauled her up.

“I promise, doll. After we come back.” He said, just before his throat closed up with worry. His wife was pale and cold. “I promise.” He repeated. “I promise.”


 

Lucille was awake, but she hadn’t turned her head towards her husband, who was snoring softly of the chair beside her bed.

Her whole body was sore in a way she hadn’t felt before. The emptiness felt different this time, it felt hot and somehow heavy. Lucille blinked slowly, numb to her sluggish movements as she caressed her lower belly, the place where the pain was worse. A thick bandage had been placed around her, but Lucille couldn’t make herself ask r even speak up. She didn’t care right now.

The outside noise was distracting and she felt blessed for it.

Closing her eyes, she waited for the darkness of sleep to take her but she was afforded no such luck.

…said she almost died.

I heard it’s the third one. You don’t come back from that.

Such a shame they’ll never have any.

It’s really sad, but Doctor Summers did it to save her life.

You’re right, but I would hate to be the one to tell her.

It’s a shame I tell you. Poor thing.

Lucille opened her eyes and turned her head, she caught a glimpse of the nurses that had been talking outside of her room.

Were they talking about her?

Were they?

When the doctor actually said the words to her, Lucille nodded, but she didn’t remember much after, just asking to be left completely alone.  The doctor had been kind and said he would be around if she needed anything.

Negan didn’t even protest and Lucille’s pain grew bigger when she saw the disappointment in his eyes and wondered if their marriage was coming to an end.

She hoped it wasn’t.


 

Chapter Text


Before

Lucille was packing.

Her cheeks were tear-stained and she knew she looked a fright, but alas she couldn’t care less.

Even if her wounds had healed already, Lucille felt like she was bleeding from the inside. With every little thing she packed, she felt worse, as if someone was twisting a hot knife inside her guts.

In the silence of the room, Lucille had nothing to listen to but her own thoughts, which where possibly the worst company she could have. She wished Negan was with her, but her husband seemed to be occupied elsewhere, doing God-knows-what. The deafening silence made her want to scream with rage and destroy everything in her wake.

Rationally, Lucille knew she was wrong. Everything in the room was practically new, never used for anything or anyone. Blankets, furniture, clothes, toys and books, all of it and then some, in mint condition.

It had taken months for Lucille to decide what to do with the baby’s room.

Negan had stated he couldn’t go through the packing once again. He had been adamant that if Lucille wanted to keep anything, she could very well store it herself. She had been so offended that they didn’t speak to each other for a whole fortnight.

Another thing that worried Lucille was that Negan didn’t seem to care if she spoke to him or not. He always had something to do these days, somewhere to be with whatever kept him out of the house, whereas Lucille felt trapped and alone.

Lucille had come to a decision.

She would get rid of the contents of the baby’s room herself and would change everything and convert it into a playroom.

Once every article was packed and classified, Lucille decided to take a shower. She was absolutely exhausted. The water would help her relax and unwind a bit.

Lucille turned the water off and left the warmth of the bathroom with the usual grace that one conquers after living in the same place for years, avoiding the obstacles with ease. When she was a few paces away from the bed, the room suddenly lost its focus and a wave of strong nausea hit her hard, as she fell to her knees.

Lucille thought she might have exhausted herself more than a little bit.


 

Kentucky

Tory sighed and rolled her eyes at Henry, as her friend groaned in despair.

“Stop being such a cry baby, Henry.” She snapped at him, wanting to tell him this had been a bad decision, but kept it to herself.

“I’m not being a cry baby, Victoria! We’re not going to make it!” he complained.

“Peyton will wait for you. Why do you have a cell phone if you are not going to use it, or a brain if you are not going to put it to work, dumbass?” Henry blanched at her harsh words. Tory only ever cursed when she was actually mad, she loathed swearwords, so her friend thought he might have pushed her buttons too hard.

“Tory, I’m-” he started but she raised her hand to stop him.

“Save it, I’m going to do something useful and go to the police station or something.” Tory pushed the passenger’s door open and stretched her muscles before she started to walk towards the town.

“Wait, Tory! I’m going with you.” Henry shouted as he picked his wallet. His parents had silently observed the exchange, not wanting to meddle between Tory and Henry as they could very well fix their feud by themselves.

It took Henry a couple of minutes to reach Tory, who was looking ahead, as if she knew exactly where she was going.

“And where are we supposed to be?” her friend asked, looking around the dusty streets. ‘

“Map says we’re in Cynthiana, Kentucky.” Tory offered.

“Basically, nowhere important in the map.” Henry snorted, much to his tiny friend’s amusement.

“Who wanted a road trip? Remind me please.” She mocked, giving him a side way glare.

“Okay, bad fucking judgement.” He growled.

“Watch your language, Henry Lambert Oats.” Tory said tersely. “Or your mama will hear about this.”

Henry was about to answer Tory when a police car approached them. Tory’s entire demeanor changed in the blink of an eye. Her shoulders sagged in relief, her brow un-furrowed and a smile graced her pink lips. If Henry didn’t know her, he would have been afraid of her.

“You alone, kids?” a dark haired officer asked, seemingly amused.

“Not really, officer.” Tory stated, making use of her Californian accent and dulcet tones as she looked up at the man. “We came to look for some workshop or a mechanic for my uncle’s car.”

The officer smiled, apparently charmed by Tory.

“Well, sweetheart, we can help you with that.” The officer told Tory and then turned to his partner. “Think we can do something, Rick?”

Tory waved shyly at the other officer, who smiled at her and nodded to his companion. “Get in the car, we’ll take you to Lou’s shop.” Officer Rick responded.

“Thank you officers.” Tory gifted them a radiant smile when they entered the police car.

“No thanks needed, honey.” The first officer said. “It’s our pleasure.”

“Now how about those names?” Officer Rick asked.

“I’m Victoria Miller, this is my cousin, Henry Oats.” Tory lied, still smiling, Henry opted to follow her lies and waved at the officers.

“It’s a pleasure. I’m Officer Shane Walsh and this ugly dog here is Rick Grimes.”

Both kids couldn’t help but laugh when Officer Rick scowled at his partner.

“Nice to meet you.” Tory noticed that Rick Grimes was still scowling, but his voice was kind and reassuring.

The officers made sure to drop them off at Lou’s shop and then took them all the way back to where Mr. and Mrs. Oats who were waiting for them. Henry’s mother thanked the officers while his Dad talked to Mr. Lou, who seemed concerned about the car.

Tory sat in the backseat with Henry when pain seared her arm. She hissed and clutched the flannel covered skin. 

“You okay, kitten?” Henry asked, his hand hovering over her arm.

“It doesn’t go away.” She muttered through clenched teeth.

Henry helped Tory unbutton the sleeve of her shirt and actually gasped at the words on Tory’s arm.

“Well, he is getting creative.” Tory panted, as sweat dripped from her forehead.

“Do those…” Henry frowned. “Every time he fucks someone?” he asked, his baby blue eyes wide in amazement.

“Every time.” Tory sighed, trying to catch her breath. “He’s a foul mouthed cheater and probably has anger issues.”

“I’d never seen yours appearin’, Tory.” Henry said. “Mine don’t hurt that much.”

“We come with different specifications, I suppose.” She read the words. “He is still cheating on Lucille, that asshole.”


 

Negan hissed as is right arm burned.

Sue grimaced as he stopped his ministrations.

“What is it?” she spat, actually mad at whatever had happened.

“Well, fuck.” She heard Negan mutter as he looked at his own arm.

Sue read from over his hand the juvenile script that he had seen once before, it looked more refined now.

 

       He’s still cheating on Lucille, that asshole.

 

“Now how the fuck am I going to explain that?” Negan wondered aloud.

He had to give it to the little shit of a girl, she loved to be the cause of his fucking problems.


 

Chapter Text


Before

Negan didn’t go home that night, or the next.

He actually turned his phone off as soon as he got out of work the next day.

Susan didn’t know, nor did she question his suddenly dark mood, but she did procure to stay clear of him the rest of the day when the words had appeared on his arm. Negan had snapped at one of his students so brusquely that the kid had cried, which made him angrier for no other reason that he was ready to explode, but he reined his anger.

The second day Lucille had come to the school asking for him and Negan dismissed her callously. He’d hated her for a second when he saw his red rimmed eyes, pale face and dishevelled appearance. Negan hated that his wife took his abuse even more.

And he didn’t go home that night either.

The words started to fade while he was getting shit-face drunk in a cheap motel room, thinking creative ways to avoid any other words showing on his arm, starting with tracking down his tiny little soulmate and getting rid of her.

Negan made sure to arrive home after Lucille had already gone to work the following morning. The words on his arm were a dull shade of grey now, still readable, but not as notorious.

This soulmate business wasn’t changing his mind about being shit.


 

Lucille had been incredibly angry, so angry she felt her blood boil for a long while that first night, when Negan didn’t come home. Lucille hated when he turned off his phone.

Eventually, she fell asleep, only to find Negan’s side of the bed untouched.

That’s when worry set in.

Lucille called the school, but the receptionist told her Negan wasn’t taking calls and asked to be left alone, so she figured she’d see Negan later.

After a long deliberation while at work, Lucille decided to wait for her husband and cook something good for him. Maybe they could talk about what was bothering him.

Lucille cooked, baked and waited for Negan for hours, she waited so long in fact, that the brunet ended up finishing the bottle of wine she’d bought all by herself. And the crying started after that.

The last time Lucille had cried herself to sleep was after their last miscarriage, just a year before. But even that didn’t justified Negan’s behaviour. None of the previous losses had happened during the summer.

And then it hit her.

The answer was so simple, it made Lucille feel stupid.

Negan was having an affair.

Lucille knew her husband, the man used to be a man whore, and if he found her lacking now that she was incomplete, he might as well be looking for a replacement. The mere idea of this made her feel sick; never mind the awful hangover she was experiencing.

So, Lucille got ready for her day and went to her boss’ office to ask permission to leave for an hour. A little fib about a family emergency was nothing against saving her marriage, if it could be saved.

It could have gone better, definitely.

“You look like shit, Lucille.” Negan spat at her. Not that she didn’t know, but his words stung all the same. Lucille could feel the eyes of his pupils and colleagues on her back, but she steeled herself and nodded.

“I know. You haven’t been home, Negan.” She said gently. “I was worried.”

“I know, you called a fuck ton of times. Tess was going crazy.” Negan rolled his eyes at her. He was being so cold! “What do you want?” a direct question, no pet names, not even her name. Was Negan angry at her?

“Are you coming home, Negan?” Lucille asked, hating her shaking voice and stupid tears.

The look of absolute loathing that Negan gave her, made Lucille shudder.

“I’m going to go home whenever the fuck I want, is not like the house will fucking move, Lucille.” No smiles, only cold. Negan’s cold voice and stone cold hazel eyes. “Now, if you don’t mind, wife. I’ve got work to do.”

He didn’t even give her a chance to say good bye and walked away from her. The walk to her car took three minutes, and Lucille felt proud for making it so far before bursting into tears. She felt defeated, sad and alone.

It was all so unfair! No one deserved this. Lucille didn’t deserve it! And she was not going to permit it either. If Negan wanted to be an asshole, she could be it as well, couldn’t she?


 

Savannah, Georgia

Four days later

Erin was finishing her day when one of the waitresses of the little bistro she managed now came up to her, telling her someone was looking for her.

“Did they tell you their name?” Erin asked professionally as she took of her summer coat.

“The lady said her name’s Lucille and that you’d know her.” The young waitress said distractedly. “What do I tell her?”

The waitress didn’t notice, of course, that she had just caused an enormous shock to her boss. Erin’s jaw had dropped in surprise, her heartbeat banged up inside her ears as she nodded her head.

“Tell her I’m going now.” Erin whispered softly. “Put a good red on my tab for her table while you’re at it, please.”

The young woman nodded and left.

Erin sat on the chair behind her desk, burying her head in her hands. She wasn’t ready for this. Victoria wasn’t ready for this, not at all. Oh, she wished Tom was here with her, he always knew how to manage this stuff. He had a lot more experience with this sort of events.

After all, there was no guide to face the wife of your daughter’s soulmate during a school night at the start of the school term.

So, Erin called Tom and told him she was going to be home later than usual. Her adorable husband said he understood and told her to take it easy.

Well, saying and doing weren’t the same thing.

Erin fashioned her hair into a low chignon and straightened her clothes to go and face Lucille. The same Lucille that her daughter knew was being cheated on. Goddamn it!


 

Lucille looked up to the sound of clicking heels over the impeccably clean floors of the little bistro, her chocolate eyes took in the petite figure of Erin Jones, who looked just as impeccable as the place they were at.

“Mrs. Jones?” Lucille asked softly, audible enough for the woman in question to catch it.

“Please, do call me Erin.” She answered. “And I assume you are Lucille. Can I call you that?”

Lucille nodded and Erin sat in front of her, with her back tense and straight.

“I can’t say it’s a pleasure Lucille. How did you even find me?” Wow, this woman wasn’t taking prisoners. Lucille took a long sip of the sweet wine Erin Jones had procured for her and took her sweeter time answering.

“I have friends, Erin.” Lucille said vaguely.

Erin rolled her beautiful grey eyes at Lucille, a sour expression taking over her delicate face.

“Lucille, please don’t.” Erin ordered clear and firmly. “You’ve had thirteen years to look for us.” Victoria’s mother sighed deeply. “What do you really want?”

“You’re right, Erin.” Lucille conceded. “I just didn’t wish to find you.”

There was a long pause, filled with tension and things unsaid.

“So?” Erin asked coldly.

“So…I want your child to meet my husband.” Lucille said softly, enunciating the words clearly.

“Absolutely not.” Erin said, not even a second later.

Lucille smiled.

“I thought you’d have asked your little girl if she wanted it.” Lucille saw Erin flinch.

“Victoria is still a child, as you said.” The Californian haughty and annoying accent was destroying Lucille’s nerves, but she endured. “And as I’m still her mother, I can decide whatever I want and consider safe for my daughter.”

Lucille’s gentle expression vanished.

“You think I wanted to do this, Erin?” the steel in her own voice surprised Lucille. “I would be the first with a problem here, sugar.”

“You-…” Erin tried to start, but Lucille held her hand up to stop her.

“Your daughter might as well be the only key to my happiness.” Yes, Lucille knew she was being egoistic, but her intentions weren’t exactly pure anyway.

Erin sat back, baffled, opening her mouth multiple times as she shook her head.

“N-no!” She exclaimed. “My daughter is not a fucking toy!”

A feral smile blossomed at Lucille’s lips.

“I know that. But I’ve researched soulmates, Erin.” Lucille made a short pause. “You know they will eventually need each other.”

Victoria’s mother scoffed.

“People have lived without soulmates their entire lives and they’ve lived just fine.” She stated.

Lucille laughed coldly.

“You know you’re fucking lying.” Lucille spat. “They are lacking something, always looking for the missing part of themselves. I know my husband is looking for that missing little piece with your pretty grey eyes.”

Erin’s face became red in fury and she stood up, making her chair fall back as she leaned across the table, getting on Lucille’s face.

“Stay away from my family, you bitch!” Erin muttered murderously. “If I ever, listen to me, ever, see you close to my daughter or my home, I will kill you myself.”

Lucille sighed at the dramatic display and threw an envelope at Erin.

“You don’t have to kill me, peach. I’m halfway there.” Lucille said cryptically, before throwing her wine back and leaving the restaurant.


 

Chapter Text


Before

Tory was…tired of Henry’s love life.

She liked Peyton, he was an awesome guy who was better equipped to deal with her beloved friend and his teenage angst. Peyton’s parents were completely on board with him and Henry being soulmates, since they were soulmates as well.

Tory would never, ever, accept that she felt jealous of them. The Evans’ and their child and Henry, all of them with their touching love stories, the anticipation of their meeting and the love that could drown a room in a few seconds. The Oats’ seemed to understand her, they didn’t seem comfortable with the Evans’, but kept it to themselves for their kid.

Yes, Tory had to endure a whole week of her best friend making goo-goo eyes at his soulmate, but other than that, things had gone well and there was talking of Henry studying in Chicago or Peyton going to school in Georgia.  

Ultimately, it wasn’t Tory’s business.

Being back home was good. Tory had missed her bed and even the stifling heat of the Georgian summer. Her birthday had been appropriately celebrated with a big, fancy cake her mother had taken time off to prepare. Tory was fourteen and so far it had been good.

Going back to school hadn’t been that good though.

“A week in… just a week in.” Tory muttered at herself. The brunette girl was sitting awkwardly outside of the principal’s office, waiting to be called in. The scratches on her face hurt and her favourite shirt had been ripped, but the physical pain was soothed by the tight ball of red hair that fisted in Tory’s hand.

“Victoria Miller.” The principal’s assistant called her as Lizzie Voight exited the office, trembling and recoiling at the sight of Tory.

Principal Phillips looked kind, with his slightly balding head and out-of-fashion woollen coat, with an even more old-fashioned bow tie, but he wasn’t principal of a high school for nothing.

“Miss Miller, this is your first week here.” The man said in apparent dismay. “I would have expected you’d take a bit longer before visiting my office.”

Tory shrugged, wincing due to the scratching on her skin.

The principal sighed deep and leaned over the desk.

“Miss Voight had a very interesting tale of how you made her bite the dust.” Principal Phillips removed his glasses. “Anything to say about that, Miss Miller?”

This time Tory sighed too and internally promised not to fight during school hours ever again.

“Lizzie Voight found it very funny to read my personal journal over my shoulder and tried to steal it as well.”

Principal Phillips showed Tory her gray leather bound journal. It had been a birthday gift from Grandma Eli and Grandpa Gary. Tory used the pages to record her soulmarks from the day she’d been given the controversial notebook. The journal had a beautiful silver lock to which only Tory had the key.

“Miss Voight said the information inside the journal was worrying.” The principal said. “But we cannot open it, any idea why, Miss Miller.”

“Because it was meant to stay closed.” Tory said, her tone was neutral but her words were cheeky. The principal frowned deeply.

“Open it, Miss Miller.” He ordered.

Now, Tory had two options, refuse and get in more trouble or open the journal and get in trouble of a different kind. She imagined that the principal would suggest Tory and her mother to attend counselling sessions, which Tory had been avoiding for seven years already.

So Tory took the journal from Principal Phillips hands and pulled at the chain around her neck, revealing a little silver key that opened the lock easily. Her tiny hands were stiff when the professor took the journal away.

“Let’s see…” he trailed off.

It was fun, seeing the principal get redder and redder as his eyes scanned the lines. His expression made Tory scratch at the skin of her arm, something that she did out of habit. Scratching her soulmark place whenever she was anxious was a way to avoid self-harming tendencies. Her mother usually disagreed with Tory on this.

“M-Miss Miller?” Principal Phillips stuttered and looked at her with wide eyes.

“Yes, sir?”

“What is the meaning of this?” he asked, holding the journal up.

A long sigh escaped Tory as she lifted her hand from the newest marks of her arm, black letters surrounded by an angry red contour, as if she had just gotten a tattoo. Maybe a tattoo hurt less?

 

       So, where the fuck is my fucking wife?

 

Understanding downed on the man’s face and Tory had to close her eyes in order to stop herself from rolling them.

“Detention, three days.” The principal said, before giving the journal back to Tory. “I’ll call Miss Voight’s parents.”

Tory’s jaw fell but she nodded and gathered her stuff. As she was leaving the office, Principal Phillips called her name and made her turn to him.

“This will be your only free pass, Miss Miller, use it wisely.”      


 

Tory watched as Tom hung up the phone and went back to the dinner table.

“Your mother won’t be dining with us.” Tom said, massaging his temples softly. “I didn’t tell her about school, though.”

Tory deflated a bit in relief, even under the accusatory glance Tom gave her.

“Job held her up?” Tory asked softly, trying to change topics. Her step-father nodded.

They sat at the table and ate Tory’s awful spaghetti in silence, but she knew Tom wouldn’t stay silent for long; he didn’t like violence and had never accepted the means Tory used to defend herself. Tory fancied herself pragmatic, in a sort of ‘eat of be eaten’ way.

“I don’t like bullies, Victoria.” Tom said. 

Yeah, she had it coming.

“Neither do I, Tom.” She muttered.

“Yeah, you don’t, but I still got a call from an angry mother saying that you had hit her kid and torn a good bunch of hair from her head.” 

Tom didn’t do angry, Tory liked that about him. He was speaking in a firm voice and his words had been calculated. “That woman was angry and interrupted my day quite abruptly.”

Silence reigned again.

“Explain.” Tom ordered softly.

“Well, Lizzie Voight took the journal away from me and tried to read it out loud in the cafeteria.” Tory said, with enough decency to sound apologetic.

Tom dropped his cutlery and gaped at Tory.

“And what did you do?” her step-dad asked.

“Well, I did hit her and pulled at her hair wildly.” Tory sighed, feeling a bit less proud about her actions. “She tried to defend herself, that girl’s nails are murder weapons, Tom.”

“Her mother did not mention the journal part.” Tom muttered, scowling deeply at no one in particular.

“I wouldn’t mention it if I were her daughter.” The girl said, keeping her eyes on the salty spaghetti. “She got off lightly, though. I should have put her eyes black.”

Tom sighed, but he knew it was meaningless. Tory defended her journal like it was a life line. From the moment she had learnt to write decently, Victoria had recorded her soulmate’s words on her own as a reminder of why looking them up could be a mistake. The idea of some little shit reading those deeply personal words made Tom dizzy.

“Next time, try to do it out of school, or wait for Henry.” Tom said finally, winning a smile from Tory.

“Okay.” She said brightly.

Just as they were finishing the servings, Erin came through the door, slamming it closed.

“Rough day, love?” Tom asked his wife, winking at Tory, who grimaced.

“You have not a fucking idea.” Erin growled, going straight for the wine cabinet.

Tory and Tom exchanged a look and the girl escaped with his permission just as Erin poured the first glass.

It would have been a lot easier if Tory had actually left for her room, instead of staying to eavesdrop in the hallway.


 

“What happened, Erin?” Tom asked soothingly, trying not to betray his worry.

“She came…I don’t know how she found us!” Erin informed him as her voice shook. When the wine started to spill from the glass, Tom took it away from his wife.

“Who is she, Erin?” Tom asked, trying not to sound urgent.

Erin’s soulful grey eyes regarded him, full of tears and fear.

“Lucille.” She whispered.

Tom frowned and looked his wife in the eye.  “What Lucille? You do not mean…Erin?…No, this ain’t funny.”

That one.” A long pause ensued between them as they let the information sink.

“What does she want?” Tom asked, his voice had become hard and cold suddenly.

“She wants to meet Tory.”


 

She wants to meet Tory.

Tory covered her mouth with both her hands, effectively silencing the gasp that had left her mouth as she heard her mother.

A quick look to her arm gave Tory the answer to her soulmate’s early question. His wife, his Lucille was looking for her?

“Why?” Tory whispered. “Why now?”


 

Chapter Text


 Before

Lucille had been waiting for hours. She knew how to be patient when the situation called for it, but Lucille also knew that this had been more progress than what she had initially expected.

Maybe they had backed up… Changed their minds?  

It was fair.

But she was going back home, she had enough.


 

Tory’s eye lids felt heavy and her head was pounding in sync with the television’s noise. Damn, she was thirsty, and the noise of the TV was so high.  

       

 “…cannibalistic behaviour in remote areas is not uncommon, Jennifer, but not to this extent.” A worried voice commented. “Their military had to intervene.”

So you are saying that this new strain of rabies, what they are calling African Rabies, should be a concern? That their government is overreacting?”

Every infectious disease should be concerning, do I think it will reach our country? No, I do not think so, but that is not gonna stop the missionaries from helping.” the man’s voice was still heavy. ”As for the government? This could spell lots of human rights violations.”

Thank you, Matt. Ladies and Gentleman, social and political analyst Matt Corner. In other news…”

 

Tory opened her eyes to the blinding light of the room, but she didn’t remember any room in her home being this glaringly bright. A pained groan made its way up her throat and escaped through her chapped lips.

The jarring sound of a chair scrapping over linoleum made her head send white hot pain down her back and into her eyes, but her eyes didn’t tear up. Dehydration was the first word in her mind.

“Good God, Victoria!” someone sobbed. No, not someone, a man, a young man…but not any young man. 

Henry

“You’re awake!”

Tory opened her mouth to speak –of course she was awake!-, but only a raspy moan left her dried throat.

“No, no, it’s okay, kitten. Stop. I know.” Henry scrambled to get something, but Tory didn’t make an effort to follow him with her gaze, everything head related seemed to bring lots of pain at the moment.

Henry appeared in her vision field again and Tory noticed Henry’s red rimmed eyes, his wrinkled clothes, the shadow of his beard and how greasy his hair looked. She felt more than saw, the damp cloth Henry placed on her lips, which cooled instantly.

“You’re gonna have to suck, kitten.” He whispered gently. Tory obeyed and her desert like mouth finally came back to life. Henry wetted the piece of cloth at least two more times, and Tory drank avidly.

Once her thirst was partially quenched, Tory spoke.

“When you weren’t taken, I would have imagined you asking me to suck in other context.”

Henry’s baby blue eyes widened at her cheek and filled with tears. “You…” a sob escaped his mouth. “Damn you, Victoria, you almost died!”

Her friend sat beside her, squeezing her hand between his. Tory tried to remember what had happened. She remembered leaving the house with her mom to… 

“Ahh…” Tory gasped in pain and shut her eyes hard. Remembering was not going to happen right now.

“It’s okay, kitten.” Henry said, brushing Tory’s hair out of her face and kissing her forehead. “I’m going to go get the nurse.”

Tory squeezed Henry’s hand back. 


 

“And what are you going to do?” Tom asked, frowning in concern.

Erin sighed and sipped her wine, drinking slow.

“Nothing.” Erin huffed, looking at the floor to distract herself. “It won’t help Tory in anything.”

Tom sighed and massaged his temples. “Tory has a right to know. It is her life, Erin.”

Erin combed her hair with her free hand, trying not to tear at the chocolate coloured strands.

Tory’s mother looked up, “I know what is best for…” the wine glass slipped from Erin’s hands when she saw her daughter standing in the entrance of the kitchen. “Victoria…”

Tom turned around and dragged his hands down his face.

“Sweetheart, I-” Tory raised her voice over Erin.

“I want you to take me to her, Mom.”

“Victoria, this could be a disaster.” Erin said, her tone conciliatory. It would have been a good argument, but her voice was shaking with worry.

“I don’t care, Mom. That’s for me to decide.”

Tom and Erin gasped.

“Victoria, that’s not the way.” Tom said.

Tory’s grey gaze fell on Tom and he felt cold under those detached eyes.

“I just want to meet her and tell her too keep her husband away from me.”

Erin and Tom exchanged a long look as Tory watched them.

“Okay.” Erin accepted. “I’ll call her.”


 

Tory followed the doctor’s finger with difficulty, but followed it still. The painkillers were slowly taking effect.

“You’ll need rest, Miss Miller, but other than that, everything is fine with your head. Your arm we had to fix, but it will heal nicely.” He said, dotting things down on a list. “The scratches will not scar, but your arm will.”

“Okay.”

“I’m going to send food for you, try to eat slow.”

“Okay.”

Once the doctor left, Tory looked at Henry, who cowered under her gaze.

“Where’s mom? Where’s Tom?” she asked, keeping her volume low, since it hurt her ears.

Henry paled and started shaking.

“Don’t ask me that, kitten.” Henry whispered pleadingly.

Tory frowned, clenching her eyes shut, forcing herself to remember through the fog of whatever had happened and whatever they were pumping inside her veins. Ignoring the pain and the sensations ripping thorough her.


 

Three days after the kitchen scene, Erin and Tory were sitting on the living room couch.

Erin placed the call in speaker and they both heard the ringing of the line, waiting for Lucille to pick up the phone.

“Hello?” Lucille answered after three rings, her voice sounded firm and pleasant.

“Lucille?” Erin asked. Tory thought her mom was being a bit too loud, but said nothing.

There was a short pause filled with silence.

“Is this you Erin?” Lucille sounded hopeful.

“Yes, it’s me.” Erin admitted.

“I’m glad you called, did you talk to your daughter?”

Wow, she’s taking no prisoners. Tory thought.

“I talked to Victoria. She wants to see you, but she has conditions.” Tory gave her mother the thumbs up.

“Let’s hear it.” Lucille said. “Put her on the line.”

Mother and daughter shared a look charged with doubt and indecision, but Tory did extend her hand to take Erin’s phone.

“Lucille?” Tory hated how childish she sounded and how much her voice was shaking.

“Hello, Victoria, do tell me your conditions, doll. We can leave the introductions to be made in person.”

“Okay, well…I want my mother to be there.” Tory said.

“Sure thing.” Lucille reassured.

“I want to choose the place.”

“I can work with that.”

So far, Lucille seemed to think all this was fine.

“It’s going to be a one-time thing. That’s all.” For the final condition, Tory spoke firm and serious, and Lucille took a sweet minute to answer.

“Let’s give this a chance, then.”

They agreed a day, a place and a time and finished the call.

Erin let out a long, shuddering sigh.

“I can’t believe we’re doing this.” 

“Me neither, mom.” Tory said. “But it seems we are.”


 

Tom entered the room and Tory looked at him with worry. He had the look of a haunted man, with big dark circles around his eyes. His usually lively eyes were dull and tired. Much like Henry, Tom sported the shadow of a beard.

“Tom…” Tory started to speak, trying to ask him what had happened, but he went and hugged her gently.

“I’m so glad you’re okay, honey.” Tom said, cradling Tory’s face between his hands, gently checking the scratches and cuts.

“Why hasn’t mom come to see me, Tom?” Tory asked. “Is she hurt too? If she is I want to see her.”

Tom looked at Henry who retreated into himself and looked away from them.

“Honey…Tory…your mom…” Tom started to shake. “Well.” Tom sat on the bed, just so that he didn’t bother Tory’s position. “Do you remember what happened?”

Tory shook her head as Tom took her hands between his. His skin was warm and Tory basked in the skin to skin contact.

“You were going to meet Lucille.” He reminded her.

“I know.”

Tom nodded.

“Some drunk idiot veered out of his line in the highway and…” Tom looked away from Tory, trying not to think of how much she looked like her mother at that very moment. “He hit you and…”

Tory closed her eyes and clutched Tom’s hands as she got lost in his voice, as pain exploded behind her eyes.


 

“We can still go back home, sweetie.” Erin suggested, giving Tory a side look.

“Stop already, mom!” Tory exclaimed. “I’m not going back on my word. It will be a one-time thing.”

“Okay, sweetie, just checking.” Erin laughed, turning her gaze to the road. Tory smiled at her mom and looked at the other lines.

It happened so fast.

Tory heard, more than she felt the impact. Her head hit the window and tiny pieces of glass flew everywhere. Tory heard her mom’s quiet scream and heard the call of her name.

“Mom!” she tried to scream, but the noise inside her head didn’t let her hear anything. “MOM!”

Once the car stopped rolling, Tory opened her eyes to an upside down view. She was hanging upside down.

A thick liquid was running down her right temple and her arm was throbbing in pain.

“Mom? Mom?” Tory tried to turn, she heard the laboured breath coming from her other side. From where mom was.

“Victoria…” her mom wheezed.

“Mummy, what happened?” Tory asked, hearing her own voice from far away, her vision clouding, darker every second.

“Tory…”


 

Negan let go of his beer, the bottle shattered when it touched the ground, but he didn’t care.

All he could feel was the unfathomable pain in his arm. It burned as if he was being branded with a hot iron. He tore at his shirt, trying to understand what was happening, and felt relieved for not being in public.

 

       It’s my fault, it’s all my fault

 

Negan felt dizzy with pain and finally sat on the wet ground, uncaring of the spilled beer and even the shattered glass. a sudden fever had taken over him, and he wished he wasn’t alone at home when the world turned dark on him.


 

Chapter Text


Before

Southern California

Numbness, Tom had decided, was an uncomfortable stage, because his feelings were dazzled but not his body.

This wasn’t the first time he had felt like this in his life, but it certainly was the worst he’d experienced. There was no time for him to crumble, this time Tom had to be strong for someone other than himself.

He thought of his daughter, broken and in pain, lying on the couch with her head on her best friend’s lap. 

“It’s time to go, Thomas.”

Tom turned to look at his mother, who patted his shoulder softly. His mother had been amazing, taking care of most things; taking care of Tory, and of him, of the details… He would have to compensate her for this.

Henry woke Victoria, talking softly to her. Tory looked a fright, pale and thin. She had tiny half healed scratches all over her skin and the black dress she was wearing made her look ill. The doctors had recommended she stayed in Georgia, but Victoria had refused vehemently and Tom decided to let her come as long as Henry came with her. Henry had accepted under the power of Tory’s pout and delicate condition.

Tom saw her and thought of his in-laws, he thought of his adorable wife and how she had trusted him to marry him and share her daughter when Erin found out that Tom couldn’t have children. Tom thought about all this and his heart bled.

He couldn’t lose Tory, not her too.


 

Tennessee

Lucille covered the speaker of the phone to let out a long sigh, as blood started to drip from her nose.

“I understand, Mrs. Clarence.” She said after a pause to put a napkin on her face. “You don’t have to shout, we’re being reasonable.”

The woman kept talking to her in angry tones, but Lucille tuned most of it out as she talked about how she couldn’t possibly understand what it was to be a mother. In that moment, Lucille wished she could reach through the line and slap the bitch out of her stupidity.

“Yes, Mrs. Clarence, it was a pleasure.” She lied smoothly; when the call was finally over, Lucille rested against the counter. She tired so easily these days, the nose bleeding was, she supposed, a collateral effect from the stress.

After coming back from Georgia things had changed so much between her and Negan.

When Lucille had found his prone form on their kitchen floor her heart had almost left her chest, but he was actually breathingHe was fine, not counting he was clutching at his arm until blood started to pour of it. Lucille had come home to the stench of dried blood and the stale smell of beer permeating everything; she’d cleaned Negan with a damp cloth and he opened his beautiful eyes and looked at her with such confusion. 

She’d seen the old him.

She saw the Negan who used to look at her with so much love every morning when he woke up by her side. That was the last time she’d seen him give her that look.


 

Negan sighed as soon as he saw Lucille approach the garage, ready to be berated for his little outburst with the kids.

“What the fuck Negan?” she exclaimed. “You’re a role model to these kids. I’ve got their parents on the phone saying you cussed them out?!”

“Only one of them.” Negan remarked, “and I was just messing with them.” He was trying to sound placating and conciliatory. Lucille huffed and let out an exasperated sigh.

“Have you lost your mind? The school is going to fire you!” Lucille was shouting for real now, gesturing with her hands and everything.

“The school? I don’t care about the fucking school, Lucille!” he exclaimed. “These kids aren’t going to respect me if I have a stick up my ass outside of school! I have to be a cool teacher!” he sighed deeply. “You should hear the shit they say!”

“Yeah, sure thing! But they’re not-” Lucille stepped back, unsteady on her feet as her knees failed her and her eyes rolled inside of her head. Negan tried to reach her, extending his arms to catch her.

“Lucille!”

Lucille collapsed on the hard ground for what it seemed like a million years and Negan fell to his knees beside her.

“Baby?! Baby?!” Negan called, shaking her a bit. Lucille was unresponsive as he shouted for help.


 

Southern California

Tory was crying, but lately it was the thing she did most.

Tom, Henry and Peyton had been making her eat, but she had a hard time eating anything other than porridge. Her broken rib screamed at her whenever she breathed and her arm was burning under the cast. Whatever was happening to her soulmate, it wasn’t good.

But she didn’t care.

Whatever was happening to him, was not her problem.

As the site of the funeral filled, Tory felt more and more out of touch with her new reality. Her grandparents were dead, her mother was dead. She had lost such important people so fast, and it didn’t seem like a coincidence. Maybe this was the messed up hand Tory had been dealt.

Tom made sure to look after her, and Henry held her hand softly as the service started. Tory had absolutely no intentions of standing up, being present was already taxing enough. Listening to the words of salvation and heaven made her feel ill and out of her depth. Tory believed in God, for sure, but she wasn’t so sure about the afterlife.

Grandpa Gary had been good at reassuring her of these things, but she had been younger then. 

Tory had her mom then. 

Her loving, intelligent and protective mother, who gave her the strength she needed through her darkest moments.

Naturally, the present moment was her darkest and loneliest.

Tory looked at her step-father, who was standing up, shaking like a leaf with the effort to contain his sobbing. Her cast-covered arm felt heavy as Tory reached for Tom’s hand and grazed his fingers with her own.

Tom’s dark blue eyes were glistening with tears and Tory swallowed hard before rasping out. “It’s okay…you can cry.”

Those words seemed to free Tom. His shoulders sagged and his chest heaved with a loud sob as he fell back in the chair beside Tory. His arms embraced her in warmth and security as they both cried through the rest of the service.


 

Tennessee

Negan admired Lucille’s strength as she listened to the doctor, her voice firm and strong, as if she hadn’t been given the worst news of her life.

Deep inside, Negan knew she didn’t think this was the worst they had gone through, at least not for her.

“…I’m sorry.” The oncologist finished.

Lucille smiled sweetly.

“It’s okay, doctor, nothing for you to be sorry. I’m going to beat it.” she declared, full of confidence.

Negan didn’t feel as confident as his wife, but Lucille was strong. He had forgotten how strong she was, how capable and determined she could be when a storm approached them.

“It’s going to be okay, Negan.” Lucille said, once the doctor left them alone. “Everything is going to be okay.”

Negan looked at the words in his arm and sighed. 

 

       It’s okay, you can cry.

 


 

Southern California

Henry and Peyton were helping Tory walk through the graveyard, leaving Tom and Betty behind them.

Tory wasn’t exactly watching her steps or looking up at all, so she didn’t notice the person approaching her up front. The boys stopped walking, and Henry held her gently, as her feet kept moving automatically another couple of steps.

Frowning deeply, Tory finally looked up.

“Victoria.”

The first word on her mind was Roy.

The second one…

“What the fuck?” she gasped, feeling Peyton and Henry tense around her.

Roy Miller looked good, with his temples greying slightly due to age and his jawline covered by a well-kept beard, he cut a sharp figure in his expensive navy suit and polished shoes.

“Is that a way to greet your father?” he asked stiffly, making Tory stand straighter than she had in days.

Henry was aware of the situation regarding Roy, but Peyton didn’t know, and he tensed further. Tory felt protected by her boys, who were a bit taller than her biological father.  

“I have no father.” Tory declared, trying to sound nonchalant about it. It would have been good if her voice didn’t shake so much.

Roy had the audacity to laugh and Tory wished her arm wasn’t broken, so she could punch his perfect face until her arm broke again.

“Don’t be absurd, Victoria.” Roy said dismissively, with a smile on his face. “I’m very much alive.”

“Tory, no!” she heard Henry shout, and felt Peyton’s hands trying to grab her, but she was lighter and faster and her rage was overpowering as she lifted her left arm, using the cast as impulse to punch her father’s jaw as hard as she could.

“Damn it, kitten!” Henry got a hold of Tory as Roy turned back to her with his fists clenched. “Think about your arm, Tory.”

“Henry!” she rasped back at him. “Henry, he’s laughing.” Tory’s voice broke as tears started to flow again, sparked by the physical and emotional pain.

Henry and Peyton exchanged a look over Tory’s head. Peyton took Tory in his arms, frowning deep and glaring at Roy Miller.

“Mr. Miller, I think you should go.” Henry suggested politely. “Tory needs stability right now.”

Roy narrowed his eyes at the kid in front of him, who didn’t seem intimidated by him.

“Victoria might feel like she’s the victim here, but she most certainly isn’t.” Roy spat, anger cooling his voice. “She is also my daughter. As her only relative alive, I have rights over her.”

“Over my fucking corpse, Miller.” Someone spoke angrily behind Henry and Roy.

Tom Jones didn’t usually do angry, but he was furious now.

Roy sneered at Tom and Henry simply stepped away from the both of them.

None of them cared for the people leaving the graveyard and watching the action unfold. Tory was in hysterics between Peyton’s arms and Betty was patting her head, trying to console her. Any other time, Henry would have tried to stop Tom, but Roy wanted to take Tory away from them and they weren’t going to take it.

“She is my daughter, Jones.” Roy said coldly.

“You don’t know her.” Tom retorted, his voice just as glacial as Roy’s if not more.

“I’m her blood.” Her father said. “That will hold in a court.”

“So tell me, Roy. What’s Tory’s favourite school subject?” Tom asked.

Roy narrowed his dark eyes. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“I don’t know, you tell me? Is she allergic to something?” Tom continued. “What music does she like?”

“Who cares?! She is mine!” Roy exclaimed.

“I. Fucking. Care!” Tom growled, stalking towards his wife’s ex-husband. “Victoria will come back to Georgia with me, and if you try to stop me…” Tom diminished his volume and talked close to Roy’s face. “I’m going to make sure they never find your body.”

Roy’s eyes widened in surprise and Tom hated how much that expression reminded him of Tory, “This isn’t going to work for you Jones. I’ll bury you in court proceedings.” Roy threatened.

“Back home we deal with that like gentleman, Miller.” Tom said, grounding the words as he fell back, fixing his suit and breathing deep.

“Do you now?” Roy asked, sarcasm dripping from his words.

“Yes, we are from the South, after all.”

Roy never saw Tom’s fist coming for him. His daughter had punched him with little strength and a heavy arm, but Tom punched him right on the jaw and followed with a quick hit to his abdomen. Roy lost his breath as he fell on his knees, panting hard while his eyes filled with tears.

Tom crouched beside Roy.

“If you even try to bother my daughter with your bullshit, this will be a walk in the park, you heard me, Roy?” Tom’s voice could have frozen the summer. “What you did to my wife? That will be cake compared to what I’ll do to you.”

 As he got up, Tom pulled Roy with him.

“Are we clear?” he said, holding Roy’s lapels high, the man had to stand on the tips of his shoes, but Roy didn’t answer. 

Are we fucking clear?

A simple nod was the answer.

Tom deflated again and he let go of Roy, who fell on his ass. His blue eyes scanned the crowd. “Show’s over, y’all.”


 

Tennessee

“You’re not very much in here, Negan.” Sue complained, as her lover hovered over her.

“My wife has cancer.” He blurted out, hazel eyes vacant and unfeeling.

Sue felt as if Negan had dropped a bucket of ice water on her.

“What?” Sue spat.

“We were told last week.”

“You are a fucking asshole, Negan.” Sue was burning with rage as she scooted away from him.

Negan had the audacity to smirk at her.

“Well, honey, it took you a long time to realize that, didn’t it?” Negan asked. “But you’re not the brightest.” 

Sue slapped him. Hard.

“Get the fuck out of here. We’re fucking done.” She shouted. “Go back to your sick wife and stay away from me, you sick fuck!”

Negan sighed as he heard Susan slam the bathroom door.

He had done the right thing, and for the first time in a while, Negan felt good about it.


 

Savannah, Georgia

Peyton was waiting for Henry as he exited Tory’s bedroom.

His soulmate looked tired and sad, and he could understand why.

“Is she okay?” Peyton found himself asking. Henry looked up at him and sighed heavily.

“She cried herself into sleep.” The blond answered. “She’s doing a bit better.”

Peyton hugged his boyfriend and took in the citrusy scent of his cologne and the fresh fragrance from his damp hair.

“Are you sure about what you told me, Henry?” Peyton asked.

Henry looked down at him and smiled, showing his dimples a bit. “Yeah.” He confirmed. “Are you okay with it?” Henry asked with his voice full of uncertainty.

Peyton nodded. “I’ve had time to think about it.” the young man answered. “We should do it.”

Henry smiled again, this time wider, before kissing Peyton softly, enjoying the warmth of his full lips.

“Thank you, love.”


 

Chapter Text


Before

Negan sat by Lucille’s side of the bed, he watched her open her eyes, those same dark eyes that saw right through him.

“I ended it with, Sue.” He saw the hurt in his wife’s expression, and knew she could have lived without the knowledge of his ex-lover’s name.

Then she scowled.

“Why now, Negan? You had so many chances.” His wife told him as she sat up. “Why now that I’m sick?” Lucille sighed. “I wouldn’t judge you if you left me.”

“I can’t leave.” Negan admitted. “I love you.”

“Do you really?” she questioned. “A sick woman who you’ve been cheating on for God knows how long?” Negan shuddered under Lucille’s calm tongue lashing.

“I do love you, Lucille.” Negan repeated, hunching his shoulders in an apologetic shrug, but his wife didn’t have time for his apologies, and she was already turning her back to him.

Negan waited until Lucille was asleep to lie down himself, but sleep didn’t come for a long while.


 

“Reports of this massive flu outbreak are scarce as areas of California, Nevada and Arizona struggle to keep the services in hospitals going.” The male news anchor looked straight and tense as he spoke.

“Hospitals have started to turn away infected patients as they are overrun.” The pretty news anchor continued without smiling. “We have the list of symptoms for you to be…”

Lucile turned the tv off, she didn’t need to hear the reporting of bad news. She had enough tragedies of her own.


 

Later on

Negan sighed as Lucille cried in his arms. Her hands fisted around clumps of her dark, lanky hair.  

The chemo and radiation were affecting Lucile harder than she expected, but the doctor had warned them of the effects. Still, his beautiful wife was looking less like herself every day and Negan refused to think about the possibility of losing her.

The day after Lucille had her hair crisis, Negan had gone into a shopping spree as soon as he was off work. He’d bought her so many scarfs. One per day, enough to wear for a month without repeating a single scarf. This had prompted a bit of happy crying from his adoring wife.

He wished he could spend more time with Lucille than the meager hours he got after working two jobs and the weekends or in some cases, on his days off.

Sometimes, Negan came home to find her asleep. Some others, he came to find Lucille passed out in their bathroom, exhausted from her vomiting episodes. The nosebleeds though, those were worse.

Whenever Negan came home to find Lucille after a nosebleed, he immediately thought he’d lost her.

Yet, she fought.


 

“I’m sorry, sir.” Doctor Grant said. “The best we can offer now is palliative care, she is in too much pain.”

“How long?” Negan rasped, dragging his hand down his face, feeling the effects from the lack of sleep.

“A couple of months at the most, three weeks at the least.” The oncologist said. “The medication may affect her too much and your wife may spend the rest of her days unconscious.”

Negan nodded and patted the doctor’s shoulder.

“Thanks, doc.” He said heavily. “Do what you have to do.”


 

Savannah

This was the second year Peyton got to spend the summer with Henry. Tory loved them both so dearly. She would always remember how sweet they had been to her after her mom’s death.

A pang of hurt always accompanied that thought.

Tory was getting ready for the celebration of her sixteenth birthday, and her grey eyes traveled to the picture she had of her and her mom. They were smiling, looking eerily similar as Erin hugged Tory’s shoulders with one of her arms, the other had been holding the camera.

The recovery from the accident had been fast, at least physically, Tory had some scars that were mostly unnoticeable, and then her arm had a long, jagged scar from wrist to elbow. That was the worst reminder of it all.

Henry thought it gave her character.

“Looks like you were in a bar fight and won, kitten.” He would say whenever he found her staring at it. “Such a badass.”

Tory had expected the scar to cover the soulmarks, but those continued to appear, a little bit stretched and weird, but still readable enough. The pain usually got her attention, but Tory had stopped reading the marks, for her sanity and mere spite.

Concentrating in the now, was easier.

She was sixteen and the world was crazy.

The celebration for her birthday was something just between family; going out too late had become dangerous and curfew was in effect. Schools wouldn’t come back for the year and the news were non-stop talk of crisis.

This night, though, Tory was going to be thinking positive. Her best friends were home for her birthday, there would be cake and just some good fun. Maybe, if she was lucky, some drinking.

Putting on her new smoke grey dress –a gift from Henry and Peyton-, Tory admired the fall of the skirt and how well it complimented the color of her eyes, even if she looked a little bit too pale.

“Show time, Mom.” Tory murmured at the picture before leaving her room to go downstairs.


 

Henry smiled at Peyton, who was fixing his shirt again. His soulmate was nervous. It was understandable.

Today was going to be big for them and hopefully for Tory as well.

Henry was about to tell Peyton to calm down for the hundredth time when his boyfriend squeezed his hand hard, making him wince. The blond was about to protest when he saw what Peyton had seen. Tory coming downstairs in the dress they had spent so much time looking for.

Damn, she looked so adorable. Her recently cut hair artfully styled, wearing just a bit of make-up, short heeled pumps on her feet. To him, she was still the same petite girl Henry had met seven years before, but Tory was also different.

For months after Erin Jones’ death. Tory had been deeply depressed, but there wasn’t much they could have done. Thomas had told them himself, that trying to help her directly wouldn’t work. She felt responsible for Erin’s death.

Never again did she speak of her soulmate. Peyton had caught up on it first. On how Tory winced every once in a while, rubbed at her marks and then kept on doing whatever she was, and not looking at the ink-like words.

In the end, it had been Tom who got her out of her depression.

Tory hadn’t wanted to celebrate her fifteenth birthday, so Tom respected her wishes.

Mostly.

As Tory had told Henry, her dad had spent most of the day hiding away inside the kitchen, working like crazy. Erin’s recipe notebook had gone missing along with her dad and Tory suspected he was trying something.


 

Tory entered the kitchen when the smell of burning cake had reached her outside of the house.

The kitchen was a mess and Tom was covered in flour from head to toe. How he had managed that, Tory didn’t know. She noticed, however, the bunch of semi-burnt cupcakes in a pile that she supposed, was the discarded pile. Tom however, was hunched over a single cupcake, decorated with a bright pink butter cream and little white edible pearls. It was a pitiful cupcake, with its lonely candle and tiny decoration, but Tory loved it instantly.

“Tom?” she asked softly, making him jump and push the cupcake away, ruining it with his hand.

“Damn it!” he exclaimed, his brow in a deep furrow as he looked at his pink-stained hand.

“What are you doing?” Tory asked. ”This is a mess, Betty will kill you.”

Tom took the ruined cupcake in his hands and righted the now broken candle, offering it to Tory, who laughed and laughed and laughed.

“I love it.” she panted between fits of giggles. “I really love it, dad. Thanks.

Tom had cried when Tory called him dad, and he cried harder when she told him he was the only father she had.


 

“Afternoon, y’all.” Tory greeted them, her southern accent still as atrocious as ever.

Peyton let go of Henry’s hand and went to Tory, giving her a big hug. Henry’s heart swelled inside his chest seeing them together.

“Happy birthday, T.” Peyton murmured as he let go of her, but still held her hand. 

“Happy birthday, kitten. I love you.” Henry said as he hugged his tiny friend, who hugged him back, hard.

“Thanks, Henry, love you too.” Tory kissed his cheek, making him smile as he took her free hand.

“Allow us to escort you, darlin’.” Henry said, exaggerating a little curtsey and earning himself a smack from Peyton.

“Stop being ridiculous.” His mate scolded playfully. Tory laughed quietly as they all walked to the dining room.


 

The summer night was slightly breezy, for which Tory was grateful as she sat between Peyton and Henry, who were each holding her hands.

The afternoon had been amazing, even if the general feeling was a bit tense due to the situation. The meal had been wonderful and this time, there had been an edible cake, courtesy of Mrs. Oats.

Tory had gotten a gold chain from her dad, with her mother’s engagement ring acting as the pendant. Betty had given her a tiffany-blue apron with a huge white ribbon and the Oats had gifted her with a beautiful pair of boots and a Swiss watch with a tiny engraving of her birth date and three little hearts. Her boys had given her a professional camera.

In short, her afternoon had been wonderful, and now here she was, basking in the night air before curfew, with her best friends, who had been acting specially…affectionate.

“I remember the day I met you, Tory.” Henry spoke up, his blue eyes fixated on the old water pump by the orchard. “You were dripping cold water and shivering in the middle of a summer day.”

Tory felt a blush come to her face and for once, was glad for the lack of light in the back porch.

Peyton laughed quietly, rolling his eyes as Henry talked about those early days.

“Do you remember what you said the day before you left that same summer?” Henry asked, his voice smooth and calm.

Of course she did.

“I told you I liked you.” Tory whispered. “You told me you liked me as well.”

Peyton could feel the shyness rolling of off Tory and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. “It’s okay, love.” He murmured.

Henry smiled.

“Well, that is still sort of true.” Henry admitted.

Tory gasped in shock. “Henry!”

“It’s fine, love, I know.” Peyton told her, his tone placating and conciliatory. “It’s okay, I like you as well.”

“No, not that way!” Tory half exclaimed as she stood up, letting go of his hands.

“Yes, that way.” Peyton declared firmly, shifting until his elbows were on his knees, his honey coloured eyes keeping her from bolting inside. Henry looked a bit tense and his blue eyes doubtful, but he still spoke.

This was a moment for truth.

“I never said anything after that first time, Tory, because I knew we both had someone out there.” Henry sighed. “Then Peyton found his way through to me and…I didn’t know what to do.”

Tory looked from Henry to Peyton and then back at Henry. “I don’t understand.”

“Henry loves you, Tory.” Peyton finally confessed, not an ounce of regret dirtied his voice. There was a very long pause after he said that, in which Tory wringed her hands, her mind evidently racing. “And I love you as well.”

“What?” Tory breathed as her heartbeat pounded in her ears. So many moments came back to her, recalled from deep inside the fog of her depression and back into her early teenage years.

There had been signals. Hugs a little bit too long, looks a little bit too longing, kisses in quantity and holding hands like there was no tomorrow. Tory had resigned herself to never being with Henry at all when he had found Peyton, who was of course, amazing and perfect for her best friend. And Tory had tried to be a friend to him too and succeeded.

“From the first moment, I knew, Tory.” Peyton informed her. “Back when you both visited Chicago, Henry told me he loved you and that you were a part of his package deal.”

“It was together or not at all.” Peyton mentioned in remembrance. “But it didn’t matter, because I discovered myself how good you were, how good you still are.”

Tory was panting, her heart was racing as much as her mind, her hands clammy and her stomach seemed to have been invaded by millions of butterflies.

“It didn’t take an effort to love you, Tory. We both do.” Peyton sighed. “I feel like an idiot, you aren’t saying anything.”

Henry sighed taking Peyton’s hand in his. “It’s a bit too much and we weren’t that evident.” He looked at Tory. “We were going to tell you before but…”

“But mom died.” She guessed. Both of them nodded and Tory sighed.

“We respected that you needed time and space, even if it hurt us to see you suffer.” Henry said. “Peyton and me? We want you to be happy, kitten.”

“I have a soulmate.” Tory reminded them.

“We know, Tory. We just don’t care.” Peyton shrugged.

“He might never look for you, kitten, and we all know that.” Henry complemented.

Tory turned her back on them. Peyton and Henry were right, and they were offering something she could have never imagined with them. A new beginning, a way to putting her heart back together anew, with them both.

Her grandparents came to mind. How happy Eli and Gary had been, and how much they had loved their Leonard. She could have that with Henry and Peyton, she could give that to Henry and Peyton.

Tory was about to turn around when Henry put his hand on her waist. She knew it was him, his hands were familiar.

Sure enough, Peyton came after Henry, taking one of his hands and one of hers.

“We will never pressure you in anything you don’t want, Victoria.” Henry said firmly. He almost never called her by her full name. “We have all the time in the world.”

Peyton shook in silent laugh.

“What he said.”

Tory sobbed as she leaned back into Henry, who kissed her temple gently, ignoring the tears leaving her eyes.

“I want it.” Tory murmured. “I do want it.”

Peyton surprised both Tory and Henry when he snatched her and kissed her on the lips, holding her as if she were precious and delicate. She closed her eyes immediately.

Tory had been kissed before.

Sloppy, stolen kisses given behind trees and stadium seats, in the parking lot at school even.

This kiss was not like that.

Peyton’s lips were warm and firm, and he knew what he was doing. His lips moved softly onto hers, patiently, waiting for her response.

Tory felt brave, with Henry behind her and Peyton hugging her. Her arms surrounded Peyton’s neck as she kissed him back, opening her lips a bit as his tongue drew their shape. Tory could feel his smile and it provoked hers.

Then it was over. Way too soon.

Tory placed her dainty hand over Peyton’s dark cheek, their gazes locked as she breathed hard.

“You two are way too hot.” Henry sighed. Peyton looked over Tory’s shoulder and his smile grew.

“Tory is amazing.” He said, making her blush harder as her head burrowed on his chest.

“You both are.” Henry agreed.  “Now let’s go back inside before I do something I might regret.”

“Minor’s right here, Henry!” Tory protested.

“Oh, my dear kitten.” He drawled. “There is nothing minor about you.”


 

Tory remembered how they had entered the house laughing quietly, after composing herself.

She remembered the remaining and slightly sweet smell of the kitchen as they came through the door, holding each other tight.

She too, remembered the enormous flat screen that was in the living room, easily seen from the kitchen.

It was playing the news.

This is not the flu! These are not African rabies! They are lying to us!” the reporter was saying, looking frayed in her smart suit. “These things come back from death! They come back from death and they eat flesh!” The scene cut to a video, taken with a cell phone camera, the shaky image showed slowly moving figures tackling people, the screams, the calls for help and the desperate cries of people were the background to the haunting images.

The silence was deafening.

Last year’s crisis in the south of Asia? It was a scam! The deadly outbreak that killed the populations of certain islands in the Pacific? Lies!” the image of the reporter came back, as different videos showed in every corner of the screen, all of them as horrible as the first.

Some details were fuzzy in her mind, after so many years, except the final note of the reporter’s speech.

The dead are coming back from death and they are among us!

The screen had gone black after that.

 And the panic started.


 

Chapter Text


Before

Lucille had been awake when the doctor came into the room to monitor her painkillers.

“Negan.” Lucille whispered, her voice slurring a bit due to the medication. He was by her side in an instant.

“Hey baby girl.” He whispered, touching her face lovingly. Her beautiful chocolate eyes were brimming with tears.

“Negan…need you to know.” She rasped, grasping his hands desperately.

“Whatever you want, Lucille.” He told her, trying to calm her down as the monitors started beeping.

“Vi…Victoria.” His wife whispered.

Negan blinked a couple of times before understanding fell down on him. “Lucille, no, it doesn’t matter now.”

“No, no! Listen to me!” she hissed urgently. “You look for her. I want you to do it.”

Negan sighed and squeezed his wife’s hands reassuringly. “Okay, okay, baby girl, I will.”

“Promise?” Lucille’s heartbeat started to go down.

“Yes, I promise.” Negan confirmed. What he planned to do was stay with Lucille until… And then, who knew?

“I love you.” His dear wife told him.

“I love you too, baby girl.” Negan kissed her forehead and knew he wasn’t ready for this to be goodbye.


 

Lucille fell in a coma two days later and then, on the third day after their last conversation the doctor intubated her to keep her breathing.


 

Negan woke up to faint screaming. His wife’s state was unchanged. Still unconscious, still alive. After rubbing his eyes to wake up, he looked out the window.

He could still hear the screaming.

He went to the window and pulled the curtain away and almost fell on his ass when the devastating scene hit him.

People running on the streets, crying, screaming, some weird moaning and groaning, fires were lit as far as his eyes could see.

Someone opened the door and made him whip his head around fast causing it to pound.

“Sir, you need to leave, we’re evacuating!” a man in bloody scrubs shouted. “it’s not safe!”

“But my wife?” Negan hesitated, looking at Lucille, her form still on the bed.

“She can’t be transported and…” the man was interrupted by the sound of shots.

Negan was completely baffled. It took him a long while to move, and he barricaded the room, not sure of what else to do.

All he knew was that he wasn’t leaving Lucille.


 

Negan saw the world around the hospital deteriorate, but ignored it.

No one had come to tend to Lucille, so he had done it himself for as long as he could with whatever supplies he found in the room.

So far, the electric supply hadn’t failed, and he was glad for that.


 

Savannah

The first few days had been calm.

Everyone agreed that the Jones’ Farmhouse was the safest choice, slightly isolated and easy to defend, if it ever came to it.

Tory, Betty and Mrs. Oats made lists of perishables and non-perishables and what they were likely to need. The little garden behind the farm would help for fresh food, as well as the livestock they had: some chickens, a couple of pigs and a goat.

Water could be the main issue, but Tory’s dad said he had a plan for that, they trusted him.

Tory and Peyton took lessons on how to properly shoot from Henry, who was far more experienced than the both of them. Henry had been going to hunting trips with his father as soon as he learned how to walk, her boyfriend had a wicked aim and good eye for little targets.

Peyton was good at crafting with wood and made a bow and arrows for himself and Henry. As for his parents, Peyton had called them immediately after they heard the news, the Evans’ said they would make their way down to them in Savannah. He saw it fit to cooperate as much as he could to make the space livable for so many.

Tory… Tory was a good cook. She could do a lot of packing and preserving and rationing, even some strategic thinking, but she mostly managed supplies and scavenging. Since she was still growing up, Tory could fit in slim or little spaces and was fast on her feet. Not that she had seen much action just yet; she also watched the news consistently.  

At the present moment, however, she was doing something more…frivolous.

She was watching Peyton as he cut some wood in the backyard. He had taken his shirt off and his dark skin was glistening with sweat as he wielded the axe down on the unsuspecting pieces of wood. He was so handsome. Where Henry was lean and tall, Peyton was built and solid, just a few inches shorter than Henry actually.

Tory enjoyed the company of both her boyfriends in her room every night. The Jones’ Farmhouse was spacious, but it didn’t have many rooms. Her dad had been a bit uncomfortable at first, but the boy had a long talk with him and he agreed to let them bunk in her room. The boys took turns sleeping on and by her bed each night.

Henry was a blanket hog and Peyton was a cuddle monster.

Things were sort of good.

Sort of…


 

Mr. and Mrs. Oats went for supplies one morning, a month after the first announcement of the dead invasion.

They never came back.

Henry was devastated.


 

Negan woke up to groaning.

It was muffled and he could barely make up anything out of that sound. The air was eerily silent and still, save for the continuous groaning.

A yawn surprised him as Negan rubbed at his face and eyes, trying to do away with the remnants of his rest. Almost blindly, Negan went to the little bathroom attached to the room and washed his face.

It hit him then.

The absolute silence, no beeping, no monitors, no artificial breathing for Lucille, the power was gone.

Negan bolted out of the bathroom to find his wife moving and his eyes widened.

She was moving but she wasn’t trying to take out the tubes that were inside her, rather, Lucille was trying to get off the bed.

And she did, falling on the floor beside the bed, and directly on her face.

“Lucille?” he asked, his voice was raspy due to the lack of use so he cleared his throat. “Lucille? Are you okay?” Negan hesitated. “I thought you had…”

And then she turned around.

The groaning was back, stronger, coming from his wife’s throat.

Negan fell back on his ass, a gasp chocked him as his wife approached him, dragging herself over the tile floor,  and groaning louder. “Lucille?”

As it was, the sheets were tangled around one of her legs and Lucille couldn’t move further, so Negan came to her. “No…This isn’t real.” He muttered for himself. “You’re not…”

He gently moved his hand in front of Lucille’s eyes, that were open and looked milky white over the chocolate he so loved, but she was unresponsive.  “It’s me, your husband…”

Again, the groaning was his answer.

No, this was not his Lucille, not this…creature.

Negan felt his eyes fill with tears, and shut his eyes hard as his mind struggled to comprehend; he let the tears flow freely as he kissed his wife’s forehead, trying to put all of his love into the contact, only to find cold skin and a weird smell.

Negan suppressed a sob and chocked out a hurried: “I’m sorry.” before moving the chest of drawers he’d used to barricade the room not long ago.

The scene outside was terrifying, straight out of a fucking horror movie.

“Fucking fuck!” he hissed loudly.

He was loud enough to catch the attention of a kid that was fighting two of those things right across from the reception desk.

“Help!” the kid shouted, his voice desperate as those putrid hands reached for him with similar desperation. “Help me!”

It happened fast. Negan dealt with the creatures fast and efficient.

“Thank you, mister!” he was panting, his dark skin looked dirty with ashes and blood, mixed with the sweat he had produced while trying to free himself. “Are you okay?”

“No…no I’m not…” Negan felt a weird numbness take over him, but at the same time, guilt built up in his chest. “I just murdered two people.”

The kid eyed him wearily.

“You can’t kill the dead, man.” The kid informed him. “They were already dead when I came here.”

“So…” Negan blinked a couple of times, letting the words sink as the kid waited. “So those monsters, they were already dead?”

Kid nodded. “Yeah, they were trying to eat us. It’s been in the news for a long time.”

It all clicked then.

The chaos outside the hospital, the lack of attention from the doctor, the evacuation…Lucille.

“I’ve been a bit distracted.” Negan lied. “There’s another, in the room across the desk, by the elevator.” He pointed at it. “Can you do it? I’m fucking beat, kid.”

The kid narrowed his eyes but nodded. “Yeah, I’ll do it.”

It felt like the kid had left for mere seconds. “She your wife?” he asked, pointing to the room that hand been Lucille’s with his head. “Happened to my mom too.”

Negan felt his anger flare. “Let’s go the fuck away from here, kid. We’re all having a shitty day.”  


 

Savannah

They were scavenging some neighboring properties when it happened.

Henry screamed in pain and tried to grab his back desperately.

Tory ripped at the shirt, right where she knew she should. Words were appearing.

       No, no, please! No! I’ll do anything!

“We have to go back.” She muttered. “I’ll drive.”

Tory helped Henry out of the abandoned place and to the old jeep they used as scavenging vehicle. He was in no condition to drive, so she would have to do it. At least she had paid attention to that in school.

Tory took the wheel with one gun in her hand as she speed through the dirt roads.


 

Her heart sank when she saw the smoke coming from the back of the house.

Some of the dead were outside the house, Tory took them out with Henry’s hunting knife, it was disgusting and slow.

All while her boyfriend tried to get out of the car. He was in too much pain.

Tory tried to calm her breathing, she was panting hard. Dad wasn’t back just yet, which meant only Betty and Peyton were home. The door was wide open and the destruction was evident.

Her grey eyes filled with tears when she saw Betty. Her surrogate grandmother was hanging from the railing of the stairs, a single, point blank shot in the middle of her forehead. The spray had painted the wall behind her in red.

She had been distracted.

“Lookie what I found me.” Someone said from behind her, making her shudder. A clammy hand took her shoulder and made her turn around.

It was a man. Not too old, but certainly, he didn’t look sane. He had this rabid look about him...

“If ya’ scream, Imma kill ya, pretty stuff. “ the man warned and Tory nodded. “Good.”

The man grabbed her hair and dragged her to the living room. “Ya’ve got a pretty thing goin’ ‘ere.” The man admitted, before throwing her against the chimney. “I like it.”

Tory shut her eyes hard, trying to prepare herself for…for whatever, she wasn’t sure.

“T-Tory.”

Peyton!

She opened her eyes to see Henry’s soulmate, he was tied, hands behind his back, because he had been beaten up. He was bleeding and his right eye was swelled shut.

“Peyton.” Tory murmured in a pitiful cry.

“No, no talkin’!” the man shouted, kicking Peyton in the stomach, making him gag and sputter blood. The man turned and backhanded Tory so hard she fell on her side.

“You…sonovabitch!” Peyton wheezed. “Leave her alone.”

“No fucks gonna tell me what to do.” The man kicked Peyton, again and again, and Tory could hear the cracks of his ribs as she cried. Someone was telling the man to stop, over and over again.

No.

She was telling him.

She was screaming at him to stop, while crying desperately.

Tory saw the realization down on the man’s face.

“You fuckin’ this one?” he spat. “Answer me!”

Tory shook her head.

“Good.” The man said.  

Tory could hear Peyton’s labored breathing and how he repeated her name, over and over, like a mantra.

Suddenly, Tory was upright, her back against the chimney as the man touched her everywhere, looking for a weapon, but he had already taken Henry’s knife and her gun. Pat down her mind supplied.

“Look at me.” The man said before ripping Tory’s shirt open. His hands travelled over the skin of her abdomen as he licked her throat. “Imma enjoy t’is, pretty eyes.”

“No, you ain’t.” her Dad voice made Tory limp with joy, she didn’t care for the spray of blood all over her as she crawled to Peyton. The man had fallen to the floor, victim to her dad’s axe. “You okay, sweetheart?”

Tory nodded as she put Peyton’s head on her lap.

“Pey?” she tried, her voice sounded pitiful

“Love…you okay?” he panted, his breathing was so slow.

“’M fine.” She lied, smiling through the tears and blood stains.

“Good.”

“PEYTON!”

Henry ran into the living room, almost barreling against Tom as he knelt beside his soulmate.

Peyton smiled.

Henry deflated as he saw the damage done to his soulmate. He didn’t have to be a genius to know what had was about to happen. “You idiot.” He muttered.

“I love you so much.” Peyton said, touching Henry’s cheek as he spoke.

“Don’t. Don’t you dare say goodbye to me Peyton Evans!” Henry cried.

Peyton smiled a bit wider, his working eye turned to Tory. “You are going take care of him for me?” She nodded through her sobs. “Good.”

Peyton shuddered.

“Love you. Love you.” He repeated. “Remember. Love you.”

“I know, I love you too.” Henry cried, holding onto Peyton’s hand.

“Peyton I…” Tory started, but Peyton shushed her.

“I kn-…” He gave a last shuddering breath and that was all.

Henry’s ragged scream of pain cut through Tory as if she’d been stabbed. The blond took his soulmate in his arms, cradling his lifeless body against him. “No…no, no, no, no…not you too.”

Tory looked away, feeling her chest scream in pain. Dad kneeled beside her and hugged her, letting her cry on him.


 

Tom had handled almost everything. Digging the graves for Betty and Peyton and burying them as well.

Tory had helped Henry into the shower and bathed him herself. They sat under the hot spray of the shower until after it had turned cold, punishing their naked bodies.

Tory led Henry to the room that used to be for his parents and let him lie on the bed, still naked. As she was going to get them clothes, Henry stopped her, pulling at her wrist. “Don’t leave me, not you too.” He rasped.

Tory felt a knot in her throat, so she nodded and lied beside him, just as naked as he was.

“I’m not leaving you. I’m not ever leaving you.” She muttered against the skin of his forehead, before kissing him. “Only death can take me from you.”


 

       Only death can take me from you.

Negan sighed as he read the words. It seemed so ironic, that girl had a dark sense of humor, for sure.

As he walked, Negan thought of the promise he had made to Lucille.

Look for her.

Protect her.

Well, he had other stuff to do before any of that happened, he had learned that lesson.

 

Nothing matters if you’re dead.


 

 End of Book One


 

Chapter Text


After

Savannah

Henry wasn’t in bed.

The sheets were cold already.

Tory sat up, releasing a sigh slowly. She left the bed and took a short shower. She dressed fast and methodically, using every second of the ten minutes it took her to get ready.

She looked in the mirror and frowned at the girl looking back at her. A few months had made her a stranger. Tory looked taller and gaunter, permanent dark circles surrounded her eyes and her lips seemed to be set in a thin line. She looked away.

Carefully, Tory moved through the empty hallways of the house and went down the stairs crossing the kitchen to the back of the house. She opened the door just as silently and her eyes fell on him immediately. 

Henry was kneeling in front of Peyton’s grave. Again.

Peyton’s loss had hit Henry hard and Tory feared that his death could drag Henry to his own grave. Her dad was going through a rough patch as well. Betty had died a more merciful death than Peyton’s, but she was still dead. 

Thinking about them hurt her too much, so through her own pain, Tory thought practically.

Staying in the farmhouse was an enormous risk now that it was only the three of them. They had to take whatever they could carry and leave.

Tory breathed, inhaling deeply, flexed her fingers and opened the door.

Henry didn’t look up as Tory approached him.

“I dreamed about him again.” Henry whispered, his voice void of emotion as he looked at the pitiful grave mark her dad had put up for Peyton. “I feel him die in my arms, every night.”

“Henry, I know it hurts b-…” Tory was cut off by Henry’s angry glare.

“No, you don’t know! You don’t know what it feels like, it’s as if some part of you  stays broken forever!” he shouted.

Tory stepped back, unable to hide the hurt in her eyes. “I lost people too Henry!” she shouted too. “Peyton was important to me as well!”

“He was my other half!” Henry’s voice was louder as he spoke. “I’m nothing without him!”

Tory slapped him. Hard.

“Fuck you, Henry Oats.” She hissed. “I see you right now, and you are complete. You are alive and I don’t think Peyton would like the ‘you’ that I’m seeing.” Tory hated swearing, but it always brought Henry to a halt when she did. “Peyton loved you and he wanted me to take care of you.” She sighed. “So that is what I’m going to do. I will do what I promised.”

Henry’s eyes were brimming with tears.

“Pack your stuff. We’re going to leave.” Tory ordered.

“What?” Henry asked, completely perplexed by Tory’s words.

“We’ve got to move.” She explained, trying to calm herself. “We can’t defend this place alone, it’s too big and we’re only three.”

“But, Tory, we can build defenses and…” He started.

“I know. But I do know that you will die if we stay.” Tory didn’t want to be cruel but it was necessary. “And I’m not going to lose you too, Henry.”

She turned around to go back inside, but before entering the house she shouted at Henry: “What are you waiting for?”

He got up and went behind her.


 

Negan had come back home.

He didn’t feel like he had anywhere to go, anyway. The only important person in his life was gone.

His world became an incessant routine.

Gather supplies.

Kill fucking walkers.

Go home.

Be alone.

Think about her.

Start again.

It wasn’t how he envisioned spending the rest of his life. But Negan hadn’t thought about his life after Lucille. Whenever he thought back to those days before her death, his only thought was that he didn’t want to let her go.

Having so much time for himself had given him a chance to think about what he had done to his wife.

His adorable, intelligent, sweet, compassionate wife, who he had abandoned, cheated on and lied to. Negan didn’t stop to think if he was depressed, that was for people without balls. Whatever alcohol he had, he consumed it in a short time, though.

It was actually very fucking funny, how alcohol was short supply wherever he went on runs. Like, you could have taken food and other shit, but no! Let’s take the expensive-as-hell bottles of vodka and bourbon. Pathetic.

Negan knew he would need to move on, that eventually, he would run out of supplies and everything else. So, he stayed home because it was what he had left from Lucille.


 

Someplace near Augusta

They had agreed to take dirt road routes that weren’t as known as highways, which were the most heavily infested with the dead, from when people had tried to escape to God-knows-where.

Tory was driving right now. Henry was sleeping and Dad was her navigator. They moved during the day, when there was enough light. The days had started to turn a bit grey, but the news stations had stopped giving real news many weeks before. There was only static and the same transmission over and over again.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention had an important announcement and they had to follow all instructions. Tory had memorized the words.

The military had fallen back to places unknown and so had the police. Atlanta was a hellhole and any place they turned to was brimming with the dead.

“Have enough gas, sweetheart?” Dad asked, making Tory turn to him for a second, then her grey eyes fell on the gas needle. They had half the tank still.

“Yes, Dad, still fine.” Tory answered.

“Days are turning a bit cold.” Her dad mentioned as his blue eyes took the landscape in. “It’s still September, this shouldn’t be happening.”

Tory hummed in agreement. “Who knows, maybe it’s the whole climate change thing. We haven’t fixed that.”

Her dad laughed. “Yeah, but it seems stupid now, the dead don’t need breathable air.”

Tory laughed as well. “But we still do.”

“Nuclear winter.” Henry pipped from the backseat. “They might have used nuclear weapons.”

“They who, son?” Dad asked.

“Who knows? The government? The Chinese? The Koreans? Any country with nuclear weapons?”

Well, that put a damper to everything, and the laugh had died. It wasn’t that Henry was wrong, but that he was right which worried them. How far had the infection gone? Was there any place in the planet where the dead hadn’t come back from the grave?

With a sigh, Dad looked at his watch.

“We should stop and make camp.” He suggested. Tory locked eyes with him and nodded. She looked for a quiet place and killed the engine.

“My boys, let’s do this.” She said cheerfully.


 

It was Tom’s watch.

The sky was dark and they had mostly killed the fire after cooking some peas and lentils’ soup. Tory made it just like her mother, or so it seemed to Tom who was comfortably sitting outside the tent they had taken with them.

Reading was out of the question since that required light, which attracted the dead. Humming or singing were out too since they attracted the dead.

Then he heard it.

Steps.

Numerous steps, as if many sets of feet were moving close to them.

So he took his rifle and prayed with all of his soul for the sound not to be a horde.

But the dead didn’t speak. And he heard the unmistakable sound of voices.

“Who’s there?” he asked, quiet but clear. His voice made one of the calm breathings inside the tent stop.

No one answered.

“I’ve got a rifle and I won’t doubt using it.” he warned.

Only one set of steps came closer.

“Night, good sir.” someone spoke from the darkness. “My name is Ben Bates, I’m with the army. We all are.”

“Y’all?” Tom questioned, doubtful still. “I wanna see credentials.”

“In the dark?” Ben retorted.

“Got tags, don’t ya’?” Tom snapped.

“Okay, mister, okay.” Something touched Tom’s hand, it felt like one of those tags that soldiers wore to wars for identification.

“How many of you?” Tom said, giving back the tag.

“Five with me, sir.” Ben answered.

“What do you want?” a new voice behind Tom askedand he knew his daughter was awake.

“We’re hungry, ma’am.” The slight question in Ben’s tone made Tom smirk. His kid had a commanding voice sometimes, she was strong like that.

“We don’t have much.” Tom said. “But you are protecting what’s left of this, aren’t y’all?”

“Yes, sir.” a little chorus answered him.

“You’re a softy.” Tory complained quietly.


 

“That gas doesn’t belong to you.” Someone spoke behind Negan. “We don’t touch what doesn’t belong to us.”

“Not that I care.” Negan answered, his voice sounded raspy as shit. “Don’t know your name either, so I don’t know if it’s written in the gas.” Was he a five year old? What sort of comeback was that?

“Maybe we’ll beat your old ass, dude.” Another said.

Negan sighed and turned. “So? Maybe I’ll beat you all little shits.” Frowns appeared amongst the group. “What the fuck are you going to do with the gas? Huh?”

The group stayed silent.

“I’ve got a car a few blocks away, just got no gas.” He continued. “Any of you motherless motherfuckers knows how to hotwire a car?”

Again silence.

“Yeah, thought so. There’s four of you and one of me, I know my maths, we’ll fit in the car. Follow me.”

The shits actually walked behind him. One of them had a really fucking nice bat, one of those that seemed handmade.

“Nice bat.” Negan wanted to roll his eyes at himself. He was being stupid, maybe getting with these idiots would help him some.

The car let him down though. But he just followed the sorry fucks, bantering with himself. No one had a sense of humor in the end of the world, it seemed.

Well, he had it.


 

       This phallic majesty ejaculates fucking death into whatever I point at.

“Nice ink work.” Ben told Tory the next morning. She sneered at him and rolled her eyes. 

“I was trying to be nice.” He excused.

“You’d think the scarring makes it difficult to read.” She complained. “He has no filter.”

“You sure they’re a he?” Ben asked. Tory looked down at the lieutenant with narrowed eyes. He had offered to take the watch after they had eaten what was left of the lentil soup and the lukewarm peas.

“He has a wife, so I guess.” Tory answered.

Ben hummed noncommittally and looked up to the grey sky. Tory watched him carefully.

“You know what happened?”

Ben’s dark eyes told her everything. He knew. He spoke without being prompted. “They say India, Israel and Iran had disputes about their borders right at the peak of the invasion.” He sighed. “Didn’t end well for anyone out there and it caused the weather to shift.”

So Henry was right.

“And…where are you going?” Tory asked, crossing her arms.

Ben looked at her, studying her no doubt. What could a teenager do, though?

“We’re going to a safe-zone in Virginia, a new house development called Alexandria.”


 

Chapter Text


After

The night before

Walker brains flew everywhere, “You dicks could have told me we were surrounded!” Negan exclaimed, while another one tried to tackle him to the ground. “…the clumsiest fucking…”

Negan swallowed a sigh when he turned and saw the carnage that his companions had become. 

Fucking zombie food. 

His eyes fell on the bat, the very nice bat he had come to use.

What option did he have?

The solid feeling of the wood in his hand gave him security as he swung at the dead shits. Negan felt so fucking angry, even if it was futile, dead meat was dead meat. He threw the bat and started to walk away. The anger had simmered down a bit by then, but his eyes went back to the bat.

After all, it had saved him.


 

Georgia

They traveled during the day.

The dead ones were easily seen and the soldiers drove quite fast. Some knew the ways, some others did not, but the workload was sort of equilibrated.

Tom, Henry and Tory had food and some guns, while the good soldiers had more guns, some survival supplies and experience in battle.

Henry and one of the soldiers, Brooke Crhovic, hit it off from the start. Crhovic was Ben’s second in command and his sniper.  They spent as much time as they could together and Brooke kept saying that he was surprised with Henry’s talent and natural ways with the guns. 

