I almost died today. Well, I almost die every day, but today was a really close call.
The gas station was practically empty, and according to the map, the next loot station was in five miles.
She kicks at a soggy cardboard box, huffing in frustration. Waste of time.
The air around her is stale and sunlight comes in through the tiny windows above, highlighting all the flying dust. The bare shelving units only seem to add to her depressing mood. She looks away and heads to the exit.
Madison has been out here for months. She has never fit into groups very well. And when she did, they all died out within weeks. It was like a curse.
Holding onto the straps of her worn out rucksack, she makes her way out of the building, squinting against the sunlight. A walker washes into the starting sunset in the distance, swaying with the breeze.
She sighs, glancing down at her state map. Life will never get better. Why bother?
There is a clatter behind her. Strange. It was empty when she scouted the place. Perhaps a rat? Or maybe a squirrel? Her eyes glance down at the string of mammals attached to her belt for supper. No, this is enough. She has managed to catch at least four today.
Something wraps around her neck from behind. Faster than lightning. When her back slams into a hard, warm body she understands that it is a person. A living person. The arm digs into her throat, cutting off her air supply.
“Well, would you look at that,” a harsh hiss in her ear, “Rob, take the squirrels. Angela, take a quick look around the place.”
Madison chokes, unable to hide her desperation. It is a man. He is strong. He is with a group. He is going to do it. Her bones are about to break.
The sunlight seems so far away.
Suddenly she gets pushed forward and her backpack is ripped away from her. She gasps for air, slamming into the nearby shelf. It falls on top of her, but thankfully it isn’t too heavy.
“What do we have here?” she can see the man. He is wearing a creepy smile and his greasy hair falls over his eyes. It’s difficult to tell the age, but why should that matter? She’s going to die.
Two bodies are moving behind him, equipped with machetes. It is a group. One of the lethal ones some people are unlucky enough to cross. People like Madison.
She puts a hand around her neck, feeling a lump as she swallows. The man rummages through her backpack and the anger on his face shows that he did not find what he was looking for. Madison stays under the shelves, hoping and praying they will leave her here.
A taller man (probably the Rob the leader was referring to) walks up to her, yanking the game off her belt. That’s her dinner gone. Her mind flashes to the knife tucked snuggly in her back pocket. Her hand twitches.
“Useless shit,” the leader growls, “A fucking notepad and a couple of pots. Put her down.”
Madison’s eyes flicker up to Rob, who in a split second manages to grab her by the hair and hoist her up like a piglet ready for slaughter. A strangled moan escapes her mouth, making the lump grow bigger.
He raises his machete.
“We got a problem,” the woman in the group, Angela, appears in Madison’s peripheral vision, “It’s a herd.”
“Let’s hurry this along then,” the leader nods, securing the girl’s backpack over his shoulder. Asshole.
Rob looks back down at Madison, and she sees contemplation in his eyes. Is she worth it?
He pushes her back, sending a firm kick into her ribcage before disappearing with the group. Apparently not.
Madison lays there for a second, wondering how she got out of this alive. If she is still alive. She swallows, feeling a burning sensation in her throat. Her side is twisting in pain as she moves her leg. She is definitely alive.
A gunshot makes her dart up from her position. Shit, they have guns? She looks around the area, finding nothing that could be used as a better weapon than her knife.
She stands up and catches her breath, noticing evident growling outside the gas station. It’s a herd. The bitch was right. The mucky windows lose their brightness as hands start hammering on the glass. She backs away, wasting no time in following her enemies out of possibly the only free exit.
To her surprise, the leader is lying in the grass, surrounded by his own blood. She takes a closer look. He has been shot in the head.
Shit. There is somebody else out here.
The moaning walkers start surrounding the building, noticing Madison by the door. She tugs her backpack off the dead man’s back, throwing it over her shoulder. Her items are clanging inside. Good.
There is another gunshot which could mean that another asshole is dead. Or some other group’s asshole is dead. Or somebody is shooting at the walkers… but that would be a stupid idea considering the situation.
The shots attract their attention and some of the dead ones are speed-walking towards the girl. She makes a run for it, not caring if she is currently in the line of sight of an enemy.
The sun is setting. This is bad. She needs to find somewhere to hide, not only from the walkers but also the people around.
Madison sprints across the littered parking lot, dodging a twitching corpse on the cracked pavement. Another dead body flings in her direction, almost knocking her to the ground. She pushes at it, reluctant to get eaten on a day when near-death experiences are indeed near-death.
The last thing she needs is to be caught up in the herd and from the looks of it, she is halfway there.
She sees Rob, the asshole responsible for bruising her ribcage, wrestling with a new man in leather among the chaos. To her relief, the leather-clad man wins, shoving what looks like a screwdriver into Rob’s eye socket.
Was he the one who fired the shots? Where is his gun?
The screwdriver killer raises his head and amid the chaos they lock gazes. She freezes momentarily, not realizing that this is costing her precious time.
It must have been a miscount of the number of bodies or the mistake of estimating the amount of time it would take for the dead ones to get from Point A to Point B, but somehow one of the dead lands onto Madison’s body and it takes her by such surprise that she ends up on the floor with it, desperately pushing at its chest and tilting away from its snapping jaw.
“Goddamit!” she hears a deep voice before the weight is lifted off her, “Get the fuck up, honey!”
The man grabs her by the shirt, half-dragging her away from the bodies. She manages to stand straight and when they both gain their footing, they run.
The growling behind them is loud and when Madison takes a peek behind her shoulder she sees the size of the herd. It’s enormous. How did she survive being among it? He saved her.
“Keep going!” the man growls, taking a risk himself and yanking her shirt collar. Madison moans, not appreciating his man-handling. Gradually, her anger sizzles away as they run when she starts to realize that he is probably on her side. And if he isn’t, she can use him to get out of this mess. Whatever happens next can be decided later.
The metal pots used for cooking meals and boiling water knock against each other in her backpack. The man sends her a quick look, probably wondering where the noise is coming from. She sees his dark brown eyes which are surrounded by blackened skin that could have appeared from a fire or days without a wash. Madison has not seen a mirror for weeks, but she knows that her face probably looks the same.
They find themselves going further and further into a forest. When her legs start to burn, she slows down, and thankfully the man shows the same stamina.
She jogs through the trees, fingers skimming the bark as she passes. Inch by inch, metre by metre, her legs carry her away from the man. It’s a possibility that when the running stops, he will turn on her. And if that happens, she wants to stand a chance.
The growling behind them gets quieter and quieter, replaced with the sounds of their heavy breathing and the twigs snapping beneath their boots. She has never been the type of girl to be saved. Usually, she saves herself. Her last group survived because of her. After they died, she named herself ‘The Group Hopper’. It’s probably the only thing that makes her giggle from time to time.
Abruptly, the man crouches down, one hand on his stomach as if to stop his guts from falling out. Madison stops ten metres in front, casting a curious glance at her savior. He raises his head, displaying his salt and pepper beard. From this angle, he looks sort of handsome.
She nods subtly, hoping this gesture would show him her gratitude for before. He is not the silent kind.
“You with that fucking group?”
Her tone comes off as harsh, “No, they were trying to kill me.”
The man laughs as he straightens up, flashing his amazingly perfect teeth, “Doll, with the fucking way the world is now, I couldn’t fucking tell.”
She stays silent, placing a hand on the knife in her pocket.
“I’m Negan,” his smile fades. Madison realizes that he may be drunk. It’s the way he leans. The way his manners change. The way his eyes are clouded over.
She skips her introduction, deeming it as unimportant, “Were you the one who fired the shots?”
He reaches behind to take out a nice-looking pistol, waves it in the air and tosses it towards her. She catches it, feeling a muscle stretching in her abdomen from the kick she received minutes ago.
“Go fuckin’ nuts,” Negan sighs, wiping the bottom of his jaw, “No bullets.”
Without further words, he starts walking again, tugging at the leather jacket around his shoulders. Her eyes watch him, wondering if he is planning on leaving. As if reading her mind, he stops a few metres away from her.
Remembering the match box of bullets that she found weeks ago, Madison shrugs the bag off her shoulders. Negan squints his eyes, oblivious to the stupid choice he made a couple of seconds ago. Her fingers dig into a small pocket and she pulls out the object, tipping it in her hand and making six bullets fall into her palm. She tries them with the gun and they fit.
There is a satisfying click as she points it at a tree.
“Fucking dickhead,” Negan mumbles, aiming the insult at himself. Madison watches as he composes himself, an argument forming in his eyes. Slowly, she trails the aim towards Negan’s leg. Just in case, “How the fuck was I supposed to know you had bullets, darlin’?”
“I’m a hoarder,” Madison explains, recalling herself having trouble hauling her backpack to places. Crazily, her bad habit came in handy at the most unlikely of times. She is lucky she saved those bullets.
Negan nods, gesturing to the bag on his back. It is smaller than hers, “I think we should start moving again.”
She glances in the direction of the herd, palms sweating, “We?”
Negan’s mouth curls into a smile, “Well, you got my gun.”
“The bullets are mine,” she answers, noticing a spark of irritation in his eye. She knows nothing about this man. He could be cold blooded. He could be worse than the group she encountered. The fact that he always smiles puts her off talking to him, in case he suddenly lashes out and cuts her throat.
But he did save her. And by saving her, he risked his own life.
“Look,” he starts, pinching the bridge of his nose and looking as bored as ever, “We leave this fucking place. We haul up for the fucking night. In the morning, you give me back my motherfucking gun and half of the fucking bullets and we go off on our separate fucking adventures. Sound like a fair deal, sweetheart?”
Madison has every right to shoot him right now. It would be easier. However, something about his tone and the certainty in his stature forces her to nod.
“That’s what I fucking thought,” he grins, glancing at the gun, “Now do me a fucking favour and point that thing at something other than me. I believe I can trust you not to fucking shoot me, alright?”
Again, she nods.
Negan’s eyes trail up and down her body when she lowers the gun. His tongue darts out to lick his dry lips, “What’s your name?”
“I’m gonna call you Daisy.”
She quirks an eyebrow. Is she missing something? Or was she right about him being intoxicated?
Negan glances away at where they came from, looking eager to continue moving.
“My name is Madison,” she talks slowly, raising her eyebrows. The bastard furrows his brows, sizing her up.
Silently, he points to her hair. Her hand darts up to her locks, feeling a few bumps and sticks wrapped in her strands. Gradually, her fingers trail over the smoother parts of the debris and she pulls, revealing a flower. Daisy.
Again, she quirks a brow. Negan nods, as if proving his point.
Still makes no sense. She decides to drop it. He is insane.
The darkness comes faster than anticipated, and it seems to wake Madison up. It’s screwed up, but that is how the world is now, and has been for the last couple of years. Everything is worse when it is dark.
Her eyes are alert as she senses his figure stumbling through the forest. A couple of times she saw him pulling out a flask from his bag and taking generous swings. Great. A binge drinker. Out of all the people left in the world, she is left with him.
Right now, he seems harmless.
They walk a dozen feet apart, mostly due to Madison being the smart survivor she is. Every time Negan whistles and calls her over, she averts her eyes. He laughs in response.
“I think I’ve fucking proven myself, have I not, Daisy?”
She ignores his loud tone, hoping he would learn to shut up. When he starts bellowing out a song, she jumps a foot in the air.
“Shut up!” her eyes widen, her whisper acting as a yell, “How the hell did you survive this long?!”
Negan stomps his foot as he walks, creating an echo in the forest. Madison clutches her gun, heartbeat in her ears. There seems to be no bodies walking around nearby, but there could be people. In addition to that, the real threat could be him. Negan seems to be aware of his actions but his drunk state is making him stupid. Stupid is not a good trait to have. Not good at all.
They come into a clearing and the only places visible are the parts highlighted by the bright moon above. From this distance, she can see a few corpses waddling around the field, mindlessly reaching out at falling leaves. Negan comes up behind her, the sound of his knife cutting the air.
She puts her arm out, “Stop. There’s no point.”
As if to justify her actions, she nods towards a battered building that looks more like a shed in the tree line.
When they reach the shelter, Madison crosses the small space to sit on the other side of the room. Negan chuckles darkly, taking the hint and settling down as far away from the girl as possible.