“Brooke had a soulmate too.” Ben told Tory one night while they got ready for the first watch. “Pretty little thing, kind of unfortunate that it was his niece.”

Tory blanched at that and Ben laughed at her.

“Don’t worry, there was nothing…weird.” The lieutenant assured her. “She’s dead anyway.”

“Just because they die doesn’t mean we forget them.” Tory scolded.

“I didn’t say that, but he is broken just like your Henry.” The soldier’s honey eyes kept her in place. “They might not live for too long.”

The young girl closed her eyes knowing Ben might be right. Even if her grandparents had lived together for a long time, it didn’t mean they weren’t broken; her dad was a bit broken, and now Henry.

A weird sense of completeness always accompanied her. She knew from the constant knowledge of her soulmate running around. She had no love lost for her soulmate, but she was grateful to him for staying alive.

“I have a soulmate as well. Name’s Beth, fierce little thing, if I do say so myself.” Ben smirked at Tory as his hands smoothed out the map they have been following. “I’d like to meet her.”

The young girl sighed, watching the lieutenant with wariness to his slightly naïve idea.

“That’s going to be hard.” She opted to say instead of speaking her mind.

“No walking corpse’s gonna keep me from my soulmate.” He vowed wistfully.

“I thought the young one here was me.” Tory teased, tracing the same way Ben was marking on his map.

“If you can’t dream at fourteen is not my problem, princess.” Ben retorted, frowning as his eyes scanned the multiple routes.

“I’m sixteen, you air-head.” Tory growled, while Ben laughed at her childish insult.

“Don’t you know any good curses?” he asked, still teasing her. Tory glared at him and decided not to dignify his words with an answer.

They kept at work until it was too dark to keep going.

Tom had already lit a fire while Henry, Brooke and Tyson cleaned some rabbits from their earlier hunt.

The little group had formed a deep camaraderie in the few weeks since they had been together. The evenings had started to get longer as time went by. Sometimes, they exchanged stories, fun or sad. At first, everyone had tried to keep Tory away from the stuff, saying she was too young –which she objectively was- and that it was illegal, and Tory argued in her words: “There is no form of government that we know anymore, so there is no way to enforce that law and I need a drink.”

They stopped arguing after a long political debate that had ended with everyone cursing the lack of action of the government in the whole corpses-are-coming-back-from-death-to-eat-us debacle. 

For a while, they really didn’t need to scavenge for much, but whenever they found canned goods, they took it since military rations could last only so long.

Avoiding the areas that used to be densely populated was tricky, keeping to backroads was a good strategy but these cities and towns that were full of people were now full of roamers; they had some nasty incidents, and were extremely lucky that none of them had died yet, so they never took good things for granted.

A quiet night with a little bonfire was now a luxury they could rarely afford, even if they wanted to get warm. Tonight they were celebrating Tyson’s birthday, which meant everyone got extra alcohol, even if it took them to share some really…sad stuff.  

“My mom realized it.” Brooke offered. “She saw the marks appear on Stacey’s leg when she was a little kid. I was fifteen.”

The group had suddenly gotten quiet, listening to the usually taciturn sniper.

“Mom kept it secret, Stace was my niece, and I would have never hurt her.” The soldier’s lower lip started to quiver. “She was so scared…in those last minutes.” Brooke said, touching his side unconsciously. “I wish I had been there.”

Henry shuddered and Tory watched him with sad eyes as his arms tightened around her, and she knew he was thinking about Peyton’s words that were on his back. The words Tory had refused to read for him.

Ben’s eyes found Tory’s and he shook his head slightly before downing another shot of the vodka.

“I know what you mean, son.” Tom said soothingly, patting the sniper’s back with soft movements. “It hurts to think…to know we can’t help them.”

Tory and Henry exchanged a look. Her dad never, ever, had spoken to them about his own soulmate. They knew their last words; they were printed in Tom’s left ankle in a faded and childish writing. 

His soulmate had died young.

“So what’s the story, old man?” Ben asked, getting ready to pour them all another round.

Tom sighed and uncovered his left ankle.

       It hurts, Tommy, I can’t breathe.

“Her name was Sarah, Sarah Jane Oats.” Henry gasped in surprise, completely baffled at his father-in-law’s words.

“My…My aunt Sarah?” he asked stupidly.

Tom nodded.

“It was a coincidence that I ever met her, Henry, believe me.” Tom said.

In that moment, Tory realized why she and Henry had gotten all those comments and teasing from the Oats family since they were kids. All the dribble about the families being tied after all and whatever shit.

“When I was seven, your family moved from Illinois.” Tom recounted, trying to avoid Henry’s gaze. “Your dad was my age and Sarah was four, she was a tornado of energy and happiness.”

Tory felt a pang in her chest at the fondness in her dad’s tone, it was the way he talked about her own mother. Love, respect and sadness all conveyed in his words.

“My aunt died really young.” Henry provided. “My gran and Dad never talked about her much.”

Tom nodded again. “She was nine.”

The soldiers murmured a bit and shook their heads with what seemed to Tory like pity and sadness.

“We were playing inside the barn that was in the Oats property. It was a well-kept place, full of interesting stuff for three kids.” Tom was well into his memories, and didn’t notice the lot of them getting uncomfortable and tense at the implication that he had been there. “The weather was really bad that day and we didn’t know…we were more worried about the rain that whatever was inside the barn.”

Henry and Tory shared another long glance. There was no barn in the Oats property, not one that they remembered.

“Sarah was playing in a corner, using old cans to make towers while Alex and I played mechanics on one of the old bikes.” Tom shuddered visibly.

“You don’t have to say more, Thomas.” Ben offered kindly but Tom was already shaking his head.

“Sarah was allergic to bees.” He whispered, his voice barely audible above their own breathing and the sound of the burning wood. “The barn had an infestation.”

Tory could picture the little girl playing alone, no one paying attention to her…

“It was only one.” Tom’s voice broke then, but he didn’t need to explain anymore. “Sarah had your eyes Henry, and she looked so afraid.” Tears rolled down Tom’s cheeks as he kept going. “She had stopped breathing when your grandparents arrived. The weather was awful and no ambulance could reach us.”

Brooke and Tyson drank another shot after Tom’s words.

“She died in my arms.” With a sigh, Tom extended his cup for more alcohol as Ben served him.

Tory found her father’s eyes and locked her gaze with his. It seemed like a very bad joke, Henry and him going through the same thing. Suddenly, it didn’t seem so unreasonable to her, how her dad had pried Peyton’s body from Henry’s arms so calmly.

The mood had definitely died, and Tory felt bad for Tyson who had a beer in his hand now.

“I guess we can keep celebrating tomorrow. It’s quite late.” Ben suggested.

Everyone agreed, and they shuffled to their tents awkwardly, leaving Brooke to do the first watch.


 

A gentle thud woke Tory up.

She blinked, and held her head with a silent gasp of pain. The throbbing wasn’t a welcome feeling, and the light hurt her eyes, and she could see by the color of the light that It was barely dawn. “Jesus.” She whispered, extricating herself from Henry’s embrace and sitting up.

Then she heard it.

Steps.

Lots of dragging steps.

Steps and raspy, primitive moans.

She moved slow and silently, putting the throbbing pain in her skull aside.

Tory’s grey eyes were now fully alert which was both good and bad. Good because she could now see clearly. Bad because she didn’t like what she saw through the fine screen of the tent.

They were surrounded by the dead.


 

Chapter Text


After

They were completely surrounded by the dead.

Tory cursed inwardly, feeling her stomach churn in fear as the shuffling came closer and the moans grew louder.

“Henry, wake up.” She whispered, poking his ribs with her sock clad foot.

Shit.

“Wake. The. Fuck. Up.” She hissed, poking him even harder with every word.

In her panic, Tory hadn’t taken Henry’s reaction into account because he groaned loudly.

Tom sat up, looking around blearily, taking the surrounding with a confused expression.

Tory felt like crying as she put her index finger over her lips, and signaled her dad to order Henry to wake up.

She took her knife and gun and opened the tent window slowly, trying not to make a sound as Tom and Henry shuffled inside their tent, getting ready for whatever came. Her grey eyes fell immediately on Brooke, he had taken the last watch, he was supposed to alert them if something like this happened, but the bullet hole in his temple told her what Tory needed to know. He was being cannibalized by three dead ones.

Tory tore her ayes from the dead soldier to watch the neighboring tent, where Ben, Tyson, Charles and Hadwick were supposed to be. Honey colored eyes found her grey ones, mirroring the desperate expression of their faces.

They had two options.

They could go out and fight for their lives, or…

They could stay in their tents and die all the same…devoured by cannibalistic corpses.


 

”If we ever get ambushed by Zacks* in a closed environment, like a building or something like that, fighting is way more difficult, out in the open? Everything helps.” Ben said, lighting a cigarette before he kept explaining. “Headshots are the best thing you can do, but those things are really into noise.” Ben took a long drag and exhaled slowly. “Better if you stab them or have a silencer.”

“Say we don’t have guns…What do we do?” Tory asked, fanning the smoke away with her hands, making Ben chuckle.

“Well, cut the heads, easy peasy.” The lieutenant sighed. “Let’s just hope we don’t have to fight them without warning.”


 

Tory lifted her weapons so Ben could see them, he nodded at her and she gestured outside with her head, lifting three fingers. Her friend tilted his head to the side, confusion and horror flashed in his expression and he immediately shook his head vigorously.

But Tory wasn’t paying attention to him anymore.

Surviving was the goal.

 

       If you die, I’m going to kill you, Henry Oats!

 

Negan sighed in contempt after reading the words on his skin.

Lucille was the one who used to read the marks of his arm; she liked it too. She found them amusing and interesting. For Negan, those words were annoying. That fucking girl had his life in her hands and she was being sloppy with it.

He turned his eyes away with a sigh, rubbing his hands against his beard, as it was now growing uncontrollably. Negan didn’t precisely have a way to shave, but it didn’t matter anyway, no one would see him.

He was tired of the silence, of the solitude and of the fucking dead meat. His previous companions had all been idiots and died as such, but they had filled the silence. Even the fucking words in his arm were better than the cocksucking silence.

 

       They’re gone.

 

Who was gone though? He wanted to ask, but Negan didn’t really know if the marks worked that way; he had never tried, and he probably won’t.

Whether he was going to use his right arm to talk to a girlNegan didn’t know. He ended up stopping himself when the sound of a twig breaking reached his ears.

“Better not be planning to kill me, I’m not in the mood.” Negan declared.

“Are you gonna eat that all by yourself, man?” a man answered from behind the bat wielding man.

“I only got it for myself, ya’ know?” Negan smiled sardonically, turning his head around.

A man with a balding, greying head was looking at him, and his moustache looked straight out of a bad porn movie. “Come on, be a…what’s it called? Good Samaritan?”

“I think all those are dead.” Negan laughed. “So, maybe just a good-damn-stranger, how about that?”

“Care for a drink?” the moustache man asked, holding a bottle of what seemed to be whiskey, so Negan could see it.

“Man, you just got yourself dinner.” He answered with a smile. “Name’s Negan.”

“Simon.”


 

Tory stabbed one roamer after another. She was soaked in stale blood, putrid flesh and various bodily fluids. Her hands were shaking and she was tired. Henry had her back. His comforting and steady warmth was keeping her grounded as they created corpses around them. Her dad was still dealing with a roamer and another was coming from behind him.

“Henry.” Tory hissed, making her boyfriend stand to attention. “Dad needs you.”

Oh, Henry delivered.

The young brunette covered for him as he aimed and shot both walkers with clean accuracy, killing them for good.

The incessant moaning from before was now a muted sound, compared to the start of their little squabble. When Henry killed the last one, they finally breathed easy.

‘Talk about a new world.’ she thought.


 

Tory checked twice.

The walkers were all dead. There hadn’t been that many. Her head count gathered about fifty something. But first thing in the morning they were a really bad surprise.

As they had ventured into the woods, Tory noticed the lack of voices from their companions.

“They’re gone.” She seethed. Her rage wasn’t directed at the little troop, though; it came from the predicament they were in now.

Her Dad and Henry were knackered, and so was she. They had very limited supplies and needed a refuge. She still had the map to Alexandria, and she was confident they could get there.

“Yeah, they are gone, and we’re covered in zombie crap.” Henry complained.

“Better that than dead, son.” Said Tom. “Any ideas?”

Tory looked at the horizon, it was past midday, maybe even later. Her watch had been ripped from her wrist, no way to know the time or date. Her grey eyes fixed on the shape of the artificial clouds down south. Then she turned north.

Virginia was a long way away, it could take them ages but the possibility of security was just so…tempting. They would need the respite, she was sure of it.

“We should try to get there.” Henry said, voicing the thoughts Tory was sharing. “Alexandria.”

“We’ll need to gather stuff.” Tom suggested.

Tory stayed quiet for a while, still watching the muted light of the sunset. Getting ready seemed sensible, they needed to regain their footing.

“You know what?” she asked quietly.

“Yes?”

“Kitten?”

They spoke in sync and Tory smiled to them and sighed.

“We smell like dead guts and I have blood in parts unknown.” she whined pitifully.

They laughed, strained, bitter, little laughs as they went to load the jeep with what they had left in supplies. Henry covered the car seats with plastic and they took off in the middle of the night.

Later, while Henry drove and her dad navigated, Tory sat keeping her eyes fixed on the darkness outside.

A memory that had eluded her came back.


 

“If anything happens and we get separated, keep going, princess.” Ben instructed, his voice firm as he spoke low. “Keep going as far as you can. We’ll get to Alexandria.”

Tory nodded vigorously.

“We will go.” She confirmed, watching as the soldier sagged a bit with relief.

“Good.” He lit another cigarette. “What would I do without you bunch anyway?”

Tory smiled and fanned the smoke of the cigarette away. “Who knows, Ben?


 

Tory wiped her stray tears away as they fell in silence. For all his talk of unity, though, Ben had fled as soon as he saw his opportunity, and Tory cried harder for her ignorance.

She cried for a long while that night.

Tory cried for her grandparents, all three of them.

For her mother.

For Peyton and Betty.

For Brooke and Ben and the mismatched group of soldiers she’d learned to like.

She even had tears for her soulmate and Lucille, and for a while, she cried for the soulmarks that hadn’t appeared in a while.

As she fell asleep with the first light of the morning, Tory wondered how many sunrises she had left.


 

*Zack or Zacks: term used by Max Brooks in his book World War Z (2006), referring to the walking dead.


 

Chapter Text


After

Somewhere in Ohio

Negan decided that Simon was a good companion. He didn’t ask stupid questions or tried to talk about the past. He also had the ability to find alcohol everywhere they went, and while Negan was partial towards whiskey and bourbon, Simon was a tequila man.

However, they didn’t go hungry, which was more important.

“You ever stop talking about your dick, man?” 

Negan stopped, slightly confused by Simon’s interruption. The man usually listened to him without so much a peep.

“But, Simon! My dick is magnificent!” Negan argued lightly with a smile on his lips. “Girls love it.”

Simon laughed, pushing his breathe in harsh puffs which made his mustache ruffle as he reached for another bite of their meager squirrel soup. 

“Not sure if girls love it though, Negan.” The man argued. “Haven’t seen a living one in a while.”

Negan couldn’t help but chuckle at that and they fell into a comfortable silence.

The fire kept crackling as they ate, only the sound of their rudimentary cutlery could be heard for a while.

“So, tell me, what’s the story of that one?” Simon asked, looking at Negan’s arm. 

The arm.

“None of your fucking business, Si.” Negan answered politely, or as politely as he could, considering his cursing. Simon laughed and shook his head in amusement.

“I’ve seen some like those before.” His new friend commented. “Never seen one about a dude on another dude though.”

Clenching his fists, Negan directed his eyes at the words on his arm. He had ignored those, because one, they were not his business, and two, he didn’t want to know who his soulmate was fucking.

“It’s a girl.” He offered simply. “A very stupid girl.”

“Henry’s a weird name for a girl.” 

Negan rolled his eyes and grunted something that sounded suspiciously like ‘asshole’.

“I think the girl is fucking this Henry kid.” 

It was unbelievable, his much, much younger soulmate was getting more action than him. 

“Very stupid, as I was saying.”

Simon nodded. “Yeah, you can’t exactly get protection in the end of the world, right?”

Negan almost swallowed his spoon when Simon mentioned protection.

“They can do whatever they fucking please…” Negan started, only to be interrupted by an overly amused Simon.

“Oh, by the sound of those words, they sure are.”

“Cunt.” Negan smiled.

After all, Simon was just being realistic.


 

Somewhere in Virginia

They ran out of fuel in the suburbs of Roanoke, in a little backroad that lead them to a little cottage.

Tom and Henry dealt with the roamers as Tory kept guard in the jeep.

Once the path was clear, they all pushed the car towards the cottage. So far, no one had come out or received them with shots. They felt sort of pleased and relieved for it.

Tory hadn’t known at the moment, but they were all fortunate; because other people were so afraid of the dead, that they didn’t think about the rest of the living people. 

A biter you could kill, no consequences…but human beings? That was another story and a study in revenge she was entirely too young to deal with.

However, the cottage wasn’t abandoned.

A roamer was waiting for them, sitting on a couch. The rifle it had on its legs rattled loudly when the thing stood up. Tory, who was the swiftest with the knife, killed the thing with a single, hard stab.

“Let’s check for more.” Tom suggested, frowning at the general direction of the quiet hallway.

They found the corpse of a young woman and a baby in the backroom, both had been shot in the head. The woman had a badly bandaged wound in one of her hands and they didn’t have to be experts to deduce what had happened. Tory and Henry buried the three bodies while her dad inspected the structure of the little house and checked for anything they could fix. It had to be done before they went scavenging for anything.


 

This time, Tom, Tory and Henry settled into a routine of alertness. Even if they had the walls of the cottage to protect them, one of them took one night each to watch for…whatever came next.

Tom had cried when Tory came back from one trip with a box of coffee jars.

Another plus they had gotten was the radios Ben and his little troop had left them. Even if one of them was alone, at the cottage or out, they could communicate. The fact that the house had gas and a little solar panel was another blessing. They had electricity, not much, but some. The gas supply came from food scraps and they were simply set for whatever length of time they decided to stay.

However, Tory still felt restless, even if she kept it to herself.


 

“I’m going out then.” Tom announced to Tory and Henry, who were tidying the kitchen up a bit.

“Sure thing, dad.” Tory answered. “Take care, yes? We’ll be on alert for your frequency.”

“Be careful, Tom.” Henry followed.

Tory’s dad nodded and left quietly, taking the jeep with him.

Once their little chores of the day were done, neither Tory, nor Henry, had anything else to do. 

You could only read the same books so many times, play the same deck of cards for so long. So, they were simply resting on Tory’s room, lying over the worn duvet of her bed. 

“I only slept with Peyton once.” Henry blurted out.

Tory tried to formulate any response, but her boyfriend had baffled her too much with his confession. 

“What?” she murmured dumbly.

“I only slept with Peyton once.” Henry repeated. Slower this time.

“Oh…well, I guess…okay?”

Henry laughed.

“I had never slept with a man before, Kitten.” Henry confessed. “Girls? Yeah, more than one, but no boys for me.”

“Don’t be gross, Henry Oats.” Tory scolded. “So, what? How was it with Peyton?”

A dreamy expression took over Henry’s eyes, his baby blues glazed over with nostalgia as he spoke sweetly of his soulmate.

“He completed me.” Henry said. “I felt fuller in a spiritual sense. Like I could do whatever I chose, no matter what. It felt like that for a while…after.”

“When was it?” Tory questioned, wanting to know more. She knew it wasn’t healthy to press Henry for information, so she tried not to sound pushy.

“It was actually a few months before your birthday.” Her friend confessed. “We already knew we would be talking to you about being with us. Peyton wanted something for us, before breaking the news, you know.”

Not a hard feeling passed through Tory as Henry spoke. She recognized those moments had been special for him and she respected that. One of her hands reached for Henry’s and she smiled feeling his warmth envelope her cool skin.

“I’m glad it happened.” Henry kept going. “I just miss him too much.”

Tory’s heart constricted in her chest.

She was about to try and cheer Henry up when his lips touched hers. He smelled like the coffee Tory had made that morning and she caught the faint smell of their breakfast on his clothes too, when Henry put himself over her body using his elbows as leverage to hover on top of her.

“I love kissing you, Kitten.” Henry mumbled against her lips.

“I love it when you kiss me, so, I guess that make two of us?” she mumbled as well, putting her free arm round Henry’s neck.

“ ’T sure does.” Henry declared confidently, as his eyes looked for hers. “You look amazing.”

Tory felt the blood run to her cheeks when Henry started doing away with her blouse slowly. His hands were rougher now, more calloused after so many months ‘in the wild’. Tory’s skin was sensitive to his touch.

“Are you ready, Victoria?” Henry mumbled in her ear, his voice seductive and smooth like honey.

“I-I’m ready.” She breathed back. Henry kissed her fiercely then, but still moved slowly, wanting to take his time.

Henry devoured Tory’s slim frame with his eyes as his fingers worked on her clothes. He took off her blouse, her undershirt, unbuttoned her jeans and slid them off her legs, kissing his way down Tory’s right leg and making his way up while kissing her left leg.

“Not fair.” Tory protested weakly, seeing as Henry was still mostly dressed. “Take something off.”

“I will, kitten, this takes time.” Henry admonished her softly, before kissing her again, sliding his lips along hers, biting softly on Tory’s lower lip and prodding her mouth with his tongue. 

Henry groaned when she moaned and let him inside her mouth. She tasted sweet, like maple syrup. Henry’s hands didn’t stay idly while he kissed his girl. No, he made a study of touching her learning the soft texture of her skin with the tips of his fingers. Her breasts were coming back after the weight-lost Tory had suffered at the start, and they were soft, pliable and warm to his touch. Tory’s nipples stood to attention through her bra and Henry ended another kiss to take one of her buds inside his mouth.

Tory arched into Henry’s touch at the cold contact of his tongue against her heated flesh. Her blood was pounding desperately making her skin look flushed pink.

“You are so perfect.” Henry murmured against the skin that made the space between her breasts. His lips brushing lightly over it causing Tory to break into goosebumps.

“Oh, Henry.” She moaned breathily. “Please.”

“I’m trying love.” He assured his girlfriend, snaking one of his hands between them and into Tory’s panties.

The brunette gasped in surprise, but not for long, as Henry’s more experienced fingers found her clit, caressing the little pearl in circular motions as he kept kissing her.

Tory was in heaven. The pleasure kept building inside her, and she had no doubt Henry would make her enjoy every second, but she felt quite useless, laying on the bed, moaning like crazy, without doing one thing.

“H-Henry…”

“Shh…” he mumbled, as he left her chest in favor of her throat, laying open mouthed kisses all over her, and continuing to apply pressure between her legs. “It’s okay.”

The pressure she felt inside her body suddenly released, and Tory arched in a higher curve when she reached her peak for Henry didn’t stop her ministrations until her back was on the bed again leaving Tory breathless.

Tory was too overwhelmed in pleasure and bliss to form coherent word.

“Are you sure you want this, Victoria?”

Tory opened her eyes now, looking at Henry, whose expression was dead serious. 

Yes, she wanted this, she wanted him! She nodded vigorously.

“Say it, please.” He commanded gently.

“Henry Oats, I want you to make love to me.” 

Oh, her voice was trembling so much she doubted Henry understood. Tory was proved wrong when Henry dragged her to the edge of the bed and helped her keep her legs open.

“I’ll try to make it good for you.” He promised hotly, unzipping his jeans at the same time.

Tory hadn’t even noticed his now prominent erection. Sex-ed classes didn’t actually prepare people for sex, that was for sure.  

“You go commando?” She questioned, making Henry smile gently.

“That I do, kitten.” He kissed the inside of her thigh as his other hand played along her slit, spreading her wetness.

Tory sighed at the blonde’s soft caressing, but stiffened a bit when his finger entered her, no matter how slow it was.

“Relax, Victoria.” Henry ordered firmly. “I need you to relax. Breathe.”

She obeyed as best as she could, letting her thoughts drift away while Henry’s finger moved in and out of her body, easier and easier with every passing second.

Her lower belly was tightening again, as Tory’s pleasure built inside her like hot lava inside a volcano.

Henry made sure to have Tory exactly where she should be when he entered her, fast and firm, and his lovely girl didn’t even flinch.

“Damn it!” he hissed. He knew she was tight, being a virgin and all, but Henry hadn’t expected such a hot welcome.

“Henry…Henry, move!” Tory pleaded, trying to reach him with her arms. He smiled at her and lowered himself into her again, this time buried to the hilt inside her. Tory squirmed a bit, but didn’t complain.

“I’ll move now, I promise, but I’m not stopping, Victoria.” He warned her.

“So don’t, but move now!” she ordered with her bossy voice.

Henry withdrew from her body, feeling Tory tighten around him as if she didn’t want to let him go. And he thrust back in, hearing little mewling sounds from her throat.

At this point, Henry knew he wouldn’t last long, so his hand went back between them as he pounded into her body, making her moan louder with each thrust.

Tory cried out when Henry’s fingers touched her clit again, pressing softly as he entered her over and over. She knew she needed a release, but even moving against his thrust wasn’t helping, she felt too hot.

“I’m going to cum, Victoria…” Henry’s voice dragged her back to reality. He was pleading with her. His pleasure-hungry expression spurned Tory to move back harder against Henry’s incessant thrusting. Knowing she could make her experienced boyfriend fall to this point seemed to do the trick for her, since Tory heard herself screamed his name when her orgasm hit.

“Fuck.” Henry swore, gripping Tory’s hips to work with him as he thrust like a man possessed, until he reached his release.

“Love you, Kitten.” He whispered, caressing her forehead as he tucked her sweat-damp hair behind her ears. Tory smiled, her grey eyes glittering with love, pleasure and satisfaction. 

“I love you too, Henry.”


 

Chapter Text


After

Negan sighed with contempt watching the fire warily as the pot over it began to simmer.

He would have killed for some good spaghetti. This new world was a pale shadow of what life before had been. Negan had never considered himself a sentimental man…damn, he wasn’t! 

But the comforts of the world before the apocalypse? He missed that.

That and a good fuck...

“Do you think we’ll settle here, boss?” Simon asked casually leaning against the shovel he had used after running out of ammo.

Negan narrowed his eyes and sneered at the -now vacant- shopping mall.

“No, this shit ain’t safe.” He declared.

Simon nodded and they talked a bit more on logistics. The group would have to move as soon as everyone had gotten rest. Negan served himself some more of the surprise soup from the pot and started his dinner as Simon went to inform the group of their intentions to keep moving.

While he ate, Negan thought back to the time before Simon and their little group. He had gone through some shit before meeting his now friend and right-hand man. Hell, Negan never imagined he would find a friend in the end of the fucking world, that was for sure. It surprised him too, that at some point, the power dynamics had shifted between them. One day, Simon had simply started calling him boss like it made no difference to him. 

Negan had to ask why.

“You like to boss all of us around, so it fits.” His friend had answered.

Negan thought it was bullshit, but he didn’t stop Simon.

In the silence, Negan thought of his situation at hand; he had a little group, twelve people at most, and they had a good amount of supplies from what they scavenged across the shopping mall.

Simon came back, making noise as he walked which he usually didn’t do.

“There are incomings, boss.” 

“Dead or alive?” Negan stood, taking his bat, a defensive posture starting to take over him shoulders.

“Alive, boss.”

“Well, guess we gotta be fucking nice then, right?” he didn’t smile, but his voice gave Simon the impression that Negan wouldn’t fool around if their group was in danger, so, he nodded.


 

Tom gave them the talk.

It was rather useless, at least that was what Tory thought, even if they hadn’t been careful, she lied smoothly and shut Henry up by grabbing onto his thigh so hard she left the marks of her nails through his clothes. Tory tried not to think hard about sleeping with Henry. She loved him. And hell, she knew he loved her, but there was something hindering them, and stopping them from really enjoying themselves. 

Tory tried not to think about the way Henry held her while murmuring Peyton’s name in his sleep.

It hurt. It hurt very fucking much.

Tory understood it hadn’t even been a year since Peyton’s death…it was too soon.

“We’re sorry dad, we were cold.” The final cut of the conversation wasn’t even that much of a lie. The days were really cold and even with Henry’s deduction and Ben’s information, there was no way to know if the ‘nuclear winter’ would last long.

“That’s not an excuse, Victoria Jones.” Tom scolded.

“Dad, I’m almost of age.” She whined, looking at Henry for help, but he had his eyes conspicuously fixed somewhere on the ceiling of the cottage.

“Almost! You’re still my kid, Victoria.” Tom’s voice was firm. “Now, both of you, out of my sight.”

Later that day, when they went to gather supplies, Henry commented on the prior conversation. “Has he ever really enforced a punishment on you, kitten?”

Tory shook her head. “Not ever. Mom was the disciplinarian.”

They made love inside a random convenience store from the next town over before going back home. 

Even if her dad had noticed, he never said a thing.


 

Somewhere in Virginia

The group stumbled in the factory during a cold night.

Now it had been more than a year since Simon had found Negan, and it had been even longer since the end of the world had started.

The two of them had cleared the gateway to the tall building, and it was well after sunrise by the time the ground floor was clear of biters. The place smelled like shitty putrid guts. However, it was easy to secure. With all sincerity, Negan knew the group needed a rest, and they had been wandering without a real objective for a while now.

“We’ve got something here, Simon.” Negan told his right-hand man, who smiled in return. “We can build our world from here.”

“You just say the words, boss.”

Negan lifted his head, watching under the imposing shadow the place projected. Yes, this was it… 

They had a lot of work to do but they would make it…


 

       A sanctuary.

Tory scratched at the word, feeling irritation bubble in her chest. In a weird turn of events, the irritation came accompanied with a bit of excitement.

She had other stuff to think about, like Tom’s terrible flu and the awful fever that had Henry confined to bed as well. Her dad and her boyfriend had gone and gotten themselves soaked under freezing rain for who-knows-how-long. Tory was being careful with rationing and caring for them, but their supply of medicine and antibiotics was running out quick and she had already raided every drugstore around.

It wasn’t enough.

They had to move and get themselves someplace else before one of them died from a perfectly treatable illness.

We’re going to a safe-zone in Virginia, a new house development called Alexandria. Ben’s words came back to her mind. Maybe Alexandria had a doctor, someone actually qualified to take care of her father and her partner. Bitter tears came to her grey eyes as she removed the noodle soup from the stove.

They had stayed in the cottage because it had been safe, but just as the farmhouse had become a liability, the isolation of the cottage was playing against them now. Tory was the only cold head in the place and she had come to a decision.

It took three days to actually prepare everything.

She packed blankets and clothes, kitchen stuff, all their food and water. She also made a few extra runs for fuel and charged the jeep that had been their trusted companion so far.

Forcing Tom and Henry out of the cottage had been hell.

Her dad was too weak and leaned on her most of the way to the vehicle. Henry was stronger, but his fever made him hallucinate with people that had been long gone. Tory placed them both in the backseat leaning in some of the pillows she had loaded on the jeep.

Tory finally climbed in the driver seat. Breathing out a long sigh, she bundled her hair up in a messy bun on the top of her head, and opened her old map and traced the route through the backroads calculating on how much fuel they had. If they were unlucky, they would end up somewhere near Beckley, but if luck smiled to them, their destination would be Lexington just a few miles away from Alexandria.

“Here we go.” She muttered, her hand over the key.

The roar of the jeep comforted her.

It meant advance.

It meant survival.


 

Chapter Text


After

The Sanctuary, Virginia

You don’t build civilization in a day.

Negan was sweet on the idea of his group creating something better for the future, a legacy. He was constantly reminded of Sunday school whenever he thought about civilization that it even took God seven days to create the Earth. Alas, Armageddon had come with no anti-Christ to fight, only dead corpses to crush.

However, their greatest enemy wasn’t the dead, even if they were a great inconvenience. No, lack of food, reparations and lack of medication was the problem.

The unusually cold days kept the Sanctuary at freezing temperatures. The cloudy skies didn’t allow for many things grow, so scavenging runs were the new normal.

And still, they thrived.

Now, Negan was elbows deep into a notebook, scribbling fast as the ideas came to him.

It was necessary they had a system.

Money was worthless, the same as other abilities. What use was a manager if they didn’t know how to hot-wire a car, or how to make a sow work? The world didn’t have a place for lawyers, linguists, writers, CEO’s or any other job that would have made great money in the world of before. Those people needed to, either learn to survive or die.

Simon had gathered the useful people of their group; he had an architect, an engineer, three construction workers and two mechanics. However, the most appreciated and secured member of the community was a young woman that Simon had found in a run. The Doc was fresh out of medical school and knew her way around what little supplies they had, and she was good at improvisation too.

Having Doc was a privilege, and her time was strictly measured and watched.

Privilege is what gave Simon the idea to base their new world order.

The point system.

It was sheer fucking brilliance.

His people would work and move the structure of the Sanctuary as a community, the saviors would protect and scavenge for goods that they couldn’t get that easy and they would set a system of point administration based on production and work-time. If the people of the Sanctuary broke the rules, that was another thing. Negan was still making punishments up in his mind.

“What are you writing at this hour?” a pretty voice floated to his ears from his bed.

Negan pinched the bridge of his nose and turned his head to look at her. She looked amazing with her tousled hair and sleepy expression, the little bite mark on her neck easily noticeable even in the relative darkness of the room.

“You know I’m a busy man Sherry-baby.” Negan answered with a cocky smile.

“Come back to bed, busy man, I’ve got something for you.” Sherry rasped, her voice still rough from sleep.

“If you insist.” He sang as he stood up, padding slowly towards the bed. “Are you ready for a bit of my Lil’ Negan?” he asked, watching her curves as she moved.

“Oh, there’s nothing little about you, Negan.” Sherry smirked.

“You know how to please a man, Sherry, no wonder Dwight’s still hanging on.”


 

Lexington, Virginia

Henry was chopping wood again, and they were burning through the logs like crazy.

Tory had estimated the date to be either late December or early January, it wasn’t easy to tell after losing all track of time. They had to guide themselves by the seasons, and the seasons were a damn mess, either extremely hot or freezing cold.

The house Tory had selected turned out to be just right. It was abandoned by the looks of it, but the windows had been secured, and the doors had to be repaired.

Tom had been unable to help in any reparations for weeks after they had arrived to the place. He had been, first, too sick to help and Tory had prohibited him to try, and then he had been too weak during his recovery; which meant Henry and Tory had been busy doing everything around the house.

Cleaning was a grueling task, since they had no running water, or electricity. However, the city had a big collection of untouched places to scavenge, even if the dead pullulated a bit too much of it. Tory and Henry usually ended up covered in walker-guts by the time they made it back home.

A few days before, Tory had found a metal box filled to the brim with seed packets for carrots, pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries and even some flowers. That box gave them the opportunity to create a little garden. Henry had come home one day, bearing a UV lamp and a gasoline generator for it; Tory had cried in his arms and rewarded him with a generous love-fest that night.

Now, though, her mind was a bit preoccupied with dinner.

Tory had found another house, a few blocks away, growing a patch of wild eggplants. She took as many as she could carry and prepared a variety of dishes with them. Grilled eggplant, eggplant muffins -even if they were a bit chewy-, eggplant soup and now, eggplant puree with dried bacon that they had been keeping for a special occasion.

None of them had ever quite appreciated the vegetarian life-style until it was a necessity. Finding any sort of animal alive was difficult, the roamers got to them first. Traps were a tricky thing and her Dad was still the best at setting them, but Henry and Tory were keeping him inside for as long as the cold was too intense.

Distracted as she was, Tory almost dropped the tray she was holding when her arm burned with the sting from the soulmarks appearing. She had gained a new sense of power reading them now. Sometimes it was some random shit, some others scavenging strategies that suggested big groups of people and some others were…like this one.

       Yeah, tell daddy who you belong to, Sherry-baby! Let everyone hear you come on my enormous, motherfucking dick!

“Classy, swearwords and another mistress.” Tory murmured in anger.

“Who has another mistress?” her dad asked. He had come silently to sit in the little table next to the kitchen.

He does.” The young brunette answered, still simmering mad. “I don’t know why Lucille’s still with him, really.”

Her dad chuckled. “Why are you with Henry?”

“Because I love him.” The natural, rapid-fire answer made Tory blush.

“Well, there it is. Some people stay blind to the things they don’t like about those they love.” Tom said, his tone calm and denoted experience. “Your mother used to say that.”

“Mom ever told you what she didn’t like about you?” Tory wondered.

“My college jersey.” Her dad deadpanned, making her burst into giggles.

“No, I don’t buy that.” She said between laughs.

“Oh, your mother was just a sore loser about a bet.” Tom complained. “And she loved to wear it after we made love.”

“DAD! No! UGH! Too much information!”

“What’s too much information?” Henry asked, watching the scene unfold.

A mischievous smile took over her dad’s face.

“Tory was telling me about her cheating soulmate when it crossed my mind to mention her mother’s proclivity to wear my clothes after we made love.”

Henry blinked a couple of times, even more confused. “But Kitten, you steal my shirts all the time after…”

“Shut up, Henry!!”

The evening became a game to see who could embarrass who the most. At some point, they had gotten a bottle of bourbon out and even sang in front of the fire Henry had built at the chimney for when the house got too cold.

Tory loved that memory, she never suspected it was one of the last she nights would spend together with them, happy and unburdened like before.


 

Chapter Text


After

Lexington, VA

In the blink of an eye, winter had become summer.

Tory was harvesting some of the vegetables from their backyard garden preparing to preserve the ripest tomatoes and cucumbers. 

The weather was still unpredictable, unsurprising with the amount of crap that had filled the sky for months after the brief weeks that the world had gone to hell; this mean that some of their vegetables died before they bloomed and others survived long enough to sustain them.

Winter had been long and cold, which meant that, if  Tory never saw a pumpkin again, she would die a happy woman.

Tom had finally recovered enough for him to go with Henry to gather supplies and install solar panels over the house. Having electricity was so amazing, Tory wished she had appreciated it more when she was young. She had taken so many things for granted. All of them had.

With her dad’s recovery, the traps for little animals were back, and so was their source of meat.

Henry was in charge of checking the traps every day and bringing back whatever he had found. They got some little birds and bunnies, the eventual hare and once a cat that Henry decided to set free.

“You don’t see much like those now, kitten.” He had explained. “Better it be free.”

Tom agreed with Henry.

Living in the three bedroom house in Lexington was maybe one of the happiest periods of Tory’s life. Of course, they still had to deal with the roamers, but this little place was ideal in location and supplying, so they were sort of set for as long as they kept a safe routine to known and mapped places. 

Henry seemed much more stable now, he still thought of Peyton more than once, and Tory had heard him utter prayers on his name, but wasn’t driven to depression in the same way he had when they were still back in Savannah. Of course, things couldn’t be perfect forever and among the many worries the little family carried, Henry noticed that their traps seemed to be sabotaged more often, and vegetables had started to disappear from their garden. Tory had been way too upset after the only successful batch of strawberries she and Tom had gotten to actually ripen were stolen overnight.

“I really wanted to taste those, Dad.” Tory complained, looking up to the sky, to see if there were any rain clouds above.

“We can grow more, Tory, and you know it.” Tom tried to console her.

“Yes, we sure can, but if they are going to be stolen, why take the chance?”

Well, there it was, the elephant in the patio. Tom looked uneasy as Tory picked another tomato. 

“Tory…”

“Dad, animals don’t steal only the strawberries, and certainly not every one of them.”

“It could happen.” He excused weakly.

“Dad…Only the strawberries, not the zucchini, not the cucumbers? Come on!”

“Well, say there were people and they’re stealing our food. We have enough to share.” 

Tory rolled her eyes with disdain.

“Then they should come straight out! If we can share, we are not going to kill any of them.” Tory put the last of her harvest in a basket and shook off the soft dirt from her hands ready to go clean the produce.

Any other argument was forgotten when Tory swayed dangerously on her feet just as she was trying to stand straight. She heard her dad call her name as her knees failed her.

Tom took his daughter in his arms carefully and moved her under the shade of the back porch, Tory was still conscious but she seemed to be disoriented and sweat was rolling off her forehead like water from a tap.

“How many fingers can you see, Victoria?” he asked, holding three fingers up.

“Fi-five?” she answered, narrowing her grey eyes to focus on his hand.

Tom felt her forehead with his, trying to gauge any temperature differences but she wasn’t particularly hot. 

“Sit and don’t move.” He ordered her, and she meekly nodded as Tom went into the house. He served Tory a big glass of cucumber water and dumped an extra spoonful of sugar in the glass, adding ice and mixing it vigorously.

“You okay?” he asked her, a few minutes after she had drunk the water.

“Yeah.” Tory mumbled.

“Did you have breakfast?” Tom asked. Tory nodded.

“Also threw it up, I think the rabbit was off.” She added. “Tasted weird this morning.”

Tom thought it up for a few seconds, it was completely possible that the meat had gone bad. After all, the hot weather wasn’t helpful when trying to keep something fresh.

“Well, no more harvesting today, young lady.” Tom scolded lightly. “let’s get you to bed, we can’t have you coming down with something.”

“Okay, Dad.”


 

The Sanctuary

 

       Third time’s the charm, Tory, there you go.

 

Negan ignored the words as he watched the new arrivals. Three guys and a woman. They all looked like they might need to put on some weight and The Sanctuary was the perfect place to do just that.

“So, what d’you skinny fucks have to offer to our humble abode?” Negan asked theatrically, swinging Lucille lightly as Simon and Dwight kept watching over them all. “Who is the leader of you three?”

The woman looked up from her kneeling position, glaring at him in defiance. She was filthy, but was beautiful and had soulful  brown eyes on her, she was a bit on the thin side, but Negan smiled. He loved brown eyes. 

“Oh, don’t look at me that way, angel-face.” Negan ordered, fighting a smile from breaking on his face. “So, I guess it’s you.”

“No, she is just a burden we picked up on the ride.” Nameless-fuck-number-one stated.

Negan’s smile died and he ignored the man, directing his dark hazel eyes to the woman and helping her up, grabbing her arm gently.

“These fucks treat you right, angel-face?” he asked, his tone dead-serious as he concentrated in her answer.

The woman deflated and shook her head slightly.

Negan let go of her arm gently and nodded. “Any of them with you?” he asked, his fingers already clenching around Lucille’s smooth surface. The woman shook her head and he saw the way in which she flinched when he tried to reach and touch one of her bruises. “Would you care if I…”

The implication was heavy as Negan trailed off.

The woman shook her head with even more vigor and Negan smiled wide. “Simon, take...what’s your name angel-face?”

“Martha.” the woman answered, her voice a bit raspy from...whatever, but she had a sweet tone to her. Negan liked her already.

“So, Simon! Take Martha here, to the commissary, see if they have anything that fits, then take her to the showers.”

“Sure, boss.” Simon nodded and took Martha away gently, already telling her about the good stuff the Sanctuary had.

The smile disappeared from Negan’s face again as he watched his soon-to-be-victims, and a dangerous grimace was set on his lips.

“Now, you miserable-dickless-fucks, you are going to tell me what you did to sweet Martha, and depending on your answer, you might feed Lucille, or the fence.”

The men before him cowered in fear and Negan smirked with derision.

“And we’re just getting started.”


 

Chapter Text


After

The Sanctuary

Negan came to discover that Sherry and Martha didn’t like each other that much. The fact that his lovers didn’t get along was none of his concern as he kept his visits regular between both women, and Sherry was still very much with Dwight, even if her ‘womanly wiles’ got her some good stuff at the commissary.

The leader of the Saviors never really thought the situation had become that dire between Sherry and Martha as to cause a very public argument that kept them both confined in their rooms for three days. Confinement had a placating effect on Martha, who came out of it docile, pleasant and ready to serve Negan in whichever way he wanted. Sherry came back dignified and cold, steeled by some self-righteous assumption that she was in the right of…whatever they had been fighting about.

Martha told Negan that Sherry wanted her to leave him alone, since she had been sleeping with him first. This didn’t sit with Negan that well, it bothered him that Sherry believed herself some sort of powerful concubine or baddest-bitch just for letting him wet his dick inside her.

That was the reason Negan called Sherry to his little office. The quaint room was mostly bare, save for a table and four chairs, some of Negan’s papers and Lucille, that he always carried around. She was his main lady.

Sherry still had that up-tight expression about her that Negan didn’t like.

“How did you find your confinement, Sherry-baby?” he asked, his tone neutral as Sherry stood, since he hadn’t invited her to do so.

“Revealing.” She answered tightly.

Negan’s eyebrows shot up in his forehead. Was she really accepting what he said?

“How so?” Negan asked, genuinely interested in her answer.

“Well, for one, I don’t like your new set of rules.” Sherry said. “And I don’t want to share you with anyone, I’m your lover, exclusively.”

“You stopped fucking Dwight, then, I suppose.” Negan drawled, feeling how his own voice got colder.

Sherry had the decency to blush.

“Dwight is my husband.” 

“Then I can keep fucking Martha.” He said. “All fixed.”

“No! You can’t fuck the both of us!” Sherry stomped on the floor, making the soles of her trainers’ squeak. “I came first!”

“Sure you did, a fuck-ton of times…on my dick, and I noticed you liked it.” he remarked with a shit-eating grin.

“Don’t be gross, Negan!” Sherry exclaimed, too taken aback for someone so accustomed to him.

“I’ll be whatever the fuck I want and you are not gonna stop me.” Negan growled, tightening his grip on Lucille’s handle.

“This is not a harem, Negan, I’m not into you fucking other women!” 

“Oh, but I am into getting as much pussy as possible, Sherry!” Now, Negan actually stood up and circled the table to stand behind Sherry, the brunette shuddered slightly and Negan’s smile became positively feral. “And you fucking like it, on your knees, over the bed, on the floor…you know you do. I should have you kneel right now, worshiping me as you should.”

“I’m not your wife.” She spat, seemingly disgusted by his words. “I won’t kneel for you. Even if you had a hundred wives, no one would kneel for you!”

Negan sent Sherry back to confinement after that.

She was being stupid about things, he thought. Sharing was caring after all, even more if the sharing benefited him. He liked both Sherry and Martha, and lately, he had been eyeing the sweet redhead that had arrived at the Sanctuary only a few weeks before. He was unattached, he wanted to fuck beautiful women. It wasn’t just for him of course, he knew he could satisfy them. He also wanted exclusive rights to fuck those he liked.

Even if you have a hundred wives, Sherry said.

No.

Negan didn’t need a hundred wives, indeed. He doubted there were that many attractive women in his compound, but he could do with two or three.

A smile grew in Negan’s face.

He had an idea.  

Negan called for Simon, who responded to his call immediately.

“Whatcha’ need, boss?” Simon asked, as soon as he entered the little office.

“Simon, go get me my sweet Martha. I have something of a proposal for her.” Negan said, a smug smirk curving his lips. 


 

Lexington, VA

Tory smiled at Henry.

He looked happy and young, unburdened by the many tragedies of their life since before everything went to shit. Whenever Tory woke up first, she liked to look at Henry for a while. At twenty-two, he was still very much a young man, legally an adult but still, the kid she had met when she was nine. Henry’s sandy blond hair was still messy, his baby-blue eyes still her favorite shade of blue, and his skin was the tanned gold she remembered. He was taller, fuller too and now he was hers. Tory felt a painful tug in her chest, thinking of Peyton. He would be the same age as Henry, had he not…died.

Tory felt comfortable and warm in Henry’s arms. Her fingers grazed his lips unconsciously as her other hand rested over her stomach.

“Stop looking at me like that, kitten.” Henry scolded sleepily. “I feel those cute eyes on me.”

She giggled. “Really? And what does that mean?” Tory asked, as innocent as she could manage.

“That’ya wanna jump my bones.” He said smugly, kissing the tips of her fingers.

“Oh, Henry, I always want to jump you.” She admitted. “And your bones.”

He kissed her, soft and long, his slightly chapped lips tickled her softer ones, making Tory smile.

However, Tory stopped the kiss, pushing Henry off her as subtly as she could to leave the room, and baffling Henry by walking out almost completely nude.

Usually, their morning kissing became morning-love-making. Henry distracted himself thinking about what to get Tory for her birthday. it was difficult, wooing a girl in the damn end of the world. 

When his brunette beauty came back, her face was freshly washed, as well as her teeth. She bent at the waist to kiss him.

“Anything wrong I should know?” Henry asked, smiling into her kiss. Tory simply shook her head, smiling widely back at him.

“Still got space for one in this bed?” she asked, winking at him with what Henry suspected was an attempt at seduction. 

“Sure do, miss. Wanna come?” 

She smiled wickedly.

“Oh, what a gentleman.”

“You know I am, kitten. Come here.”

Later, in the silence of the room, with only their breathing breaking the stillness, neither Tory or Henry spoke about how happy they felt, in case they jinxed it. 

Just in case.


 

Chapter Text


After

Henry blinked a couple of times, looking at the murky color of the sky, trying to breathe deep. He felt calm and relaxed.

“Henry, Henry!” he heard Tory and a smile crept up to his face. 

“You know I love you right?” Henry asked, trying to catch her eyes.

She turned her face to him, looking as beautiful as ever.

“I know.” She said.

“Good.” He sighed.


 

Earlier that morning

Tom sighed and rolled his eyes at the couple on the little bed, entangled limbs and bedsheets barely covering them as they slept.

Henry and Tory looked more like the children they were when sleeping, so it disturbed him a bit to see his daughter in the arms of her boyfriend.

However, they had to get up and start the day if they were to gather supplies, and Tom took it upon himself to clear his throat loudly.

Tory’s eyes shot open, gone was the relaxed expression of her lovely face, replaced by one of mild alarm that morphed into embarrassment when her grey eyes took him in.

“Daaaaaad!” she groaned, her voice raspy and sleepy.

“None of that, young lady.” Tom scolded. “Wake Henry and get ready, we have a gathering day ahead.”

She nodded and turned to shake the sleeping boy reluctantly.

Twenty minutes later, Tory was cooking what little oatmeal they had left. How his girl ever scraped up to something delicious was a mystery to Tom. Whenever Tory came up with new things he was reminded of Erin and how much he missed her and wished she could see the amazing young woman she was now.

In that moment, Henry entered the little dining room, looking a bit knackered in Tom’s opinion.

“Didn’t sleep much, son?” he asked teasingly.

Henry blushed hard but shook his head.

“We actually slept most of the night, Tom.” Henry sighed. “I think I caught a cold.”

“Not my fault.” Tory pipped, still mostly concentrated in her concoctions. “The oatmeal’s gonna be good for you, though, love.”

Henry smiled sheepishly and took a seat at the dinner table, followed by Tom, who was laughing silently.

The three of them shared their breakfast with little conversation as they attacked the runny oats Tory had prepared.

“Put cinnamon on them, darling?” Tom asked, savoring the last of his plate.

Tory nodded and hmm-ed as she drank a bit of water. “We still have some left, actually, I’d love to have flour, you know, make some use of those pears we found last week.”

Henry smiled. “Pie?”

Tory nodded enthusiastically. “We haven’t had pie in a long time.”

After everything was clean and organized, Tory and Tom prepared to go out.

“Take care, kitten.” Henry whispered in Tory’s ear, hugging her hard. “I’ll be waiting.”

“You know I will, Henry.” Tory told him, smiling up at him. “You better rest, okay?”

Henry nodded as Tom climbed on their trusty jeep and waited for his daughter to come. “It’s just a cold, I’ll get better.” He assured her.

Tory hesitated as she turned away to the jeep and went back to Henry for another hug.

“I hope to have good news when we’re back.” she murmured softly.


 

Tory sighed in exasperation as she removed item over item from the shelves. She took every other medicine bottle, it was weird for any pharmacy to be well stocked after all. And none had what she had been desperately looking for in the last few weeks.

Letting out a very un-ladylike snort, Tory stepped forward over something boxy, and her eyes immediately turned down.

“Well, I wasn’t expecting that.” Tory said out loud, if only for herself, it made her feel assured. When she kneeled, her grey eyes caught on another three boxes, which made excitement bubble up in her chest. Tory gathered whatever else she found useful and not utterly expired and simply left.

Her dad was already in the jeep, loading stuff in the trunk.

“Any good finds?” he asked, almost catching her shoving the boxes in her bag.

“Yeah, some aspirin and even pills for Henry’s cold.” Tory smiled.

“Sounds great, sweetie.” Her father huffed as he loaded the last box. “Ready to go?”

Tory nodded.

“Let’s do that.”


 

Tory jumped out of the jeep and heaved hard on the pavement, regurgitating what was left of her breakfast all over her boots, as hot tears ran down her face.

She heard as her dad called her name, asking if she was fine.

She wasn’t fine, she might never be fine again.

Broken her inner voice provided.

Tory spat over the mess she had made, took her water bottle, rinsed her mouth and face, even her messed up boots.

“Just threw up, Dad.” She finally managed, walking away from the foul-smelling-mess her stomach had left behind.

The distant sound of moans spurred her to move faster despite her dizziness. Even so, Tory took her time to unfold the carefully done square of paper she had kept for almost two years now.

According to the map, they were outside of Lexington. About two hundred miles away from the bright star Tory had drawn on the map years earlier.

Tory swallowed hard. She was sure they didn’t have enough gas to make it all the way in the jeep. The woods illustrated in the map could prove to be useful, maybe if they hid the jeep and got to the community on foot, they could get help to get the supplies back. It seemed sound to her. Tory hopped up on her seat and turned the jeep on.

“Everything okay darling?” her dad asked again.

Tory turned to him and smiled.

“Yes, dad.”


 

Something was wrong.

Tory felt it as soon as her father parked the car in front of the little place they had learned to call home.

It was too quiet.

Save for the sound of rustling leaves over the ground, not much could be heard; the air was dry, and no bird chirped to receive them.

The blue of her Dad’s eyes caught up to her greys and they both knew of their now shared fear and wariness. Tory took her gun out of its holster and screwed the silencer in.

“Don’t hesitate.” She murmured for herself, remembering the old story Ben had shared with her about killing people who was alive.

Many of them will try to hurt you, so my motto is ‘Don’t hesitate’.” He had said, a few nights before they separated. “That could save you…or them.”

With gestures, her dad told her to enter through the front door, as her father went around the property.

She stifled a gasp when her eyes fell on the destroyed interior of her home. Henry was nowhere in sight, but he had put up a fight, that much was true.

Tory went in, checking her corners and walking slow. Her capacity for stealth had been tested before, so she knew what she was doing.

Her tag couldn’t say the same and they reacted slow as Tory disappeared behind the corner of a hallway. One shot and the woman had crumpled to the floor, staining the beige carpet with the blood that poured out of her head.

The relief tory felt for her successful kill didn’t last, however, as someone shouted from the outside.

“Dany, bring that bitch outside!”

Tory went back the way she had entered the house and surrounded the property as she had seen Henry and Tom do many a time.

This time she couldn’t stop the gasp that her throat let lose.

Henry was tied to one of the backyard chairs and her dad to the other. Her father had a headwound that was still bleeding and mighty swollen. Tory almost didn’t duck, and a bullet flew right over her hair line.

“That stupid girl.” An older woman said. “Surely got herself snuffed.”

The man huffed loudly. “Come out, you little shit.” He called for Tory. “You have ten seconds before I fill the old man’s head with lead.”

Tory gulped and gripped the gun over her abdomen, praying to every deity she could think of. Attacking solo wasn’t her thing and she wasn’t a great distance shot, knives were her thing.

“One…”

Fuck.

“Two!”

Tory felt her eyes sting with tears and her arm chose exactly that moment to burn.

 

       No bad motherfucker will defeat us! They lack the balls, dickless bastards!

 

“Three.”

Her soulmate was, somehow, giving her advice. She gripped the gun harder and unsheathed the hunting knife Henry had strapped to her waist that morning. Gripping a gun in each hand, Tory stood up.

“Six!”

“If I die because of this, I’m coming back to haunt him.” she said to herself, reading the words once more.

“Seven! You’re running out of time, bitch!”

Tory stepped away from the protection of the wall and shot without actually aiming, but the pitiful cry of the other woman told her she had hit her target, her eyes were otherwise busy with the man as the woman collapsed on the patio’s floor.

The man growled in rage and threw himself at Tory, effectively tackling her as he tried to get her gun.

In the background, Tory could hear Henry shouting. Calling for her in desperation.

Asking her to stop.

She loosened the fingers she had around the gun, leading the man into a false sense of triumph as both her hands gripped the handle of Henry’s hunting knife. Tory heard more than she saw, as the flesh ripped against the long, sharp knife. The man dropped the gun as he squirmed in agony. The young woman pushed the man off her and grabbed the gun, and with another silent shot put a bullet between the man’s eyes.

“Dad, Henry!” Tory breathed, as she walked shakily to them.

“You okay, kitten?” Henry asked, giving her a total once over when she stood in front of him. She simply nodded. “Good.”

None of them saw it coming.

The woman Tory had shot came silent from behind them and grabbed at Tory’s hands, that still held the gun.

“You fucking bitch!” the woman shouted, struggling to get a grip from Tory’s blood-soaked arms.

“Let me go! Let me go!” Tory didn’t register the hysterical note of her voice as she fought against the heavy woman.

“Tory, no!” Her dad screamed. “Stop! You’re going to get hurt!”

The woman got a hold of the silencer and tried to tear the gun away from her again, but she merely got herself another shot. But at this point, Tory was unsteady on her feet, the previous adrenaline rush hadn’t lasted enough and when the woman pushed Tory with her whole body, they both fell hard on the ground.

“Arghh!” 

Tory was done with this shit, she had a family to think about. She rolled over the dusty floor of the patio trying to get the heavy woman off her, her fingers barely keeping the gun in place over her head as the woman scratched her arms and pulled at her hair.

The gunshot made Tory’s arms flail freely, because she hadn’t been ready for the recoil and one of her elbows impacted against the woman’s nose, producing a satisfying crushing sound.

The last stranger howled in pain and rolled away from Tory, who was free to get up with a smirk tearing at her lips.

The smirk died swiftly when she turned shakily to Henry and her Dad.

“No!” Tory left the gun on her dad’s lap and dashed away to untie Henry. Tory helped him lay on the dusty concrete floor. He was breathing hard and his beautiful blue eyes were unfocused, looking at the sky. He blinked twice as Tory tried to stave off the bleeding coming from his chest.

“Henry, Henry!” Tory shouted, hysteria and desperation dripped from her usually sweet voice when a smile crept up to his face.

“You know I love you right?” Henry asked.

Tory turned her face to him and her face fell when she saw the peaceful expression he had.

“I know.” She said shakily, through the knot in her throat.

“Good.” He sighed. “I wanted you to know.”

“Stop, Henry!” she hissed. “Don’t you dare leave me!”

“ ‘s not your fault.” He continued, ignoring her desperate attempts to keep him alive. “I need to be with Peyton, Kitten.” He murmured as blood started to bubble out of his mouth. “I’m gonna see them all.”

Tory stopped tried to stop the bleeding and sobbed openly.

“Don’t leave me, Henry.” She pleaded brokenly. “I’m so sorry!”


 

Henry knew Tory couldn’t see it, not understand his new point of view.

He didn’t feel any pain, but the blackness was engulfing his vision too fast and he wanted one last thing. His hand was so heavy as he lifted it to touch Tory’s face. Her eyes were full of tears and her cheeks were red, but she was still his beautiful girl who grabbed his hand as her own touched his cheek.

“So warm.” He mumbled.

“I love you, Henry Oats.” Tory sobbed, leaning into his failing touch.

“I’ll always be with you.”


 

“I’ll always be with you.” Henry muttered, his words barely intelligible. Tory sobbed harder when the hand she was holding fell limply into hers.

An anguished sound filled her ears and until her throat failed her, she noticed the wailing had been hers.

She was shaking hard as she leaned onto Henry and kissed his lips, barely touching them.

He was gone.


 

Tory checked the seatbelt’s lock and helped her dad lean back on his seat as she went back.

It had taken her hours to load the jeep with everything useful as her dad rested inside the cool house. He couldn’t understand why she had gone outside with one of their match boxes and rope. Tory was sure he wouldn’t approve of her actions either.

She didn’t have enough strength to actually bury Henry and she hoped this was enough for him, even if she despised that he would end up resting next to his murderer.

Tory made sure to soak the woman thoroughly with gasoline, even if it was wasteful and cruel. She was beyond caring.

“Wake up.” Tory snapped coldly. When the woman didn’t respond, Tory backhanded her and soaked her with more gasoline.

“You crazy bitch, let me go!” the woman hissed with surprising vitriol, once she woke up.

“I can’t do that, actually.” Tory sighed. “I hope you’re sorry for this.”

“Not in my fucking life.” The woman spat her bloody saliva at Tory, who backhanded her harder after wiping the spit away.

“You are going to be sorry anyway, for hurting my family.”

Tory started walking away, until she was standing on the secure floor of the patio. Her eyes fell on Henry’s still form once again, and her heart beat painfully inside her chest, as her hands hovered in front her abdomen, the tiny square of the matchbox tightly held between her slim fingers.

“Goodbye, Henry Oats.” She murmured, taking a match out. The woman understood, Tory noticed, because her eyes widened in fear and she tried to get Tory to stop. There was no stopping this, so the brunette lit the match and threw it on the gasoline trail she had made to keep safe.

Tory waited until the fire engulfed the woman. Oh, how she wanted to hear her scream in agony, as she had expected the screaming to soothe her heart, but it had been in vain.

She only felt the emptiness.  


 

Chapter Text


After

After the fire had died, Tory had collected whatever was left so they could get away from Lexington as soon as possible. The longer the distance, she kept telling herself, the better it would be.

She also hoped it would hurt less.

Nothing helped though.

Tory’s heart ached with an intensity she didn’t believe she could stand; the mere thought of Henry made her body shudder painfully. Her hands shook a bit, but Tory kept pushing herself.

Life wasn’t over because Henry had left them, as it hadn’t been over when Peyton died or even her mother. Now they all shared the privilege of bringing pain to her with her thoughts of them.

“We’re going to run out of fuel.” Tom told her softly.

“I know, dad.” Tory sighed, fixing her eyes in the road ahead. “We still have another ten-gallon canister.”

Tom fell silent and Tory was sure he was figuring the math in his head; that the last canister wouldn’t last long and they were going to run out of fuel sooner rather than later, even if they were closer.

Walking to Alexandria could very well prove dangerous, but Tory knew they needed a doctor and…whatever.

Nothing is more important than surviving. She kept telling herself, repeating the words in her mind until they lost their meaning in the numbness of her adrenaline-fueled brain.


 

Many hours later Victoria found a safe spot to stop the car.

Dawn was breaking.

Her mind was still in overdrive; only twenty-four hours ago she was having breakfast with Henry and her Dad back in their home, just living.

The moments she had spent with Henry kept popping into her mind as she drove through the long-forgotten backroads. She didn’t know how long she could keep driving, she planned to leave her father and trek through the woods looking for water.

Dad didn’t ask what she wanted to do, he just let her do.

Hours later, Tory stopped the jeep, gave her father her silencer-ready gun and jumped out of the car.

“Take care, love.” Her dad pleaded weakly. She nodded but said nothing, afraid to open her mouth, lest she screamed in agony.

Walking didn’t help clear her mind, the noise inside was keeping her busy and alert, and it was keeping her awake too. Her hand hovered over Henry’s hunting knife…well, it was hers now. Tory leaned on a tree, shutting her eyes hard, trying to stomp down on the unbearable pain that ran through her. In her mind, she could see Henry’s smile, hear his voice, feel him… 

Tory kept walking until an abandoned farm greeted her with some walkers, but she did away with them in the blink of an eye, killing them for good. Still, knife up and ready, Tory walked around the farm’s barn.

The place was clear of walkers and animals alike, but what caught her attention was the old-fashioned water pump in the middle of the way. With steady steps, Victoria walked up to the pump. She took the leaver with both her hands and pumped with all her might.

Murky water became clearer until it was completely clean. Only then, Tory started filling the gallon she had brought with her. She knew it was an abuse on her part but she needed to get clean off the blood and guts she had all over her. Tory decided to pump some more water to clean herself, the water was surprisingly cold. As Victoria took the scene in, unbelievable melancholy took over her. This could have been her home almost ten years ago when she had first met Henry, soaked in cold water after picking apples from Betty’s orchard.

But Henry wasn’t here now.

He would never be.

Henry who had been her friend.

Henry who had been her confidante, her boyfriend, and for a while her very soul.

Hot tears sprung to her eyes and the pain in her chest became unbearable as she remembered the scene. It was fresh as if it had happened just yesterday.

Henry watching her and asking if she was alright, telling her she looked like a freshly soaked kitten. Sobs started to build in her throat as Victoria tried to reign them in. It was futile because she just couldn’t. Her body shook as she fell to her knees is still gripping the pump leaver. She couldn’t believe Henry wasn’t with her anymore even if she had tasted his blood, even if she had seen the light die in his eyes as he watched the sky above them. She didn’t think she would be able to face anything or anyone without Henry beside her.

And so, Tory cried.

She cried and cried, until her eyes stung with dryness and her chest ached for real.

When she was done, she stood up and took her water with her, the mantra going off in her head again.

Nothing is more important than surviving.


 

Aiden Monroe considered himself well above his peers, and he knew he was actually superior to them.

He liked repeating that every time they left the community.

“Follow my orders and we’ll be safe.” He would intone, as if it were a spell for good luck. His mother and father looked at him with pride every time he did it.

It hadn’t worked this time. He was short four of his men and he didn’t even have bodies to show for his shame and their mourning. Swearing Nicholas to secrecy had been easy, the man was a coward, that much was true, and Aiden just had to threaten him a bit to get him to comply, which Nicholas did gladly.

As they drove back home, Nicholas spotted them.

“Are those people?”

Two figures walked slow, backpacks on them. The taller one leaning on the little one. They were alive too. Definitely people.

“It seems.” Aiden frowned. He couldn’t honk at them or call out, they could be hostile.

He didn’t expect the little figure stopping and following the noise of the van to them.

It was a young woman.

Aiden stopped the car and left Nicholas inside with strict orders to go back to the community if they killed him. The former soldier exited the van and walked towards the couple, gun ready, trained on them.

“Let me stop you there, soldier.” The young woman spoke, her voice raspy and raw. It still surprised him a bit that she pegged him for a soldier when he hadn’t said a word.

Aiden stopped.

“That’s better.” The girl said. He noticed brunette hair and grey eyes, hard and cold for someone that young. The man was leaning on her still, blue eyes unfocused, as if he were delirious.

“Who are you?” Aiden asked, getting ready to fire his gun at the littlest provocation.

“I’m Victoria Jones, he’s my dad, Tom Jones.” She answered, her hostile tone completely gone. “We come in peace.”

The man almost rolled his eyes at the girl’s cheeky remark.

“What do you want?” he pushed.

“We’re looking for a place called Alexandria.” The young woman said. Aiden lifted his gun again, pointing at her forehead, but the girl didn’t even flinch. “Please, don’t do that.” 

It was an order.

“How did you know about Alexandria?!” Aiden demanded.

“I was told by a lieutenant, two years ago.” She informed him. “He said he was coming here.”

“Name the man!” Aiden knew there was no other soldier at Alexandria, but maybe he could get some intel.

“Lieutenant Benjamin Frederick Barnes. I don’t recall his battalion.”

The name wasn’t familiar to Aiden, but people usually didn’t got names right first try when they were lying. He would know.

“Look, I know you gotta protect people, soldier, but my dad needs a doctor and if he dies, I won’t be quite as nice as I’m being now. I’ve had a really bad couple of days.” She paused before her voice failed her, as it was becoming rougher with each word. “so please, just take us there, and I’ll stop pointing my gun at you.”

Aiden looked down at the same time she gestured to her gun. Indeed, she had a gun trained on him and he didn’t even realize it. Fuck.

He put his hands up and the girl sighed in relief. “Help me with dad?”

He did so reluctantly, even after he noticed the high fever the man was running.

“Are you going to tell me your name, soldier? It would be good manners.” Victoria said, looking a bit more perky.

“Aiden Monroe.” He growled. He received no answer so he turned his eyes to the young woman. She was smiling, sincerely this time.

“Thank you, Aiden.”

“Let’s go home then.” He said stiffly, feeling just a bit of shame, and maybe…maybe…admiration.


 

Chapter Text


After

Alexandria, VA.

Tory refused to leave while Pete Anderson worked on her Dad.

The man seemed surprised at the disobedience she showed, and she bit her tongue so she wouldn’t tell him she didn’t trust him. Which Tory did not.

There was no military presence in Alexandria, excepting Aiden Monroe, contrary to what she had been told by Ben, that alone was sort of suspicious, also, everyone was so damn…nice and clean.

The notion of these people never venturing outside passed through her mind and she cringed thinking about it. What were they thinking?

“If you are uncomfortable with the blood, you can wait in the other room.” Pete suggested sternly.

“I’m not.” Tory expressed flatly. “I’m just thinking.”

Pete shrugged and kept stitching her father’s forehead. After a long silence, the surgeon spoke up.

“How bad was it for you…out there?”

Tory blinked a couple of times and shrugged, not really sure how to answer Pete Anderson. It was bad, but not worse than what happened at the start, now that they knew what to do and how to fight back against the dead. The people was the problem.

“It could be worse.” She compromised.

“You’re not uncomfortable about any of the procedures, most people turn their heads away.” He commented with a bit of admiration.

“Blood is a part of life.” Tory stated simply. “I would be dead if I cringed at the sight of blood.”

Pete made some snide comment about someone named Denise and kept on working.

Once finished, the surgeon gave her the play-by-play of what he had done. “Your father should be fine, I just gave him a strong pain killer and antibiotic shot.” Pete concluded as he dried his hands. He had been through with washing them.

“Thank you, Dr. Anderson.” Tory said. “I’m sorry we gave you so much trouble.”

After giving her a creepy smile, Pete nodded and left Tory with her Dad.

She only had a few minutes of silence before someone else arrived. Tory saw the shadow of the woman and turn her head to her.

A short woman with a very neat haircut was watching her, her hazel eyes studying her and Tom. Her mouth was set in a stern line, but her expression was still kind, as was her disposition.

“Can I help you?” Tory asked, keeping the volume of her voice down, so she wouldn’t disturb her dad.

“I hoped to welcome you to our community, in other…circumstances.” The woman said gently. “I’m Deanna Monroe.”


 

The Sanctuary, VA.

 

       I did unspeakable things and I want them to stay that way.

 

Negan read the words and proceeded to ignore them, as he had conditioned himself to do so many years ago. Dwight and Simon were looking at him, though, so he turned his eyes to the map they had on the table.

The scouting they had done returned good results, at least four communities surrounded The Sanctuary, most of them little places that had been secured by some people and where now refuges for whatever straggler turned up at their door. Oceanside, the Hilltop, Doveport and the trash-people-place. The outpost manning and supplying was already on motion, as well as evacuation plans.

As Negan had acquired more power, resources and experience, he also became warier, sneakier and more manipulative. He had gotten this far using little personal mottos and limits. Mind you, his limits were far from the norm and his morals were slightly askew, but that was what kept his people alive. 

Protect the weak, because they aren’t ready for what is out there.

Don’t rape, because that is not civilized and women owe you no shit.

Civilization means rules, follow the rules, keep on living. 

His personal favorite was nothing matters if you’re dead, which he applied brutally. Second chances were a very rare thing for Negan. 

This all went through his mind as he discussed the tribute system with Simon, agreeing that asking for half the stuff of a community couldn’t be that bad. As the Sanctuary had gotten older, it had acquired more population, hence the need for outposts and tribute in the shitty weather.

“If they give us half their shit, we make it?” Negan asked Simon, who was more familiarized with supplies lately, as Negan managed scouting.

Simon pulled on the corners of his mouth in a ‘not bad’ gesture and shrugged. “We can work with that.”

Dwight grunted his approval, even if he crossed his arms.

All of them agreed.

“Then we start this next week, when everyone’s ready.” Negan declared.


 

Alexandria, VA

Tory’s eyes glared at the little plus sign in the pregnancy test. 

She had been glaring at it for a while now, sitting on the edge of the tub.

She tried to think of solutions, being positive, but her mind kept drawing blanks. If this news had come a few days earlier, the difference would have been enormous. Henry would have still died, but she would have shared this moment with him.

Tory shut her eyes hard and hugged herself, clutching the test in her left hand and throwing her head back. She took a long, deep breath and released it slowly, opening her eyes at the same pace. Tory found that she didn’t care much for the color of the ceiling, but dismissed it.

Her mouth opened once, twice, but no sound came out, so she pursed her lips as tears filled her eyes.

She wanted her questions answered, but Tory didn’t even know what to ask. Not for a long while.

Her body was tense and her muscles in pain due to the stress and then, the right question exploded from inside her mind.

Still looking up, Tory sighed and opened her mouth, this time the words did came up, sounding rough.

“What do I do?”


 

       What do I do?

 

Negan frowned and gave the question a thought.

His answer was clear, even if he didn’t voice it.

You do whatever’s necessary.


 

Chapter Text


After

The Sanctuary, VA

Negan tried to ignore the burn on his arm.

It had hurt for a while now, but the burn was getting worse, so he took off his jacket and checked his right arm.

 

Please do something, Pete. Do something!

 

The words didn’t mean much to him, but a looming feeling of despair began suffocating him.

“You okay, boss?” Simon asked, frowning with worry. Neither men were young, but Negan was important to keep the structure of the Sanctuary going.

They were all Negan, after all.

“There’s something wrong.” He hissed in pain. This had happened once before, and Lucille had helped him back then. The pain radiating from his arm was so intense it brought him to his knees. Negan wasn’t sure, but he had heard Simon shout at someone.

“Hang in there, Negan, don’t go dying on me now.” His friend muttered at him.

 In the back of his mind, Negan registered that Simon had called his name, and Simon never called him by his name unless things were incredibly fucked up.

Well shit.


 

Alexandria, VA

Tory opened her eyes slowly, trying to soak in the light of the sun.

This was one of those good mornings, when the quiet of her room helped keep everything still. She liked this sort of morning because they reminded her of better times.

“You should get up, kitten.”

Tory’s eyes snapped open to the voice coming in front of her. Her grey eyes found baby blue ones and her heart constricted painfully in her chest.

Henry…” she breathed out, drinking in his image.

Henry looked just as Tory remembered him. Messy sandy blond hair matted from sleep, his intense blue eyes trained on her while he smiled down at her, emotions swirling in his eyes.

“You look gorgeous, Tory.” He told her, his hand reaching her cheek in a soft cold caress.

The young woman closed her eyes, shutting them hard, she waited one…two seconds, then opened them again.

Henry was still with her, still smiling at her.

“Are you happy?” Tory asked lowly, fighting the urge to look away from his eyes.

“I am. Are you?” he answered simply.

Tory opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out.

“Ah, you were going to lie, weren’t you, kitten?” Henry sighed, still smiling. “Stop worrying, okay?”

Tory frowned, but Henry still kissed her forehead, tucked her hair behind her ear and looked away.

“Time to wake up.”


 

Tory opened her eyes again.

Her room was just as illuminated as it was in her dream, but Henry wasn’t with her. Her chest burned with pain as she sat up and lowered her legs from the bed. Bad idea.

A wave of nausea hit her and she walked as fast as her wobbly legs permitted it to the bathroom. Retching on an empty stomach was one of the worst things that could happen, and Tory hated it with a passion.

She was getting her nutrients and taking some supplements, but the nausea simply didn’t stop, no matter how far along she was.

As Alexandria had no ultrasound machine, Tory was completely dependent on Pete’s measurements and the overbearing attention of her neighbors.

Tory and her Dad had been in Alexandria for almost four months according to the chalkboard calendar the young woman kept in her room.

If her numbers were right, she was about twenty weeks pregnant, which usually meant no more nausea, but Jessie (Pete’s adorable wife) had commented once how she had nausea during the whole of her pregnancy with Ron. Tory wasn’t surprised, the brat was a little shit, of course he would do that to his mom from the inside. She hoped it wasn’t the case with her baby.

Most Alexandrians were good people, cooperative and interested in the wellbeing of the community, but Tory preferred to interact mostly with the Anderson’s and the Monroe’s. Her dad and Reg Monroe had kindled an instantaneous friendship and spent most of their time thinking of solutions to better help Alexandria endure the outbreak.

Due to her ‘delicate condition’, Tory had landed a job in the infirmary, alongside Pete, who had suggested the menial job for her when Tory had refused to work with the crops.

Deanna had been less than pleased when she said no, but her demeanor had changed completely when she was told the reason. 


 

Spencer liked the new girl.

Well, Tory Jones was not ‘the new girl’ by any means, but she was one of the youngest members of the community without being an obnoxious kid, like the Anderson children. He had watched the interview his mother had with the young woman and something called to him about her. She was sort of mysterious to him. Under that sweet and beautiful carcass, he felt there was a person stronger than they thought, and his mother agreed with him.

Now, Spencer was enjoying the view as the young brunette hung some clothes to dry for the morning.

He noticed the slight baby-bump under her t-shirt and grimaced. Tory seemed pleased about this development and cared for herself as perfectly as she possibly could. She ate at the proper hours and accepted the close scrutiny of every person in Alexandria over thirty. Spencer still thought it was a little inconvenient for someone so young.

So, it came as a surprise to him when she grabbed at her bump, curling her fingers over her skin as she fell to her knees. In the silence of the morning, Spencer heard her whimpering with no problem.

The youngest Monroe ran to the Jones’ yard and knelled beside his neighbor, who was trying to lay on the ground.  

“Tory? You okay?” he asked gently but firm, trying to get an answer.

“I don’t know. It hurts.” She whimpered pitifully. “I need Pete.”

Spencer could do two things, he either called for Pete or took her to him.

“I’m going to carry you to the infirmary, okay?” he told her. She nodded stiffly, her hands still clutching at her bump as silent tears ran down her face.

Tory screamed in pain when Spencer lifted her, almost making him topple them both.

Tom Jones came from inside the house, pale as a ghost to see what was happening and followed Spencer as he took her to the Pete.

The two of them tried to ignore the growing stain of blood in Tory’s jeans.


 

The Sanctuary, VA

“You gave us a scare, boss.” Simon sighed.

Negan glared at his friend as he sat on the cot they had issued for the little infirmary.

“How long I’ve been out?” the leader of the Saviors asked, closing his eyes again when his head pounded from glaring so hard.

“Two days, give or take.” His mustachioed friend answered. “Doc said it was not a heart attack, mostly because you were trying to claw at your marked arm.”

Negan turned his eyes to the bandage that covered most of his inner forearm and started to unravel it.

He was expecting the same words he had seen before passing out, but he found others instead.

 

       I have nothing left of him, Dad.

 

Whatever that had been, it had hurt like a motherfucker.

“Any ideas?” Simon inquired.

Negan scoffed.

“Like I give a fuck, Si?”


 

Alexandria, VA

Tory felt emptier than ever before, a cruel reminder of how alone she felt since Henry had died.

After her dream, Tory thought things were looking up. It had been a good dream, she’d seen Henry actually smiling and talking to her, instead of her nightmarish visions of him bleeding out over a dusty floor.

Pete’s theory for her miscarriage was malnutrition and stress, but Tory felt it wasn’t enough.

Now, she was digging alone, making sure the grave was deep enough for her ‘unnamed baby girl’. Tory had wanted to stab Pete with his scalpel when he made her sign the stupid piece of paper, and her dad had made her a headstone with the name Peyton J. Oats, to put up once the grave was covered up. Her tears felt cold as she dug in the little plot Deanna had given her to lay her baby to rest. Her dad, Spencer and even Aiden -the sexist asshole- had offered to do it for her, but she refused. This was something of hers, and Tory relished the pain as she felt the stitches of the c-section tear at the flesh of her abdomen.

Punishment, her inner voice provided.

“Punishment for what?” she asked aloud. “What did I ever do?”

There was no one to answer her question


 

Chapter Text


After

Tory sighed as the sun hid behind a cloud.

She had been enjoying the warmth on her skin after many cold and cloudy days. This particular winter had been a bit longer and according to the seasoned Alexandrian’s, and a lot harder than the ones before. She disliked the darkness of winter now, a feeling she had been unfamiliar with when she was a child.

Even after a year inside Alexandria, Tory didn’t feel safe. Denise, the resident psychiatrist, had tried to help her, saying that her paranoia could affect many aspects of her life inside the walls of the safe-zone, but the young woman felt confident that whatever feelings affected her would stay with her forever.

Losing Henry and her daughter in such close succession had been a hard hit on her spirits and she usually found herself with a tumbler of some liquor or other.

Deanna had first assigned her to be Pete’s nurse when the man had asked for her service, as she didn’t squirm at the sight of injuries or blood, and argued that Denise couldn’t do the same. This offended Tory, even if she agreed with him, only because Denise had been the one person to treat her accordingly whenever they interacted. Not like a victim or a kid, but as an equal, without condescension or arrogance.

So, Tory ended up acting nurse for Pete during her brief pregnancy and simply stayed because she was deft with needles and good at memorizing quantities and the functions of the medications.  

Her father had it a bit easier. He had been gladly welcomed.

Tom had been an agricultural engineer before, and while his passion had been the structures and building, he was good at his job, so the little gardens of Alexandria started sporting healthy crops. Her father was happy with the developments and because of that Tory kept her battles internal. 

Dad deserves this, she would tell herself whenever the people decided to have “parties” and “cook outs” that she had to attend.

The brunette found her solace in drinking, learning or with the youngest Monroe.

Sure, Spencer was as much of an asshole as his brother, but he usually held himself back in her presence and Tory found him charming enough and as far from Henry as a man could be, taking her limited options in consideration.

Deanna disliked her and her casual-on-off relationship with her son, but she was a politician at heart -the whole poker business was utter shit to Tory-, and she wanted the people on her side, to be in their good graces. And only for that, Tory admired her immensely.

“Alone again?”

Tory turned to see Spencer arrive with a bottle of what seemed to be rum. She nodded and went back to watching the too-red sunset. Damn pollution, she thought.

“You’ve been quite these last days, V. What’s going on?” her friend-lover asked, sitting beside her on the back porch of her home.

“I’ve been going down memory-line.” Tory answered. She hated Spencer’s nickname. His proclivity to call her anything but her name annoyed her, unless they were in bed. Speaking of which… “Wanna come inside, pretty boy?” Tory stood, looking down at Spencer.

Spencer fell right into it.

“Sure…Got any plans?” he smirked, and Tory tried to stomp down her disappointment when his smile lit his face.

“My bed springs have been too quiet, if you catch my drift.” Tory said, hoping she didn’t sound as plain to him as she thought she was.

“Ladies first, then.”


 

Tory sighed deep and long and took the half-empty bottle from her dresser, not even bothering to find a glass, she drank a mouthful of the cheap rum and gulped fast, feeling the soothing heat of the alcohol warm her throat and stomach.

She had to stop doing this to herself.

Sleeping with Spencer wasn’t a great experience. It wasn’t an experience, period.

He had good intentions, at least for himself, and he would have been a decent lover if he wasn’t such an egoistic asshole. This was the sort of shit that kept her depressed after losing Henry and her little girl, realizing that she would never have that with anyone again.

That was Tory’s vicious cycle. Drink, make the mistake of falling in bed with Spencer again, getting disappointed on herself, think about her lost boyfriend and her daughter and go back to drinking.

Sometimes it was worse.

Sometimes she thought about her mom or her granny Eli.

And some others she remembered her grandpa Gary’s words.

“You’re stronger than you think you are, Victoria.

When in truth, she was a mess.


 

The Sanctuary, VA

Negan sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose.

The trash people had nothing to offer but information, and the information was good for shit. The doveporters were better and Negan prided himself in the deal he had made with them, they were good people, eager to please as long as he left them alone. A damn shame, truly, the place was amazing. If it had been vacant, Negan would have considered it a good place for an outpost. So far, that group was the one giving them the less to worry about.

The Kingdom was still in the works, same as The Hilltop, he wanted the outpost finalized before going for the Hilltop. The situation at hand had Negan sort of busy, though, with almost half his workers catching the flu when the season had changed, people were dropping like flies and their resources started drifting like water between his fingers.

“Are you even listening, boss?” Simon asked, taking Negan out of his mind-place.

“What?” he snapped.

Simon lifted his hands in a conciliatory gesture and sighed.

“We lost another three.” His right hand-man told him, but…there was something about his voice…

Negan lifted his head and looked at Simon in the eyes, he was keeping something.

“So?”

Simon avoided Negan’s gaze in favor of scratching the back of his head.

“We lost Doc.”

The simple tone that his friend used made him snort in amusement.

“Come again?” Negan asked, hating the slight quiver in his voice.

DocDoc’s gone.” Simon repeated, sounding pained to say it.

The kind young woman they had rescued from the outside world, one of the most protected members of his people. Dead to a fucking flu. Negan couldn’t believe it, she had been strong for so long.

Swallowing whatever sorrow he felt, Negan dragged his hand down his face.

“Well, Si, we need us another doc.” A sigh escaped his lips. “You said our watchers spotted two doctors at The Hilltop, right?”

“Aye, two and a stocked infirmary.” Simon answered.

“Seems they’ll get graced with our presence sooner than we hoped.” Negan stood up and took Lucille in his hands. “Let’s go.”


 

Chapter Text


After

Three years later 

Alexandria, VA

“Don’t tell me you slept with him again.” Jessie groaned. Tory shushed her friend with a giggle.

“What can I say, Jess? Spencer is sort of pretty and I’m a fool for pretty faces.” Tory quipped.

Jessie shook her head. “You’ve been doing this for what? Three years?”

The younger woman nodded and sipped at her coffee.

“Is he any good?” Jessie asked, smiling sardonically into her own coffee.

“Good God, Jess! Aren’t you like, totally married?” Tory protested, evading the question completely. It was an ongoing joke between them, because Tory knew Jessie liked her husband but she didn’t love him, no matter how beautiful their kids were to her eyes. That didn’t make up for him being an abusive asshole.

Jessie narrowed her eyes, but ended up snorting her hot coffee.

“Hey! Don’t spill it or the lord and master scavenger will flip his military shit!” Tory giggled as well, referring to Aiden’s constant whining about resources.

The other woman laughed harder.

“Don’t you have anything better to do?” Pete’s sour voice dripped from the doorway and Tory turned to look at him with a plain expression as she could muster.

“We’re waiting for the instruments to come out of the sterilizer, Dr. Anderson.”

The man didn’t even bother to answer and left, grumbling under his breath. Jessie’s smile had died a quick death in front of her husband and a pang of pain tugged at Tory, who remembered her mother dealing with her asshole of a father.

“Hey, don’t let him rain on your parade, Jess.” Tory whispered, taking her friend’s hand in her own.  

“He will do it regardless.” Jessie told her, whispering as well. “I just wish I could actually leave him.”

That was a sore subject for Deanna and Jessie. Everyone knew what Pete did to his wife and children, but since he was the only doctor the safe-zone had, they were all stuck with him. Tory had stopped herself from stabbing him for three years, mostly for his kids than out of fear of being exiled.

She had survived outside before, she would do it again if it was necessary, but getting exiled for Pete Anderson? Oh, no.

The conversation was abruptly finished when Aaron arrived dragging Eric with him.

Tory left her cup to Jessie and opened the door for the couple. Whoever came after could take care of the door on their own.  

“Scouting gone wrong?” Tory asked, a smile starting to form in her lips.

Eric grimaced at her and Aaron looked sheepishly at them both. “Not exactly, the group I told Deanna about?” Tory made a non-committal noise but Aaron took it as confirmation. “They’re here, we actually got them here.”

“You are such big boys.” Tory said, trying not to cut Eric’s clothes. “scouting and recruiting people already.”

They had been doing it for a while, actually, but Tory had taken offense when she wasn’t permitted to go with them despite her experience. Deanna had been firm and Spencer was way too pleased with himself about that development. So pleased that it had caused a big drift with Tory, who had told Spencer she’d take him back only if he came back begging, which she knew he would not. The make-up sex the one time had been good, for a change.

Aaron ignored her sour remarks in favor of commenting about the group.

“Rick Grimes is a man I would trust.” The man commented, holding Eric’s hand as Tory prepared for setting his bones back. Tory felt her hands go slack, she heard the stuff she was carrying drop on the floor as she turned to Aaron. She had heard that name once, a lifetime ago, and Henry had heard it too.


 

“I’m Victoria Miller, this is my cousin, Henry Oats.” Tory lied, still smiling, Henry opted to follow her lies and waved at the officers.

“It’s a pleasure. I’m Officer Shane Walsh and this ugly dog here is Rick Grimes.”


 

Rick Grimes.

“Sorry guys, maybe I’m clumsy today.” She excused, kneeling to pick up the bandages and alcohol bottle, hoping they didn’t notice her shaky hands.

Aaron frowned.

“You slept with Spencer again?” her neighbor asked, making Eric giggle when Tory growled.

“Why does everyone think that?” Tory whined pitifully, glad to have an excuse.

“You usually get drunk before that and then are especially unfocused the next day.”

“I’m never having dinner with you guys again.” Tory narrowed her eyes at Eric. “I better get ya’ Pete, or I might set that wrong to see ya’ suffer, darlin’.”

Aaron groaned. “Not the fake accent, please, anything but that!”

“C’mon, y’all love it!” Tory said over her shoulder, a malicious smirk gracing her rosy lips. Her atrocious pronunciation made the couple groan in unison, which made her smile wider.

Once Tory was out of their view, she felt her body sag a bit. Remembering Henry always exhausted her. Remembering happy times was even worse.


 

The Sanctuary, VA

 

       Spencer is sort of pretty and I’m a fool for pretty faces.

 

Negan growled in irritation at the words he had just caught on with. He hated this Spencer guy and the frequency of the bastard’s name on his arm. More than once, he had been fucking one of his wives and hissed in pain to find the idiot’s name on his skin.

“Get some fucking variety.” He muttered at his skin, knowing it would be fruitless since communication through the soulmarks was tricky. He had seen it happen, but it happened with people who had years to channel the ability to perfection. Negan had never even wanted to try. However, he knew that, given the chance, Negan would definitely kill this Spencer shit, just so he didn’t have to read the name on his skin ever again.

“The Hilltop delivered this week.” Simon commented. “the trickle’s steady.”

Negan looked up and nodded.

“Any other pick-ups we should discuss?” the leader of the Saviors stood.

“I don’t think so. The satellite outpost is ready to go, by the way.” Simon said, smiling with pride. “Damn good place we’ve got there.”

“Damn-fucking-right! We should celebrate that, you know, rec room and alcohol, shit like that.” It had been too long since Negan had rewarded his saviors. Maybe the workers could get something too. They needed to check the numbers, he told Simon so.

“You feelin’ generous boss?” Simon smirked.

“I’m the epitome of fucking generosity, Simon!” he exclaimed cheerfully, swinging Lucille with actual joy in his hands. “Aren’t I?”

Simon nodded and placed his hands on his hips. “We gonna go over those digits?” he asked.

“Later, I’m too fucking chipper for that, Si. Maybe I’ll get me some sweet time with Amber.” He felt like having the blond in his bed today, at least before she got drunk out of her mind.

“You do you, boss.” Simon conceded, closing his ‘accounting books’. “See ya’ later.”

“Oh, if you see me, Si!” Negan winked and exited the room with Lucille at his shoulder, ready for a fun afternoon with his newest wife.


 

Alexandria, VA

“Tell your…please tell your ass of a husband to leave me alone, Jess.” Tory hissed under the others bantering in the background, as she sliced the eggplant for her casserole.

Jessie frowned at Tory, her eyes questioning her without words.

“He’s been running me over for three days.” Tory complained. “He keeps whining about the new people.”

Jessie sighed and passed a hand through her hair.

“You know I can’t influence him, Tory.”

“Yeah, but I wanted to whine about him to someone.” Tory smiled. Her friend smiled too and looked down at the eggplant she was still slicing.

“You know Pete hates eggplants.” Jessie provided. “Right?”

“Exactly, that’s why I’m making a big casserole of it.” She said innocently, with a devious glint in her grey eyes.

Jessie laughed, making some head turn.

There was someone new. A woman. She was smiling at them. Jessie smiled back and waved. Tory took her hands off the cutting board and rubbed her hands on the front of her apron, realizing too late that she hadn’t smiled back at the woman, whose smile didn’t falter.

It unnerved her.

The woman had salt and pepper hair, more salt than pepper, penetrating blue eyes that looked like they could see through your soul. 

But there was something else Tory caught in the woman’s gaze and her too bright smile.

“Hi, I’m Carol Peletier.” The woman said, her tone warm and cheerful.

Jessie smiled just as bright as Carol.

“I’m Jessie Anderson and this young woman here is Tory Jones.” Her friend said, hugging her shoulders. Tory gave Carol an embarrassed smile and the woman looked down at the preparation between them.

“Eggplant casserole?” she asked brightly.

“Yeah, parmesan.” Tory shared. “My mom’s recipe.”

Carol’s smile became somehow softer and Tory clenched her hands softly, trying not to hurt herself.

“Need help?” 

Tory nodded automatically and Jessie squeezed her shoulder with a bigger smile, if that was possible.


 

Later that night, Tory sat on the front porch of the house, sitting with a tiny glass of brandy by her side. Her dad came over and sat beside her, a plate of her eggplant casserole in his hands.

“It tastes just like your mom’s.” he complimented. “You get better at this every day, sweetheart.”

Tory smiled shyly and sighed.

“I noticed you emptied Peyton’s stuff.” He said, testing the waters.

“I did.” Tory said, taking a sip of the liquor. “They brought a baby with them, so I gave it to one of them, the guy that looks like he hates showers, Daniel or some other.”

“Daryl.” her dad corrected. “You seen her? The kid?” Tom asked, stifling as he hear her. The brunette simply shook her head.

“I’m not ready yet, I think.” She answered. “Maybe later on.”

They fell silent for a while.

“They seem like good people.” Tom said after taking a bite. “You’d like them.”

“I met Mrs. Peletier, she is a great cook.” Tory commented, making her dad smile. “But I think she’s more than a simple cook.”

“She told Deanna she was a people person.” Tom looked at her with a bit of a frown. “I saw the tape.”

“People tend to lie, dad. Even more when they feel they need to do it to survive.” Tory sighed bitterly, downing the rest of her brandy. Her hand didn’t reach for more and he smiled. “This brandy is awful.” She complained.

Tom looked at his daughter, the little girl he’d met fifteen years ago was gone. Sure. Tory had her image about her, her outer appearance was the same, chocolate wavy hair, sun kissed skin and those grey eyes that didn’t give anything away. She was essentially the same girl but at the same time, she was not. Her character was hard, little people could get to her and her heart was something even less people could see.

“Is that what you did?” he asked. “When we first arrived?”

“No, I didn’t lie. I was too stupid to lie.” Tory admitted. “That’s why Deanna doesn’t like me.”

Deanna didn’t like Tory for much more than just being sincere at first.

They had rubbed each other the wrong way, Tory had been in a bad place and Deanna had pushed her limits, that Tory got back at her by sleeping with Aiden and then Spencer was another very delicate topic for their charismatic community leader.

“About Deanna…” Tom sighed. “She’s throwing a party for the new arrivals, tomorrow.”

Rick Grimes, her inner voice whispered.

“I better put something out.” Tory quipped. The stupid line made Tom laugh and she followed him with giggles.


 

Tory arrived a bit late with a bacon mac-and-cheese casserole. She was wearing a damn dress even.

Most of Alexandria was at the party already and Tory cursed when she saw her favorite bottle of whisky make the rounds.

“Very sneaky, Dad.” She muttered.

“Victoria, welcome!” Deanna extended her arm to the inside of the house, how she’d come from talking with Rick and Reg without Tory noticing was beyond her.

“Hello, Deanna. I brought a casserole.” She said, putting her best smile on.

“So I see, let’s put that to the appetizer table.” The leader conceded. Everyone seemed happy and relaxed, at least the average Alexandrians. The stiff stances and sour faces of the new people gave them away. Tory got herself a non-alcoholic drink and made rounds through the party. Interacting with people was fun, but she preferred quiet observation from a corner, her way of learning people had, so far, worked.

For example, Rick and Jessie.

Tory sighed, her friend deserved better than Pete, that was for sure. And the way Rick Grimes looked at Jessie… Until Sam got there. Damn it, Tory loved Sam, but he could be a real bother sometimes. Spencer trying to flirt with whoever was at the door made Tory smile. He was sort of incorrigible about that, with his cheesy one liners and batting his long lashes at women, and always ended up rejected.

Tory turned her head to the chorus of ‘awws’ and coo’s and her heart fluttered in her chest when she saw.

A beautiful baby, not a toddler yet, but well in way to be. Blond fine hair that shone under the lights of Deanna’s dinning room. The baby had beautiful blue eyes and a cute smile as she was handed an empty cup to play. When her eyes found those of the child, Tory knew she’d had enough of the party.

Her night was over.

“…at’s what you worry about?!” Tory heard someone shout as she was leaving. 

At least someone had their priorities straight.


 

Chapter Text


 

After

The Sanctuary, VA

Negan didn’t feel comfortable.

He had young wives, for sure, he could almost be Amber’s father, but Amber was already what people would call legal. This tiny thing in front of him? She looked like a kid, too pale and thin, the short hair made her seem even younger. He consoled himself thinking he was giving her a choice.

“Tell me, Tina.” He started, swallowing the discomfort he felt and giving the girl his best confident smile. “How in the whole-fucking-holy world, did you get this enormous debt?”

He knew the answer. Insulin wasn’t cheap before, and it was as worth gold now.

“I…I-m…I’m diabetic.” She began, stuttering and looking away from him. “Insulin is too expensive. T-the points.” Tina’s voice started to waver and Negan pinched the bridge of his nose, sighing loudly.

“Don’t, there’s no need for that now, Tina, we’re being fucking nice here.” Negan said, trying to sound pleasant, even though the tiny blond recoiled from the sound of his voice. “Being a wife is not that shitty after all.”

Tina whimpered, actually whimpered as if he had physically hurt her. He wanted to help her, but Negan wasn’t a fucking saint. He needed to keep his people in line, the kneeling act was for a reason, the worship was for a reason.

He established civilization.

Oh, but he sounded inpatient. It was with good reason, but he didn’t want to sound aggressive.

“Look Tina, let’s be real fucking clear here. You lose your points as soon as you make them and it’s not going to get you anywhere, sweetheart.”

Tina sniffled pitifully but nodded.

“A-fucking-mazing then.” Negan looked away from Tina and his eye fell on Lucille. He shut his eyes and turned an idea around in his head. It could actually work for him and for the girl. “Say, you become my fiancé and we give you time to think about this, and when you feel ready, we close the deal.” He offered

“Bu-ut…but the meds-” she stuttered again and Negan lifted a hand to silence her.

“On me.” Negan said. “But you have to behave, Tina, you know the rules.”

“Yes, Negan.”


 

Alexandria, VA

Things seemed to be working out.

Every one of the new arrivals had a job, even Sasha and Daryl. Alexandria had now a constable force of two whole people, and the scavenging team was complete again. Deanna was grooming Maggie for leadership and the fields were manned too. After a couple of months, Tory finally mustered the courage to learn their names. They were staying.

And so, Tory divided her time between the infirmary and cooking duty. She got the impression that Carol liked her a bit, since they both shared kitchen space without difficulty and had caught each other rolling their eyes whenever the blessed pasta machine came up which was often.

“You know your stuff, honey, you went to cooking school?” Carol offered while they waited for the oven to ring.

Tory shook her head and bit into a piece of celery. “No, mom was a chef.” She chewed consciously until she swallowed easily. “an honest to God chef, who went to France and everything.”

“So she taught you.” Carol nodded. “she sounds good.”

And Tory had lost Carol again.

Every time she thought she was getting somewhere, Carol stepped back to whatever fortress hid behind her sweet smile and kind words.

“Olivia is going to notice eventually you know?” Tory offered. “About the guns.”

Carol stiffened and frowned at Tory, who kept her impassive face on, resolve held her as she faced the older woman.

“How did you know?” Carol asked coldly, reaching for the knife that was over the table. Tory’s eyes widened and she sighed.

“I can count.” She admitted. “And you guys aren’t acting suspicious for others, but I’m not from here.” Tory stood straight. “I notice stuff they let go.”

“When?”

“Since the party at the Monroe’s.”

They both fell silent and Carol sighed.

“Why haven’t you said anything?” Carol asked, genuinely curious.

“Because I know you are right. We’ve been too comfortable and it’s going to end up getting us all killed.” She finished bitterly.

“Happened to you before?”

“Once.”

Whatever Carol was going to say next was interrupted by Tory’s hiss of pain.

 

       you have to behave, Tina, you know the rules.

 

The brunette clutched at her arm, but Carol had already read the words.

The silver lining seemed to be that she had finally surprised Carol with something other than the fact Tory knew they were taking guns out of the supply.

Tory lied down on the cool tiles, relieving her arm of the hot pain of the marks.

“How long have you had them?” the other woman asked, kneeling by Tory and putting a cold compress over her skin.

“All my life. Since the moment I was born.” she answered sincerely. “he’s an asshole.”

Carol sighed.

“My husband was my soulmate, he was…not what you would imagine.”

“Were you happy with him?” Tory inquired, trying to put a brave face on.

“For a while.” Carol conceded. “All good things come to an end.”


 

The scavengers came short that day.

Glenn, Eugene, Nicholas and Tara barely made it back themselves. Noah and Aiden were dead, not even their bodies remained.

Tory left the infirmary after Tara and Nicholas had been patched up. She cleaned up as best as she could and then ran to the Monroe’s. Just as she was going up the porch step, Spencer opened the door and almost collided with her.

“I’m sorry, Spence.” She breathed out, panting hard.

“He’s dead because of them…” Spencer ground his teeth and Tory looked up.

“I-…“ Her words died in the kiss Spencer imposed on her. Devouring her lips and stealing her breath away. “Spencer I- I don’t…” she hesitated as his arms squeezed her, hard.

“Please, just tonight, just for tonight.” He sounded like a lost child, and Tory felt her heart break a little for him. It was just this one night.

“Tonight.” She murmured softly, taking Spencer home with her.

Only this one night.


 

Negan had just finished up with Amber when more words showed up in his arm.

       

       It’ll be okay, love, I promise. It’ll be okay.

 

He scowled at the words. It was the first time in years he saw that word on his arm, so long ago he couldn’t remember the last time it had happened. Maybe around the time the girl had lost Henry.

It could have been her. An inner voice that sounded mysteriously like Lucille whispered inside his mind. But Negan knew it was bullshit, Negan would have protected her. Alas, he never knew where the Miller girl was, and Lucille never told him. She only made him fucking promise… And she had been close to death a few times already, even if not as many as him.

If the girl died it would mean another broken promise to Lucille.

And now this.

Negan didn’t like the possessive thoughts that swirled through his mind. He would never abandon the Sanctuary, his people needed him more than one silly girl who was lost to him, somewhere he could never go.

He was frustrated and considered it a good thing Amber hadn’t left just yet. 


 

Chapter Text

 


After

Tory sighed and moved her finger over the trigger, blinking slowly and focusing her gaze on her prey: a little boar. She felt cruel, but it was survival and she needed to give food to her Dad and Henry.

“You’re too tense, Kitten.” Henry whispered in her ear, startling her and making her fail her shot.

“Henry, what the hell?!” she exclaimed, completely surprised to see him. Tory felt like she hadn’t seen him in a long time, but enjoyed how he touched her face softly. “You made me fail.”

“You didn’t fail the shot.” Henry corrected gently. “I remember eating roasted boar. And how you preserved it to the best of your ability.”

“But I…that hasn’t happened.” Tory whispered, finding herself suddenly embraced by him.

“It happened long ago, kitten.” He contradicted, his gaze looking beyond her. Tory felt confused.

“What?” she asked, as Henry let go of her and walked to a room, when seconds ago, they had been at a field. Her lover turned to her.

“Are you coming or not?”

Tory walked slowly, noticing she wasn’t holding the rifle anymore as she followed Henry down the hall of the Jones’ Farmhouse. Henry entered a room at the end of the hallway and she followed. A happy laugh floated out of the room as Tory approached it.

When she was almost at the door…


 

Alexandria, VA

Tory woke up, blinded by the light streaming into her room. Spencer’s arm firmly around her waist. She would have to wake him up if she wanted to go anywhere.

Spencer groaned when Tory moved, trying to keep her in the bed.

“Too early.” He complained.

“You’ve got rounds at the tower look out, Spencer.” Tory reminded him. “We can’t do this anymore.”

The change of topic did wake Spencer up. His dark eyes suddenly focused on her, a scowl marrying his otherwise pretty features.

“What do you mean?” he asked, confusion dripping from his tone. “We have a thing.”

Bitter laughter built in her chest, but Tory replaced it with a long, suffering sigh.

“We have on and off flings that only make me feel guilty.” Tory corrected.

“But, V! We do have something!” the man protested weakly.

“Yeah, we are friends, that I can accept.” The young woman started getting dressed. “But this isn’t helping Spencer.”

“Aiden just died and I-…” Tory interrupted him, muttering something. “What?”

“I slept with him once, your brother.” She repeated, turning back to look at Spencer, whose hurt expression made her feel like a monster.

“When?” he choked, getting up from the bed.

“A month after the baby…” Tory swallowed over the lump in her throat. “We were both really drunk, he confessed some things, and I confessed others, he kissed me, I kissed him back…”

“Stop. I get it.” Spencer pulled his pants with an enraged expression she’d never seen. “I was your fucking replacement.”

“Spencer, no y-” she started, but he lifted his hand to stop her.

“We’re through, Tory.”

Spencer went with as much dignity as he could muster, and Tory sighed when she saw his boots by the door. She took them and waited to hear Spencer slam the front door. Tory went downstairs, exited the house and placed the boots on the first step of the porch. 


 

The Sanctuary, VA

“This gelato is amazing, boss.” Simon moaned. “God’s heaven served cold and creamy.”

Negan chuckled at Simon’s reaction. His friend had a sweet tooth that would have killed him long ago, if it weren’t for all the exercise he actually put out while on runs and deliveries. As Negan scribbled down some more numbers, Simon kept praising the creamy goodness like a little kid in fucking Christmas.

“That girl did say she was good in the kitchen.” His right-hand man sighed. “She wasn’t lying.”

“Which girl?” Negan asked absently. “I mean, I’ve got business with any girl handling creamy stuff.”

“Tiny thing, late teens, early twenties,” Simon informed, ignoring his crass comment. “pretty brown eyes and this cute face with an enormous gun?”

Negan narrowed his eyes, trying to remember. “Was I there?”

“Yep!” Simon answered, popping the ‘p’ at the end. “She was with the military guy and the old man that built the brick oven for the bakers.”

And then Negan remembered. It was about a month back, the little group they had found during a run. “And you say she was assigned to the kitchen?”

Simon hummed, savoring the glorified runny ice cream.

“Maybe I should visit the kitchens.” Negan said. “You know, get a feel of the work down there?”

Simon groaned low. He knew Vera personally, she was a lovely girl, young and sweet, a good soul, with expressive brown eyes and a compassionate disposition.

While Simon reasoned Negan’s sudden interest in the kitchen, his friend donned on his signature leather jacket and grabbed Lucille before exiting his room, with his most trusted lieutenant following his steps.

Negan seemed chipper for whatever reason, but his strolls through the Sanctuary still commanded the same blind worship among the workers. Simon distinctly remembered the first day someone had knelt at Negan’s feet.


 

It had been after Negan rescued some group in a long run, one of the rare ones that lasted for weeks at a time. As soon as this little family had gotten to the secured walls inside the Sanctuary, the woman, who was heavily pregnant at the time, had knelt in front of Negan and praised him with tears in her eyes, her husband kneeling beside her. Negan had helped the woman up and told her it wasn’t necessary. He hadn’t saved them by the goodness of his heart. They were a resource, he had said. The couple and their toddler had kneeled all the same and suddenly the Saviors did too. Negan found himself surrounded by an enormous group of people kneeling in front of him and he simply ran with it. Simon knew that Negan had saved those poor fuckers because he really thought they were weak and that had moved him. But it changed nothing. The blessing of a heavily pregnant mother had gained Negan a place in heaven inside his own compound.


 

People knelt before him because they wanted to, the costume had stayed so ingrained that everyone did it now, and nobody questioned it, later they would find other reasons to kneel as Negan proved himself, over and over.

So, as they were walking to the kitchens, Negan left a trail of kneeling people on his wake until they reached their destination.

The activity in the kitchen stopped and Negan smiled, broad and smug.

“I’m looking for our gelato-lady.” He exclaimed, making every pair of eyes of the kitchen fall on a petite girl, whose hair was in a comfortable bun at the nape of her neck. A pair of surprised brown eyes met his.

“Yes?” she whispered.

“Would you look at that?” Negan sighed, still smiling. “Come and talk to me, sunshine.”

The girl cleaned her hands and walked up to Negan with her shoulders a bit hunched, a heavy blush painting her skin as she approached him.

“What’s your name, little girl?” Negan asked once the girl was in front of him. The girl hesitated and opened her mouth a couple of times, breathing in big gulps.

“Vera.” She finally whispered.

‘Well, Vera, let’s go have a chat, you and me.”


 

Alexandria, VA

“You shouldn’t fight the only doctor in town, Officer Grimes.” Tory commented, holding the rag she’d used to clean Rick’s wounds in one hand and the other to her hip. “You end up with a shoddy nurse.”

“Pete’s not a good man.” Rick commented. “He abuses them.”

Tory’s slight smile vanished. “Yeah, he does.” She huffed. “And he’s still the only doctor around.”

There was a long, uncomfortable silence as Tory gathered the supplies to patch Rick up. She ignored the slight burn of her arm as she reached for the alcohol and disinfectant solution.

 

       I’m looking for our gelato-lady.

 

Rick smiled and pointed at the words though.

“Soulmate?” he asked.

“Yeah. Bit of an idiot, with a temper and reprehensible language.” She summarized.

“Not the boy from back in Kentucky?” Rick’s question stopped Tory on her tracks, any mention of Henry did that to her.

“So, you do remember?” she asked, completely baffled.

“It was from better times.” Grimes nodded.

“I’ve forgotten those, mostly.”

Tory hadn’t forgotten the better times, she just preferred to keep them hidden under her cold façade, internalizing her problems until she couldn’t keep going. Then she drank the problems away.

“Can I ask you something?”

Tory’s lips were set in a thin line as she dabbed Rick’s wounds with disinfectant. The former officer grimaced, but didn’t pull away as she worked in silence. “Yes.” She answered simply.

“So, Tory, right?” he asked, and the young woman nodded. “You’ve been living here for long?”

“A while.” She hummed noncommittally.

“You were outside?” Rick asked, his tone more serious now. 

Again, a nod. 

“How many walkers have you killed?”

Tory frowned and stood pensively for a few seconds before taking the adhesive bandage. “I lost count long ago, but I haven’t killed one in a while.” Aiden’s reluctance to take women on the runs was and would always be a sore spot for her.

“What about people? How many people have you killed?” he asked after, trying to sound casual and failing miserably. There was no pause this time as she cut the bandage.

“Four.” The brunette answered, applying the first bandage on Rick’s forehead.

Why?” this time, Tory didn’t answer as she kept putting bandages on him. Rick thought she wouldn’t answer his question, but after she was finished, she sat in front of him, glaring.

“Two I killed for survival, one for revenge, and another was a very unfortunate accident.” She huffed. “And before you ask, I don’t regret the one I killed for revenge.”

Rick shook his head.

“Killing people like that is not something normal.” He admonished. “Not at your age.”

“You’re right.” Tory said. “But I wasn’t going to offer a helping hand to the woman who tried to kill me while pregnant.”

Rick paled and opened his mouth to say something, but he really had nothing to say against that.

“There aren’t any toddlers around these parts.” He finally said. “Only Judith.”

“Because I never actually gave birth.” Tory cut. “She died inside me.”

“I’m sorry.” Rick said, seemingly truly apologetic for asking. Tory had to smile at that, even if her smile was a bit bitter.

“I’m sorry too.” She commented. “But what’s happened, happened.”

Tory cleared the used materials and started the sterilizer before turning to Rick once more. He was looking at his hands. The young woman sighed and thought back to Jessie and her kids. They deserved better than Pete.

“Pete is a good doctor when he isn’t drunk or hitting his family.” She confessed. “But I can’t like him, no matter what, Rick. My dad beat my real father for daring to touch my mom when she was alive.” Tory sighed. “I would have killed Pete if it didn’t mean a ticket right back out there.”

Rick’s eyes looked determined as she spoke, and Tory recalled why she had trusted him with herself and Henry so long ago. This man was good once, and the end of the world had changed him, it had made him the man in front of her.

“It won’t last long.” He assured her.

“Sounds great.” Tory said. “You’re all set.”

“Thanks.”

Rick left the infirmary behind, giving Tory a weird sense of confidence.

Things were about to change for the best, she could feel it.


 

Chapter Text

 


After

Alexandria, VA

Jessie’s eyes were red rimmed and her shoulders were hunched as she cried.

Tory offered her a cotton tissue and a cup of heavily sweetened chamomile tea, before sitting across from her at the kitchen island. They really didn’t need words. Jessie knew that Tory didn’t approve of her and Pete staying together for the sake of staying together to keep peace at Alexandria. Tory knew Jessie was too used to Pete and their way of life with their children to actually leave the man.

“Rick shouldn’t have hit, Pete.” Jessie started.

“Pete shouldn’t hit you or the boys, it doesn’t really stop him, though.” Tory commented, trying to keep her voice warm for her friend, who winced anyway.

“Deanna called for a reunion tonight.” Jessie deflected, sipping at the tea. “She wants’ to discuss the new arrivals.”

Tory groaned quietly.

“Now you sound like Pete, Jess!” Tory exclaimed without raising her voice. “That group needs a chance. Everyone here gave me and Dad a chance.” The brunette defended.

“It was the two of you, Tory.” Jessie defended. Tory blinked stupidly and then frowned.

“So, if it had been more of us things would have been different?” she asked. “Is that what you mean?”

Jessie sighed, knowing she’d made a mistake.

“Jessie, people can be dangerous alone too. You’ve seen my tape. You know that.” Tory passed a hand through her hair, avoiding her friend’s gaze. “And I wasn’t out there that long.”

“It was different, you were a kid.” Jesse contradicted.

“So is Carl.” Tory retorted. “If Deanna kicks Rick out, he won’t go alone.” No, they would follow him or take over Alexandria. Tory thought. “Think about his little girl, Jess. Carl is Ron’s age, would you throw Ron out there? I was out there when I was their age.”

Jessie’s eyes watered again, thinking about the little blue eyed baby that Tory still had a hard time looking at. About her son and then her friend…

“The…They-” Jessie started to cry and Tory took one of her hands with both of hers. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

“I’m sorry, Jess.” Tory lied. 

She wasn’t sorry about Pete, not a bit. The young woman stood up and went to look for something inside one of the kitchen cabinets. After a brief search, Tory yipped in triumph, taking out a bottle of bourbon. “For your tea.”

Jessie laughed, giving her young friend a watery smile. “Didn’t you leave alcohol for good?”

The brunette shrugged. “I have some demons, Jess.” Tory twisted the cap and opened the bottle. “So, let it all out, ma’ girl.”

Jessie wiped the tears away as Tory poured the liquor onto Jessie’s tea.

Tory’s arm trembled a bit with the familiar burn of her forearm as she twisted the cap of the bottle back on.

 

       You better get me those numbers, Si. It’s fucking important.

 

Jessie read the words aloud. “Not very polite right?” she commented. Tory shook her head.

“You have no idea.”

Jessie closed her eyes and sighed. “I met Pete because of those.”

Tory almost choked on her own tea. “What? You’ve got a soulmate? Is it Pete?!”

Jessie shook her head.

“He said the exact same words as my soulmate in the right moment.” Jessie snorted in derision. “It was some shitty serendipity for him.”

Tory’s wide-eyed look made Jessie laugh.

“I realized until I was already married to him.” Her friend said. “My soulmate died and I tattooed over the words.” Jessie showed Tory the owl under her right breast. “I never wanted to read them again.”

Pete had tricked Jessie.

And you want me to leave alcohol? Damn it, Jess. Tory thought, taking a longer sip this time and wishing the tea was all bourbon.


The Sanctuary, VA

“You looking at those number again?” a raspy sweet voice asked.

Negan turned his eyes to his bed and drank in the look of his naked wife over his dark grey sheets. Martha’s coffee-like eyes were fixed on him.

“Someone’s gotta do this shit.” Negan answered, turning back to his books. “The Hilltop is not delivering their due.”

Martha slid off the bed, taking the silky sheets with her to then sit by Negan’s side, basking on the heat he offered. “What about the dove-place?” his wife asked, reading over the lines as well. Negan grunted something unintelligible, and Martha laughed.

“What’s it?” she laughed.

“Doveport.” Negan growled, whatever underline his tone, Martha preferred to ignore it.

“So, Doveport.” Martha repeated.

“Doveport is fine, most of the outposts are fine.” Negan said, scribbling something in another notepad. “It’s just the Hilltop.”

Martha sighed and leaned her head on Negan’s shoulder. “Maybe they are having it difficult. You know we do too.”

Negan sighed, closing his eyes and rubbing them softly, trying to get rid of the sleepiness he felt. “They can fucking go through this whole shit again, but M, we’re providing them with protection.” He said. “They gotta give something in return.”

Martha nodded silently and rubbed Negan’s chest. “Let me help you with those, you need some sleep.”

“Angel-face…” he started.

“No, let me take care of you…a bit. Just once.” She murmured, kissing his cheek softly.

Negan chuckled, he liked Martha so much right now…caressing her sweet face, he kissed her lips lightly.

As Negan removed his hand away from Martha’s face, he winced in pain and pushed away from her.

“What the hell, Negan?” she whimpered, completely astonished. It was too late though, she saw the words, marked in his skin in handwriting, dark and pretty.

 

        I’m sorry, Deanna, he’s gone.

 

“You have a soulmate.” Martha whispered after her initial shock. “A damn soulmate.”

Negan sighed and stood up. “Is just some shitty baggage, angel. Nothing for you to be concerned about.”


Alexandria, VA

When had it had gone all to shit?

Tory and Tom exchanged looks, with similar thoughts running through their minds.

These  people are right.

Whatever father Gabriel had told Deanna, Tory felt inclined to ignore and it seemed some other Alexandrians thought the same. Jessie stepped to the front, her arms crossed over her chest.

“I don’t see Gabriel here tonight.” she said. “If he said Rick and his people are bad, that is something he said to you, Deanna.”

Deanna frowned at Jessieher glaring eyes fell on Maggie. “Where’s Rick?”

Maggie nodded and muttered a rushed ‘excuse me’ as she left the Monroe’s patio. Tory saw Carol narrow her eyes slightly and she knew something was up.

Everyone wanted to protect their family, but no one wanted to act. Tory wanted to curse them all and their hypocritically worried faces and mutters.

Of course, throwing a cadaver in the middle of Deanna’s patio was something to be frowned upon…and disgusting too.

Rick was bloody and out of breath as he stood straight. “There wasn’t a guard at the gate, it was open!” he panted.

Tory gasped in surprise, watching Spence as he paled visibly, even in the darkness of the patio. Deanna’s betrayed look just added to that. “I asked Gabriel to close it.”

“Go!” his mother ordered.

Tory’s eyes went back to Rick, who was still trying to regain his breath. The air was a bit humid and the stench of the dead body made Tory nauseous as they all watched the town’s constable.

“I didn’t bring it in. It got in on its own.” He growled, as if daring those present to challenge him. “They always will.” Rick continued, turning to Reg and Deanna. “The dead and the living, because we’re in here. And the ones out there?” he made a brief pause and look down, shaking his head. “They will haunt us.”

Tory felt a shiver run down her spine, the cool air of the night seemed to be permeating through her skin, making her shake. She knew what Rick meant.

“They’ll find us, they’ll try to use us, and they will try to kill us.” 

Damn it, Rick was right. And the scared faces of the people of Alexandria only made her feel worse, because she felt disgusted by their naivety. “But we’ll kill them… We will survive.” Everyone held their breath. “I’ll show you how.”

Deanna and Reg’s faces told Tory everything she needed to know.

What they thought of Rick.

Crazy.

Deranged.

He certainly looked the part.

“Hell, I was thinking.” Rick made a pause, looking at the dead roamer. “I was thinking how many of you I would have to kill to save your lives.”

Tory tensed, wishing she had Henry’s knife on her. Her Dad grabbed her wrist and exchanged a look with her.

“But I’m not gonna do that.” Grimes nodded to himself. “You’re going to change.” 

The tone of his voice changed then, it was more determined…leading. “I’m not sorry for what I said last night.” He rasped. “I’m sorry for not saying it sooner.”

Tom deflated besides her. This speech was not going to end well.

“You’re not ready, but you have to be. Right now, you have to be.” He approached the tiny crowd. “Luck runs out.”

Tory caught Jessie shaking her head, side to side.

“You’re not one of us.” 

Heads turned to the patio’s entrance, where Pete was standing. He had Michonne’s sword with him. “You’re not one of us!” he shouted.

Reg tried to stop and calm him down. His comforting voice was being drown by Pete’s unintelligible shouting.

“Pete, you-you don’t wanna do this!” the oldest Monroe urged.

“Get the hell away from me, Reg!” Pete screamed.

“Stop, Pete! STOP!” Reg shouted over the surgeon. Michonne had her hands fisted as everyone held their breath. Pete’s angry muttering escalated again as he fought Reg off. Tom’s body stood in alert, ready to shout at them to stop when it happened.

The angle of the sword was turned up and Pete had a strong grip on the handle as he pushed Reg away.  

“GET AWAY!” Pete exclaimed, slicing through the air with the katana, making the steel slide through Reg’s flesh as if it were butter. Deanna and Jessie screamed in horror as Abraham and Michonne tackled Pete and wrenched the sword out of his hands.

Carol walked up to Rick and Tom noticing the gleam of a gun, but Tory pushed him behind her and ran to Reg and Deanna. Tory fell to her knees trying to stave of the blood flow as Deanna cried and Reg tried to tell her something. 

There was nothing to be done. Nothing they could do.

“No, my love.” Deanna pleaded to her husband as he stopped moving.

“I’m sorry, Deanna. He’s gone.” Tory said, feeling the leader of Alexandria shake with her husband’s body in her arms.

She heard Deanna as the older woman gave her permission for Pete’s execution.

The shot and Jessie’s scream told her everything.

Tory took the pen she’d used to bun her hair earlier and looked for the soft tissue behind Reg’s ear. Deanna cried as the grey-eyed girl punctured her dead husband’s brain.

Deanna clutched at Tory’s wrist and kept crying, muttering Reg’s name over and over again.


 

Chapter Text


After

Alexandria, VA

Tory washed the blood of her hands as she watched the flickering light coming from the outside.

Fire.

It was an excellent idea, and it could save them all. Damn, it would.

Who would have thought fire could be welcome in a place called Alexandria?

Months before

The shift was so vertiginous it almost gave Tory whiplash.

Deanna said she was sharing her duties as head of Alexandria, but it was a bold-faced lie. She wasn’t herself anymore, Reg’s death took too much out of her. Out of Spencer too.

“I do as if I can’t see the marks and she fakes as if she believes me.” Her friend had told her over coffee one afternoon, not long after his father’s death. Their rift over Aiden long forgotten.

Alexandria slowly became a regime.

Patrol times were tightly controlled, as well as the guns in the log. Olivia’s nerves were shot, rationing food and controlling the guns was of utmost importance for everyone. Tory tried not to think about Carol hiding guns, it was a safety net, she would tell herself.

Alexandria had been shocked with Reg’s death and Pete’s execution by Rick, but even if the Alexandrians outnumbered the group two to one, they had ‘out-there’ experience and ruthlessness that the good people of Alexandria lacked after such a long time living in a safe heaven. They weren’t weak, but they weren’t used to that lack of piety either.

The infirmary had been positively affected, Tory enjoyed working with Denise a whole lot more than she did with Pete, and Denise was more willing to share her knowledge with her. It was a win-win, Denise practiced and Tory learned.

“What do you think of this horde stuff?” Jessie asked Tory, who was rolling bandages after they had been thoroughly washed. They had decided to have a quiet morning in the infirmary while Rick and the rest of the group led the mega-horde away from their little town. “Isn’t it too much of a coincidence?”

Tory sighed. “No, is not.” The young woman started rolling another bandage, watching through the window. “They didn’t prepare this horde with us in mind, Jessie, those things have been there from the start.”

Jessie sighed too.

“Is not your fault, Jess.” Her friend admonished, as she had been doing from the moment Jessie had become a widow. “Pete doesn’t deserve your doubts over Rick.”

The mother of two buried her face in her hands and shuddered. “Ron blames me. He blames Rick. Sam’s having nightmares, he refuses to go out of the house.” Jessie lifted her head, her green eyes were filled with tears. “I don’t know what to do.” After breathing with a soft shudder, Jessie looked at Tory. “What do you think?”

The grey-eyed girl looked out of the window.  

“That Rick was right, at least at some level. Luck does run out.”

Jessie left with the pretext of going to get some washing done. Lies all of it.

Later, she regretted her word choice and cursed herself when the deafening horn started.


The Sanctuary, VA

“So…You’re telling me that not only my wife disappeared, but her sister, my little fiancé, did as well?” Negan asked, his tone deceptively calm as Martha and Frankie nodded. “And nobody fucking noticed?”

Frankie braved the answer. “They were gone this morning.” The redhead whispered. Simon was standing behind the wives, his expression grim.

“Carson says they took most of the insulin.” The lieutenant informed Negan.

Negan tightened his grip on Lucille and hit his desk. “What the fucking fuck is going on in here?!” Frankie looked visibly frightened at Negan’s outburst, while Martha trembled slightly in shock. Simon was unfazed. “I want those motherfuckers back in here ASAP! Go get them for me, Si.” Negan ordered. “Alive.”

“Boss.” The man nodded and left the room, leaving the wives to their fate as well.

After a long, uncomfortable silence, Negan’s grimace finally became a slight grin.

“I wanna do some pillow fighting, but!” Negan smiled impishly at his wives, raising his eyebrows. “I can’t decide between you, ladies.”

Frankie looked helplessly at Martha, who was looking at Negan with an unreadable expression as she approached him and rounded the desk to sit on the lap of the Savior’s leader, locking her arms about his neck.

“My sweet little Martha, my angel-faced darlin’.” He smiled, dismissing Frankie with a gesture of his hand as he helped his brave wife straddle him. “Got anything for me.”

“You know I do, Negan.”

Neither Negan or Martha commented on how Negan behaved distant with his wife, nor the look of betrayal that had flashed in his eyes when they had mentioned Tina. Negan had helped them and they betrayed him.

Martha just knew that, if they came back, they would be in for a nasty surprise.  


Alexandria, VA

Fending the group, those who called themselves the “Wolves”, Tory felt rage.

They were out for the kill, and it wasn’t merciful, it was messy and cruel and painful and the people, her people, fell like flies. She hadn’t seen this much death in a while, and being trapped inside the walls of Alexandria wasn’t easing her into security.

It was awful.

Those thoughts had her sitting at the doorstep before her own home, where she knew her father had barricaded himself as soon as he saw the strangers.

She longed for a big bottle of wine, maybe some vodka, if she could raid the pantry. But Spencer and Olivia didn’t need their authorities undermined by her need for a drink. Tory didn’t really need a drink. Not even with the sounds of the horde outside, she also had another shift in the infirmary soon, and her dad felt so proud of her after she stopped her alcohol intake…

It was going to be a long night.

A very long night.


Watching her neighbors train to hold a machete properly would have been fun if their lives hadn’t depended on it. Some of them had died for their lack of training, just the day before. This was good for everyone.

Rosita was a good teacher, if a bit too stern for Tory’s taste. Not even Ben had been that stern to her and Henry when they were back in Georgia. Sincerely, Tory didn’t like Rosita that much, that was it. It didn’t even have to do with Spencer.

It was getting more and more difficult to wait it out. She was mad at Spencer killing the driver of the truck, but she was also grateful for him thwarting the Wolves plan to…whatever they were going to do.

But Alexandria was starting to close in on them. Somehow.


The Sanctuary, VA

Negan hissed in pain when his arm burned, intense and short, spiking his mind with fear.

 

      We’re fucked.

 

“Oh-ho! Well, who would have thought…” he said to himself. “You’ve got it in ya’.”


Alexandria, VA

Tory could still hear the groaning wood of the church tower as it came down, letting the walkers pour inside the walls of Alexandria. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, the green balloons had distracted everyone, even Tory’s eyes were turned skywards, watching the floating green bunch, Rick and Maggie’s screaming made the people bolt into action.    

Being trapped with the Aaron, Spencer and Heath inside the infirmary was a feat of patience.

The roamers banging on the doors and walls were driving Tory to insanity, and their incessant theorizing of what could happen was grating on her already frayed nerves. She still held herself from drinking. In case anyone needed her.

Denise entered the house running, Aaron and Spencer received her, asking if she was okay.

All of them jumped in surprise when Rick entered the house carrying Carl in his arms, with Michonne following close behind him. Helping Denise was pushed aside when they saw the enormous wound in the place where Carl’s right eye used to be.

Tory held a curse as Denise ordered them all around. Spencer readied the gurney as she and Aaron got bandages, disinfectant and instruments.

“Help him.” Rick pleaded. “Save him…Save him.”

As Denise and Tory started working on Carl’s wound and they heard the shouting as Michonne tried to stop Rick from going back outside.

It seemed she wasn’t successful as Aaron, Spencer and Heath left to help Rick.

Then someone started the fire.


Tory poured herself a little glass of whiskey. She drummed her fingers beside the glass, looking at the beautiful woodsy color of her untouched drink.

Three days had proved how strong her community…her family was. It also proved that creativity could go a long way. It also proved that she still had a heart.

Her arm burned something fierce and new marks showed on her arm.

There are rules for a reason, Sherry.

Tory really wanted that drink now.

She wanted it to forget Jessie and Ron and Sam, and how Deanna had sacrificed herself, Carl’s terrible loss and their collective bond over all those tragedies. To forget the dark words on her skin…

“Are you going to drink it?” her Dad asked, cocking his head in the general direction of the bottle.

“I’m not sure just yet.” She answered.

“Even if you do it, sweetheart. I’ll be proud of you.” Tom said, taking a seat beside her, holding her hand between his, stopping the drum of her fingers.

“Jessie, dad…” hot tears filled Tory’s grey eyes as she shook, trying to hold her sobs. “Deanna…”

“I know, Tory. I know.” Tom whispered softly, combing through her long, dark curls. “I know.

Tory cried in her dad’s arms for a long while, and the glass was forgotten.


 

Chapter Text

After

Alexandria, VA

Becoming a year older is in itself a victory, Tory thought as she watched herself in the mirror after her shower; her hair in a towel and her very practical underwear being the only things guarding her self-imposed modesty. She was a bit too slim, but her skin glowed from sun exposure. Tory tried to think of herself as the sixteen-year-old girl she had been six years before.

That girl didn’t exist anymore.

This thin stranger with haunted grey eyes and a lot more scars looked like she’d live through hell. Her hand glided over the double scar a couple of inches under her navel, from hip to hip, while her other hand gripped the slim pregnancy test she’d taken before showering.

Negative.

“Thank God.” Tory whispered, feeling tears fill her eyes. A part of her wanted children, but not with Spencer, who was in a really terrible place at the present moment, the other part of her was relived. 

No one was in a good place with the food shortage and the fresh wounds of the walker horde. A baby was the last thing she needed.

The young brunette disentangled the towel from her hair, letting the damp strands fall down. Her hair was so long now, she liked it that way. 

Henry had cut it before he… and since then, Tory couldn’t quite keep it short after that. Jessie had trimmed it every once in a while, but Tory had kept her hair long, so that it was almost touching her elbows now.

No, I’m not the stranger. Tory thought. The one from her memories was the stranger, the one who had lived in a happy world, the vain one, who used to check herself in the mirror for things like scars, hairstyles and makeup.

Her arm burned and she read the new words without much care.

 

       Who are we?! We’re the fucking Saviors!”      


 

Her Dad was waiting for her, with breakfast served already. It was mostly roasted tomatoes and a side of beans. Tory smiled because he always tried.

In the middle of their table sat a worn velvet-lined box. Her mind supplied the words gift and jewelry.

“Happy birthday, Victoria.” Her Dad exclaimed cheerily, giving her a hug too. He was warm and smelled like their slowly cooling breakfast.

“Thank you, Dad.” She replied with a grateful smile. “It looks better than that awful porridge I’ve been making lately.”

None of them justified the awfulness of the porridge due to the lack of food. It was a given, and Tory guessed her Dad wanted to keep it as normal as possible.

“What does it feel to be twenty-four?” Dad asked, raising his eyebrows with a funny face.

“Old as balls, Dad.” Tory said, chewing her tomatoes carefully. They were perfectly seasoned. Too perfect. “Did Carol help you with this?” Carol loved using paprika with her tomatoes, and her breakfast tasted just like that.

“No.” her dad answered quickly, blushing at the same time. “Well, maybe a little.”

“It’s okay, dad. It’s good and it’s the intention that counts.”

They kept an idle chat, avoiding anything to do with recent events, out of crop raising and some little chore sharing. Once they finished their breakfast and coffee, her Dad took the box reverently and smiled, a far-away-nostalgic smile that reached his eyes. He looked younger this way.

“Your mother was buried with her engagement ring.” He started. Tory didn’t understand why he would bring that up, but said nothing. “The ring I gave her when we got married in Savannah, I kept it because she said I should.” 

In her will was left unsaid.

Tory took her father’s left hand with her right one, but noticed the tan mark of his missing ring.

“Dad…” She started, but he silenced her with a tender look.

“She wanted me to give you this when you were to get married,” Her dad sighed heavily. “but I just don’t see that happening and I think is time you have this.”

Tom opened the box and revealed the expensive marriage rings he’d shared with his late wife, white gold with yellow gold rims, a little ring that had belonged to Erin and his own, bigger and thicker. He lifted the thin, long silver chain from where the rings dangled.

“Happy birthday, sweetheart.” He whispered softly.

“I can’t, Dad.” Tory protested, her eyes filling with tears for the second time this morning. “They are yours.”

“You can, and you will, Victoria.” Tom said sternly. “I hoped that Henry…and then Spencer…but that didn’t happen, and your mother would come and haunt me if I keep them any longer.”

Tory took the chain and put it around her neck.

“You had them for the best part of ten years, Dad.” She sighed. “Why now?”

Tom sighed as well, as if the answer to her question chagrined him.

“Your mother was your age when she married Roy Miller.”      


 

Near the satellite outpost

“I didn’t want to have to do this,” Negan said, pacing in front of the six unwitting idiots from the Hilltop. “but Simon told me…Ya’ know what he told me?…” 

The idiots didn’t move or tried to answer his question and Negan continued, “He told me, and I gotta trust the man, he’s my right hand, and he told me that you weren’t delivering.” Negan swung Lucille dramatically and put her on his shoulder. “And I come to the scheduled delivery, because a man’s got to keep control of this shit. And what do I fucking find?! SIMON WAS FUCKING RIGHT! YOU AIN’T FUCKING DELIVERING!”

One of the girls, a plain little thing, sobbed openly to his shouting, making Negan uncomfortable with the sound of her crying. 

She would go first.

“Ne-Negan we are try-” one of the tried to explain, but the leader of the Saviors stopped him, pointing Lucille at him.

“No, this has already gone wrong, my boy.” Negan chuckled. “You’ve earned your punishment.” He was sure his smile was predatory as he caressed Lucille with his gloved hand. Yeah, his girl would see some action, but first, he took his hunting knife and spun it with his petting hand and pointed at the unfortunate speaker. “You, come here.”

Simon had to push the man, making him crawl in all fours to Negan.

“Help him stand, Si.” Negan ordered sternly, not because he was mad at Simon, but because he had to come though as for how serious he was in that moment. “Now, you uncompromising dicks and pussies, I need you to fucking understand, we’re working to make the world a civilized place again.” The man in front of him was shaking so hard, Negan thought he would crumble. “I’m gonna have to kill…say…two of you? Yeah, two of you! Because I need someone to take a fucking message back to dear Gregory.”

Negan pushed the man to his knees and told Simon to hold him. “Now, Regina, help me with that one. Girls doin’ girls.” Negan ordered his lieutenant, pointing at the one he had decided to kill…the sobbing one. 

Regina put the girl on her knees and went back to her place.

“Now…tell me your name, sweetcheeks.” Negan ordered, caressing the girl’s cheek with the blunt side of his knife.

“M-marsha.” The girl sobbed.

“I’m sorry, Marsha, but I have to do this, so people will understand.”

Negan tried not to bask in the horrified gasps of the other hilltoppers when he stabbed the side of Marsha’s head. An instant kill. Torturing women wasn’t something he enjoyed. A man who had tried to stop Regina sobbed hard and fell in all fours, sobbing and screaming in rage and sadness.

“See, this is what happens when you don’t fucking deliver! I don’t like killing people, but someone’s gotta do this ugly shit.” Negan sighed, cleaned his knife on the kneeling man in front of him, leaving a fresh stain of blood in the fabric.

“Now, I’m going to say this one time, because I don’t like repeating my-fucking-self.” Negan smiled. “You have to put effort on what you do. Or people die, so…” Taking Lucille with his hands, he took a deep breath and lifted her. “DO.” First hit, the man stumbled to the ground, screaming. “YOUR.” Another hit, and the remaining girl screamed the name of the poor shit. Tim. “FUCKING.” Tim stopped moving by the third hit. “PART!”  

Once he was done, Negan smiled again.

“Load that one up.” Negan pointed the crying guy. “Now you are going to get Gregory a message.”

The three shitbags left trembled hard while Negan spoke, a smile still in his face.

“The answer to that message is Gregory’s head for that one we’re loading up. And our shit, which is half of your shit.”

Negan turned around and got in his truck, before ordering the savior inside to drive away.


 

That same night

Tory woke up drenched in sweat.

Her old nightmare vanishing to the back of her mind when her arm kept burning intently.

 

        DO. YOUR. FUCKING. PART!

 

Whatever that meant?


 

Alexandria, VA

Rick had come back determined from the Hilltop.

Calling them inside the church was a bold move, a power play that Deanna had never used. She preferred a more democratic approach to this sort of thing, that was the reason they used to hold the meetings in her back patio. Until Reg…

Tory was standing up, too nervous to actually sit and listen. Her Dad was looking at their leader with a wary expression in his eyes.

Something was wrong.

Tory had checked on Paul Monroe, the hilltopper that had ruined the truckfull of food that Daryl and Rick had found. She was skeptical about the leader of Alexandria going to the Hilltop, food shortage or not, and she had also seen Rick when they had arrived. His jacket stained with blood. No good news could come out of a bloody Rick, not even the food they had helped unload from the RV.

“-and we can work with the Hilltop.” Rick said, looking at all of them with a serious expression. “Maggie hammered out a deal, we’re getting food, eggs, butter, fresh vegetables,” he made a little pause. “but they are not just givin’ it away.”

There…a catch.

“This…Saviors, they almost killed Sasha, Daryl and Abraham on the road and sooner or later they would have found us.” That name stirred something in Tory. The Saviors… “-like those Wolves did. Just like Jesus did. They would have killed someone, or some of us, and then they would try to own us.”

No one said a word.

“And we would try to stop them, by then in that kind of fight, low on food? We could lose.” Some doubtful looks were exchanged. “This is the only way to be sure, as sure as we can get that…we win.”

Rick wanted them to fight. Fight to the death.

“We do this for the Hilltop, it is how we keep this place, it is how we feed this place. This needs to be a group decision. Anybody objections? You should say your peace.”

Just as Tory was about to speak, Morgan rose from his seat, an unreadable expression on his face.

“You sure we can win this? We can beat them?” the man asked.

Rick spouted some shit about what they had learnt, and Tory tried not to seethe against the man. She believed in confrontation, yes, but not without solid information. This was too half assed for her liking. Morgan talking about compromise seemed adequate, about a way out.

“We have to come for them, before they come for us.” Rick declared. “We can’t leave them alive.” 

Too radical, Tory’s conscience yelled at her.  

Voices were starting to raise. Tory didn’t agree with either Rick or Morgan, but talking to them didn’t seem that bad.

Tory tried lying to herself, she didn’t care if her soulmate was part of this group. She did not.

Aaron rose and spoke. “What happened here? We won’t let that happen again.” Looking right at Morgan, he said. “I won’t.

“I don’t agree.” she spoke but her voice didn’t shake, that was score for her. “I’m sorry, Jesus.” Tory said, looking at the man. “I’m worried that we don’t know enough.”

“We do.” Rick contradicted.

“No, we don’t!” Tory raised her voice a bit. “We know these people have enough brute force to send out more than twenty out of their own men and women to handle business. We know that a murderer is their leader, but what if there’s more?”

“We fight more.” Rick declared, firm and strong. “We have food, numbers and alliances. And we can plan.”

No one said anything, again.

“Seems like it’s settled.” Rick said, his voice rising too. “We don’t shy for this, we fight, we win. We kill them all.”

Morgan sat, his expression defeated.

“The people that’s gonna stay, they have to accept this.” Rick said as he left the church, silently adjourning the meeting. Tory felt Carol’s heavy look on her, but ignored it as she left the church too.

She ignored the burn of her arm, and had she not, she would have noticed the importance of the words etched in her skin.

 

        Radio Simon, I need him for fucking yesterday. Fuck the fucking outpost.

 


The night of the attack to the Saviors, Tory stayed awake watching the sky through her window, wondering what that would cost them all.

Chapter Text

After

       What the fuck?!

 

       WHAT IN FUCKING FUCK HAPPENED HERE?!

 

       Oh. This is not over. Not even fucking close.


 

Alexandria, VA

Tory tried to look at the window, as much as she could move. Something was wrong with her, but she had only a few facts.

She knew that her soulmate had something to do with the Saviors. She also knew that the attack on the satellite compound had been a mistake. She knew the little peace they were going through wouldn’t last for long.

The day after everyone had come back from the Saviors’ compound, Tory had simply dropped screaming to the ground as she was watering some crops. Her arm burnt so gravely she actually passed out. Later, her Dad told her that she had seized when he and Eric had taken her to the infirmary.

No words appeared on her arm, just some weird, black blotches where letters usually showed up. Once those had vanished, swear words, coordinates, orders she couldn’t make sense of and some more swearwords, all of this with a side dish of suffering for her.

Hence why she was sedated in her room, with the reassuring notion that her soulmate was alive, but whatever Rick had provoked had its consequences, grave consequences.

However, Tory was past the point of caring.

They had brought whatever was to come on themselves.


 

Days later

“I’m just going to go with them, get some meds.” Denise said sheepishly. “It will be okay, right?”

Tory nodded. “Just be careful.”

Oh, how Tory wished she had convinced Denise not to go with Daryl and Rosita.

As Rosita helped her patch up Eugene, Tory felt tears roll down her cheeks. All the occupants of the room made as if they couldn’t see her tears.

“Good as new.” Tory told Eugene, who thanked her in his overly-wrought manner.

Abraham left to do his thing, whatever it was, so did Rosita, who said she had watch-duty. Daryl stayed.

“Gonna bury Denise.” He informed her. “Wanna help?”

Tory shook her head. “Don’t think I can…Sorry.”

Daryl said nothing and left, silent as always.

Tory left Eugene to rest and shut herself in the bathroom to cry it out.

She was nowhere near prepared for this. She was no doctor, she was a half-trained nurse with no experience whatsoever when it came to something more complicated than stitches and shots.

“What am I gonna do now?” she asked out loud to the empty bathroom. As expected, no answer came.


 

Carol left.

Tory turned a blind eye to her Dad’s depression, she couldn’t deal with the sad look in his eyes or his constant trying to copy Carol’s tomato recipe. It hurt too much.


 

Morgan and Rick went to look for Carol.


 

Rosita, Daryl, Michonne and Glenn left too.


 

Rick came back alone.


 

Her arm burned again.

       

       This fucker killed Eric. He killed our people, Elle.

 

Tory tried to ignore the cold feeling that rolled down her spine, but she couldn’t.


 

Enid ran into the infirmary, shouting for Tory to come see Maggie.

Something had happened, she had collapsed back in her home but Glenn hadn’t come back yet.

As soon as Tory saw the extent of the damage, she knew that whatever she could have done wouldn’t help Maggie. The woman needed a real doctor.

She needed the doctor from the Hilltop.


 

What the hell am I supposed to do?” Enid asked through the door.

“Just survive somehow.” Carl said.

Tory didn’t question the sounds coming from inside the closet in the armory as Carl left. Enid kept hitting the door. Tory sighed, grabbed one gun and left silently.

Once she was outside, she hit the back of Carl’s head.

“That was an asshole move.” The brunette admonished.

“I want her safe.” Carl justified with indignation.

“I know. Let’s go.”

They said nothing and walked up to the RV, Carl entered the vehicle, but Tory stayed behind when Gabriel and Spencer came up to Rick.

Gabriel’s defense plan seemed solid, and Ricks approval seemed to galvanize the father as he assured the former officer of his daughter’s safety. Rick Grimes was about to climb into the RV when Spencer spoke.

“Hey, Rick. If the Saviors do show up…” Spencer looked away, and Tory knew he was nervous of presenting his idea to their leader. “I don’t know, I’m thinking, if it’s not too late…Should we try to make some kind of deal?”

“Tell them to wait for me. I got a deal for’em.”

Tory and Spencer exchanged a meaningful look.

Rick’s deal was sure to end unfortunately for someone. But for whom?

Tory entered the RV just as Rick ordered they depart, and the cold feeling in her stomach, settled firmer.


 

Uknown

 

       That was an asshole move.

 

Negan smiled cruelly. His little soulmate seemed to have the uncanny ability to say the right thing in the right moment.

“Inform me directly if anything happens.” He ordered his lieutenants. “We’re going to show them what career day is really about. No deals, only our conditions”


 

Aaron and Tory were sitting together, trying to give privacy to Maggie and Rick, but they were too close to the door to the RV’s room. Tory hissed in pain and read the words at her arm.

 

       No deals, only our conditions.

 

Fuck.

Aaron frowned but said nothing. He had read the words, what he made of them? Tory didn’t know.


 

Tory sat in silence as the Rick, Carl and mostly every other occupant of the RV went down.

Maggie was sweating profusely and whimpering pitifully. Three minutes went by when everyone came back into the vehicle, Tory turned to find Aaron’s eyes and he simply shook his head.

“Do you wanna make today your last day on earth?” Rick’s voice carried inside.

Tory didn’t hear the answer, but her anxiety was reaching high levels already and she wouldn’t be able to help Maggie like that.

“You do the same.” 

Rick finally entered the RV and shut the door behind him.


 

       We were going to rebuild things.  Together. I can’t lose you. I’m sorry.

 


 

“Why didn’t you stay back and help keep the place?” Carl murmured after a long silence.

“I owe her.” Aaron answered. “Why did you come?” 

“I owe them.”

Tory sighed deep. She wasn’t here for Maggie exactly, or to help the ob/gyn back at The Hilltop. She was in it for Maggie’s kid, it reminded her why love was still important, why hope was important, why they deserved to live in this messed up world. Worrying too much would only cause trouble.

The moment the RV started to move, she tuned everyone out, except for Maggie.

After another eternity, the RV stopped again and they started to turn back. There was shooting. Three rounds of three as they left.

Maggie gasped. “What? w-what?”

“Someone waiting for us, Maggie. Don’t worry.” Tory murmured gently, brushing her sweat damp hair from her forehead. Tory was getting worried in return, whatever was happening to Maggie it was not stopping.

And it was getting worse.


 

       I love you.

 

Tory didn’t understand the hollow feeling in her chest, only that her anguish was suffocating her slowly.


 

Tory saw Rick, Carl, Eugene and Aaron leave the RV to clear the walkers, they hadn’t been out for a minute when the shooting started, Tory threw herself over Maggie and Abraham ran out to help the others.

Tory wasn’t sure if she’d made a bad move or her arm was already in a bad way, because it burned real hot for a few seconds and then stopped.

After everyone was back on the car again, Tory stepped away from Maggie. Her eyes went to her forearm, looking for the telltale sign of her soulmate’s words, but her skin was perfectly clear, save for her old, pale scar.

“She okay?” Aaron asked, watching Tory knowingly. She shook her head. “She’s got a high fever.”

Aaron nodded and went to tell Rick that Maggie was burning. A few minutes after, the RV stopped again, and Tory said nothing, but she knew that they were running out of options. They were making too many mistakes.

Rick went to Maggie and Tory sat away from them, hiding her arm on instinct as they talked to each other.

“-eard shots.” Maggie murmured.

“Yeah, the Saviors, but they’re gone.” Rick lied, badly. Tory wanted to shout at him for lying to Maggie and treating her as if she were dying. 

“I believe in you, Rick.” Maggie stated, clear and firm despite her pain and fever.

Tory caught Rick’s gaze and saw his guilt and doubt.

After the last stop, Tory was sure they were trapped.

Eugene’s plan was foolhardy, but it was their only plan.


 

       Give me your coordinates. I’m on my way.

 


 

Getting Maggie out of the RV and on the gurney without hurting her further was a titanic task. Leaving Eugene behind hurt Tory more than she was willing to accept. 

Family. she thought. That’s why.

“Aaron, please.” Maggie rasped. “Just let me walk it.” She kept insisting.

“Relax.” he responded immediately. “Just a few more miles.”

Tory tore her eyes away from them and fixed them forward as they kept moving. Sasha was checking behind them, her rifle on the ready. The sound of their steps was so loud, her mind kept screaming at her.

Trapped!

Trapped!

“I heard what you told her, when we were leaving.” Carl panted. “We can do anything.”

Rick stayed silent. “We do what we need to do, we have and we will.” 

That was optimistic at least, but it wasn’t the moment for a heart to heart.

“What happened to Denise, I’m not gonna let anybody die like that again.” Carl declared.

They walked a few steps further when Rick spoke up.

“Son.”

“What?” Carl asked. But before Rick could get to answer.

Something interrupted them…

A noise.

Then the whistling started.


 

End of Book Two

Chapter Text

“Eventually, soulmates meet, for they have the same hiding place.”

-Robert Brault


 

Now

“Go! Go!” Rick hissed, making them take off running into the dark. Tory didn’t want to carry Maggie that way, but it was all she could do. Her arm was throbbing in pain, almost literally burning. She could feel as if a hot wire had been tied around her forearm, reaching to her fingers and well into her chest.

This. 

Was. 

BAD.  

They came to a screeching halt when light blinded them, the whistling had become unbearable at this point. Rick and Abraham kept holding Maggie’s gurney, while Carl covered himself. Tory immediately took her hand to her gun, but it was futile, they were surrounded. She saw Aaron and Sasha try to make them a way, but that was not going to happen.

They had fucked up, big time.  

The word ambush came to her mind.

“Great, you made it.” a man with the worst mustache ever approached them. “Welcome to where you’re going.”

None of them answered.

“We’ll take your weapons,” mustache man said, taking a revolver from his holster and pointing it at Abraham. “Now.”

“We can talk we-” Rick started, only to be interrupted by mustache man.

“I’m done talking. Time to listen.” he stood firmly and angry.

When the saviors approached them, Tory simply rose her hands, showing where she was carrying her little pistol, glad to have left Henry’s knife back home.

“That’s yours, right?” Angry-mustache man asked Carl, holding his gun, but the kid said nothing.

“Okay.” he turned to Rick. “Let’s get her down and get y'all on your knees.” Two men approached Maggie and angry-mustache walked backwards. “Lots to cover.” he said jovially.

“Hold up.” Abraham growled at the saviors who tried to take Maggie down. “We got it.”

“Sure, sure.”

They tried to get Maggie to stand right but it was impossible, she was too weak to do so on her own, and Tory feared for her more than them all.

Someone else dragged Eugene as well, and they all could see his guilt pouring from his earnest eyes.

“Gonna need ya on your knees.” angry-mustache ordered Rick, who hesitated, looking at them, but obeyed as Tory and Abraham helped Maggie down.

Another savior, Dwight, went to the back of a truck and opened it up to reveal Daryl, Michonne, Rosita and Glenn, who were ordered to their knees.

“Maggie?” he asked, baffled, trying to get away from their captors when his eyes fell on his wife.

Daryl was hurt, but everyone else seemed unharmed.

“All right!” mustache was no longer looking angry, he seemed to be satisfied. “We gotta full boat, let’s meet the man.” he exclaimed, walking backwards again, towards the RV’s door. Tory looked down, breathing deep, trying to stump down her fear, her anger and her pain as two knocks were heard in the eerie silence, louder than Maggie’s pained whimpers.

The door groaned open and someone stepped out of the RV.

“Pissin’ our pants yet?” a smooth voice asked, followed by confident steps over gravel. “Oh boy, do I have a feeling we’re gettin’ close.”

Tory shut her eyes hard as the man with the smooth voice and confident steps approached them, as if rounding them up. “Yeah-p, gonna be pee-pee pants city here real soon.”

No one said a thing, only the chirping of insects and long away dead groans could be heard. “Which one of you pricks is the leader?”

Mustache answered the question. “This one. He is the guy.” 

The steps went away from Tory’s hearing and her arm started to throb again.

“Hi. You’re Rick, right?” smooth-voice-man made a pause. “I’m Negan…”

Tory wasn’t sure, but his little dramatic pauses were getting her a bit more nervous each second they lasted, as did the hurt of her arm. 

“…And I do not appreciate you killing my men.” he took a lungful of air. “Also, when I sent more of my people to kill your people…you, killed more of my people. Not cool, not fucking cool. You have no fucking idea how not fucking cool that shit is, but, I think you’re gonna be up to speed here, shortly.”

A barely audible yeah reached Tory’s ears.

“You’re so gonna regret crossing me in a few minutes” he told Rick. Tory wanted to concentrate as her pain was flaring, making her wince and want to rub her arm. “Fuck yeah, you are…

“You see Rick, whatever you do, no matter-fucking-what, you do not mess with the new world order. The new world order is this, and it’s really, very simple.” Negan’s smooth voice was gaining volume and getting harder and colder as he went. “even if you’re fucking stupid, which you very well may be…you can understand it.” he made a pause and his jovial tone came back. “You ready? here it goes, pay attention.”

Tory opened her eyes and looked at the dirt under her knees, cursing the Saviors, the Hilltop, Rick, Maggie, angry-mustache man and Negan, herself as well for coming when Spencer had given her a warning look before they left.

“Give me your shit or I will kill you.” 

Sounds easy, asshole, she thought. 

“Today’s career day, we invested a lot, so you would know who am and what I can do.” Negan started to walk around again. “You work for me now.”

“You have shit, you give it to me, that’s your job.” he said slowly, as if they could not understand. “No, I know that is…” he huffed. “a mighty, big, nasty pill to swallow, but swallow it you most certainly mother-fucking will.” 

Tory clutched her arm hard, when another burning wave of pain hit her. She kept clutching until she broke her skin and blood stained her fingers.

“You ruled the roost. Your built something, you thought you were safe, I get it. But…the word is out.”

“You are not safe, not even fucking close.” Negan’s tone got heated again. “In fact, you are fucked, more fucked if you don’t give me what I want, and what I want is half your shit, and if that’s too much, then you can go make find or steal more, and it’ll even out sooner or later.”

That sounded pretty much like slavery to Tory.

“This, is your way of life now. The more you fight back, the harder it will be.”

After a short pause, in which Tory got a little reprieve from her pain, the man walked away from them, but not too far though. “So, if someone comes to your door.” he lectured. “ You fucking let us in! We own that fucking door! You try to fucking stop us? We will fucking knock that fucker down.”

Tory swallowed hard and turned her eyes to Maggie, who was shaking hard, looking on death’s door, and at this, Tory’s eyes filled with tears.

“You understand?” Negan asked, still talking to Rick. “What?“ he mocked in a low volume. "No answer?” he stepped back. “You don’t really think that you were gonna get through this without being punished, now. Did you? I don’t wanna kill you people, I just wanna make that clear from the get-go. I want you to work for me and you can’t do that if you’re fuckin’ dead now, can you?” 

Silence answered him.

“I’m not growing a garden, but, you killed my people. A whole, fuckin-damn-shitload of them.” his next word chilled Tory’s blood. “More than I’m comfortable with…and for that, well, for that you gotta fucking pay.”

They were so screwed.

“So now, I am gonna beat the holy fuck, fucking fuckity fuck outta one'a you.”

Whatever he was wielding in his hand, made a weird, woozing sound and then he spoke:

“This…This is Lucille.” he said reverently, pushing Tory to look up suddenly, looking for Lucille, it was too much of a fucking coincidence when Tory’s skin grew hotter and burnt with that familiar and known burn. “And. She. Is. Awesome.” 

Tory expected a woman, but no Lucille was in sight however, only a bat with what seemed to be barbed wire wrapped around it. “All this, aaaall this is just so we can pick out, which one of you gets the honor.” 

Tory watched horrified, tying the ends together, while her eyes fixated on the bat, after some long seconds, she lowered her gaze again and gave her left arm a slow, slow once over and, sure as day, the words were there and Tory let out a shuddering sigh.

 

        This is Lucille, and she. Is. Awesome.

 

Fuck, she thought. 

Fuck. 

Fuck! 

FUCK!

Negan kept walking down the line and stopped in front of Abraham, rubbing his graying beard. “Oh, I gotta shave this shit.” he pondered, and walked in the opposite direction.

“You got one of our guns.” he accused Carl, before kneeling in front of him. “you got a lot of our guns.”

Tory wasn’t watching Carl’s face, but she knew his eyes…eye, was expressive or inexpressive at will and she was left wondering what Negan saw in the Grimes boy. 

“Shit kid, lighten up, at least cry a little.”  Negan chuckled and belted Carl’s gun into his pants, to then clear his throat as he walked to Maggie. “Je-hesus! you look fucking shitty! Let’s just put you out of your misery right now.”

Tory was ready to jump in front of Maggie, compelled by her new found guilt, but Glenn did a better job when he cried for his wife.

“NO! no!” he tried to reach Maggie, only to be halted by three saviors as Negan turned to him and Maggie cried, screaming at them to stop kicking him. The blond asshole, Dwight, put a crossbow to Glenn’s temple, all under the impassive and dark look of  her…of Negan.

“Nope, nope, get him back in line.” he ordered, sounding bored. Glenn was forcibly put back in place, still screaming for his wife.

And Negan smiled and huffed a little laugh. Tory felt her body grow colder at this, as if the initial shock had calmed, suddenly giving her the ability to think straight.

“No, now, listen, don’t any of you do that again, I will shut that shit down, no exceptions.” he warned, burning his words on her, making it difficult to concentrate on what he was saying.

“Sucks, don’t it? The moment you realize you don’t know shit.” he made a long, long pause, his eyes running the line up and down, a feral smile in his face. 

“This your kid, right?” he asked, pointing the bat at Carl as he stared at Rick, laughing as he went. “This is definitely your kid.”

“So stop this-!” Rick shouted, with his head bowed, only to be interrupted by Negan’s booming voice. 

“Do not make me kill the little future serial killer. Don’t make it easy on me! I gotta pick somebody.” then he drawled. “Everybody’s at the table waiting for me to order!” 

Negan started to whistle and Tory felt her nerves shattering at the sound. Her eyes filled up with tears and she started to shake, her hand still clutching at her arm, and the blood kept flowing, almost obscuring her soulmarks.

“I simply cannot decide.” he chuckled again, shot them a look and turned to the RV only to roll back on his advance, extending his arms as if an epiphany had come to him. “I got an idea.”

Ennie, meeny, minny, moe.” he started. 

Tory gasped silently, unable to believe the childish way in which he was taking the killing of one of them, pointing the bat at them with each word, all of them, even Rick. 

catch the tiger…by…its toe,” As Negan spoke, Tory felt her arm sting, the pain was becoming unbearable and for a second, the brunette thought she would pass out and she wished he’d pick her.

my mother told me to pick the very best…one…and you…are…it.” the rhyme stopped and Tory blinked, slow, breathing in the fragrant night air.

He was in front of Abraham.

Abe.

ABE…

Abe who saved Francine and protected Alexandria, whose laugh always made people smile even if he dismissed them with an angry grunt or a huff and a roll of his eyes. 

“Anybody moves, anybody says anything, cut the boy’s other eye out and feed it to his father, and then we’ll start.” he ordered, while looking at Abraham in the eye. Abe looked completely calm as he moved his hand, making Sasha gasp loudly. “You can breathe, you can blink, you can cry,” he said in a gentler tone that became a growl as he positioned his hands on the bat. “Hell! you’re all gonna be doing that.”

It happened fast.

Negan lifted the bat and beat down on Abe’s head, making him fall face first on the rough gravel of the clearing.

Tory heard Rosita and Sasha’s screaming, Maggie’s gasping and her own shuddering whimpers, while Abraham tried to kneel back up, using his arms to get impulse, digging his hands on the ground.

“OWH! Oh! look at that, taking it like a CHAMP!” Negan exclaimed, his voice betrayed only excitement.