The floor is freezing to sit on, so she tucks her legs underneath her bottom. She tilts her chin upwards. It’s not even a shed. It is just a box. There is an overturned table near the door, and a broken window adjacent to it. It blows the cold night air inside, clarifying that tonight is going to be impossible for sleep.
She turns to look at Negan who has emptied the contents of his bag onto the floor in front of him. A flask (not surprising), a knife, a lighter, and a dirty rag. She squints her eyes, wondering if something useful is wrapped up in it.
“Better get comfortable, doll. It’s gonna be a long night,” he glances at her backpack. She makes no move to take it off. He laughs softly, “Suit yourself.”
Madison rests the pistol beside her thighs, thinking back to the squirrels she killed today. If only she did not encounter that group, she would be having a meal right now.
But it’s okay. It wouldn’t be the first day she survived without food.
Negan makes the box his home as he appears to lounge the same way a man would on a sofa with a TV in front of him. He holds the flask in one hand and leans forward to light his rag on fire. Madison watches, knowing that as there is no wood, the fire would be out within minutes.
The flame lights the room, momentarily setting a cosy feeling into the atmosphere. Madison sighs, her white breath flowing past her lips. She might as well take advantage of the light while it is here.
Reaching into her backpack, she takes out the small notebook in a zipped-up compartment. It is tattered and yellowing, but it manages to hold her words on the pages nevertheless. She grabs her tiny pencil and begins to write about her day, making sure to record anything and everything that could help her in the future. Predominantly, the map information and her whereabouts.
She writes about the killer group and a man called Negan. She writes about the herd and estimates the number of walkers and which directions and routes not to take.
“Is that a diary?” his smooth voice makes her raise her head. Negan smirks widely, his wrists resting on his bent knees.
“Yes,” Madison answers, holding his gaze.
“Writing about me?”
“Obviously,” she wants him to realize that diaries are for recording the thought process, but somehow he interprets her answer as an invitation to come over. She holds onto her stuff, shuffling into a corner as he leans over. The warmth of another body feels good, but considering their relationship, she wants him as far away from her as possible.
“God, you’re sassy,” he hums, taking a sip from his flask, “You remind me of a kid I used to know. Even with one fucking eye, he’d be the sassiest motherfucker there was.”
Madison watches as the flames start to disappear, sensing a hint of sadness behind his words. The next time she glances over at him, his eyes are closed.
“Go to sleep. I’ll take the first watch,” he grumbles.
“Yeah, right,” she feigns a laugh, hoping he would understand that he is not the easiest person to trust.
To her relief, he finds the humour in her replies, “Well, if you’re not sleeping, then I am.”
Two minutes later, the man is snoring quietly by her side. She sighs, picking the pistol off the floor. For the rest of the night, her tired eyes are focused on the entrance.
Dear Diary, my luck has finally changed. I met a survivor. But I should leave him behind. He is too far gone.
It is warm. It is strangely warm when she wakes up. For a few seconds, she can’t move. Her legs have gone into hibernation. Her hands are sticky against her face. She moves them away, knowing that they have probably left an embarrassing mark on her cheek.
Madison sprawls onto her back, feeling like she got the best night’s sleep in probably a couple of years. She arches her back, stretching on the floor. Her coat has kept her warm for the entire night, which is kind of odd because she remembers shivering in the corner of the house, struggling to get to sleep.
Suddenly, the crackling of a fire answers all her questions. She jolts up, giving herself a head rush. There is a fire. There is a fire right beside her, neatly contained with a circle of rocks. It burns brightly, giving the impression somebody has been looking after it very well.
She glances up at the broken windows and sees daylight. Then, she remembers the man. Negan. She met him last night. He was a mess. Did he do this?
“Good mornin’, Maddie,” his smooth voice strides into the box. Immediately, she tucks her legs beneath her body, as if to hide the fact that she is in fact very comfortable and it is a good morning indeed.
She quirks an eyebrow, “What happened to Daisy?”
Negan smiles, his walk more confident and collected than yesterday. It is a little intimidating, “Don’t worry, you can still be Daisy.”
Madison rubs at her face and tucks the strands of fallen hair behind her ears. She needs a brush. She feels like a cavewoman.
“Did you do this?” she asks, but her question is “Why?” and “How?”
Negan scratches his beard, one of his arms supporting something new. She sits up, hoping it is food. He notices her interest and grabs the package, unwrapping it to reveal a cluster of berries. Madison’s stomach twists.
“It’s not much,” he starts, leaning down to hand her the berries. She takes them eagerly, common curtesy flying out of the window. Negan does not seem to mind, “I already ate. They are all for you, honey.”
Like she would share.
He watches her for a second before going back to her question, “I was worried you’d catch pneumonia. Shivering in the fucking corner like a leaf. And then I started to feel the fucking frost bite on my ass. So, I went out and did the sensible thing.”
Madison glances up briefly, the berries cold in her mouth. They pop and explode the flavour all over her tongue. She bites back a moan. Any food in this life is a miracle.
“Did you sleep?” she asks, eager for him to talk.
“Mhmm,” he hums. She looks up at him again. He is watching her.
She notices a few red marks on the front of his leather jacket. These berries came at a price.
Her mind races back to the gun she equipped yesterday. Her eyes glance down beside her. Not there. She spins around, searching every inch of her sleeping space. Not there. She grabs her back and rummages through it. The rest of the berries have spilled onto the floor, which has reminded her that when there is a choice between food and weapons, always pick the weapons. Always.
Negan chuckles in amusement, a hint of darkness in his voice, “Lookin’ for this?”
Madison looks up to see him twirling the black gun in his hand. Thinking that it is not too late to act normal, she nods, “Yeah. Thought I lost it.”
He grins at her, “I bet you’re very fucking glad it is still here. Otherwise, you never know who could have gotten a hold of it.”
She smiles weakly, feeling something gnawing at her heart. There is an escape but she is unable to seize it. That is the feeling.
She clutches one hand in the other to stop it from shaking. He is not a bad guy. He saved her life yesterday. Surely he won’t kill her now? Unless he is a bad guy.
Madison mentally kicks herself for letting her guard down. What was she thinking?
Negan crosses the room at a leisurely pace, tucking the gun into the front of his pants in the process. He sighs, leaning against the wall opposite the girl. She watches him with wild eyes.
He gestures to the berries scattered around the floor, “Finished with your breakfast, darlin’?”
Madison starts to overthink. If she says yes, that means they are moving onto the next step of the day. She will have to get up. He will grab her and put his knife right through her eye. If she says no, he will allow her to have more time. Or maybe that will only make him mad and he will grab her anyway. This is the result of binge watching serial killer documentaries.
Negan’s teeth glisten from the shadows. He glances out of the broken window, surveying the surroundings, “All the dead pricks have disappeared. I think it’s safe to move on.”
“Do you remember our deal?” she cuts his thought process short. His grin does not falter. Bastard.
“Why, of course. I’m a man of my fucking word,” he leans back slightly, reminding Madison of a little kid who is likely to stomp his foot in midst of a tantrum.
She recites their deal in her head. He keeps the gun and half of the bullets. Damn.
Feeling fairly confident that he will not lash out on her, she stands up and secures her backpack over her shoulders.
“We go our separate ways,” she reminds him. He nods, grabbing his own backpack.
“We go our separate ways.”
“And I get half of the bullets,” she presses on, watching as he throws his head back in laughter.
“Three bullets and no gun? What is the fucking point in that?”
“We had a deal,” she repeats, by this point knowing that there is a massive possibility of him walking away with all the goods.
Negan runs a hand down his face in expiration, “You think you will find another good-natured motherfucker who will be willing to share his empty pistol with you? Huh?” He waits for her response, even throwing his arms in the air to lift the answer out of her, “No, sweet pea. Those kinds of motherfuckers are extinct by now.”
“And you’re a safe bet?” she challenges, making him laugh again.
“Why don’t you refer to the drool on your chin?” Automatically, she wipes at her face, “You slept like a baby and were well fed in the morning. Do I seem like a safe bet to you?”
Madison keeps quiet, still very wary however of his character.
“Coulda killed you,” he smirks, “I could have taken your backpack and stripped you of your clothes while you were out. But I didn’t. In addition, I could have taken your fucking porn novel and-“
“It’s a diary!”
Negan raises both of his hands, “To me, it’s a porno. Helps me cope,” he points to his temple.
Now he has something against her diary? She sighs, rejecting all his valid points.
“You were wasted yesterday. That guy from before,” she points behind her shoulder, “is not somebody I would want to trust my life with.”
“Nobody is asking you to trust me with your life,” he groans, “I want you to realise that there is safety in numbers. And three fucking bullets and no fucking gun is not going to keep you alive for long, sweetheart.”
Her boot crushes a couple of berries on the floor, leaving a sticky residue.
She knows that he is right. Even if he is a flight risk, he did save her life… maybe twice now. She would have been an icicle this morning if it wasn’t for him.
Negan crosses the room and points to her bag, “May I see your map, doll?”
Madison sighs and brings her backpack down her shoulder, pulling out the tattered map from her diary. Negan wiggles his fingers playfully, beckoning the map into his hand. Maddie rolls her eyes.
She watches as he scans through it, following a thick red line that represents the road she intended to take before it all kicked off yesterday. He glances at her with uncertainty.
She nods, “Yeah, I haven’t been there yet. Maybe I could find a sanctuary.”
Negan’s eyes glaze over, as if an unpleasant memory has hijacked his entire body. His lips twitch and he folds the map before shoving it back into her hands.
“Excuse me?” she unfolds it and starts looking through, eager to find the spot he has been looking at. Has he been there before? Does he know anything about other people?
“I’ve been there,” he answers, reading her mind. Madison raises a brow in anticipation.
“And don’t bother,” his mouth sets into a firm line, “It’s all gone.”
She feels her heart dip with the next breath, but for some reason it does not plummet into the pits of her stomach. She does not fully trust him. He could be lying. There could still be hope. There could still be people.
“You’ve…” she watches him, “You’ve been, and… what? It’s all gone? What do you mean by that?”
Negan raises a hand to scratch the base of his chin. His eyes are somewhere else.
“Yeah,” he sighs, “Sorry for raining on your fucking parade.”
Madison shakes her head, “But I’ve been everywhere else. This can’t be it,” she starts looking through the map again, “There must be something in Washington. Or at least around it.”
“There is nothing there,” he repeats, now glaring down at her, “Don’t waste your time.”
Madison watches him, feeling tears starting to sting behind her eyes. She blinks, making them disappear.
Two years on foot, looking for a community. A safe place. And for what? For it to not exist?
There has to be a place.
She looks up at Negan who looks like he just tasted something sour.
He could be lying. He is lying.
“I don’t believe you,” her voice is shaky, wary of how he will take her attitude. He laughs dryly, fingers itching at the belt where his gun is tucked in.
“Darlin’, you have better luck of going to the coast. Finding a boat.”
Madison stares up at him in shock, “I guess you better hurry and catch the last boat. Because I am not going with you. I am going to Washington.”
Something snaps. Madison was known to push people in her other life, and sometimes they did not handle it very well. As much as she tried, she could not bottle that trait up. She was always stubborn. Evidently, Negan is more of an ass than she is.
He grabs the map out of her hands and sends it flying, ripping it in the process, “What the hell are you doing?!”
“There is NOTHING in Washington! Nothing!” he roars. The animal inside him comes out, painting his eyes black.
Madison backs up against the wall when he lunges at her, clutching the material of her coat around her shoulder. His breath is hot, holding the scent of yesterday’s alcohol.
“You won’t fucking find any type of sanctuary there, you hear me, sweetheart?” her hands go to his chest to hold him back from ripping her head off, “Fuck! It’s all gone! It’s all fucking gone!”
He slams her against the wall once, a pain spreading at the back of her head. Madison holds her breath, wondering if she exchanged one monster for another.
He holds her gaze, eyes softening after a few seconds. His grip does not disappear. He holds her in place, her feet barely touching the ground. He takes a deep breath, exhaling against her neck. Madison whimpers, pushing gently at his chest.
He sets her down, but does not step away.