“Suck…My…Nuts.” Abe intoned, his voice barely a whisper as he straightened up.

“Ahg!” Negan shouted, only to hit again. Abraham stayed silent and Negan kept hitting and hitting and hitting.

Tory knew she started to cry at some point, silent, hot tears as she looked at the brutal scene, she couldn’t look away.

“Did you hear that? He said: Suck my nuts.” He panted, chuckling along, only to hit over the mangled mess that Abraham’s head was now, Maggie doubled over in pain and Negan kept laughing. Pain, guilt, hate and a foreign sense of calm warred inside her as Negan bragged and groaned. “Oh, my goodness! Look at this!” he shouted, lashing with the bat, spilling blood on them.

It was still warm.

“You guys, look at my dirty girl!” he panted again, walking down the line up. He stopped in front of Rosita. “Sweetheart, lay your eyes on this.” He ordered.

Twisted motherfucker. Tory thought, averting her gaze.

“Oh damn, were you…were you together? That sucks.” He didn’t wait for an answer, Rosita was panting, probably about to snap. Tory knew she was too strong for a panic attack. “But if you were, you should know, there was a reason for all this.”

“Red, and hell, he was, is and will ever be Red. He just took one or six or seven for the team!” there was a pause and Tory looked back at Negan and Rosita, he was pointing the bat…no, Lucille, at her. “So, take…a damn…look.”

Rosita kept on breathing hard, unable to lift her eyes to the weapon.

“Take a damn LOOK!” he screamed.

And Daryl snapped.

And Daryl hit Negan.

He hit the man hard enough to make him turn and stumble back a couple of steps. A savior held Daryl, stopping him for throwing himself at their leader. Another savior joined him and they put Daryl to the ground.

Rick called Daryl’s name, but Negan’s voice overpowered his as he approached the man, screaming, turning the bat on him. 

“NO!… Oh, no.” Tory was confused when Negan walked to the RV again, chuckling to himself. “That? Oh-ho my! THAT…is a no-no.” Negan sat on his hunches, and his dark eyes fell on Rick, who was looking at him in return. “The whole thing, not one bit of that shit flies here!”

Dwight advanced on Daryl, crossbow perfectly pointed at the overpowered man. The other saviors let go of him as the blond man spoke. “You want me to do it? Right here?”

Tory knew the answer before any of them made a move, and it was clear she was right when Negan pulled on Daryl’s hair, he grimaced and growled. “No, you don’t kill that. Not until you try a little.”

Negan’s smile was a bit unsettling, but then again, the man was all around brutal and a bit terrifying too. So, the three saviors dragged Daryl back to his spot in the line.  

“Anyway, that’s not how it works.” Negan explained as he stood up. “Now, I already told you people, first one’s free, then what I said? I said I would shut that shit down! No exceptions.”

All the alarms blared inside Tory’s mind when his tone changed.

Something was wrong.

Something was terribly wrong.

“Now, I don’t know what kind of lying assholes you’ve been dealing with; but I’m a man of my word.” The cold of Negan’s voice chilled Tory more than the cool night air. “First impressions are important.” He paused, letting the words sink. “I need you to know me. So!”

And fuck if he didn’t take the bat with both hands again. Tory felt a sob build in her throat, but bit her lip until she tasted blood. “Back to it!”

Lucille fell hard on Glenn’s head, and silence reigned, except for Maggie’s breathy gasp of horror. When Negan hit Glenn again, Maggie screamed. Glenn still got up, though. And all of them knew it was useless, he would die. Maggie was unable to form words, she was shaking too hard.

“Buddy, you still there?” Negan asked, keeping Lucille between his hands, supported by his back. Glenn babbled something, trying to speak. It had been a hard hit and Glenn’s frontal lobe was probably shattered, mangled beyond salvation. “I just popped your skull so hard your eyeball just popped out!”  Negan’s voice became falsely surprised. “Hell, that is gross as shit!”

“Maggie…I’ll…I’ll find you.” Glenn finally blurted out.

There was no remorse in Negan’s stance as he cursed and preached on how hard his lesson was being on them all. “I am sorry. I truly am” He told them solemnly.

He was lying.

“But I did say.” He smiled and prepared to hit again as he exclaimed cheerfully. “No exceptions!”

Glenn seized as Negan destroyed his skull. The only thing they could heard beside bat on flesh was Maggie’s cries. Glenn who had helped Alexandria and felt safe enough to start a family with his wife. Glenn who thanked Tory for the baby clothes she’d given Judith. Glenn who would leave his wife and child behind...Glenn...a disfigured pulp of brain and bone on the rough gravel.

“You bunch of pussies. I’m just getting started.” Negan grunted. “Lucille is thirsty. She’s a vampire bat!”

Tory wanted to scream at him that she doubted Lucille, the real one, would be alright with his actions. She might have not met Lucille, but Tory wasn’t stupid and Negan had named the bat after her for a reason. Lucille wouldn’t have done this. She was sure. However, instead of screaming, Tory just cried, trying to ignore the burning marks on her arm.

“What? Was the joke that bad?”


 

After Negan and Rick left, the Saviors separated them, and Tory helped Maggie to the nearest tree. Maggie leaned on Tory’s right, taking her hand within her own cold, clammy hands. Maggie was shaking hard, trying to keep her sobs to herself as she clutched Tory’s hand whenever her pain became worse. The younger brunette supported herself on the tree trunk, trying to ignore her own latent pain.

Tory’s marked arm kept hurting.

The marks kept appearing, as if her soulmate had an inexhaustible need to run his mouth and his emotions.  

Maggie passed put a bit at some point and Aaron looked meaningfully at her, but Tory simply shook her head, trying to appear calm. She suspected the blood on her face ruined that effort.

At least she was completely sure that Rick was still alive.

 

       ...grab that axe, drive it through the back of my head. See how you do.


 

       You are mine. People back there? They are mine.


 

       Let’s be friends.

 

Was he for real?! Tory gulped down the frustrated scream she wanted to let out. Negan had to mean something with that or it wouldn’t have showed on her arm.


 

       Bet you thought you were all gonna grow old together, sitting around the table at Sunday dinner in a happily ever after. No. Doesn’t work like that, Rick.

 

Tory’s mind wondered to Lucille…the real Lucille. 

Did he mean it like that?


 

       Think about what can still happen.

 


 

       People die, Rick.

 

And people were murdered too…


 

Everyone turned their head to the RV as it came up to them, but no one came out for a while.

Tory’s frayed nerves had her tense, every part of her body hurt, but the Saviors still made them line up again.

Maggie jumped when the RV’s door opened as Rick fell on his side out of the vehicle, followed by a tidy, smiling Negan, who grabbed and half dragged Rick up to where most of them were.

Negan was going over how Rick showed his utter despise for him, as if he hadn’t just killed two of his friends and taken him God-knows-where and made him do God-knows-what. And the man had the absolute gall to look affronted by it.

Rick was shuddering as Negan talked and ordered his people to point the guns at the back of their heads.

And then Negan ordered Rick to cut Carl’s arm.

Shooting them would have been less cruel, and it would have driven the message. But that wasn’t Negan’s intention. No. He didn’t want to destroy Rick. He wanted to shatter his will.

Michonne tried to reason with the man, but Negan practically ignored her.

And Rick begged. Broken under the pressure, crying for his son’s life, offering himself in exchange. But Negan wasn’t budging. And Rick almost did it.

Tory felt new tears sting her eyes like acid when Rick offered up all of them to serve Negan.

“That! Is the look I wanted to see.” Negan told Rick.

At that point, Tory started to feel numb.

Even her arm’s continuous throbbing didn’t bother her. She barely noticed the Saviors dispersing after Negan threw Rick’s axe to the ground. Maggie was the first one to move, and Rick wasn’t able to stop her.

“You need to fight them.” Maggie admonished Rick, who tried to convince her to stop. But Maggie didn’t want any of them with her. Neither Michonne nor Rick were deterred. And Sasha was the voice of reason, offering the one thing Maggie would accept which was to help her to the Hilltop and take the bodies.

Once the other took their friends’ corpses away, Tory stood and offered Maggie her arm to help her stand upright.


 

Alexandria, VA

Tom woke up the second day after his daughter had left with the little group that had taken Maggie to the Hilltop. Something told him that things might have gone wrong, but he kept pushing the notion aside, even when it felt awfully familiar. Just like it felt when Erin

And so, Tom Jones shook his head and headed to the shower to start his day as if things were just normal.

But…things were not normal.

That day, when Tom Jones went downstairs things were wrong.

There was an empty bottle of bourbon over the kitchen counter, another overturned on the floor and quiet-hiccuping-sobs from behind it.

“Victoria?” he asked gently.

Louder sobs were his answer and Tom surrounded the counter to get to his little girl, whose back was supported by the counter, her arms around her knees. Victoria’s face was stained with blood and her clothes were filthy with mud, there were even some twigs in her hair.

“Tory, there’s blood-” he started.

“N-not…not m-mine.” She hiccuped. Tom looked around them, there were some beer bottles and another one of wine halfway empty. Was she trying to kill herself?!

“Victoria, what the fuck happened?” Tom asked, watching his girl flinch at his swearing.

“They’re dead…They’re dead, Dad. He killed them.” Tory said between sobs.

Tom felt as if someone had dropped ice water on him.

“G-Glenn…Ab-Abe…Dad, I-” Tory’s sobs were chocking her as hysteria bled in her voice. “He’s a monster, Dad.”

Glenn and Abraham were dead? Tom shook his head and kept examining his daughter as he asked. “Who, sweetheart? Who is the monster?”

Tory lifted her head, her eyes were puffy and red rimmed, her skin blotchy and dirtied with blood, but that wasn’t what caught Tom’s eye, no. It was the scratched skin of Tory’s arm, caked with dried blood, the letters still visible and glaringly black.

 

       Welcome to a brand-new beginning, you, sorry fucks!

 

“I found him, Dad.” Tory struggled out. “And he’s a monster.”

Fuck

Her soulmate. 

Chapter Text

Now

Alexandria, VA

Tory woke up a whole day later, with a hangover so bad she wished to go back to sleep.

Instead, she sat on the edge of her bed, looking at her feet and the soft carpet underneath, enjoying the known feeling. A minute later she wobbled to her bathroom and loudly threw up. After a few wrenching minutes of suffering, the nausea receded and Tory leaned her head on the edge of the bathtub, basking in the soft coldness of it.

The brunette closed her eyes and sighed deeply, trying to gather strength to get in the shower.

Her arm throbbed painfully and Tory whimpered, she could usually keep it to herself when her marks appeared, it was the reason why only her Dad and Spencer knew about them. She reasoned that the pain was a residue from that horrible night in the clearing.

The shower helped clear her head and relax her muscles, she was beyond tired.

 

       Medicine and food are priorities. And baby stuff too.

 

Tory read the words and frowned as she combed her damp hair.

“Half your shit…” she whispered to herself. They would come and take half their stuff. It wasn’t a threat, it was a reality.

Lists of things started to go through her mind, medicine, personal stuff…so many things.

Once she was ready, Tory headed out without waking her Dad. She entered the infirmary and got the inventory book out. She had been keeping inventory of the infirmary since she’d started working with Pete almost five years before, so she knew the book upside-down, in and out.

Tory checked the inventory, piece by piece and started putting things in a box. Eugene came in a little bit later, looking beat up, even if he’d been patched up.

“What are you doing, Victoria?” Eugene asked, taking in her overhaul of the infirmary.

“Taking inventory.” Tory answered. Eugene read from over her shoulder and frowned.

“Those numbers are inaccurate, compared to the quantity of medication we possess in reality.” He expressed.

“I know, Eugene.” She nodded towards the box. “I just have a feeling we’ll need to keep these a secret.”

Eugene’s frown became deeper.

“That is a lie, Victoria.” The man warned. “If we are discovered we will have to face dire consequences.”

“No, no you won’t. Because, in case they find this stuff, you will say I’m in charge of this place.” Tory said naturally, even if her patience was wearing thin. “I’ve sort of been running it anyway.”

“Thank you.” Eugene sighed simply. “Where are you going to hide the secret inventory?”

“Well, if I tell you it wouldn’t be a secret, right?”

Eugene shrugged and nodded, defeated, as he saw her erasing another number and dose in one of the antibiotics.  

“The less you know, the better.” Tory declared, her tone firm and final.


The Sanctuary, VA

A day later

Negan felt a headache starting in the back of his eyes.

This was the sort of day he usually chose to stay in bed longer, but today…today was special.

He was going to Alexandria!

Yeah, he had promised them a week’s respite and time to go gather his shit, but he just felt the urge to go, as if he was being called to the fucking place.

Just like it had happened with Doveport.

Negan sat at the edge of the bed, dragged his hands down his face, trying to get rid of the last remnants of sleep. He needed to shave. With an afterthought, he turned back to the bed and kissed Martha’s warm cheek. She looked angelic, still sleeping, peaceful and smiling.

“Stay in bed?” she asked, her sweet voice rough from abuse and sleep.

“Can’t angel-face, gotta terrorize some pricks.” He smirked, not really paying attention to the words on his right arm, as bitterness filled his mind.

 

       The less you know, the better.

 

If Negan never felt anything like this again, it would be too soon.


 

Alexandria, VA

Tory was sitting on the porch of the infirmary when they arrived, just as Spencer and Rosita were about to leave. Rick went to the gate to greet Negan and though she couldn’t hear what was said, her arm was giving her a snippet.

 

       I missed ya’

 

Negan’s booming voice reached her ears, and that unnerving calm she felt back at the clearing came back.

She didn’t move, she had to be there when they came to raid her little domain.

Carl came up the steps and entered the infirmary, a determined look on his face as a little party of saviors approached the house with empty boxes.

“Gentlemen.” Tory greeted, as one or two leered at her and the others ignored her. She followed them in as she saw other people enter the houses of the community. Her arm was, again, giving her a lesson in pain, so Tory checked it discretely.

 

       I was gonna ask her to come back with me.

 

Carl’s watchful eye supervised most of the stuff the saviors were taking: bandages, syringes, surgical instruments… Tory sighed at her foresight after reading the words on her arm, they were a lot more thorough that she’d thought. Then came the cabinet with the meds. Neatly organized and emptier than it should be. Carl’s panic made Tory feel awful, but she had resolved to keep her mouth shut about the medicine, so she shook her head.

“Aren’t you going to say something?” Carl hissed.

“I want us all to stay alive, Carl.” Tory whispered back. “Please, be reasonable.”

But Carl was Carl, and he was worried about everyone and Tory almost cried on the spot when the boy got a gun out and pointed it at one of them.

“That is enough medicine.” Carl stated.

“No, is not, we are taking the medicine, you little shit.” The man retorted in a menacing tone, taking more boxes as he went. The shot rang too loud and Tory jumped, wanting to grab a gun that wasn’t there.

“Put some back, or the next one goes in you.” The young Grimes readied the hammer of the gun and pointed it at the creepy, leering guy, who simply chuckled.

“Kid, what do you think happens next?”

“You die.” He answered.

In that very moment, Negan entered the room they were in, followed by Rick, who immediately turned to his son, begging him to put the gun down.

“He’s taking all of our medicine!” Carl exclaimed in that quiet way the Grimes had. “he said only half of our stuff.”

Negan had rounded up on Carl and laughed quietly.

“Of course… Really kid?”

Carl didn’t hesitate. “And you should go, before you find out how dangerous we all are.”

Not an ounce of fear in his voice or stance.

Tory groaned quietly as Negan leaned back.

He was enjoying this, the smile on his tone was evident. “Pardon me, young man, excuse the fuck out of my goddamn French, but… Did you just threaten me?”

Tory sighed, looking Rick in the eye, trying to communicate what she had done, wishing she actually said something, all the while Negan explained how he could not be threatened, nor his men.

“Just, put it down, Carl.” Rick pleaded, though Carl kept his arm up.

“I’m talking to the kid, Rick, manners.” And Rick hung his head. 

Damn. 

I like you, kid, so I don’t want to have to prove a point here, and you don’t want me to prove a point.”

Tory stood straight and uncrossed her arms, ready to intervene.

“I said half your shit, and half is what I say it is. Do you want me to prove how serious I am?”

“May…May I have a word?” Tory finally said, making all eyes in the room turn to her. “Carl…please?” She said softly, under Negan’s penetrating gaze. Carl gave Rick the weapon, which Negan took immediately.

“What’s your secret, gorgeous thing?” Negan asked Tory, a smile on his face.

“He’s a gentleman.” Tory lied, unsure of her words. “I only had to ask.”

Negan frowned lightly at her, checking her out without leering openly at her in her worn jeans, trusty boots and baggy, long sleeved shirt.

“Only ask? I was being generous here.” He teased.

“Maybe we can negotiate?” Tory said gently, fighting herself not to avoid Negan’s amber gaze.

“Negotiate? Gorgeous, this is not negotiation. Half your shit…”

“I know.” Tory interrupted, making Negan narrow his eyes. “You can always say no. I just want to keep the beds, they are for injured people and…you are taking all the beds away.” Tory looked at the books one of the man was carrying. “And…I don’t think you’re going to need those, but I do.”

Negan smiled again.

“You can keep the beds, but! We take the meds and the books.” He said.

“I need them.” Tory said, trying not to bite herself in anger.

“And that’s why I’m taking them, gorgeous.” Negan smiled wider. “you can always come back with us to have a read.”

“I’ll pass, I think.” Tory answered so quick it almost gave Rick whiplash. 

Negan simply nodded. “Suit yourself, Gorgeous. Davey, call Lucas inside, he can take over.” He turned to Rick and started going about the guns. Davey took the medicine with him and then called for the guy Negan mentioned.

Carl followed Rick and Negan outside, the guns on their minds. The other two saviors started getting stuff from around the whole house and Tory finally breathed with ease. She had faced her feared soulmate unscathed, even managed to negotiate the beds for the infirmary, if not the medication. Tory felt relieved for the time being, with the words of her grandfather sounding strong in her mind. 

Stronger than you think.

“Hell.” She muttered. 

“Hey, you.”

Tory jumped with a surprised gasp.

A man was standing behind her, holding the box Dave-y had taken with him, it was empty again. The man was looking at Tory, waiting for her, seemingly.

“Yeah?” she asked, breathlessly.

“Meds, I’m taking them.” He said. His voice was soft and Tory really fought herself not to check him out. He was handsome, with his dark, curly hair, deep brown eyes and olive colored skin.

“Sure, those two cabinets.” She signaled the half empty cabinets. “there’s another one in the kitchen, we keep the IV’s in there.”

This guy…Lucas, her mind supplied, was seriously hot. He looked strong but not bulky and he seemed firm in all the right places. She noticed how his muscles moved as he gathered the stuff from cabinets and countertops. This was a nice distraction after the grueling effort of talking to Negan.

“Is that all…?” Lucas asked, his voice still indifferent.

“Yes, that’s all.” She looked around. “Want some cold water?” Tory asked, seeing as Lucas was sweaty, so his muscles were clearly visible now, his curly hair was glistening  and…

Stop! She scolded herself. Now is not the time! 

Her libido didn't agree.

Lucas smiled and he gave Tory the prettiest smile she’d seen on a man ever.

“If it is not a bother.” He smirked, but his eyes were kind now. “You have a great place going.” He complimented, his tone conversational, even if he kept his attention on the medication.

“We do, right?” Tory followed. “Stop clutching at the box, I’m not going to take it. I’ve seen what can happen.”

Lucas almost chocked on his water. “Were you…at the…y-you know?” he stammered, making Tory grimace as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

“I know and yes, I was.” She said dryly.

“Sorry.”

Tory nodded and took back Lucas’ empty glass when her arm stung, burning high and fast, making her drop it. “Jezz.” She hissed, clutching at the recently unbandaged skin.

Lucas was watching her closely, she knew, but she just had to check it.

 

       That…Is life and death.

 

“Soulmarks…” he guessed. “it’s been a while since I’ve seen those.”

Tory conceded with a sigh. “Nothing special.”

“Yeah, nothing special.” Lucas said, taking the box with himself as he left.


 

Tory poured herself another glass of her dad’s homemade blackberry wine, that she’d specially unearthed before sitting at the table. She still had dirt under her fingernails. Rick had scolded her for not telling anyone about the medicine, for risking Carl’s life…as if Carl didn’t know what he was doing; but she was unrepentant. Things were so bad they didn’t even had beds, and Michonne’s news about the burning mattresses almost made her cry.

“Sweetheart. Again?” Dad asked, looking as tired as she felt.

“Yes, Dad. Again.” Tory sighed, closing her grey eyes and seeing the images behind her eyelids. Glenn. Abraham… Negan and…the damned bat.

“It could have been worse, today I mean…” Her dad said, sitting beside her and helping himself to a glass. “I mean, nobody died.”

“Yeah, nobody died.” Tory muttered, reading Negan’s parting words printed on her skin.

 

       I just slipped my dick down your throat and you thanked me for it.

 


 

The Sanctuary, VA  

Lucas sat beside Vera and Chase, who were making goo-goo eyes at each other.

“You are so cute that you are disgusting, you know that?” Lucas commented as he started to dig into his food.

“You are just jealous, man.” Chase said, his blue eyes looking straight through him.

Vera shook her head at her fiance and smiled gently at Lucas, but her eyes were looking behind him. Negan stepped inside the hall, Martha’s dainty hand on his arm as they swaggered in. The young woman feared Lucas hadn’t gotten over his crush on one of Negan’s closest wives, but after what had happened with the Doveporter...

“So, how is the place, Alexandria?” Vera asked, changing topics. “Doctor Carson said you brought tons of stuff.”

Lucas nodded, happy for the distraction. “Lots of meds, good meds too.” 

Oh, the mattresses were still a sore topic for him. They could have made use of them in the Sanctuary. 

“Those people live the high life.”

“Not anymore.” Chase piped in. “Anything else caught your eye?”

Lucas perked up at his friend’s question, and he felt himself blushing.

“No.” he answered simply, as his mind wondered back to the girl in the infirmary. She was pretty, with that dark hair and beautiful grey eyes, she was kind too, who offered refreshment to the people that was practically robbing them? Lucas was too busy with his food to notice Vera’s sharp eyes on him as he sighed wistfully. “Nothing much.”   

Chapter Text

 

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

Negan was satisfied with the day's results.

The number of supplies in every area were looking up thanks to the spoils from Alexandria.

They had gotten their guns back and the supply from the community as well and his people had gotten a decent banquet as celebration. Frankie and Tanya had tried to make him feel even better too, given him a show and everything; but Negan simply wasn't in the mood. Now he was ready for bed, drink in hand, to finally relax in solitude.

Only then, as he closed his eyes, a pretty face and grey iris' swam inside his mind.


"And…I don't think you're going to need those, but I do." The grey eyed girl said, looking determined and unfazed by his dominance.

Negan felt himself smile, again.

"You can keep the beds, but! We take the meds and the books." He said, wanting to provoke her.

"I need them." Gorgeous said, holding her anger. She also did it a lot better than Rick, and she looked prettier.

"And that's why I'm taking them, gorgeous." Negan smiled wider, seeing the color rise in her cheeks. "you can always come back with us to have a read."

Oh, but the girl didn't even hesitate and turned him down easily.

"I'll pass, I think." She expressed flatly, and immediately avoiding his gaze.

She made him chuckle, even if he was still mad at Rick for letting his kid ruin the day.


Negan had gotten what he wanted from the trip to Alexandria, but somehow, he still felt like something called him back. He wished, even if he wouldn't admit it, that Gorgeous had said she would come, even to read her shitty books. He would have buttered her up, in the metaphorical and literal sense. The Sanctuary was a good place to stay after all, even if Alexandria was magnificent, he could offer much more than a pretty house and slavery. But Gorgeous had stood up to him, in a subtle, underhanded way. It reminded him of Martha’s quiet but intelligent remarks, or Lucille’s cunning way to convince him of stuff, even the constant fortitude E…The mere thought of her name sent a sharp pain to his chest, Negan didn’t even dare to think about her. It was all too fresh.

And no one… no one could compare to his girls.

A little flare of pain came from his right arm.

 

       You can't put all of this on him Spencer.

 

"Spencer…again?" Negan growled, unsure of whatever it was his soulmate was playing at. Whatever his soulmate was up to, it seemed to Negan she was determined to piss him off.


Carl and Enid had left for the Hilltop, leaving Olivia to take care of Judith alone. A few hours later, Tara came back to Alexandria.

Her destroyed expression had told Tory that she needed time alone, even if the infirmary needed her, Tara needed the infirmary. She needed reassurance and grieving time for Denise. Rosita had gone in after Tara, and whatever were her intentions, Tory was sure the woman didn't want to hurt her own friend.

As it was, Tory found herself without anyone to talk to and her best bet was Spencer, so she got her homemade wine and made her way to his home and knocked on the door.

He opened with a sour expression in his face.

"I'm not in the mood." He assumed.

"I didn't come to get a romp on your high thread count sheets, Spence. I came to talk." Tory explained in a conciliatory tone, showing him the wine bottle.

He frowned deeper.

"How did you keep that?"

"Buried it under the rose-bush, the dirt is soft and fresh looking there, so they didn't even suspect it." Tory shrugged.

"Is that what you did with the meds?" he wanted to know.

Tory shook her head. "Hid them inside an air conditioning vent."

Spencer's lopsided grin made her smile and he moved aside to let her in.

"I saw they took Denise's and Pete's books." He commented as they made their way to the living room.

"I hid Grey's anatomy in the basement." She confessed. "They took the spanish version Nicholas brought from one run."

"You've gotten very good at this." He said, sitting on the sofa. "Lying, I mean." Tory eyed him warily.

"You haven't christened that with Rosita, right?" she asked, deflecting his question.

"What?" Spencer asked, truly baffled.

"Come on, Spence. She is pretty and feisty. You like that, I'd know." Tory commented, sitting despite her uncouth question.

Spencer sighed. "Rick was mad at me…about the guns. So was Rosita."

"I heard. You did something really risky." Tory said, her tone calm. "Have a glass?"

"They took mom's good glasses." Spencer sighed.

"We can drink in plastic-ware, Spence. Let me get them." Tory stood up, leaving the wine on the coffee table. As she came back into the living room, Spencer turned his eyes outside, to the dry landscape of their town.

"This is all their fault." Spencer declared. "This is Rick's fault."

Tory sighed, her shoulders slumping.

"No, it isn't." she countered. "We all accepted his decision, even if we did it grudgingly."

Spencer blinked twice, completely baffled. "Really? You're defending him?"

Tory shook her head as she poured them the wine. It was cool and nice.

"No, I'm not. Is just… You can't put all of this on him, Spencer." It had been more than that. "Negan is not a magnanimous man. He is powerful and dangerous. We don't know him."

"Oh, you have so many notions of that, do tell me more." Spencer drawled, sarcasm dripping from his voice. Tory seethed at his condescending tone and stubbornness.

"Being young doesn't make me stupid, Spencer." She retorted sourly. "And I know things you don't. I was there. You weren't."

"Yeah, and whose fault is that?"

Tory sighed and threw back her drink.

"Whatever, Spencer. I just hope you don't have to see what I saw that night. Ever."

Damn, Tory felt tired.


The Sanctuary, VA

Negan didn't expect the delivery from the Hilltop to come loaded with a surprise gift.

He didn't expect the gift to shoot at his men either. Carl Grimes was running straight into the same path as he and Rick were in. Emptiness. The fire in the kid's eyes, damn! Negan liked that, strong like Daryl, fierce like Rick, but still malleable. Still young and easy to manipulate at will.

My will, Negan thought. His whistling sure got the boy's attention.

"Damn." He said, feeling a smile curve his lips as he walked, using his people as shields. "You are adorable. Did you pick that gun 'cause it looks cool?" Carl's scowl became even deeper at his question and Negan felt the urge to laugh. "You totally did, right? Kid, I ain't gonna lie, you scare the fuck out of me."

Negan had to roll his eyes as another one of his men tried to get Carl, because the kid was paying attention and gunned the fucker down. Though that distracted him from Dwight, and his scarred lieutenant tackled the boy to the ground, took his gun and his knife. He had to order him to back off.

"Is that any way to treat our new guest?" Negan asked, looking down at Carl, his hand reaching out to help the kid up. "Come on, kid, I will show you around."

Carl's only eye scanned him, up and down, without really moving on to take his hand, which didn't offend Negan himself, but his offering. He was giving the kid a white flag, for fuck's sake!

"You really not gonna take my hand? Cause you're lucky you even still have a hand." Negan decided to mock Daryl a bit, threatening to take his arm off. Minding the fence without an arm? Yeah, Negan didn't think even Daryl, the badass he was, could do it.

And Carl did take his hand, however reluctantly. "Smart kid." Negan congratulated.

While Carl picked his always present hat, Negan turned to Dwight and commanded him to get a tray of food. In part to torture Daryl, and because he genuinely wanted Carl to enjoy his visit, a thing he would keep for himself. Carl made him think of his students. Of his past. Negan also ordered his men to clean the mess the Grime's boy had made.

"I'm not gonna have time to screw any of my wives today…" his eyes fell on Dwight though. "Well, I mean maybe one." Right. his mind betrayed,

Once his men had entered the factory, Negan turned to go inside as well, asking Carl to come in.

"What are you gonna do to me?" the kid asked, serious and stiff.

Negan wondered for a second, with his back still turned to Carl, if the kid was afraid of him. He didn't want that, not really.

"Number one, do not shatter my image of you." He ordered. "You're a badass, you're not scared of shit, so don't be scared of me. It's a disappointment" he came close to Carl, practically invading his personal space. "Number two. You really want me to ruin the surprise? Screw you kid. Seriously. Screw you."


Alexandria, VA

Tory hissed in pain, dropping the basket of potatoes she'd just dug out of her little patch.

"Is everything okay, sweetheart?" her dad asked.

"Yeah, dad, just a few marks." She answered honestly.

Her dad appeared in her field of vision as Tory knelt to gather her potatoes. He smiled and knelt to help her.

"So, what do they say?" her dad asked casually.

Tory frowned. "I don't know." Her dad had never asked this way. Usually he asked if she was hurt, but now that they knew of Negan's nature… Tory sighed and rolled back the sleeve of her flannel shirt.

 

       Screw you, kid. Seriously. Screw you.

 

"Kid?" her dad asked, picking up some potatoes. Tory shrugged.

"I have no idea." she murmured, and that was probably the worst part.

Chapter Text


Now

The Sanctuary, VA

Martha watched in silence as Negan entered the parlor with a young, filthy boy following him closely. The kid was wearing a flannel shirt, stained with dirt and what looked to be blood. She reasoned that the shooting they had heard earlier made sense now.

Negan told the boy something as his hazel eyes leered at all of them, falling on Amber and Sherry, who were talking in whispers to each other. Their husband had a pleasant look on his face, but Martha knew the look in his eyes.

“Can I talk to you for a second, dear wife?” Negan called Sherry aside to the bar, and Sherry followed him with her head high.

If Martha disliked Sherry before, she was openly hostile to her now. The little number of betrayal that Sherry did on Negan put them all on a tighter leash. After Sherry, Dwight and Tina has escaped and then come back short, Negan had decided to assign a savior to each of the wives for their ‘personal protection. Which Martha knew, was bullshit, even more after they were so close to dismissal due to what had happened before Negan found Alexandria . 

Now Negan wanted them watched 24/7.

Not that any of them had something interesting to do, as none of the wives needed to work for points or do anything else than be around the Sanctuary flaunting their privilege in everyone’s face.

Unless you were as stupid as Amber had been.

Involuntarily, Martha turned her eyes back to Negan and Sherry when she heard him chuckle. Her blood boiled when she saw his mischievous smile. It didn’t matter that he was trying to torture Sherry by being close to her, to Martha, it felt like Negan was elevating Sherry to the position of favorite again. It was as if her infractions had been forgotten, when they evidently weren’t, Dwight was living proof of that.

Negan walked back to the kid leisurely and gave him the bottle of beer he had opened. The boy held the bottle awkwardly and Martha noticed that his eye -the one that wasn’t covered in gauze- followed Negan as intently as she was following him.

 


 

Alexandria, VA

Tory was trying to make herself sleep, but the heat didn’t exactly permit it. Napping in the middle of the morning wasn’t that good of an idea, since it would make her catch up on lost sleep and therefore, she would lose more hours in the nighttime.

She turned on her back and begged for a breeze to come through the window, but it was futile. Her arm tingled and burned, but it was fast and she could read the words clearly.

 

      You can’t cheat on me.

 

Oh….Oh! That was damn swell, especially, coming from the cheating asshole that had screwed around on his wife for more than two years. Tory was seething, the heat and nap forgotten as she sat on her bed.      

“You damn hypocrite!” she hissed at her arm, willing her fury into the black lettering covering her scarred flesh. “You…You…unbelievable asshole!”

 

 


 

 

The Sanctuary, VA

Dwight’s face when Negan asked him to light up the furnace made Martha’s heart ache for him. He was just as twisted as Sherry in his own way, but he had taken the punishment for them both and his former wife was living a high life, back into the fold of the harem, protected by Negan’s influence. Whether she wanted of not.

As soon as every male left the parlor, Cecelia, Tanya and Frankie flocked to Amber’s side. Martha stayed in her armchair, watching the display and masking the deep-seated disdain she felt for the tiny blond. Sherry had gone and downed the whiskey Negan had poured, and Martha noticed, she swallowed hard.

What she didn’t expect was Sherry going to her, in her towering high heels, her mouth set in a sour sneer.

“Never look at Dwight like that again. He is mine.” Sherry threatened.

Martha held the snort she wanted to direct at Sherry.

“As far as my knowledge goes, honey, we share the same husband, and he is territorial.” Martha reminded sweetly, as Sherry’s eyes narrowed. “And please, don’t put me in the same bag you and Amber share.”

“You think you are so powerful now, but you’re just another notch on his bedpost.” Sherry growled lowly. “The taller they stand, the harder of the fall.”

Martha smirked cruelly. “Oh, you would know that, right?”

Walking away with the last word felt so good, leaving Sherry shaking with fury was even better.

And still, Martha had the lingering feeling of having lost.

 

 


 

 

Negan welcomed Carl into his room, and the kid didn’t even wait for the door to be closed behind him to ask.

“Are all those women actually your…?”

“Wives? Yeah. Always wanted to screw a whole different bunch of women, so why settle for just one? Why follow the same old rules? Why not make life better?” he asked in return, trying not to think about the last person who asked about his wives. “Speaking of, sit…”

Carl sat in front of him, his shoulders a bit hunched into himself, even if he didn’t look scared, the kid felt the tension.

“I want to get to know you better, Carl.” Negan admitted, being reminded of the old times. Of before.

“Why?” the boy asked.

Negan felt himself smile, despite the stern front he wanted to put.

“Work it out, you’re smart.” Negan got an idea. “In fact, I’m gonna tell you just how smart you are in case you don’t already know. I’d expect a kid like you to be moping around, not doing a fucking thing, but complaining about missing the prom.” He was practically paying Carl a compliment. “Instead, you find me, kill two of my men and you’re smart enough to know I’m not gonna let this slide.”

 

 


 

 

Alexandria, VA

Tory threw back the glass of bourbon she’d poured herself from the bottle her Dad had hidden inside the toilet tank. It was warm and felt like heaven going down her throat. Alcohol, as she had recently discovered, made up a good numbing agent for the pain of soulmarks. And this morning had been a challenge.  She rolled her eyes when the familiar burn flared up again in her skin, so she rolled up her sleeve -a routine she was getting used to- and read the words.

Tory could have sworn she felt the blood of her face vanish at the letters.

 

       I want to get to know you better, Carl.

 

Oh, fuck!

Then, after a few minutes…

 

       Punishment.

 

Tory felt nauseous.

What had Carl done now?

 

 


 

 

Tory was stepping out of the shower when the oven alarm rang.

She took a couple of minutes getting dressed before running barefoot to the kitchen to cool the potato lasagna she’d made to take to Rick’s. She didn’t know if Olivia had eaten that morning, so she was making something substantial to her. Maybe help with Judith a bit?

Tory let the lasagna on the countertop and went back to her room to put on shoes and comb her hair, which she ended up braiding.

“Dad, I’m going to go see Olivia!” she called from the kitchen.

“Okay, sweetheart!” he answered from the study.

As Tory walked down the street she found a flushed and stressed looking Olivia coming from her home with a can of lemonade.

“Hey, Liv…what is it, who’s with Judith?” Tory asked.

“Don’t go there…Carl’s back…but…” Olivia sobbed. “N-Negan brought him.”

Tory’s eyes followed the direction to Rick’s house.

“It’s okay, Liv. I can handle it.” Tory assured the older woman, patting her shoulder softly. “He’s just a man.”

“Tory, I don’t think that’s wise.” Olivia stuttered a bit.

Tory smiled, a calm, soft smiled that she had copied from Carol. Damn, she missed her.

“I have food, tell me, who can say no to food?” Tory asked, her voice confident as they walked together to the house.

One of Negan’s people stopped Tory, but not Olivia. Apparently, the Saviors did say no to food.

“What’s in the plate?” she asked, holding Tory’s shoulder to stop her.

“It’s a potato lasagna. I promised Olivia I would bring food and help her.” Tory said simply, not bothering to lie or try appearing innocent. The woman scowled at Tory and left her outside, waiting.

 

 


 

 

Arat entered the house a bit after Olivia had come in with the lemonade can and Negan frowned at her.

“Negan, sir.” She started. “we have a girl outside, saying she promised Olivia here, that she’d come with food, to help.” Arat said, giving Olivia the side eye.

Negan smiled. A girl was always good news.

“Let’s go see.” They both stepped outside and Negan smiled wide and glad he’d decided to go. Gorgeous was there, waiting, a plate in her hands. Even her annoyed expression was cute. “Oh, Arat! Gorgeous is my friend! Let her come! Just, no weapons.”

The girl climbed the steps to the porch and handed Negan the plate, he took it, whatever it was, smelled like heaven.

“Pat me?” she asked Arat, readily and willingly. Hot damn!

Arat made a quick job of it and deemed the brunette clean.

“Before we go inside, Gorgeous, please be a sweet and tell me your name.” Negan said, leaning a bit back.

“Tory. Tory Jones.” Negan tasted the name, it was both familiar and unfamiliar to him.

“You give me the feeling of …Elizabeth, did you know that?” Negan said.

“Not really?” she asked, taking back her plate, completely unfazed by his antics. Tory wasn’t raising to the bait. Negan chuckled.

“We were about to sit!  This will be perfect with my spaghetti. Family recipe, ya know?”

Tory shrugged, her gaze on the plate between them.

“Oh, I get a feeling we’re gonna be good friends, Tory.” Negan smiled, throwing his arm over her shoulder as he guided her in. 

Chapter Text

 


Now

Alexandria, VA

Tory looked at her hands, caked with dried blood. She'd patched Aaron up on her own, keeping Eric as moral support, since they had ran out of numbing sprays or creams.

They had taken Eugene.

Tory could still hear Negan's voice in her head.

"I'm relieving you of your bullet maker, Rick!"

She let the hot water soothe her stiff hands, painting the sink an intense pink. Tory lathered more soap on her skin and took the rough scrubber to thoroughly wash her skin, because no matter how much she rubbed, the blood didn't come off.

"Victoria, stop!" Her dad scolded, turning off the tap and taking the scrubber away from her. "It's over, sweetheart. It's over." He repeated soothingly, as he hugged her, combing her hair like he did when she was a kid.

Tory didn't know when she'd started crying again, but this time, she couldn't stop.

She didn't want to stop


Earlier that afternoon

"Christ! This is the best fucking lasagna I've ever tasted!" Negan exclaimed. "And we've got some good-ass cooks back home!" he moaned, letting the flavor spread inside his mouth. "Don't we, Carl?"

Carl nodded, and Tory smiled, her lips tight. Negan had been tired of waiting for Rick, so they had started dinner without him.

Tory made as if she didn't notice that Olivia didn't want to let go of Judith, who was about asleep before she had arrived.

"Tell, me Tory." Negan started, as he twisted his fork into the spaghetti, making her eyes turn to his. "Why in the ever-loving-…" he trailed off, looking at Judith's sleeping form with a real smile in his face. "Why are you cooped up inside that awful infirmary?"

"I'm the only nurse around, and even that is a bit of a stretch." Tory said, taking a bite of the lasagna. It tasted like ash in her mouth.

The corners of Negan's mouth turned down in an appreciative expression, his eyes taking a different glint. He looked like he'd cleaned up.

Had he shaved?

"And you're like what? Carl's age?"

Tory frowned slightly, the question had thrown her off, and she scrunched her nose a bit. How Negan just wanted to smooth the frown off. Damn, she was pretty. She was different, familiar but a stranger.

"No, I'm a bit older. My birthday wasn't that long ago." She said conversationally, before taking a bite of spaghetti.

Oh, it was actually good, not too salty, not a lot of oregano either. Lucille's recipe, maybe? Her inner voice asked insidiously.

"Come on, Tory! Don't be shy. Tell me." Negan broke another roll and lifted his lemonade, waiting for her to answer.

"I'm twenty-four." She gritted out, trying to control her emotions.

"Emotions are tied to the soulmarks, kitten, no one knows why." the voice inside her head reminded Tory, and it sounded suspiciously like Henry.

Controlling her emotions was a matter of survival at the moment and she felt her anger bubbling under the surface.

"Twenty-four? You're so damn young!" he exclaimed, making both Olivia and Judith jump to his loud words. "A fucking kid." Negan continued, lowering his voice.

Tory forced herself to breathe and smiled, feeling her cheeks twitch.

"I like to think I've got lots to learn." She commented.

"But you've got no doctor…" Negan trailed off and Tory stuffed her mouth with the spaghetti to avoid having to fill the silence. "That's…the damned books." Negan didn't look ashamed, but a little repentant maybe? Tory couldn't really tell.

Carl huffed a non-committal puff of air and drank lemonade vigorously as Negan examined Tory again.

"How's the market out there? Lots of fucking for a gorgeous thing like you?" the wolfish grin Negan sent her way made her sit straighter; a pleasant chill running down her spine, contrary to the disgust in her mouth. She hadn't expected such a radical change in topics.

Carl and Olivia, seemed completely embarrassed.

"Judith's here, Mr. Negan." Tory complained flatly.

"Oh no, I'm no Mr. Negan, that was m'dad." He joked. "I'm just Negan for you, Gorgeous."

"Okay, Just Negan." Tory muttered, before giving her lemonade a long sip. If the situation hadn't been so tense, they would have laughed.

If only.

"I put myself there." Negan said with a sly smile that morphed into a serious scowl. "Don't do it again."

"Okay." Tory nodded and kept eating.

Negan turned to Carl, his expression friendly again.

"Look here, Carl, Gorgeous and Lucille look so pretty next to each other."

Tory thought she was going to choke, it would have been a mercy, but she swallowed her pasta and her lemonade.

"Want more rolls, Gorgeous?" Negan asked, wiggling his eyebrows at Tory.

She shook her head, wishing he would choke on the damn rolls.


Negan was truly enjoying the view of the quiet streets showered with sunshine and the people passing in front of Rick's home. Judith was about to fall asleep -again-, so he sent Carl inside with the little blonde angel. The leader of the Saviors was enjoying the view of Tory Jones' back at the moment, as she leaned on the rail of Rick's front porch. As it was, Negan noticed immediately when her shoulders tensed and her head turned to the front steps.

Arat stopped the boy in the way up, but he seemed unbothered by it, he had a pleasant smile on his face and a bottle of something that looked very much like whiskey in his hand. He stood up and approached the steps himself.

"Don't be an asshole, Arat! Let the kid up, not like they are gonna shoot me!" Negan exclaimed, signaling for the young man to approach. He eyed the bottle of whiskey. "Is that for me?'

"We haven't officially met, I'm Spencer Monroe." He introduced himself, studiously avoiding Gorgeous. Something in the back of Negan's mind bugged him about Spencer, but he let it pass. "Hi."

"Well, hello, Spencer. Take a seat here, since Gorgeous is not wanting to sit by me." Negan placed a hand over his heart, his expression mockingly offended, to which Tory simply shrugged. "So, by all means."

"Tory, mind if we use Rick's tumblers?" Spencer asked politely, his face a mask of class and poise.

Negan thought Tory would snap at Spencer, but she merely glared at him and went to get the tumblers as he asked. Negan liked the young woman, he liked that she seemed unafraid and argumentative at times, it would make for a fun time if he could rile her up, but so far, Spencer seemed a lot better at it. Negan kept the silence purposefully until Tory came back with their drink-ware and placed in the little table between seats.

"So, Spencer! You've got running water, air conditioning," Negan listed as he poured for them. "a housewarming gift, pretty ladies?" They were both smiling and Negan could hear Tory huff. She didn't stand with her back to them now, but behind them. "That settles it. I'm getting myself a vacation home here."

"Cheers to that." Spencer said, raising his glass.


Tory wanted to take a drink herself, but she was terrified of running her mouth, so she limited herself to watching Negan and Spencer as they drank Reg Monroe's best whiskey.

"Oh, that is good." Negan drawled appreciatively. "You know, we're only missing a pool table. Nothing better than a good game ov'eight ball."

Tory knew what Spencer would suggest before he had even pointed at it.

"The house across the street had one in the garage."

Negan sounded actually delighted when he praised Spencer, who smiled confidently while the leader of the Saviors complained about being inside a garage. It was true, the weather wasn't that hot and a little breeze was keeping them all from the heat of the progressing sun.

"Yeah…I got a better idea." Negan drank the last of his whiskey and took his leather jacket with him. Tory glared harder at Spencer as he moved to follow the man. Once Negan was out of hearing range, the brunette warned Spencer.

"Don't do something that will get us all killed."

"You have no right to say that to me." Spencer hissed as he shook her off and left.


"I could never do this with Rick." Tory lifted her head to watch Negan and Spencer as they finished setting up the pool table and the game. "He would stand there, scowling, giving me that annoying side-eye he gives me."

Tory sighed and sat on the steps, just in time to hear Spencer's studied response. He had come with the intention to talk about Rick, behind Rick's back.

Damn, a crowd was gathering.

More people, more risk.

"I wanna talk to you about Rick."

Negan took his sweet time answering as he got his shot ready to start the game.

"All right. Talk to me about Rick."

Tory watched as Negan and Spencer circled the pool table, without a clue of what they were doing. She turned back to look at Carl and Olivia, they looked tense and ready to snap at any sign of danger. She had a bad feeling about this. She knew of Spencer's growing resentment towards Rick, but talking to Negan about it? That was putting everyone in danger, starting with himself.

"I get what you're trying to do here. I'm not saying I agree with your methods, but I get it. You're building a network." Spencer started as Negan took his first shot. "You're making people contribute for the greater good. Makes sense. But you should know that Rick Grimes has a history of not working well with others."

Tory gripped her left arm, letting stress take over her, this was precisely what she had told Spencer not to do.

"Mhmm…is that so? Negan asked. He sounded really interested, but something was off.

Everything about him is off. Today, the voice of her conscience seemed to be Henry after all.

"Rick wasn't the original leader here, my mom was. She was doing a really good job of it. Then she died, not long after Rick showed up. Same with my brother and then my dad."

Everyone had mourned for them. Their deaths had been hard blows to Alexandria, and they hadn't gone alone. Tory didn't even want to think about them… Spencer's complaining wasn't justified, everyone had lost someone.

"So, everything was peachy here…for what? Years?" the leader of the Saviors crossed his arms, his whiskey perfectly held in his hand to take a short sip. "And then Rick shows up and suddenly you're an orphan? That's the saddest fucking story I've ever heard. Good thing for you, he's not in charge anymore." Negan placed his tumbler on the edge of the table and started to walk around it again, readying another shot.

"Doesn't matter. His ego's out of control. He'll find a way to screw things up to try and do it his way, to take over." Spencer warned, making Tory want to pull her hair out. Even if Rick tried, he couldn't say that shit in front of everyone.

Idiot.

And Negan knew that, because his stance changed as he leaned against the pool table, a smirk slowly forming in his lips. Tory could swear he had looked at her before turning to Spencer, his eyes telling her to watch.

"What exactly are you proposing be done about that?" he inquired.

"I am my mother's son. I can be the leader she was." Tory buried her nails on her skin, covering her mouth with her other hand to stop herself from gasping in horror. "That's what this place needs, that's what you need."

Spencer had gone there after all.

"So I should put you in charge? That's what you're saying?" Negan's volume had gone so low, Tory had to strain in her seat to properly listen, but her skin had started to hurt, and her chest contracted with anger, indignation and frustration that weren't hers.

"We'd be much better off." Spencer assured Negan, who took another sip of his drink and patted Spencer's back, but stayed silent as the game progressed.

Negan broke the silence first.

"You know, I'm thinkin', Spencer. I'm thinkin' how Rick threatened to kill me, how he clearly hates my guts." Negan remarked. Words started to form on her arm, words over words as Negan drawled at Spencer. "But he's out there, right now. Gathering shit for me to make sure I don't hurt any of the fine people that live here. He is swallowing his hate and getting shit done. That takes guts." Tory wasn't paying attention to anyone but Negan. He was angry, she could feel it with him so close. "…and then there's you the guy who waited for Rick to be gone so he could sneak over and talk to me, to get me to do his dirty work so he could take Rick's place." Negan looked pleased with himself, his conclusion was right of course, and he had seen right through Spencer and his half assed argument, advancing on Spencer like a predator.

"So, I gotta ask." Negan's voice escalated in volume again, he was performing now. "If you wanna take over, why not just kill Rick yourself and just take over?!" Tory stood up, forgetting about her marked arm, feeling as her knees trembled a bit, Negan's fury was noticeable now.

"What? No, no. I didn't…I don't …" Spencer's confidence was gone, and his stuttering voice made Tory walk up to the pair, ignoring the glares she drew from the Saviors. She had no weapons on her! What was she going to do?

"You know what I'm thinkin'?" Tory wanted to push Spencer away as Negan closed in on him. She knew what came next, something akin to anticipation made her fingers tingle. "'Cause I have a guess." Negan's deep voice and accented drawl dropped so much she forgot to listen, her arm was throbbing in pain. Tory reached for Negan's hand with Spencer's name on her lips when Negan said it. "It's because you got no guts."


Negan felt the added weight of Tory's hand on his arm as he stabbed Spencer, he also herd Olivia's gasp of horror. He didn't care. This Spencer had gotten on his nerves. The tiny hand on his arm didn't stop him from gutting the boy like fresh fish, dragging his knife though his flesh, hard and fast.

"Spencer." Tory breathed, her voice was charged with emotion as she looked at the blood that had splashed over them. But that wasn't what caught his attention.

Oh, no.

What caught Negan's attention was the burning in his flesh, and his eyes couldn't help but fall on the girl beside him, her left hand clutching at his arm for dear life, her grey eyes wide and horrified, her skin ashen with realization.

And there they were, clear as day.

 

       It's because you got no guts .

 

Emotions and memories fought their way to the surface of his mind, but Negan pushed back as Spencer fell on the dusty road. Memories of dark eyes and pain.

I have time to deal with it later. He thought. "Ohh! How embarrassing! There they are! They were inside you the whole time. You did have guts! I'VE NEVER BEEN SO WRONG IN MY WHOLE LIFE!" Negan held back a grimace and pried Tory's hand away from him and made her lean against the pool table. Then he turned to the people gathered around them and walked to get Lucille.

"Someone gotta get up here and clean this mess up." Negan ordered. His eyes went to the table, a different thought forming in his mind, so he forced a smile on his face. "Oh! Anyone wanna finish the game?" he asked, pointing Lucille at them. "Come on. Anybody? Anybody? C'mon, I was winning!"


Tory heard the gunshot, but she didn't register it fast enough.

Negan had pushed her out of the way and had protected himself from Rosita in less than two seconds. He had actually stopped a fucking bullet.

Rosita had taken a fucking shot at her!


"Fuck! What the fuck?!" Negan raged and screamed, noticing how close he had actually been to dying. Arat tackled the shooter as he stomped with contained anger. "FUCK! Fuck! You just—you tried to kill me?! You shot Lucille!" he wanted to fucking kill the damn girl.

"She got in the way." the gal sassed him. Negan was considering how many Alexandrians he'd waste today, when he noticed the shine of the bright bullet shell on the floor.


Rosita's lie had gotten Olivia killed.

The shot had been so close…it could have been Carl, it could had been her…Even Judith…That made Tory shiver.

Rick's arrival didn't help things much. Negan was too angry.

So, he bragged.

"…he wanted me to kill you and put him in charge. took him out, for you. She shot Lucille trying to kill me just now! Could have killed Gorgeous there." Tory lifted her eyes and saw the flash of recognition in his eyes, the difference in his attitude right away. Even if Lucille was pointed in her direction. "So, I gave you a mouth less to feed. And by looking at her, that mouth made some major damage."

Tory felt a shiver of fear when Arat pointed her gun at Eric and Aaron, this was going too far. Tara's intervention fell on deaf ears as Eugene came forward, Rosita had the effrontery of feeling offended at Eugene's attempt to save the situation.

Her arm burned again, and Tory's accustomed eyes read over the words.

 

       Lucille, give me strength .

 

"I'll be relieving you of your bullet maker, Rick." Negan decided. "That and whatever you scavenged…" Then, he pushed his finger on Rick's metaphorical wound. "that is not good enough, because you're still in a serious, serious hole after today."

Negan smiled at Rick and barked an order.

They took Eugene and Rosita asked to be taken instead. As if


"Your kitchen is a goddamned mess." Negan informed Rick, who seemed to have fallen completely silent in the wake of his actions. He chuckled, unable to keep his joy to himself. "I'll see you next time."

He walked up to Tory Jones.

Fuck, she was intelligent. Different last name, using a nick name, keeping herself in check, because he sure wasn't. Negan had pushed the right buttons, it only took murder.

He sat on his hunches, looking right into her deep grey eyes. "Next time…" he whispered. "We're gonna have a talk, Victoria."

She gulped. She fucking knew it, of this, Negan had no doubt.

"Stay safe, Miss Miller." he said, caressing her blood-stained cheek as he stood up.


Someone was calling at the door. Her dad opened it.

"Rosita, now is not a good time." Tory heard from the living room. "She's not okay."

"I can't do the stitches myself." Rosita insisted. "She needs to take a look."

Tory steeled herself and went to the foyer.

"Kitchen." She spat, crossing the hallway without looking at Rosita. Tory knew she looked a fright, with her swollen, red rimmed eyes and her ruined, bandaged hands. She prepared the harder thread she could think of and sterilized the instruments with alcohol, relishing from the pain in her tender skin.

Rosita sat in front of her, in silence, while Dad watched. He feared for Rosita a lot more than she did for Tory.

"You look like shit." Rosita said softly.

"I had a bad day." Tory answered as she worked fast and silently.

"It didn't seem to me. You looked comfortable."

Oh.

Oh. Fuck, no.

"Shut your fucking mouth." Tory hissed, pulling at the string harder than she should have, making her wince. "You don't want me to pull the tickets, Rosita."

"Oh, so you're gonna make as if we didn't save your worthless ass?" she retorted. "Did we ruin your perfect, princess life?"

The slap resonated in the silence that followed Rosita's words.

"Look at me and listen, honey. That man you tried to kill today?" Tory asked, suddenly calm, her head cold, her voice steady. "The man who has been your nightmare for all of two weeks?"

She could almost feel her dad shaking his head no as she paused.

"He's been my nightmare for almost twenty-five years, and I don't care what you're going through, but you're going to get your shit together and grow the fuck up."


That same night, Rick knocked on their door.

Tory didn't need to ask to know, his expression said everything.

"We need to talk, Tory."

Chapter Text

 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •    • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •  

After

Alexandria, VA

“Is it set already?” Tom asked, fingering the light stubble that Jessie Anderson had trimmed for him that morning.

“Yes, it’s ready, do you wanna take a seat?” Deanna questioned, looking at him with a serene smile.

Tom sat in front of Deanna, still marveling at the preserved perfection of Alexandria. He hadn’t had time to tour around the community but Tory had told him good things of what she’d seen.

“What can you tell me about yourself, Thomas?” Deanna asked, leaning towards him slightly. Tom didn’t try to understand her intentions, he just wanted to stay.

“You can always ask, Deanna.” Tom said truthfully. “I’m here because I was told this was needed, and Tory did it already.”

“Victoria…I don’t see any likeness, if I may say.” Deanna commented.

“She’s my stepdaughter.” He answered the silent question.

“You’re awfully close.” Deanna said, sounding surprised by his response.

“Well… I made a promise.” Tom could remember Erin’s face as if his wife was still in the room with him.

You have to promise me, Tom. She’ll need all the support she can get.” Erin had asked, holding his hands with hers, his engagement ring between their palms. “Only then can I accept.”

“I promised I would take care of Tory at all costs, even if my life depended on it. That is the only thing I have left to offer her.”  

 


 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Now

The road, VA

Once out of Alexandria, it wasn’t long before Negan’s head cleared.

Victoria Miller.

Oh, and she fucking knew who he was, he saw it in her eyes…the resignation and fear.  

Soulmate.

For the first time since that happened, Negan took a bit of time to think about the improbability of what had just happened. Could it be? That someone as shitty as he was could be so motherfucking lucky? The words on his left pectoral tingled and his fingers shook as he pulled the zipper of his jacket sleeve to get a look.

 

      Spencer...

 

It seemed he was. 

A tiny tinge of satisfaction colored his sour mood. Negan had finally gotten rid of Spencer. The slimy bastard that had been fucking his...well...Victoria for years, all without even knowing it was the same arrogant shit that had come up to him to try and destroy Rick. Of course, it had escalated quite quickly, Negan hadn’t imagined the chain of events and it ended up with him getting shot at and Lucille’s surface taking it for him, protecting his life. And hers.

Negan left out a long sigh just as they reached the gates of The Sanctuary. He would take a shower to wash the blood off and then he’d take the rest of the afternoon to think.

He wished he had someone to talk to. 

He needed to know what to do about Victoria Miller.

His people, however, had other plans for him.

Negan came back to find Fat Joey’s corpse, a missing bike and a gun, but most importantly, a missing wife. Daryl was missing as well, but looking for Daryl would be easy. The redneck was a creature of habit and loyal to one person. Negan didn’t even need to push himself to know. Daryl would go back to Alexandria. 

Back to Rick.

Even with this knowledge in mind, Negan was seething in rage and just couldn’t reign his emotions. He stalked through the hallways of the Sanctuary, leaving people terrified on his wake. After taking care of Dwight, Negan was able to give himself room to breathe.

His mind went back to Alexandria, and to one Alexandrian in particular.

Victoria had been at the lineup for Rick’s career day, she’d seen him and Lucille in all their bloody glory as he crushed the skulls of two of her people. She’d seen him sack Alexandria and faced him about the medicine and bed issue, she’d dined with him and known who he was, and Victoria had kept her mouth shut. The girl had given absolutely no indication of knowing or acknowledging their connection until Negan himself had put her in an impossible situation.

A weird tingle ran down his arm and Negan took his jacket off with an angry shrug.

 

       I gotta tell Rick, dad.

 

Fuck.

Fuck.

FUCK.

Negan shot up and almost tore his door away from its hinges. “Get me Simon in this fucking minute, hear me?!” he shouted at some idiot or other that had the misfortune of being posted at his room, and scurried away immediately, looking for his right-hand man.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Being Negan’s most trusted lieutenant had its perks. Simon didn’t want much; he had food, a roof over his head, and a lot of luxury for anyone living after the end of the world.

The responsibilities weren’t as exciting sometimes. Unlike Negan, he didn’t mind killing people, and it was exactly what happened when Negan got in one of his foul moods. Either someone lost their pretty face or became brain pudding under Lucille. Sometimes, it was Simon who did all the dirty work...things could be worse.

So, Simon wasn’t mindful of Lucas catching the guard who was on duty at Negan’s door when the poor idiot barreled out to the courtyard, looking for him.

“Calm down, man, calm down! We’re still here.” Lucas said, trying to put out the fire before it started. “Sir?”

Simon grimaced but approached the pair.

“What is it?” he asked shortly, waiting for a fast answer.

“Simon, Negan called for you, he wants you in his room to discuss what happened.” The guy had to assure Simon that his friend was fine before he gave his own commands.

“Lucas, Tylerget everyone ready, we’re leaving with first light tomorrow.”

Simon went as fast as he could without running, and he could hear Negan pace inside his rooms. Turning to the guard, he dismissed the poor sod, who looked relieved to be let go. 

Coward.

In the long time Simon had known Negan, he’d only seen him this…upset as many times as he had fingers in his right hand. Recently, the lieutenant could remember the flu outbreak they’d faced a couple of winters before and the outpost attack, then, right before Alexandria... Negan’s hand was tight around a tumbler, shaking so hard the liquor was dripping on the floor.

“You called, boss?” he broke the silence. Negan’s gaze snapped to him and his friend nodded.

“I need you to bring back a person.” Negan stated, still tasting his own words, as if he didn’t trust himself.

“Besides Daryl?” Simon inquired, looking for confirmation. He’d been tasked with retrieving Dr. Carson’s brother as well as looking for their prisoner and killing him, who else was he to bring back now?  

Negan nodded and knocked back his whiskey.

“Tell Rick I want her as compensation for Daryl.”

“Her?”

“Victoria Miller, Tory Jones, whatever her fucking name, I want her here for yesterday.” Negan pinched the bridge of his nose. “Pretty thing, dark curly hair, big grey eyes.”

“Sure.” Simon approached his friend and clapped his back. “Anything I should know?”

Negan looked him in the eye for a few seconds, and Simon had the distinct impression that he was going to tell him something, but his walls were up high. His friend and leader simply shook his head.

“That’s it.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Alexandria, VA

To say Rick was baffled was an understatement.

“And you know this how?” Grimes asked, his voice was raspy and they could heard the shock when Rick turned to look at Tory as if he didn’t know her, as if she had somehow changed overnight.

“It was quite evident, but if you must know…” Tory discovered the skin of her left forearm. The slightly tan tissue was littered with scars that had been by Tory’s nails, those were accompanied by another scar, longer and older. But what really stood up about the girls’ arm were the words that were inky black and fresh-looking.

 

       Lucille, give me strength.

 

“How long have you known?”

“All her life.” Her Dad said, sighing into his pale tea.

“And about Negan?”

Tory and Tom shared a long look and then looked back at Rick Grimes.

“Since the night he murdered Glenn and Abraham.” Tory confessed, stopping herself when thinking of the bat, it wasn’t her secret to tell, no matter how much of an asshole Negan was. “And other stuff.”

“Does he know?” Rick’s mind no doubt pieced the interaction he’d witnessed between them, and glossing over the fact that she’d known since the beginning of their Negan-caused tribulations. Nothing to do about it now. 

“He does now, he found out after Spencer… He called me something I hadn’t been called in years.”

Even her Dad looked affronted at her silence.

Tory tried to console herself with the fact that Spencer’s death had been a hard blow. He had been her friend, no matter how idiotic and dangerous his actions had turned out at the end.

“What?” her Dad asked, taking her hand with his.

Tory swallowed hard, remembering Negan’s smooth voice at her ear, the smell of him as he came close to her, she remembered inhaling the leather, citrus, aftershave and blood.

“He called me Victoria Miller.”

Her dad paled visibly, but Rick blinked in confusion. “I thought you had actually changed your name.”

“Her father never signed off his rights for me to adopt Tory, and then…well, the apocalypse is not the ideal place, as you’ll see.” He explained, blue eyes full of sincerity.

“We just did what we felt right.” Tory completed.

Rick sighed and rubbed his face with his hands.

“This is dangerous, you know that, yes?” the leader of Alexandria asked, his brow slightly furrowed. Tory nodded. “If it’s possible, you shouldn’t draw anymore attention to you when the Saviors come back.”

Tory tried to ignore the tiny flutter of contentment in her chest at the slightly protective glint in Rick’s eyes.

“I’ll try.” Tory promised.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

The road

Simon sighed in contempt after leaving the Hilltop.

Gregory was a slimy piece of shit and Simon was sure that he was lying about everything. Someone had put the Alexandrians in the path of the Saviors and the satellite outpost. His men.

Negan’s punishment had been dealt efficiently. A box of aspirin in exchange of their doctor.

Someone asked for a pause to take a piss and replenish the tanks of gas before looking for Daryl in Alexandria. Simon gave them five minutes.

“Tyler, with me.”

The man followed him obediently and Simon sighed, thinking of how he could be delicate about the subject. He could trust Tyler, he was like Simon himself, and as they said, if you want something well done...

“I have a special assignment for you.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Alexandria, VA

Tory spent the following day going through her chores in silence.

Her Dad took to following her as if he was afraid she’d snap. So, they actually moved together through Tory’s chores, assisting each other. By midday, all of her stuff was done and Tory sat with her Dad in the infirmary, counting what they had left after her hiding act.

“What will you do, sweetheart?” her dad finally spoke. After their chat with Rick, he had made sure she got into her bed and stayed by her side, not bothering to question her. None of them mentioned her worsening night terrors.

“About what, dad?” Tory lifted her head and stopped scribbling in her notepad.

“About this whole business with your…with Negan.”

It was a difficult topic to breach between them. Thomas seemed genuinely pained to have them linked in even the same sentence. He probably never thought Tory would find the man that marked her life so inherently, even more after the world as they knew it had changed in such an irrevocable manner.

“I don’t know, Dad. How does someone deal with a person like Negan, like Rick?”

“They aren’t the same, Tory.” Thomas rebuked instantly. Tory frowned and grimaced.

“What do you call what our people did at Negan’s outpost, Dad?” her hands hurt, and Tory watched the bandages while her mind scrambled to get her words right. “We attacked those people unprovoked, we murdered them.”

“Victoria, we weren’t there.” Tom said, taking one of her hands with his.

“But we didn’t stop them, Dad!” the brunette sighed. “We all jumped into this without knowing the consequences and it got us here.”

“Rick and Negan aren’t the same. Their motivations…”

“Their motivations are very similar, Dad, if not the same.” Tory argued, cutting her father’s argument. “They are protecting their people.”

Tom sighed and rubbed his face with his free hand.

“I just don’t think that…”

Whatever her Tom was about to say was interrupted when the door to the infirmary flew open. Tory got on her feet so fast she made her chair fall back as her dad turned to look at the newcomers.

Saviors. 

They started upturning everything and Tom had to stop Tory from going at them, in time for Tara to arrive with a desolate expression in her face. As soon as the first floor had been thrown in disarray, the men went upstairs.

“What the hell, Tara?” Tory hissed.

“Daryl escaped.” Tara said urgently, and Tory could see she was keeping something to herself.

The men that had inspected the upper level of the house ran back downstairs and waited for Tara to exit the infirmary.

“You two have to follow us as well.” One of them said, standing right behind Tory. The other man, Tory knew. He had come to the infirmary before, drank water and watched the medicine like a guard dog for Negan.

Lucas.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

As it turned out, everyone was following Simon and Rick as they looked for Daryl.

“You weren’t lying.” Simon directed himself at Rick when they were about to leave Alexandria. “But, we need guarantee, you see, that whenever Daryl comes, in two days from now, two months from now…Hell, two years from now! You will tell us.” Simon’s eyes fell behind Tory and he nodded to one of his men. “Because if we find out, it won’t end the way it ended for your boy.”

In that moment, things took a turn for the worst.

Tory felt the big hand taking a hold of her arm with a firm grip that made her move. Her eyes found Rick’s and then her dad’s. None of them could do much.

“I can walk myself.” Tory argued, frowning at her wanna-be-captor.

“I’m sure you can, girly, but I gotta grab you for keeps.” The man said, giving her a chilling smile.  

“Let. Go.” Tory growled, pausing between words.

He -whoever he was- leaned onto Tory and whispered at her ear.

“Make me.”

Tory planted her feet on the dusty asphalt, and the man dragged her, his eyes holding a weird sort of amusement that left her cold.

“Get your hands of my daughter!”

They both turned to Tom. Her father was stalking up to them, but Tory never in her wildest dreams, would have thought of her dad, her gentle, loving, non-violent dad, would tackle a younger and stronger man so hard he would throw him to the ground and drag her as well.

Tory’s head was spinning as her dad and the savior rolled on the street, trying to get hold of something…they were fighting for a gun!

“Stop, Dad!” Tory screamed, truly scared for him. “Stop!”

Her intervention proved a distraction. Tom turned to look at her, to see if she was injured, his eyes wide with worry and horror at his own actions. Her Dad’s mouth moved as if he was about to speak.

Tory only heard the shot and felt the splatter of blood on her face. Someone else screamed, but she wasn’t sure, her eyes were glued to her Dad.

Time seemed to have slowed down as her dad fell on his back with a loud thud, fingers twitching a bit as his blue eyes looked for her.

She scrambled and crawled to him, applying pressure over the wound on his neck. The blood flow didn’t stop, it stained her hands, his clothes, her own… Blood was coming out of his mouth too as he kept trying to speak.

“Dad…dad.” Tory whispered roughly, but he couldn’t answer. Tom eyes found her, for a brief second, full of horror and sadness, and then he stopped moving. “Dad?”

No answer.

“Dad, why is there so much blood?” Tory asked, looking at her sticky, red hands. She felt suddenly lightheaded with the strong smell of gunpowder and blood as her eyes filled with tears. “it’s so red.” Tory whispered. “So red.”

Part of her understood Tom Jones was gone. Her dad, the man who had taken care of her, who had loved her as his… he was gone, dying a death unfit for such a gentle soul.

The part of her that didn’t understand was on the tears she couldn’t stop.

Sometimes, years later, Tory still woke up to nightmares about those sad, horrified blue eyes looking at her, trying to tell her, to warn her. 

It was only the beginning. 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Chapter Text

 

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Before

Tory was ten back then…

"Come on, sweetheart." Tom helped Tory up from the snow. "No broken bones?"

"No, Mr. Jones." Tory answered, feeling her face heat up in embarrassment. "I don't want to do this anymore. I suck."

Thomas Jones -her mum's new husband- laughed heartily.

"You are way better than me, darlin', when I was your age I broke my leg and got a black eye trying to learn."

"Really?" Tory sniffled.

"Really, I was pants."

• • • • • • • • • • • •

The kitchen was flooded with smoke and the carbonized pasta made Tory's eyes cry.

"You forgot to turn off the heat, Tom?" Tory asked, watching the man desperately try to open the windows and doors.

"Your mother said I had to let it rest forty minutes, sweetheart!" he defended himself immediately.

Tory blinked a couple of times, chasing the tears away.

"She said fourteen. Fourteen."

Tom paled.

"Damn it. It was supposed to be date night's dinner." Tory smiled as her stepfather pouted at the ruined dinner.

"Wanna fix it?" she suggested.

"Pleeeeease! Help me, oh! Tiny kitchen spirit!" he said, wielding the oven mittens dramatically, making her giggle and cry.

"I'm not tiny!"

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Tom was sleeping on the armchair by her bed. Tory remembered waking up during the night, screaming. She'd had a nightmare about her mom…about the accident. Her…dad, he had hugged her until the screaming had stopped.

Tears came to her eyes once again, and Tory felt a bit less alone.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Dad baking that ugly birthday cupcake for her, that tasted like home, like Mom's cooking.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Dad talking to Ben and the other guys, while Henry tried to cook with her.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Back in Lexington, Dad helping her in the garden, digging deeper than it was needed, and watering the plants a bit too much.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Dad smiling at her while sitting on the porch steps of their home.

"I like it here, sweetheart." His blue eyes were fixed in the dusky horizon. "Your mom would have liked it here."

Tory smiled.

"She would have."

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Dad giving her his ring…her mom's ring.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

Tory felt calm by the time the trucks stopped, wherever they were at. The doctor was looking at her with a weird expression, as if he was trying to read her.

"Are you okay?" he inquired, his voice kind and curious. She nodded. Whatever had happened, it gave Tory fortitude enough to be calm.

"Good." He dragged a hand down his face, and Tory noticed the shinny ring on his left hand. "My name is Harlan Carson."

"I'm T-" Tory stopped herself, it was futile to keep her lying to herself, Tory Jones was gone now. "Victoria Miller."

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Alexandria, VA

Lucas looked at Tyler with wide eyes. His mind was screaming at him.

Tyler had gone too far.

The man didn't need to die, he was just trying to protect his daughter. Lucas wanted to yell at his friend, punch him even, but he couldn't…not in front of the Alexandrians. He didn't even need to see Simon's face to know there would be trouble back at the Sanctuary.

Tyler wiped the blood off of his face with rash movements and got a hold of Tory, who didn't fight or make a move to stop him.

"Tyler." Lucas called, gripping his friend's arm, who didn't soften the hold on the girl's arms as he walked up to them. "I'll handle this."

"It's my job, you can't…" Tyler started to argue, but Lucas raised a hand to silence him.

"You screwed it up. Leave her to me." He hissed, anger and frustration clouding his voice.

Lucas held the girl's waist and half dragged her, half carried her to the truck where they had put the Hilltop's doctor, covering her face with the usual black bag and helping her sit. He dismissed his coworkers, telling them he would ride with the prisoners. Once they started moving and were out of Alexandria, Lucas took off the doctor's bag.

"Doc, I need you to check her over." He said urgently, while the doctor blinked to get used to the light. Lucas pointed at Tory, whose hands were still damp with blood, as well as her clothes. "I think she's in shock."

"What happened?" the doctor asked, watching the unmoving girl worriedly, as she hardly blinked and seemed not to be breathing.

Lucas swallowed hard. "Her…Her dad died."

No other explanation was needed.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

The Sanctuary, VA

Negan was waiting for them almost at the gates, his expression was somber and his demeanor stiff as the whole line of trucks arrived. Simon sighed.

"Boss." He said solemnly.

"No sign of Daryl, then?" Negan asked, a deep scowl in his face.

"Negative." Simon confirmed. "And there was a little situation in Alexandria."

Negan's frown deepened even further, no doubt thinking that Rick had something to do with it. Simon was about to tell Negan what had transpired with the father of their new guest, when a commotion called for both their attentions. Negan and Simon rounded the closest truck to find one of their men on the ground, a tiny thing with a big, sharp knife on her.

"Get her the fuck off me!" Tyler yelled, trying to protect his face with his arms, but the girl seemed determined. The newly acquired Doctor Carson seemed to be astonished by the girl's behavior as Lucas tried to knock the knife out of her hand.

"No! Stop!" Lucas shouted.

"He killed him! He killed him!" the girl screamed, rage and agony plaguing her voice as she kept trying to stab Tyler. Negan hissed in pain and tightened his grip on Lucille.

"I know! Stop!" Lucas got a hold of the knife's blade. Simon was impressed when the girl still dragged the knife through his flesh, uncaring of the bloody blade.

Things were getting out of control so fast, one of his men drew a gun.

"What the fucking fuckity fuck is going in this fucking place?!" Negan's voice reverberated in the courtyard, making everyone turn to him…almost everyone.

Tyler's cry of agony had Lucas react and tackle the Alexandrian girl to the ground, who finally let go of the hunting knife.

"Someone, take this pussy to the infirmary." Negan ordered coldly, his voice was audible just enough to cause his subordinates to shudder. "The Doc will get himself a warm welcome, everyone else, go complete your fucking business."

The crowd dispersed immediately, as the injured savior was taken away, and the doctor followed.

"Simon, put her on her knees." Negan ordered.

Whatever business this girl had with his friend, Simon felt sorry for her.

A little bit.

Well. Not much really.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Victoria Miller was a weird picture of disarray, with her dark hair a tangled mess and blood stained skin and clothes as Simon made her kneel in front of him. Negan had thought about having a conversation with the girl, but he hadn't actually had the time, as he had to deal with the Sherry-Dwight situation, as well as entertaining Eugene and doing the usual stuff required of him.

He was…impressed, to a certain level. The girl had jumped one of his meatiest men with only a knife in hand, intent on revenge because…

"Who the fuck died, Simon?" Negan asked, momentarily forgetting everything else.

Simon swallowed and looked down at Victoria.

"The girl's dad." His right-hand man informed solemnly.

A tiny sob reached Negan's ears and he turned his hazel orb on the girl kneeling in front of him.

Damn it.

"And how the fuck did that happen?" Negan asked, making his exasperation evident as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

"Her dad was trying to defend her." Negan turned to Lucas, the one who had tried to stop the girl. "Tyler was being rough with her, and she- she tried to go on her own, but Tyler wouldn't let up, and her dad attacked him."

Negan raised his eyebrows. "That true?" Simon nodded. "Rick complained?"

"No, boss."

The leader of the Saviors sighed quietly and swung Lucille between his hands, wishing his idiot subordinate had controlled himself, he'd have to talk to Simon about that one. At the present moment, however, Negan couldn't show his hand.

"Are you going to kill me?" Victoria asked, looking up at him, a brilliant hint of defiance in her eyes.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

"No." Negan answered her question almost immediately, then he turned to his right-hand man. "Put Gorgeous in a cell until I decide what to do with her."

Tory released a shuddering sigh, dropping her shoulders when Negan turned his back on her.

Simon ordered her up.

"Are you going to cause trouble, girl?" Tory shook her head. "Okay, come with me."

• • • • • • • • • • • •

The cells of The Sanctuary weren't much cells as they were tiny, dark broom closets.

Tiny, dark and cold broom closets with buckets for toilets.

Tory had her back to the wall, where she could get better support as she drifted in daydreams. She had no way to tell the hour, but it was probably late, the snoring that came from behind the door was indicative of the lateness. The Sanctuary, as far as she had seen, was a big place, enough to house most of Negan's people and a lot of production. However, the sounds Tory had heard during her brief pass through the ground floor were gone now. The distant moaning of the dead didn't count.

Sleep was avoiding her, and she was happy for it, as she had the suspicion that, were she to fall asleep, she'd dream of her dad. Hot, painful tears filled her eyes in the dark. Tory couldn't even avenge his death, she hadn't acted fast enough. Not strong enough.

Her dark train of thought was abruptly stopped when a sob broke the silence.

"Amber…oh Amber."

Tory frowned, her fingers ghosting over the skin of her left arm. That name had been there… more than once. Tory gulped down her sorrow and knocked on the thin wall behind her.

"Who's there?" a male voice asked.

"I'm new." Tory answered. "I'm Tory."

"Oh." The man was silent for a minute too long, and Tory thought he had gone to sleep. "Name's Mark."

"I'd like to say is nice to meet you Mark, but…well…there's a wall in here." Tory reasoned.

"Is nice to talk to someone." He answered. "People don't talk to traitors."

"I suppose you're right, but I'm not from here, so, who cares?"

Mark sobbed out a laugh.

"Yeah…maybe?"

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Negan read the words on his arm again.

 

       He killed him! He killed him!

 

Guilt was eating at him.

It was hard to even punish the girl when she was acting in a manner that Negan himself would have tried had he been in her place. He hadn't figured out what to do with Tyler. Dr. Carson had been clear, the man was lucky to keep the eye, even if it was a useless eye now.

Yeah, Tyler was trying to defend himself, but it wasn't supposed to end that way, and whatever Negan could have tried to erase Victoria's first impression of him had been ruined. There was no way he could start over if what happened every time he tried was someone dying. Well…actually, the very first time didn't even count, he didn't know she was there.

With a sigh, Negan turned the water of the shower off, it had stopped running warm a while ago. When he was drying himself, Negan emptied his mind as best he could, finding it relaxing before getting in bed for a few hours.

He didn't bother with the covers tonight, as he was sleeping alone. Negan turned the light off and as his head touched the pillow, something from the back of his mind awoke. The memory of a promise long forgotten…His wife, skeletal, pale and agonizing in a dreadful hospital bed, her cold hand between his warm ones as she asked for one more thing.

"No, no, you listen to me. You look for her, promise me. Protect her."

"Okay baby girl, I promise."

His own words made a chill run down his back, and the creeping feeling of guilt assaulted him again. Negan wasn't sure he could sleep in peace now. Not for a long while.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Chapter Text

 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •    • • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

 

It took three days for Negan to decide what to do, the promise he made to Lucille lingered in his mind while he tried to find a solution.

The soulmate-problem had distracted him from other stuff, but Simon and Gavin took care of the most urgent matters. As it turned out, Martha gave him the perfect idea.

“What’s on your mind, Negan? You’re distracted.” His wife said, watching him over her shoulder as she unzipped her dress. Martha always knew what to ask and when to ask, and Negan appreciated her a whole damn lot for it. 

And the other, hotter stuff…

“We’ve got a new guest.” Negan stated, not sure how to express his worry without giving his secret away.

Martha frowned lightly. “Eugene has been here for a while now, Negan.” The brunette reminded him.

Shutting his eyes and rubbing down his three-day stubble, Negan exhaled. “Dr. Smarty-Pants has proved himself useful, angel-face. No, I mean our other guest.”