“Do me a fucking favour and stop wasting your time,” he murmurs .
She nods frantically, feeling unconvinced but certain that she must get on his good side. At least while she is still within his reach.
Finally, he backs away, casting a sheepish glance at the map on the floor. Minutes pass and nobody tries to pick it up.
She watches as Negan pinches the bridge of his nose, taking slow breaths until his eyes are brave enough to look back up. At that point, she allows her heart to slow down. He is back.
“Fuck,” he breathes, “I’m sorry, alright?”
Madison glances out of the window where a light spray of rain has started to come down. She thinks about her hair and how it will turn into a frizzy mess. She starts to wonder where she will go today, and what she will have for dinner. Her stomach churns, reminding her of its ever-shrinking size.
Negan takes the gun out of his trousers, fiddling with it before reaching out to Maddie.
“Take it, honey,” his eyes have come back to normal. Fully normal. Whatever normal is for him.
She follows his orders, briefly thinking of shooting him and running away. She tucks the gun into her belt and sighs, nodding, “Thank you.”
Somehow the day has dissolved into muted walks and mindless sauntering. After their little argument, Maddie no longer had a destination. Sure, she could have just left and made her way to Washington by herself, but the way Negan had slammed her against the wall to convince her to stay scared her. Maybe he was right. Maybe there is nothing there. It would be better to remain someplace she knew and set up camp. Perhaps start to build a home.
She has been walking for months, homeless and tired. She has had enough.
Negan walks in front, back exposed to any bullets she might fire his way. Madison rolls her eyes, knowing that he is trying to gain her trust. It’s childish. She would not shoot him anyway. She would not have shot him back there either. He is troubled, not dangerous.
The forest is endless, growing denser with every step. If only I still had my map, Maddie thinks. Then, she sighs. That map was a bad habit. And Negan got rid of it for her. Accidentally or on purpose, it does not matter.
Her steps become bigger, trying not to get caught on the vines and branches that litter the floor. Her foot connects with a big pile of mud, making her fall forward. Luckily, she braces herself against a tree. Negan turns his head.
“You alright, doll?”
“I’m fine,” she kicks at the pile until it becomes flat and resumes walking. She gets to the front of their little party, not noticing how Negan has stopped, “What?”
He looks around cautiously, nibbling on his bottom lip, “We could stop here.”
“Why?” Madison’s voice raises slightly, prompting a look from Negan.
“Because it looks safe, that’s why,” he sighs, gesturing to a fallen tree, “There’s your little hut.”
Madison turns to look and scoffs. It literally is just a fallen tree, but it makes a dome which can fit a few people inside. It would not save them from rain, but other people will not be able to notice them, that’s for sure. Walkers, however…
“You don’t think we can find something sturdier?”
“If you want to fucking walk till the end of the day, be my guest,” he takes his backpack off, tossing it near the ‘dome’, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, sweetheart, but you’re turning white.”
Automatically, Maddie touches her cheek, feeling lightheaded. She has not eaten properly for days. The berries in the morning were a luxury.
She will not be able to walk out of these woods today.
Instead of being difficult, she nods and takes the backpack off her shoulders, clutching it at the front.
She tilts her head to the side, listening past the singing of birds. Running water.
Madison looks up at Negan to see him staring back at her. He knows.
Quickly, Madison pulls the zipper along the side of her bag, taking out one metal pot. Negan cuts the air with his knife as he slides it out of his belt, “I’ll get the logs. Don’t go too far out.”
They split into two separate directions, both on life-saving missions. It is crazy to think how hard water became to find. She remembers being in a big group right at the start, stocked with protein bars and bottles of water. Greed had consumed all the rations and that became the reason for the group’s downfall. They turned. It was so easy.
Madison pushes back the pain in her stomach and the clouds forming in front of her eyes. There is water nearby and she will get it. It will take a herd to stop her.
The trees are all around her, but the steady stream of the river is hard to miss. She looks to the right to see a pile of rocks creating a small waterfall, bringing the water towards her. It does not look deep, meaning she could cross it easily in case of an emergency. It also means there are not many creatures that inhabit the area. Fish would need more space.
Maddie kneels, the weakness bringing her to her knees. The soft mud starts to soak her jeans, the feeling of cold water cooling her from the intense walk with Negan. She closes her eyes for a moment, pushing one hand down into the stream. Her fingers dig into the soil before wiggling to wash it off.
The longer she spends sitting here, the more tired she will get. And she needs to drink, which is something that is impossible without boiling the liquid first.
She snaps back to reality, gripping the handle of her pan and collecting the water. It fills right to the edge, and her vision starts to fade when she lifts. It’s heavy, but she can manage. She must.
A trickle of sweat runs down the back of her neck as she makes her way back to their pathetic camp. It could be worse. It could be much worse. She is still alive and they found water.
At this point, there is nothing to complain about.
When the familiar fallen tree comes into view, her shoulders relax. For a moment, Madison thought that her state would get her into trouble; that she would get lost. But she is here. It could be worse.
Negan is already crouching near the tree, and to her delight she sees smoke rising from the pile of wood he managed to collect.
Her boot snaps a twig beneath her, making Negan glance in her direction.
“Thank fuck,” he mumbles, “Thought you didn’t make it.”
“I wasn’t gone that long.”
“I had the hardest fucking job and I managed to beat you, princess.”
“Don’t call me that,” she scowls.
Negan flashes his teeth, standing up, “Come on, bring it here.”
Maddie walks towards the starting fire, for once feeling a bit too warm. She puts a hand on the back of her neck, the unpleasant feeling of her hair sticking to it driving her insane. Maybe she could wash herself. They have a river.
Negan grunts softly as he takes the pot from her. She looks down into it, noticing that half the water is not there, but she is wet up to her wrist, “Shit. Must have spilled it on the way back.”
He smiles reassuringly.
“I’m gonna get some more,” she begins to reach into her bag for the second pot but a hand on her wrist stops her.
“I’ll get it,” Negan says, grabbing her bag and the pot. She feels wonderfully light, “You just watch the fucking fire.”
Maddie goes to sit, instead collapsing rather ungracefully on her ass near the fire.
“Grab your gun, daisy,” he says, “I’ll be right back.”
She rolls her eyes at the returning nickname, but does as he says. Negan sets the half-full pot next to her. Her eyes are on him until he disappears behind the greenery. And then it is just her, the crackling of the fire and the birdsong.
Madison allows her eyes to close just for a minute, seeing no immediate danger. If somebody or something was here, she would hear them walking. No need for sight.
She leans her head against the bark of the tree, finding comfort in the fact that she is invisible to everybody from the back. This is a good spot for camp. A temporary camp.
The gun slips from her hand, making her jolt back into reality. She grabs it again, licking her lips for moisture.
As promised, Negan returns within minutes, wasting no time in setting the pot up above the fire. Maddie watches eagerly, desperate for anything to fill her stomach.
Her eyes start to droop, the sound of the forest becoming her lullaby. She feels warm fingers brushing against hers and looks up at Negan.
“Let me take it,” he mumbles. Immediately, she releases her grip on the gun.
Her world begins to fade away into a peaceful slumber.
Next time she opens her eyes, her head is on the ground, coat playing the part of a pillow. Negan is crouching near the fire, lifting one of the pots up to his lips. She sits up quickly, ignoring the way her head starts to spin.
When Maddie wakes up for the second time, she starts to feel slightly silly. She should be up and about, hunting animals for dinner. Not resting her eyes and letting Negan do all the work. Thankfully, when she sits up, he can no longer be seen. She glances at his bag. He didn’t leave.
Perhaps he’s at the river?
The birds are still chirping when she rubs her tired eyes. The forest did not change one bit, but the shadows started to drop, signifying the coming nightfall.
When her stomach twists, she has to bring her legs up to her chest. She has never been this hungry before. And looking at her eating habits before the apocalypse, it is not hard to understand why she feels like she is dying.
“Negan?” she calls quietly, looking around. A few seconds later, he comes into view. She jolts slightly, not expecting him to be here.
“You alright, darlin’?”
“Yeah,” she answers quickly, hiding her embarrassment.
Negan smirks widely, looking down at his hands. She follows his gaze and sees a skinned rabbit.
“Oh, my God,” she breathes, “Did you-”
He gestures to the fire, wiping his knife against the side of his pants, “Still have to fucking cook it.”
Maddie smiles suddenly, unable to contain her excitement. A rabbit. A meal. A proper meal for the first time in days. Her mouth starts to salivate at the thought of the meat sliding down her throat.
“A smile looks good on you, kid,” Negan comments, before walking around to the fire.
When the rabbit is fried, they eat in silence. Maddie forces herself to slow her chewing, fearing that she might swallow a big chunk and choke on it. That would not be a very good way to die. The bones are greasy between her fingers, and she sucks them dry.
Her head has cleared and her stomach has stopped eating itself. She looks across at Negan who is sat on the other side of the fire, leaning against a tree. He did it again. Saved her life. It’s ridiculous to think that if he hadn’t found that rabbit, Maddie would have gone back to sleep and never woke up. She shudders at the thought. Death wants her. And Negan keeps swatting it away.
“Thank you,” she speaks, licking her lips.
Negan glances at her, his mouth twitching up into a smirk, “Tomorrow we find some more. I think I saw a fucking nest back there.”
“Rabbits don’t live in nests,” Maddie states. Negan stares at her blankly.
“They don’t live in nests,” she repeats, “They live in burrows or… rabbit holes.”
Her answer seems to obvious that she starts to question her knowledge on rabbits. They do live in rabbit holes, right? The hunger has gone to her head.
Negan’s shoulders start to shake and for a moment she thinks that he is having a stroke, but then her eyes see the smile on his face, “Smartass.”
“It’s common sense,” Maddie allows herself to smile.
After a pause, he turns his head back to her, “How old are you?”
She raises a brow, “Does it matter?”
Negan shrugs, “I guess not.”
Maddie reaches for the pot of boiled water that has now gone cold from the weather. She brings it to her lips, savouring every drop. There is still half a pot left. They must save it for the morning. Tomorrow, they will gather some more.
“But I’m curious,” he continues, “You must have been thirteen when the dead started to walk.”
Maddie rolls her eyes, suddenly feeling defensive, “I wasn’t thirteen. I was twenty.”
“No shit,” Negan looks surprised, “You must be twenty-three now.”
She sighs, zipping her coat up to her chin, “Could never go anywhere without being asked for ID.”
“Damn,” he grins, looking back down at his lap.
“And I’m guessing you’re sixty?”
“Woah!” he raises his hands, “Watch the fucking sass, young lady.”
“So you’re not sixty?”
“I am most certainly fucking not.”
Maddie watches him, gears grinding in her brain, “Fifty?”
Maddie smiles widely, releasing a chuckle.
“Okay,” Negan mimics.
She offers to take the first watch later that night, seeing as how she had a couple of power naps during the day. Negan sleeps quietly and peacefully, one hand behind his head. Who was he before this?
She turns away from him. Her diary is open in her lap, pages moving with the light breeze. She wonders how her day will fit into one page of the book. So much has happened. So many things have started to change in her head. Not just about Negan, but about the future. She is no longer going to Washington. Living in a forest seems safe, but she can’t do that. There are no walls.
There is nothing to write about. And lots at the same time.
She closes her diary and instead focuses on the trees, waiting for a figure to sway in the distance.
That one rabbit they shared last night managed to give Madison a power boost. It is so weird how something as little as a meal can lift one’s spirits so high. It’s like she didn’t know what she was complaining about in the first place. Negan would disagree. He would say “You’re going loopy from malnutrition, daisy.”
That is a possibility.
The sun is coated by thick grey clouds in the sky, signifying that it is going to piss it down. She noticed a flash of lightning in the distance about an hour ago, but judging by how slow it is taking for the clouds to be above their head, Madison thought they were going in another direction.
If it does rain, the trees will be able to hold most of the water. It is a dense forest after all …right?
“We should start heading off,” Negan murmurs, looking up at the clouds with her, “Maybe find a couple of houses… see if there is any shit left for us to take.”
Madison glances over at him, “Already?”
He nods towards the sky, “You think sleeping in a puddle will be much fun?”
“But there is a river,” she sighs, “I wanted to bathe at least.”
Negan’s eyes run down her body, flickering back up when a clap of thunder sounds in the distance. She clutches her coat, getting a whiff of sweat and god-knows what other smells from the clothes underneath. At this point, she is certain that she is capable of growing fungus.
“That’s not important right now,” he scratches his growing beard, “We don’t have fucking towels.”
Madison giggles softly, “That’s what you’re worried about?”
He grins at her, “That. And it’s fucking freezing to be doing any kind of bathing.”
“So we just walk around smelling like shit?”
Madison slaps his arm, evicting a deep chuckle from him.
That discussion died very fast when Negan took matters into his own hands and started to lead Madison away from their home.
She found a couple of plastic, washed up water bottles in the river which is what they ended up carrying their water in. One of them has no lid, and the other has some sort of slime at the bottom. Madison mentally notes down that they need to find a decent container which would carry their water.
Feeling parched after walking for a mile through the trees, she decides to brave it and take a sip. It tastes like metal. No surprise there. Who knows where these bottles have been?
The rain starts to drizzle down on them, heavy bullets being broken at the top by the trees. Even with the trees, the ground will be soaking in no time.
She glances over at Negan who was chosen to be the one to carry the bottle with no lid. Maddie watches his fingers clench around the throat of the bottle, making it sway with his steps.
The birdsong has stopped for the first time since they entered the woods, replaced by the sizzling of water all around them.
She brings a hand up to her hair, feeling it become frizzy. God, she wishes she could have washed.
“Stop,” Negan halts in front. She watches as his free hand goes to his belt, pulling out a knife. Feeling no longer like they are alone, she peeks out from behind him, noticing one of the dead clawing at a tree. Probably confused by the loud noises from the rain all around it. Dumbass.
“Is it just the one?” she whispers. Negan doesn’t reply.
Feeling like it would be best to be prepared, she pulls out her own knife and stares ahead of them. The walker stumbles backwards, its growls muted by the whistle of the breeze through the forest.
“Looks like it,” Negan says after a while, stepping forward.
There is a crack behind her back, and Madison spins around, adrenaline rushing through her body.
Around five walkers rush towards her, arms extended and jaws hanging loose.
“Oh, shit,” she says, loud enough for Negan to hear. She glances in his direction to find him stabbing the first walker into the base of its skull.
Her gun screams at her from the waistband of her pants, but she knows that there are few bullets. Besides, the ratio of the walkers is working out to their advantage, therefore they can easily be taken care of with a knife.
She drops her bottle by a tree and lunges at the first biter, stabbing it under the chin. It growls weakly for a moment before dropping to the ground. She stumbles back quickly when the others find their pace, but luckily one of them trips over her kill, sending the others to the ground.
They get up quickly, mouths wide open and eyes full of hunger but no life. That is the difference between Madison and the dead.
She stabs her second victim, grunting with effort as it almost crushes her with its weight. Negan appears by her side and takes care of the others. She sighs deeply, walking backwards into a tree.
Strangely, the trunk starts to move.
A raspy growl in her ear, a firm grip on her arm. It is not a tree. She should have never walked backwards. What was she thinking?
They all look like trees, especially when there is limited sunlight. Negan battles with his last walker, putting it down for good.
Madison shrieks when a second, deeper growl roars into her ear. She pushes forward, being able to smell the rotting flesh behind.
Negan looks up, eyes on full alert. His jaw tightens at the sight, body already crossing the gap between them.
Momentarily, she is free. But then suddenly, something tangles in her bushy hair, yanking her backwards until she collides with the walker. She screams again, the growling all around her. For a second she thinks that one of the mouths found its way through her locks, desperately biting to find a path to her neck.
She tries to move forward, but she knows that she is now a fish in the net.
Her head gets yanked backwards again, sending a spark of electricity through her collarbone.
Without seeing what she needs to stab, the knife in her hand is useless. Instead she focuses on wriggling her way out of the trap, desperate for the hands to be as far away from her hair as possible.
Just don’t get bitten. Just don’t get bitten.
Negan grabs her arm, pulling her forward as his knife is plunged into one of the heads. Madison feels a weight dropping to the ground and most her hair being released. She decides to push forward again.
Suddenly, a sharp pain coats a patch on her head. She screams as all the weight tears away from her, sending her flying into Negan’s arms. He catches her as she whimpers.
“What? What?!” he yells, cupping her head to look into her eyes, “Are you bit?!”
She doesn’t know.
The burning has spread all over her scalp. She winces as the wind blows through her locks, making the pain worse.
“Are you fucking bit?!” he grabs her head like an object, looking over every inch of where those fuckers have been. He stops when he gets behind her, hands settling on her shoulders instead.
Madison wipes a tear from her face, trying to look at him, “Is it a bite?”
He sighs, “No, darlin’.”
There is relief in his voice, but he sounds concerned. For a moment, she considers that he may put her down right now, if she is bit. This might be a George and Lennie moment.
Quickly, she whirls around to look at him. He shakes his head, “You’re not bit, honey.”
“What?” she brings her hand up to the burning on her head, regretting it immediately, “Fuck!”
“Don’t fucking touch it!” he grabs her hand, towering over her to get a better look. She feels his other hand lifting a couple of strands and parting them. The stinging intensifies but she pulls a face to brave through it.
Just like a plain field surrounded by trees is where the damage was inflicted. Negan runs his fingers around the bruising skin, watching the parts where hair should be growing dot with blood underneath. He starts to move the hair around the bald patch to cover it up.
“Ow, that hurts,” Maddie whimpers, ducking down slightly.
“I can… we can cover this up,” he says.
“Cover what up?”
He doesn’t reply.
Maddie moves away quickly, watching his face as she brings a hand up to the source of the pain. His eyes start searching for the lock of hair on the ground, but instead he finds it in the hand of the dead.
Realisation hits her. She closes her eyes trying to focus on the sound of the rain.
“Does it look bad?”
It sounds stupid. Vanity is the least of her problems. Especially in the apocalypse. But she can’t help it.
“You can barely notice it, darlin’.”
“Are you just saying that to make me feel better?”
Negan smiles sadly, “Does anything else hurt?”
Madison pinches the bridge of her nose, feeling the burning intensify with the howl of the wind. A storm is coming. But stupidly it feels like life could not get worse.
I guess my girly days are over.
Sometime towards the evening, Madison started developing a headache. Without the bald patch she was gifted with earlier, she would have guessed that it was because of malnutrition. But now everything was clear.
They have walked out of the forest and onto an empty road. The sunset was highlighting a small town in the distance, and it was obvious that that is where they were heading.
With every sting and burn, she was tempted to touch her scalp, but knew that her dirty hands would only make things worse.
Negan glances at her as they walk, scanning the horizon for unwanted visitors. They have barely talked today, mostly because Maddie knew that the topic of the conversation would be the attack. And she did not want pity. Not when she was still feeling this stupid. That accident could have easily been avoided. And now she is like baggage.
She brings a hand to her temple, feeling a painful pulse in her brain with every step she takes. If only she looked behind and didn’t get that stupid walker tangled in her hair…
“You hungry, doll?”
“Yeah,” she answers.
Negan scratches his jawline as he strolls, “We should have stocked up on those fucking bunnies while we could.”
Madison sighs, ignoring her pain, “Maybe we’ll find something over there.”
“I’m fuckin’ counting on it,” his dimples show in the orange glow but Maddie keeps her resting bitch face in fear of provoking the headache.
They get to the small town fairly quick, and by that time the sky is already a shade darker. Negan takes the lead, checking out the first building while Maddie guards the entrance. She leans against the wall, hearing his steady footsteps inside. Her gun is clenched tightly in her sweaty hands.
She tries to forget about the hair incident and focuses on their next steps. Food. Food and water. That should be the priority. She blinks the tears out of her eyes. This is stupid. It’s just hair. It will grow back.
“It’s fucking clear,” Negan makes her jump. She nods rapidly.
“Might as well shack up here, right doll?”
She fakes a smile and nods. Negan tries to pretend like he doesn’t notice.
“Come on,” he gestures inside, “Think I saw some canned food in one of the cupboards.”
They build a campfire indoors, and even though it is supposed to lift the mood, it stays flat. Madison sits opposite Negan, watching him scrape the last bits of apricot out of a tin. She finished her portion way before him. It alleviated her headache. So, life is not completely bad.
The crackling of the fire is comforting.
She hugs her legs to her chest, focusing on the way Negan pushes his tongue into his cheek. He has been good to her. Aside from saving her life numerous times, he was not a complete dick when her mood dropped. And that has been happening way too often.
She thinks back to the day they met. He was drunk. He was careless. Well… he is still careless. Sometimes. Maybe it was the alcohol. He has none of that now so maybe those days are behind him. Unless he stumbles into some more. There is no way of knowing. He is still the most complicated puzzle to her.
She could ask him? She never bothered to find out more about the man, apart from his age.
A small smirk appears on her face at the memory. Negan being the hawk that he is, does not miss out on a single detail.
“What’re you thinking about, darlin’?” She lifts her eyes to see him smirking back. The light of the fire only seems to deepen his dimples.
Brushing off the subject will not work with him, so she decides to be straight, “Your age.”
“And that’s funny?” he narrows his eyes, “How?”
Madison shrugs, “Bit too old to be hanging around teenagers,” she lies.
“Teenagers? You said you were twenty.”
“Potato, Potatoh,” she smirks. For the first time, Negan releases a genuine laugh.
After a brief silence Maddie speaks up.
“Where are you from?”
Negan raises a brow at her, reaching for his nearly empty water bottle, “What is this? An interrogation?”
“I don’t know anything about you,” Maddie confirms. He eyes her suspiciously before sighing in defeat.
She nods slowly, feeling a bit relieved to find out something so ordinary from such an extraordinary man.
“How about you, darlin’?”
“New York,” the words barely leave her mouth when he exclaims.
“Woah! You are far away from home, aren’t you, sweets?” he leans in. Interested.
Quick flashbacks of her past life scatter around her vision, and they are gone just as fast as they appeared.
“I guess so.”
“How did you end up here?”
“It’s a long story,” she shrugs, reaching for a stick to poke the fire. Negan senses her wish not to elaborate and nods. And just like that, it is quiet again.
It’s not that she doesn’t want to talk. It’s just that once those gates open, she would never be able to shut them again. Not for a long time. Her whole childhood was in New York. And most of her adult life. Now she is somewhere around Georgia, or God knows where. She can’t look at the map anymore.
Maddie sees Negan’s blade glistening in his pocket. She stares at it for a long time. Until her eyes start to droop.
He moves in his spot and then stands, taking the blade with him.
“Wait,” Maddie whimpers, looking up. Negan watches her, rubbing at his beard, “Can you cut my hair?”
He looks momentarily puzzled, “Cut your hair?”
“Yes. I want you to cut my hair.”
He sighs, “I don’t have any scissors,” her eyes lock on the knife in his pocket, “Oh… shit, alright.”
It’s very awkward manoeuvring so that Maddie is at the front and Negan is behind, with a good angle to be able to cut her hair. She doesn’t know if she trusts him enough to have him out of her view, with a knife at her neck. She shuts her eyes, concentrating only on the crackling of the fire.
If I was Negan, I’d kill me.
He clears his throat and she slides backwards on the torn couch, bowing her head for his comfort. In this light, he can only see so much.
“I’ve never fucking done this before,” he mutters, his long fingers brushing all the loose strands from her face into his palm. She shivers slightly at the touch.
“Just… don’t cut me.”
A low chuckle behind her. Maddie rolls her eyes.
He spends about five minutes gathering all her bushy hair. She tries her best not to visibly shudder when his fingers graze her earlobes and scalp.
“You sure about this?”
She pauses to think. And then nods.
“You saw what could have happened. Having long hair out here is stupid.”
She cannot see him, but she can tell he is nodding, “Fuck. You’re right, daisy. Erm…”
She closes her eyes again.
“I’ll do it now,” he warns.
At first, there is no pain. But the tugging starts when his knife cuts to the middle of her locks. They pull at the area around her bald patch and she winces quietly, not wanting him to stop. This must be done. This is safety.
“You alright, doll?”