Martha sat on his couch, dressed in just her underwear with a glass of whiskey in her hand; she looked sexy as hell, and was ready for him, but he couldn’t get distracted yet. 

“Simon came back from Alexandria with someone as…replacement for Daryl.” He explained, walking to his wife and sitting beside her. “In the scuffle to bring her back, her dad died.” 

Martha gasped quietly, “Was it one of ours?” she inquired and he nodded. “It must’ve been awful for her.”

Negan didn’t even know. His arm had been unusually pain-free.

“So, I don’t know what to make of her…” 

The leader of the Saviors was at a real loss and he had to admit it. 

“…The girl is in a cell because she attacked Tyler, man lost one eye or some shit.”

Martha grimaced and placed the glass on Negan’s hand, taking a pensive expression on her own. “Have you tried talking to her?” she asked.

“Too busy.” Negan lied, before taking a sip. “Got other stuff in my mind.”

Martha nodded, crossing her shapely legs in the pose she usually took when helping him solve a situation that his lieutenants couldn’t handle either.

“Treat her like she’s one of us.” Martha started.

“She’s not.” Negan argued, to which Martha rolled her toffee colored eyes as if saying ‘really?’.

“Well, of course, but you shouldn’t make her feel that way, Negan.” Martha suggested wisely. “Treat her like you would treat someone who just found the Sanctuary. Make her kneel, ask her what her abilities are, how she is useful, then give her a choice.”

Negan thought about it in silence, it was a good proposal as any. If the girl chose, she couldn’t blame him for her misfortune, right? With a chuckle, Negan put his arm around Martha’s slim shoulders and brought her close to him to kiss her temple.

“Where would I be without you, Martha?”

She immediately answered. “Not in this room, I suppose.”

 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

 

Mark was a good prison-mate.

Tory had learned a lot in the past three days, besides the cell area routine and meal times, that is. Mark had information and he was generous with it, and as Tory was willing to pay attention, he was willing to speak. He had kept her distracted out of her own memories, without judging her when she screamed well into the night, offering silent support with three knocks in the wall that separated them.

At the present moment, Tory knew the point system, although not perfectly, since Mark had been a savior so the points didn’t quite apply to him. She knew of the general structure of the old-factory-come-refuge for the end of the world. She also learned who was who and why. But most importantly, Tory was informed of the role the wives had.

And she couldn’t judge.

They had been in desperate situations and chosen what was better for them and those who loved them, even if it meant giving themselves to a man they didn’t exactly love. Tory thought it was much like the sugar daddy stuff from before the apocalypse. They all served Negan bodily and got a “free ride” for it. In Tory’s opinion, those women were saints for putting up with Negan, so, who was she to judge? Maybe if she hadn’t had such a long story with Negan she would have taken that into consideration. But there were a lot of “ifs” in between. So many memories of so many people who told her to brace herself, to be strong, to keep going, to give him hell.

Lucille.

Her biggest ghost.

Tory shook her head and knocked on the wall three times, waiting for Mark’s response.

As soon as he knocked back on the wall, Tory shot her question.  

“So, why are you here?” the young woman asked, trying to distract herself of her own stench, after three days in the same bloody, sweat dampened clothes. “You mentioned something about treason?”

Mark was silent for a while.

“Amber is one of Negan’s wives.” He said, a bit too quietly because Tory had to strain herself to hear the words. A memory flashed in her mind. They weren’t allowed to cheat on him.

“What is the punishment for adultery with one of them?” Tory asked.

“The iron.” Mark said, his voice flat and unfeeling. Gone was the chipper man trying to make nice to her.

She was about to ask if that had happened to him, the door to her tiny cell flew open, making her hiss in pain when the light hit her unaccustomed eyes.

“Well, good fucking morning! Aren’t we a fucking ray of sunshine today?” Negan’s deep voice echoed loudly inside Tory’s cell, making her head pound as her eyes watered. Her body was stiff and she could swear everything hurt. 

“Hello, Gorgeous.”

Tory narrowed her eyes, looking up at Negan in silence.

“It smells shitty in here.” He pointed out, his tone was still chipper but not as bright. “Come with me, Gorgeous, we got stuff to discuss.” Tory didn’t move immediately. Her legs were stiff and her muscles screamed in protest for the sudden abuse. A tiny groan escaped her lips until finally she stood up.

“You’re filthy, Gorgeous.” Negan informed her, gesturing to all of her with his open hand.

 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Yes, she was filthy, her clothes were dirty with dust, sweat and blood. Her hair looked greasy, as did her skin and her grey eyes were bloodshot and had bags under them.

Three knocks on the wall made Tory turn her head and she knocked on it three times answering whatever call she received.

Negan frowned.

“Making friends so soon?” he tried to keep his voice affable and light, but the tiny, dormant possessiveness he had been feeling for years woke up again.

“I have to start somewhere.” Tory answered, looking at her clothes, fingering the blood stains with anxious little movements.

Uneasiness crept upon Negan, he had to get her out of that.

“Leave that shit, we are getting you cleaned up.” He ordered, gripping Lucille hard. “Follow me.” 

Turning away, he started walking without checking if she was following him, then he heard the light steps. “I’d take you on a tour, but my people would be scared you’re one of those ugly moaners.” Negan informed her as they walked to the communal showers. He swore he heard her curse, but he wasn’t sure.

They came across some workers, who knelt as he walked by.

“Why do they kneel?” Victoria asked, her voice was rough with disuse.

“It’s called respect.” Negan answered smugly.

“Sure.” She muttered.

They arrived to the double doors that were the common showers and Negan entered. The place smelled like humidity and bleach, but it was empty, as the day had started hours ago.

“Water’s gonna run a bit slow at this hour but you should be able to shower fast, right?” Negan turned on his heel, making Victoria stop on her tracks over the damp concrete floor. He expected the girl to jump at the chance to get herself clean, but she was watching the room, unimpressed. “What?”

“I’ve got nothing to wear…or shower myself with.” She wasn’t complaining, just stating a fact, and Negan wanted to roll his eyes at himself.

“I’m gonna get you some stuff, don’t fucking move.” He growled, stalking out of the room.

“Someone get here for fucking yesterday!” he bellowed. Instantly, he heard someone running in the direction of the showers. It was the gelato girl who had told him no.

“Negan?” she asked, her voice wavering a bit.

“Be a good girl and run to the commissary, get me a change of clothes for a girl about your height, shampoo and whatever shit you girls use for showering.” Negan made a pause, the girl didn’t move as he hadn’t dismissed her. “…and a black dress.”

“Is that all?” the young woman asked, making note with her fingers for what he’d asked.

“Yeah. Now, run, Forest, run.”  

Negan hoped he wasn’t making a mistake.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Chapter Text

 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •    • • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

Victoria stayed put exactly where Negan had left her.

She looked fragile and hunched over herself, making her appear tinier than she actually was, as if a simple breeze could blow her to dust.

“Do you want me to watch her, sir?” Vera’s question got Negan out of his reverie.

“We’re both staying here, Vera, don’t worry.” He said nonchalantly, glancing to see Victoria’s reaction, but she merely sighed. Negan noticed that the girl wasn’t exactly shy as she started undressing herself in a shower cubicle, throwing the blood-soaked clothes at her feet.

“Please, sir, turn around.” Vera hissed under her breath, urging him to stop watching Victoria.

“She looks perfectly fucking fine.” He argued, keeping his voice down as well.

“But she is not!” the kitchen girl retorted. “You don’t have to leave, just turn around.”  

Vera had the damn gall to push him to his side until Negan turned around.

“I’ve got shampoo and soap.” Vera said gently. “Better wash your hair carefully, honey.”

“Thank you.” The former-Alexandrian answered softly.

The water started running, splattering loudly on the floor.

Negan would be careful this time, he thought. This time he would keep his eyes on his guest, keep her watched if he couldn’t be there himself. No more mistakes. No more AJ’s or Adam’s, and not another dead girl on his tab.

They were all quiet, the sound of Victoria washing herself and the water running filled the silence of the shower room. Negan looked at the clothes Vera had given him. A colorful yellow blouse and faded jeans contrasted against the soft black dress. Did he really want this young woman among the women who shared his life?

They can’t share something they hate. His mind jabbed insidiously. That’s why you went back to the school.

The grinding sound of the taps indicated the shower was over.

“Here, I got you a towel and underwear.” Vera said reassuringly. This girl was good at PR, too bad she was cropped up inside the kitchen.

“Thanks.”

A couple of minutes passed and then Vera patted Negan’s shoulder gently.

He turned around and saw Victoria there, barefoot and wearing only underwear. She was thin, but not in a healthy way, a dark pink scar marked a horizontal line under her belly button, and a faded one had disfigured her left arm. Her marked arm. She had plethora of scars, but they looked old, about to disappear.

So many scars.

“Okay Gorgeous, you have options.” Negan started, with grey eyes finding his, cold and unblinking. “You can have it real easy, or you can earn your keep.” He separated the bundles of clothes, the black dress and the borrowed outfit. Vera’s expression told him the kitchen girl was worried for the new arrival. 

“What does that mean?” Victoria asked, watching him carefully, almost calculating.

“It means you can become a wife, have everything your heart desires. Or, you can become a worker, get yourself on points and keep on living, but that… that depends of your talent.”

Negan saw her rise an eyebrow, it was a little gesture and he knew she knew. Maybe Carl had told her? Maybe someone else?

“I can cook.” Victoria mentioned. “I know some medical stuff…I haven’t scavenged in years, but I know what to do.”

“We have vacancies in the kitchen.” Vera piped in. “The new doctor Carson could use some help too.”

Victoria walked towards Negan and reached for the clothes with her hand, for a brief moment it seemed as if she would take the dress.

The easy way out.

She didn’t.

A flutter of disappointment and rejection made Negan scowl. You don’t need this fucking drama right now, anyway. He scolded himself, he had to get the hell out of there.

“Well, get yourself dressed.” He told Tory and then he turned to the other girl. “Vera, take her to the commissary to get the basics, and tab her in. Then get one of the guys to schedule her rounds with Simon.” Negan ordered, ready to bolt from the showers. He gave the dress to Vera.

“Take this back to the commissary too.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

The brunette in front of her took the dress in her arms and they both watched as Negan left them alone.

“I’m Vera.” The young woman said, offering Tory her right hand.

“Victoria.” She answered and took Vera’s warm hand. “You can call me Tory.”

“It’s a pretty name.” Vera smiled. “So, are you ready?”

Tory shrugged with half a smile. “No moment like the now?”

Vera giggled. “I like the sound of that. Come with me.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

The Sanctuary was…big.

Tory couldn’t find a more adequate word to describe the place. Vera navigated it with ease, undaunted by the leery looks sent their way or the muttering that followed them. The commissary was a shelved room, full of every sort of article Tory could think of. From food to luxurious things like nail polish and makeup pallets.

“Just a couple, Tory, anything you’d like specially?” Vera asked, looking at her with a questioning eyebrow up.

“Hm…” Tory’s eyes fell on herself and she took in the too white skin of her arms, her soulmarks would practically scream at people that way. “long sleeves?”

The woman behind what appeared to be a reception table grunted and went to look for something long sleeved.

“So, how do I pay for this?” Tory asked Vera, who smiled brightly.

“Well, this is going on a tab for you.” Vera started. “We use the points like currency, the points you use for this will be deducted after you start working.” Her guide explained. “As well as the food, and once you get on your feet, you can start getting some other stuff, better food and such.”

Tory nodded and took the clothes the woman had found for her, examining the long sleeves of the t-shirts, a sense of security filled her and she smiled lightly.

“Sounds fair.” Tory said finally, getting a weird look from Vera.

After they left the commissary, Vera sighed.

“I need to get you to Simon, but my shift in the kitchen is waiting for me…” Vera crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. “Can I leave you with someone I trust?”

“I suppose?” Tory answered, not sure of whatever Vera meant.

“He’ll take care of you and help you settle in once Simon gives you your schedule.” Her companion explained brightly. “You’ll like him.”

“Okay.”

Vera squealed in happiness and took Tory’s wrist to guide her along the hallways as she mentioned what was where and who lived in what level.

“The uppermost apartments are for the Saviors, the wives and Negan lives in the penthouse.” Vera recited, as if she’d done this a hundred times before.

“Where would I live then?” Tory asked, puzzled.

Vera stopped in front of a door with a pensive expression on her pretty face.

“I guess you’d live at the workers’ floor.” She conjured, following the statement with a quiet “Oh…”

“Which means?”

“Is not the safest of places.” Vera answered. “You get a tiny cot with maybe sheets to protect your privacy, sometimes nothing.”

Tory winced. She was used to her own room, her own house…even her own tiny cell.

“I’ll make do.” Tory declared, sounding passingly convincing.

Vera gave her a gentle smile.

“Working with Doctor Carson might give you a lot more points than the kitchens, wait here.” Vera entered the room in front of which they had stopped and left Tory alone in the hallway.

Tory leaned on the wall beside the door and sighed deeply. She could hear Vera and a guy’s voice as she waited with her meager belongings in her hands. Hell, she didn’t want to thinks about her clothes and whole other stuff back home…her pictures, her life… no, the pain was too great.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

“I hate owing you favors, Vera.” Lucas growled as he tied his boots.

“Yeah, you also love a double dessert, so shut it, Luc.” His friend hit back.

“Is this how you talk to Chase? Poor buddy.” The savior complained. “Why is he even trying to get married to you?”

Vera frowned deep, she didn’t seem menacing, but Lucas kept that opinion to himself as he put on his brown jacket. 

Damn, he should control his sweet tooth, it was getting expensive.

As he dressed, he noticed Vera looking around his room.

“How is it you got a couch?” she asked, her tone light and sweet.

“Was here already…one of the guys at the outpost left it behind.” Lucas hated talking about the outpost, he also hated talking to Vera about it since Chase wasn’t fully recuperated just yet.

“You think you could bunk with someone?” she asked, breaking up his reverie.

What?

“Excuse me?” he said out loud, realizing he couldn’t just watch Vera in astonishment forever.

“You said you needed a roommate since I stole Chase, right?” Vera remarked. “Well, I’ve got one for you.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •    • • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

Lucas saw Vera exchange some words with a girl tiny as herself, with a very similar hair color. The girl nodded and that’s when Lucas noticed it was her.

Lucas glared at Tory Miller, but Vera seemed immune to the tension between them.

“You gotta take her to Simon and set her up for shifts, infirmary and kitchens.” Vera ordered swiftly. “Then help her get set up here.”

Tory Miller had the decency to blush.

“I don’t think Lucas wants me as his roommate.” The grey eyed girl admitted shyly. “I played him dirty.”

Vera dismissed the thought.

“Of course not! He’s ecstatic!” Vera declared cheerfully.

Tory raised a doubtful eyebrow but if Lucas got it right, she decided not to argue.

“You guys are going to love this! See you later!”

The both of them watched Vera leave and disappear behind a corner with an almost imperceptible spring to her step and the feeling of being sneakily set up.

“I’m sorry about your hand.” Tory apologized, looking right into his eyes. Lucas noticed her sincerity right away. “I wasn’t thinking.”

“No, you were not.” He affirmed. “I’m sorry about your, Dad.”

The flash of suffering and pain that showed on her face wasn’t lost on him. Lucas remembered losing people too, loved ones, family, friends.

“He’s with my mom now, I guess.” She muttered roughly, as if something stopped her from talking. “…I hope so.”

Lucas felt a tug of compassion for Tory, she didn’t seem like a bad person, on the contrary, a bad person didn’t offer water to the people sacking their home, as the Saviors had done, no matter how much they feared.

Even so, Lucas didn’t know how to answer, he raked a hand through his dark curls and stepped back, freeing the doorway.

“Leave your stuff here so we can get you set up.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Tory left her change of clothes on the couch and thanked Lucas for letting her stay with him.

“I sincerely thought Negan was going to offer you becoming a wife.” Lucas admitted sheepishly.

“He did.” Tory sighed. “I just refused, his idea of marriage and my idea of marriage don’t fit, and that is not what I want in my life.” As she said those words, Tory felt the cold weight of the rings that dangled from her neck. The appreciative and respectful look in Lucas eyes got him a tiny smile.

“Okay, let’s get moving.”

Again, Tory was guided through the labyrinthic hallways of The Sanctuary until they came up to an office that could have fit a manager back then. Lucas knocked on the door and after a gruff come in answered them, he opened it.

Tory couldn’t exactly look inside the office, Lucas was in her way, but a weird chill ran down her back when she heard the voice that had given them permission to enter without the interference of the wooden door.

“What do you want, Lucas?” a man questioned irritably.

“I didn’t know you were covering for Simon again, Miller.” Her roommate answered. “We’ve got a new recruit and she needs to be put on the shift list. Negan’s orders.”

“And just where is the recruit?” the man asked, curiosity clear in his voice.

His very familiar voice.

A voice from her oldest memories.

“Here, come in Tory.” Lucas beckoned her with a hand gesture and she froze. 

Tory couldn’t enter that office and face it. Not now. Not after what had happened to Tom.

“What did you say?” the voice asked. Lucas turned back to the office at once.

“Hmm?”

“The recruit’s name.” the man clarified. Tory heard the push back of a chair and a few steps, but she didn’t dare look up.

It was as if no time had passed, she could hear him clear as day.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

A cold mocking laugh filled her ears.

“Don’t be absurd, Victoria.” Roy said dismissively. “I’m very much alive.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

It took her a couple of seconds to decide what to do.

Feign ignorance or lack of memory worked well for her, after all, she hadn’t seen the man in ten years, right?

Tory pulled her best look of innocence and looked up at Lucas, who smiled back at her. Damn, she really felt bad about cutting him now.

“Yes?” she asked quietly.

“Miller needs your name to give you a worker number.”

Tory turned her eyes to her biological father, who looked very much the same, from the unruly eyebrows to the severe line of his lips. His hair was mostly gray now and his dark eyes had a look of doubt in them that made her scarred arm tingle. She had hit him with that arm the last time she had seen him.

“Victoria Marie Jones.” Tory said, clearly and with no intention of backing down.

Neither her nor Lucas were expecting Roy’s reaction, however, since he crossed the office and hugged her hard.

It felt wrong.

Roy Miller hadn’t hugged her in a long, long time; seventeen years, to be precise.

It didn’t feel wrong. It was.

“Let go.” She mumbled coldly, trying not to react with the real disgust she felt.

“Victoria, it’s you.” Her father said, his voice awed as he touched her face reverently, watching her with those dark honey eyes of his.

“I don’t know what you mean.” She lied smoothly. “Can you please give me my shifts?”

Roy seemed to get the message then and fixed himself up before writing her shifts in a big book, giving her the next worker number available.

“The infirmary with Doctor Carson, three days a week and three days in the kitchens. Tuesdays free. Makes seven days.”

Tory nodded stiffly and took her point notebook.

It was clear.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Lucas had kept his mouth shut after the tense exchange in Simon’s office as not to disturb Tory, least Vera had his head for it.

“Is he really your father?” Lucas finally said, feeling his chest unravel as he spoke.

Tory stopped abruptly in the middle of the hallway.

“That is none of your business.” She said, keeping her voice cold and steady, betraying a faint Californian accent. Lucas lifted his hands in sign of surrender.

“He seemed really concerned.” He commented nonchalantly.

Tory rolled her eyes and started walking again.

He used to be concerned after hitting my mom too. She though, trying to control her wayward emotions. “Why would I trust him?”

Her new roommate narrowed his eyes warily. “Really?”

Tory glared at him.

“Okay, California, I’m on your side.” Lucas said, feeling a smile creep to his face.

“California?” Tory seemed offended. “I lived in Georgia for nine years and have been living in Virginia for eight!”

“Yeah, but you are from Cali, right?” Lucas asked cheekily.

“I am.” Victoria muttered.

“So, you are California.” Lucas concluded, feeling satisfied for changing the mood so efficiently, just as they stopped in front of a clean door. He knocked twice before a hassled Dr. Carson opened it.

“Can I help you?” the gentleman asked.

“I brought you your first assistant, Doc.” Lucas said. “Assigned to you three days a week.”

Carson smiled slightly and Tory smiled back at him.

“Okay, I’ll take it.”

Lucas smiled and turned to Tory. “I’ll come back for you after your shift so you can get some food.”

“But I’ve got no points.” Tory argued.

“No, but we have Vera and Chase.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Roy was still in shock after Victoria had left the office with Lucas.

She looked incredibly similar to her mother, the same grey eyes and dark hair, with his jaw and irritable behavior. He raked his hands through his hair as he thought about his child. He had been in a conference in Washington when the outbreak had become a crisis and had been in the Virginia area ever since.

Roy had picked up a little boy in the way, as if the kid were a stray dog, and the kid -Tim- had followed him. They had been in a community close to the Sanctuary before Negan cleaned it up, and he had taken the offer of a better life in the blink of an eye -that name couldn’t be a coincidence-, it was an advantage and he would be able to watch Negan. Tim followed him again, he had become his family. 

And so, Roy Miller had never looked back.

Now…now his daughter made him look back. His very alive daughter that he had thought dead for a long time. Tory had seemed so weak when he had seen her at Erin’s funeral, when she had been surrounded by strangers and people he didn’t really know. He wondered briefly what had happened to those boyfriends of hers and her stepfather.

Roy had declined to sign away his rights to Tory because he wanted her to have more than some dirty farm when she was older, not that it mattered now.

Maybe he could start again…

He wished he could ask Erin.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Negan put Lucille down as he prepared himself for bed.

His mind was still turning over the events of the night. As he was surrounded by his wives at dinner time, Victoria had been sitting with some of his Saviors, listening and bantering slightly with them. Negan recognized the fiancé of Gelato girl. Vera, his mind sprang on him. The other one, Lucas…He was awfully close for someone who had been injured by that same girl only three days before.

He noticed the slight chip over her shoulder and the stiffening of her back every once in a while, as if she were waiting to be attacked.

No one would dare attack her in his territory.

A slight burn made him turn to his arm reluctantly, no new words had shown since she’d been brought to the Sanctuary and now…

  • I like it…you calling me California.

Negan didn’t have time to think about it as he caught sight of his left pectoral and the grey words, clear as day.

Negan only ever dared to think about her where no one could see him. It made it a bit easier.

It still hurt like a motherfucker.

For a long moment, he wished to go back to that sunset. Then he shook his head and got in bed, not to sleep, he couldn’t sleep whenever he thought about her, but he could rest until he passed out repeating those words in his head.

Try a little.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

A few levels below Negan’s rooms, Tory was having as bad a night as his.

Lucas’ couch wasn’t uncomfortable, it was actually a soft piece of furniture that kept her warm and comfortably snuggled up like a sleepy kitten. However, her eyes were wide open and she couldn’t find it in her to actually sleep.

Her mind kept going through the events of the day, over and over again. For a brief instant, Tory wished she was back inside her tiny broom-closet-cell, where the darkness made sense. However, the mere idea of having to lean against the cold wall another night made her shiver into the cushions, looking for more warmth.

“Can you please stop moving already?” Lucas’ sleepy voice reached her ears, he seemed exhausted. It made her feel bad. She’d spent her day working in inventory with Harlan, so her day had been different.

“Sorry.” She murmured. “I can’t sleep.”

The sound of ruffling sheets made Tory turn to her roommate.

“Not used to sleeping alone?” he asked.

Tory frowned in the darkness of the room. She was used to sleeping alone, she’d rarely allow Spencer to sleep in her bed. Henry had shared her bed and her heart for too long to allow someone else after…

“I’m used to it, it’s just.” Tory sighed. “I never…”

“He is your dad, isn’t he?” Lucas suddenly interrupted, he had lifted himself on his left elbow, watching her directly. “Miller.”

Tory was silent for a few, long seconds. She had deflected it earlier, maybe Lucas was trying to be comprehensive about it, but she didn’t have to like it.

However, who would chide Tory for admitting to it? There was no one now.

“He is.” The admission hurt more than she would have thought.

Lucas didn’t say anything for a while and Tory felt the charging of the room, even if she wasn’t sure it was positive or negative.

“Why deny it?” he asked after.

With a long sigh, Tory sat, covering herself with the blanket she’d borrowed from Vera a few hours earlier.

“Last time I saw that man, he was mocking the death of my mother.” She confessed. That wound was still fresh, ten years later. Tory could still remember her mother’s hands on her cheeks before they left to find Lucille. “I can’t find it in me to forgive him.”

Her memory of those moments was fading slowly.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

“Whatever happens, I trust you’ll know what is best for you, Tory.”

Warm arms embraced her.

“You’re stronger than all of them.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

“That’s tough.” Lucas admitted. “But isn’t he the last person of your family?”

Tory squirmed awkwardly as she nodded.

“It doesn’t mean I have to like him.”

Lucas chuckled.

“That’s true, but you know what they say about second chances.”

“They are problematic?” Tory asked, before he could finish his next thought.

He let out a sarcastic laugh.

“Ha-ha, funny girl. No, you never know what good comes of them.” Lucas chided. “Maybe he changed.”

Thinking of Tom Jones’ soft hugs, lovely gestures and constant support for the past sixteen years, Tory was inclined not to give credit to Lucas’ words.

As the silence stretched, Tory leaned back into the couch and Lucas laid down again.

“Try to get some real sleep, California.” He said before turning away.

“I like it…You calling me California.” She murmured.

Tory couldn’t see it, but Lucas fell asleep with a smile on his face.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

“You like him.”

Tory turned to her right, expecting to find Henry, but finding her dad instead. His blue eyes were fixed on the red sunset. They were sitting at the back steps of the Jones’ farm.

“You like the kid.” Her dad repeated, this time looking at her. Tory felt her eyes fill with tears, she wanted to tell him so many things she had kept inside, but no words could leave her mouth. “It’s okay, sweetheart, I get it.”

Thomas put his arm around her shoulders as Tory cried in silence.

“I’m sorry our time got cut short, sweetheart. Your mom is so proud of you, so is everyone else.” Thomas smiled and kissed her forehead. “I love you, Tory. So much.”

“Dad…”

“Goodbye, sweetheart.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Tory woke up to Lucas shaking her shoulder softly.

“Gotta start early, California. You go to the kitchens today.” He said kindly, offering her a cup of coffee. It smelled like heaven, hot and strong. He didn’t say a thing about her tears, but she wiped them as fast as she could.

“Thanks.” She mumbled.

“You’re welcome, California.”

Lucas smiled at her before leaving the room.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Martha noticed the long looks that Negan was trying to hide as he watched the dining hall. He seemed to be looking for someone.

“Is everything okay?” she asked, as quietly as she could, while still making Negan hear her.

Her husband turned to look at her with an arched eyebrow.

“Fucking peachy, Martha. Whatever you mean?” he asked.

Martha smiled and shook her head. “You seem more pensive than the usual.”

“Well, I’ve got a lot on my plate.” He took the bite Martha had on her spoon. “This is good.”

“Nothing like fresh veggies to make your life perfect.” Martha took a bite of her stew, the potatoes were creamy and the carrots crunchy and sweet. “Vivienne is a blessing.”

The older woman had saved the Sanctuary’s crops, and she seemed to really believe in Negan’s mission.

“Yeah, Viv is doing great.” The leader conceded, taking a few more bites of his food, but not really hungry anymore. Martha deflated in her seat when Negan pushed his tray away and stood up. There was no chance he would eat anything now. “Enjoy your food ladies.” He wished kindly, before leaving them to finish their meal. He took Lucille and left in his usual fashion, with a trail of kneeling people on his wake.

“You should eat before it goes cold, Martha.” Cecelia encouraged, taking another bread roll and buttering it a bit.

“Aren’t you worried about Negan?” Martha asked to her friend.

Cecelia frowned her perfectly done brows taking a pensive expression. “Well, I’m kind of worried, but he’s been like this since…you know.”

“Yeah, we don’t talk about it.” Martha droned on. “Maybe we could do something nice for him?”

“Do you think he’ll take it?” Cecelia shrugged. “You know he’s been in a bad way ever since. Hasn’t called for us or anything.”

Martha sighed in exasperation, her friend was right, out of spending some time with them all, whenever he had some spare time, Negan hadn’t called for any other than Martha alone since before he’d gotten Alexandria to work for the Saviors. The other wives didn’t really mind. 

Only half a month ago, Martha was sure all the wives would go back to the normal population of the Sanctuary. Then the outpost had happened… then Elle had happened.

Martha looked around herself, fearful of having uttered the name out loud, but everyone was still occupied with their food. She hadn’t slipped. The first wife thought about it for a few minutes, watching as people came and went, it took her a while to come to a conclusion.

If Negan was in a real mood, he would only attend the most urgent of business and he wouldn’t be welcoming if any of them wives called to his door, for all his libido, Negan seemed to be prone to closing in on himself when he was depressed, Martha knew this, so she needed to look for some escape goat to take a meal to him, and she had just the person in mind.

So, the wife stood up, leaving her finished meal behind and went to the kitchen, walking inside resolutely. She hadn’t visited the kitchen in years, but Martha had the right idea. Some of the workers were already prepping for the next meal, and she just wanted to make sure Negan had something to eat.

There she was.

Gelato girl.

Gelato girl was talking to another brunette, who was peeling potatoes at nail-breaking speed while listening to the other’s rambling.

Martha came up close to them and cleared her throat.

Gelato girl -Vera-, jumped with a loud gasp that made Potato girl drop the peeler, which she immediately caught, least it fall to the floor. Martha didn’t understand why Vera was jumpy, they weren’t slacking, and it wasn’t like she was going to report them.

“Hello.” Martha started awkwardly, unused to the ways of the workers, unless they were up cleaning the parlor or the wives’ rooms. “You’re Vera, right?”

“Yeah, that’s me.” Vera answered with a tiny voice that made her companion smirk. Martha turned slightly to this girl she didn’t know and she felt her ideas halt a bit. This girl was pretty.  Shaking her head to clear it too, Martha turned back to Vera.

“You think you can take a tray to Negan for dinner time?” Martha requested kindly. “He didn’t finish his breakfast.”

Vera frowned slightly, in something between worry and apprehension.

“I can do it.”

Martha smiled.

“Thank you, I’ll owe you one.” And she planned on meeting whatever the girl wanted if it was in her hand. “Even more if he’s got double dessert.”

Vera nodded and smiled, while Potato girl went back to her potatoes. Martha watched her.

“That’s fast.” She commented, feeling awkward when the younger girl kept to her task. The wife was about to leave when she got her answer.

“I did this a lot back home, so I became really good at it.” Then, potato girl turned her face up. She was really good looking, with her dark eyebrows and light eyes, even the freckles had personality. Martha felt her heart clench a bit as her mind made the connection. This was the new Alexandrian. This girl was young and beautiful -if a bit thin-, and Martha wondered if she got offered the choice of marrying Negan. “Do I have something in my face?”

Martha blinked, surprised that she would stare at the girl.

“No, sorry, you reminded me of someone.” She lied smoothly.

The girl got a serious expression. “From before?”

Martha nodded, keeping he lie up.

“Sorry.”

“There’s nothing wrong with before, Tory.” Vera piped in. “Many good things happened back then, some happen now too.”

Tory smiled. “You’re right. I’m just used to apologizing about mentioning it.” She took another potato with her pruny fingers. “Some people don’t take it so easy.”

Vera made a non-committal noise of acceptance and Martha shrugged.

“Thank you, girls.” She finally said, making them smile at her. There was no malice or envy of hard feelings behind those smiles. “See you around.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Vera let out a huge sigh of relief when the wife left the kitchen, and Tory smiled.

“What is it?” she asked, taking another potato and starting to peel it.

“That was weird.” Vera explained. “The wives rarely come here, other than Tanya.”

Tory glanced at the door and then back at her tutor-friend.

“She seems nice.” 

Vera frowned a bit and then shrugged.

“Well, yeah, she would be. Her place is secure.” Tory stayed silent to let Vera elaborate. “She’s Negan’s oldest wife.”

“She can’t be more than thirty.” She said in disbelief.

“Not like that, silly!” Vera laughed. “she was the first wife he took, then Sherry, then Frankie and Cecelia, then Tanya and then Amber.”

Tory sat back, impressed. “You seem to be quite aware of them.”

Vera smiled. “I was asked to become a wife, I’ll have you know.”

“You evidently told the old geezer no.” Tory smiled.

“Well, yes, there is no way he can measure to my Chase.” Vera said possessively. “Talking about saviors…” a sly smile took Vera’s lips. “How was it with Lucas?”

Tory paused her peeling and thought for a few seconds. “It was nice. Better than the cell.”

Vera sighed. “Of course it was, but was he a gentleman?”

Tory thought of the sweet words and his consoling presence in the room before she fell asleep, the coffee mug first thing in the morning, his lack of questions…

“Yeah, he was.” She answered, feeling her chest warming at the notion of making a new friend. “He was.”

Of course, Tory didn’t notice Vera’s satisfied smile as she cut the potatoes and her mind’s vision of her two friends became a bit more real.

“Good.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

Tory was getting used to her routine; one morning just a week after she was freed from her tiny cell, her first test of strength faced her at breakfast.

Chase, Lucas and another man were sitting together at the table. People generally avoided her because she was from Alexandria, but then again, people also simply didn’t trust new comers. Not that Tory had anything to complain about as she made her way to the serving queue.

Does Eugene get treated this way? She wondered.

After getting herself a meager portion of vegetables with the thin broth she could afford, Tory turned back to the table and finally saw who was sitting with Chase and Lucas.

The murderer.

Behind her closed eyes, Tory could still see the scene, feel the heat on her back and smell of her father’s freshly spilled blood on the pavement of Alexandria.

She hadn’t noticed she was shaking with rage until her spilt broth burned her fingers and made her whimper pitifully. Tory decided that facing the man wasn’t worth the effort, but she hated the sudden loss of her appetite. She gave her food away and left the dining hall to go kill time until her shift at the infirmary started.

She would have preferred a glassful of bourbon, but she needed a lot more points for that.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan was sitting with Simon for breakfast as they discussed some deliveries that were delayed due to the little crisis of being an outpost short.

The leader of the Saviors noticed when his recently found soulmate entered the hall just in time for breakfast. She was wearing jeans and boots, but her long sleeved shirt was obviously borrowed judging for the quantity of bunched material at her wrists and how it hung shapelessly from her shoulders to her thighs. Negan watched the girl make her way to the serving line and pay for a little portion of breakfast before making her way to the usual table.

However, Tory Miller stopped midway to her destination, watching the table intently. From his place, Negan noticed the girl shake for a few seconds before she turned around and gave her breakfast to a couple of kids at the nearest table.

“What the fuck?” he muttered.

“Boss?” Simon asked, an eyebrow raised in question.

“I remembered something, keep the guards for the convoys informed to be fucking alert.” Negan ordered, before standing up to exit the hall.

He found her outside.

Tory was leaning against the wall, soaking up a bit of sunlight watching the seemingly new greenhouse and wondering how good the harvest season would be. A boy, that looked to be sixteen or so, kept coming and going from the greenhouse, carrying various tools with him while sweating under the morning sun.

“Slacking so soon?”

Tory jumped and knelt, feeling her heart pound inside her chest.

“Oh, Gorgeous, you look amazing on your knees.” Negan said, making his words echo in the open ground as he leaned into her personal space. When she stood up, he noticed the slight tremors of her body, and wondered if she was trying to reign an angry reaction. Negan covered his little discovery with  a shit-eating grin as he swung Lucille with apparently careless movements.

“That is tremendously uncouth.” Tory replied.

“Or maybe you’re grumpy because you need to get laid, Gorgeous. I offer my services, of course.” He suggested, but Tory’s mind didn’t go to the man in front of her. 

No, it went back to her handsome roommate and she blushed involuntarily. 

“Oh! Look at those cheeks, you like the idea.”

“Excuse me?” she asked, her voice a few octaves higher. Negan had clearly misinterpreted her blush and distracted silence.

“You, me, some…freaky deaky?” he repeated.

“You are old enough to be my dad.” She blurted out.

“Don’t tell me you’ve got some daddy issues, Gorgeous?” Negan asked, undeterred.

Was he trying to embarrass her to death?

“God, no!” Tory answered, covering her face with her hands as her chest got a painful tug thinking about her dad. “Don’t you have anyone else to…”annoy, embarrass, bug, the options were infinite... “do whatever you are trying here?” 

A chuckle escaped Negan as he heard Tory’s muffled response. Whatever effect she had on him, Negan was glad to go through. Somehow, he felt calmer in her presence, even if the brunette despised him.

“Unfortunately for you, Gorgeous.” He stated. “You’re the one that seems fucking free today”

“I’m waiting to start my shift.” Tory told him, still avoiding his gaze, and watching Danny come and go from the greenhouse. “I need a drink.” She muttered.

“Do you think I’m stupid, Gorgeous?” he asked, suddenly serious and garnering her attention. Her grey eyes finally found his and he smirked as she shook her head. “Good. I’m not. Actually, I’m damn brilliant…why did you leave?”

Tory Miller opened her pink lips once, but no words left her mouth and she sighed. “The man who killed my dad was sitting there.”

Tyler.

“I’m truly fucking sorry to tell you, but the man works here.” Negan said. 

He couldn’t just up and send one of his men away for a slip of a girl who didn’t like him. Besides, Tyler had been punished.

“I know, I just don’t have to like it.” Tory told him, her voice as unyielding as his.

They were so busy trying to up each other, that none of them noticed the new arrival, who cleared her throat delicately, and effectively breaking their concentration.

“Viv.” Negan said, his tone falling a bit flat.

“Negan. Good morning.” Vivienne turned to Tory and smiled at her. “And you are?”

“Tory, the one who will be late for shift.” The girl said, using the opportunity to flee as Vivienne waved her way.

“Mornin’ Viv.” Negan sighed. “Anything you want to discuss?”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

If Tory thought her luck would be better in the infirmary, she was seriously wrong. Harlan was with a patient and Tory had come in late.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Carson.” She apologized.

Harlan’s back went stiff immediately and he turned with a surprised expression, giving Tory a chance to see the patient.

“Oh, kitten’s got no more claws.” Her Dad’s killer drawled, making Tory’s stomach clench with an unknown emotion as a shiver of disgust ran down her back at the word kitten.

Only Henry can call me that, her mind screamed.

Tory turned her eyes to Harlan, who was grimacing knowing exactly what had transpired between his assistant and patient.

“Sorry about your eye.” She said sweetly, although not feeling sorry at all.

The smile of the man unnerved Tory. He was undaunted and reached for Tory with his hand to clasp it around hers.

“A sincere apology and I’ll count myself redeemed, kitten.” He offered.

Again, Tory shivered in disgust. In what world could an apology make up for the loss of an organ?

“I’m really sorry about what I did to your eye…?”

“Tyler.”

“Tyler. I’m sorry.” She completed, taking his hand.

Tyler gripped her fingers a bit too hard. His hand was dry and the touch was a bit rough, but not overly unpleasant, if Tory didn’t count the strength he applied on her bones. If Tory didn’t despise the man so much, she would have thought him attractive.

“Don’t worry, kitten, it’s in the past now.” He said with a smile.

“You can call me Tory.” She said, trying to win her hand back.

“Oh, I like it as it is, kitten.” Tyler said, finally letting go. “See you around.”

If Harlan noticed how many times Tory washed her hands during their shift, he didn’t comment on it, and Tory promised herself to give him his well deserved coffee with double cream on her next kitchen-turn.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Lucas was drinking a beer and reading over the last pages of The Lost Symbol when Tory came back into the room, freshly showered and looking like she’d been through hell. She was shaking.

She shook so much. 

All the damn time.

“You okay, California?” he asked, closing his book and sitting on the bed.

“What?” she asked distractedly.

Lucas frowned and placed his bottle on the tiny bedside table. “Tory, are you okay?”

This time, Tory was looking at him and she shook her head. “I had a long day.”

“Wanna talk about it?” he asked, feeling a bit of his worry fade.

Tory approached the bed. “Can I sit?”

Lucas nodded and she fell heavily on the mattress.

“I talked to Negan this morning.” She mentioned softly. “I knew he was very expressive about his sexuality but…” she made a pause and combed her damp hair with her fingers. “When I got to my shift I found that Harlan was fixing Tyler’s stitches too.”

A long silence followed while Lucas processed her words. Something didn’t sit right with him. Tory, on the other hand, took advantage of his distraction to steal his beer. She took a long swig and grimaced.

“This is some bitter stuff.”

“Well, that’s what happens when we take things that aren’t ours.” Lucas chastised her, noticing how her shoulders dropped slightly. “What happened with Tyler?”

Tory took another sip of his beer, as if trying to give herself courage. “He made me apologize for cutting him.” She tried to tell him about Henry’s stolen nickname for her, but the words hurt too much.

Lucas was at a loss of words. He understood both Tyler and Tory, but he didn’t know if he should support any of them; murder somehow outweighed some feeble attempt in the heat of the moment. After all, Tyler did kill her dad.

“Okay, I can get used to the beer, but I really need some whiskey.” Tory muttered, putting the bottle back where she found it and leaning against Lucas to sit back, making his mind go blank at her cool touch on his shoulder.

They couldn’t deny the connection as grey and cinnamon irises found each other.

“We’re really close.” Lucas whispered, remarking the obvious as he itched to touch Tory’s freshly washed skin. She smelled like lavender and rosemary from the one good bar of soap he had.

“I like it, you’re warm.” Tory whispered, using her free hand to smooth back the curls of his forehead. “You have the sweetest smile. Did you know that?”

“Really?” Lucas asked, smiling even wider.

Tory stopped touching his hair to trace his lips with her fingers, muttering something about soft and warm, as he tried to control his breathing.

“Do you mind if I kiss you?” she murmured, seemingly unaware that the words had left her mouth.

“I don’t.” He answered.

“What?” Tory asked, looking at his eyes again.

“I don’t mind if you kiss me.” Lucas finished, surprised of his own cool.

Damn, he really liked her.

Tory nodded and closed the distance between their faces.

She almost moaned when her lips touched Lucas’. His lips were warm and the initial tiny peck made her smile, but she wanted to taste him too. Tory’s tongue traced Lucas’ upper lip first, he tasted bitter like the beer he’d been drinking, but salty too from his slight perspiration. Lucas moaned at the feel of Tory’s exploration. She tasted bittersweet, like beer and mint. 

Alas, it was over all too soon.

Tory sighed, it wasn’t a romance book kiss, it was brief and they were making each other’s acquaintance. She had thought this kiss would make her forgetForget the hurt, forget the past, forget the bad. And it did…sort of.

Because Lucas’ gentle, sweet kiss reminded her of something good.

He reminded her of Henry.

Except Lucas was alive.

“Goodnight, Lucas.” She whispered, kissing the corner of his lips before standing up to go to the couch before he could see it all in her eyes.

Lucas had other ideas, he caught her wrist and turned her palm up to kiss it.

“Wanna share today?” he asked hopefully.

“I’m a blanket hog.” Tory warned him.

Lucas laughed and pulled her towards him.

“I can live with that.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

The burn was different.

Negan felt an almost pleasant scorch as new words appeared on his skin.

 

Goodnight, Lucas.

 

Lucas…one of his men?

Definitely.

Who else could be?

Negan told himself he didn’t care. Ultimately, why would he? He had the girl brought to the Sanctuary because she was a liability back in Alexandria, where she could tell Rick or anyone else about the connection they shared. Negan wasn’t ready to be vulnerable and open to attack so soon after the recent developments.

He hadn’t cared about Henry.

He definitely hadn’t cared about Gutless Spencer.

So why would he fucking care about Lucas?

Because, a voice whispered in his mind, just because. 

 • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •      

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory felt the warmth of the sun on her skin and opened her eyes slowly to a perfectly clear sky. Blue so intense it seemed azure was the first thing her eyes caught. She hadn’t seen such an intensely azure color since before the dead started to rise.

Tory found herself in the backyard of her grandparents’ house in San Diego. The smell of the freshly mowed grass and the flowers, the sound of the neighbors’ sprinkles and a dog barking in the distance felt unbelievably real. 

Her heart tugged painfully as she laid over the grass, letting the sun toast her a bit longer.

“It’s nice right?”

Tory turned abruptly to Henry, who was sitting beside her and hugging his knees.

The young woman swallowed hard.

“I guess.” She ventured quietly, watching her former lover.

Looking at him hurt and felt heavenly at the same time. Henry was forever stuck in the perfection of his interrupted twenty-one years of age, younger now than she was. Tears prickled at her eyes as Tory sighed.

“Why are you here, Henry?”

“I’m checking on you, kitten.” He answered without looking at her.

Henry could be dead all he wanted, but he was lying. When he tightened his arms around his knees, Tory knew he was definitely lying.

“Really?”

Henry chuckled, no humor tinted his laugh.

“Someone has to make sure you don’t slip.”

“Henry, I’ve been slipping for years, it’s a bit late, don’t ya’ think?” Tory asked cynically. “Why are you here?”

“I can’t tell you if I want to come back, Kitten.” Henry pleaded, his voice fading slowly as he spoke. “Be careful an…”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •  

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

Muttering.

Lucas woke up to the soft sound of muttering in his ear.

“Need to tell me…”

He blinked in confusion, remembering the warm weight between his arms and hearing the scratchy voice against his neck. Tory was snuggled up with her head under his chin and her right arm firmly placed across his chest. It was a good thing, as Lucas thought that, had he been the big spoon, Tory would have noticed his morning wood. 

Damn, he wanted her so much, and he knew she wanted him too.

Whatever they were waiting for, Lucas didn’t know, but he could give his girl the time to make her head up.

“You okay, California?” he asked, his voice as raspy as Tory’s. He only got her to snuggle closer, leaning on his body with hers.

Fuck.

He needed to get laid, preferably with his roommate.

“California?”

“Mhhm?” Tory ‘asked’.

“I know you’re awake already.” Lucas admonished.

“I was admiring the view.” Tory sassed. In that moment, Lucas realized she meant his erection. “I’d love to do wicked stuff, Luc, but I have to be in the kitchen and I want quality time with…you.”

“Quality time?” Lucas chuckled, watching as Tory turned her eyes to him, a mischievous glint shone in the grey irises. “California, you’re gonna be the death of me.”

“Only a little.” Tory kissed his cheek gently and sat on the bed. Again, she was wearing one of his t-shirts and some shorts Vera had leant her to sleep in. “I can’t really help it if you’re so happy to see me.”

“You are a dangerous woman, Cali.” Lucas told her in a warning tone.

She looked at him over her shoulder and threw him a seductive smirk.

“Maybe so.”

“Want coffee?”

“You know I do.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan supervised the preparation after breakfast, faking vigilance as he entered the kitchens, where he found Tanya and Gorgeous in a deep conversation about the desert for after the ceremony.

Gorgeous seemed concentrated and driven as she explained the actual capacity of the kitchens and how much they could really stretch that capacity for a vain celebration.

The leader of the Saviors concluded that his soulmate was a mystery. She wasn’t exactly liked amongst his workers or Saviors, with few exceptions. 

Tyler didn’t like the girl at all, and Negan thought that his man was expecting her to slip so he could take revenge, even when Negan had prohibited all notions of revenge against any Alexandrian. 

Victoria Miller was a weird girl. The children of the Sanctuary had taken to follow her in her spare time, and she seemed unbothered when entertaining them with silly jokes or cheap card tricks. Someone had mentioned she made some honey and ginger caramels as a cough remedy and gave them away. 

No points needed. 

She used her own.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • *

“She is just that way, Negan.” Martha had scolded him when he brought the subject up.

“We don’t really know her, angel face.” He pouted in the privacy of his room. 

Martha shook her head in disbelief.

“Not everyone is trying to murder us. Let alone a girl like Tory.” His wife had defended.

Negan frowned. “Since when are you such good friends?”

“Well, she is also working in the infirmary and helps a bit in the gardens. Tim and Danny say she is funny.”

Negan smirked at Martha. “And you call me paranoid?”

“You are.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • *

Mysterious wasn’t really cutting it.

The girl was practically secretive. Out of the activities he could monitor, Negan had no idea how his soulmate actually spent her time. She was diligent and had some weird work ethic that she seemingly bent at will when she thought something was unfair. Gorgeous had made fast friends with Gelato-girl and Lucas, to the point of becoming the latter’s roommate. And out of that, Negan didn’t know the slightest shit about her.

There were absolutely no rumors about him having a soulmate, not even the tiniest problem.

Victoria Miller acted as if she didn’t know he existed, and that was a bitter pill to swallow

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Martha found Negan in his room, pouring over a little notebook with apparent desperation.

“What are you doing?” she asked, trying to keep the panic out of her voice.

Negan lifted his head and signaled for Martha to close the door behind her. “I’m writing, woman, what does it look like?”

Martha rolled her honey-like eyes at him and sat by his side. “It looks like someone asked you to kill your puppy.” Negan threw her a dirty look and proceeded to cross some words in the page. Curiosity won over her and Martha read from over Negan’s shoulder.

“Dearly beloved we’re gather…” Martha paused and covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh my! You’re not officiating that right?!”

It was the wrong thing to say.

“I was married once, you know.” He complained, very much offended.

“Yeah, but how long ago?” Martha inquired with real worry.

“Angel face, I don’t wanna be an asshole, but you are ruining the mood.” Negan sniffled at her, his voice sounding so uppity she almost laughed on his face.

“Okay, I’ll go, but have someone look over that, Negan.”

“I can do good myself.” He complained as she exited his room.

That wedding was painting to become memorable for one reason or other.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •    

Tory was sitting outside, enjoying the breeze at the fire escape when she heard some grumbling and heavy steps rattle the steel of the stairs.

“Doesn’t fucking work.” A deep voice complained.

Negan.

She definitely didn’t weigh her options when she spoke.

“What doesn’t work?”

“Shit, who the shit?!” he exclaimed, dropping what seemed to be a pen, which Tory lifted and offered to him as Negan regained his composure and cool. “The fuck you’re doing here?”

Tory winced at his swearing but shrugged instead of answering as she took a long drink to her bottle of coffee. The only thing keeping her headache at bay.

“I’m taking a break; the kitchen is too hot.”

Negan huffed. “Might as well make yourself useful.” He pushed the little notepad in her hands and gave her the pen as well.

“What’s this?” she asked, widening her already big, grey eyes.

“What does it look like to you?” he snapped.

“Spider scrawl.” Tory retorted.

“Well, you’re wrong there, Gorgeous. That’s a wedding mass.”

Delicate eyebrows rose, and her eyes went back to the notebook. “Let’s see.”

“Dearly beloved, we’re gathered here to celebrate the union of two people…No, too stiff.” She crossed his writing and wrote in her tidy, loopy style in the margin, drawing an arrow to signal where he was to continue. 

“Negan, this is awful.” She said, not thinking of him or his feelings. Little shit.

He made to take the notebook away from her, but she kept it out of his reach until she had corrected all the speech. Negan sat beside her, Lucille between his legs, and with a good arms distance between the two.

“I hope it helps. I’ve only been to the one wedding, but I remember enough.” Tory handed the notepad back to him ten minutes later. “Try to give it a special twist if you can. Vera and Chase deserve it.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Gorgeous stood from her seat, taking her bottled coffee and fanning her slim neck with her free hand. She was wearing a long-sleeved flannel shirt, and even Negan had to accept the heat was still in full swing.

“Why the whole ‘fully covered style’?” he asked her. 

Negan just knew he had fucked up when her shoulders stiffened and her face fell.

“Is none of your business.” She stated coldly.

“You’re wrong there, Gorgeous. It is my business.” He countered, feeling a sudden irritation rise within him.

She laughed, cold and hard. “It hasn’t been your business for twenty-four years, and I won’t let you make it your business now.”

She was gone before he could answer.

It is my business. It. Is. Negan thought to himself. 

Whether she wanted it or not.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

The wedding would be the next morning and Tory was trying to fall asleep.

Somehow, she found herself unable to without Lucas in bed with her. So, Tory took the book Lucas had been reading the previous nights. It wasn’t that relaxing, nor was it boring and she ended up falling asleep after all.

“California? Cali, wake up.” Lucas shook her softly, and Tory jumped slightly.

“Lucas.” She sighed, feeling calmer the moment he caught his eyes with her own. He smiled at her.

“Hey.” He laid in the bed, facing her and taking the book back to his night stand. His hair was damp and curlier than she remembered, he hadn’t brushed it just yet after his shower.

He kissed her.

Tory loved Lucas kisses, the warm feelings they produced and that spread through her chest as his lips and hers communicated through touch and pleasure. Lucas didn’t just peck her lips or kissed her mouth, he made it an art, savoring every moment it lasted, imprinting passion and promises with his lips and tongue as he slid his hand up her waist to her back, bringing Tory closer to him until their chests touched.

“Damn, California…” he breathed.

“I want you.” Tory blurted out, before she was conscious or certain about her words. Lucas smiled and pushed Tory on her back, using his free arm as leverage to straddle Tory.

“Are you sure, California? Because I really want you right now.” He asked.

Tory knew she wanted him, and she wanted him even more because she could see his arousal tenting the sleeping pants he had put on after his shower.

“Yes, Lucas.” She breathed out, feeling her chest explode with warmth and happiness the moment he kissed her again, using his tongue to part her lips and explore hers, dominating her to submission with slow caresses and gentle coaxing. Tory could barely breath, but she would have drowned happily for those kisses.

Lucas didn’t keep his hands on her arms, though. His hands slid down her skin, uncaring of the many, many marks on her arms and the recent cuts on her hands. With a little help from Tory, Lucas lifted her t-shirt. 

“Oh, fuck, Cali…” he panted, seeing as Tory was wearing underpants and nothing more under her pajamas.

Tory didn’t think she still had the ability to blush, but she blushed all the same as Lucas’ hands touched and prodded her breasts softly, teasing and pinching as he went. 

“Open those pretty lips, California.” He commanded and she obeyed. 

Lucas inserted his forefinger and middle finger in her mouth and Tory sucked. A predatory smile took over Lucas and she shivered with anticipation.

Oh, it felt so good. Lucas’ touch was hot against her own, warm skin, but her own saliva over one nipple and then the other felt glorious when he breathed over them to make them stiffer.

“Lucas…” Tory pleaded unsure of what she wanted from him, but still calling out his name. 

“Shhh. Let me have you, California.” He admonished gently, before sucking one of her breasts, while tending the other with his hand.

Tory felt quite useless, receiving his attentions but not able to do much more than touch Lucas’s back with one hand and bunch the bed sheets with the other.

“You taste so sweet, California.” Lucas made her know. “I’m taking my time with you.”

Suddenly as he had kissed and straddled her, Lucas knelt and took Tory’s waist so she would sit, still under him. “I need you on me, Tory.”

“O-okay.” She stuttered.

“Don’t be shy. I want you to enjoy this.”

“I am.”

They smiled, and Tory finally sat on his thighs, straddling Lucas’s hot arousal. Lucas’s light and experienced fingers went to the waist band of her underwear and Tory moaned lowly.

“You can do better than that, California.” He fake-mocked her.

“Thin walls, love.” She answered.

True, Lucas thought to himself. 

“Off with this.” Tory said, taking off his shirt as he ripped her panties. 

Tory wasn’t really expecting Lucas’ fingers to feel so good, or to have felt so sexually deprived and touch starved. His fingers felt cold as they slid between her slick folds, and she wondered when she had last felt this much pleasure.

They kissed again. Lucas swallowed Tory’s squeal of pleasure as his fingers entered her, scissoring and preparing the way, just in case. But, she was already so wet and ready for him. He pushed her back on the bed, gently, letting Tory fall back on the pillows. Lucas couldn’t recall the last time he had gotten rid of his clothes so fast -at least not for pleasure-.

“Lucas.”

Tory’s shy voice broke into his mind and Lucas watched her attentively. She was flushed with pleasure and desire, her pupils blown and her lips slightly parted with her panting.

“I’ve got a soulmate.” She said.

“I know.” Lucas said, then: “So? He ain’t here, California.”

Lucas smiled when she closed her mouth as he lined himself up to enter her.

“But he is!” she said, blushing further as she wiggled under him, trying to get closer. “He’s here.”

“Feel something for him, do you?” Lucas said, trying to distract her with his touch, making her writhe in delight, earning himself another sweet moan. 

Fuck, she was one of those quiet lovers.

“I don’t know him.” Tory breathed out, a slightly confused look in her face.

“Doesn’t matter then. Just you and me here, Tory.”

They kissed again, briefly and fierce.

Tory thought she would combust in pleasure when Lucas finally went inside her. The initial penetration stretched her a bit. She wasn’t exactly sure how big he was, but Spencer had nothing on Lucas. She giggled at the thought.

“Something funny?” Lucas asked, panting with the effort of holding back.

“No, love. Just fuck me.” She bossed him, happiness infecting her voice.

“Your wish…” Lucas pulled out, only to slam back into her, making Tory squirm as she bit her lip, worried that someone would hear.

Every thrust pushed Tory closer and closer to orgasm as she and Lucas moved in unison, finding an almost punishing pace, something she had never done before.

“Cali…oh, California.” Lucas kissed her lips, her jaw, her neck, and biting her along the way. 

Tory circled his shoulders with her arms, looking for leverage as Lucas pushed into her, harder every time. Her lower belly felt like it was on fire as he wound her up with every move.

“I’m close.” Lucas panted, but Tory couldn’t even speak and just nodded.

She was close too.

Her orgasm was a surprise, Tory felt herself clench hard around Lucas’ cock. Tory muffled a low whine of satisfaction as her muscles gripped her lover. Lucas groaned as he pulled out of her, in time to come over her flat stomach, and then fell on top of her. They were a sticky, sweaty mess, but the air in the room felt cool on their skins. Lucas kissed her again and Tory answered his call with enthusiasm, uncaring for her shortness of breath.

He dragged himself to her side.

“It was…” Lucas started.

“Intense?” Tory asked.

Lucas laughed with a breathy, satisfied laugh, but nodded.

They were silent for a few minutes, basking in the afterglow of their pleasure.

Then Tory made a proposition. 

“Round two?” 

Lucas couldn’t help his smile as his cock twitched.

“Yeah.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

 

Round two?

 

Negan felt a little fluttering in his chest. He knew there was no reason for him to feel this way. 

Unsatisfied, discontent, needy.

Those feelings weren’t his.

Negan intended to find out why Victoria Miller had managed to get under his skin, but in order to do that, it required him to figure out a way to get along with his disinterested soul mate. 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •    • • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

Tory woke up slowly to a dark room. Her body felt tired, and just the right sort of sore. She felt warm and protected with Lucas’ arms around her.

The peace and quiet told her it was still early. 

Not long after their last tumble on Lucas’s bed. 

Their bed now.

“Tory, I can feel you thinking.” Lucas muttered into her hair. “Sleep now.”

“It’s okay.” Tory sighed. “I gotta go prepare stuff anyway. And take a shower too.”

“You smell amazing.” Lucas told her in a raspy voice. 

A smile spread across her lips.

“I smell like you and sweat and cum.” Tory paused. “I’ve got no problem, but I should smell clean, it’s a special occasion.”

“I know you still have time, California.” Lucas said, tucking her hair from her back to her neck, where he placed some delightfully sloppy kisses.

“Lucas. I. Can’t.” she groaned, feeling her body react immediately.

“Oh, Cali, I know you definitely can.” Lucas moved the hand around her waist, down to her sex and she gasped.

“Damn it.” Tory hissed. “Just one more time.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

The people of the Sanctuary had donned their best clothes and everyone was muttering in excitement.

Tory was watching through one of the doors as Vera fidgeted with her clothes.

Her friend was wearing a baby blue dress that reached just under her knees in a flattering cut, and a wild flower bouquet, courtesy of Vivienne. Frankie had offered her expertise, along with Amber to fix Vera’s hair and makeup. She was done pretty and was glowing with happiness.

“Who’s giving you away?” Tory asked, trying to distract her friend.

“I was expecting Ben to do it.” Vera whispered, removing something in Tory’s memory. “But that’s not possible, so Lucas will.”

Tory blinked in surprise. “He didn’t tell me.” 

Vera’s eyes flashed at her words, but she stored the information for later.

“He and my brother were friends. Ben died at the outpost.”

The grey eyed girl felt her stomach clench with regret and guilt but ignored the feeling.

“Well, you can remember him, right?”

Vera nodded.

“You don’t look like you rested much, Tory.” Vera commented with a sly grin, distracting both girls from the grim topic.

Tory blushed hard and looked away and passed a hand through her hair, catching a few gnarls with her fingers.

“I…well.”

“You don’t have to say anything.” Vera told her, smugly. “I saw the love bites on Lucas’ neck.”

Tory felt her skin boil.

“I approve.” Her friend informed her with a satisfied smile.

“Thanks?”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan had tried to learn the speech that his soulmate had corrected for him.

He didn’t exactly know how insightful she was about his people, but Negan had a hard time thinking about it.

Now, his challenge was to get Gelato girl and her boy toy married, and he wasn’t sure how to do that without letting go a couple of curses every other minute. Negan’s memory of his own wedding was fussy at best, he could definitely remember Lucille’s wedding dress, and the smell of her perfume, the champagne that they had their fill of…

The leader of the saviors shook his head. It was not the moment.

The people of the Sanctuary stood around in a semi-circle close to the exit doors of the building. Somehow, no one thought that having the wedding facing the furnace would be a good idea, no matter how extremely badass it sounded.

The blond kid arrived first, looking clean and nervous.

“You sure ‘bout this, Chasey-boy?” Negan asked, regaling the man with a cynical grin.

“Yes, sir.” He answered, firmer than he would have, seeing as Chase had a difficult time swallowing.

Negan was about to tease Chase again when the people parted for the bride. Negan always knew Gelato girl cleaned up good, and he thought she looked radiant.

And damn, if he didn’t envy Chase when he smiled at her like the proudest fool on earth.

He exchanged some words with Lucas, who had a stern expression on him.

The murmuring was getting on Negan’s nerves and he lifted his hands to appease the miscellaneous crowd that his people made.

“I’m not gonna start this with dearly beloved.” Negan declared. “We all know these two.”

He turned to Vera.

“Is not too late, V-girl. I did ask you once.” He gestured at her with a flirty wink.

Vera smiled bright.

“Thank you, but no. We’re fine.”

“A damn loss, I tell you. Where was I?”

“Not dearly beloved.” Chase chuckled.

“Damn right!”

Great, the first one.

“Vera and Chase want to get married and who am I to say no?” Negan’s voice boomed in the suddenly undisturbed silence of the factory floor. “I don’t think they need to make that commitment, but here we are all the same.”

Some giggles could be heard and his people smiled, making Negan feel a slight flutter of pride in his chest.

“Marriage…” He continued, but fell silent. He had been a shitty husband to his splendid wife and Negan tried to remember the words he had read over and over again. “Is more than saying I have a wife, and I have a husband.”

Chase and Vera looked at each other with big smiles.

“You’re not gonna be happy all the fucking time.” Negan could hear the winces as he cursed again. “You’re gonna fight and disagree, but at the end of the day, you’re gonna be there for each other.”

Negan caught Martha smiling, surprised and proud of him. This felt good.

“Chase, boy, you gotta take care of your girl, she is way better than you.”

He mouthed ‘I know’.

“Are you sure about this, girlie?” Negan asked again, only to be glared at by Vera. “okay, okay. Let’s get to the fucking point.”

“Chase, do you take Vera as your wife, to protect and care for her, for better or for worse, mostly worse, let’s be real” Some people laughed at this, but he was serious. “You know all speech.” Victoria had written till death do you part, but Negan couldn’t bring himself to say it.

“I do.” Chase smiled and squeezed the hands of his very-soon-to-be-wife.

“Vera, do you take this big fool here, to protect and care for, for better and worse, even when you had an even better proposal?”

“I do.”

Damn, no hesitation. Stone cold, she was.

“Okay, rings…uh…”

At this, the faces of both groom and bride blanched and Negan had to bite his lip hard not to laugh at them. 

“I’ve got them!”

Well, if it wasn’t Gorgeous walking towards them, nothing in her hands as she pushed her way to the unsuspecting couple.

“Here.” Gorgeous said, lifting a thin chain from her neck, showing two pretty wedding rings. “Be careful okay?” she warned as she unclasped the chain and gave each the right ring.

Negan stayed silent as the exchange occurred and then:

“I know nobody will object so I present you…What’s your name, boy?”

“O-Owens.” Chase stuttered.

“Yeah, that.” Negan muttered. “I present you Mr. and Mrs. Owens.”

Finally, he was fucking done.

Negan was about to turn around when he remembered: “Oh, yeah, kid, kiss your bride.”

In the end it Mrs. Gelato who jumped Mr. Gelato, and Negan was not even a bit surprised.

The girl had balls.  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory had walked up to Lucas to see the rest of the wedding, feeling the absence of the rings acutely, but she was never going to use them anyway.

“That was sweet of you, California.” Lucas said, squeezing her marked arm affectionately.

She smiled up at him.

“I think they deserve all the happiness they can get.”

Lucas nodded.

“That they do.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

The celebration took most of the day and no one even commented on how that would make a dent into the steady production of the Sanctuary.

Everyone was happy with a bit of celebration, good food and alcohol.

Negan felt satisfied seeing the children run free in the sea of people, and hearing the old tunes of the rackety jukebox his men had found long ago.

The happy couple was dancing as if they had no care in the world. Actually, no one bothered them as they swayed slowly, even if the tune wasn’t the right one.

Then he heard it.

“...but I can’t help, falling in love, with you…

He thought no one noticed as he slipped out of the celebration, but hazel and grey eyes noticed him leaving, and neither woman decided to follow.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

It was late into the night when Lucas pushed Tory into their room, trying to disrobe her as fast as he could.

“Why the sudden urgency?” Tory panted, letting him kiss her slim neck as she pushed his shirt off his shoulder.

“Celebrating.” He murmured after nipping slightly at the skin of her shoulder.

“Celebrating, are we?” the brunette moaned when Lucas fell to his knees to undo her jeans.

“For Vera and Chase.” Lucas murmured against the skin of her abdomen, kissing the puckered skin of the scar under her belly bottom.

Tory felt something akin to love burst in her chest.

“Okay.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory felt slightly hungover.

Beer was the worst.

And yet, it was a welcome feeling, even if she usually detested it. 

Harlan seemed to be happy though, and the whole infirmary felt lighter because of it.

“You’d think young people would have other priorities.” He had mentioned.

Tory smiled.

“We live in a different time, not a different world, we can use the love, right?”

Harlan had smiled fondly and nodded.  

“Do you want coffee?” he asked with his hand on the door handle. “I’m going to see if I can get some.”

Tory could use some caffeine. “Sure.”

The doctor nodded and left, closing the door gently behind him.

The young woman sat and started taking note of how many aspirins they had given away this morning already. Tailing the points was easy, but it was tedious too.

Then, way too soon for the knock to be Harlan’s, someone called to the infirmary.

“Come in.” Tory called, without looking up, until perfectly clean, pointy black shoes appeared on the floor, directly in her field of vision.

Tory turned her eyes up to find Martha, wringing her hands nervously.

“Morning.” The wife said shyly.

“Good morning.” Tory answered.

A silence stretched between them.

“Can I help you with something?” Tory finally asked, putting her pencil down.

Martha fidgeted a bit more and blushed slightly, trying to tuck a rebellious lock of hair behind her ear, her eyes resting firmly behind Tory’s head.

“I need a pregnancy test, okay?” she blurted out.

Tory blinked in astonishment a few times. “What?” she asked, still baffled after a long, long minute.

“Test. For pregnancy.” Martha enunciated carefully.

Tory nodded and stood up, ready to dig into the cabinet where those things were zealously kept, along with the really strong sedatives and sleeping pills.

She gave Martha a little plastic cup and signaled for the backroom so she could ‘fill’ it.

This was awkward, and not only for her, but Tory was suddenly conscious of who Negan was and what Martha was to him.

Also…wasn’t he too old?

Her musings were interrupted when Martha came back, looking red in the face as Tory dipped the newly opened test in.

“Please, have a seat.” Tory said, feeling awful for forgetting her manners. 

Martha did sit, quite primly.

“How long does it take?”

“A couple minutes.”

Silence made those two minutes seem like years.

Tory checked the test. No color change, no nothing.

“I…I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay. I just thought…” Martha hugged herself and Tory had a hunch she was going to break down.

“It’s okay…it does happen.” Tory said, trying to find the right words.

Martha sobbed and she couldn’t help but embrace the woman in front of her. Tory had to accept Martha reminded her of her mother, and she had always hated when her mom cried.

“I get it.” Tory said. “You can keep trying.”

Martha sniffled some more. “He won’t touch any of us anymore.” Another round of sobs started. “I can’t blame him, he misses her.”

Tory frowned as she rubbed tiny circles on Martha’s back.

“You mean Lucille?” Tory asked, feeling Martha stiffen in her arms.  

“We don’t talk about her.” Martha said, pushing against Tory gently, trying to recover from her breakdown.

Tory rose one eyebrow in disbelief.

“Hardly true, the man named the bat Lucille.”

“It’s not Lucille I’m talking about.” Martha whispered and checked for arrivals. “Her name was Elle.”

Tory’s arm tingled, it felt funny.

And then she remembered.

This fucker killed Eric. He killed our people, Elle.


I can’t lose you, I’m sorry.


I love you.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

 

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •    • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

People used to study about the honing of the senses and the attunement to nature and one’s environment around them.

Tory was familiar with that reasoning and she believed in it from the bottom of her heart as it had proved useful to her for a long time. Right after the dead had started to raise, Tory had become attuned to the Jones’ household to the point she knew it better than the original inhabitants, or so her dad had said. When they had left Savannah and found Ben and his squad, it helped her get good at tracking and navigating the dangerous new world. When those blissful days in Lexington had happened, Tory became complacent and forgotten that people were more dangerous than the peril of the walking dead and she had wound up paying dearly for it.

She didn’t make that mistake again.

Alexandria had become her home, and she was better prepared to deal with the outside world if necessary, or to deal with the outside world coming to get them. However, she hadn’t been prepared for people like Rick Grimes.

And Rick Grimes was felled to the same stone with which she had stumbled before, but the consequences were…worse.

And everyone paid for his mistake.

That aforementioned attunement came back to her mind when Tory felt she was being watched.

It wouldn’t have been such a problem if Tory hadn’t been taking a shower.

Usually, it wouldn’t have bothered her. She was used to it being looked at. The people of the Sanctuary were no different from the people at Alexandria, and so, she had been seen with wariness and then reluctance. Some were starting to accept her. Tory hadn’t planned on giving up her parents’ rings, but when Chase and Vera had been blindsided by that, it had seemed like the right thing to do.

But this wasn’t that sort of look.

This was something predatory, and Tory could feel it in her skin. It was a weird feeling of awareness like something slimy had fallen on her and she was unable to wash it off.

A chuckle made its way through her lips and Tory turned her head under the stream of lukewarm water, washing away the excess of soap from her hair and face.

Say whatever about the Sanctuary, she thought, but they make the best soap.

Even so, the pretty smell of almond oil and oats didn’t take away the feeling of eyes on her body, so Victoria got out of the shower as silent as she could without slipping on the wet floor.

Dressing fast and furiously as soon as her body was passably dry was a hard task, the humidity made her clothes cling to her skin, and she feared tearing the soft cloth of her pajamas.

The moment she turned to leave the showers, her eyes caught the brief glimpse of one good eye giving her an unreadable glare. 

It’s nothing. GO AWAY!, her mind screamed at her as she practically ran away.

Tory knew she was lying to herself when she arrived at Lucas’ room.

Worse even, he was waiting up for her and definitely caught on her panting and frightened face.

“What’s wrong, California?”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory gasped quietly at his question, she seemed truly terrified.

“Nothing.” she lied, passing a hand through her damp hair and regaling him with a shaky smile.

Lucas could do two things, let her lie and come back to the topic later or push her for information. He decided for the former and invited her to bed.

Once they were tucked under the light blankets, Tory clung to him a bit closer, and a bit harder than before, and Lucas knew for certain then that she had lied.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

The smell of blood was so strong, Tory felt like gagging.

The sun was punishing her back as she tried to sit up, but there was just so much blood.

A flash of baby blue eyes and words she couldn’t understand.

She was holding onto Henry and trying to stop the blood flow, but it didn’t stop, and then it wasn’t Henry, it was her Dad, and he was trying to say something, but the pounding in her head was so insistent and painful.

An intense pair of eyes was on her, watching her suffer.

Someone was screaming and she just wanted to wake up, but something was stopping her.

“California!” 

California? Who’s California? 

“Tory! Wake up!”

She was shaking.

No.

Lucas was shaking her, trying to wake her up.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Grey, frightened and wide eyes fell on him and a single word escaped Tory’s lips as Lucas hugged her.

“Tyler.” She whispered.

Fuck.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory hadn’t slept that well. She had been in and out after that first, fuzzy nightmare that she could barely remember. Lucas didn’t say anything, but he had hugged her a bit harder, a bit closer, before she went out.

Harlan had noticed too, and then he had sent her to Vera, who noticed her shaky hands and paleness.

Vera sent her out.

“Go help Tim and Danny, they are with Viv. She’ll know what to do.” Vera sighed. “I can’t have you lose a finger because you’re shaking so hard you can barely hold the knife, Tory.”

She had accepted the argument.

Now, Tory was weeding the little garden right beside the big greenhouse, hunching a bit to escape the Virginian sun.

Tim Ross was silent, but the kid threw a glance her way every other minute and he was getting on her last nerve.

“Spit it out, kid.” She finally snapped.

Tim gasped and his wide, toffee colored eyes fell on her, full of surprise.

“N-no, sorry. I was…I’m, well…curious?” the boy stuttered his way through the question.

Tory frowned slightly. “I’m not gonna eat you, kid. Or hurt you.”

“You cut Tyler’s eye out.” He blurted out, making her hand stop over a weed.

“I didn’t actually cut his eye out, he would have an empty socket.” She told him, baring the reasonable truth to him.

The boy seemed to consider it and then nodded. This kid reminded her of Peyton. Shy like herself, her long-lost boyfriend had been driven to extroversion by their Henry, but Tim wasn’t quite in that stage yet.

“Don’t slack, you two!” Danny shouted as he passed with a bucket in his gloved hands, following Vivienne as she instructed him in what to do next.

Properly scolded, Tory went back to work, not without noticing Tim’s suddenly red cheeks.

His eyes met hers.

“Please don’t say anything, you have that crazy look Vera gets.” Tim pleaded with her. 

This made Tory laugh, but she nodded in agreement.

“Oh, she laughs!”

Tim and Tory turned around to find the leader of the saviors in their turf.

Well, technically, his turf

Tim dropped his head and Tory narrowed her eyes and craning her head up.

“What do you want?”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan smirked.

“I want to talk to you, Gorgeous! What else?” he knew his voice carried, he just didn’t expect Vivienne to come out and see what was happening.

“Negan.”

“Viv.”

Tory didn’t seem bothered about the interruption and kept to her task.

“Are you here to steal my workers?” Vivienne teased, not without a little note of sobriety.

“Never, Viv.” He lied. Negan had planned to talk to Victoria back in the infirmary, but the good new doc had told him she wasn’t fit for the day and had sent her to the kitchen. The new Mrs. had told him she too, had sent his problematic and elusive soulmate out to get some sun. “I’m making an appointment.”

Vivienne narrowed her eyes, but Negan was unable to read her expression.

“Quick.” Vivienne ordered, before turning around and back into her domain.

Negan looked at the kid that had gone back to weeding the garden. “Kid.”

He looked at him, eyes wide and scared. “Go get something else done.”

“Y-yes, sir, what sir?”

Negan shrugged.

“Help your papa or something, just go away.”

His soulmate’s frown became deeper and her eyes narrowed to slits.

“Rude.” She muttered in a barely audible tone.

“Get up, missy.” Negan ordered, unconsciously tightening his hold around Lucille.

Tory sighed visibly. He noticed she was still shaky as she patted herself to get rid of the dirt and dust.

“Come with me, we’re not staying under the sun.”

They walked until they stood underneath the shadow of the factory, covering them from the unrelenting sunrays.

Victoria Miller was not looking at him.

“I didn’t peg you for a coward, Gorgeous.” Negan told her, serious and unamused as he looked at her. 

She scoffed, the little shit.

“I’m tired.” Victoria said, giving no other explanation.

“If I didn’t know your age I would say you’re in withdrawal.” He teased. However, the silence and her suddenly stiffer body didn’t go unnoticed. “Anything you wanna say in your own fucking defense?” Negan was so angry out of nowhere. “Those fucking pills aren’t the way out and…”

“What pills?” Tory snapped.

“You’re not on drugs?” Negan pushed.

“No, no I’m not.” 

That much was true, but Victoria had gone through her nails in barely a couple weeks, the hem of the shirt she was wearing was wrung out like it had turned on itself too many times.

“Still in withdrawal, though.”

She didn’t look at him. “I’m getting better.”

“You’re too fucking shaky to work your usual shifts.” Negan countered, feeling his temper rise with each passing second without answers. 

So far, his soulmate was being sincere, but for how long?

“I had a bad night, okay?” Victoria answered, defensively. “It’s none of your business, I’ve got it under control.”

Negan laughed sardonically. 

All of her business was his now.

“You’ve got as much control of that as I do with fucking Rick.” He groaned out. 

A look of fierce loyalty crossed those big, grey eyes and Negan felt a flare of jealousy burn across his chest. 

“Whatever. I want you in my room tonight.”

“What?” the Miller girl recoiled from him, a slightly disgusted sneer curled her lip. “No, I’ve got plans.”

“Fucking someone in private doesn’t mean plans.” He countered, making her blush hard.

“Not your business!” she hissed, without backing down.

“You go to my room, or your roommate spends his night in a cell. How is that for a deal?”

“Not fair!”

Oh, the fight was back in Gorgeous’ eyes.

“Doesn’t fucking matter, Gorgeous. I make all the rules here, thanks to this lovely lady.” He bragged while showing her Lucille. The hateful glare she directed at him was worth it.

“Don’t look at me like that Gorgeous or you’re gonna turn little Negan on.” Negan flirted, his voice deep and low at the same time.

“Oh, God, you named your penis?” Victoria Miller stated, completely appalled.

“He is my faithful companion.” Negan boasted with pride swelling his chest.

“He has no choice.” His soulmate deadpanned with brutal accuracy.

Negan frowned, not feeling entirely offended.

“Tonight, Gorgeous. We gotta get to know each other.” He repeated more sternly, then added insult to the injury. “My room, after dinner. You know what will happen.”

The distinct muttering ’asshole’ did reach Negan’s ears, and damn if he didn’t laugh back at her.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Lucas knew he was angry.

He also knew he was being a bit too territorial, but he couldn’t help it at all.

He found Tyler outside, watching the scavengers as they prepared to leave, a wistful expression on his face. 

Tory had ruined that for him, but she was still short a family member, and Tyler was still a savior, Lucas could do so many things. He steeled himself and approached his former friend. He knew he couldn’t be silent because the gravel of the ground would give away his presence.

“Hey, man.” Tyler greeted.

“Stop it, dude.” Tyler retorted, trying not to snap.

The weird glint in the one eye Tyler had left told Lucas that the other man knew exactly what he was talking about.

“So, she realized?” Tyler asked, his voice devoid of emotion. “that Kitten is sharper than she looks.”

“Leave. Her. Alone.” Lucas ordered. “I won’t have a repeat of what happened with Vera. Chase might have forgiven you, but I won’t.”

Tyler smirked and then grinned. Lucas felt as if someone had dropped cold water on him.

“I think she can tell me herself,” Tyler replied, “after all, she is all cozy up with Negan now, right?”

Lucas knew he was defeated the moment Tyler turned his back on him and left towards the factory building. He wasn’t sure, but Lucas felt as if the price of his failure would be more than he was willing to give.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Roy had learned his daughter’s schedule from memory.

He knew she was a bit erratic sometimes, but he had more or less an idea of how to find her. Wherever Lucas was, Tory wouldn’t be far away, unless they were working.

As it was, Roy Miller was waiting by the door of Lucas’ room expecting his daughter to appear sooner, rather than later.

For as long as he had known she was in the Sanctuary, Roy had fought the impulse of looking for Tory and get her to hear his side of things. He remembered the scrawny fourteen-year-old that had punched him in a graveyard. 

He hadn’t expected to see a woman so similar to Erin it made his heart ache in longing for his deceased ex-wife. Victoria had changed quite a bit in the ten years since he had last seen her, what hadn’t changed was her disdain for him. His daughter still despised him and preferred the comfort that strangers gave her to the one he could offer.

The vicious part of his mind, however, reminded him that he is a stranger to his little girl.

Roy was taken out of his musings by Victoria’s voice. He hadn’t seen her come.

“What are you doing here?”

Victoria had her eyes narrowed and a sour grimace that marred her usually pleasant expression.  