“Mhmm,” she manages, head jerking back and forth as he detaches the last bits of hair from her head. He pulls away with a hum, and that’s when she knows that it is over.
Maddie reaches behind her head, shocked when no hair meets her fingers. She grasps the back of her neck and feels the ends of her locks.
“It’s… sort of even,” Negan observes.
“It doesn’t matter,” she sighs, getting up from her seat, “Thank you.”
When she turns, she sees her dead hair gripped tightly in his fist. It flows down his lap and skims his ankle.
“Maybe once we find some fucking scissors, I can trim it.”
Maddie smirks, nodding.
“You look different,” he adds, a weird gleam in his eyes.
Without thinking, she reaches up to touch her bob, “Bad different?”
“Badass different,” he grins.
The village we found seems to be vacant… except for a few biters of course. In the morning, we will look around and see whether there is anything useful around here.
Madison can’t believe her eyes when she pulls out of a cupboard after rummaging through it like a hungry rat. She is aware of the noise she is making, knocking various objects over and clanging tins together… but as Negan is in the same room, looking down at her ass (which is the only thing visible to him), she feels safe. If he sees somebody coming, he will be there to put a blade through their skull.
She looks up at him, blowing a strand of hair out of her face. He looks amused.
His backpack is already looking heavy. Two years. It’s been two years and it’s like nobody bothered to loot this place. It’s convenient. A little too convenient.
“How is a flask of fucking liquid gonna help us survive?”
Maddie follows his gaze to her hand, in which she holds a small glass bottle.
“Tea tree oil,” she states.
Negan shrugs, “You want to drink it?”
“No!” Maddie cracks up, “I can use this on my head!”
She gets to her feet shakily, feeling like her knees were bruised from all the crawling around.
When Negan starts looking even more lost, she starts to elaborate.
“Tea tree oil is… is melaleuca,” she searches her brain, “It has powerful antiseptic properties and can treat wounds.”
She watches as he scratches one of his temples with his gloved hand, “Why… Why do you sound so weird? You went to college or some shit?”
Maddie rolls her eyes, “By weird you mean smart? And yes, I went to college.”
Today has been a very weird day. It is rare to get this excited, but that is exactly what Maddie is experiencing now. Excitement. They have found tons of stuff. Cans of food and even a med kit. And now… tea tree oil.
She remembers how her mother explained the importance of this substance. Finally, having worked in a skin-care clinic paid off.
“Did you say treats wounds?” Negan asks slowly. Maddie sighs, sensing that he is probably expecting this bottle to contain a miracle.
“Minor wounds,” she gestures to her head, “Could you help me?”
He watches her for a minute longer before taking off his backpack.
Maddie unscrews the lid of the bottle, getting hit with the pungent smell of the essential oil. She inhales, feeling it burn on its way up her nose. She remembers that smell in the reception of the clinic. Even though she helped her mother out part-time, and was only in that building a couple of times a week, she could never forget that smell.
She pulls out the pipette holding the liquid in the transparent tube and clinks it against the neck of the bottle to wipe away the excess.
“What do I do?” Negan murmurs, a few centimetres away from her face. She steps back quickly and turns around.
“Erm… just apply a few drops to… the area that looks bad,” she says. She has not yet seen herself in a mirror, and can’t judge how bad the damage is.
Negan takes the glass bottle from her cold fingers, mumbling something to himself from behind.
Maddie waits for the stinging to come, but instead feels Negan’s fingers brush at her hair. A shiver goes down her spine as he moves a few strands away from the wound, exposing it to him.
She bites her lip and closes her eyes.
A few cold drops land on her skin, burning it instantly. She clenches her fists together, knowing that this will help with the healing process. And then her hair will start growing back.
“Hmm,” Negan hums behind her, “You think that’s enough, darlin’?”
“Y-Yeah,” she answers quickly and whirls around to face him, “We should save some for later. Just in case.”
“Just in case,” he repeats, smirking. She smiles back, watching as he screws the lid back on.
Another hour into the day and they have moved onto the next house. This one has a mirror.
Maddie leans forward, watching her reflection in the cracked bathroom mirror. She almost doesn’t recognise herself.
She sees her cheekbones from months of starvation. Her face isn’t as round as it used to me. Little smudges of dirt and grime cake the side of her face. Her lips are cracked from the lack of water. Her breath fogs up the mirror and she jumps back. Her eyes have changed the most.
“We done here?” Negan asks behind her. She sees his figure moving in the mirror. He stops when he sees his reflection, huffs like a dog and turns back, “I got some more canned shit. Spaghetti hoops or some shit.”
Maddie turns to look at the real Negan, “Good. We need as much food as we can get. Who knows when we’ll find a place like this again?”
“We’re not staying?”
They stare at each other until Maddison cracks a nervous smile, “Stay here? For how long?”
Negan scratched his growing beard, taking a deep breath, “At least a few days. It’s clearly fucking safe, right? And we still got plenty of shit to dig out.”
She nods slowly, already on board with the plan.
“Think I saw a few beds. Choose any room you want, princess.”
She slaps his chest as she walks past, “Don’t call me that.
“Don’t call me that either.”
They set up camp in an upstairs bedroom. After pushing some furniture together, the pair managed to make a sturdy wall in case of a walker emergency. All the couches and chairs are pointed at the little campfire in the middle. The smoke goes straight through a hole in the roof. Maddie looks up and around their creation, smirking to herself.
To think that only a few days ago she would have been murdered by a group of vultures. Negan changed everything. He saved her. Where would she be if they never met? Not here.
There is a clatter by the couch and Maddie sees the man stacking all their findings. Cans, empty bottles, spare bits of clothes, a hairbrush… Maddie tilts her head to the side. Is that for her or for him?
“Goldmine,” he mutters to himself.
She smirks and walks over to the couch, plopping down. The springs under her stick against her ass and the furniture makes an unpleasant noise. It’s old. How did she not realize?
Negan looks at the source of the noise before turning back to the food, “What’re we having?”
She bites her lip in anticipation, “How about the spaghetti hoops?”
“You sure you don’t want the alphabet soup?” Negan holds up a can over his shoulder.
“No, that’s for you,” Maddie teases, rubbing her hands against her jeans.
Eventually, Negan settles down opposite Maddie on a different couch. His portion of food is gone within seconds. Maddie however, struggles to finish hers. Her stomach must be shrinking at an alarming rate.
She feels Negan’s eyes on her and speaks before looking, “Do you think we can both sleep at the same time? Or are we still taking turns?”
Negan rests his feet near the fire, “I think it’s safe to sleep.”
She nods, putting her can of spaghetti on the floor. There is still so much she needs to ask him. Where are they going to go? Who was he before this? Did he have a family?
Her stomach clutches together as she imagines herself asking him these things. He might not answer. He is always so cryptic, why would he answer her questions?
She coughs into her fist, feeling her chest itch. Great, now she is getting a cold. Perfect timing.
Negan watches her before sitting up to play with the fire, “Rest up. We’ll need to be prepared to scavenge tomorrow.”
Maddie clears her cloudy throat.
Amid finding all the food, she didn’t realize that they stumbled upon a bottle of vodka. She watches as Negan pulls it into his lap and starts re-filling his flask. She plays with her hands uncomfortably, feeling out of order to confront him. It’s alright… if he doesn’t get pissed again.
But what if he does? What if he used to be an alcoholic? What if he destroyed all his relationships like that? What if he starts turning into a monster?
“Where did you get that?” she asks quietly.
Negan glances at her before taking a swing from the bottle, “Under the sink.”
She nods, pretending to be interested. He screws the lid onto his flask and tucks it into his jacket for later. The bottle is almost empty, so he settles from drinking out of it.
Even if Maddie was tired, she would not be going to sleep. Not with Negan drinking away his pain and turning into an ass again.
He pulls out a thin cigarette, which takes her aback completely, “Under the sink too?”
Negan smiles gently at her, lighting the stick with his lighter. The smoke appears instantly, blending with the smoke from the campfire.
“No, doll,” he breathes it out, “It was lying around. Too fucking good to leave it, don’t you think?”
“I guess,” she sighs, triggering a reflex cough. Negan scratches his nose, holding the cigarette between his fingers.
“Go to sleep, daisy,” he orders, “Don’t you be getting a cold.”
“I’ll try not to,” she rolls her eyes, settling on the couch. Negan grins.
“Aren’t you gonna try the bed?”
“No, thanks,” she huffs, trying to ignore his drug intake, “I think I saw a rat in the mattress.”
Negan chuckles quietly, taking a drag of his cigarette, “Suit yourself, doll.”
The sun has been in the sky for hours, so it was obvious that it was nearly noon. The heavy clouds blocked the yellow circle, promising rain. Maddie sighs, packing up the clean pots and pans into her backpack.
Negan has been out of it longer than her. She decided to eat breakfast without him, choosing against waking him up. But once he was, he disappeared.
Typical alcoholic. She remembers him casting her a glance and then leaving. Not a single word was uttered. She did not want to talk to him while he spent his free time getting drunk. She guesses that he didn’t want to speak to her because of his state. Headache, nausea, she did not care what has provoked this kind of behaviour. She knew that this could not go on. However, she did not know how to stop it.
Maddie glances out of the window, seeing no sign of the wandering man. Only empty houses and an occasional walker.
She did not fear because she knew he would come back. Once he does, she will not know what to say to him.
They are supposed to be surviving. It would be different if they had a celebratory drink together from a hard day of work, but it is never enough for him. He has to finish the bottle.
Her backpack is left on the side of the couch as she leaves the room. The house they stayed in is silent, but her fingers still hover over the knife in her belt.
She exits the building, wincing at the cold droplet of rain on her cheek. The trees around the village sway from the wind. For a moment, she thinks about calling out his name, but she is not that stupid.
Maddie takes a deep breath and gets interrupted by a dry cough in her throat. She releases it into her elbow, trying to keep as quiet as possible. Once the lodged lump disappears, it is replaced by a wheezing sound from every breath she takes. Negan was right. She is getting a cold.
After clearing her throat about twenty times, she finally comes into a clearing after all the trees and spots Negan sat by the rocks. There is a small river running past, but it is nothing compared to the one they lived near previously.
She clenches her jaw, practicing her speech in her head. Where have you been? Where were you? You scared me, where did you go?
All versions sound pathetic in her head. She should be yelling at him for drinking. But thinking back to when Negan lost his mind and held her against a wall a day after they met, she discards that idea completely.
Madison walks up to the man, noticing how still his body has become. She reaches out to touch his shoulder, noticing a daisy by his feet. It has been picked and is now rotting into the ground.
Negan glances over his shoulder quickly, sniffing and wiping at his chin, “Good mornin’, darlin’.”
Maddie steps back, looking anywhere but him. He wipes at his eyes quickly, getting rid of the collected moisture. If he thinks she didn’t notice, he is still drunk.
She folds her arms uncomfortably, staring at the ground, “Are you okay?”
It wasn’t a question she had been practicing in saying, but it fits the most in this situation.
Negan runs his hand across his face for the second time, erasing any remaining evidence of the fact that he was crying.
“Peachy,” he flashes her a grin, “Did you eat?”
“Me too. Are you ready to move out?”
She is taken aback by the change of his emotions. Nevertheless, she nods.
It has been a productive day. They managed to scavenge a whole pile of shit. Cans that will last them for months, a change of clothes (too big for Maddie and too small for Negan), soap. SOAP. Madison even found two reusable sport bottles.
However, no matter how lucky they got today she still can’t wipe the image of Negan on the rocks from her head. He was crying. He was definitely crying. But why?
She knows that it is okay to cry from time to time. She has been doing it for weeks. Depression is an issue in this world, which is no surprise, but Negan wouldn’t cry because of stress. It wouldn’t be so sudden. There must be a build up for someone like him.
Something happened to trigger this. And she does not know what it was. She tries to think back, picking the details of their days, wondering what it is that she is missing. He has always been so strong, lifting her up before she even hit the ground.
“Daisy,” he hollers in the empty halls of a new building they entered. She looks up and towards the direction of his voice. It is safe to shout back.
“Come have a look at this.”
She enters his room, which looks exactly like her room, but grimier and with more newspapers scattered around the floor. This used to be an office. She steps over planks of wood and joins him near the window that overlooks the massive forest. But that is not what he wanted to show her.
“Look at this shit,” he fiddles with a small notebook, unclipping the strap and flicking through the pages.
Maddie leans in until her head is grazing his jacket. She feels his breath on her head.
“You like it?” he smirks, receiving a weird look from the girl. It’s an A5 notepad that looks way too clean for this world. Pink unicorns are repeated as a pattern on the front cover and all the pages are lined and numbered.
“If I was five, maybe I would,” she answers, making it come out as more of a question.
Negan chuckles deeply, shutting the book and laying it on the windowsill, “It’s here if you fucking want it.”
He turns back to the desk in the room, looking through its drawers. Maddie bites her lip at the silence, words coming out before she has a chance to think about them.
“Why were you crying this morning?”
Negan looks up at her, the smirk faltering, “I had too much to drink.”
“And you were crying about it?” she challenges. He releases a laugh, sitting down in a leather office chair at the desk.
“Would that make me look like a pussy?”
“Yes,” she says slowly, “But I know that wasn’t the reason.”
“No, I want to know why-”
He slams his hand on the desk, making her jump. Her heart picks up the pace, quivering slightly. She knows his limits. And she knows when not to push.
“I said drop it, Madison.”
She feels a hot flush up her neck. This is the first time he has used her full name.
She turns back around to face the window, feeling like a scolded child. Clearly, this is a line she will never be able to cross. There is a war inside of his head, and then worst thing is that she cannot help him. She knows nothing. And every time she gets close, he pushes her away… which is fine. If he doesn’t want to talk about the past, she won’t force him. He would do the same if this was her.
A gnawing feeling crosses her stomach. Her curiosity will be the death of her.
She watches the road out of the window, eyes skimming over the abandoned cars and overturned buses. Some of them are completely black, signifying that at some point there was a fire or an explosion. The trees sway more violently than they did in the morning. The wind has picked up. Maddie watches splatters of rain land on the window.
In the silence, her coughing is the only sound to focus on. Negan does not comment on it.
She sees a walker rising above the road in the distance. She leans in, pressing her forehead to the window. One walker, two walkers, three walkers…
In two minutes, there is a herd. And it’s coming directly towards them.
“Negan,” she turns, catching him by surprise. He still has a scowl on his face, “A herd.”
That seems to make it disappear.
He gets up and stands next to her, clenching his jaw. She doesn’t talk or ask any questions. She allows him to think. Maybe talking is her problem.
He sighs deeply, keeping his eyes on the road that is now nearly invisible due to the approaching stampede.
“Keep quiet. They’ll pass,” he answers calmly, disappearing from their view.
“Are you sure?” Maddie bites her lip. They make eyes contact and he nods, concern overthrowing anger in his orbs.
“We’re on the second floor,” he explains, “If we keep quiet, they’ll just continue down the road.”
Maddie nods, peeking out from her cover.
The groaning and moaning of the herd intensifies as they get closer to the building. She leans against the wall, glancing at Negan for any instructions. Just like her, he is staring at the mob. A lump in his throat bulges.
Sudden gunfire makes them both jolt. They look at each other, panicked. And in unison, they look at the road.
A group of about fifteen people, all men, all confident, march onto the road, shredding the walkers with machine guns.
Briefly, Maddie thinks that it’s the army, or exterminators of some sort. They yell and wave directions at each other, pointing to the window she is looking out of. She jumps back just in time, hoping they did not see her. They were probably just gesturing to the building.
“Fuck,” Negan whispers, “Fucking fuck.”
When she looks back at the road, a quarter of the herd is lifeless on the ground, splattered on the pavement. The gunfire has stopped, but now the group are running towards the building. She hears someone yell ‘Up there’ and ‘hurry’.
Her heartbeat threatens to break her ribs. They do not look friendly. One of the men has a blood-soaked machete. Another one has a rifle slung over his shoulder. They both exchange a laugh and continue towards the building. They could be good. But they also couldn’t. And coming up to them and reasoning does not sit well with her.
Negan seems to think the same. If things go wrong, they outnumber them.
There are heavy footsteps below them. A thud and clatter.
“Check this out!” One of them whistles. Somehow Maddie knows that they have found the tower of cans her and Negan scavenged earlier.
“Jackpot!” a deeper voice, “Pack this up!”
“Check upstairs! This place could be loaded!”
More running footsteps.
Her backpack is in the room next to them. Her diary is in it.
Before she has a chance to act, Negan grabs her arm and shoves her through the nearest door. He closes it behind them quietly and starts sneaking towards another room, as far away from the group as possible.
Maddie follows, concealing her quiet cough as they cross into another room. They all look the same around here. This could have been an office building.
“Take a load of this!” one of the men bellows. The next gunshot is way too close. It was a careless bullet. They clearly have a shitload of ammo.
Negan ushers them into a closet when there is no other way to go. He shuts it, and thankfully it stays shut. The only light now is the slit under the door.
Maddie finds the urge to cough, but before she can even consider letting out a quiet one, Negan’s gloved hand slams against her mouth.
She holds her breath, throat itching after every inhale. Negan leans in closer, putting his mouth to her ear.
She nods slowly and closes her eyes.
Her eyes start to water as she coughs against his palm. He squeezes his fingers around her cheeks, knowing that this is something that cannot be concealed. His other hand goes down to tug the knife out of his belt.
More footsteps. Closer and closer.
She looks down and sees a shadow behind the door.
There is a conversation. There are three men. More footsteps. Four.
In the dark, Negan’s eyes meet hers.
There is a roar of a truck engine outside. They are putting down walkers. They have the ammo and they have the people and they have cars.
“You hear that, Dave?”
“Hear what, you prick,” the second voice sounds bored.
“Save your bickering for the honeymoon,” a laugh.
“He’s been hearing things all day.”
“I swear I heard something!”
“Shut your fucking mouth and get these supplies to the truck!”
Maddie tries to hold her breath as this would not provoke her raging cough. Negan does the same, but for other reasons.
“Hurry up, we don’t have all day,” one voice leaves the room. Footsteps follow it.
Now there are two people.
Maddie coughs and gasps against Negan’s hand, instantly buying them a ticket to capture. Negan watches her face, not angry… just scared.
“Okay, I definitely heard that!” the man shouts, “It sounds like…”
“Shut it!” the other man bites back. Silence follows. She grabs her knife, nodding at Negan.
Two shadows appear in the slit under the door. The door handle moves. And then Negan kicks it open.
The light blinds Maddie for a moment, but she can make out a shape of a person on her left. She lunges towards them, sinking her knife into a soft spot in their neck. The body thuds.
There is so much noise downstairs that she doubts others will notice.
The man gags, shooting blood out of his mouth. He has brown eyes that fail to make sense of the situation. Madison looks over the tattoos on his bald head and stabs him again. The last blow. He goes still and his eyes glaze over.
She crouches down, grabbing his rifle like a child grabbing presents at Christmas from underneath the tree. It’s in exquisite shape. She slings it over her shoulder, hands shaking as they swap her rusty knife for the machete. She allows herself to cough amongst the noise of the trucks outside.
“Hey, dicks! Hurry up in there!” somebody shouts towards the room. Time to move.
She stands up and looks at Negan. The second man lies at his feet, blood creating a puddle underneath his head. Negan holds the newly acquired shotgun in his hands. He gives Maddie a nod, eyes conveying the look of surprise. Maybe he underestimated her. Maybe he didn’t think she was capable of something like this, especially because he had to save her ass when she was almost slaughtered by that other group.
“Come on,” he whispers, stepping over the bodies.
Adrenaline rushes through her. This is a big win. Two guns.
She follows Negan through the hallway she recognises. The voices around them never falter. They didn’t even notice that two of their men have been killed.
Maddie remembers the backpack she left behind. She is not leaving without it.
She nudges Negan in front of her and manages to get his attention.
“Bag,” she mouths.
“Fuck,” he replies, “Okay.”
Thankfully, the room is empty and her bag is still where she left it. Quickly, she tosses it over her shoulder, picking up the unicorn notebook on her way back.
It is a miracle they got out of there alive. Furthermore, it is a miracle because they managed to snatch a few cans of food during their escape. Still, these perks do not outweigh the loss they had a few minutes ago.
Maddie clutches her rifle as they run through the trees, her cough threatening to take all the air away. She gasps as she watches Negan’s back. He does not slow down even a little.
“Wait,” she whimpers, her voice coming out hoarse. He does not hear her. She clears her throat, “Negan.”
“Keep moving!” he whispers loudly, as if the men behind them can hear anything. The trucks are still making so much noise that even the movement of the trees has been faded out. There is ringing in her ears. She must stop.
“Fuck, Negan, wait,” her voice is on the same level. Negan sprints a few more feet before turning to look over his shoulder.
Maddie is hugging the nearest tree, her sweaty forehead pressed against the rough bark. The light drizzle of rain falls on them, making her hair frizzy. It’s not cold enough. The coat is too warm. Her palms start to sweat.
“Maddie, we have to move!” he speaks up this time, going back to grab her arm. He yanks her away from the tree, causing her to stumble into his chest.
“We’re like a fucking mile away!” she tries to yell through her heaving breaths. Negan regards her with concern, wiping the damp hair from her forehead.
“We have to move,” he repeats, “They’re fucking relentless. We have to go now!”
“Who?!” she yells again, louder this time, “You’re acting as if you know them!”
“I do know them!” he replies, making her shut up. She sees this as a gateway to pry more information, but he looks so furious that backtalk will probably not be tolerated. Negan’s wild eyes scan behind her, searching the trees for any movement.
Maddie puts a hand on his chest, finally breathing properly, “Please, let’s take a break. My bag is very heavy.”
She drops his outburst to the side, knowing that she will bring it up later. Now is not the time.
The noise that group of men are creating is enough to capture the attention of thousands of walkers. However, with the numbers and the ammo Madison saw, they have nothing to worry about. They are powerful. And Negan knows them.
She watches him with curiosity, witnessing as he takes a bottle of water out of his bag, “Here,” he says.
Maddie takes it, relishing the cold liquid as it travels down her throat. She leans against the tree, enjoying the sudden wind as it hits her. Her throat is burning. Her legs are on fire. They have not run like that for a while.
Once she is ready to move, they travel at a fast pace. And then eventually, they slow down. And just like that, they are back into the woods, surrounded by trees.
It has started to rain heavily, but the leaves from up above manage to block most of it out. They are still soaked, walking side by side, moving branches out of the way. Maddie keeps her head down as Negan keeps a look out. She is practically asleep.
After a while he says, “You wanna take a fucking break?”
They find a semi-dry spot behind a cluster of bushes. Negan cradles his backpack and begins taking out the loot they managed to snatch just in time. Ten cans of food exactly, three shirts and a water bottle. Without looking into her own bag, Maddie manages to count the second water bottle, two notebooks, two pots, a shirt, tea tree oil and a few cans of food. She wrestles out of the straps and leans against the tree, wanting nothing more but for the pain to go away.
They could have carried more food. They could have stayed in the building. But those dickheads had to come and ruin everything.
She takes the machete out of her belt strap and lays the gun beside her. They can survive with this. But more than anything, they need to find a home.
Negan pulls out his flask and takes a swing, turning his lips downwards. Maddie rolls her eyes and it does not go unnoticed. She snaps.
“I can’t believe you.”
“What?” he tilts his head, a challenge in his eyes.
“Stop fucking drinking!” she tosses a branch at his face, which he manages to block with his paw. Surprise is written all over his face. Maddie feels her face heat up at the outburst. She did not expect that at all. What is making her so brazen?
Negan’s jaw starts to clench as he contemplates throwing something back.
“What’s your problem?”
“You,” she replies, immediately regretting it.
The man gets up, shoving the flask down his pants pocket. Madison brings her legs up to her chest, preparing for what is about to come. She keeps a straight face, knowing that his backlash is just going to prove her point even more.
He gets down to her level, grabbing her chin, “Look at me. Fucking look at me.”
She wiggles out of his grip, meeting his eyes. They search hers for a long moment before he speaks again.
“Did you see what happened back there, doll?”
Maddie stares at him.