“I had to talk to you, Victoria. You are avoiding me.” Roy wanted to smack himself stupid for it. He hadn’t planned those words, or the harsh tone he used

His daughter rolled her eyes in contempt and crossed her arms with a defiant expression in her face.

“So, speak, we don’t have all day.”

“I know you’re finished for the day.” He countered.

It seemed all she could do not to punch him. “My schedule suffered a bit of a modification.” Victoria said sarcastically. “I need to run, so, spit it out.”

“We need to talk of a lot of things. Negan is…” he started, noticing the tenseness of the young woman’s shoulders as he mentioned the leader of their community.

“Shut up.” She hissed. “do you want to get me killed or what?”

“Victoria, be reasonable.” Roy pleaded, raising his hands in a conciliatory gesture, but Victoria flinched away from him anyway.

It hurt.

“I remember mom asking the same from you, but she didn’t get what she wanted either.” Roy had to admit, his daughter knew exactly what to say to make him feel like trash. 

“What happened between your mother and myself wasn’t like that, Victoria.” He tried defending, but she wasn’t having it.

“Yeah, sure. That’s why grandma had to crash a vase on your head.” An undertone of hysteria was starting to show in Victoria’s voice as she spoke. “Stay away from me. You’re not my dad. My dad is gone. You’re a stranger in a fucking undesirable place that I can’t escape.”

Roy recoiled from his daughter as if he had been slapped. She was panting hard, as if talking to him was a physical effort she could not deal with. Roy passed a hand through his hair in despair. This wasn’t going the way he had planned at all.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan felt the sting of his soulmarks as he arrived to his rooms after dinner.

“Fuck, fuck this shit.” He growled, taking off his jacket.

(spaceShut up, do you want to get me killed or what?

Panic shot through his system and Negan took off running. He had walked past that door so many times already he knew the way by heart.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

As it turned out, and Tory should have expected, things could go from bad to worst in the blink of an eye.

Knowing this didn’t spare her of the sinking surprise and the cold feeling of horror curling in her stomach when she saw.

Roy Miller had a scar under his right collarbone, but over the scar was the perfect outline of writing. Neat, pretty writing, prettier than her own, petite letters with an elegant style she didn’t know. The writing was faded gray and Tory couldn’t read it, but she knew. She knew what it was.

Suddenly, she found it hard to breathe.

“You tried to kill her.” Tory muttered between gasping breaths.

The scene was crystal clear in her mind, Roy’s hands around her mother’s throat as he squeezed harder and harder, until Erin Miller was unresponsive. Until grandma Eli crashed a vase on his head because Tory had a soulmate.

Because he had projected himself into her life? 

“Victoria, listen to me, this…fuck.” He tried to touch her and it was simply too much.

A sound that shouldn’t be called human came out of her as she pushed Roy away. The man winced when he hit the wall behind him.

Tory’s rational mind was subdued under the fear, hurt and anger. Under years of suppressed feelings and the most recent trauma, there was no way she could calm herself down.

So, she let herself run the course.

It was for the best.  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the blubbering, sobbing mess that was his soulmate curled on the floor.

One of his men was trying to console her, and he was a fucking failure too.

The girl recoiled from his touch every time he tried.

“Stop.” The word was out of his mouth before he could stop himself.

“I don’t know what’s happening to her.” It was Miller. The man that had replaced Simon when the satellite outpost opened for business.

“It’s a fucking panic attack.” Negan growled. He had seen Lucille have them, and many others, then later…He shook his head and approached Victoria with confident steps. Whatever she was muttering it was heavy with emotion, because those words were searing his flesh.

“Gorgeous?” His soulmate whimpered pitifully and curled more into herself. “Come on, you need to breathe.”

“No. no. no.” she kept muttering, and Negan would have let her be had she not been tearing at her skin in response.

Touching her was a mistake, because she tried to claw at him.

“Help her up, you shit!” Negan growled at Miller, who knelt beside him, to help immobilized her. She kept fighting them, but it was futile.

I don’t care. I’m just helping I don’t care. Negan repeated to himself. He was lying, of course, but no one else knew that.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Martha was watching Negan as he sat, listening to Dr. Carson instructions.

She didn’t exactly know what Roy Miller was doing inside the infirmary, but the man had a weird expression of guilt in his face that Martha couldn’t place.

“The sedative will wear off in a few hours. I hope she will be calm when she wakes up.” Harlan said, worrying his fingers on the hem of his shirt, his eyes fixed on Negan. “I knew she had some issues, but this seems to be deeper than just a few extra drinks and lack of sleep.”

Negan frowned deep at the insinuation.

“Do you think she’s sneaking…things from here?”

Harlan’s eyes widened. “No!” the doctor exclaimed. “We both check the inventory and she is meticulous. Nothing is missing.”

Martha exhaled a breath she didn’t know she was holding.

“Mom.” Tory muttered, turning her head a bit, and catching everyone’s attention.

Martha’s heart clenched in her chest at her words, she didn’t know what the younger woman meant, but it sure hurt her. The girl said nothing else and kept sleeping.

“Doc, I want Miller out of here.” Negan declared. “He has to answer some questions.”

Harlan nodded.

“You think you can stay?” her husband asked the doctor, who nodded again.

“I’ll stay too.” Martha volunteered.

If Negan was surprised, he said nothing, he merely accepted it and proceeded to drag Roy out of the room.

The wife went and took the seat that Negan had just vacated. Tory seemed a lot younger when she slept, and her expression seemed less guarded and stern.

“I’ll go put the backroom in order, call me if anything happens, please?” Harlan asked.

“Yes.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan grabbed the collar of Roy Miller’s short and pushed him against the nearest wall.

“I know who the fuck you are.” Negan drawled, his voice dangerously low. “You have some big balls to approach Gorgeous under my fucking nose, Papa.

Roy Miller was pale, but he didn’t lose the disgusted sneer as he heard him.

“Whose fault do you think that is, Negan?” the father of his soulmate shot back.

“Oh, don’t put your shit attitude on others, Miller. Stay away from her.” Negan deadpanned.

“I think you should heed your shitty advice.” Roy growled back. “Stay. Away. From. My. Daughter.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Martha watched with a combination of surprise and shame as words appeared in Tory’s arm. She recognized the writing. Martha had seen it thousands of times, she had seen as the words poured from a firm, long-fingered hand.

 

You have some big balls to approach Gorgeous under my fucking nose, Papa.

 

The brunette blinked several times, reading and re-reading the words.

Only one person used that nickname on Tory Jones, a nickname she had considered adorable until that moment.

Goddamnit.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •    • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

Martha lied to Harlan, by telling him she had gone to get some coffee for the night ahead. In truth, she couldn’t stand the minuscule infirmary.

What Martha couldn’t stand was being in the same room as the soulmate of her husband without being able to confront the woman about it. Part of her knew that Tory had no more fault than Negan in the accident of birth, or destiny, or whatever the hell decided on soulmates.

However, she couldn’t stay. It would be better to be scolded and punished by Negan than having to stay and watch Tory, because Tory gave absolutely no indication of knowing who her soulmate was. 

The thought crossed Martha’s mind. 

Maybe Tory didn’t know, but Negan must have because he had sent someone to retrieve the girl.

A bitter smile curled Martha’s lip.

First, she had to deal with the ghost of a dead wife.

Then she had to battle for affection with a broken girl, who wound up dying in the end, leaving an even more broken man behind.

And it was a damaged kid who was the biggest threat?

Karma must have had it against Martha in some way, surely. 

Life’s unfair, she reminded herself as she arrived at the door she had been looking for.

A disheveled and sleep wary Vera opened the door.

“Your friend is in the infirmary.” Martha said curtly before leaving abruptly, concentrating on the noise her shoes made as she walked all the way back up to the upper-floors.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Vera was sitting on top of Lucas as they watched Tory sleep.

“What happened?” Lucas muttered into Vera’s soft hair.

His sister-like friend shrugged.

“Harlan was already asleep when we came here.” Vera whispered. “He is the one who knows.”

They were silent for a while, listening to Tory’s breathing and the far sound of moaning dead ones.

“California has a soulmate.” Lucas confessed.

“What?!” Vera’s hissed which made Harlan jump a bit in his sleep. “H-how?”

Lucas chuckled darkly. “I suppose that she, like you, has a soul, V.”

“Don’t be an ass.” The newlywed scolded. “She didn’t tell me.”

Vera looked truly offended and Lucas circled her shoulders with his arm.

“Don’t take it like that, sis.” He consoled. “She told me under duress.”

Vera frowned.

“We were about to have a good fuck.” Lucas clarified, rolling his eyes.

His friend’s pretty mouth formed a perfect ‘o’ of surprise.

“You think she knows who he is?” Vera asked.

Lucas narrowed his eyes at the words on Tory’s left arm. They were fading, but he had read them when they were clearer.

“Yeah, I think she knows.”

“Woul-” Vera started, but Lucas stopped her. He had heard something.

They waited in silence for a few more seconds, letting the noise become defined.

Shooting.

“Stay with her, V.” Lucas said, leaving his friend and his girl to go help.

He heard the faint ‘take care’ and promised himself he would.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan followed Lucas to the infirmary, wondering how in hell had he found out about Gorgeous being taken there. He knew he should count his blessings, as any presence that wasn’t Roy Miller was better, but Negan wouldn’t forget. 

This was the man his soulmate was fucking. 

They arrived at the same time, but Lucas opened the door for him to enter first. The young man was dedicated, hardworking and a worthy savior, but he was a sloppy actor. Negan could feel his intolerance and disdain from a mile away and those deep dark eyes didn’t do shit to mask his defiance.

The light went out only a second later.

Lucas knew something.

However he had found out, Negan didn’t know, but Lucas knew and Negan didn’t like it.

“Family and tutors only, Lucas.” The community leader recited. “Sorry, no visitors allowed.”

It was petty, and it was a childish move but Negan didn’t give a fuck.

He closed the door behind him, leaving Lucas outside, an expression of shock and betrayal on his pretty face. 

“Morning, sunshines!” Negan exclaimed cheerfully, making the Doc and Mrs. Gelato jump awake. Victoria groaned quietly and put her hands at the sides of her head. “Gorgeous! Seems like you are feeling better!” 

Negan knew he was being overly boisterous, but it was a delight seeing Tory react to him with an emotion other than indifference.

“Shut up.” The grey-eyed brunette groaned quietly.

“Manners, Gorgeous.” Negan scolded. “Where is the respect to your elders?”

“They usually earn it.” Tory bit back, trying to sit upright and failing with a wince as her arms protested.

Negan raised his brows in surprise, glancing at the sleepy doctor. “You are way too composed. I think she was playing us, Doctor Carson.”

The lesser Carson paled and his mouth fell open. 

Ugh, this one didn’t know how to take a joke.

Negan looked back and found Mrs. Gelato helping Victoria out of bed.

“A shower will make you feel better.” The girl was reasoning, trying to cover his soulmate’s bared skin with the flannel she was using the previous day. The bandages brought back memories that Negan preferred not to unearth, so he shook his head.

“Sure, you can take her for a shower, Vera. Once I talk to her.”

The young women looked at him with wide eyes.

“Did I speak in fucking German or what?” Negan opened his hand in a questioning gesture and turned to the doctor. “Why aren’t you and Mrs. Gelato out of here?”

The younger Carson scurried out of the room, trailing the irate newlywed behind him.

Negan sighed and pulled the stool to sit in front of Victoria. She had her eyes fixed on the polished concrete of the infirmary floor.

“Talk to me, Gorgeous.” He commanded softly. 

Victoria squirmed in her seat over the bed, her hands already posed to scratch her healing arms. 

“Stop, Victoria.”

She flinched and fidgeted, but she did stop.

“It’s Tory.” His soulmate muttered. “No one calls me Victoria.”

Negan turned his eyes up, begging whatever deity to give him patience. He had to start over. Putting Lucille gently aside, he propped against the bed frame. As his mind formed the idea, Negan fisted his hand over his knees, looking down as well. Lifting his head, the community leader decided he wanted to talk to her eye to eye. Tory had to look at him for him. Slowly, Negan put both his hands on her shoulders as he stood up, sliding his hands softly to her throat and then the sides of her face. Tory Miller had a very soft skin, so he noticed every little bump from the scars she had.

“I need you to look at me, Tory.” Negan whispered. 

That got her attention, her grey eyes focused on him and her lip trembled.

“I am.”

“Good. What the fuck happened?”

 Negan wasn’t willing to push harder, she had to answer on her own.

They stayed in silence for a while and Negan felt the little bubble of hope in his chest burst away. Then…a little, reluctant smile pulled at her lips.

“Did he tell you?”

“Who?”

“Roy.”

Negan shook his head. “He didn’t need to, you look similar.”

“I suppose.” 

Tory closed her eyes softly, letting Negan study her face freely. Tory’s eyes were surrounded by dark circles, and she looked paler than usual, which made her hair, eyebrows and lashes look darker. She looked sick, but Carson 2.0 would have told him if she was. 

“He tried to…” Tory began to say, but paused before wording her sentence differently. “I was seven and he wanted to cut at my arm. Cauterize it, you know?” 

Negan did know. 

He had heard some horror stories from the time before, when soulmates became too much of a problem. Some people would try to hide the marks, get them surgically removed, or even burned…it never ended well, especially when it involved children.

“After all this time, it turns out he had a soulmate himself.”

“I told him to stay the fuck away from you, Gorgeous.” Negan confessed.

As always, it seemed like the wrong thing to say, because he felt her stiffen under his touch as if she’d been stung by it. Cold, delicate hands fell on the back of his own and pulled them away.

“You don’t need to fight my battles.” His soulmate whispered. “I’ve been fighting them all my life.” Tory Miller descended from the bed and put her borrowed flannel shirt on. “I’m not weak.”

Negan inhaled as silently as he could. He couldn’t explain the sort of hurt he was feeling, it was deep and cutting, but he couldn’t let Tory have the last word.

“You’re not weak. But aren’t you tired of fighting?”

The click of the door closing was his answer.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

It was nerve-wracking, knowing a truth that you couldn’t reveal.

Martha had always been good at keeping secrets. She knew secrets were an important part of surviving in the post-apocalyptic world, and she was alright with being quiet and conforming to the rules.

Now, a sense of restlessness filled her every waking hour, pulsing like a living being as a second consciousness pushing her to act on her feelings.

But she couldn’t.

Martha couldn’t reveal what she knew about Tory Miller and Negan without it having devastating consequences.

People respected Negan, but they also feared him. A soulmate could be a strength or a liability. For the looks of Tory Miller, she was a liability. Oh, how Martha hated herself. She had liked the girl until the moment she found out about her connection to Negan. 

Tory was sweet, funny and intelligent. People had taken to her a lot faster than they had taken to Eugene, that was for sure. Yes, she had weird drinking habits and was a bit quirky at times, but it was undeniable she had won the people of the Sanctuary the moment she had given those fancy rings to Vera and Chase Owens.

Now, Martha was tornTorn between wanting to confront Negan, and tell him what she knew, or wanting to confront Tory and ask why she chose to keep it a secret.

Of all things, Martha had never expected Negan to be such a lucky bastard with two soulmates. Even if one of them was no longer among them; the wife had kept to herself the drunken confession after the Alexandria-D-day.

First Elle and now this.

Downing the wine she had pilfered from the parlor, Martha laughed bitterly to avoid sobbing.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Rumors travel fast.

Tory had to remind herself of that, no matter where she found herself in. 

That’s how she found herself in front of Eugene’s door, ready to knock and bully the man into trying to get Sasha to negotiate for her life.

Surprise couldn’t begin to cover what she felt the moment one of Negan’s wives opened the door.

“What’cha want?” the petite blonde asked, slurring her words, evidently drunk beyond her size-capacity ratio.

“I came to talk to Eugene.” Tory said over the sound of giggles and the TV.

“Is that you, Victoria?”

Eugene had heard her and turned his head away from the television screen losing his Galaga game.

“Unless there is more than one of myself.” Tory ventured, walking inside before being invited. “You think we can talk? In private?”

Eugene gave her a weird, tremulous smile. 

Frankie, the pretty red-head masseuse, giggled. “We’re all friends here, honey. You can talk.”

“Oh, I would love to, but this is about some inventories for the infirmary, to be honest.” Tory lied. “Pretty boring, but Eugene and I have a previous understanding about medication.”

Tanya shrugged and took the controller of the game from Eugene’s hand.

“Go talk to her, tiger. We’ll be here.”

Once they were in the hallway, they both checked for ears and Tory talked first.

“Sasha’s here.”

Eugene nodded.

“I do know that, Victoria. I had the misfortune of finding her when she entered the perimeter of the Sanctuary.” Her fellow Alexandrian wriggled his hands as he spoke.

“And you let her get caught?” Tory hissed.

“It ended up being a futile endeavor. She got caught trying to get to Negan.” Eugene swallowed hard, cowering under her unrelenting grey eyes.

“Damn it, Eugene. We have to help her.”

“I doubt she will listen to me or you. For her, we are both tainted with the influence of the Sanctuary. Negan’s influence.”

The growingly familiar sting of tears told Tory she was about to cry.

“I don’t want to lose her.”

Eugene’s timid hand on her shoulder did little to comfort her.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Lucas took a sip from his beer and turned his eyes up.

He had decided to take his guard round outside, for the simple fact that he hated patrolling the hallways of the Sanctuary during the night. He preferred to check the grounds from the emergency stairway or the roof. Today was stairs kind of day and there was a bit of breeze to make things better.

Who was he kidding?

Lucas was bad at lying to himself and he was worried about his girlfriend, who had left the infirmary without telling him or Vera one peep.

His thoughts were interrupted by Roy Miller’s voice. 

“Hey, kid.”

“Miller.” He grunted noncommittally.

The man in question had what looked like a gin bottle in his hand.

“Night shift patrol?” Roy asked, before taking out a cigarette. 

As if one addiction wasn’t enough.  

“Yeah.” Lucas sighed.

“Did she tell you who I am?”

Lucas let the silence stretch between them and sighed as his make-shift father-in-law lit his cigarette. “I had to push.”

“So much like her mother.” Roy growled. “stubborn as hell.”

“She despises you.” The younger man confessed.

“I imagine she does, she did try to tear her skin off when I tried to talk to her.”

Lucas sat straight and narrowed his eyes at Roy Miller.

“I was trying to talk to her.” Roy justified.

“California won’t talk if she doesn’t want to. I had never known someone capable of keeping so many fucking secrets.”

Roy raised his eyebrows and dragged long and hard from his cig. “That is more me than her mom.”

Lucas snorted and turned his head to the sound of dead-moaning.

“You can laugh at me, but I know Victoria more than she will admit.”

“How much can you know a person you haven’t seen in ten years?” Lucas asked, truly curious.

“You have me there.” Roy sighed, letting go of the smoke slowly, enjoying the stale smell of old tobacco. “Do you know about her marks?”

“Yeah.”

“That she knows who her soulmate is?”

“That too.”

“Really?”

“I’m telling ya’.”

“And you haven’t tried to confront Negan yet? Intelligent.”

That gave Lucas pause.

“What?” he asked stupidly, dropping his jaw in surprise.

Roy looked him in the eye, frowning slightly.

“Victoria’s soulmate? That’s Negan.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Luxury wasn’t cutting it for Tory.

She was sitting at the edge of a comfortable armchair, watching her surroundings, and catching as many details as she could. The room was too dark in her opinion. Lots of gray and black and little contrast, not even the once-white rug helped, or the garishly scandalous curtains that hung over the windows. Everything looked to be of good quality, but she wasn’t sure if she should touch anything.

It was weird.

Simon had gotten her to come all the way to the penthouse, where she had never stepped in, and left her to her devices in what she suspected was Negan’s room.

The door opened behind her and Tory scolded herself for being so stupid.

She should have been watching the door from the sofa in front of her, not wasting her time criticizing the room as if she were some sort of reality-decorator. She turned back and was pleasantly surprised to see Martha leaning against the door, but her eyes were unreadable.

“We need to talk.” Martha spoke softly, before steadily walking straight in Tory’s direction.

• • •    • • •     • • •    • • •

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

“We need to talk.” Martha said, her voice was slightly cold and Tory blinked, trying to get a read on Negan’s wife.

Tory had only ever known Martha’s sweet side. She was one of those weird people that -in her opinion- could see the good in everyone they put their mind to. Her mom had been like that, Vera was like that, her Dad too.

“Sure. I’m listening.” Tory replied.

Martha in all her black clad perfection, took the seat in front of Tory and crossed her ankles like the lady she looked like. Tory could see the appeal of the black dresses. Negan’s wives were all beautiful women, one way of another, Martha was not the exception, if anything, she was the precedent.

“I know about Negan and you.” Martha stated, her light hazel eyes watching Tory for her every reaction. She was surprised and then confused. Out of a handful of conversations, Tory hadn’t had a real, meaningful interaction with Negan, excepting maybe telling him to call her Tory. Not that it erased his nasty habit of calling her Gorgeous.

“Negan and me?” Tory repeated, tasting the question in her mouth. “There’s no such thing.”

“You’re his soulmate.” Martha cut whatever argument Tory could have. For a few seconds, she felt trapped, even though she wasn’t being held in any way. Either, Tory could react defensively and win a problem or she could be level headed and keep Martha’s good graces.

“I am.”

Truth had never felt so good.

People always ended up finding out in ways that caught Tory with her guard down, she could take this. That simple realization made her steel herself.

You’re stronger than you think you are. Tory told herself.

At the same time, Martha deflated, looking thoroughly dejected by the notion.

“It doesn’t mean we have to be together. If that is what worries you.” The younger woman suggested.

“Of course it does!” Martha snapped, irritation seeping in her voice. “Soulmates are supposed to be perfect matches!”

Tory’s eyes widened before she could control her reactions. “The fuck?” she whispered. That gave Martha pause. “Soulmates aren’t supposed to be perfect matches, just the best to…like…balance each other.”

It was difficult to explain, Tory thought. She had never thought her situation would take her here. Why would she worry for Negan’s ‘marital’ situation? She had no influence in it whatsoever, and as such, Tory couldn’t really give her opinion. Her lovers had never been her soulmate. They had been people she’d chosen.

“And how would you know?” the wife’s voice had lost its fight.

Her grandparents, her Dad, Jesse, Carol, so many people who had made mistakes about their soulmates. Roy Miller came to mind briefly. Tory herself knew she had made plethora of mistakes.

“Well.” Tory started, wringing her hands. “For starters, I don’t even like Negan.”

Martha’s delicate eyebrows rose on her face, giving Tory an incredulous look.

“You can’t mean that.”

A sigh left Tory at the wife’s disbelief. “He isn’t really bad, but all my impressions of him, they are…”

A long pause ensued.

“I can’t really say.”

“What do you feel when you think of him?” Martha asked.

Tory’s eyes found Martha’s and then she looked away, trying to remember every interaction. The freezing fear of that first, bloody night. The tense horror of the first time Negan actually noticed Tory back in Alexandria. There was the stressful banter the day Spencer died, the boiling hate, and then abject terror when he discovered her. Recently, she didn’t feel terror so much as she felt…calm. Of course life wasn’t good. There were still walking corpses out there; Negan had enslaved her former community and her family was all gone. Then, just that morning… Tory shook her head.

Tell the truth. She scolded herself.

“I hate that he makes me feel at peace when I’m around him.”

As much as Tory had always praised herself for being able to read people, she couldn’t exactly understand the crestfallen expression in Martha’s face.

At least, not yet.  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan never arrived to talk to her. Tory figured he had something more important to do, and she agreed wholeheartedly with whatever it was.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

The cells were so very cold.

Or maybe they weren’t, Tory wasn’t sure. Maybe her first days in the Sanctuary had skewed that perception forever. The meaning mattered little. She simply felt cold to her bones as she walked in, looking for Sasha. Knocking door by door, Tory felt stupid, but she wasn’t about to ask the man in turn to watch the cells for information.

Before, Tory had never sold cookies like other girls or put lemonade stands out of her home, first, in San Diego, her world was a tiny, and then, in Georgia, she didn’t live in the right neighborhood for that. As Tory got older, she understood better. Her mother had been adamantly against Tory having contact with strangers because she didn’t know who her soulmate was, and any person could be the one to try to ‘take her away’.

This door-knocking felt stupid precisely for that.

Three little knocks. “Sasha?” Tory whispered.

Nothing.

She kept at it for a few minutes, until a little voice answered.

“Who’s it?”

“Sasha?” Tory felt the excitement in her chest explode in a happy smile.

“Tory?”

“Yeah.”

“What are you doing here?” Sasha asked, seemingly getting closer to the door.

“I came to talk to you.” Tory admitted, kneeling in front of the door.

The silence that ensued made the younger woman nervous, and she could feel the weird vibe between them.

“Eugene talked to me already, Tory.” Came Sasha’s muffled explanation.

“I don’t care.” Tory said. “He surely told you something about being egoistic, and I’m here to convince you to be selfish.”

“What’s that mean?”

Tory closed her eyes and sighed.

“It means that you should do whatever you need to stay alive. Even if it means signing up for Negan’s side.” Tory stated.

“He killed Abraham.” Sasha hissed, anger and sadness dampening her already low voice.

“He has killed a bunch of people and I don’t think I can lose more people Sasha, and we are at fault too.”

It was the truth.

Losing people over and over was pushing her to limits Tory didn’t want to imagine.

“You wouldn’t understand.” Sasha deadpanned.

After a few minutes of silence, Tory stood up, dusted her jeans and shook her head. She had tried and it was more than could be said about Eugene, who was understandably angry at Sasha and Rosita for trying to storm the Sanctuary. Tory had seen it, the distrust in people’s eyes as she walked around all day. So yeah, she understood. And even if Negan promised protection for Sasha, it could very lead to trouble anyway.

Sasha’s pride was bigger than her conservation instinct at this point, but not bigger than her desire for revenge, apparently.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tyler watched closely as the naughty kitten he’d been stalking went her way, unaware of his presence.

The savior didn’t even struggle to catch up with her, but Tyler suspected Victoria Miller had something on her, because she stopped on her tracks and turned around, as if checking for something. She definitely found him. Tyler noticed because her face paled and her shoulders slumped.

Tyler was delighted that she actually feared him.

Kitten.” He drawled and Victoria flinched.

“Tyler.” She answered, with the tiniest bit of a tremor in her voice.

With determined steps, Tyler advanced on her, in silence, making her step back to keep the distance between them.

Victoria flinched harder when her back hit the concrete wall behind her.

“You haven’t been a good girl.” Tyler whispered, invading her personal space, so very close, he could feel her warm breath on his skin.

“H-hardly terrible, as I’m not some girl.” The young woman said, unable to fight the shaking of her voice. Tyler chuckled.

“Right, not some little girl. Still bad. Conspiring against the big boss?” he taunted. “I thought you liked him.”

Victoria narrowed those pretty grey eyes of hers, a particular emotion had lit behind her irises as she pushed him with her fisted hands.

“Stay away from me if you want to keep that other eye.” If she hadn’t been shaking so hard.

Tyler laughed her off and pushed her fists back.

“Tell me, kitten. Who are you?”

The fight in her expression was evident, because she knew she was being tested, Victoria Miller wasn’t stupid, never had been. Tyler remembered. However, she didn’t know what the test was about.

“I’m who I’ve always been.”

Taking a step back, Tyler freed the way for Victoria to leave.

If only he could break her…  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory had gone directly to Eugene after her encounter with Tyler. Somehow, his presence made her feel slightly better. They had never been that close, back in Alexandria, but now… well, the apocalypse made some weird stuff blossom.

“I had never seen you drink.” She commented, as Eugene gave her a glass -that was better suited for bourbon- full of wine. At least it wasn’t beer and that consoled Tory.

“Stress has a detrimental effect in health Victoria. Kills neurons at a faster rate than almost anything.” Eugene’s comment made her smirk.

“Worse than alcohol?” she snarked.

“Very much so.”

Tory knew he was full of shit, but gulped a bit of her wine down. Damn, it was bitter.

As Eugene explained the content of his conversation with Sasha, how she wanted Negan dead, no matter the means and if it costed her own life, Tory drained her wine and refilled the glass. Her fellow Alexandrian told her that it was better if he kept some details of the conversation secret, for plausible deniability. She agreed. It took another glassful of wine for her to speak.

“So, Sasha won’t listen?” she summarized. Eugene nodded and Tory felt her shoulders become heavier. Her hands were steady though, her breathing normal and her head seemed to be clear. Cleared than it had been in weeks. The emotions from earlier in the day hit her full force, her brief chat with Sasha, her creepy encounter with Tyler and now this…

“She wants Negan dead and she wants my help.”

When their eyes connected, Tory knew the answer and tried to console her friend, but the words wouldn’t come to her, her voice wouldn’t come out.

Finally, Tory forced herself to say something. “We can’t let her do that.” I can’t let her do that. Her heart clenched painfully at the notion of Negan being dead and Tory wondered what that meant.

“It will not be you doing it.” Eugene declared, his expression set and determined. 

For all of their fates, Tory reasoned, he would have to pull it off brilliantly. Her heart protested again, as did her stomach.  

Tory’s arm burned then, making her hiss in pain.

“I’ll see you later Eugene.” She muttered, effectively ending their conversation.

“See ya’, Victoria.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Running through the Sanctuary wasn’t uncommon.

People would usually run around all the time, carrying on orders, completing tasks and trying to get to places on time.

Tory didn’t really stand out when she ran through the hallways until she reached Lucas’ room. The comforting scent of the room made her relax as soon as she crossed the threshold of their little refuge to sit on the bed.

With frantic movements, Tory divested herself of the long-sleeved blouse she was wearing, the words on her arm were fading.

 

You were trying to rape this woman, weren’t you?

 

What in fresh hell did that mean?

A new wave of hurt made her wince and fresh words appeared.

 

This is some unacceptable behavior. Rape is against the rules.

 

Gulping for air, Tory went to the tiny fridge Lucas kept and took the little jug of water they religiously filled, just for the luxury of a cold drink. She drank a cup, then another. The pleasant burn of the wine started to fade.

Her mind and chest were a mess of feelings, doubt, confusion, sadness.

She felt worry for Sasha, sadness for her decision, doubt about her conflicting feelings towards Negan and the whole batch fucked up stuff she had discussed with Eugene. Then, a contained rage that didn’t belong to her made itself known, along with the hurt of her marked arm.

 

Did Rick put you up to this?

 

Fuck.

Negan was talking to Sasha.  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

The squelching sound David’s corpse made when it hit the floor disgusted Negan a lot more than he already was.

Was it too much to ask for some decent fucking people to follow him? Negan would have given his left hand for some more men like Philip, Eric and Chase on his ranks, but no, he got disgusting rapists and raging psychos.

A long, suffering sigh left him as he watched the woman his men had tied trying to become one with the corner of the cell.

“Hey!” he whistled for the man outside the cell. “Get, uh…” Negan gestured towards her with the still fresh knife.

“Sasha.” She breathed, her voice barely audible.

“That is a beautiful name.” he complimented and then turned -albeit not completely- to order his guy away, commissioned to find a t-shirt for their hostile guest.

Negan grabbed Lucille from a thicker part of her handle and hunched down to cut the rope from Sasha’s wrists.

“Sorry you had to see that.” He grunted a bit cutting the rope. “Sorry ‘bout that too. Probably overkill.” He stood back up. “But you did cause one hell of a fucking ruckus the other night.”

Sasha dragged herself against the wall of the cell.

It reminded Negan of Tory’s prolonged silences and loathing glances. Were all the women of Alexandria this fucking hateful? Negan was really starting to wonder.

And then, recognition sparked in his mind, the words were out of his mouth before he could think about them.

“Oh shit. I remember you, yeah…You were there.”  He clicked his tongue, gesturing with Lucille. “I get it now, and I gotta hand it to you.” He chuckled. “You’ve got some beach-ball-sized lady nuts on you.”

Sasha wasn’t that impressed with his memory. Alexandrians didn’t have a sense of humor either.

Then came the most important question.

“Did Rick put you up to this?”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Lucas hadn’t been understanding.

Tory had left their room, still a bit confused as of why he was so reluctant to let her go and see Negan.

And yet, Tory was walking the way she’d learned from memory since the first time Simon had brought her up.

A lone man was standing in front of Negan’s door, an ugly scar covered half his face, but he looked young enough to have been Spencer’s age.

“Business?” he asked. His voice made her stop in surprise.

“Mark?” she asked, baffled. Last she had heard of him, Mark had been assigned to fence duty, indefinitely.

Mark frowned with the half of his face that had an actual eyebrow.

“Who are you?” he asked warily.

“Tory, three knocks on the wall?”

His face lit up.

“You’ve done well!” he exclaimed, maybe a bit too high, but it still made Tory smile.

“I’m trying.” Tory shrugged, burying her hands in the pockets of her jeans. “Keeping an eye out?”

Mark grimaced. “Is better than fence duty.”

“Think our overlord is busy?” Tory asked, gesturing at the door with her head.

“All the time. But I suppose he would make an exception for you, right?”

They shared an uncomfortable moment of doubt before the door opened from the inside.

Mark knelt and Tory rolled her eyes awkwardly.

She saw Negan’s stern expression morph into something of a grimace before it became a rakish smile.

“Gorgeous, finally!” the leader exclaimed.

“Hey, old man.” She greeted mirthlessly.

The smile faded.

“Get lost, Mark, the lady is safe with me.”

Mark got on his feet and ran so fast it almost gave Tory whiplash.

“He is a damn coward.” Negan mocked.

“Not everyone can be like you.” Tory said, gesturing him up and down with her hands, as if trying to clarify her statement.

Negan opened the door for her to enter his room and closed it behind her.

“What just happened won’t happen again, Gorgeous. I like my people to respect me.” He admonished, surely referring to her innocent jab about his age.

Tory sighed and nodded.

“I’m sorry.”

“Music to my tired ears.” Negan walked past Tory and sat with a contented sigh. “What d’ya wanna talk ‘bout, Tory?”

A pleasant shiver -that she was unable to suppress- ran down her spine as she heard his deep drawl of her name rolling of Negan’s tongue. This couldn’t be good.

“Lucas told me about the outing to Alexandria, for tomorrow.” She said tentatively, still standing there, not too far from the door.

“So?”

Negan left the couch he had just sat on and went to the side of his bed, where a bottle of what seemed to be crystal was waiting for him. The leader of the Saviors poured good three fingers of liquor inside a fancy tumbler and walked back to stand in front of Tory.

She had been so absorbed watching him that she forgot to continue.

“Need some liquid valor?” he asked, his voice serious. “It’s just bourbon.” Negan said, offering the glass.

Tory hesitated, her hands still in her pockets, stalling her reactions a bit.

“Just a sip.” She murmured.  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan watched Tory reach for the glass in his hand.

She had pretty hands, delicate fingers and soft looking skin, even though he had seen the girl at work in the gardens, the kitchen and infirmary. Her grip of the tumbler was swift and it talked of expertise and natural proclivity.

She made a little noise when the amber-colored liquor touched her lips and tongue. The tiny moan of pleasure went directly to his groin and Negan knew he needed to get laid.

“Thank you.” Tory murmured softly, giving back the glass with reluctance.

A bulb went off in his head.

“Alcoholic?” he asked.

Tory Miller blushed hard and frowned, turning her gaze away from his.

“Fuck, Gorgeous.” He sighed.

“I’m dealing with it.” She whispered, hugging herself and glaring hatefully at the tumbler still generously served.

“Doesn’t seem like it.” Negan said, trying to sound severe but not angry.

Oh, but he was.

Negan was angry.

“Working so many hours helps.” She accepted. “Keeps me occupied.”

Not unlike Elle. A tiny voice in the back of his head reminded him.

“Better cut yourself from it then. Sorry I offered.” Negan consoled himself with the notion that he was apologizing for real.

“Is not that good a bourbon. I wanted to strangle Spencer when he gave you Reg’s, back…in Alexandria.” She sighed, passing one of those delicate hands through her hair.

“Back home?” he pushed.

“Is it my home still if no one is expecting me back?” Tory shot back.

Negan smiled, showing his white teeth.

“You did come here for something, Gorgeous. What do you want?” Negan drank a bit of his bourbon and waited for the answer. “I can’t take you back, though. Who knows what Rick the prick would do to you if he found out.”

His soulmate’s frown became deeper and her head titled to the side, as if she couldn’t understand him.

“If Rick found out what?” she asked.

Another chuckle left Negan’s chest as he put down his glass and went into Tory’s personal space. The girl didn’t back an inch, but she did crane her neck back too look him in the eye.

“That you, my gorgeous girl, are my soulmate.” He explained.

Pretty pink lips opened in surprise as Tory blinked her precious grey eyes at him in complete bafflement. Negan was dying to taste her and see if her lips were as soft as they looked. To know if the bourbon tasted bitter or sweet in that sharp tongue of hers. Negan took his gloved hand to the side of Tory’s face, intent on kissing her, he was so close, his lips were almost upon hers, she was plaint as his other arm circled her lithe waist…

“But he already knows.” She blurted.

Fuck.

What a way to ruin the motherfucking mood.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Now

The Sanctuary, VA

Tory woke up early. 

Too early.

She could still see stars twinkling away in the sky as she walked to the showers to get her day going. The events that had transpired in Negan’s room earlier that night had shaken her to her very core. Tory wasn’t ready to revisit all the things she felt when he had tried to kiss her. The pleasing warmth of his hands on her was overwhelming on its own, and it wasn’t even skin to skin contact. Then there was the guilt of almost cheating on Lucas

Great

Her ability to fuck things up seemed to help her out of that pothole.

Negan hadn’t been pleased to know that she had told Rick about her connection to him, but there was nothing to be done for it. She hadn’t lied and it was done before she even arrived at the factory that she now called home.

The cold shower woke Tory up completely. The young woman felt alert and ready to do some grunt work, as her calendar marked the day as infirmary shift. After leaving the shower hall, Tory made her way directly to the infirmary, which she found empty. It surprised her a little, as Harlan had told her he found it difficult sleeping away from the set of rooms that made up their work-space.

Seeing as it was still too early to go and get her breakfast, Tory put her hands to work cleaning every surface of the main room. Trash was emptied, tools sterilized, records updated and backed.

She was done before dawn and Harlan arrived a little after six in the morning.

If Tory’s presence disturbed him, he didn’t say so, but he left for breakfast in complete calm as his assistant was there for anyone who needed attending to.

The brunette thought she would fall asleep when someone knocked on the door, taking her out of her stupor.

“Come in.” she said, her voice high enough to be heard through the door.

“Mornin’ California.”

Lucas saw the bright smile lighting up her face and the way her grey eyes warmed the moment they fell on him.

“Lucas.” Tory greeted, standing up from behind the desk to kiss him properly. “Morning.”

“I gotta visit ya’ at work more often, California.” Lucas laughed quietly as he circled her waist with his arms. “You left early.”

“I couldn’t sleep.” Tory sighed. “So, I started work early might finish early as well and we can do something fun tonight.”

“I don’t know, Cali.” Lucas heavily exhaled in response. “I was called in for today’s outing.” He informed.

Tory frowned. “I thought you were sitting out the Alexandria outing.”

Lucas nodded. “I thought so too, but it seems like it was a last-minute change.”

“Oh.” She whispered dejectedly. 

Scavenger runs or recon outings usually took the whole day and Tory didn’t feel like interrupting Vera and Chase’s honeymoon period of bliss.

Lucas smiled down at her and kissed her forehead.

“Maybe tomorrow we can do something. It is your day off, right?” her boyfriend asked.

Tory nodded.

“I’ll see if I can arrange something, maybe even move my schedule a bit. You know, call in some favors.” He proposed, raising his eyebrows suggestively at her and making her smile again. 

Tory knew she was blushing hard, her cheeks were burning and a pleasantly sweet shiver ran down her spine when Lucas kissed the tip of her nose.

“Damn, you look pretty, California.”

Tory smirked at Lucas.

“Pot calling the kettle black.” She sassed. “You look way prettier than me with all those dashing curls and that perfect smile, Lucas.”

He laughed and it made her belly bubble with excitement as an idea formed in her head.

Tory placed her arms around Lucas’ neck and stood on her tiptoes, leaning up as close to his ear as she could given her height.

“I want you to fuck me against that wall.”

She could feel Lucas breathe hard in that moment as he looked down at her with a look of lust in his deep, brown eyes.

“The walls are thin here, California.” The scavenger reminded her, already pulling at her shirt as he spoke, and walking them towards the suggested wall.

“Then we’ll have to be silent.” Tory shrugged. “We can do that, right?” she challenged.

“I don’t know, Cali.” Lucas growled, kissing her neck and making Tory squirm on her tiptoes. “Maybe we can.”

Tory enjoyed the intense touch on her skin as Lucas pulled her jeans down.

“Shoes, California.” He ordered. 

Tory loved it when he went authoritarian on her. Usually, she would ignore Lucas and drag their foreplay for as long as possible, but her own urgency was burning her from inside, so Tory pushed her boots away, along with her jeans.

Lucas gave her another once over before he grabbed at her behind and pushed her up.

“Legs around me, California.” He instructed, and she obeyed. “I’m gonna do this fast. So, if you come, you come, okay, darlin’?”

“Yes.” Tory whispered breathlessly.  

The young woman wasn’t privy of Lucas’ technique, but she didn’t question as he tugged her panties to the side and entered her with a rough thrust, deep into her center. Tory could hear how wet she was, and Lucas’ bottoming out inside her felt a lot better than it was painful. He was so hard, all she could do was groan, overcome with pleasure.

“You are always so warm, so ready. What’s the secret?” Lucas asked.

“I must like you a lot.” Tory replied with a cheeky grin that was followed by another hard thrust.

Tory kissed Lucas with need, biting and nipping at his lips and tongue as he kept fucking her against the wall. For a moment, she wondered if he wanted to leave her hanging like a damn picture frame. 

“Harder, Lucas, please.” Tory pleaded, feeling as if the overload of pleasure could kill her and trying not to clutch at his back with her nails. 

He simply went harder, and she squeezed at his cock in return, making him moan with need.

“You better come now, California.” Lucas ordered sternly, using his free hand to pull at her hair, exposing her pale throat to his teeth.

Tory’s orgasm came with a silent cry, and so fast that she almost fell from Lucas’ hold.

“Fucking hell, Tory!” Lucas hissed, thrusting hard a couple more times before spilling inside her.

They were both panting hard as Tory untangled her legs from Lucas’ lower back.

“I need to clean up.” She muttered.

“No.”

Lucas was watching her thighs with an intense gaze she had rarely seen in him as he tucked himself back in his pants and then gathered her clothes and shoes.

“Sit there.” Lucas commanded her gently, taking her hand and guiding Tory to the top of Harlan’s desk. With gentle hands, the young man helped Tory take a seat over the cool wood and knelt before her.

“Lucas, what are you doing?” she asked, still in a daze after her orgasm, as she saw him kneel in front of her. The wet touch of his tongue shut her up and Tory couldn’t tear her eyes away from Lucas’ curly hair as he worked his tongue along her folds and slit, making sure he cleaned up everything. The following orgasm was a plus, and this was probably the hottest thing someone had done to her.

Tory wasn’t sure if she was sated or in need for more. However, her hope for another round was dashed when Lucas pulled her into her jeans and tied her boots back on her feet. Lucas kissed her lips once more, and Tory could taste them both on his mouth.

It left her breathless.

“I’ll see you later, Tory.” Lucas said, bumping her forehead with his.

“Promise me.” She ordered.

“I promise, California.”  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •  

Negan was getting ready for the day when he felt the sting of his soulmarks on his right arm.

 

I want you to fuck me against that wall.

 

A flare of jealousy lit his chest as he read the words.

He couldn’t deny it any longer.

Damn, he was so mad at Tory.

He shook his head and sighed. There was nothing to be done about it. He had to win her over, if only to get her away from Lucas. His plans for after weren’t as clear but it was something he’d have to think about later.

As for now he had another girl to visit.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   

The walk to the cells was easy. 

Negan hadn’t envisioned this area to be as gloomy and soul sucking as possible, but the lack of natural light and the unnatural cold enhanced the dreariness.

Worry gnawed at his confidence as he walked to Sasha’s cell, and it costed him to keep his chipper demeanor. He believed Sasha’s words and her promise to help him run things in the Sanctuary after they had dealt with Rick, but something about her acceptance bothered him. 

The people of Alexandria seemed like a loyal bunch. Excepting Eugene and Spencer’s unfortunate case, Negan was pretty sure people didn’t turn easily on Rick. 

Sasha was not afraid of Negan. 

That much he noticed.

She didn’t even bat an eyelash when he mentioned her possible death.

In hindsight, he should have known.

Negan had to give it to Sasha too, she was a passable negotiator.

“Punishment is how we built everything we have.” He remarked, drilling his gaze on her dark, unreadable eyes.

“No one has to die.” Sasha said slowly.

He grimaced, still holding Sasha’s breakfast in his free hand. Her words picked at his still fresh wounds. Negan remembered having such a conversation barely a couple months before, right before the attack at the outpost, when Elle was trying to defend the king mall-rat.

“How about this. One, just one.” He chuckled. “I mean I was gonna pull three out of the pool, but just one and just for you.”  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •  

 

but just one, just for you.

 

Tory frowned.

She didn’t care whoever Negan was talking to, it was his business.

She studiedly ignored the nagging voice in the back of her head that sounded a lot like Henry which kept saying: Don’t lie to yourself.

Tory felt like the infirmary walls were closing in on her, and she was in desperate need of a drink. She would even settle for Negan’s awful bourbon.

Tory walked down the hallway, watching through the windows as the trucks were loaded with guns and people. However, something specific caught her attention. 

Eugene, Sasha and Negan were standing on a truck platform right in front of a coffin.

A sigh made its way through her throat, up to her lips and her shoulders felt heavy with apprehension.

This is going to be a long day.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Alexandria, VA

“I’m Negan.”

Eugene was pulling all the tricks, and Rick’s face was just fucking epic.

Then the moment peaked when Rick tried to blow them from the face of earth. 

The daring fuck

The garbage people had been an investment after all. In Negan’s opinion, they were pragmatic to almost a fault and they had a weird way of negotiating, but it had been vital to agree in terms of how they’d fuck Rick up.

Negan felt satisfied the moment he took the mic away from Eugene, he couldn’t even hide his smile.

“You ever hear the one about the stupid little prick named Rick, who thought he knew shit but he didn’t know shit and got everyone that he gave a shit about killed? It’s about you.” The leader of the Saviors smiled. “Tell them to drop the guns.”

One.

Two.

Three…

“No one drops anything.”

God fucking damn it.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   

Tory ended up back in the emergency stairs, under the slight shadow of an overhead platform.

Her marked arm was burning.

She wasn’t good company whenever that happened, so she ended up exiling herself to the furthest corner that came to mind. For a hot second, she wished she was back in her room in Alexandria.

Her home. 

Then the thought of staying there without her Dad quelled her anxiety.

Searing pain shot up from her forearm to her chest, followed by terror that didn’t belong to her, but made Tory break into cold sweat.

With trembling fingers, Tory rolled back the sleeve of her hoodie.

 

Holy fucking shit!

 

Tory closed her eyes with a shuddering breath.

“Don’t die, old man.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •  

Negan’s hip, back and leg hurt.

He couldn’t even remember the last time he had taken such a hit, but at least nothing sounded immediately broken. Just as well, he didn’t have time to ponder over other injuries, as Sasha’s reanimated corpse was snapping those perfectly even teeth at him trying to catch his flesh.

“Honey, goddamnit!” he groaned, pushing Zombie-Sasha away. 

What a fucking waste. 

Sasha was young and intelligent and now she was dead. A nagging thought invaded his mind:

She’s just another girl on his tab.

While reanimated Sasha ate one of his saviors, Negan started the count of how many people he would lose that day. Oh, he admired how trigger-happy Carl was, but right now it only started a fucking mess.

Negan waited patiently until his men had gathered Rick and Carl, they had as well as taken over Alexandria.

Jadis had tried to win the upper hand with their deal too making him think if there was anyone who was really on his side? 

Negan was glad that he didn’t ask that question out loud. 

Instead, he turned to Rick.

“This is just gonna make you sad.” Negan told the kneeling leader, feeling a new sort of anger grow in his chest. “Broken. You’re gonna wish you were dead.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •  

 

You’re gonna wish you were dead.

 

“No.” Tory murmured. “No! What are you doing? What’s going on!”

Her eyes filled with tears and Tory fisted her hands over her eyes, trying to ignore the fading sting. 

Whatever had happened, it was bad.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   

Lucille made a whistling sound as Negan swung her around Rick and Carl.

“Maybe this is on me. Maybe this is all on me. I gotta make it right, I guess I gotta start all over again.”

Carl didn’t move a damn muscle and Negan felt a little bit worse. The kid’s one eye was wide indicating to the fearless leader that the boy was afraid

What was worse, though, was that Negan had caused it.

“Gotta tell you, Rick, if I had a kid, I’d like him to be just like your kid. Which makes this so much harder.”

Neither Grimes backed out at his words.

“You’re not gonna win.” Carl declared, almost hiding the slight shudder in his voice.

“It is over, Carl, point that eye of yours over there. Look!”

How could Negan make them understand?

Try a little. A part of his mind revealed. 

He shut his eyes briefly. 

No, not now.

A shriek interrupted his train of thought and they all turned to the source of the sound. Rick’s suddenly pale face and Carl’s shocked expression told a story.

“Wow.” Negan chuckled without mirth. “You just lost somebody important to you. Like, just now! Jesus, that’s timing. Well, you chose this Rick.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   

 

This isn’t a warning, this is punishment.

 

Tory’s arm went silent after that.

The trucks came later, barely an hour before sunset.

Tory had spent the rest of the afternoon curled up in the little cot of the backroom. Harlan hadn’t asked a single question when he saw her clutching at her left arm.

A few minutes later, Simon had stormed into the infirmary telling Harlan to prepare for the boss man. An unpleasant feeling made Tory shudder as she unraveled and readied herself to help.

They both heard Negan, Simon and Dwight walk towards the infirmary and then open the door as unceremoniously as before. The two lieutenants deposited their commander on the hospital bed.

Negan didn’t seem to be badly hurt, at least not visibly.

“What happened?” Harlan asked, as the level-headed doctor who knew how to treat such situation.

“I took quite the fall, Doc. Back and hip are killing me.” Negan growled.

Tory snuffed her compassion with brutal efficiency when Harlan started ordering for bandages, creams and alcohol.

“Simon, go get everyone ready. Alert the outposts, we need constant vigilance now.” 

Simon nodded and left as soon as Negan finished the order. 

“Dwight, I want everyone gathered outside in half an hour. No fucking exceptions.”

Dwight grunted in agreement and left too.

“I need you to take off your pants, sir.” Harlan said, blushing a bit at Negan’s sudden smirk.

“If you wanted to get in my pants, Doc, you’d only need t’ask.” He teased. 

Tory rolled her eyes so hard she thought they would get stuck to the inside her head.

“Don’t be a creep, old man. Undress, now.” Tory ordered sternly, narrowing her grey eyes at him, almost daring him to contradict her or make fun of her. 

Harlan injected Negan with a mild sedative and disinfected the little scratches that were exposed.

“Put this on the bruised areas, Victoria. I’ll get some cold compresses.” Harlan ordered firmly, depositing a jar of funny-smelling salve on her hands.

Negan had been silent so far, but he didn’t like the way Tory applied the salve because he instantly recoiled from her touch.

“Bare with me, okay?” Tory groaned. “I’ve had a long day too.”

“Did you know?” Negan whispered, grabbing a hold of Tory’s wrist.

“Know what?” the brunette snapped.

“That the widow was alive.” Negan spat. He would have looked a lot more menacing if he hadn’t been so pale. 

Tory blinked a couple of times.

Negan was right, she shouldn’t know Maggie was alive, because Maggie was supposed to have miscarried and died before she made it to the Hilltop… to Harlan.

“Maggie is alive? Is she okay?”  Tory hoped her voice conveyed enough surprise and worry. The hold Negan had on her wrist slackened and Tory contained a sigh of relief.

“She sure fucking is. Stormed on us at Alexandria, guns’a’blazin’!” Negan growled.

Tory applied the salve with a bit more finesse.

“Gorgeous?”

Grey eyes found golden brown as Tory turned her gaze up to Negan’s voice calling her.

“Yes?”

Negan sighed and let himself fall back on the reclined bed.

“Do you think I’m merciless? That I don’t try giving second chances?”

The vulnerable nuance of his voice surprised Tory who was at a loss of words for a few seconds.

“I don’t think you’re merciless, and well, you seem to be good at second chances too.” She admitted.

“Sasha is dead.” He blurted out.

Tory fell on the little stool beside Negan’s bed as he confirmed her suspicions. Something really bad had happened. She didn’t even know in what moment she’d started sobbing.

“Hey…Hey, I’m sorry, Gorgeous.” Negan whispered. “I’m sorry, Tory.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   

Lucas heard the soft sobbing and he opened the door, as carefully as he could.

“I’m sorry, Tory.” 

The unmistakable voice of the leader of the Saviors reached his ears, falling on Lucas like a bucket of freezing water.

“Damn it.” Tory half-sobbed, half-hissed.

“Shhh…it’s okay, Tory. It’s okay.” Negan consoled. 

Lucas opened his eyes and saw it.

Negan, disheveled and pale, caressing Tory’s cheek, rosy with an anguished blush and wet with her tears.

“It’s not okay.” Tory retorted, without recoiling from Negan’s touch.

“I know is not okay now, but it will be, shit happens.”

A tiny giggle left Tory, who smiled shakily under her tears.

Lucas saw the change in Negan’s expression, a brief internal battle and then…

“Fuck it.”

Negan kissed her.

And Lucas wished he had left in that very moment.

Tory’s eyes widened in surprise when Negan’s lips touched hers, but then she put her tiny hand over Negan’s own and closed her eyes, leaning into Negan’s kiss.

However, Lucas drew his line at the barely audible moan of pleasure his ‘girlfriend’ uttered.

If he had stayed a few seconds longer, he would have seen the incensed expression on Tory Miller’s face as she hissed dangerously.

“Never do that again. Ever.”

Lucas could have seen the silent acceptance to Tory’s challenge into his boss’ eyes.

But he didn’t.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   

Tory stayed back, watching from the shadows inside the factory as Negan and Eugene exchanged words before Negan walked out, ready to rally his forces.

She hugged herself, bracing for the impact of his declaration.

WE ARE GOING TO WAR!” he exclaimed, tattooing his words on her skin at the same time. Tory needn't look to know.

Tory ignored the cacophony of voices that answered her soulmate, letting go of a breath she’d held on purpose.

“Now what?” Tory asked herself, watching her soulmate’s back. “Now what?”.
• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

End of Book Three, part I

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuary, VA

“I’m sorry, Tory.” Negan told her, his tone consoling and soft, as the touch of his gloved hand caressed her cheek while she sobbed.

“Damn it.” She hissed, shutting her eyes and forcing more tears out.

“Shhh…it’s okay, Tory. It’s okay.”

“It’s not okay.” She snapped, opening her eyes, but her voice lacked the usual fire she felt in presence of her soulmate.

Sasha was dead and maybe someone else back home, and it hurt so much.  Tory wanted to scream, to rage and cry until she fell asleep.

She could do neither.

Negan closed his eyes and sighed.

“I know it’s not okay now, but it will be…shit happens.” He spoke with such passion, he sounded absurd.

Tory giggled and opened her eyes to find Negan’s hazel orbs watching her closely.

“Fuck it.” Negan swore.

It took Tory a couple of seconds to understand, to process the actions of what happened in that instant.

Surprise, indignation, calm and the tiniest bit of pleasure warred inside her when Negan lips touched hers.

The kiss was…sweet.

Negan was exploring her lips, slow, caressing her with the touch of his hand.

He was warm.

Tory hadn’t realized how cold she felt until that very moment, and the warmth of his kiss was so, so welcome. It reminded her of lying under the sun in the winter.

She couldn’t contain the moan of pleasure and contentment that left her throat which caused Negan to bite her lower lip.

The slight pinch brought her back to reality and she pushed Negan away with her palms open over his chest. It was a weak push, not even enough to make Negan fall back on the bed.

His easy, satisfied smile lit something inside Tory’s chest.

She was building back her life from the mess of shambles he had left to bring her here. His people were not her enemy, but he definitely was.

“Never do that again. Ever.” Tory hissed, clenching her hands until it hurt.

Negan’s smile became a smirk and his eyes glinted with the challenge she had just leveled him.  

“Oh, Gorgeous.” He sighed. “You’re gonna be swallowing those words soon.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

After Negan’s announcement of war, Tory spent the rest of her shift fidgeting every few minutes, unsure of what she should do with herself after Negan had kissed her.

Sasha’s death was weighing over her shoulders as if she now carried another dead soul with her. Tory knew it was stupid because her rational mind was screaming at her that Sasha’s death wasn’t her fault at all. Then again, she’d seen her friend get into that awful coffin as the Saviors prepared to leave the Sanctuary.

Saviors trickled into the infirmary little by little, keeping Harlan occupied as well. The wounded came with mostly minor scratches, anything bigger had already been taken care off in way of a bullet to the head of their comrades.

It was some fucked up thing, Tory thought, having to humanize people she’d seen as the enemy and later as fellow…sanctuary-inhabitants. 

She didn’t even know what to make of herself. Humanizing the people she now lived with carried other problems. Tory had to accept that Rick had done some awful stuff, and  that the people of Alexandria kept hurting in a senseless battle against a power that appeared superior. 

Appeared was the key word. 

Negan and the Saviors were very much human. They got sick, they bled, they felt pain just as much as anyone else.  

All of this… 

Tory had been assimilating for weeks, but the last pump of information after today?

That was too much.

“You leader was gonna let us kill his kid.” One saviour had said. “He’s crazy, that one.”

“He didn’ hesitate. Ston’ cold.” Another mentioned, shuddering and hissing when Tory dabbed his scratches with alcohol.

“It’s not like we asked for this.” Arat muttered as Tory bandaged her wrist. “They attacked first.”

Tory nodded. “They did.” She agreed.

“Now you’re seeing it.” Arat smirked. 

Tory blinked back at Negan’s preferred bodyguard.

“I’ve kind of always have.” Tory replied to the savior who frowned skeptically. “I mean it. It was stupid of us to attack the outpost as soon as we found it.”

The Hilltop involvement was certainly clear now. No matter how secret Tory would have liked to keep it. 

Arat shrugged and tested her wrist. “Well, now we’re all going to crush ’em.”

A noncommittal noise was Tory’s answer, but it seemed to satisfy her patient as she left shortly after.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Lucas was waiting for Tory in their room.

He had the whole night to himself, and as he was alone. He could only allow the scene he had witnessed to invade his mind. Replaying over and over.

His blood boiled at the thought of Negan’s hands on Tory. 

Tory…who was sweet and kind, even when Lucas had seen the effect of the post-apocalyptic world in those big, grey eyes, and in her trembling hands when she was nervous. The girl who still had nightmares where she called more names than Lucas could remember while tossing and turning in their bed.

He could not understand.

Hadn’t Tory said she didn’t feel anything for her soulmate?

Lucas realized then, the reason Tory had tried to stop him before they had sex for the first time. 

She was trying to give her explanation about her soulmate, and he should have listened.

“Why are you brooding in the dark?” Tory’s voice echoed a bit in the room as she turned the little overhead bulb on.

“Thinkin’.” Lucas muttered.

“Well, aren’t we a ray of sunshine today?” Tory joked, but Lucas’ unamused face remained. “

What happened?” the brunette asked, her expression morphing from playful to worried when she saw his own somber face.

“Sit down please, California.” Lucas pleaded, patting the seat beside him on the bed.

Tory sat beside him, looking up to his face and trying to reach for his hand with hers.

“Do you love me, Tory?” Lucas asked. 

It was unfair, they had known each other for a few weeks and their relationship was intense, but he wanted to know what it meant to her. 

What he meant to her. 

“No.” she whispered. “I don’t love you, Lucas. Not yet.”

Damn, her eyes shone with so much sincerity. 

It was true they had decided not to give each other labels, but then, the events of that afternoon happened.

“Do you think you can love me?” Lucas continued.

“Yes.” Tory sighed with a bit of exasperation. “What is it? Lucas, you have to tell me. You’re scaring me.”

Lucas nodded.

“If you say you can grow to love me, then why did you kiss Negan?” 

The question came a lot harsher than Lucas intended. Then again, his feelings were hurt and he wanted to know. 

No.

He needed to know.

He kissed me.” Tory exhaled.

Lucas closed his eyes. He had to accept that Tory wasn’t trying to put all the guilt on Negan.

“I did kiss him back.” She accepted. “I’m sorry.”

Hearing it hurt a lot more than he thought

Her apology made him chuckle and he was unable to tell her his thoughts. “You’re so fucking honest.”  Lucas sighed. “Why?”

His question resonated in her mind.

Why did she kiss Negan back?

It felt good.

“I don’t know.” She lied, immediately contradicting his previous assessment

Her lover nodded and then shook his head.

“I think we should end this.” Lucas suggested with a pained tone, while gesturing between them.

“What?” Tory stuttered, trying to recover from how abrupt Lucas’ statement boldly slapped her in the face.

“You and me, California. We’re not gonna work.” Lucas stated, looking right into her eyes.

He had already made up his mind, but Tory wasn’t about to let him go without a fight and refused to throw their happiness away because she had made a mistake.

“Lucas, I promise you. It was a mistake.  I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.” She declared vehemently, taking his hands with hers. “Please, give us a chance.”

A mirthless smile answered her plea.

“How is a man supposed to win against fate?”

Tory felt the urge to cry when he said that.

“This isn’t about fate, Lucas! It’s about choice and I chose you!” the renewed sting of tears made itself known and Tory sighed with a shuddering breath. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

Lucas looked over her shoulder, his gaze wistful, as if he was keeping some of his thoughts private. 

Then, his deep, deep eyes caught hers.

“You’re lying, Tory. Not only to me, but to yourself as well.” He squeezed her hands gently. “Please, California.”

“No.” Tory shook her head, as tiny sobs started to make her body shake. “No, Lucas, we have to fix this. We can fix this.” She declared, feeling more doubtful by the second.

“Tell me, Victoria.” He commanded, his voice firm and his eyes sad. “How can I fight for you?” 

Lucas moved his hand forward and tugged her left sleeve up, revealing the dark, inky color of her soulmarks. The outline was an angry red, not unlike a freshly made tattoo.

 

WE ARE GOING TO WAR!

 

“How can I fight for you…when you never belonged to me in the first place?” Lucas asked, his voice low and defeated against Tory’s hiccuping sobs.

“You can stay in this room.” Lucas told her, letting go of her hands and standing up from the bed. Tory noticed the tiny duffel bag he had already prepared.

He was leaving her.

“Lucas-” she started again, but he shook his head and leaned down to place a kiss on her forehead. 

“I didn’t choose him, is not fair! I don’t need him!” she said in despair, almost chocking with the need to sob.

“But you still tried to fill up the space he belongs in.” he answered wisely. “Bye, California.”

Tory closed her eyes and hugged herself as Lucas walked out of the room, closing the door behind him with the softest click.

The real dam broke then and Tory dissolved into inconsolable weeping.

At some point, the tears stopped and she sobbed until she dry-heaved, refusing to throw up what little dinner she’d been able to eat.

The formerly cozy room felt too spacious now. 

All her happiness was gone and Tory wondered where she could get herself a drink.    

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan was lying on his bed with Martha curled up at his side -his left, uninjured side-, sleeping peacefully to the sound of his breathing. His right hand was free, so her brought it to his face and dragged it down, trying to muster some sort of calm.

The day had been an utter disaster.

First, with Sasha.

Then with Alexandria.

And that fucking widow!

Negan sighed. The pain in his right side was killing him, but there was no way in hell he would take a single one of the pills Carson 2.0 had offered him. The sight of the pill bottle alone made him feel nauseous, evaporating the slightly comforting feeling that kissing Tory had left him.

And now he was blinking at the ceiling of his bedroom, trying to fall asleep. For a few minutes, Negan thought he would actually fall asleep, and then, another prickle of hurt made him wince.

His arm hurt, so he lifted it.

 

This isn’t about fate, Lucas! It’s about choice and I chose you!

 

Negan didn’t know what had brought this up, but his satisfaction was dampened with the notion that tomorrow, he would find a different Tory facing him.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Lucas knocked on the door of the only person that came to his mind when he left the room to Tory.

“Came to apologize, have ya’?” he asked smugly, making Lucas wish he was there to punch the smirk out of his face.

“Have room for another one?” Lucas asked in return, ignoring his question.

“Trouble in paradise, my dude?”

Lucas sighed deeply.

“You have no idea.”  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Vera waited one day before she ambushed Tory in the quest for answers.

“What happened between you and Lucas?” her friend asked, pushing Tory into the corner of the kitchen.

The grey eyed girl sighed and fidgeted, so she didn’t notice the worried frown in her friend’s face before she answered.

“There was an incident with Negan.” Tory confessed, feeling the knot in her throat as it started to form. “Lucas saw…and…we’re over.”

Vera deflated with an expression of utter disbelief. “But you were MFEO.”

“We what?” Tory asked, her voice maybe a bit too high, making some heads turn.

“Made for each other!” Vera elaborated vehemently.

Tory laughed bitterly, feeling the first lick of tears prick her eyes.

“I think you’re wrong.”

Vera shook her head as if Tory had just blurted some stupid nonsense.

“What happened? Toryyou know I won’t stop until I know, right?” Vera pushed. “I’ll go talk to Negan if need be.”

Tory gasped in horror.

“Are you out of your mind?” she hissed, wanting to shake some common sense into her friend.

Vera pushed Tory’s hands away from herself.

“It’s a long story.”

The other brunette narrowed her chocolate eyes and grimaced.

“Lunch break, you and me. You’re gonna spill the tea, Tory Miller.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Vera’s baffled expression made Tory feel worse.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” her friend asked, turning her marriage band around her middle finger, the same one in which Erin’s ring had fitted her.

“Would you?” Tory asked in return.

For once, Vera was completely speechless.

“I was scared.” The admission made Tory feel small and fragile. 

She had been scared all her life and that was the debilitating truth.

Tory had lived her life scared, always guarding herself from others because most people didn’t understand her. That had made her a private person until Henry had opened her world. 

For a short while she had it all.

Then, little by little, everything had been taken away from her…

“I’ve made so many mistakes, Vera.” Tory whispered, trying not to grind her teeth. “I’ve made decisions that have affected so many. I thought that staying with Lucas…”

Lucas had reminded her of her happiest days. 

Of Henry and Peyton; the blissful time before their untimely deaths. 

His smile had been a breath of fresh air.

He had given Tory a reason to smile when she was at her worst.

Tears started filling her eyes.

Again.

She had cried so much in the last twenty-four hours.

“It’s gonna be okay, honey.” Vera said, hugging Tory with such tenderness that it made her cry harder. “You’re gonna be okay, the both of you.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan was angry.

Planning for war wasn’t as easy as it seemed and it was a lot harder than everyone thought. The worst part of his expansionism was that he had to delegate tasks to everyone around him.

He would have killed ten of Gavin to have Eric back.

Damn, he would off himself if he could get Elle back and have her lead his people to peace. 

Elle would have understood Rick. She would have understood his pleas and what he wanted. Unlike, King Mall-Rat, Rick could listen, unless he was pushed too hard.

Yeah, he had tried going behind his back, just like that mall-rat, but Negan thought he had the upper hand.

Knowing that the widow was still alive explained why the Hilltop had attacked them along with Rick.

He wished he could take it all back and-

“Are you okay?”

Negan lifted his forearm away from his face and opened his eyes. He had to blink a couple of times to get them used to the light of the room.

Tory Miller was watching him with a strange expression in her face.

She looked pale and frail.

Negan hadn’t seen her in almost a week. 

Not since he had come back from Alexandria and had kissed her.

When he thought he hadn’t seen his soulmate, he meant it. He hadn’t seen her at meal times, in the infirmary, for his rounds of check-ups, or when he toured the kitchen once a day to get some gelato.

It was as if she had vanished, but the constant reminder of his marks told him otherwise. Today, he had tasked Arat to track the elusive girl down, and she had made it.

“Fucking peachy.” Negan answered. “You look like shit.” He scolded.

A shrug and a disinterested expression was his answer.

“I feel like shit too.” Tory informed him as she sat down in front of him. “Do you have any of that awful bourbon here?” she asked brazenly.

“I’m not facilitating your fucking addiction.” Negan growled.

“Fair point.” The young woman conceded, taking a flask from somewhere under her light blue sweater, and taking a long, unladylike gulp.

“Where did you get that?”  Negan barked, anger bubbling furiously in his chest. 

“I got it here, of course. Where else?” his soulmate retorted, turning the flask clos before storing it again.

From whom?” Negan clarified, grinding his teeth as he spoke, and clenching his fists in rage.

“I never reveal my sources.”

“Why are you drinking?! Where have you been?” 

Negan knew her point supply had to be running low, and it had been only five days. Either she was doing her best to avoid him or he hadn’t been looking closely.

“I’m drinking because I have alcohol at hand.” Tory answered dispassionately. “I’ve been around as always.”

Negan turned his eyes up, asking silently for patience and understanding but his fuse was short right now.

“You didn’t answer my question.” He began. “I haven’t seen you with…what’s his name?”

A twitch.

It was there. Faint, but there it was, right on her lower lip.

“We’re over.” The grey eyed girl told him. “He saw you kissing me.”

Negan scoffed.

“And that’s it? He gave up on you?”

Tory Miller frowned and she looked as menacing as a new born puppy.

“He said it wouldn’t do to go against fate.” Tory swallowed hard, but her voice had broken in the middle of the sentence and her eyes filled with tears. “I ruined it all. I always ruin things around you.”

“Gorgeous…” he started and she lifted her hand.

“Can we not do this?” Tory pleaded, really pleaded, with earnest eyes and a soulful expression that reminded him of Lucille when she was about Tory’s age. “We really get nothing from this, Negan, and you don’t really like me.” She blurted her words fast, as if she anticipated his interruption. “I promise I won’t get with anyone, I won’t do something stupid. I just…I don’t know…”

Negan wanted to hug her and tell her things would get better. He really wanted to console her, but the way she looked at him with such hopelessness…it stopped him.

“Go away and close the door behind you, Gorgeous.”

Maybe Tory didn’t say it, but Negan had felt it.

She begged him not to destroy her.

And he would honor that.  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuary

Tory should have known.

Good things never last and waking up alone was tremendously lonely.

Vera was supportive of her to a fault, but Tory couldn’t get herself out of the horrible depression that followed her break up with Lucas.

The hard part of that situation was watching him working and being himself around the Sanctuary. He lacked the smile he usually wore, but it seemed to be attractive to the women around them. Tory could swear she had seen Laura flirt with Lucas more than once and it had set her blood boiling.

What was even worse was that after Lucas had left their room, which was Tory’s now, he had gone to stay with Tyler.

Fucking Tyler!

Tyler, who had started following her again.

Tory wasn’t scared of him now. Tyler could do whatever he wanted to her and things wouldn’t change much.

If he killed Tory -which she figured was his intention- Vera would mourn, maybe Lucas too, but they would eventually move on. 

Would Negan do something about it?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

He had stuck to his promise and Tory hadn’t heard a peep from him.

During her break, Tory had found herself sitting outside under a tree and enjoying the sunshine. She sighed and closed her eyes, letting the warmth wash over her.

“What are you doing here?” a stern, feminine voice asked.

Tory opened her eyes reluctantly.

Viv was watching her with one eyebrow raised, still waiting for an answer. She was carrying some tools and a flower pot.

“Drinking in the sun?” Tory asked tentatively. 

The gardener shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“Stop being useless. Come with me, we’re gonna move cuttings.” Vivienne commanded.

Tory pushed herself up and panted a low, “yes, boss.”

“Negan might be the big, bad wolf in that factory of his, but the gardens are mine, darling.” Viv snarked, “So, I’m the boss.”

After another thorough once over, Viv frowned at Tory’s long sleeves “Roll those up.” 

Tory fidgeted still hoping that she could hide the new marks that had appeared after breakfast. “I prefer not to.”

“Wasn’t a question.” The gardening chief told her with a smile.

“Please, Viv. Don’t make me.” Tory felt a cold sweat forming in the back of her neck and her forehead. 

She might not know what the relationship between Vivienne and Negan was, but there was some tension that they seemed unable to get over, like something truly bad had happened.

“You can’t have arms that bad, Victoria.” Vivienne scolded, before she grabbed onto Tory’s sleeve and tugged it up gently.

 

Move the guns to the chemical plant.

 

A loud gasp made Vivienne cover her mouth as she looked up from Tory’s arm to her face.

The dots seemed to have connected in her mind faster than in Vera’s or even Negan’s.

“Oh, God.” Vivienne sat on a wobbly wooden stool and put her head between her hands. 

Tory stood awkwardly, almost wishing for her arm to disappear when she saw the older woman’s shoulders slump. “I think you better leave, Victoria. The cuttings can wait.”

“But-”

“Please. Just leave.”

Tory wasn’t sure, but it seemed like Vivienne had started to cry.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Vera thanked Arat for letting her get an audience with Negan. However, it wasn’t free since it had taken two days of dessert bribing.

Negan was pouring over a big map of what seemed to be the other communities within reach. Doveport, Alexandria, Hilltop, Oceanside, The Kingdom and more recently, she noted, the Trash-Place were color-coded on the map, along with the routes to each of them.

“Not that I don’t find this delightful, Mrs. Gelato, but what the hell are you doing here?” 

Negan’s voice made Vera look at him.

“Can I take a sit?” she asked in return, and he gestured at the chair in front of him.

“So, why are you here?” Negan asked again, this time paying attention to her response.

“I’m here for Tory.”

A strange mix of emotions Vera couldn’t read passed through the eyes of the community leader and then his face fell.

“If Gorgeous wants something, she can talk to me herself.” Negan growled.

Vera snorted in a very unladylike manner and Negan raised his eyebrows.

“I love Tory like a sister. She is an amazing and a brilliant woman, but she is too stubborn and too afraid of making a mistake.” Vera paused, thinking her next words through. “But I’m not scared of that.”

Negan studied Vera Owens carefully.

She had a determined look in her big, brown eyes. If she had been fiercer, Negan would have been reminded of Amy.

“You think talking to me is a mistake?” Negan asked, going for the easiest question, trying to forget his melancholy.

“No, I don’t think so, but Tory seems to think you hinder her reasoning.” Vera admitted. “Did she tell you that she and Lucas are over?”

Negan nodded stiffly.

“I just want her to be okay, Negan, and I don’t think you’re the best option for her.” The simple statement hurt Negan and he was ready to retort when Vera continued. “Unless you decide to take this soulmate thing seriously. She doesn’t need you to hurt her anymore, Negan.”  

“Is that all you have to say, missus?” he growled.

“No, but it’s all I’ll say. The rest is Tory’s job.”

Vera made a weird bow with her head and then left as silently as she had come to his room.

Negan sat back on the couch and sighed. He needed to think, he needed to work, and his damn sense of duty was now on full advance thanks to Mrs. Gelato.

Tory Miller’s existence wasn’t his fucking fault!

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory felt slightly dizzy.

Roy had been the right choice in order for her to get some alcohol. Yeah, he wanted information for the drinks, but she had the upper hand from any events of her life from age sixteen.

So far, Tory hadn’t talked about her once failed pregnancy or her relationship with Tom or Henry. However, bits and pieces seemed to keep Roy happy.

When she started to feel really tired, Tory left her bio-dad’s room and wandered the hallways she knew were not being patrolled. The Sanctuary was a living nightmare, with the silent endless hallways and flickering lights. Tory was no coward, but she could accept that she didn’t like the enormous place as much as she thought.

Some errant moans could be heard through the windows, but out of that, Tory could hear her own steps only.

It was evident when someone started following her.

Tory sighed, exhaling as if she had noticed nothing while thinking about her options. Her temple was starting to pound with a head ache and her dizziness was getting harder to ignore. Her knees were wobbly with the realization that she could be inhaling her last soon.

Trying to keep her steps steady, Tory walked as breezily as she could to reach her room, with a key ready in her hand.

The overhead light of the hallways flickered and Tory shivered involuntarily as her hands shook when she stood in front of her non-descript, pine-wood door.

Key in hand, she was ready to go inside when Tory heard it.

“Stop right there, Kitten.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tyler adored the way in which Tory Miller shuddered whenever he spoke.

“Don’t you smell like a damn brewery, kitten?” he asked, twirling a tendril of soft dark hair between his fingers. 

“I had a couple drinks.” The brunette accepted, with her back still turned to him.

“A couple?” he chuckled darkly, tugging at her hair gently at first then hard and making Tory fall back on him. 

She whimpered quietly.

“A couple.”

Oh, Tyler loved when they were like this, unwilling to show fear. He enjoyed breaking women like this one. He had been waiting on this for a long, long time. 

His fingers fell on her slim shoulders and Tyler turned Tory Miller around to face him. She was pale, but the look in her grey eyes didn’t speak of fear. 

She had been expecting this, as if she could predict himAnd it was irritating.

Maybe it was time to change tactics.

“You look like you’re going to pass out, kitten.” 

Tory flinched when he called her kitten.

“Don’t you like that nickname? I remember you used to like it quite a bit.” Tyler taunted in a falsely offended voice.

“I’m not one for nicknames. Not really.” She lied, almost convincingly too.

Tyler smiled, truly this time and he leaned into Tory’s space, reaching for his ear with his lips.

“Henry would disagree.” He breathed out.  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory tensed.

“Shut up.” She hissed.

Tyler’s smile transformed into a predatory grin.

“So, what happened to him anyway?” the man asked, stepping closer and practically pinning Tory against her own door. “You were so inseparable.”

She fought against the new, powerless tears as they brimmed her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.

“Oh…Oh…don’t tell me, did he die?” Tyler’s mocking tone made her want to murder him. “Kitten, that’s sad.”

Tory gulped as his hands caressed her shoulders, her bare neck, and ended up on her cheeks.

“Then that unfortunate thing with your daddy. Another sad, sad thing.” Tyler growled, leaning into her space again she felt his forehead touch hers.

“Get away from me!” she snapped, pushing him blindly.

Tyler laughed quietly, making his chest rumble against her fists as his hands circled her throat.

“You are such a nosy little thing, like some angry kitten.”  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan’s tumbler slipped from his hand and a hiss of pain left his lips making Martha turn to him, abandoning the point report she’d been going through.

“Is it Tory?” she asked.

“Who cares?” Negan growled, thinking about cleaning the glass and bourbon from his carpet.

Martha glared at him, her amber-like eyes narrowed as she walked to him and took his hand, making Negan extend his arm.

Negan didn’t try to pull away, lest he hurt his wife, whose touch had gone from firm to languid in a few seconds.

“Negan?” she said breathlessly.

“What?” he snapped, his irritation becoming anger.

“I think Tory is in trouble.”

Negan frowned and read the words himself.

 

c-can’t breathe!

 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

The edges of Tory’s vision were becoming darker and darker by the second.

Tyler’s hands were tightening around her throat, cutting her air supply deliberately slow about it. He was studying her as his fingers marked her skin.

“Fuck, this is hot, don’t you think?” Tyler sighed. “Damn, I should have asked you so many things.”

Tory tried to claw at his hands but he had a firm grip and didn’t care for the pain.

“Ben always liked you so much, and of course he went and took sweet Vera in. He just couldn’t resist. Who would have thought you’d meet each other?”

Ben?

Then it dawned on her, who he meant.

Ben Barnes.

Lieutenant Barnes, the man who had given her the map to Alexandria!

Tyler must have seen the realization dawn on her, because his grip eased just a bit, making her gulp in some precious air.

“Now you remember me?”

Tory nodded as much as she could. However, it was a lie.

“What a good kitten.” Tyler said, nuzzling her neck and making her shiver in disgust. “Such a good girl.” His hands finally left her neck, and Tory knew she was going to have some colorful bruises soon. 

Only, if she made it through the night unscathed.

Tory shut her eyes when Tyler’s tongue touched her right cheek, wetting her skin slowly and kissing right at her temple.

“You taste like fear, kitten.” Tyler rasped as one of his hands caressed her from breast to hip, circling her slowly and bringing her even closer. Tory thought she would throw up on him when his arousal rubbed against her pants. “Sweet, sweet fear.”

Tory shuddered a breath as she clenched her fists on his chest, trying not to tear his t-shirt.

He chuckled.

“I think I’m going to fuck you against this door.” He told her, his voice calmer as he made his decision. “I’m not gonna kill you, because I don’t think one lousy fuck will be enough, kitten. But if you say one, single word to anyone. Anyone. I’ll…”

There was a long pause as Tyler thought out his threat and made circles on Tory’s sweat soaked back.