“That was called saving your fucking ass. Again.”
She clenches her fists.
“Now,” he scratches his eyebrow with one of his thumbs, “I don’t know what got your college-snob-know-it-all panties in a twist, but the least you can do is thank me. This shit,” he points behind his shoulder, “Is a no-no. You throw a fucking branch in my face, how un-fucking-grateful do you have to be?”
Madison releases a mocking laugh, “You know what? How about we have this conversation when you’re sober? Or is that too much to ask from a middle-aged binge drinker?”
Negan’s lips twitch slightly, and then form into a smirk. God, she hates his smirk.
“Do you think I’m not fucking sober? Oh, wait! It’s none of your goddamn business!”
“Get out of my face,” she warns.
“You think you’re in charge here?”
She pushes at his chest, which has no impact on him whatsoever. He grabs her hands, darting his tongue into the corner of his mouth.
“Negan, fuck off!”
“I think I deserve an apology,” he suggests.
“You deserve fuck all!”
“Maddie… Maddie-girl,” he chuckles, “I suggest you calm the fuck down.”
She groans in defeat, bumping the back of her head against the tree. Her eyes close and she stops moving, feeling Negan’s warm hand around her wrists. The rain drizzles down on her face, cooling her down somewhat.
Negan’s other hand goes to press against her forehead, to which she opens her eyes.
“Damn,” he whispers, “Are you feeling okay?”
She ignores him, blaming her fatigue on the events of today.
He moves away from her and starts looking through his bag. She scoffs when he takes out a can of baked beans.
“We have plenty of food to spare.”
He hands her the can, moving away to sit near a tree. And just like that, their argument is forgotten. Well, not forgotten… but irrelevant.
Maddie’s cough became an itchy sensation she had to get rid of at least twice in one minute. It caused her to drink almost half of their water supply. Strangely, Negan did not seem to mind.
He has his alcohol, Maddie thinks.
They come across a river and stock up. Negan uses a plastic bottle they found earlier to create a filtration system out of rocks and sand. It’s effective, but so boring. It takes like an hour to get a reasonable gulp of clean water. Maddie drops her bag next to a tree and parks her butt, glaring daggers into his back.
She hears the man humming a low song as he holds the bottle above one of their metal pots.
Ignoring the pain at the back of her throat, she closes her eyes and decides to take a cat nap. When she wakes up, the filtered water is simmering in the pot above the fire.
She glances up at Negan, who winks in return, “Just about ready.”
An hour later, they get going again.
They get lucky when they find a massive motorway after the forest. At least now they can look at something other than those damn trees.
Maddie wipes some moisture from her eyes as they walk up the elevating pavement. Her legs are screaming to stop. Her head is spinning from walking. And they have no destination. It is times like these when she wonders why she is following this man.
Ahead of her, Negan bites into an old protein bar, looking like he is taking a casual stroll around the block. She bites into her lip to stop herself from yelling an insult… or throwing another object at his head.
She swallows the lump in her throat and barks out a question, “Where are we going?”
Negan bounces the bag against his back and glances at the girl, “Someplace,” he chews, “Unless you want to sleep on the road tonight.”
Maddie rolls her eyes, trying to increase her speed past an overturned car.
Only anger drives her. She tries to figure out her emotions, wondering if she is feeling unreasonable… or as Negan said ‘Ungrateful’. But no. She shakes her head. She has a right to feel angry. They are travelling nowhere. They are just walking and walking and trying to survive. And she is tired.
“Want some?” Negan extends his arm, waving the cereal bar, “Come on, princess. Don’t leave me hangin’.”
Maddie coughs into her elbow, storming past him. She tries to hit his arm with her shoulder on the way past, but he steps to the left just in time.
“Maddie,” he sings, smirking behind her, “Daisy, have a bite. I’m trying to be a fucking gentleman here.”
She stops in her tracks, heat crawling up her neck. Again, with that stupid nickname. She clenches the rifle on her shoulder, watching the clouds swim past the sun. A drop of sweat rolls down her face.
“I want to stop,” she says, wiping away the moisture.
“You want to stop,” Negan repeats behind her. He catches up with one big stride and places a hand on the back of her head. She flinches.
“Yes,” she sighs, looking down at her feet, “I’m tired and there is nothing ahead.”
Negan takes a deep breath through his nose, the playful manner gone from his gestures and speech. Even through her eyes are focused on her feet, she feels him staring at her.
It is obvious that he is trying to contain his irritation, “Nothing ahead?”
She laughs to stop herself from screaming, “No, there is fucking nothing ahead,” the wind sends a scent of booze past her face and she turns to hit his chest, “Where are you fucking taking me?!”
“Enough,” he growls, grabbing her arms with both of his hands, “Cut that shit out. I am not here to be your fucking parent.”
Her face in inches away from his and the stink of liquor is closer than ever. She feels her stomach churn and starts struggling against him, “Get the fuck off me.”
Negan senses desperation and seriousness in her voice, releasing her hands.
She falls onto the ground, throwing up her breakfast and lunch. And that is not much at all.
“Jesus,” he mutters behind her. She hears him digging through his bag. Meanwhile, the memories of the smell push out whatever is left inside her, running down the road and under the nearest car. She watches through the collected tears, and the sight makes her vomit again.
A large hand gathers her short hair, pulling it out of her face. The effort is futile because her sick has already found its way into her locks.
Negan waits for her to finish before bringing some fabric to her mouth, which Maddie guesses is one of the shirts he took. She holds it in place, using it as a mask for when he gets close to her again.
“Don’t touch me,” she smacks his hands away, getting back up on her feet.
Negan sighs, scratching the side of his beard, evaluating their options and planning their next steps.
Maddie grabs her bottle, taking a big gulp of the clean water. The after taste is inevitable and the water does not wash it away. Anyhow, she begins to feel better.
She watches Negan walk up to the one car that is not overturned and try to open one of the doors. Locked. He checks for gas. Empty. He smashes a window with the bottom of his shotgun, opening the door from the other side.
He looks over at her and gestures with his head, “Come on. Sit down.”
They waste twenty minutes of the day on their ass, Maddie taking the much-needed break and Negan pacing around, planning their next steps. For the first time in forever. She feels like she is partly responsible for his change in actions.
Maddie insisted on keeping the door open, her feet on the pavement below the car. The fresh breeze cools her down, and erases the scent that made her throw up. Although, Negan lit up one of the cigarettes she never knew he had, polluting the air around her.
She watches as he leans against the car, blowing smoke into the air, “You alright?”
She nods, tucking some hair behind her ear, “Better.”
Negan drops the cigarette, stomping it out. He walks over to Maddie, placing a hand on the roof of the car.
“Can you carry on for today?”
She stares up at him, shaking her head, “Are you kidding?”
Negan sighs, running a hand down his beard.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he says.
“No, you don’t. You haven’t got the slightest clue.”
“Just shut up for a minute.”
Maddie scoffs, tucking her legs into the car and slamming the door. Some of the glass flies onto her lap, emptying the frame completely. It was a mistake to follow him. She could have found a community already if she carried on in the direction she set out. And instead of vomiting on a road, she would be in bed, medicated and hydrated and not malnourished.
Negan clutches the door, leaning through it to look at her. She keeps her eyes on the leather covered seat in front.
Tomorrow, she leaves.
“What, you don’t trust me?” he murmurs, watching her expression change from angry to angrier.
“I don’t know anything about you,” she spits, “How do you expect me to trust you?”
“I don’t know anything about you either.”
“Bullshit,” she groans, “I’m pretty sure I told you my old address at some point. But you weren’t listening, were you? Or maybe you were, but you can’t remember because you were drunk.”
Instead of replying, Negan sighs. He looks down at her lap, running his thumb from one corner of his mouth to the other.
Maddie grabs her bottle, taking steady sips of the liquid inside.
“You asked me if I knew the men back at the building,” he says slowly, a crease appearing between his brows, “I do know them. I was…” he releases a faint laugh, making Maddie look at him, “I was their leader.”
She unfolds her arms, frowning, “Leader? You?”
Negan smiles sadly, nodding, “It’s the truth.”
“You told me you weren’t even a part of a group before,” she challenges.
He nods slowly, blinking, “I was their leader.”
She senses that he is not finished and turns her body towards him, “What happened?”
Her mind flickers to the hope of a community again. He had a community. Maybe they can go back.
He watches her, hesitant to answer, “It didn’t work out.”
“Do you think we could go back? Do you think they’ll recognise you?”
“No, Maddie,” he whispers, “I’m sorry.”
She bites her tongue, scanning his face for more information, “Why?”
A walker stumbles out of the forest, wandering aimlessly around the road. It growls at the air, not noticing the sacred conversation.
Negan seems to think about telling her the truth. He is so hesitant that it makes Maddie slightly scared. What happened? What did he do? What did he do that was so bad he must run away from his men?
“I wasn’t a very good leader to them,” he shrugs slowly. She continues watching him and he smirks, knowing that she will never be satisfied with his answers, “There was a war. I should have been there to protect them. But I… I failed as their leader, okay?”
“Why do we have to hide?” she asks, but she can guess the answer.
“There’s a target on my back,” he says, “Do you understand?”
She nods slowly, still confused but happy enough to drop the subject.
As the walker approaches the car, Negan leans back and takes out his pocket knife. Maddie darts into her bag and hands him her machete, “Here. Use this.”
He takes it gratefully, eliminating the target.
They spend the rest of the day walking down the road. Maddie keeps glancing at the man, mesmerised by how much of an enigma he actually is. She is grateful that he opened up at least a little bit, giving her an insight of his past. He used to be a leader. She can’t see it. He is reckless.
The road eventually ends and they reach the woods again. When the sun starts setting they walk through the trees, looking for a decent place to stop. The forest ends abruptly, replaced with giant fields where no doubts farms used to be. There is a hill and a red barn. The sun sets behind it, making Maddie lightheaded.
“Up there?” Negan asks, turning to look back at her.
She nods slowly, backing up against the tree. Her world starts to blur. Her vision starts to fade. The sky turns black, highlighting that very red barn in the distance.
“Maddie, what’s wrong?” she sees him running up to her, extending his arms. And then he starts to fly away. So far that she can’t see him. Only the darkness.
“Maddie, what’s wrong?” Negan’s eyes widen, only processing her backing up against the tree. When her eyes glaze over and she falls onto the ground, head bouncing with the leaves as if she was a doll, that’s when he freezes.
“Maddie!” he clenches his fists for a moment, waiting for her to blink. Her eyes stay open, staring blankly at the dark clouds. Some rain lands on her cheeks, sliding down her skin. She doesn’t flinch.
His heart sinks and his stomach turns upside down. This is all too familiar.
He snaps out of his frozen state and drops by her side, “Maddie! Maddie!”
Automatically, his hand goes to her cheek, slapping her soft skin gently. He smears the rain water around her face, accidentally closing one of her eyes.
“No, no, Maddie, come on,” he opens it up again, leaning down. Her pupils start to shrink and she blinks once. Then she blinks again.
Negan swallows his discomfort, finding a glimmer of hope. She’s okay. She’s going to be okay.
“Sweetheart, come back to me,” he uses one arm to lift her up. Miraculously, she holds up her own head and groans as it falls into his chest. The muscles in her face tense up and she squeezes her eyes shut. Then she coughs.
Negan places one hand on her hair, feeling the living and breathing person in his arms.
What just happened?
He looks down at her, sensing discomfort and pain on her face. Was it the cough? Was it the lack of food? No, surely not… they have been eating well for the past few days. Was it water?
No, it must be the cough.
Shit. Fuck. He should have acted sooner.
“Darlin’, what’s wrong?”
She stirs in his arms, whimpering out a reply. To her it probably sounds like words. He can’t make out any of it.
The rain starts falling harder and that’s when he remembers about the barn. Their next destination. He turns to look at it. It’s becoming blurry due to the rain. A few seconds pass, and it’s just the outline.
Thankfully, the pair have a tree for now to keep them from getting soaking wet. Negan blinks as a few heavy drops land on his eyelashes. He grips the front of his red scarf, pulling it off his neck. The girl shivers against him, one of her legs twitching against the leaves. She’s becoming delirious.