“I’ll kill Lucas.” He said cheerfully, at last.  

Lucas?

Tory felt as if she’d been punched in the gut. It felt hard to breathe, but Tory gulped more air in trying to calm herself.

She couldn’t let him hurt Lucas. Not Lucas who was so much like Henry, who understood her as she was and knew her so closely. Better than she could have imagined.

“I know you like him so very much.” Tyler said. “He likes you too.”

By now, a cold calm had taken over Tory’s mind. Her hands hurt when she dislodged them from Tyler’s t-shirt and he took it as a sign of resignation.

What a damn fool.

While Tyler distracted himself with her body, kissing and biting her neck, caressing her arms and groping her chest, Tory palmed his waist, looking for his belt. The disgusting fuck had the audacity to thrust against her hands.

“Damn, kitten, you are one perverted little girl.” He panted, biting her shoulder.

If Tory had been completely present, she would have noticed the pain it was causing. Her hands shook a bit and when she found what she was looking for.

The familiar handle felt like an extension of her arm. It belonged to her, so Tory took it.

And Tyler realized his mistake.

“You fucking bitch!” he hissed, tightening his hands around her throat so fast it made Tory see stars, but she had what she wanted.

Henry’s hunting knife was as sharp as always when Tory made the sloppy cut from Tyler’s abdomen to his chest.

It was a flesh wound, but it distracted him enough to let go.

Tory coughed as she slid against the door, all the way to the floor. Tyler grabbed Tory’s hair with savage rage and she screamed in pain too.

Cold anger swept through her as Tory got a firmer grip on her knife and plunged it in Tyler’s thigh, making him groan as he punched her in the rib.

There was no crack and Tory twisted the knife mercilessly before taking it out, hoping she had nicked his femoral artery.

Blood splashed on her hand as the knife came out cleanly. Tyler dropped her in favor of slowing the blood flow.

Tory panted and knelt before grabbing mindlessly to the wall in an attempt to get back on her feet.

She had two choices. Either she allowed Tyler to live and tattle on her, or killed him and spin the story on her own. Because, no matter what, she wouldn’t get out of this clean.

The choice was easy and Tory wiped the handle of the knife with her sweater before taking it in her right hand.

“I wasn’t sorry about your eye, Tyler.” She told her dad’s murderer, as she made a cut to his left arm, where an artery was supposed to go through. 

“N-no, no, stop, please!” Tyler cried out.

Tory tilted her head, as if she couldn’t understand what he meant.

“You killed my dad and made me apologize, Tyler. That is some shitty behavior.” Tory said as she knelt.

They were seeing eye to eye as Tory felt for his ribs and then stabbed him again. The knife wasn’t long enough to puncture Tyler’s lung, but the blood kept flowing and Tory finally pushed Tyler to lie on his back.

In that moment, she straddled him and cut his throat with a clean slice.

His blood was warm, but it felt revolting and the smell was suffocating her.

Tory stayed where she was, seated upon Tyler as he clawed at his throat trying to stop the inevitable, and it didn’t take long until he stopped breathing.

His one good eye became shiny and unseeing in death and Tory finished the job, stabbing that very eye until she felt the knife plunge past it and into Tyler’s brain.

And Tory breathed a sigh of relief.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •  • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuary

It had been three days.

Vera hadn’t seen Tory in three days and no one had given her a feasible explanation for her friend’s absence. She felt as if she were standing at the edge of a horrible crisis.

Vera’s first choice was to resolve the situation with Lucas, but he had come up with a worse idea than hers.

“Tyler’s gone too, Ve. I’m scared.” Her adopted brother-in-law had a haunted look in his eyes. “What if he did something to California?”

“I don’t think so.” Vera replied, she turned her eyes to the leader of the Saviors, who was sharing his meal with his many wives at the head table. 

He looked calm and composed, either Negan didn’t know what was going on, or he knew and wasn’t telling anyone. 

“You know Negan would have done something about that already.” Vera continued.

Lucas grimaced, but Vera rolled her eyes at him, not feeling entirely happy with him and the awful way in which he had broken things with Tory.

“What if they just left together?” Chase compromised, earning himself a glare from his wife and his best friend. “Just an idea...

“No.” Vera shook her head. “Tory wouldn’t go with the man who killed her dad.”

The waiting was going to drive her crazy so after sitting with her boys, Vera decided to visit Roy Miller.

Tory had commented about seeing her biological father and Vera hoped that maybe he had answers.

She found none.

“She left my room two nights ago and hasn’t come back.” Roy confessed, lifting his eyes from his assignment books. His earnest expression reminded Vera of Tory and her heart clenched in fear for her friend. “I thought she was just avoiding me.”

“No. She just seems to have vanished.” The young brunette said, trying not to bite her fingernails, a habit her mother had drilled out of her a long time ago, which emphasized how worried Vera actually was.  

As it turned out, Vera’s questions of Tory’s whereabouts were finally answered with the clicking of high heels over the tacky linoleum of the kitchens while Vera was in the middle of her shift.

The young cook turned around to find Martha watching her silently, with an unreadable expression gracing her usually smiling face.

“Can I help you with something?” Vera inquired, turning to rinse the soap she had been using from her hands.

“How long until your break?” Martha asked.

Vera’s light brown eyes went to the kitchen clock automatically. She had another half hour to complete before her lunch break started, and she told Martha so.

Martha nodded and wringed her hands a bit before nodding again.

“I want you to find me under the emergency staircase when your break starts, deal?”

Vera nodded and Martha turned away to leave with urgency, as if she knew she was on measured time.

“Wait!” Vera yelled, ““Is she okay?””

Martha stopped and looked at Vera from over her shoulder before avoiding her gaze.

“I don’t know.”

The minutes dragged by so slow, Vera wanted to crawl inside the clock and push time forward herself.

Once Vera was on her break, she practically breezed past anyone and anything in her way to the emergency staircase, arriving just in time to find Martha and Vivienne under the shade of the stairs.

Vera frowned a bit at Vivienne’s presence, but kept her opinion to herself as her breathing slowed down. 

“What is exactly the reason why you have us here, Martha?” Viv started, crossing her arms over her chest, her light eyes slightly narrowed at Negan’s closest wife and friend.

“I need your help.” Martha answered carefully, watching beyond them, checking for unwanted ears. None of them asked about the guard that was supposed to be with her.

“That’s evident, but what for?” the older woman pursued.

“Tory has been in a cell for almost three days now.”

And there it was.

The bomb.

“Why?” Vera blurted the question without thinking, but Martha sighed as a worried expression took over her features.

“Three nights ago, I was with Negan when…  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Martha watched as Negan put his jacket over his white t-shirt and she scrambled to her feet to put her dress back on, intent on following her husband in the quest for his soulmate.

Negan was so damn tall compared to Martha. She cursed all the way down to the hallway where Tory’s room was, as she practically jogged behind Negan when he simply walked briskly with Lucille on his shoulder.

The scene they came to was gruesome, to say the least. Simon was there already restraining Tory, who didn’t seem to need restrains, as far as Martha was concerned.

She heard her husband curse under his breath as he took in the mess of the hallway.

A savior lay in the floor, drenched in blood, a knife still in his eye socket. There was blood staining the door, the walls, and the floor. 

“What happened, Simon?” Negan demanded with a growl that made Martha shiver.

Simon had a deep scowl in his face as he turned to answer to Negan.

“This one here killed Tyler.”

“Did you ask her why?” Negan followed up, clenching his fists, evidently wracking his brain to find a way to spare Tory of a punishment.

“Keeps saying that if she didn’t do it, no one would, that it was necessary.” Simon repeated with a sneer.

Martha saw Negan sit on his hunches to examine the corpse that lay between the four of them. Then, the community leader pulled the knife from Tyler’s head with a squelching sound that almost made her gag. Negan pocketed the knife and turned to Simon.

“We’re gonna take Gorgeous upstairs, get someone to clean this mess.” He ordered, without using any curse words. Negan meant business.

His right-hand man gave Martha the impression he wanted to protest, but he followed the instructions without a hitch.

Once Simon was out of ear-shot, Negan turned to Martha, his face betrayed urgency.

“We need to get her upstairs and clean her up. Use whatever will fit her of mine.” 

Martha nodded as Negan pushed Tory to her.

Catatonic Tory was very cooperative, and less than fifteen minutes later, Martha had gotten Tory to shower, dry and dress in a t-shirt a few sizes too big, while wearing some of Martha’s own underwear.

Tory had bruises all over her neck and ribcage, and her scalp had some tender spots, as if she’d been dragged using her hair. Tyler had attacked Tory. There were bite marks on her skin and finger-shaped bruises on her arms. It almost made the wife cry.

“What happened, Tory?” Martha asked, as she combed the long strands of brown hair.

“I had to. I had to. He was dangerous. No one else was going to do it. I had to. I had to.”

No matter what Martha inquired, the answer was the same, though, Tory changed the urgency of her words a bit every time.

It was bad.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Vivienne was struck silent and Vera felt so dizzy she had to close her eyes so she wouldn’t faint.

The older woman spoke first.

“We need to do something.”

Martha nodded. “I know, I have an idea, but I need your help.”

“Whatever you need.” Vera assured her, but Martha grimaced. Once Vera heard the idea she might not like it as much.

“Well…”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory had killed before.

Once.

She couldn’t remember the words she had used and all the things she did while she carried out her revenge. No, Tory couldn’t remember that, but she remembered the heat of the fire she had lit, the strong fumes of the gasoline and then the screams and the pungent smell of charred flesh. All of this was making rounds in her head while she stared at Henry’s hunting knife, still buried deep in Tyler’s eye socket.

Tory knew an adult could carry around four or five liters of blood, and she was certainly drenched in Tyler’s. Her soft sweater was beyond saving, as were her jeans, and maybe even the t-shirt she was wearing underneath.

A soft sigh passed between her lips as Tory leaned to grab her knife from the corpse she was still straddling. It was slippery with blood and it kept slipping from her hold.

She couldn’t get it back, it seemed.

Tory had seen what became of the unfortunate souls who committed heinous crimes inside the walls of the Sanctuary, and she was not about to become a damn zombie after seven years fighting for her survival.

Something inside her head was screaming at her that Tory shouldn’t be so calm, and that she should go tell someone about the mess she made.

The moment Tory stood up, she heard a soft curse coming from the opposite end of the hallway and turned around at the harsh word.

Simon was there.

Fuck.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Simon sucked a breath between his teeth as his eyes took in the scene in front of him.

The Alexandrian girl that Negan had asked him to retrieve was dripping with blood and one of his most trusted men was dead on the floor.

“You killed Tyler, girlie?” he asked, surprised at how distant he sounded.

The girl blinked slowly and turned her grey eyes from Simon to the body on the floor and then back at him.

“Yes. I did.” She whispered. It was a tiny whisper and if Simon hadn’t been listening, he might have missed it.

“Why?” he inquired, curious as to how easy it was to get her confession.

“I had to. He was dangerous.” the girl replied with a bit more conviction. 

Simon advanced on her, but the Alexandrian didn’t move an inch and her eyes were slightly detached when he faced her.

“Are you out of your mind, kid?” Simon growled, feeling a hot rage start to build inside him. His outpost, his authority, his men. All the people he’d been working to protect and Tyler, who was like family to Simon.

All of them were gone.

“I had to do it. He was dangerous.”

If Simon had been reasonable, he would have understood the shock in Tory Miller’s voice and the way in which she seemed to be dissociating what she had done. Alas, Simon wasn’t being rational and his first instinct was to slap her.

Tory Miller didn’t even make a sound of protests and kept murmuring about Tyler being dangerous, which was ironic, since he was the one who lay dead.

Simon considered chocking the girl until she was dead. He was two good seconds away from wrapping his hands around that slim throat when he heard Negan’s voice.

And he sounded dangerous.

“What happened, Simon?” Negan demanded with a growl. Simon scowled and his eyes moved slowly from Tory to Negan.

“This one here killed Tyler.” He growled back, feeling his fingers itch with the need to wrap them around that frail neck.

“Did you ask her why?” The big boss questioned, and Simon knew Negan had something in mind that didn’t necessarily include him.

“Keeps saying that if she didn’t do it, no one would, that it was necessary.” Simon answered, wanting to put as much guilt on her as he could.

Negan walked towards Tyler’s body with a deep grimace and a frown before he dropped to examine the corpse and pulled the knife from Tyler’s eye socket.

“We don’t want this to be a bigger mess, do we?” Negan was getting rhetorical now. “Simon.”

“Aye?”

“We’re gonna take Gorgeous upstairs, get someone to clean this mess. Meet me upstairs once that’s done.”

Negan’s voice didn’t leave room for arguments, and Simon went on his way, with dark thoughts swirling in his mind.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan threw his pencil over the books.

He couldn’t fix his mind on anything other than the vacant look in Victoria Miller’s eyes as he left her standing inside one of the tiny cells where she had started her stay at the Sanctuary.

The words she had said resonated with him, shaking him every time he read them. 

 

I’m sorry, I had to.

 

Dragging his hands down his face, Negan sighed, as he reminisced the events of that night.  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan threw his jacket with violence as he saw Martha encourage Tory to exit the bathroom. The girl that seemed to have come out of a horror film was gone, leaving behind a cleaner version of herself, dressed in clothes too big for her frame.

It didn’t stop him from walking up to them both and shaking Tory’s shouldersShe looked absolutely unimpressed by his outburst, and Martha swatted his hands away.

“What the fuck were you thinking?!” he hissed at Tory.

“He was dangerous. I had to do it.” Tory hissed back.

Martha was eying them both with worry and Negan pinched the bridge of his nose with such fury he thought it’d bleed.

“I want a fucking explanation, Gorgeous. Right-fucking-now.” He demanded, still standing in her personal space. 

Tory didn’t back down.

“He was dangerous.” She repeated, sounding monotonous.

Something’s off.

“Yeah, you made that fucking clear by killing that motherfucker!” 

A hand pressed against his chest and Negan found Martha pushing him away.

“Stop. She won’t tell you anything else.” His wife said.

Negan blinked a couple times, feeling surprised and floored.

“She won’t?” he asked Martha, who nodded with a concerned expression on her face.

“Tory keeps repeating the same thing. I tried to get her to tell me why she’d done it.” Martha sighed. “Something’s wrong.”

The leader of the Saviors was about to tell his wife was exactly was wrong when Simon entered his room without knocking.

Rude.

“Boss. Mess’s been dealt with.” His right-hand man said, standing really straight when he saw him and how close he was to Tory. 

Negan knew that he wanted to have her punished.

You can’t! a voice resonated in his mind.  You promised.

Negan wanted a drink. Maybe a whole bottle.

“Take Gorgeous to a cell, Si.” Negan sighed, giving up his idea to interrogate her.

“Sorry, did I hear that wrong, boss?”

Negan usually liked Simon.

Most of the time.

But not now.

“You heard right, Simon.” The unspoken ‘problem?’ lingered at the end of his sentence.

And then his right-hand man delivered the best incorporeal slap someone had ever given Negan.

“I don’t know what you’re playing at, Negan, but she doesn’t deserve your consideration!” Simon exclaimed, making Martha wince as Tory stepped back, as if she wanted to hide. “She’s done nothing to earn it, and she can’t replace Elle!”

Fuck.

Fuck it hurt so much.

Just hearing her name and not being able to call for her himself.

She would know what to do. 

Or she would try.

“You’re right, Si.” Negan conceded flatly. “I don’t owe her anything. But I don’t owe you anything either, do I?”

Simon was gonna argue, sure he was, but Negan lifted his hand.

“The girl is in shock for a reason, I’m not gonna strap her to the fucking fence until we have a real confession.” The community leader narrowed his eyes to his most trusted lieutenant and continued. “I’m taking Gorgeous to a cell, and when she is ready to talk. She will.” 

Simon left the rooms as soon as he was done with his shitty speech and Negan had taken the girl all the way down to the cells himself, placing her inside with a warning look. But those grey eyes were not looking at him.

“I’m sorry. I had to.” Tory said, her voice still off, as was her whole stance.

For the briefest of instants, Negan wished with all his might for Victoria to look at him and see him. 

He wished she trusted him.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Chapter Text

 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuay

Tory rediscovered her capacity for gratefulness.

She didn’t know how long it took; cells didn’t come with clocks, unfortunately, but if felt like the longest time of her life.

It turned out to be time enough to make her think about her whole life, with no distraction from the outside world whatsoever. A cup of water and something barely edible being delivered twice a day wasn’t enough to get her out of the hole she had dug herself in.

“You sure know how to set a good mood, T.”

Tory blinked in the dark, unable to distinguish any form.

She was alone.

It was awful, having to remind herself of that tidbit of information.

“You’re dead, Spencer.” She muttered.

“Sure, I’m dead, and whose fault is that?” he asked.

“Yours.” Tory snapped. The voice she had identified as Spencer’s chuckled.

“Yeah. I put myself there. Henry is better at this.” He admitted.

“At what?” Tory asked, humoring the voice inside her cell.  Did crazy people know they were crazy? She had never thought about asking anyone that and now she felt insecure about it.

“Guilt tripping you.” Spencer’s voice vanished and Tory smiled.

The silence could have stretched for hours or a few minutes, Tory wasn’t sure, before she heard another voice in the dark.

“If you think he’s mad at you, you’re right.”

Tears came unbidden to her eyes and Tory bit hard on her lip to strangle the sobs in her throat. She hadn’t heard that voice in years.

Ten long years.

“Crying can only take you so far, baby.”

“I’m so sorry, mom.” The brunette sobbed.

“I know, baby. I would hug you…”

Tory shook her head, letting the tears flow, hiccuping sobs as she hugged herself instead.

“I know you were expecting Henry to talk to you, but I guess he’s had it with you. Mentioned something about missing chances.” Her mother’s voice was warm and comforting, and she didn’t seem to be that worried about her situation. “He loved you so much. We all do.”

Tory opened her mouth to tell Erin how much she loved her, but only sobs came out.

“Now, I’ve seen you do the silliest things for years, Victoria Jones.” Erin said, sounding admonishing as she spoke. “Ten years I’ve seen you stumble and fall, and you have fallen so many times.”

Tory nodded in the dark, closing her eyes.

“But I didn’t come to remind you of that, baby. You’re strong and if you’re sorry, you have to make up for it, okay?” Erin’s voice was starting to fade. “Make sure you mean it, Victoria.”

Tory opened her mouth to protest when the door was opened with a bang and the light blinded her.

Time was up.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Vera was looking down and shaking her head.

“Tory will hate it.” She murmured. Vivienne stayed in silence, weighing the younger women. “She won’t accept it.”

“Yeah, she might hate it, but it’s a way to keep her safe, and I’m not being impulsive about this, Vera.” Martha countered. “I’ve given it some good thought.”

With a long, suffering sigh, Vera passed a hand through her hair.

“Okay, so, I guess you have a plan?”

Martha nodded.

“This is what we’ll do.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

The records of the infirmary inventory felt heavy in Vera’s hands.

She didn’t feel comfortable about any of this. It was a whole different thing pushing Tory and Lucas to be together, after all she thought that they had chemistry. Their looks and disposition were similar, and their personalities, compatible.

However, pushing Negan to protect Tory was going to be another thing.

A completely different thing.

Vera knew her friend had some modicum of respect for the leader of their community, in the sense that he kept so many people alive for such a long time all the while staying in power at the same time. But Tory’s knowledge about Negan’s most distant past was something that played to her advantage and detriment at the same time. 

Tory knew too much.

Martha’s plan was easy enough. They were going to play Negan’s pride and goad him into action.

It was the reason why Vera convinced Harlan to let her deliver the infirmary records of the day to Negan.

“He is in a foul mood.” Arat’s voice distracted Vera as the woman gave her a dubious once over before explaining: “You tend to get on his nerves.”

Vera sighed and gave Arat a little nod.

“He is no sweet pie either.” Vera commented, feeling very uncompromising about the situation. Arat raised her eyebrows and opened the door for Vera, while she thought up a silent prayer to stay calm and collected.

The click of the door as Arat closed it behind her unnerved Vera and made her shiver.

“I was expecting the good doctor to come and glare at me for all of his stay.” Negan grumbled without looking at her. “This is both better and worse.”

“I need to talk to you, Negan.” Vera started, ignoring his correct assumption, as she was definitely glaring at his turned-down head.

The community leader simply gestured at the chair in front of him.

Vera pulled it and sat before giving him the record book.

“Is it true? Did you lock Tory in a cell for killing Tyler?” the slight tremble in her voice bothered the young woman, but she preferred to ignore it.

“I did. Better that then the fence, don’t you think?” Negan answered, pinching the bridge of his nose and finally lifting his face to find Vera’s stern expression.

“You better be freaking joking.” She hissed. “Don’t you have any respect for who she is?”

Something lit in Negan’s eyes and Vera had to suppress a satisfied grin.

“If she had any fucking respect for her own life, she wouldn’t have killed that stupid-dicking-shit!” he hissed back.

“Did you ask her why?” exasperation was clearly rising in Vera’s voice and she noticed Negan’s neck turning red.

“Of course I fucking asked!”

Vera sat back, one of her eyebrows rising with disdain. “If you asked her like this, I don’t think you got any answers.”

“Her damn knife was in Tyler’s eye socket.” Negan informed Vera, sitting back as well.

“Tyler deserved what he got. He actually deserved worse, and I’m glad Tory killed him.” Vera declared, her voice icy with determination and righteousness. “In fact, I think she was too soft, letting him die so fast.”

There was a long silence while Negan looked at Vera as if she had sprouted another head or a third eye.

“I just want Tory to be okay. We both know she won’t be for long.” The young woman deflated, looking down with such sadness it made Negan’s chest hurt with guilt.

“I can’t help her.” He said helplessly.

Vera scoffed as she stood up.

“Yes, you can, you just have to be creative!”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan was walking through the courtyard of the Sanctuary watching everyone work, though his mind was inside the factory, down in the cells. 

He never noticed Vivienne approach him.

“You look like someone kicked your puppy.” The former-Doveporter said, almost making him jump out of his skin.

“No puppies to kick, Viv.” Negan groused, shifting Lucille from one hand to the other as he turned to his head-gardener.

“Yeah, just soulmates to get rid of.” Viv’s eyebrows and deadpan expression told Negan all he needed to know. She was angry at him.

“How did you even find out about that?” he asked, trying not to make it sound like he was whining.

“I’m not stupid, Negan.” Vivienne said, not looking at him as she took off her gloves and put them in her pocket carefully. “Victoria is an intelligent girl, but she can’t keep the secret alone.”

Negan rolled his eyes.

“Now she can.” It was a cruel thing to say, but with her in a cell, neither of them had to care for whatever he said and if that showed on her skin or not. Tory wasn’t talking to anyone, so he was not at risk.

“Oh, you didn’t just say that.” Vivienne turned her pale eyes on him and then shook her head in disappointment.

They walked in silence, making people wonder what they were actually doing. Vivienne waited until they were out of earshot to attack.

“Elle wouldn’t have done this, you know?” Viv started, a bit of gentleness coming back to her voice as she remembered the young leader of Doveport.

Negan was speechless.

“Elle would have tried to understand what Tory did and why she did. It did happen to her as well.”

Here.

And then Elle left and it had been hell.

“Well, she is not fucking here, Viv.” Negan said harshly, uncaring if he hurt Vivienne. “She’s dead.”

“You don’t have to remind me, Negan.” Viv whispered. She stopped and sighed, as if the world had been put on her shoulders suddenly. “I remember every day.”

They looked into each other’s eyes, the shared loss and unresolved anger mirrored in them.

“Victoria deserves better than what she’s been dealt with.” Negan didn’t notice the calculated look Vivienne gave him as she delivered her next phrase, her voice becoming cold and hard as she spoke. “It’s your responsibility to look after her. Having a soulmate is like making a promise. You have to be better for them.”

“Viv, I-” 

Vivienne interrupted him with a firm voice, that was almost like a warning. “Life rarely gives second chances, Negan. Let alone thirds.”

Negan stormed away without answering, and Vivienne smirked.

She knew that Elle would forgive her for manipulating Negan using her memory. She was a sweetheart like that. Feeling her mission was accomplished, she set to return to her greenhouse, but not without visiting the kitchens on her way back.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Martha was reading -or pretending to read- an old magazine while Frankie and Tanya braided Amber’s hair in different styles while Cecelia played with one of the better decks of cards they had at their disposal.

The night had been calm so far, until Martha had received a note from Vera.

Vivienne and Vera had talked to Negan already, and apparently, he had been riled up enough to skip lunch and dinner altogether.

The wife hoped her plan had been successful, but she couldn’t be sure.

One magazine became two and time dragged slowly.

Now, everyone was playing poker with Cecelia, trading nail polish and lip gloss as currency while drinking one of the best bottles of wine from their wet bar. Giggles filled the parlor, with the eventual whistle or bragging. At some point, Tanya suggested they take off their clothes.

This was absurd in Martha’s opinion as they all wore dresses, except for Amber, who wore a top and skirt. The wives were going to wind up naked sooner rather than later. With a feeling that the night was going to be settled that way, Martha started to dose off on the couch. It seemed that she had been asleep for hours when the door of the parlor was thrown open, making Amber shriek in terror.

“Zip it, Amber.” Negan’s voice was low and menacing. He was angry, and his furious honey-colored eyes fell on Martha, making her shiver for the wrong set of reasons. “Ladies, if you’ll excuse me, I need Martha.”

Martha’s mouth fell open, but no sound was emitted and she nodded quite dumbly in her own opinion, but she lifted herself from the couch and walked to Negan as fast as she could.

“We got business to attend, don’t wait up.” Negan ordered.

“Yes, Negan.” A chorus answered as they left the opulent room.

Martha followed Negan to his room, watching him carefully and wishing she could read his mind and know what he was thinking. Once they were in his room, Negan sat on his coffee table, supporting his elbows on his knees and fixing his eyes in some undetermined spot on the carpet. Meanwhile, Martha waited awkwardly for him to tell her to sit.

“You put Vivienne and Mrs. Gelato up to making my day miserable, wife?” Negan asked, suddenly turning his eyes up to her, with an expression of self-assurance that made Martha’s temper flare.

So, she improvised.

“What? What are you talking about?” Martha asked, sounding indignant and vexed by his inquiring.

Negan’s incredulity shone through in his expression.

“Oh, so you mean to tell me you didn’t recruit them to talk to me, so I would be lenient to Victoria Miller?” he asked, sounding more arrogant by the second.

“I talked to Vera today because I wanted her to make some poppy seed gelato, so yes I went to the kitchen.” Martha lied. “Vivienne manages the gardens, where do you think we would get the flowers?”

To say Negan looked completely taken aback by her apparent shallow request was an understatement. Martha gave herself an imaginary pat on the back at how convincing she was.

“Bullshit.” He said, not smiling, and looking displeased with how easily his theory had fallen apart.

“Well, if you don’t believe me, you can ask them, husband.” Martha said indignantly, calling him by his ‘title’ as it would rattle him how distant she was behaving. “We both know I don’t lie to you.”

Negan narrowed his eyes and then looked away from Martha with a sigh. Passing a hand through his hair, he dropped his shoulders and then squared himself up again as he got to his feet.

“I believe you, angel-face.” He whispered, getting close to her and reaching to caress her face. “Come with me?” Negan asked, giving her his best ‘puppy-eyes’.

Damn, he was so handsome.

“Where?”

“Yes or no question, Martha.”

“Lead the way.”

Negan took her hand and once they left the room, one of Negan’s men followed them close.

Martha thought he was going to take her out of the Sanctuary, as they went all the way down to the workers floor, but Negan lead them to the commissary.

Once they were at the door, Negan left Martha with his guard and went in.

The awkward wait set Martha’s nerves on fire and she was about to knock on the door when Negan came out with a bag in his hand.

“Missed me?” he asked with a smirk.

“Not nearly as much as you think, handsome.” Martha giggled, feeling relieved. She wasn’t expecting gifts or apologies, she just wanted to know what he was planning.

Negan took the lead again and when they walked in the cell area, Martha felt her knees go slightly weak.

Had her plan worked?

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan left Martha in the entrance of the cell area.

He tried to ignore the hopeful expression in her face as she watched him walk away.

Whatever had been Martha’s intention, Negan didn’t think she was trying to undermine him. It seemed to him that his wife was trying to help him understand something.

Taking a deep breath, Negan walked with determined steps to the cell, hoping his argument would be heard. He really had an offer that would be difficult to reject.

He opened the door to find a startled, balled up Tory Miller.

She had fresh tear tracks on her cheeks and her eyes were bloodshot as if she hadn’t slept in days.

She probably hadn’t.

“Surprised to see me?” Negan asked, trying to sound clever.

Tory blinked up at him. “Not really. If I’m honest.” She told him. Her voice sounded raspy, but he wasn’t surprised. The guard that had been minding her said she wouldn’t make a peep all day.

“Well, then, this is a business meeting, Gorgeous.” Negan started, trying to sound as gentle as he could.

“What business could we possibly have together?” Tory’s confusion was evident in her voice.

“Well, I want you to tell me why you killed Tyler.” 

She stiffened visibly at his words and Negan put his hand up in a peace gesture. “And we’ll make a deal to get you out of here. Think of it as bail.”

“Bail means I have to give something else…doesn’t it?”

Negan nodded and then sighed.

Tory turned her gaze away from him, her expression became pensive as she twirled with the idea in her mind.

“Okay.”

“Why did you kill Tyler?” Negan asked.

“I didn’t plan to kill him, I just wanted to escape.” Tory stated. “He had me, I couldn’t fight him.” She lifted one of her hands to her neck, a little frown appeared in her brow. “I was going to let him do whatever he wanted.”

A wave of disgust rolled down Negan’s throat and his stomach became knots as the reality of that night dawned on him.

“Then he said he’d kill Lucas, like he’d killed Dad and I…I just saw red.”

“Stop, I get it.” The leader of the Saviors sighed and ran his hand over his graying beard. “I can’t get you out free, Victoria.”

“What does that mean?” she was looking at him, the frown still present, he hadn’t noticed Tory’s shivering, but he did now.

“I can’t get you back to Alexandria, unfortunately.” Negan informed her, not that she didn’t know. “And I can’t let you out in the Sanctuary as you were, because my people like to get even.”

Tory blinked, confused as she processed his words. Negan saw the exact moment in which she realized, her eyebrows shot up in surprise and a gasp left her throat.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Tory snapped, incredulity colored her tone as she shook her head slowly, watching the bag in his hand. “No. No, I can’t do it.”

“Do you want to stay in here for the foreseeable future?” Negan asked, feeling indignant at her second negative. “Simon can’t touch you that way.”

“What does he have to do with anything?” Tory hissed.

“I know my people, Gorgeous. The moment you got out of here to go live amongst the workers, he’ll have you gone under my fucking nose.” He paused a moment, as a new idea blossomed in his mind. “Even here, you’re not safe.”

His soulmate scoffed.

“So? I have always been an obstacle for you, why do you care now?” the young woman demanded.

“I made a promise about you. I’m not breaking it.” Negan confessed. “I gave my word.”

Fresh tears rolled down her cheeks as she understood.

Tory swallowed the sobs that wanted to get out.

She was trapped between a rock and a hard place, either she gave up her sanity in her tiny, dark cell, or she accepted Negan’s half-baked liberty bargain. It would be an insult to wonder if his word was worth something out loud. Negan seemed to think it did. Tory would be going from one cage to another.

But she would live.

And she wanted to live.

Tory was a survivor.

She had come back from death.

She had escaped it at fourteen, then at sixteen.

Tory had faced it up front at eighteen, and won.

Then again, many times in the short year since Rick Grimes’ group arrived to Alexandria.

Tory thought she had no reasons to live, but she did.

For her friends, for her family, for everyone who had protected her…even for Negan, who was offering her an olive branch.

And who was she to reject it?

Sniffling, Tory wiped her tears away and shut her eyes hard, offering a silent apology to her Grandfather as she did.

“What do you say, then?” Negan asked. Tory turned her eyes on him, he had stepped closer and was offering her his free hand.

Tory reached for his hand with hers. When his fingers closed around hers, an unfamiliar warmth surged through her marked arm.

“I’ll go with you.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •    • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Chapter Text

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

War

The Sanctuary, VA

Negan sighed and dragged his hand across his face, reminding himself that he had to shave. Martha was turned with her back to him, and Negan wondered how she would react. He remembered with astounding clarity, what Elle's reaction had been when Sherry had returned to the wives' circle. Martha had been merely offended, and back then, none of them had known about Elle's place in Negan's life, not even Negan himself.

"I'm making her a wife." He blurted out, feeling his shoulders sag after confessing his intentions.

Martha turned around with a stunned expression on her lovely face, as if Negan had surprised her beyond expectations.

"Does she know that?" his wife asked with a short voice, as if she'd ran out of air.

"Yes, not that she's got a choice in the matter." Negan replied, turning his gaze away from Martha's searching eyes.

"You've always said this is a choice." She countered.

It's supposed to. He thought.

"Well, Gorgeous has no other options."

They were quietfor a long moment before Martha broke the silence.

"Is this because of what Simon did?"

Negan lifted his head to watch Martha, but her eyes were fixed in some undetermined point in space, her mind probably working a hundred miles a minute.

He had to admit Martha knew his motives and she had read him right.

There was also his promise to Lucille and the fact that Negan just didn't want to lose someone else.

"It's one of the reasons." Negan admitted, closing his eyes as he laid back on his chair.

Martha walked up to him and crossed her arms over her chest.

"Do you want me to talk to her?"

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Tory turned the shower off and pulled the towel around her body as she stepped from the tiles onto a fluffy rug.

Negan had a decently stocked bathroom and for someone with such apparent linking for blood, he also had a perplexing thing for white décor and toiletries.

White towels, white tiles, white clothes; it was a deep contrast from his gaudily decorated bedroom, with its awful burgundy curtains and dark grey theme.

With a little sigh, Tory finished drying her body and continued onto her hair. She had worked as many knots out as she could with a good glop of shampoo, but the combing process proved painful and Tory wished she could just chop her hair off.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Henry's laugh rang in her ears and Tory crossed her arms, pouting at her boyfriend.

" What the hell did you do, Henry?" she asked, not really wanting to know.

" Nothing too radical, kitten." He chuckled, unable to keep his cool.

" Henry!" Tory whined, turning her head up to look at him. His smile was brilliant but apologetic.

" I'm sorry, kitten, I kind of…fucked the length a bit." Henry explained.

" Is not like lots of people will be seeing me, right?" Tory asked, taking the mirror from the table in front of them and running her fingers down the -now- jaw long curls.

Henry kissed her neck softly, rolling his lips over her skin until he reached her ear.

" I like how it looks." He whispered, blowing his words softly onto her skin and making Tory shiver.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Tory was forced out of her daydream with a little, efficient rapping on the door.

"Tory, can I come in?" Martha asked from behind door.

"Sure."

Martha's tense smile put Tory on edge immediately, but she tried to suppress her dread while she finished combing her hair.

"Did you accept becoming a wife?" Martha asked, not beating around the bush, as Tory should have imagined.

"Negan didn't really ask me." Tory explained. "He sort of… just told me."

Both women kept silent for a few seconds as Marta found her seat on the toilet's lid and crossed her legs.

"Why?"

Tory blinked at her pale reflection thinking about how to answer Martha's question.

She could've been firmer and stand by her rejection of Negan, but something told her it was necessary for Tory to accept. She was sufficiently afraid of Simon to just simply reject the offer of protection in exchange of some rumored mind-blowing sex and a roof over her head.

Tory had accepted because in her particular case, it meant surviving.

"I accepted because I made a mistake and this was the solution."

Martha's cinnamon eyes studied Tory, watching for any sign of deceit and then the head-wife merelynodded.

"It's a good reason as any." The older woman accepted. "Are you even ready to face Negan?"

The grey eyed girl nodded. "I guess."

"That's enough then, get dressed. We have to get you the uniform." Martha commanded with a sardonic smirk.

Tory grimaced. "That's not even slightly funny."

Martha giggled and shook her head. "It's a bit funny." She made a pause. "Sister."

"Screw you, Martha." Tory growled.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Negan had agreed to get a couple of black dresses while Martha talked to Tory. He had gone and come back, but his room was as deserted as he had left it.

Rolling his eyes, Negan hung the dresses he'd picked and went to sit in the middle of his couch.

He would have liked Tory to accept his proposal the first time; but looking back, he had to admit that she had been under duress too.

He found himself wanting to know more of her.

Whatever Negan knew, it hadn't come from Tory…not really.

He remembered little things here and there, from when she was a little girl. As years passed, the marks stopped showing with as much frequency and at some points, they didn't show at all.

Now that Negan had her in close proximity, he tried to get to know her, but Tory had been uncompromising, since she was too hurt by his actions to actually give anything away.

She wasn't wrong. She had every right to feel that way.

So, Negan would only hear about her daily comings and goings from others, but what Negan knew of Tory would barelyfill two pages in a notebook.

He was going blind into this whole mess.

The click of the door being opened made Negan sit straight and pay attention to Martha's expression.

His wife…okay, that was going to get confusing quickly. Negan thought.

Martha had a mischievous expression in her face, with a little grin that was part amusement and part arrogance. Tory had a dark expression, accompanied by an unamused frown to her brow.

She looked displeased.

"Oh, we're all set!" Martha said cheerfully, looking at the dresses.

Negan saw then, the slightly tense way in which she was holding herself. "

You do have good taste, Negan." His wife praised him, looking at the two dresses.

Tory, who was dressed in some functional underwear, partially hidden by the bathrobe Negan usually wore after showering. She looked like a despondent child, crossing her arms over her chest and regarding the black dresses as if they were something disgusting. It made Negan give her a tired half-smile.

"Okay, let's get you dressed." Martha walked up to the closet and took the dresses, showing them to Tory who looked at them critically.

The one on Martha's left hand was a pretty off the shoulders black dress, no sleeves and a pretty skirt that fell with a natural flow. It was really adorable, and if Tory wasn't so self-conscious about her scarred arms, she would have picked it.

The other dress was made of some fabric similar to velvet and Tory sighed because that dress had long sleeves, even if the neckline plunged a bit more and the skirt was shorter. The dress wasn't ugly per se, it was just absolutely impractical with that heavy, hot fabric. Martha had explained that this would be her first dress, and she would have to wear it the next day, until Martha could take her something else to choose.

"Did you bring shoes, dear?" Martha asked Negan.

Her voice seemed to break whatever spell Tory and Negan had fallen under, because their gazes found each other and then went the other way.

Tory had been looking at the dress and Negan had been watching her.

Their husband shook his head no to answer Martha's question.

"I'll take the velvet one?" Tory asked, hearing the evident hesitation in her voice.

"Really?" Martha questioned, eyeing the dress critically.

"I like it." Tory lied, huffing a bit. "Come on, it's cold in here, can I take it?"

"Sure."

Martha gave Tory the dress, and the younger girl disrobed, and placed Negan's robe over the bed. Negan watched as his soulmate turned the dress in her hands, with a slightly annoyed expression on her face.

Negan would have been lying if he said it wasn't a turn on when Tory unzipped the dress, slid into it and asked Martha to zip her back in.

It fit her quite nicely too. Tory's slight curves looked more rounded under the fabric, but she wasn't exactly thriving in the nutritional sense.

Negan would make sure she was well cared for.

"We might need to take in a bit of fabric here." Martha was trying to close up the cleavage of the dress, but Tory shrugged.

"Maybe I could wear nothing under, there would be no bra showing."

His angel-faced wife blushed and Negan smirked.

Was Tory teasing Martha?

"This is payback for the uniform thing." His soulmate said, with an entirely unapologetic look in her grey eyes.

"You, Tory Miller, are lacking a lot of shame." Martha scolded playfully, making Tory giggle.

Damn, Negan was both turned on and incredibly jealous of Martha for making his little soulmate smile and giggle.

"I don't want to cut this short, ladies, but the night ain't getting any younger." Negan declared.

Martha turned to Negan and nodded, she knew what he meant, so she kissed Tory's cheek and then Negan's.

"Good night."

"Night, angel-face."

After Martha left, Tory felt a bit nervous and cornered, but she had accepted this and she was going to face it as she had always faced challenges by looking straight ahead.

"Come sit, Gorgeous." Negan commanded softly, gesturing to the seat beside him on the couch. Tory padded over the plush carpet and tried not to plop down beside Negan, but she failed a bit.

Her manners were a bit rusty.

"Who would have though, you and me here?" he said, playing with her damp hair, curling it between his gloved fingers.

"Certainly not me." Tory whispered, looking at her clean hands, the flashbacks she'd started to suffer after Spencer's death had come back, and every other time, Tory found her hands drenched in blood when they were very much clear of bodily fluids.

She shook her head. "So, what? Are we going to do twenty questions or something?"

Tory was distracted with her hands, so the hungry glint in Negan's gold flecked eyes escaped her notice.

"Sure, want to start?" Negan said, trying to be gentlemanly with his newest wife.

"Okay. Where are you from?" Tory shot, going for a seemingly easy question.

"I'm from here." Negan answered.

He truly was from the actual city of Alexandria, not the over-the-top sustainable community his soulmate had been living at. Negan was sure there was a certain irony in all that. "Moved to Tennessee later."

When Lucille and I got married. His mind supplied.

"Your turn." Tory said, apparently satisfied with his answer.

"You ever thought of meeting me before today?" Negan asked. He knew Victoria Miller was from California, there was a slight accent; he also knew where she had been for a long while and some other bits he'd heard from Carson 2.0 and Mrs. Gelato.

This question though? It was something that had haunted Negan for years.

"About ten years ago, I was very close to." Tory started, leaning back on the couch and looking at the darkened ceiling. "Mom thought it wasn't a good idea, but she supported me anyway."

Negan wanted to ask what had happened, but he was out of turn.

Tory closed her eyes and sighed deep. "I wanted to know since that night." She opened her eyes again and then, those grey eyes were, studying him. "What happened to your wife? Why name the bat after her?"

Fuck.

That night could only mean one thing. The night she met him.

Negan wanted to throttle Tory Miller right there. He had no way of answering just one of those questions without a misunderstanding happening. Little people knew about Lucille, the real Lucille. One of them was six feet under not far away from the Sanctuary, the other two people that knew about his real wife were sitting together in the same room, looking into each other's eyes.

"She died. I didn't want to let go." Negan said flatly.

"I'm sorry." Tory whispered. "She seemed cool."

"She was."

Negan felt suddenly tired and wary of whatever questions Tory could cook up in her mind, so he shut his mouth and hummed a little tune, while his soulmate rested her head against the couch.

• • • • • • • • • • • •

Tory woke up to pain.

Damn, her head was pounding hard.

"Morning, sunshine." Negan's booming voice made her shut her eyes hard and cover her ears with a pitiful moan.

Why was it so bright? It couldn't be that early, right?

Apparently, it was, and Negan was up and about, strutting across his room half-dressed and humming completely out of tune.

"Can you shut up?" Tory asked, unsure if he'd heard her or not.

"Manners, Gorgeous. Is that a way to talk to your husband?" Negan asked in a mockingly offended voice.

"I have yet to hear any damn vows, so I'll keep the judgement for later." Tory muttered darkly.

"There are ground rules, Victoria." Negan told her, his voice going serious all of a sudden. It prompted Tory to uncover her ears "You can't disrespect me in front of my people, you can't fight with the other girls, and above all, you can't cheat on me."

Tory felt bile rise up in her throat just thinking about it.

"Okay. What about…the other aspects?" she asked, feeling strangely shy. Tory wasn't one to scuttle around when it was about…well, sex.

"You don't have to sleep with me if you don't want to. Rape is completely outlawed in the Sanctuary." Negan made a pause and Tory opened her eyes to see him combing his hair in front of his dresser mirror. "And I don't really sleep with the wives anymore."

That made Tory frown, but she refrained herself from asking why.

"Get up, Gorgeous. We have the whole day ahead of us."

Tory sat up, she was still in the couch and her dress was a bit wrinkled.

Negan eyed her critically.

"I'll tell Martha and Frankie they need to fix you up. They are good at it. Then you three can go have breakfast with me."

"Sure, sir." Tory said mockingly, faking a salute.

He sure as hell saw her, and Negan smiled wickedly, lighting a warm feeling in her chest that Tory decidedly ignored.

"Damn, I'm liking you more and more every minute, Gorgeous."

• • • • • • • • • • • •

In the end, Tory had gotten herself a couple of black dresses, another one in a very dark brown -all of them with sleeves- and some lingerie that Martha and Frankie had helped her pick out. After that, Martha had made Tory take another shower -they made her shave!- and while she worked with Tory's make up, Frankie did her hair.

"I think you would look lovely with short hair." Frankie suggested.

Tory had grimaced, making Martha stop with her gloss-dabbing.

"I'm not really into short hair." She lied. Tory couldn't stand looking at her reflection with short hair, that was all. So, Frankie had braided her hair in a complicated diadem and let the rest of her hair loose.

"I need to learn how to do that." Tory mused, looking at her done reflection.

Frankie smiled, pleased at the praise.

"I can teach you, it's not like you'll have anything else to do."

Right, wives didn't work for points. Tory thought, while hoping that maybe she could find something to occupy her time with.

"I'm sure I'll find the time." Tory lied, smiling at the red-headed woman.

"Breakfast time, girls." Martha announced. Tory saw the other wives stand up and one of them even groaned a bit.

"Cecelia, please." Martha sighed.

"Sorry, I was enjoying that book." The dark-skinned beauty excused, leaving a worn book over a coffee table. "It was just getting interesting."

" Amber, please, it's not even ten in the fucking morning."

Tory turned to look at Tanya and Frankie. They were surrounding the blond girl and taking her glass and bottle away. Somehow, Tory sympathized with Amber, though she didn't understand why she stayed if she disliked Negan so much. Not that Tory could judge her for that one.

Once the they were all ready, Negan entered the parlor. He seemed to have something in mind, and didn't pay much attention as he grabbed both Cecelia and Martha before leaving the room.

Frankie took Tory's arm and smiled kindly at her, making her breath hitch slightly.

"Come, I'll escort you, Tory."

"S-sure."

• • • • • • • • • • • •

If there was hell on earth, Tory had certainly entered it head-first.

It was late, late enough for everyone to be at the dining hall. Tory knew it, so she had felt better about going inside with her new…attire.

She wasn't supposed to bump into anyone.

Frankie tugged at Tory's arm, but she seemed to be glued to the spot, looking at Lucas' hurt expression as he gave her a thorough once over.

"Tory, we need to go." The red-headed beauty said with urgency, evidently trying to avoid conflict.

"I'll catch up with you, Frankie, I promise." Tory said, cheerfully smiling at her.

"You sure?" Frankie asked, eyeing Lucas suspiciously.

Tory nodded, not trusting herself to speak without her voice breaking.

Frankie seemed to accept her words and they both waited until her steps faded to look at each other.

"How could you?" Lucas asked, almost demanding the answer as he pushed into her personal space.

"I-I had no choice." Tory offered in a small voice. She felt suddenly breathless as Lucas made her step back and hit the wall behind her.

"We all have choices, Tory…fuck!" Lucas hissed, hitting the wall right beside her head with his palm open.

Tory flinched at the sound and she knew.

The bruising might have faded, but the commotion of what happened with Tyler was still fresh in her mind.

She didn't trust herself alone. Even if this was Lucas…

"I'm sorry. I-I didn't…it wasn't my intention." Tory stuttered through her words, trying and failing to explain. "I want to live." She said stupidly.

Lucas stepped back as if Tory had slapped him, his face was incredulous.

"And you think this…" he said, gesturing at her whole, black-clad body with his open hand. "This is a life? You better be fucking kidding me."

"I'm sorry." Tory repeated, trying to stop the tears she could feel forming in her eyes already.

Tory couldn't remember the last time her heart had been so broken, except when Henry…No, she couldn't go there.

But Tory couldn't shake off the painful feeling of a gaping hole forming in her chest that was practically swallowing her heart.

"Go enjoy your new fucking life, Tory." Lucas spat, turning from her and stomping away.

And Tory wanted to slump on the floor and cry until her whole body dried up, but she couldn't do it.

She had a new role.

A new mask to wear.

Trying not to ruin her makeup, Tory dabbed at the corners of her eyes with her fingers, getting rid of the tears. She could cry later alone in some corner.

Taking a shuddering breath, Tory stood straight and forced herself to smile as sweet and convincing as she could force herself to do so.

It hurt.

But she had no choice, and knew she needed to let him go.

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuary, VA

‘Fuck it’, Tory had come to understand, wasn’t a philosophy that could take people far in life.

She was an advocate for moderation in almost every aspect of life, even if she wasn’t able to apply it to everything. Tory knew she liked alcohol and sex, for example, and she liked both things frequently and in large doses.

At the present moment, she was indulging her desire for a decent drink, for example.

Sure, Tory shouldn’t be using Amber as an excuse, but the blonde had offered and who was she to refuse? 

However, if Amber thought she could outdrink Tory, she was making a mistake.

“You’re sho full ovsh- of it!” the petite blonde slurred, downing the shot she had in her hand with just one gulp.

Tory raised one eyebrow, eyeing the bottle of Jägermeister they had opened a couple hours ago.

“No, I’m not.” Tory countered, before downing her own shot with several generous sips. “My dad made our liquor. Actually, there should be a barrel of whiskey buried in the grounds of our house back in Alexandria.”

Amber hiccuped loudly and reached for the green bottle that Tory had decided to keep close three drinks ago.

“No more for today.” Tory said, taking the bottle from the bar and putting it over the highest cabinet. 

Heels were useful for some things after all.

“But Tooooory.” Amber whined, stretching Tory’s name with her slurred words.

“Sorry, Amber.” The brunette said firmly, turning back to the bar. “You’ve had enough.”

Amber frowned and crossed her arms over her chest.

“You drank more than I did.” The blonde muttered.

Tory chuckled. “I did, but I’ve also got high tolerance, cupcake.”

Thish ishn’t getting you brownie pointsh.” Amber huffed, turning away from Tory to stand from the stool.

“Wait!-” Tory started to exclaim, but her fellow wife was already falling to the floor, too drunk to stand. “Damn it.”

For a few seconds, Tory thought she could leave Amber like that, but the blonde was tugging at her heart strings.

“I’m gonna get back at you for this, Amber.” Tory muttered as she walked around the bar to get her up. 

The petite blonde was completely, smashingly passed out drunk. If Tory really thought about it, she really did not have to get back at Amber for helping her to bed. The hangover she was going to get was more than enough.

After Tory dragged Amber to bed and placed her on it, she took the girl’s shoes off and left her a glass of water over the bedside table. 

Going back to the parlor seemed like a good idea since it was getting late, and from what Tory had gathered in the last two days, Tanya, Frankie and Cecelia would already be in bed as well. Martha usually spent most nights in Negan’s room, except when he was really busy. 

The grey-eyed young woman expected to find the parlor deserted.

It was not to be, however.

Tory heard Martha’s pleasant laugh as she stepped into the room and her eyes had the misfortune to fall on Negan, who was hugging Martha close to his side. Lucille was in his free hand.

“Well, hello there, Gorgeous.” Her husband greeted.

“Evening, Negan.” Tory conceded, all the while going back to the wet bar to ruminate over what she would drink now that she was alone. Not that she didn’t feel pleasantly warm after three rounds of strong jäger, but it wasn’t enough to get Tory to sleep peacefully.

It wasn’t enough to keep the nightmares at bay.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan frowned at his soulmate as he saw her reach for one of the opened bottles of vodka and a tumbler.

He thought Tory would have curved her habit after her last stay in the cells of the Sanctuary, but Negan had been wrong. By the sheer quantity she was serving in the glass, Tory hadn’t learned anything at all.

Negan turned to Martha, who looked him in the eye and shook her head.

“Do you know why?” he whispered.

“Yes.”

He sighed and made a show of stretching his arms over his head.

“I think is time we retired, don’t you, Martha?”

This made Tory look up from the book she was reading as she sipped her drink.

“Sure.” Martha stood and smoothed the non-existent wrinkles out of her dress with her hands while Negan engaged Tory in a glare battle.

“Good night, Martha.” Tory said with a smile. “Have a good time.”

“No goodnight kiss for your husband?” Negan mocked.

“You’re a big boy, you’re gonna get it, don’t worry.” His soulmate said, giving Martha another insinuating look, making her blush slightly.

Once they were in Negan’s room, Martha sighed and ruffled her hair, trying to explain.

“Tory hasn’t talked about it, not to me. But she talked to Vera.”

Negan frowned as he propped Lucille beside his bed and took off his jacket.

“Let me see if I have it right. Gorgeous won’t talk to you, but she talked to Mrs. Gelato, who betrayed m- Victoria’s confidence to talk to you?” Negan questioned, feeling doubtful about the situation.

“Well, Tory can’t work in the kitchens anymore, Negan. She’s going stir crazy.” Martha said, betraying a bit of worry. “I think she’s drinking to numb herself.”

Negan shut his eyes, dreading the headache he was about to get trying to find a solution.

“Why?”

Martha grimaced. “You’re not gonna like it.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Two days earlier

Vera was furious.

Martha had told her that there was a possibility -a slight possibility- of Tory becoming a wife. Viv had agreed with the wife, and accepted the possible outcome as long as it meant Tory’s survival. Vera had felt reluctant, because she knew that Tory and Lucas’ wounds were still too fresh.

Vera had been right.

After breakfast was over, Tory had come into the kitchen, eyes brimming with tears and a sob stuck in her throat.

Vera had taken her friend outside and sat with her under the shade of a tree, letting her cry until she had no more tears.

“What happened, Tory?” Vera asked gently, combing through her friend’s hair with her fingers.

Tory let out a raspy sigh. “Lucas saw me wearing…this.” The disdain in Tory’s voice made Vera cringe with guilt. “He hates me.”

A new round of dry sobs followed the statement and Vera felt her chest tighten with fury.

“What did he say?”

“He thinks I wanted this.” Tory sniffled. “I had no choice Vera, I promise.”

Vera nodded silently, drawing circles on her friend’s back as she tried to think how to console her.

“I know, Tory.” 

Somehow saying it felt flat, but Vera said it anyway, trying to stomp down the overwhelming guilt she felt.

“He scared me so much. Vera, I was so scared.”

“I’ll talk to him, Tory. Don’t worry.” She said soothingly, as calm washed over her. “I’ll make him understand.”

Vera took Tory to the room she shared with Chase and helped her clean up, before sending her back to the wives’ quarters.

Then, and only then, did Vera go look for Lucas.

He had a morning shift to patrol the fence, so it wasn’t difficult to find him, near the front gate of the Sanctuary.

“Lucas Emilio Fernandez!” Vera growled, making some heads turn, including Lucas’.

“What’s up, V?” he asked, frowning in worry as she approached fast, her eyes ablaze with such anger, he took a step back.

It didn’t save him however.

Vera’s dainty fist hit Lucas hard, making his nose crack as he stumbled with a howl of pain and fell on his ass.

“What the fuck’s wrong with you, Vera?!” he shouted from behind his hand, trying to stave the bleeding.

Vera was ignoring him, however, as she held her -now- bruised fist and kicked his legs while Lucas was down.

“You. Insensible. Egregious. Idiot!” Vera exclaimed, emphasizing every word with a kick.

“Vera, calm the down!” he exclaimed, pushing himself back, trying to escape the pain. Vera wasn’t listening though, and kicked him until she felt ready to hyperventilate.

“You broke my nose, Vera!” Lucas groaned, not quite feeling the adrenaline kick in as his tiny friend heaved over him due to the effort of their altercation.

“It’s what you fucking deserve!” Vera sobbed.

Lucas’ eyes widened.

Vera never swore. It wasn’t lady like, her mother had prohibited such behavior when she was a little girl and it had carried into her adult life; Vera was also delicate and sweet and she had a gentle soul, but Lucas was seeing a new face now. 

This furious little woman? She was a stranger.

“What the hell did I do?” Lucas asked, cowering a bit under her dark glare.

“You know what you did.” Vera hissed, imprinting poison in every word, looking at him as if he were something gross under her shoe. The realization downed on him and Lucas’ felt his body ache with another sort of pain.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered.

Vera laughed at him. “I don’t care.”

• • •   • • •   • • •   • • •

Negan was impressed.

“Is that why Carson gave her a day off?” he asked.

Martha nodded. “That and the vomiting episode she had after. She was enraged.”

“He made her cry. Both of them.” Negan said, looking up as if asking for divine intervention. “I should talk to Gorgeous.”

“I think you should.” Martha agreed, watching her nails with some interest as Negan started pacing.

“Lucas will need punishment.” The leader of the Saviors passed a hand through his hair. “Any ideas, wife?”

They shared a silent look as Negan stopped pacing.

“I’ll think of something.” Martha conceded.

Negan continued to pace, playing with his beard as he turned around and walked. Left to right and then back.

“Negan?”

“Yes, angel-face?” he answered.

“Go talk to Tory.”

“Maybe tomorrow.” He waved his hand trying to dismiss Martha.

His wife and friend stood up and crossed her arms over her chest, giving him a stern look.

Now. If I let you wait until tomorrow, you’re sure to have an excuse tomorrow as well.”

He tensed but nodded and kissed Martha’s forehead before leaving the room.

“Okay. I’m going.”

• • •   • • •   • • •   • • •

Tory was playing with the empty tumbler she’d used to drink her vodka.

She downed three half full glasses, almost a quarter of the bottle, but she didn’t feel dizzy, only pleasantly distracted. Her mind was surprisingly blank and her body felt relaxed.

Sleeping in the parlor couch was a bit uncouth, Tory knew, but she didn’t feel like going to the room she shared with Amber to sleep. Her roommate tended to get touchy-feely and Tory wasn’t up for being cuddled by the tiny blond. Tory’s eyes were dropping and she crossed her arms in front of herself, to use them as pillow.

It felt like hours had passed when someone opened the door to the parlor, making enough noise to wake Tory.

If she hadn’t felt so refreshed, she might have been angry, but her grey eyes fell on the figure standing across from her, at the other side of the bar.

Negan had a scowl on his face and was looking down at her in disapproval.

“Drunk out of your mind?” he growled.

Tory sighed.

“Not really.” She said, feeling a little dryness in her throat. “Just relaxed.”

Negan took the bottle and glass from her hands, brushing his fingers over hers, making Tory shiver in unbidden delight.

Damn, I need to get laid. She thought.

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Negan’s voice made her look up at him. He was chuckling.

“W-what?” she stuttered.

“Oh…Oh Gorgeous. Don’t ya’ tell me you didn’t mean that.” He said, his frown had disappeared, replaced by an arrogant little smirk.

“Mean what?” Tory knew she sounded a bit shrill, but they were alone. The look in his eyes became even more conspicuous and she felt her cheeks heat with embarrassment. 

“Please tell me I didn’t say that out loud.” Tory pleaded, burying her face in her hands.

Negan laughed out loud. “Loud and clear, Gorgeous.”

With a sigh, Tory lifted her head again and passed a hand through her hair.

“Okay, so, help me find a solution. Because I need to get laid, but I can’t cheat on you.” Her eyes narrowed. “And you no longer sleep with your wives.”

“I very much would sleep with anyone right now, as long as it got me off.” Her husband said with a sardonic smile and a tilt to his head.

With new purpose, Tory pushed herself up from the bar stool she’d dragged behind the bar earlier and circled her way to Negan, her grey eyes fixed on his every move. He seemed calm, even nonchalant as he watched Tory with an unreadable expression. Negan stood tall in front of her, leaning back a little bit.

She had never forced herself to look at him as someone Tory would sleep with. For one, Negan was at least, twenty years her senior, old enough to be her father. He also had tormented the people of Alexandria, killed Glenn, Abraham, Spencer and who knew how many others.

But Tory knew herself, and those words echoed in her mind again: Fuck it.

“Okay. Let’s help each other.” She murmured, splaying her hands over his chest. Tory felt instantly comforted by the strong beat of his heart under her hands, but the flash of surprise that crossed Negan’s eyes escaped her as she pushed him, making the man step back until the back of his knees hit one of the parlor couches. 

“Sit.” Tory ordered.

“Gorgeous, don’t you think you’ve drunk a bit too much?” Negan inquired as he sat.

“I told you I’m relaxed.” His soulmate repeated, watching him intently. “I’m feeling a bit too hot, though.”

Negan chuckled, he liked this bolder version of Victoria. Drunk Tory wasn’t afraid to speak her mind; nor was she afraid of getting shit done, as Negan noticed when she hiked her dress up and straddled his legs, grinding against his crotch just a little bit.

That was enough to get him going.

His cock was twitching, but Negan wasn’t about to cross imaginary lines with Tory.

“Gorgeous, slow down.” He muttered, putting his hands on her hips to stop her.

It made no difference, as Tory moaned, grinding harder against him, eliciting a groan from the depths of his chest. If he wasn’t careful, Negan would end up coming in his pants like some pathetic kid.

“Shhh…” Tory placed one finger over his lips, smiling wickedly. “Just shut up, this once.”

Negan opened his mouth to protest, but Tory surprised him again, beating him to it by crashing her lips against his. Whatever he was about to say became a desire-loaded moan as they kissed. Tory tasted of anise, oranges and alcohol and something sweet he couldn’t place; her lips were warm and soft, sliding over his at a slow pace that crashed against the frantic humping they were engaged in.

“Hands off.” Tory muttered, getting a hold of his wrists and pushing them to the back of the couch.

“Tory.” Negan panted, trying to regain his wits as she paused into their kiss to caress his face.

“You have such pretty eyes, you know?” his soulmate said, smiling a bit. “They have these beautiful golden streaks, I thought they were brown.”

And just like that, Negan surrendered.

“Are you gonna fuck me, Victoria?” he challenged with a voice that was practically one rasp after another.

“Yes, I am.” Tory said, giving him a predatory smile that sent a shiver down his spine.

Her hands slid from his neck to his chest at a slow pace. Their skins weren’t touching, they weren’t even naked. Tory unbuckled his belt with expertise, and undid the fly of his pants with even more skill.

For the second time in less than ten minutes, Negan thought he would come before he got his dick wet when Tory touched his erection without hesitation, pumping fast a couple of times, as if testing how hard he could get, when he was already steel-hard.

“Ahh…fuck!” Negan threw his head back as Tory lowered herself on his shaft. She was wet and tight and so, so fucking warm. “I’m not gonna last, Gorgeous.” He growled.

“Don’t worry, Husband. This one is one me.” Tory said, just a little bit breathless, rocking her hips back and forth, setting a pace too fast for Negan to savor it.

“Tory, slow down.” Negan pleaded, hoping he didn’t sound as pathetic as he felt.

Tory ignored him, choosing to lift herself on her knees, and then lower her hips, riding him good and fast, for all they were worth.

“Fuck.” She moaned, low and husky.

The leader of the Saviors opened his eyes to see his soulmate ride him. Tory’s hands were on his shoulders, using him as leverage. A thin layer of sweat was covering her blushing skin. She was beautiful and a great lay too, this soulmate of his.

Negan couldn’t find anything to distract him of the delicious hold Tory’s cunt had on his cock. He wanted to last, damn it all!

“Negan.” Tory called, her voice a little breathier, beckoning his attention. “Just come already.”

It was like Tory had said the magic words, because Negan came, hard and fast, panting as if he had run a marathon as he spilled inside his pretty wife, who had gone still over him, milking every last drop of his seed.

However, he couldn’t help the mild annoyance that niggled in the back of his mind as Negan opened his eyes and saw her self-satisfied expression. 

She hadn’t climaxed.

Tory sighed, resting her head on his shoulder, leaning on Negan’s chest as she regained her breathe.

The silence between them stretched awkwardly, but none of them acknowledged it.

Negan wanted to be mad at Tory, but he felt too tired and satisfied for that.

“Negan.” Tory whispered.

“Yes, Gorgeous?” he asked.

“Let go please, I wanna go to bed.” She turned her half-lidded eyes to his arms, that were circling her tight and were pressing her to him. Negan felt sluggish as he detangled from her and Tory lifted herself with a slightly wet sound.

Her cheeks flamed bright red before she turned away.

Negan smiled at her embarrassment, as if that could repair the very recent hit to his ego; he said nothing, tucking Little Negan inside his pants.

Tory was almost at the door when she turned back to him. “Good night.”

“Night, Gorgeous.” Negan chuckled. “And call me whenever you need help again.”

Negan could have sworn -if pressed- that he heard Tory mutter ‘asshole’ as she closed the door of the parlor behind her.

• • •   • • •   • • •   • • •

Amber wasn’t sure what time it was when Tory got to their shared room, but she did know the decidedly male scent that floated around her roommate.

“You reek of Negan.” Amber whispered, hugging her pillow a bit closer to herself.

“Yeah, we had a chat.” Tory said, laying down and turning her eyes to the ceiling.

“Sure you did.” The blonde replied, not believing Tory’s words for a second. “A chat with no clothes.”

“Screw you, Amber.” Her brunette roommate half-sneered.

“You wish.” Amber sniggered, turning away from Tory with a smile on her face.

This could get interesting soon.

• • •   • • •   • • •   • • •

Chapter Text

  • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuary, VA

Light streamed onto the bed, falling strategically over the pillows.

Negan wanted to murder whoever had placed his bed that way. He wanted to sleep a bit longer, after the restlessness he had felt late into the night.

He was able to picture every detail of the previous evening; every smell, every flavor, every word and sensation, 

Negan wasn’t prepared for it.

His soulmate’s forwardness was a surprise.

Tory Miller was no pushover. This Negan knew from experience; she could be stubborn and secretive, but she was sharp too, and direct. In short, Tory Miller never ceased to amaze him, for better or for worse.

Coming back to his room to find Martha asleep had been a bit of a shockNegan felt as if he were about to burst with the need to tell someone what had happened.

For a long moment, he wished he could talk to Elle for five minutes, just to know her opinion. 

To ask if she approved.

Of course, Negan had been excited, but there was a thought that crept into the back of his mind, a thought that he wasn’t sure he could describe, like an itch he couldn’t scratch.

Had Tory used him?

She probably had, and now Negan had a very clever idea of how he would put his doubts to rest.  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory had woken up early.

She wasn’t sure if the previous night activities, or the alcohol she had ingested before ‘that incident’ had taken place, had any influence on her dreams.

Tory hadn’t set foot in a school in years. Yet, she’d found herself inside one, and it was weird. The school seemed to be patched up and remodeled for survival.

Tory walked through the overgrown grass, admiring the faded colors of the brick walls, wondering what she could find if she entered the school. There was an eerie feeling about the building. Everything was silent, except for the quiet ruffling of the grass against her clothes. The light of the sun seemed cold and bleak and it made Tory shudder.

A giggle reached her ears and Tory followed the sound, walking away from the building as she went. The giggling got closer and Tory walked faster.

She came to a halt at the sight of a tiny figure with fiery red hair collided with her legs. The little girl was precious and had the biggest cinnamon colored eyes Tory had ever seen, her cheeks were rosy and she looked healthy, making Tory feel at ease.

Before she could open her mouth to ask for the girl’s name, the little kid smiled, hugging Tory’s legs a bit tighter.

“They can’t save us.” The girl told her. “Not mama, not papa. They can’t save anyone.”

Waking up in the darkness of her room was terrifying and Tory almost screamed.

It was impossible to go back to sleep, no matter how hard she tried.

Tory walked through the room carefully, gathering her toiletries and a clean dress to go and take a shower, feeling the urgency to wash away the faint smell of alcohol and cologne from her skin.

  • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory and Vera were in the infirmary waiting on Harlan. 

Vera was there because she wanted to ask him some things regarding what she had discovered just two days ago, and Tory…Tory was bored out of her mind.

“You can only learn how to braid your hair so many times, Vera.” She’d complained.

Vera wanted to growl at Tory, who was looking at her with the stupidest grin ever.

“Are you sure?” her friend asked, upon hearing Vera’s announcement. 

“Very much.” Vera bit out, making Tory’s smile grow even bigger. “If you were a blonde, you’d look like Chase. He smiled just like that.”

Tory’s resistance broke and she laughed, squeezing Vera’s hands with her own.

“This is good news, Vera! I’m very happy for you.” 

Vera finally relaxed, giving Tory a watery smile.

“Are you for real? You’re not going to tell me I was stupid or something?” The timid tone of her voice made Vera blush, but her friend shook her head.

“You were protecting me when all this barfing episode happened, right?” Tory asked, waiting for Vera’s tiny nod. “Well, I can’t very well call you stupid. I would have done the same thing for you.”

Vera closed her eyes and placed her hands over her lower belly, smiling softly.

“Chase and I…We’re having a baby!” Vera felt giddy and not as scared or judged.

“Hell yeah, you are.” Tory confirmed, almost vibrating with excitement as she hugged her friend. “Your kid is going to be the loveliest, most spoiled tiny little one to ever grace this awful place.”

They both laughed.

“We wouldn’t have met without this awful place, though.” Vera chimed in, making Tory scoff.

“I believe we would have…eventually.” Tory rolled her eyes. “Somehow, I think we were destined to find each other, we’re that lucky.”

Tory noticed Vera’s suddenly dark expression.

“I’m sorry about Lucas.”

“You don’t have to be. He acted like an asshole, but I get it. I mean, it would hurt if it was me in his shoes.”

Vera made a noncommittal noise as she leaned on Tory’s shoulder. “I’m not ready to be a mom.” Her friend sighed, slightly distressed and fearful. “I’m too young and I don’t know if I can protect my baby.”

A memory came to the forefront of Tory’s mind, the ghost of a time long past, of an angry, sad girl who was too damaged to understand what was happening to her.

“I said the same thing when it happened to me.” Tory sighed, trying not to sound wistful and failing miserably at it. “Dad said it was okay, that we’d manage, with or without Henry.” Her hold on Vera’s shoulder tightened and became more protective. “And you have Chase.”

“Tory?”

“Yes, Vera?”

“You don’t have kids, right?” Vera asked, worry coloring her features as she looked up at her friend. 

Tory shook her head ‘no’. 

“What happened?”

“I was careless, I think. The doctor couldn’t really tell. He did tell me I would have a hard time to conceive again…if at all.”

Pete Anderson’s words still felt like a kick to her chest, almost five years after she had first heard them. Tory would have a hard time to get pregnant, probably an even harder time to carry to term.

Vera squeezed Tory’s hand and sighed heavily. “I’m sorry.” She whispered.

“You don’t have to be. I’ve kind of accepted it.” Tory smiled. “And we have to be happy for your baby! I’m gonna be a…”

“Godmother.” Vera blushed after blurting the words out, leaving Tory speechless. “That is if you want to, you know…Either way, Chase agrees.”

For the first time in forever, Tory felt her eyes prickle with tears that didn’t spill from pain or suffering, even though her chest felt tight and a knot had formed in her throat.

“Okay.” Tory managed to say, unable to hold back her tear but giggling as she wiped them. 

  • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Lucas felt uncomfortable.

He had been summoned by Negan and if Arat’s commiserating expression was something to go by, he was in deep shit.

In some very far recess of his mind, Lucas knew that Tory hadn’t told on him for the reprehensible attitude he’d shown her in that hallway when he had first seen her wear that stupid black dress. 

Tory was hurt, he had noticed.

 Lucas knew some of her tells already, and she had been angry and sad, but he had to admit that his ex-girlfriend had also been sincere.

And he felt like the dirtiest piece of shit on earth.

Walking behind Arat to whatever place she was taking Lucas, was like walking over burning coals, every step a bit more excruciating than the one before it.

They stopped in front of Roy Miller’s office and Arat knocked on the door twice, but received no answer. She did it again, and again, no one answered them. Arat sighed and turned her head left and right, watching the hallway from intruders before she opened the door.

Lucas felt as if he’d been punched in the nose again.

Negan had Tory’s leg curled around his hip, pushing the skirt of her dress up with one hand and holding her waist with the other while her arms curled around his neck. They were kissing, rather passionately. The leader of the Saviors was panting, and his eyes turned on Arat and then fell on Lucas with a glint of murderous intent.

“Ever heard about knocking?” Negan growled, tightening his hold on Tory, letting her recover her breath.

“They did, twice.” The newest wife piped in. “I tried to tell you.”

Negan’s eyebrows rose. “Really? I thought you were just trying to interrupt me.”

“It was a double purpose.” Tory snapped quietly, detangling her arms from around Negan’s shoulders.

Lucas almost exploded with envy as Negan chuckled.

“Behave, wife.” Negan admonished, before looking back at Arat. “Be a dear, Arat, and go get my father in law, please.”

Arat nodded, trying hard not to roll her eyes, as she left the office.

While Lucas was distracted, Negan finally slid his hand from under Tory’s skirt and around her waist. He combed his hair and adjusted his pants, waiting for Tory to smooth the little wrinkles that had formed on her dress. It didn’t go unnoticed how she had to adjust her underwear too, but Lucas turned a blind eye to that.

“Well, well, well.” Negan took a seat on the chair in front of him. “Gorgeous, please, do take a seat.”

Tory blinked. “Where?”

“Where? Come on, on my lap, of course, doll.” Negan commanded in a good-natured voice, giving Lucas the side-eye, as if challenging him into a reaction.

“I’m fine right here.” Tory answered sweetly.

“Oh, I could never let you stand like that, Gorgeous, you’re the lady here.” 

Tory didn’t move. 

Come. And. Sit.”

It was a battle of wills, Lucas realized.

Of course, Negan was trying to torture Lucas but the sour expression in Tory’s face told him that the big boss was trying to torture Tory as well. 

“Only because you offered.” Tory sat over Negan’s knees, crossing her ankles gracefully for someone in such high heels. Negan smiled, somewhat looking satisfied with the results of his nagging as he put his arm over Tory’s shoulders.

“I wouldn’t mind waiting for my adorable father in law, but we don’t got all day.” Negan said, matter-of-factly. “I got a new job for ya’, Lucas. An important assignment if ya’ will.”

Lucas’ eye widened involuntarily and he looked at Tory in disbelief, but she seemed as bewildered and caught out of guard as Lucas was.

“Sir?” he asked by default.

Negan chuckled, but this wasn’t the slightly pleasant sound from a couple of minutes before. No, Negan’s chuckle was a bit darker, a bit insidious.

“You’ll see, Lucas.” Negan smiled at him, but he was looking at Tory, who had a stony expression and was looking back at him with a frown. “Gorgeous here did a really naughty thing. It starts with an m-and ends with-urder.

Tory had killed someone?

Her words started to make sense in Lucas’ mind. 

I had no choice.

“I know I’ve relaxed the policy of having a guard around my wives, but Gorgeous here is special.” Negan kept speaking in a nonchalant manner as his thumb slid over Tory’s lower lip and chin, moving slowly over her skin, that was turning pinker as he spoke. “Gorgeous here is in such deep shit, I can’t even speculate how much she’s fucked over herself.”

Negan looked back at Lucas, all the while caressing circles on the skin of Tory’s throat.

“And I thought, who could take care of her when I’m not around?”

Tory’s quiet gasp didn’t quite register with Lucas’.

Was Negan being serious?

“I can’t very well ask the mister to Mrs. Gelato.” The leader of the Saviors continued. “Even less now that husband and wife are expecting, if the good doctor Carson is right, which is why I brought you here, Lucas…”

Tory was shaking slightly in Negan’s hold.

“I’m appointing you as Gorgeous’ bodyguard.”

  • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory’s humor had been dampened by Negan’s stupid idea that she needed a bodyguard twenty-four hours a day.  

Negan picking Lucas for the job had been out of pure pettiness. At least that was her point of view, maybe Tory would change her opinion once something predictably awful happened to her in a dark corner of the Sanctuary.

Her fundamental problem was Lucas’ proximity and his eagerness to show how bad he felt about the way he’d treated her. Tory could have dealt with his indifference, with his hatred even, but the apologetic smiles he shot her way every other minute of the day? 

Those were making her go crazy. 

No amount of alcohol could erase that, so Tory had given up on getting drunk.

In short, she was frustrated. She was angry and also, horny as hell. 

Negan was avoiding her as if she had the fucking plague too, unless he was the horny one, in which case, he kissed the living lights out of her, leaving her frustrated as he wouldn’t go further.

For all the above reasons, Tory was sitting in her bio-dad’s office, going over some stupid balance of food and other supplies.

“When are we going to talk about the elephant in the room?” Roy asked, not one to beat around the bush, much like Tory

“I did something really stupid, Roy.” Tory murmured, propping the book on her lap so she could look at Roy. “It landed me in some hot water and this was the brilliant solution.”

Her father eyed her black dress. 

“Negan is not good for you.” Her father tried to reason, using an argument she already knew.

“Negan is not good for anyone, but not everyone has a choice.” Tory countered, then she made a pause, trying to avoid thinking about their night together. “I can’t deny this has perks.”

“Like what?” Roy inquired with a patronizing voice that reminded Tory of how he used to talk to her mom.

“Well, the sex is pretty fucking awesome, father.” Tory replied sharply, closing the book and throwing the pencil she was using across the room. “Not that you needed to know that, or can do anything about it.”

“Victoria!”

Before Roy could get another word in, Tory left the office with Lucas hot on her heels.

“California, wait!” her ex-boyfriend-slash-bodyguard called after her.

Tory ignored Lucas as she walked without direction, following her instinct and the memory of her body.

“California, stop.”

“What?!” Tory exclaimed, snapping out of her rage induced trance.

“You can’t just go around running.” Lucas scolded. “And you definitely can’t come here!

They were in front of their room…

No, Lucas’ room...

Where she had killed Tyler.  

Tory stumbled away from Lucas’ door, feeling extremely lightheaded. Her rational mind told her there was no blood, someone had cleaned the mess she had made, but Tory’s reasoning couldn’t overpower her body’s reaction. Her blood was pounding inside her ears, blocking the sounds around her, the sickening smell of blood and cheap rum made her even dizzier and Tory felt her eyes fill with tears, as the edges of her vision started closing and her breath faltered.

“California?Tory!!”

Before Luca’s could reach her, Tory’s world faded to black.

  • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuary, VA

Negan watched the rhythmic rise and fall of Tory’s chest intently.

He hadn’t heard half of what Doctor Carson had said. He had caught words here and there, but he wasn’t really listening. Negan wanted those grey eyes open and glaring at him, if that was what it took for her to wake up.

“…too much, and the stress is not good...

Once the doctor was quiet, Negan noticed the absence of his voice and lifted his gaze for a few moments to nod at the man. The doctor sighed deeply and went to sit by his desk with a book propped in his lap.

A little commotion dented Negan’s attention again, someone was talking in agitated tones outside of the infirmary apparently discussing with whoever was guarding the door.

“I don’t care! You’re going to let me in!” the familiar voice made him smirk, so he stood up and went to open the door.

“Negan, sir!” the guard fell to his knees, but Mrs. Gelato simply barreled her way past them both and into the infirmary.

“Let her be.” Negan ordered. “She’s here to take over, I assume.”

“Yes, sir.”

Negan closed the door softly and watched as Vera, who had already taken a seat, check his soulmate as closely as she could without touching her. 

Meanwhile, Negan sat at the foot of the bed, but Tory didn’t stir.

“What happened?” Vera asked, her attention fixed on her friend.

“Seems she had a row with her old man.” Negan said, trying not to raise his voice. He noticed the little flinch Vera couldn’t avoid when he mentioned Tory’s father. 

Now he wanted to know why she reacted.

“Roy isn’t happy about Tory’s new role.” Vera confessed. “And I might have convinced Tory to talk to him.”

Had things been different, meaning that Negan would’ve had to care about what Tory was going through when she was a kid, he might have known more about the situation.  However, it had been Lucille’s efforts and weird interest in his soulmate that kept him sort of updated, but at some point, even that fizzled between them and Negan only remembered bits and pieces.

“I feel awful.” The expecting mother sniffled. “I thought it would be good for Tory, and I knew she didn’t get along with her dad.”

If Vera started to cry, Negan would walk out.

He wasn’t up for this.

“Will you stay with her?” he asked, a bit harsher than he intended.

“Yeah.” The brunette chirped in a little voice.

“Okay, Martha might be around later.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

The rest of Negan’s day passed without a hitch.

He had soldiered his way through some meetings, toured the Sanctuary up and down and attended the meals with his wives.

Evidently, he wasn’t expecting the impromptu visit he got from Eugene when his day was over. Negan let the man in his office, reminding himself that losing his temper wasn’t going to take him anywhere.

“Eugene, man! How’s it goin’?” Negan asked, while offering him a drink.

“It is all going according to planning, the logistics helped greatly and production may start soon if I am not wrong. Which is not entirely possible.” Eugene’s pauses made it easier for Negan to listen. He knew Eugene was still intimidated by him, but Eugene expressed himself a lot better now than when the former Alexandrian had just arrived.

The slight fidget and shuffling of Eugene’s feet drew Negan’s attention and he gave the man a once-over with one eyebrow raised.

“Anything else?” he prompted.

“Well, Negan, sir. It has come to my attention that Victoria wasn’t at any meal today and she failed to appear on time for our daily meeting.”

Eugene and Tory had a daily meeting time established?

Somehow, being informed of this raised Negan’s hackles. He should know these things, these particularities. Negan wanted to throttle Tory and ask someone to slap some sense into him.

“Well, Gorgeous has been otherwise engaged.”

Engaged with an infirmary bed.

Eugene blushed and stuttered a murmur that didn’t become a word, before closing his mouth; whatever was going through his mind, Negan wasn’t going to clarify.

“If you have nothing else to discuss with me, I’d very much love to go and get Frankie to give me a massage.”

Eugene straightened and nodded. “Yes sir. I’ll be going.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory’s eyelids felt heavy and crusty, but she fought the idea of rubbing her eyes when her arms hurt from the effort.

Actually…every limb of her body ached.

She was glad too, for waking up alone in the darkness of the infirmary, even if she was unsure of how long she’d slept.

The lighting of the room suggested it was early in the morning, probably enough for her to get up and get breakfast, even if she didn’t feel like eating. Her body needed it.

Soft snoring took Tory’s attention and she noticed Harlan sleeping by the bed, uncomfortably seated over his desk chair with his arms crossed. Fondness and the slightest bit of derision robbed a smile from her as Tory pushed herself up on the bed. Her body was in pain, but this pain was extremely familiar.

It was a mirror feeling to the one she had experienced following Henry’s death.

Her limbs felt heavy, her chest hollow and her motivation drained… Tory was back in survival mode, and she wasn’t happy about it.

Dragging herself out of the infirmary took a few minutes while she located her shoes and one aspirin that she gulped down dry. With wobbly steps, Tory walked into the backroom and washed her face and hands. Her makeup had been removed, though she was still wearing the black dress.

Realization dawned on her slowly.

She had screamed about her sex life to her biological father and then threw a tantrum so big she’d fainted in the hallway where Tyler died.

Died…sure, tell yourself that. A snarky voice spoke from the back of her head. 

Tory shuddered by how similar to Tyler himself the voice sounded.

Tory left a note for Harlan and hurried as much as her mind permitted all the way to the wives’ rooms. The early hours afforded Tory the luxury of privacy as she showered and dressed. Combing her hair was a struggle, she loved the long, dark tresses that Jesse had helped trim for years, and Lucas’ admired so vehemently to the point of combing Tory’s hair himself more than once during their brief relationship. 

Even Negan liked her long hair.

For a short minute, Tory thought about accepting Frankie’s offer of cutting it off.

Watching herself in the mirror, Tory smiled cynically.

“You’re being an idiot.” She told herself.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

A week later

Vera was sitting in Lucas’ room, waiting for his shift to end.

She was extremely worried, and Vera knew she should be trying to keep the stress out of her life but it was impossible.

Chase had been an angel through all that, trying to satisfy her cravings and generally letting her get away with murder, but even her husband had a limit. When Chase told Vera to go talk to Lucas, insinuating that he would be disappointed in her if she didn’t, Vera listened.

Lucas had kept his mouth shut about Tory ever since she’d fainted outside this very room, and Vera wanted to know why.

Tory was acting different. Vera couldn’t put her finger on what had changed, but the slightly stiff way in which her best friend moved, spoke and acted mobilized Vera into action.

“Fuck, V! What the hell are you doing here?” Lucas asked, frightened when he turned on the light and saw his petite friend burrowed in his sofa.

“We need to talk, Lucas.” She stated, matter-of-factly.

“Forgive me if I’m wary, V. You broke my damn nose.” Lucas growled, prompting Vera to roll her eyes at him, as if he were a disobedient child.

“You abandoned Tory and then you had the gall to slut-shame her, you idiot.” Vera countered without considering his feelings. “She killed Tyler for you.”

“You don’t know that, Vera.” Lucas said, trying not to stiffen against the door of his room.

“Oh, I know what I’m saying. Who do you think put Negan up to marry Tory?” Lucas opened his mouth in disbelief. “She was going crazy…or went crazy. I don’t know...

Lucas knew what Vera meant.

Tory had bounced off her fainting episode with an ease that surprised Lucas, and Negan too, if he wasn’t wrong. 

The way his eyes followed Tory whenever she was in presence of the Savior’s leader was enough evidence. The slight fear in Negan’s eyes was not Lucas’ imagination.

“I don’t know what happened. I see what you mean, Vera, but I don’t get it.” Lucas confessed.

They averted their gazes, unable to look at each other in disappointment.  

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory noticed the looks.

Negan’s, Martha’s, Vera’s, Lucas’ and even Amber’s; but she couldn’t muster the will to care. She felt as if, after being kicked down too many times, something stopped her from pushing back.

Part of her knew she was giving up too much in exchange of putting a stop to that, the rest of her didn’t care for it. People simply left her to her devices and Tory went about her days with ease.

No one even said a thing about her going back to being Harlan’s assistant.

The one thing that disturbed her were the constant dreams of the little red-headed girl that kept telling Tory that no one could save ‘them’, it was unnerving and it caused Tory to get little sleep most nights.

This was one of those nights.

A sense of foreboding kept her awake, trying to escape Amber’s cuddles at the edge of the bed.

Tory’s body betrayed her mind again as she remembered the warmth of Negan’s hands on her. The make-out session in Roy’s office turned up in her mind, reminding Tory of the way in which they fit, how snug the hold of his arm was around her waist, while his other hand delved up her thigh.

Longing for Negan’s touch filled Tory and she decided to end her self-deprivation at the cost of her pride.

I need him. Tory thought with begrudging acceptance, before leaving the bed.

Walking lightly, the brunette gathered a robe on her way out of the room; the parlor seemed gloomier so late in the night.

The hallways were just as dark, though Negan’s room wasn’t far and Tory’s steps were almost soundless.

Tory blessed her stars when she saw Negan’s room wasn’t guarded, probably for a shift change. She tried the handle of the door and it gave immediately. A breath she didn’t know she was holding left her chest, and her shoulders lost a bit of tension.

The room was shrouded in darkness, moonlight didn’t penetrate through the heavy curtains. 

Slowly, trying not to stub her toes, Tory extended her arms to touch her surroundings. Tables, chairs, the closet and finally a poster and then the soft surface of a quilt. 

Negan’s snoring robbed her a rueful smile.

As she climbed onto the bed with her hand and knees, Tory’s mind went back to the last time she’d done something like that. Henry had been sick and she wanted to be near him, afraid for his wellbeing, although he had made her strong and feeling his arms around her had been more than enough for Tory.

It was all different now, she felt old beyond her years, but more defenseless than a child. Somehow, getting close to Negan, even if only sharing the same space, made Tory feel safer than she had in months.

You feel safe in a bed with a murderer. Tory thought, as she curled over the quilt and closed her eyes. And you don’t care.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan felt a presence on his bed and his sleep addled mind supposed it was Martha looking for some company.

Feeling content and warm, Negan curled around her and sighed, blissfully aware of the soft skin and heavenly fragrance before sleep claimed him once again.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Before

Savannah, GA

Tory watched the people come and go as they passed by the bistro, ignoring the patrons sitting in the little fenced patio, drinking some cool coffee or having gelato and tiramisu.

She loved people watching after school, it helped clear her head when she felt overwhelmed, and this was such a moment.

The lull before rush hour was welcome, as it brought silence and calm to the restaurant, another favorite moment of Tory’s.

“What’s up?” the familiar, bubbly voice of the shift manager made Tory look up as the brunette dragged a chair out without making a sound.

“Homework.” Tory sighed, resigned to go back to her duties before Tom showed up to get her home. The manager made a commiserating sound that make Tory giggle.

“How about you Elle?”

Elle smiled, making her dark eyes shine with enthusiasm. “I got myself a ticket to visit Hawaii, actually.”

“Wow! That’s cool! Are you going to see the volcanoes?” Tory asked, forgetting about her math homework.

“I was thinking more about visiting ancient sites and stuff.” Elle said. “And the hotel is pretty cool too.”

As Tory sipped her lemonade -which tasted a bit artificial, even though her Mom used fresh lemons for it-, Elle kept telling her about surfing and food, about the places some people had recommended.

“I have to travel now.” Her older friend said, making Tory frown. “Is my one chance.”

“What do you mean, Elle?” Tory asked, not really wanting to hear the answer.

“Well, I have to take care of the school later.” Elle’s suddenly far off look and wistful tone made Tory shudder uncomfortably. “It’s Abby’s legacy.”

“What school? Who’s Abby?” Tory noticed the desperation seeping in her voice, as dread filled her chest. “What do you mean?”

Elle’s eyes fell on Tory, giving her a look of understanding and consideration.

“You know why, Tory.”

They fell silent for a long while.

“This isn’t real.” The grey-eyed girl whispered, as her voice took a deeper quality, making her sound older as well. Elle looked older, her hair was a bit longer, though her style hadn’t changed much, the tank top she was wearing showed scars that Tory had never seen.

“Oh, it’s real, this is just our past…mostly yours.” Elle corrected. “I’m just making sure you’re okay.”

“I’m okay...considering.” Tory answered slowly.

Her old friend smiled and stood up, turning her head to the street. A couple was looking at Elle, a beautiful red-haired woman and a man with a sweet smile and sandy-brown hair.

“Take care.” Tory said as goodbye, even though her voice sounded far away as she spoke.

She swore that Elle’s lips moved as she replied but…

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuary, VA

Negan was in hell, apparently.

He was surrounding a warm, pliable body, whose rounded ass was nesting his raging morning wood. One of his hands was around a soft breast, and damn, this one girl smelled like something fresh and honey.

It was almost impossible to suppress the groan of want that made Negan’s chest vibrate when his other hand, more specifically his fingers, found their way over hot, slick flesh between her legs.

If this was a dream, Negan didn’t want it to end.

A soft, sweet moan -one he wasn’t familiar with- reached his ears, and Negan clenched his eyes harder as his fingers explored her more intimately. His bed-mate squirmed and keened softly when Negan slid one of his fingers inside her, and fuck, she was thoroughly wet.

The hand he had around her breast pinched her nipple slightly over the velvety fabric she was wearing. And which wife of his wore velvet? Negan decided it wasn’t an important question as his nose caught the smell of her hair. It smelled like oranges and rosemary…maybe apples?  Oh, and her skin was so, so soft!

Negan kissed her throat, little pecks at first, then slightly open-mouthed kisses; he wanted to devour the smell of her skin.

Oh, the sounds she was making.

Damn, he needed to fuck her.

Reluctantly, after another thorough grinding of his cock between her rounded ass cheeks, Negan let go of her breast and extracted his leg from between hers, though, his finger was still thrusting in and out of her at a slow pace that made the leader of the Saviors feel proud of himself.

Please.” His mysterious girl pleaded.

Negan was about to ask ‘please, what?’ when his right arm -in which he had put most of his weight- faltered in burning pain.

He opened his eyes, taking a few seconds to get used to the lighting of his room.

A groan of protest ended the job of waking him up when Negan withdrew his hand from Tory’s underwear. And there was no doubt this was Tory, as his arm confirmed, in dark, painful lettering.

He was truly baffled with the presence of his young soulmate in his bed, taking his attention so willingly after days and days without talking to each other.

“What the ever-loving fuck is happenin’, Gorgeous?”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory’s eyes shot open.

Negan’s raspy voice dragged her out of her sleepiness, cutting her dream short, and for once, Tory was happy to be woken up.

In the dimness of the room, Tory’s eyes caught on the wetness of Negan’s fingers, so he was touching her. The thought comforted her, making warmth blossom in her chest and cheeks.

“What?” she asked, unsure of what Negan has asked her.

Her soulmate scowled deeply.

“What are ya’ doing in my damn room?” Negan reformulated the question with an icy tone that made Tory sport a frown of her own.

“I couldn’t sleep.” She said slowly. “You were touching me?” Tory wondered if she was smiling, counting on Negan’s disgruntled expression. He didn’t answer.

“I was lucky…the guard wasn’t at the door.” Tory explained, suppressing the need to tell her husband to touch her again. “it was warm in here, it felt good.”

Negan dragged his dry hand over his face, averting his gaze from hers.

“I was assaulting you, Gorgeous…fuck!” he growled.

If his frustration hadn’t involved her, Tory would have laughed; he had been doing something really pleasurable, and she wanted him to continue.

“No.” she stated, trying to sound firm. “You were doing something amazing. I was having a nightmare and it stopped.”

“Is this an attempt to prove we have chemistry? We got it, Gorgeous. We just don’t get along.” Negan countered.

“I actually like you when you’re not being an asshole.” Tory giggled, sitting up and reaching for his hand, the one that had been doing those wonderful things inside, making her toes curl in pleasure. “And I felt good.”

“I thought you were someone else.” Negan told her, slow enough to make Tory think he wanted her to be angry at him. He took his hand away too.

She wasn’t and told him so.

“I’m not angry. A bit irritated because you stopped? Yes, but I’m not angry about you fingering me.”

“You are some weird woman, Victoria.” Negan’s stern voice made Tory close her eyes and groan in protest. The mood was completely ruined.

After a few moments of awkward silence, a thought occurred to her.

“You called me Victoria, why?”

Negan blinked a few times, as if he had problems understanding her -admittedly- stupid question.

“You called me Gorgeous first and then Victoria, why?” Tory reformulated, trying to clarify her inquire.

“It’s your name.” he answered flatly. “Why did you come here, Victoria?” he questioned again.

Tory felt her cheeks redden, but lying wasn’t going to take her anywhere.

“I wanted to be with you.” She blurted forcefully, making her voice barely audible. It was a blessing that the room was practically silent, excepting the noise they were making.

A hesitant sort of chuckle escaped Negan. He didn’t believe her!

Tory crossed her arms under her breasts, trying to stomp down her indignation, reasoning that it wouldn’t help her plead her case to him.

“I was avoiding you for a reason.” Negan said, not willing to elaborate on his words. It stung her feelings, but Victoria swallowed the hurt again. “Why would you want to spend time with me? You never wanted it before.”

There were two options for Tory, telling the truth or staying quiet. She wanted his company, as much as she could get of it, Tory craved his warm touch and the sound of his voice in her ear. His lips on hers. And, even if she tried to deny it, Tory had to understand Negan’s hesitation because she had rejected him already. All of this had gone through her mind before the brunette decided to even approach her soulmate; it was her turn to insist.

“I changed my mind.”

Tory tried not to feel offended when Negan left the bed, scoffing at her with disdain.

Payback was a bitch.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Later that day, Negan called Martha to his makeshift meeting-room.

He had tried to find signals, something…whatever could justify Tory’s sudden change of heart.

Negan permitted her to be at the infirmary because he knew she was useful, it was a bullshit excuse, because Sherry had been useful for the first Carson, but Negan refused to let her inside the infirmary, even more after the incident with Tina’s insulin.

In the deepest recess of his mind, Negan knew he just wanted Tory to be pleased with him. He wanted Tory to have choices, because he hadn’t given her a choice.

It was the fucking ping pong ball all over again.

“You wanted to see me?” Martha’s voice floated inside the room, making Negan look up from the point in the void he’d been staring at.

“Come sit, angel-face.” He prompted his wife, who nodded and walked briskly to him, before sitting on the table, ignoring the dents caused by Lucille’s barbed wire. “What can you tell me about Gorgeous days in the parlor, huh?”

Martha’s delicate, left eyebrow rose as she smirked at him.

“Well, we don’t see Tory that much in the mornings, since she’s been helping Harlan.” Martha informed. “But she comes in the afternoon and spends a while with Amber.”

It wasn’t the kind of information Negan wanted, but he knew Martha was just getting started.

“I think Tory’s been knitting, some really poor attempts, but I think it’s a baby blanket?” a dreamy smile appeared on Martha’s face. “Vera comes every once in a while, and Tory tries to keep the knitting a secret.”

Negan frowned lightly.

“She’s drinking a bit less since she was told about Vera’s child.”

He didn’t notice, Martha was sure, but Negan flinched and she knew. He was thinking of Elle’s detox process, from after the horrible attack at Doveport.

“Is not the same.” Martha tried to fix her apparent faux pass. “You know is not.”

His hazel eyes found hers and Martha felt her heart break a little.

The tortured look in Negan’s eyes was even worse.

“I’m not sure. She suddenly wants to let me in and I don’t think I can let her, Martha.” Her husband said bleakly. With a sigh, Martha reached for his bearded chin, caressing his scratchy jaw to make Negan look at her.

“You’ve got to let yourself feel for Tory, Negan.” She counselled him, trying to keep a calm and steady voice. “She is letting you in, for whatever reason.” And Martha was determined to find out why. “This can’t be bad.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan had wanted to talk to Tory after his very busy day, however, it was nearing midnight when he had finished the last meeting and conference call between outposts.

He was surprised to find her sleeping, curled around one of the pillows of his bed.

Maybe he had felt a bit of warmth in his chest when he saw her relaxed, sleeping face, maybe he didn’t, but Negan tried not to think about it as he undressed for bed.

He also tried not to think about it when he curled around Tory’s body and felt comforted by her presence and fragrance.

He definitely didn’t feel hope when she snuggled against him.

He did not.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Two weeks earlier

Tory had almost jumped out of the bed when Martha woke her up with a smug smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“Well, is there an explanation for this, Sis?” Martha asked, crossing her arms daintily while raising an eyebrow. 

Tory groaned and tried to burrow herself inside the covers. 

“None of that, Tory. We need to talk.”

“I haven’t had breakfast, Martha.” The younger woman whined as Martha tore the covers away from her.

“I do know. Can’t say I’m sorry.”

Once they were having breakfast, Martha pushed a cup of coffee to Tory, who pushed it back with a grimace.

“I don’t feel like coffee, sorry.” Tory said with a little smile, but then dug into her scrambled eggs. “What is it you want to discuss?”

Martha sipped at her coffee, watching the fellow wife carefully, ready to catch the cues of her question.

“Why did you decide to approach Negan?” Martha demanded tersely.

With a little pause, Tory placed her fork back on the table that the two of them were sharing.

“I…” she hesitated, trying to find words. “I don’t want to keep dragging myself from one crappy situation to another.” Tory answered, her voice just as terse as Martha’s. “Negan is not the greatest man, but he is my soulmate.”

Martha felt the coffee run bitterly down her throat, despite the healthy amount of sugar she had diluted in it.

“I’m grasping at straws, I know.” Tory’s voice trembled a little. “But I guess this is a chance in disguise.”

Truly baffled, Martha blurted the next question out in a…not so delicate way. “Why now?”

Tory leaned in with her arms crossed over the table and a mischievous smile on her lips, “Why not?” she shot back.

• • •

War

The Sanctuary, VA

There could be worse routines.

Negan tried to ignore the lingering foreboding thoughts that haunted him in in his waking moments. The threat of Rick and his piss patrol wasn’t forgotten, not one bit; it was the reason why Negan was drilling his people and grooming his army the best he could. He hardly had a moment of peace.

But those little moments he did get, he embraced and relished in.

Once Tory decided to talk -with a little nudge from Martha-, she became sincere with him. There was no mistaking the glint in her grey eyes as she spoke of the things she remembered fondly. Every few stories, Negan got the distinct impression that Tory used to think she could taint her own memories by talking about them.

Or more specifically, talking about them to him.

At the present time, however, Negan would take what he was given without complaining.

• • •

Vera was clutching Chase’s hand in both of hers as Harlan squeezed the gel for the ultrasound machine on her slight baby bump. Tory was watching Harlan work because he had asked her to be present and take note of everything, so she could ask questions later. The doctor was very much keen on her learning, and Tory wasn’t going to complain. Getting to be there for her best friend was a plus she couldn’t have anticipated.

The sound of the machine startled the three young people, but Vera’s big, cinnamon eyes were fixed in the grainy image of the screen.

Harlan explained where Vera’s uterus was supposed to be, how things seemed to be good and snug for the baby and then, he turned on the sound.

A rapid thumping beat filled the infirmary room. Tory watched Chase lean down and kiss his wife’s forehead.

“Ah!” Harlan let out a startled chuckle that made them all look at him. “See, Vera, Chase, here…” he pointed at the screen. “This is your baby.” The doctor said, pointing at a little white blip, not bigger than a lentil. The focus changed slightly as she moved the handle over Vera’s belly. “And this…is your baby.”

Tory’s eyes misted over. 

Two blips. 

Two babies.

Chase laughed heartily before kissing his wife hard and deep.

“Two! Two of them!”

Vera was overcome, crying silently, and nodding listlessly as Harlan took measurements and reassured the couple about Vera’s size and the size of the babies.

“Congratulations.” Tory wished softly as Harlan printed out a picture for the happy parents.

“You’ll be their godmother, won’t you?” Chase asked, reiterating Vera’s offer.

“I’d be honored.” The nurse-slash-wife confirmed.

Vera hugged Tory and Harlan and kissed her husband as they both held the picture of their future kids.

Later that night, the happy couple, Tory and Lucas were having some fruit salad. Tory and Vera drank sodas, while Chase and Lucas shared a couple of beers.

While the boys talked about cribs and how Lucas would help Chase and Vera with the little ones, Tory tried to console Vera about the baby stuff that they could get or make if that was the case.

“I’ve been practicing some knitting.” Tory told her friend, trying to ignore the slight heat in her cheeks. “Maybe I can make something decent for my godchildren?”

“Aw, Tory, but that’s not necessary.” Vera protested with a wide smile. “As long as they have you.”

Tory laughed bashfully but nodded. “Let’s just hope I’m not too bad an example.”

• • •   • • •   • • •   • • •

Martha heard the sobs through the door of the bathroom as she was walking to her room.

With a long sigh, she went back on her steps and knocked softly.

The sobs stopped abruptly, but whoever was inside the bathroom didn’t say a word.

“Is everything okay?”

Muffled noises reached Martha’s ears and then a slightly red-eyed Tory opened the door, turning on the older wife’s alertness, even though she had a long day.

“Martha, hey.” Tory greeted, letting her tone fall flat mid-greeting.

Now -and this Martha knew because she saw it herself-, Tory was getting…better. Amber had commented that, even though their fellow wife accompanied her when she was drinking, Tory had flat out stopped drinking weeks before. Martha hadn’t seen Tory drink anything other than water or sometimes tea, Tory’s general dietary habits had changed, that was evident, but it didn’t fit with what Martha was seeing now.

Tory’s shattered expression, with her red rimmed eyes and paleness.

“What happened?” Martha asked, her chocolate colored eyes drilling Tory’s grey ones.

Surprise, terror and compassion warred inside her when Tory’s jaw twitched as she shut her eyes still crying in silence, partially hidden by the door.

“Tory, you’re scaring me.” Martha would have liked to keep the scolding tone out of her voice, but she was scared.

“I got my period.” Tory sniffled, before breaking down in sobs…again.

An hour later, Tory was curled up on Martha’s bed after drinking a hot mug of chamomile tea and being comforted to sleep by Martha’s soothing words and encouragement.

Puzzling the story together had taken the better part of the aforementioned hour and lots of cajoling from the older woman, but it was something reasonable.

As Martha understood, Tory had been late. 

Well, her period that is. 

Three weeks and a half. 

According to Tory’s saying, her period rarely presented late -exceptionally, that only had happened when she was suffering from malnutrition-, but this time it was almost a month later and nothing had happened. Tory had recounted between bouts of sobs, how her breasts felt a bit sensitive, but not in the same way as when she suffered PMS, she’d gained a couple pounds over her usual weight and had experienced a bit of sickness that no one had caught on. This last declaration surprised Martha, as she knew Negan and Tory had been sleeping together for a couple of weeks already, and Negan was bound to find out…right?

Well, no one had found out, and Tory was getting excited until earlier that day, when her period made itself present.

With a long, long sigh, Martha pushed herself out of the bed and left her room. She had half a mind on calling for Vera, but decided against it. As much as Tory loved her friend, Martha wasn’t sure if it was prudent to call on Tory’s pregnant, happy friend.

Which left her with one -no more desirable- option.

• • •  • • •   • • •

Negan was ready to call it a day and fall onto his bed to curl himself around Tory, enjoying their mutual warmth for a few hours before he had to be up again.

Instead, when he entered his room, Negan found Martha, pacing from one side of the room to the other. She was distracted enough not to notice him; her tense shoulders were drawn in, and her face bore an expression of deep thoughtfulness.

Negan’s gaze fell on the empty bed and his throat became suddenly dry.

“Angel-face?” he choked out.

Martha whirled around at the sound of his voice.

“Negan, thank God!” his wife exclaimed, as if the leader had taken a weight off her shoulders.

“Where’s Tory?” Negan asked, trying to sound more composed.

Had he not been looking for the cues in Martha’s body language, Negan would have missed when she swallowed hard and clutched her own skirt as she looked at him earnestly.

“She’s in my room.” Martha answered, giving her voice a soft tone. “Something happened.”

Hundreds of scenarios went through his mind. Maybe Tory had a relapse? Maybe she was sick?

“Out with it, angel-face.” Negan sighed, sitting at the edge of his bed and propping Lucille against the nightstand.

“Tory had her period.”

A mix of emotions swirled in Negan’s head as he gave Martha an incredulous look.

“What?” he snapped, harsher than intended, making his wife flinch. “All of this because she is on the fucking rag?!” Negan’s voice was escalating in volume, but Martha wasn’t backing down or trying to apace him. “Explain right now, Martha!”

“Fuck, Negan!” Martha snapped back, her voice slightly shrill. “Tory thought she was pregnant!”

Martha’s words felt both as if she had slapped him and thrown a bucket of ice water over him. Negan would have sworn someone had punched him in the gut, except no one had.

“What?” he whispered brokenly, feeling older and devastated by Martha’s snap confession.

“That’s what I understood.” Martha said, sounding sympathetic now. “Tory was in hysterics for a while, I… You need to talk to her.”

“Right.” Negan croaked flatly.

“I know it hurts.” Martha’s hand touched his shoulder softly, making Negan look up. “But she needs you to be strong for a bit, okay?”

“I know.” Negan conceded.

“Go to my room, I’ll stay here.”  

• • •  • • •   • • • • • •

Negan didn’t bother knocking on the door as he entered Martha’s room.

Her nightstand lamp -a luxury for sure- was turned on, giving her room a soft, warm glow that allowed him to walk to the side of the bed where Tory was curled up with the covers around her.

Her cheeks had faint tear tracks and her nose was still a bit red, as were her eyes.

Slowly, Negan sat, making the mattress dip and disturbing Tory, who opened her grey eyes, blinking slowly and looked up at him. Her face crumpled immediately and her eyes filled with tears.

Negan wasn’t sure, but he saw her lips move. Tory was saying something.

Swiftly, Negan took off his jacket and threw it to the floor carelessly as well as his boots; he then climbed on the bed and hugged Tory, all in silence.

When he guided her head onto the crook of his neck, Negan finally heard what she was murmuring.

Sorry.

Tory was saying it, over and over again.

A sharp pain made his arm burn, but he didn’t need to look at the words to know what it was.

“I know. I know.” Negan said, soothingly, caressing her back and letting Tory curl around him as sobs shook her slight frame.

Her pain was cutting him deep, as deep as his own suffering.

Up to the moment Martha had said it, Negan had never entertained the thought of a kid. He was old, not old in an elderly kind of way, but enough to be Tory’s father. But the moment the thought crossed his mind, Negan could see it.

A kid with Tory’s smile, his eyes, chubby and happy, only to have that hope immediately dashed by logic. Even Tory’s sudden change of heart on Negan made sense now. She thought they would have a fami-…it hurt too much to even think about it.

Either Tory had miscarried or the stress had been too much for her to take on.

Negan decided he would take her to Carson first thing in the morning, so the good doc could check her.

Plans started forming in his head as he rocked his soulmate to sleep, murmuring sweet nothings to her, promises he knew he couldn’t keep. Although, it was good enough for now.

At least, Negan wanted to believe that.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Chapter Text

 

•• •    • • •     • • •     • • • • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuary, VA

Four days.

Negan behaved like the apocalyptic representation of a saint for the next four days.

It both flattered and unnerved Tory; but it also gave her time to think.

Her heart was still hurting but as a practical person, Tory knew she couldn’t avoid adult tasks for a long time.

First, she had to talk to Harlan and make sure to put herself in some sort of birth control regime -and so far, pulling out seemed like the only, unsatisfactory option…

Then, Tory had to thank Martha for her help and talk to Vera about why she had been avoiding her for almost a week.

And last, but not least, Tory had to tell Negan about Henry.

It was time.

Because somehow, they were both doing the wrong thing, again. Tory had projected her feelings of guilt and failure from her only pregnancy and putting that burden on Negan, who -in all fairness- didn’t deserve it. And Negan was walking on eggshells around her.

Tory was very sure she wasn’t as break-prone as she had been once; Negan’s words had stopped hurting her years ago, and his actions -except for those outrageously damaging- rarely had an influence on her.

Deciding she needed to be out of bed already, Tory went for the bathroom with a slight spring in her step.

She was going to make this day count. 

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Harlan was pleasantly surprised by Tory’s appearance in the infirmary after the ominous absence she’d pulled. There was something eerie about her cheery behavior and extremely easy smile, but the doctor preferred to let her manage whatever was bothering Tory in her own way.

Lucas had taken lunch to them at the right time and Harlan was happy to find a fresh sandwich with warm bread and a piece of bacon inside. Tory had taken out the bacon of her lunch and given a part to Harlan and the other to Lucas, who eyed her suspiciously but said nothing before digging in.

Once they were done eating and tidying up what little mess they made, Tory stopped Lucas from leaving the office.

“I need one witness, Lucas.” The grey-eyed woman said, before looking at Harlan, wringing her hands a bit, as if weighing her words before she actually spoke. “I want some sort of birth control advice, Harlan.”

Before the good doctor could answer, Lucas face morphed from surprise to disgust and finally wariness. “Damn, California, have you no filter? I don’t wanna know that!”

Tory glared at her friend-turned-guard. “It didn’t bother you when we were sleeping together, Lucas.”

Properly scolded, the savior seemed to swallow whatever retort he was planning when Harlan cleared his throat.

“What brought this on, Victoria?” he asked seriously.

His usually straight forward assistant averted Harlan’s gaze and then fell behind him.

“I had a pregnancy scare.” Tory blurted quietly. “And I’m not sure I want to repeat it.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Lucas stayed quiet while Harlan and Tory discussed birth control methods as Harlan was also informed about Tory’s miscarriage, five years before. His friend-slash-ex was tight lipped about whatever happened to the father of her unborn child, but she had described in detail everything about the situation and another pregnancy scare that happened only a year ago.

Tory winced when Harlan asked about her sexual activity, and Lucas couldn’t ignore the smug feeling in his chest when Tory mentioned that her sexual activity had diminished after breaking up with him. However, it was his turn to wince when Tory assured Harlan that her pregnancy -had it been one- could only be Negan’s responsibility. The pretty flush of her cheeks hurt, but not as much as Lucas would have thought, and he decided there were worse case scenarios.

Harlan outlined a plan to follow Tory’s cycle -or so Lucas understood-, and to keep track of her fertility or lack of it. Harlan examined the long, almost faded scar on Tory’s abdomen, that went from one hip to the other and crisscrossed weirdly, as if the person who had cut her open had other priorities and not their patient.

“…next month, when Vera comes in for her ultrasound.” Harlan was scribbling something. “We can take a look and make sure everything is fine. Do you really not want children?” the doctor asked, his voice lacked judgement and was softly understanding.

Tory smiled sadly. “I just don’t think now is the right time. Just look at Maggie…at Vera? All that stress can’t be good.”

Lucas knew Tory was lying, it was the inflection of her voice and the steel in her eyes that told him so.

Harlan took the words at heart, though, and kept scribbling.

“We might be able to find an IUD somewhere in a pharmacy or community clinic.” Harlan mentioned. “I do monitor one woman here who has one, and it’s been recently inserted.”

“I’d like that.” Tory said pensively. “Sounds safe.”

Of all things, Lucas could agree with that.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory knew something was up with Lucas and she wanted to resolve it before something could go wrong.

When they stopped in front of the door to the parlor, Tory got a hold of Lucas’ arm.

“What is it?” Tory asked softly, even if her words were blunt.

“When I left…I’m sorry for what happened. All of it.” Lucas confessed. His words were a bit forceful, but they warmed Tory, who smiled up at her friend. “I’m sorry for being an asshole about Negan and all that happened after too.”

Tory giggled, feeling her eyes prickle with happy tears.

“I did kill someone, I guess it was my karma.” She told Lucas, trying to make him feel better.

He chuckled and ran a hand through his curls in a gesture so familiar to Tory it almost broke her heart.

“You remind me of him.” Tory said with a sigh. “He’d have liked you.”

“Who?” Lucas wanted to know, looking back at his friend.

“Henry.” It still rolled off her tongue with the ease of a lifetime familiarity.

“I’m sure there’s a story behind that.” Lucas said, nodding at her words. “Will I ever hear it?”

Tory smiled mischievously. “Maybe.” She sang, right before kissing his cheek softly. “Night, Lucas.”

“Night, California.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan was seething.

He found himself out of words even, gripping Lucille so hard his hand hurt and cramped around her. Rationally, he knew that controlling Tory wasn’t a possibility; she had been clear about that at least.

So, the unreasonable amount of hurt Negan felt when he saw Tory stand on her tiptoes and kiss Lucas was…disconcerting to say the least.

As such, Negan was now walking through the Sanctuary in another round of night patrolling. His somber expression seemed to deter anyone from approaching Negan and he was happy for it; his temper would have to find some other outlet.

About an hour later, the leader of the Saviors stomped his way to his room, throwing open the door and throwing it closed even harder.

As such, he didn’t hear the thud of a book falling over the carpet when his soulmate let it fall in her fright.

“What’s going on?” she asked, slightly aggravated.

Negan laughed without mirth, scowling hard as he stowed Lucille away with deceptive calm. His jacket followed, as did his t-shirt.

“How was your day, wife?” Negan asked tersely, feeling a predatory smile curl his lips.

If she was confused by his attitude, she didn’t say. “It was okay.” Tory answered, trying to keep her trepidation out of her voice.

It didn’t work.

“You sound nervous, Victoria.” Negan said, turning back to watch her as he stalked up to the place she was.

Negan’s smile became a bit more sinister when Tory stepped back and suddenly hit the door of his room, effectively trapping herself between the solid wood and his body.

Tory squeaked in surprise, but she didn’t cower.

“If you have a complaint about my behavior, out with it.” Tory challenged him, her voice firm despite the slight trembling that had taken over her.

And she was right, Negan wanted to rage at her, scream and tell her it wasn’t fucking fair, because he wanted all of her and she was sharing her heart and that wouldn’t ever do it for him. 

Negan wanted to tell her all of those things.

But he didn’t.

Instead, he took her face between his hands and crashed his lips with hers.

Tory made a little sound of protest that Negan suffocated with his tongue when she opened her lips. She tasted like tea and cherry, and Negan suspected Carson’s lollipop supply was dwindling thanks to her. And how he wanted to devour her.

Tory’s hands were clutched over Negan’s shoulders, and he was grateful that she kept her nails short and blunt.

“N-Negan.” Tory panted, when he stopped to breathe. “What-”

Negan shushed her harshly and started peppering her neck with kisses and little bites that made her moan and whimper prettily, for him.

“Look at me, Tory.” He murmured against her skin, wanting to mark every surface of her. “Only me. Always me.”

One of his hand went to her legs, caressing and groping and engulfing with a fire Negan couldn’t put out. He wanted to consume Tory and wanted her to consume him too.

“Only you.” She gasped, opening her legs wantonly to let him touch and explore with his warm hands. “I promise.”

Negan groaned and tore at her dress, wanting to uncover as much skin as he could while Tory tried to keep upright, with one hand on his shoulder, the other caressing its way down to his chest, to his abdomen and then clutching at his belt.

“Goddam, Victoria. I want you.” Negan growled. “I want you now.”

“So have me already.” She snapped, inpatient with his belt and falling to her knees, finally winning over the damned belt buckle.

Negan felt bereft when his hands didn’t hold Tory any longer, but he caressed her soft hair as she worked his pants and underwear down his legs. His eyes found hers when she looked up for permission, a lustful glint making her grey eyes look almost silver in the dimness of the room. Negan wondered if he looked as needy as she behaved.

He gave her a brief nod and Tory smirked before taking him in her mouth.

“Ah…fuck!” he hissed. Tory’s mouth was soft, wet and she knew what she was doing, swirling her tongue around his shaft with enthusiasm, as if she wanted him to go weak at the knees. “Damn, Tory…” he panted, supporting himself on the door.

She moaned in response and Negan thought he would be named the fastest shot in this side of Virginia.

Any other day, Negan would let Tory have her way, but tonight, he wanted to fuck her. He wanted her voice to go hoarse screaming for him, her body to flail under his ministrations. 

Negan wanted to possess her.

“Stop right now, Gorgeous.” Negan said, swallowing the need for release as he moved her gently off him.

“I’m going to have you against this door, and on my bed and every surface of this room, Gorgeous. Understood?” Negan stated, his voice going raspy with desire and the promise of darkness and pleasure.

Tory nodded.

“Say it.” Negan commanded, when they were both on their feet. “Say it, Victoria.”

“The door, the bedall the room…” Tory gasped, feeling his fingers at the back of her head, pulling her hair to have access to the silky column of her throat.

“All mine.”

No other words were spoken as Negan lifted Tory, his hands on her derriere, delighting in the firmness of her and the rightness of her legs circling his waist. Tory moaned and whimpered, trying to get more friction, but Negan gave her no chance and impaled her on his cock, making his soulmate scream in delight.

“Please, please.” She repeated mindlessly as Negan pounded into her, uncaring of her back dragging against the door’s rough wood.

“What?” Negan demanded. “What. Do. You. Want?” he asked, bottoming into her with each word, making her cry out with each movement.

“Make me come.” She sobbed, trying to get ahold of his skin, to caress him, to have him closer. “Please!”

“Yes.” he hissed, moving one of his arms around Tory’s waist to free his other hand. She was shaking, but Negan wanted her to break for him. Deftly, he snaked his hand between them, wanting to give Tory what she asked. He looked for the tiny nub that was going to give them both what they wanted, but only caressed over it, making Tory stiffen and thrust her hips towards his fingers.

“Negan…Negan!” she begged, not with her words, but with her cunt, milking and gripping him.

He didn’t speak, but Negan gave in, circling and caressing her clitoris, and looking for her mouth, drinking in every pleasured sound that came from her.

Tory’s body tensed, as she constricted around Negan’s hardness in her pleasure. She screamed and sobbed and shook until she went lax in his arms, grateful when he kept thrusting into her body until he reached his own release with loud groan that freed Tory from Negan’s bruising kiss.

The silence that fell over them was deafening, but Negan ignored it in favor of hugging Tory to his body, keeping them joined as he walked to the bed with stuttering steps, maneuvering them -without knowing how- to lay on their sides.

Negan wasn’t going to say it and Tory was too out of it to realize it, but he loved the way in which she curled to his side, uncaring of how sweaty and fluid stained they were.

He kissed her again until she sighed in contentment and hid at the crock of his neck, relaxing into his touch, murmuring unintelligible things until they both fell asleep.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

 

 

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuary, VA

Come morning, Tory was exhausted.

She doubted her ability to open her eyes, let alone get out of bed and start her day. The bed was warm and she felt comfortable and safe.

After the first round of savage sex -which Tory wasn’t sure she understood-, she and Negan had fallen asleep. Negan held her securely and she was snuggled as close to him as she could be. When Tory had woken up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, she’d come back to find Negan stark naked and ready to go for another round. 

And he had made her scream…again

Tory was glad she’d decided to bite the comforter to muffle the noise as her soulmate fucked her six ways from Sunday.

Negan’s arms were heavy on her body, but Tory liked it. She felt grounded and stable, despite the ludicrousness of the situation. A little part of her kept reminding her that Negan was a murderer, but Tory knew she was a murderer too.

It wasn’t that deep.

Both had different reasons, but at the end of the day, they both had committed atrocious acts to survive.

Turning slowly under the covers, Tory cuddled Negan, circling the man with her arms as much as she reached.

“Are you trying to suffocate me, Gorgeous?” he asked her, his voice raspy from sleep and exhaustion.

“Not really…” Tory said, trying to sound serious and failing as a giggle bubbled in her throat.

Negan opened one eye and gave her a smile.

It was a warm, open smile that left her breathless and made her blush like a little girl. 

And this was something new with him.

“Wha’ time is it?” Negan asked, as he tried to reach the alarm clock that sat on his bedside table while dragging Tory with him and sprawling her over his torso.

It was nearing six in the morning.

“Can’t let a man rest, Victoria?” Negan demanded with mock anger.

“I distinctly remember that it was you who kept me up half the night.” She reproached.

“Ah, right, but you didn’t complain, Gorgeous.” 

“No, no, I don’t think I did.” Tory laughed, feeling light and happy, resting her head on Negan’s shoulder as they lazed for a few minutes, trying to gather strength to leave the bed.

Negan was tracing circles on the skin of her back, making her relax further. Tory was about to purr in pleasure when his fingers halted.

“What happened in the hallway?” Negan’s voice had lost some of its warmth and Tory felt her stomach sink, just a little. “Between you and Lucas, Victoria. I want the goddamned truth.”

The moment came back to her with full force.

“I told Lucas he reminded me of someone.” Tory started slowly, feeling a foreboding tingle in the scars of her abdomen. “I kissed his cheek.”

“Lucas wants his way back into your cunt, Gorgeous, I’m not letting that shit happen.” Negan growled, clutching her to him and grinding his erection against her sore, exposed core.

Tory made a little dismayed sound and tried to pry herself out of Negan’s hold. She needed to concentrate.

“First, can you turn down the crassness? Second, Lucas might want to have his way with me, but I certainly don’t want him anymore.” Tory knew it was the truth as soon as the words left her mouth.

Negan said nothing, but his hand went back to caressing her skin with lazy, soft movements. There was a sense of security about them in a bed, without snarking at each other, trying to tear holes in their arguments. 

Tory embraced it.

“What are those scars? the ones in…” Negan trailed off, not sure how to proceed.

“Lower abdomen or my arms, or maybe the one on my side?” Tory laughed in low tones, inhaling the scent of him as she spoke.

“Lower abdomen.” Negan chose.

How fitting.

“I had an emergency c-section about five years ago.” She said, trying not to waver. Tory knew she could do this. She had told Vera about it, she had told Martha. Negan deserved to know. “I was almost five months along, she suffered a heart failure...I think.”

Closing her eyes, Tory could see Peter Anderson clear as day, see his mouth move as he said the words.

The weight of Negan’s hands on her back felt steady and somehow, Tory felt galvanized.

“But I know it was my fault.” Her voice broke.

“Gorgeous it’s never…” 

Tory put her fingers over Negan’s lips, wanting to silence him so she could continue, before she lost her bravado.

“I was nineteen, Negan. I was sad, I felt alone and I was so, so angry.” Tory let out quivering laugh, dampened with tears. “I know you know what it feels like…” 

Negan’s intake of breath was a bit too sudden, but Tory didn’t comment on it. 

Losing someone you love, someone you know you can’t live without.” She tried to swallow the bitter laugh that bubbled in her chest. “Turns out you can live without them, because the world doesn’t stop when they aren’t here anymore. But it doesn’t mean we have to like it.”

An oppressive silence fell while Tory mulled over her next words.

“I made a mistake and Henry paid for it.” She said slowly.

Negan bit his tongue to prevent a sarcastic comment. 

He remembered that name.

“In my guilt, because at nineteen I was sure everything in the world was my fault.” Tory sniffled. “I don’t know what happened, I just lost her.”

“What happened to Henry?” Negan asked, trying to avoid the topic Tory was leading at.

“I shot him in the chest.” Tory admitted, her voice almost inaudible. “He bled to death.”

“What in the ever-loving-fuck, Victoria?” Negan whispered, completely baffled.

“It was an accident.” Tory said, defensive and annoyed. “The recoil…”

“You blamed yourself.” Negan said, letting the words float in the room. It wasn’t a question, he knew that she had.

“I still do it. I think about it every day, in one way or another. I’ll hear something or smell something and I can see him, clear as day.” Tory rushed the words a bit, afraid that, if she stopped, she would never be this brave again. “My dad told me that I didn’t have to be sorry, that it wasn’t my fault.” Tears started rolling down her cheeks and falling on Negan’s chest. “But I am. I’m sorry every day, I’m sorry about all the ‘would haves’ I took for granted. I’ll never get them back.”

Negan sighed.

Tory was right.

They had taken the people they loved for granted, and their loss had shattered their spirit; they were broken at different times, in a very similar way.

Understanding downed on Negan. No matter what Lucille did when she was alive, or that he had tried to deny the existence of the woman that now laid between his arms. Negan wasn’t ready to accept Tory when she came into existence. He hadn’t been ready when Tory was born, or when Lucille died, not even when Elle had died.    

Hell, right now, Negan wasn’t sure he was the right man for his soulmate, they were far too different with their aims and goals, the similarities laid in their practicality. Dreams were for people that couldn’t deal with the harshness of this new reality.

“Stay in bed, Gorgeous.” Negan commanded Tory softly, before detangling himself from her warm body to go and get a desperately needed shower.

“I’ve got a shift in the infirmary, I can’t just drop it.” She protested, without real bite behind her words. None of them mentioned the tears, or how she had failed at wiping them discretely.

“The doctor can live without you for one day.” Negan said over his shoulder, before closing the bathroom door behind him.

Left to her devices, Tory didn’t find a reason to stay on bed, no matter how sore and tired she was. With tentative steps and shivering in the coldness of the room, Tory retrieved her dress. Negan had torn it apart in their frenzy to fuck her.

A furious blush painted Tory’s cheeks as she remembered the rough, intimate way in which he had touched her. Silent, barefoot steps took her to the mirror of Negan’s dresser. Finger-shaped bruises and love-bites were scattered all over her skin. On her breasts, on her hips and thighs -and the mere memory of those bites was enough to cause a flare of arousal that she wouldn’t admit-; her neck and arms were marked too. Tory tried to ignore the warm, combined fluids that started running down her legs as soon as she was vertical.

“Damn.” She muttered. A shower would be amazing, she thought to herself, that and clean clothes.  

Not feeling especially guilty about it, Tory went to one of the drawers where she was sure Negan kept t-shirts and pulled it open. Perfectly folded in neat rows, Tory noticed more white t-shirts than she cared to count. A stab of guilt made her a bit conscious. Some people in the workers level were practically going around in rags at times.

“Nothing to be done for it now.” She lied out loud, trying to convince herself that the status quo had to stay as it was.

As Tory pulled the t-shirt, something fell to the floor, making a weird, bouncing sound as it rolled away from her. She noticed the yellow colored ball and picked it up before it could roll under the bed. 

It was a ­ping-pong ball .

Tory turned it in her hand, trying to find anything significant about the apparently innocuous ball. It was a plain ping pong ball, she’d had tens like this one back home, when she tried racket-sports for a while before Henry introduced her to baseball.

This one, though, was kept amongst Negan’s clean clothes.

The sound of the bathroom door clicking open made Tory turn her head, the ball still in her hand, while she held the white t-shirt in the other.

Negan’s eyebrows rose in his forehead when his eyes fell on the ball, and Tory noticed how he paled a few skin tones as he advanced on her and took the ball away with a defensive expression.

“How did you find this?” he asked. It was a stupid question, he knew the ball was in his drawer and Tory had a t-shirt in her hand.

“It fell on the floor.” She stammered.

Negan scowled but said nothing as he closed his hand around the ball.

“Go get a shower, the water is perfect.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan turned the ping-pong ball in his hand, feeling the slight, but familiar weight on his palm.

He could picture Elle’s elated expression when she’d gotten the ball, finally having the upper hand on him. Negan had never expected her to win that bet. However, he hadn’t expected to fall for her. As he hadn’t expected to lose her before they could actually build something.

His mind took him inevitably to the memory of a leaf covered road, holding the woman he loved as she breathed her last.

“What is it?”

Martha was sitting beside him in his office.

Negan sighed and dragged his hand down his face, trying to concentrate.

“I slept with Tory.” Negan declared, a bit harshly. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t what he had wanted to say either.

Martha smiled. “You sleep with Tory every day, Negan. Is not a secret.” His wife said lightly.

“That’s not what I meant, angel-face.” He countered. “Let me rephrase that.” With a little pause, Negan pocketed the ping-pong ball in his jacket. “I fucked Tory so hard I forced her to stay in my room, so she wouldn’t go around falling asleep during the day.”

His gentle wife blinked a couple of times, taking a minute to process his words.

“Oh.” She said plainly.

“I have to admit Tory is a great lay, but I’m not sure I did the right thing.” Negan confessed. “She just went through some heavy personal shit and…”

Martha’s dainty finger fell on Negan’s lip as she smiled sadly.

“Did she say no? Did Tory show, in any way, that she didn’t want you to sleep with her?” 

Negan shook his head. 

“Did she protest?” 

Another shake. 

“Then don’t torture yourself.”

“Tory told me about her past.”

That was news.

“And?” Martha encouraged, leaning into Negan as he passed an arm over her shoulders.

“It’s a bit fucked up.”

“In this world, we’re all a bit screwed up, Negan, no matter how much we try to hide it.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Vera hugged Tory hard.

“You had me worried, you idiot!” her hormonal friend sniffled. “What happened to you?”

Tory sighed and smiled ruefully.

“I thought I was pregnant.” She said, taking advantage of the secure corner where Vera usually worked.

“But you were not?” Vera speculated.

Tory nodded.

“Oh, Tory…I’m sorry.” Her friend lamented, holding Tory’s hands with her own.

“It was silly of me…I- I already knew it was difficult, if not impossible.”

Vera shook her head.

“No matter, we’ll share mine.” She said confidently, talking about her twin babies.

Tory gave her a watery, but happy smile.

“Now, young lady, are you gonna tell me why on earth are you wearing a long-sleeved dress and pantyhose? In this blistering heat?” Vera demanded, making a gesture that was supposed to go from head to toes.

Tory blushed furiously and Vera gaped, before letting out a deafening squeal.

“I know what happened! I know what happened!” she exclaimed, putting any excitable puppy to shame. “You gogirl!”

“Vera, use your inside voice okay!” Tory hissed with a stupid smile.

“Why? Negan is your soulmate and you slept with him! Wasn’t it magical and perfect?” her friend demanded, not too loud, but enough to make Tory blush harder.

“Well, if by magic you mean he had me on my back and my knees and over him and standing... Yeah, you could say it was magical.” Tory surrendered, not wanting to give more away. It felt fresh, fragile and intimate.

“Oh, Tory, I’m so happy for y-” Vera stopped talking and looked behind her friend.

Tory turned behind her to find Arat giving her a weirdly amused once-over.

“Negan is asking for you, birdy.” The savior said.

“Oh, sure, I’ll go in a minute.” Tory said, smiling.

Now, birdy. Can’t keep the big boss waiting.” Arat commented, not moving an inch.

With a sigh, Tory and Vera embraced each other and whispered a quick good bye.

As Arat walked before her, the savior couldn’t have noticed, but someone slammed into Tory making her stumble and try to hold on to Arat, making them both fall over the kitchen floor.

“What the hell, Tory?” Arat hissed, visibly irritated.

Tory looked behind her, and found a pale blond girl, whose blue eyes held a glint that looked too satisfied to be innocent.

“It’s the heels. Sorry, Arat.” She lied.

As they both stood up, neither noticed the change in the blonde’s expression, from satisfaction to cold calculation.

The blonde, however, didn’t notice the girl looking at her from behind a counter, as she beat the cream for a new batch of gelato.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan smiled despite his best efforts when Tory entered his office, leaving Arat to guard the door.

“Hello, Gorgeous.” He greeted, standing up and hugging her to him. Immediately, Tory’s head fell on his chest, and it felt natural, as if she’d been doing it forever. “some birds told me you were visiting Mama Gelato.”

Tory giggled.

“She’s got a name, Negan.” His soulmate scolded with fake indignation.

“Oh, I know, the girl got me to marry her to that blond oaf of a boyfriend of hers.” Negan complained dramatically. “I couldn’t even curse for the wedding, remember?”

Tory nodded, stifling a laugh. “And you still sort of screwed that a bit.”

“You wound me!” Negan exclaimed, opening his arms as if to put emphasis on his words.

“You’ll heal.” Tory snarked back with a smile, taking Negan’s seat. “Arat said this was an urgent matter.”

Negan sat on his desk, supporting his elbow over his knee, while his other leg hung to the floor uselessly.

“Yeah, about that…” a far-off look fell on Negan’s hazel eyes, making his expression sober. “I’m taking you somewhere tomorrow, Tory.”

“Where?” Tory asked, her interest peaked.

“Ah, ah. That’s a surprise. I’d borrow some jeans and maybe a pair of sneakers.” Negan suggested. “I’ll even lend you this.” He promised, holding Henry’s hunting knife in his hand.

Tory’s mouth fell open as she nodded.

“Okay, I-I’ll do it.”

Negan smiled. A dashing, lovely smiled that made her blush for the umpteenth time that day.

“It’s a date, Victoria.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •  • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

War

The Sanctuary, VA

Early mornings were a total bitch. Even more when Jeanine had an early start.

She was never a morning person. Mornings were for people who liked the scorching heat of the fucking sun over their backs, and Jeanine was no such masochist.

She had always liked laying in bed for hours on end on her weekends after a grueling week of work.

Her life could get better.

Jeanine had been aiming to become a wife for a long, long time when the cut-up girl from Doveport had shown up. The idea of the new girl from Alexandria becoming a wife after being such a pain for Negan was obscenely offending to Jeanine. The little shit had a weird air about her, like she knew more than she was letting everyone think. Besides, Tory Miller didn’t have the curves, the attitude or even the character to be a wife. She was a meek little thing that Jeanine had pushed over -literally- without a problem.

The girl had cooked up a stupid lie when Jeanine had pushed her in the kitchen, making her fall over Arat, all because she didn’t want to cause trouble.

As it was, Jeanine’s morning could be worse. It actually got worse when she looked out of a window to find Tory Miller with Negan’s arm around her shoulders while some saviors piled boxes into a truck.

That little bitch.

Jeanine was done observing the little simpering idiot.

She was taking Tory Miller down, one way or another. Her eyes caught another thing though, the dirty, dirty look that Simon directed at the girl.

Oh…Jeanine almost had it, and her plan was coming into fruition.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory woke up to soft kisses and scratching on her neck.

A smile appeared on her face, slowly becoming a full-on beam when she realized what was happening.

“Wake up, Gorgeous, we have a date.” Negan whispered in her ear. He sounded completely awake, so maybe she was sleeping in…or he had woken up entirely too early for anyone’s liking.

“Please tell me the sun is up at least, Negan.” Tory rasped out, pouting like a child.

“Nope, not even close, but I want us to be on our way early, Gorgeous.” He said, making his voice serious and taking a no-nonsense attitude.

“Let me take a shower, okay?” she said with a long sigh then Tory stretched under the covers, unwilling to leave the safety of their bedroom.

Tory got herself ready, dressing in the clothes she’d borrowed from Vera and marveling at the softness of the black sweater her friend had deposited on her hands the day before.

Gathering her hair in a ponytail, and not bothering with even a little touch of makeup, Tory watched herself in the mirror. She’d filled out a bit after her double stunt in the cells and her depression, the rosy little blush on her cheeks and the glint in her eyes made her wary of her own reflection.

It was a morbid thought that made her look away.

What if it didn’t last?

Better not think about it.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Negan was silent as he drove towards the school, with his mind reminiscing about the last time he had gone down this road in a panic, thinking that maybe Elle had second thoughts, that maybe he had fucked things up after all, only to find…

The leader of the Saviors shook his head, trying to push his morbid thoughts away.

A low hum from the passenger side made Negan throw a glance at Tory, who was sitting snuggly in her seat, with her forehead on the window glass.

“…to the place I belong. West Virginia, mountain mama. Take me home…” Tory was singing. 

She was good at it too.

“Gorgeous?” Negan called, without taking his eyes off the road.

“Yes?” Tory answered, her voice just as soft and melodic as her singing.

“Sing out loud, please.”

“Okay,” With a little grunt of effort, Tory sat upright on her seat and cleared her throat. “I’m a bit rusty, though, Negan.”

“’ts okay. Just to take our minds of things.” He pleaded, trying not to sound as desperate as he felt.

The longer he drove, the more he could feel it.

“Right…hm…this was my dad’s favorite.” Tory clarified, starting another tune, and looking away from Negan after she realized she’d been staring. “I don’t know what it is that makes me love you so. I only know I never want to let you go. ‘Cause you started something, can’t you see...”

Negan closed his eyes briefly, feeling calmer, enjoying the sound of Tory’s voice. She was a good singer, like Lucille. He wondered if Elle liked singing and what music she used to listen to. He had left so many questions without answers.

Maybe that would always hurt.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Doveport Community, VA.

Tory found herself out of songs very soon.

Henry loved to sing. He was good at it too, way better than she was. Before the walkers, Henry’s parents had dragged the Jones’ to numerous choir functions until Henry’s voice changed and he quit the church’s choir in favor of devoting himself to Peyton, his studies and his friends. However, he never stopped singing.

Henry sang through the grief of losing his parents and then Peyton; he had sung through the long nights with Ben’s troop, and then the blissful days in Lexington.

Tory loved singing with him.

And for a long time after Henry’s death, Tory tried to forget the music they’d shared.

Her dad has tried to put happiness back in the signing, but he was bad at it.

Lucas had dragged little tunes out of her every once in a while, and he had given her some music too. It hurt when he took it away but…

Negan had given her freedom and choice, and in a very roundabout way, he gave her music again.

“I don’t know what to sing.” She conceded, almost an hour later, after a slightly mediocre rendition of Air Supply’s ‘I’m All Out Of Love’.

“Don’t worry, we’re here.” Negan declared somberly.

Tory tore her gaze away from Negan and turned to where he was looking, while he rubbed his shoulder defensively.

Tory frowned.

A slightly dented metallic door attached to solid brick walls, the place was surrounded by trees. A sign, not unlike that of Alexandria was hanging -precariously- from the wall.

Doveport, it read.

“What are we doing here, Negan?” she asked, trying not to waver as he exited the truck with Lucille clutched so hard in his hand that his knuckles had gone white. He knocked on the gate and Tory hurried out of the truck behind him, trying not to clutch the knife she’d been given just a couple of hours before.

“Who’s there? Where’s Danny?” a man’s voice called from behind the walls.

“Danny is fucking busy, I’ve come to deliver.” Negan hollered, giving his voice a cold edge that made Tory shudder. It reminded her of the night in the clearing.

Tory expected a man to open the gate.

Instead, a woman did.

She wore a flannel shirt over a tank top, and her jeans and boots were complemented by a big gun and a knife around her hips. Her dark hair was tied in a half bun, and her dark chocolate eyes were narrowed, zeroing on Negan, watching him as if he was worse than the dirt under her boots.

“Charlotte.” Negan greeted respectfully.

“What are you doing here, Negan? You know you’re not welcome.” Charlotte stated, not waiting for Negan’s answer.

“I need to see her.” The leader of the Saviors confessed, his eyes focused on some point behind Charlotte.

“I can’t let you see her, she is growing up fine and I-”

Negan shook his head at Charlotte’s words.

“Not Abigail,” he paused briefly before continuing, “I need to see her.”

Tory was sure she had lost something in the look Charlotte and Negan shared, right in front of her, as if they were communicating boundaries without speaking.

“You’ve got an hour.” Charlotte conceded, giving her voice a cold edge that made Tory respect the woman immediately. Negan gave Tory a weird smile that was mostly a grimace and Charlotte turned her dark gaze to Tory in a half-hearted glare.

“Who are you?”

“Victoria Miller, but you can call me Tory.” Pride filled her when her words didn’t falter under Charlotte’s scrutiny, that turned back to Negan immediately.

A cold laugh filled the sudden silence.

“I wonder what she’d think of this. It’s been what? Five months?”

Negan frowned deep and his lips became a hard, thin line.

“None of your business, Charlotte.”

“You’re too damn right.” Charlotte turned around and started walking into the community, she looked at them over her shoulder. “Follow me.”

Tory watched the dynamics with interest.

People deferred to Charlotte in a way that reminded her of Rick, it was a bit disconcerting, but familiar enough for Tory to stay silent as they went further into the walled complex. Negan had taken Tory’s hand and she smiled at him, but again, he had a far-off look that wasn’t quite focused on what was going on, but a determined point in space.

The place under the shade behind the building.

The red brick building.

The very familiar red brick building.

The one of her dreams.

“Gorgeous, what is it?” Negan said, masking his concern with irritation. Tory realized she’d stopped walking to look at what used to be a school building.

“I- Sorry, I’m distracted.” Tory stammered, trying to dismiss whatever worry Negan had.

“Can you stay with Charlotte while I…” Negan trailed off, but she nodded and waited until Charlotte was done giving orders to her people to unload the truck.

“So, you’re his new flavor?” Charlotte asked with a sardonic smile.

Tory frowned. “I suppose I am, since you’ve known Negan longer, you should know.”

Charlotte blinked a couple times before letting out a strange, amused chuckle.

“Yeah, I know him. He’s a murdering asshole.”

Tory snorted.

“That’s sort of evident. Our first meeting involved Lucille, after all.”

Charlotte paled a bit at the mention of the bat, but Tory decided to let it go and just look around while they walked.

“Do you know why he brought you here?”

Frowning, Tory watched as Charlotte waved someone to come closer. Another woman was carrying a kid in her arms. The kid was squirming and their red hair shone under the morning sun.

“Abby’s been fussy all morning, Charlotte.” The woman complained. “She’s been running around all rooms.”

Charlotte took Abby in her arms and the baby girl latched onto her with her chubby little arms, making Tory’s breath hitch.

“It’s okay, I’ll take it from here, Selma.” The de fact leader consoled. “Maybe she just knew we’d have visitors.”

Selma narrowed her eyes at Tory and then left with her nose upturned as if she’d smelt something rotten.

“I take it people here don’t like us people from the Sanctuary?” Tory asked, knowing the answer already.

“They might be a bit biased.” Charlotte said, completely amused and unapologetic. “Though, you don’t have the look of a savior.”

“Because I’m not one of them. I’m one of Negan’s wives.” Tory smiled at the little girl in Charlotte’s arms, who watched Tory with observant, dark honey eyes, wide open and trusting.

“A wife?” the woman snapped, a bit harsh, provoking Abby’s little face to pinch in worry.

“Yeah, I mean, I wasn’t supposed to even meet the man, but life never quite turns out the way you want it.” Tory said, trying to diffuse the tension she’d caused.

Charlotte scoffed. “How did you become his wife then?”

“We came to an agreement after a bit of a misunderstanding.”

That was a stretch to say the least.

“He promised Elle he would leave his wives.” Charlotte’s disdain had diminished a bit, replaced by something that sounded a lot like disappointment. “I told her he’d never do it.”

Tory had never met Elle, but somehow, she felt the need to defend the case to Charlotte.

“Negan intended to stick to that promise.” Tory started, looking at the tree line, unable to face anyone. “I’m rather friendly with them, we’re like colleagues. Before me, he hadn’t even slept with a wife for months, although they never mentioned Elle.”

Charlotte had a pensive expression in her eyes, watching the young woman that was standing beside her. It caught her attention that she rubbed at her arm insistently, as if trying to scratch it off.

“Did something bite you?” she teased, feeling just a bit mean due to the innuendo.

Tory Miller frowned and turned to look at Charlotte, catching her look to her arm…her marked arm.

“No, not bites. Only marks.”

Marks.

Soul marks?

“You’ve got a soulmate?” Charlotte wanted to slap herself for blurting the words out that way. Even if Tory didn’t seem bothered but them.

“Yeah, I’ve got a soulmate.” The young woman confirmed, trailing her grey eyes over the school building once more, before watching Abby, who was trying to reach for her long hair.

“If you don’t mind my asking, then…why are you with Negan?”

Tory lifted her eyes from Abby’s and looked into Charlotte’s own.

“Well, that’s a long story, think we have time?”

Charlotte nodded, but she didn’t quite like the smirk in that new face.    

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

A few, slightly wilted flowers were planted over Elle’s grave.

Negan felt his heart constrict inside his chest, as if someone had it in their fist, but he knew he was just sad, deeply and irrevocably sad.

The burning anger and need for revenge had vanished as soon as he had gotten back at the people from Alexandria, leaving him with the sadness, the emptiness, and the silence.

“At least I can visit you, babe.” Negan whispered after a long time, caressing the dark dirt under his fingers, feeling the warmth of the soil. “You have no idea how much I fucking miss you, Elle.”

The sound of the wind filled the void that should have been Elle’s answer.

Negan wanted to ask her so many things, to get her insight and borrow some of her infinite compassion, he knew they were all good questions, but the leader of the Saviors could only think about what Charlotte had said.

That he had replaced Elle too fast.

Part of him knew that wasn’t the case, because Victoria and Elle were fundamentally different in many ways, even if the both of them were his soulmate. His other hand went to the words permanently inked on his chest.

“I’m glad you’re home, Elle.” He finally whispered. “I brought Tory here to tell her about you, but all I could think about was getting to you.”

A warm hand fell on Negan’s shoulder, startling him out of his thoughts.

“Charlotte told me.” Tory offered, kneeling at his side. Remnants of tears dampened her face, and her eyes held a sort of sadness that reminded Negan of the look he gave himself when he dared really look in the mirror.

“I love her.” Negan blurted, unable to keep it inside, knowing that it may hurt Tory, who gave him a sad smile. “I love her and she’s gone.”

“I know.” His soulmate whispered, as her grey eyes robbed over the simple wooden cross over Elle’s grave. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault.” Negan replied flatly, not her fault. Rick’s.

“I told Rick not to attack the outpost. I told him we didn’t know anything about the saviors.” Tory spoke fast, as if she feared to run out of time. “The horde that killed Amy was an accident, but the other stuff…I’m so sorry.”

“I’m just glad she wasn’t there to see what I did in the clearing. She would have stopped me.”

“She was amazing like that.” Tory agreed, standing up as she spoke. “Charlotte says time’s up.”

“Sure, she fucking does.” Negan grumbled, standing up as well and walking away before Tory, stomping on his boots.

Feeling heavier than when she’d arrived, Tory walked slower towards the gate.

“You should stay away from him.” Charlotte called, making Tory turn to look at her. Abby was about to fall asleep in her arms. “Look at what happened to Elle. She changed and it got her there.”

“Perhaps.” Tory started. “But is a bit late for that now.”

“He is a murderer, Victoria.” Charlotte emphasized. “He killed people here, and my brother and our friends.”

“Of course he is a murderer, Charlotte. But who isn’t now?” Tory retorted, feeling her patience crack.

“Are you?” the other woman asked, defiant and righteous.

“Yes, I am. And I’ve enjoyed every second of it too.” Tory said, unable to deny that she had enjoyed killing the people who had tried to kill her family. Killing Henry was perhaps her gravest mistake, and it was the one kill she would never forgive herself for. The others were ultimately inconsequential. “It makes sense in a way.”

Charlotte grimaced. “Sure it makes sense now, but what about after?”

“We face the consequences.” Tory offered.

“Do you love him?” this last question Charlotte asked with worry coloring her tone. Real worry.

“No. He is just my soulmate.” Tory lied. She didn’t know what she felt for Negan. She liked sleeping with him, she liked having sex with him, even talking to him, but love? Tory wasn’t sure she’d ever understand it, let alone feel it.

“Maybe you are made for each other, after all.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •  

It was a quiet drive back to the Sanctuary.

The picture that Charlotte had showed Tory was seared in her mind, like a painful snapshot into her past. Elle’s head thrown back, laughing, with Negan’s hand around her waist. Viv was in the picture too, watching baby Abby and the parents that she’d lost before even having the chance to know them…

There was no mistaking Elle, however, she looked older, she had a bunch of scars too, but Tory would never forget her face or the slightly awkward but heartfelt words Elle had given Tory and her Dad after Erin’s death. The shock and horror Tory felt surprised her, but Charlotte had let her sob her lungs out.

“How did Elle die?” Tory asked, wanting to find out what the leader of Doveport had kept for herself.

Negan almost swerved out of the road and hit the breaks brusquely, making Tory scream in surprise.

“What sort of fucked up question is that, Victoria?” Negan growled dangerously.

“I knew her…before.”

Negan stopped the truck.

“You’re lying.” He spat.

Tory let out a nervous laugh. “I wish.” Fresh tears stung her eyes as she thought of the gentle girl who had a firm voice for stupid requests and a sweet smile for elderly people and kids. “She worked for my mom for a while, she wanted to travel and…”

“Stop.” Silence fell between them. “I don’t want to know.”

“Why?” Tory thought she would want to know.

“Because she’s not here anymore.” Negan dragged his hands down his face. “And I want to wake up beside her every. fucking. day.

That hurt.

Tory relented, turning away from Negan as he started the engine again, takin them back to the Sanctuary. It was past lunch time when they reached the community, so people didn’t quite pay attention to them. Negan left Tory alone, excusing himself behind talks to his lieutenants that were oh, so urgent. Left to her devices, she went to Negan’s room and got herself under the covers.

Next thing she knew, Negan was slamming the door closed.

Tory watched as he propped Lucille in her usual spot, took off his jacket, boots, and pants methodically. That alone made Tory nervous, something wasn’t right. Negan was a thrower, like herself, letting his stuffed to be picked up. Tory would know, she had taken over that duty.

Finally, Negan sat on the bed beside Tory, his hand covering his left pectoral, right above his heart.

“I took Elle on a date.” He explained quietly. “It was the night, it was supposed to be fucking perfect, the stuff of rose-shitting dreams.”

Understanding dawned on Tory and she sat on the bed as well. “Negan you don-”

“It was perfect. I was leaving the wives, all of them. I was compromising, Elle would be by my side. We’d rule the whole stupid thing.” He talked over her, seemingly afraid of stopping. In the end he blurted only one word. “Walkers.”

Suddenly, Tory didn’t want to know, it was too much hurt, too much suffering.

“She died in my arms and I felt like the worst asshole in the world because I thought she wanted to walk.”

“N-Negan, I’m-”

“I don’t even know if she loved me, you know? I hope she did.” Negan sighed.

Tory wiped her tears away to get rid of the blurriness, as Negan turned to look at her, his dark eyes reflected that all consuming sadness she was so familiar with. Slowly, Negan moved his hand away from his chest, giving the light of the room a chance to hit his skin.

“What I do know is that she was at peace, and that she was home.”

 

I’m home.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • • 

Chapter Text

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •   • • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

War

The Sanctuary, VA

Elle had been Negan’s soulmate.

The knowledge had shocked Tory more than she could explain. By no means she thought that her soul or heart were whole. Too much had happened in her relatively short life, but Tory had never expected that.

For the first time since meeting him, she faced the crippling realization that Negan had never really needed anything from her. Tory wasn’t in love with Negan, but she liked him enough to accept to spend the rest of their lives together -with as much togetherness as she could get being one of six wives.

Blinking back some unbidden tears, Tory sat on the bed.

After Negan had shown her Elle’s soulmarks, she had nothing to say to him, and they simply went to bed with their own thoughts.

Waking up alone was awful, and Tory felt the loneliness acutely.

Finding out about Elle, about how Elle and Negan were tied up, how they had fallen for each other and then lost each other… It was heartbreaking.

Tory didn’t know the woman Elle had become; the leader, the lover, the loyal friend, the survivor. She had known the sweet girl that worked for her mother and wanted to travel, to do something with her life other than just work for a living. Elle liked singing and she was good people, even if she was shy at times.

In Tory’s mind, these two Elle’s were separate entities, not the same person.

Trying to understand that and putting the soulmate factor on top was entirely too much to analyze at any given time.

So many things made sense about Negan and what had happened in the clearing the night Elle, Abe and Glenn died.

Negan had been grieving.

Tory knew that didn’t justify his actions. After all, she didn’t justify hers after Henry’s death, but it gave a reason to the madness and carnage he had unleashed, the hatred and the contempt for Rick and Alexandria and all they represented.

With sluggish movements, Tory got out of the bed and dragged herself to the bathroom for a shower, hoping it would calm her mind and help her clear her thoughts. The slightly warm water did soothe her nerves, even if it didn’t help the hollow ache in her chest, but Tory ignored that in favor of getting things done.

First on her list was talking to Vivienne.

Danny was out of the greenhouse, flirting with Tim, who was clumsily flirting back at the taller boy. Tory gave them a wave and a smile as she entered the older woman’s domain.

Vivienne was passing sprouts from one tray to little garden pots that would eventually go into the gardens.

“This is a surprise, Victoria.” The chief gardener greeted, smiling slightly. Tory could now see the bitter tilt of that smile and the stiff posture of her shoulders for what it was. 

Grief and contained anger.

“Hi, Viv.” Tory answered the greeting without enthusiasm, and that alone made Vivienne turn to her with one eyebrow raised questioningly “…Negan took me to Doveport.”

For someone who worked under the sun, Vivenne was unusually pale, but Tory saw the woman become two shades lighter as she understood what Tory meant.

“How is Abby doing?” Viv asked faintly.

“She’s amazing, Charlotte is a great mom and role model.” 

This was no exaggeration. In Tory’s mind, Elle had done the right thing taking Abby away from the Sanctuary, that she herself hadn’t seen as a home until the day before, when she found out the truth about Elle. Her mind had screamed at her to go home, to get Negan and ‘go home’, but Alexandria wasn’t home anymore, the Sanctuary was.

Vivienne sighed heavily and sat on a stool, avoiding Tory’s gaze.

“Did he tell you about Elle? What happened to her?” Viv wanted to know; a whispered ‘yes’ was enough for her. “What do you want to know then?”

Tory wondered how transparent she was about it.

“Did you know she was…that Elle was Negan’s soulmate?” Tory felt her voice crack, and her cheeks heated, but she didn’t look away from Vivienne as the woman looked up in surprise.

“What?”

Tory sighed.

“Negan’s got Elle’s last words on his chest.” Fisting her hands was a mistake, Tory thought, her nails were a bit long and her skin protested, but the pain kept her head clear. A faint thought of a drink made her slightly dizzy. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

Vivienne’s stiff posture relaxed and she gestured for Tory to sit over an overturned bucket.

“You aren’t supposed to do anything, Victoria.” Viv took both of Tory’s hands in hers. “These things do happen. And sometimes, we can just accept them. Elle and Negan were very different people who ended up with the same goals for survival, and it made them grow close.”

No matter how hard she fought, Tory felt tears roll down her face. “Just how close?” she sobbed.

“Enough to love each other to the point of sacrifice.”

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Martha placed a fresh cup of tea in front of Vera without a word and proceeded to sit in front of the younger girl with as much dignity as she could muster under those scrutinizing brown eyes. Lucas had the decency to look admonished when he left Martha’s room moments before, and that was something to give him points.

However, discretion was a resounding fail.  

“I’m not going to ask about it.” Vera clarified, letting Martha know her intentions were different. “What you and Lucas do behind closed doors is your thing. Just don’t screw him over.”

Martha sighed, releasing a long breath she didn’t know she was holding. 

Martha nodded. “Okay, what is it you want to talk about.”

Vera took a sip of the slightly stale lavender tea; which she would have loved it fresh. After swallowing the sweet beverage, she finally spoke.

“You used to help Negan manage the records of the Sanctuary, right?”

The wife nodded with a frown.

“Yeah, until Miller took over the task. I used to manage that.”

“How long ago?” Vera pried, wanting details that weren’t that secret.

“About two years ago, maybe?” Martha ventured, thinking back to when Simon had started preparations to take operations to the satellite outpost. Vera nodded pensively.

“So, you would know who Jeannine Kelly is, right?”

Martha did know Jeannine. All too blonde, too pretty Jeannine who had tried to seduce Negan when he was in heavy pursue of the Doveport war spoils. Jeannine was supposed to help maintain the parlor tidy and orderly, but she wasn’t that good at it, or faked it, which resulted in her getting a transfer to other area of the Sanctuary. Martha knew Jeannine was a spot of trouble anywhere, in anyway she could, hoping to go back to where she’d started. So far, the blonde had been unsuccessful, even more with Elle’s recent passing and Tory’s appearance.

“What is it, about Jeannine? Martha asked, using her knees to support her elbows daintily.

“There was an incident a few days ago.” The younger girl started, rubbing her little baby bump consciously. “Jeannine pushed Tory so hard she took Arat to the floor with her. Tory lied and said it had been her shoes. I think she just wants to stay out of trouble. Tory, I mean, because she was really…calm about it.”

Martha nodded but something about it all wasn’t right. “That is not enough reason for you to come and tell me, what happened after, Vera?”

Vera looked suddenly uncomfortable, as if what she was about to say bothered her too much, or was too dangerous to even voice.

“Chase has been keeping an ear out for Tory, she is going to be our babies’ godmother, so it seemed reasonable, and she’s got Lucas to protect her, but…” Ver huffed and wiggled uncomfortably over the couch, avoiding Martha’s eyes. “Someone’s been spreading rumors about Tory. How she’s a spy for Alexandria and such. Distracting Negan too much or causing trouble and all that.”

A very indelicate snort escaped Martha’s mouth. Tory was a good actress at times, but she wasn’t spy-level-good.

“So, Chase heard Simon earlier today.” This made Martha stand to attention. “He is not denying the rumors and it…Martha, after what happened with Tyler? I’m really worried.”

“But…what does it have to do with Jeannine?”

“Think about it. Jeannine starts going after Tory and then, strange rumors about her start circulating with Simon’s help?” Vera’s wide eyes were only a bit desperate. “That is no coincidence.”

“Simon wouldn’t act against the wives.” Martha whispered.

“No, not against the six of you. But Tory is just one. A precariously positioned one, even if she’s Negan’s favorite.”

“We both know is not just that, Vera. They are…”

Neither woman said it, but they knew.

“Of course, we know, Martha. But everyone else?” Vera’s vehement tone started to make sense. “If the people ask for Tory’s head, Negan will be forced to out their real connection, and that is dangerous for Tory and for Negan too. So many variables, so many people warring for control, and that is inside our walls. The whole of Alexandria must know something too. It’s a tragedy waiting to happen.”

Fuck.” Martha whispered.

Vera sighed in relief, apparently unburdened by the knowledge now that it was shared.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Tory had visited Harlan, giving her excuses for taking the day after spending most of her morning crying on Viv’s lap. The good doctor gave her an aspirin and told her to sleep, but her mind was reeling with information. Tory ignored whoever had bumped into her in the hallway as she ascended floor after floor, ignoring the screaming of her tired legs and the queasiness logged in the middle of her throat.

Negan’s room was blessedly empty and a bit colder than the hallways. Tory almost cried in relief as she took off her dress and high heels. The room’s air felt heavenly over her sweaty skin. With a little wobble, Tory went to the bathroom and washed her face, arms and legs with cold water.

Out in the room, Tory checked Negan’s cabinets for a t-shirt and got herself out of her bra, sighing happily after her breasts were freed of their lacy prison. The clean, fragrant fabric of the t-shirt soothed her frayed nerves as she put it on and climbed into the bed, pulling the neat, warm covers over her body.

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

It burns…it hurts…

“Ennie, meeny, minny, moe.” Negan started, crushing gravel under his boots as he pointed Lucille at Abe, and Glenn and…

Elle

What was…? 

“catch the tiger…by…its toe,” 

As Negan spoke, Tory felt her arm sting, the pain was becoming unbearable and for a second, the brunette thought she would pass out and she wished he’d pick her.

“my mother told me to pick the very best…one…and you…are…it.” the rhyme stopped and Tory blinked, slow, breathing in the fragrant night air

Negan was in front of her, Lucille practically touching the tip of her nose. 

Why would he choose her? She hadn’t done anything wrong, it didn’t make sense! 

“Anybody moves, anybody says anything, cut the boy’s other eye out and feed it to his father, and then we’ll start.” he ordered, while looking at Tory in the eye, unmoved by her tears. 

Tory couldn’t speak, her mouth felt hot and there was a weird, salty taste in her mouth, as if she were about to be sick. It couldn’t be real. She didn’t want to end up a bloody pulp in some God-forsaken place.

“It’s okay, sweetheart.” her Dad’s voice came from her right. “It hurts only a little.”

“He’ll do it fast.” Elle promised at her left.

Tory shook her head no. She didn’t want this, Negan wouldn’t do this! She opened her eyes and he was speaking, and the words were burning her, but she couldn’t understand. 

Negan lifted Lucille and…

• • •    • • •     • • •     • • •

Cursing under his breath, Negan turned on the lights of his room, finding the offending item that almost made him encounter the floor face first.

A heel.

Judg