With one hand, he wraps the warmed scarf around her neck, tucking the ends into her coat. His calloused finger grazes against her chin, feeling how cold it got. It makes his hand want to travel up to her forehead. It’s cold. No fever.
“Alright, sweetheart, we need to get going,” he says.
Maddie shudders against him, eyes closed.
Negan tugs the bag off her shoulders and slings it onto his back, picking up the rifle as well.
There is growling coming from among the trees, as if trying to kick the pair out of the woods.
Negan grabs the back of Maddie’s head, helping her to rest it on his shoulder, “Come on baby, help me out here.”
She seems to come alive at his words, pushing into the ground with her feet, “I’m fine.”
They stand up together and he lifts her up, keeping her head on his shoulder. It’s hard to carry all their things and half of their group, but his worry about what might happen if they don’t get to the barn quickly seems to spur him on.
A walker stumbles out from behind the trees, ribcage caved in, all black and burnt. Negan gives the dead fucker one last glance and starts jogging through the rain, Maddie’s legs dangling at his hips.
Once they reach the building, Negan kicks the double doors open, surprised to find them unlocked. He looks around quickly, scanning for any forms of life. If somebody is in here, he can reason with them. He has a sick girl in his arms. They wouldn’t shoot.
However, his fingers itch for his gun, and he has to ignore the urge to grab it.
The rain rattles on the roof, but no water seems to be leaking through. On the left, there are two stables where Negan presumes cows would have been kept. There are saddles draped over the wooden doors and haystacks piled on top of one another. The hay is orangey-brown, meaning it has been here for a long time.
Negan looks to the right where more hay is piled up in the corner. As the material reaches the middle of the barn, it scatters into thinning sheets. Somebody was here. And they made a mess.
Maddie groans quietly against his shoulder, snapping him out of his thoughts. He walks over to the hay, dropping her onto the pile carefully, “There we are. Nice and fucking cosy.”
He furrows his brows as he looks at her pale face. She frowns against the sound of the rain, squeezing her eyes suddenly when a bolt of lightning flashes behind him. Negan glances at the open doors, seeing nothing but water.
“I better go shut them,” he stands up, not waiting for a reply. The weapons and bags get dropped by the hay, and then he makes his way to the entrance of the barn. The howling wind has invited some water into the building, splashes coating the dusty floor.
He grabs the two doors from each side, slamming them shut with a grunt. Fuck, they’re heavy. The wind does not make things any easier.
He sees a plank of wood by the wall, using it to keep the doors somewhat stationary. They still sway with the wind, “Fuck, it’ll have to do.”
A clap of thunder shatters their surroundings. Negan runs a hand into his wet hair, slicking it back. Hopefully, nobody will stumble upon this place… or come back to it anytime soon.
He makes his way back to the girl, who to his surprise is sitting up, holding her head in both hands, “Take it easy.”
Maddie mumbles something incoherent, losing the colour in her face with each second that goes by.
“Do you have a headache?” Negan tries, grabbing both of her hands and pulling them away. They are both freezing. He covers them in his own, moving his fingers up and down her wrists.
“No, I…” she leans into his touch, craving nothing more but warmth, “I just don’t feel good.”
“Were you bit?” he asks, clenching his jaw.
Maddie shoots him a look, “No, of course not.”
Negan sighs, ruling it out.
His hands worm into the sleeves of her coat, feeling cold skin with every inch. That’s when he becomes very aware of how wet they are. They need heat.
He unzips his leather jacket, receiving a curious look from Madison. She eases back into the hay, closing her eyes when her back is supported. Meanwhile, Negan takes off his signature covering, “Come on, doll. You’ll freeze in that.”
Maddie wraps her arms around her middle protectively, “I’m already cold.”
As if to prove her point, her jaw starts to wobble, teeth chattering through her words.
“I’ll dry it. And then you can fucking wear it again,” he extends his hand, waiting, “That wasn’t a question. Take it off.”
Maddie bites into her bottom lip before slowly unzipping her coat and wrestling out of it. Goosebumps raise on her skin. She looks up at Negan who has a greying part on his white shirt due to the dampness of the material. Some droplets hang on the strands of his hair. His pants are wet from the bottom to the thighs. She notices that the same goes for her.
Negan glances at her legs, deciding not to say anything. Maddie sighs, reaching for the zipper on her jeans, and then there is the sound of her pulling it down.
The man tries to look busy arranging the coats in his arms, jutting out his jaw. He walks over to the stables and hangs their clothes on the doors. The smell of death hits him suddenly when he notices a rotting carcass inside the stables. Horns stick out of the skull of a clearly dried up skeleton of a bull.
He shakes his head before walking back over to the girl. And when he does, he does not know where to settle his eyes, because she has taken off her pants and is sitting in the stacks of hay, hands under her legs to keep them warm.
The slight glare in her eye does not go unnoticed, so Negan decides to rummage through his bag and pull out the three large shirts they acquired earlier.
“Take your pick,” he tosses them at her head. She catches the first one and pulls it on over her own shirt.
As the rain gets heavier and heavier, Negan builds a fire in the middle of the barn. He circles the flame with rocks and keeps it going with the limitless amounts of hay that they have laying around. Maddie shuffles closer to it, curling up into a semi-circle beside their bags.
Her sudden drop still baffles Negan, and he pokes at the fire while rubbing his beard. She isn’t bit… maybe it’s just a virus? Or some sort of sickness? It’s not too uncommon when they’re living in conditions like this…
He looks down at her, his hand following his gaze to her forehead. Still cold. Pneumonia?
Maddie opens her eyes to his warm touch, pulling her bare legs closer to her chest, “What are you doing?”
Negan ignores her, “Are you feeling better?”
She must turn her head to look up at him, but that seems like too much effort. She does not move, “I think I just need to sleep.”
“Alright,” he murmurs, swiping some hair out of her face. His fingers pass her cold ears, noticing for the first time a stud in her earlobe. He smiles slightly, fingering the black stone. It makes him wonder about her past. When did she get her ears pierced? Was she young? Did she decide to wear these when the world went to shit? Or are they her default pair?
The girl hums as his thumb slides back and forth. He pulls his hand away.
He realizes that there is a big part of the barn he has not explored yet, so he gets to it. Ignoring the carcass in one of the stables, he moves to the second one, finding nothing but more hay and a maroon blanket underneath. He smiles slightly, pulling it out and shaking the dirt from it. It stinks and it’s torn, but it will have to do.
Negan goes back to Maddie, covering her form with the blanket. She opens her eyes slowly, and he notices how she started to breathe from her mouth.
He goes back to the stables and spends most of the afternoon looking for weapons, tools, clothes, anything that could be useful in the future. But the blanket is the best he could find after all.
When the lightning strikes again, it lights up the cracks of the barn, making it momentarily white. Then it goes back to being dark orange.
Maddie sits up again, looking at him from her spot. He scratches his beard, walking up to the fire, “Shall we try to eat?”
She nods, giving him a small smile.
Her eyes are full of sleep and she does not shuffle closer even at the smell of a warm can of beans.
Negan wraps one of the cans in a rag and hands it to her along with a close representation of a wooden spoon. Maddie always found it gross eating food off dirty objects, but in this world, she has no choice. She could always use her fingers, but how is that any better when they don’t have soap?
She finishes a whole can and takes a few sips of water before laying back down in her dented space. Negan cleans both cans up, aware that he should scavenge for live food tomorrow if they want to keep the long-lasting option for longer.
Maddie coughs into her elbow as she looks up at the ceiling. Negan sits beside her head, running a few fingers into his growing beard. She smirks slightly.
“If we find a razor, will you shave it off?”
Negan smirks down at her, “Why? Don’t you like it?”
She coughs again, turning to lay on her side, “I don’t know any different.”
“Are you still cold?”
“Mmmm… no,” she hums, “Not really.”
He leans against one of the stacks, keeping an eye on her, “You don’t have to keep your face on the hay. It must be itchy as fuck.”
Maddie puts a hand under her face, shrugging, “Now that you’ve said it.”
“Here, just,” he gestures with his hand, pulling her further up, “Put your head on my lap, I won’t bite, daisy.”
Surprisingly, she goes along with this and uses one of his thighs as a pillow. The trousers are still slightly damp from the rain but it feels good against her heating skin.
Negan strokes her hair idly, trying to concentrate on anything but his dick twitching to life.
He clears his throat, remembering the conversation they shared earlier. About the Saviours. It’s silent for a long time before he speaks. And even then, he thinks that Maddie is sleeping.
“There was a war,” he reiterates, swallowing his pride, “I don’t even fucking remember how it started… maybe it was a build-up of things. I don’t fucking know…”
His hand goes into Maddie’s hair, careful to avoid the bruised patch on top.
“There was this fucking prick called Rick,” he shakes his head, knowing that the details are irrelevant, “Well, anyway… he was the leader of another group. He killed some of my people… in their fucking sleep,” he runs his fingers through her locks gently, “And I decided that it would be fair to kill some of his.”
Maddie bites her lip, snaking her arms tighter around his thigh to let him know she is listening.
He grabs the blanket around her legs and pulls it up to her shoulders slowly, “It escalated from there.”
“Why do you have a target on your back?” Maddie asks, quoting his previous statement. He runs his hand over her ear, sighing.
“We poisoned our weapons in walker shit,” he tenses at the memories, “And… well it backfired, darlin’.”
Maddie turns on his lap, staring up at him, “Did your people get infected instead?”
She catches on quick, he doesn’t even need to explain the gory details. He smiles slightly, stroking her hair.
“My people... Kids,” he trails off, “And fuck. When it’s kids… that’s when the group falls apart and everyone blames the leader.”
She shakes her head, stretching her legs out.
“It backfired, Maddie,” he explains, “And I take responsibility. But there is so much of the grey area in the situation, it’s… it’s complicated.”
“I get it,” she grabs the hand in her hair, squeezing her cold fingers around his warm ones, “Thank you for telling me.”
It seemed like a good way to end the evening. Maddie was not mad at him… but maybe she would have been if she heard the whole story. It doesn’t matter. He told her. And it’s like a weight has been lifted off his chest.
He was drifting off to sleep when he heard a retching sound.
His eyes snapped open and panic settled in when he saw Maddie hunched over in the corner of the room, trying to hold her hair back.
“Jesus,” he whispers, darting up and running over to her aid. He sees the contents of her stomach on the floor. The whole fucking can of beans. He swears under his breath as he waits for her to finish.
She coughs for the last time and collapses against his chest. He furrows his brows as he holds her in place, feeling her forehead.
“Shit, you’re burning up,” he mutters, collecting her into his arms and bringing her back to the sleeping area.
The fire in the room highlights her paper white skin, her chapped lips and the sweat dripping down her face as if she just emerged from water.
There was no sleep that night for Negan. Judging by Maddie’s condition, he was certain that she got none either. However, she was drifting in and out of consciousness which was a luxury Negan could not afford.
At one point in the night, he was determined to check for bites, in case she lied about not having any. He stripped her down and changed her clothes, hands subtly gliding over her skin in search for any blood or wounds. He could not concentrate on anything else. Her skin was producing layers and layers of sweat. He could not keep up.
There were no bites though.
It was both a relief and solemnity. If she isn’t bit, then what is wrong with her? In the modern world, this would not be so much of an issue, but in this world, it is. They have no medicine. They have nothing.
Negan collected some rain water in one of their pots during the night. It was lucky there was a storm. It filled up in no time at all.
He soaked one of the rags they had and squeezed it over the pot before gently placing it over Maddie’s forehead. She flinched in her sleep and goose bumps rose all over her arms momentarily.
Negan dragged a blanket over her body, but she kicked it off ten minutes later. Cold shivers. Burning up. She switched between the two.
Her chesty cough wakes him up in the morning. He didn’t even notice how he fell asleep, head near the bucket.
He hovers over her, wanting nothing more but for her to open her eyes and interact with him, “Darlin’, how are you feeling?”
Miraculously, she opens her eyes. Her pupils are wide but her eyelids are heavy. Some of her hair sticks to her temples, and Negan brushes them away.
He notices the way she swallows and reaches for her bottle of water. He must remember to only let her drink from this one, otherwise whatever shit she caught might be passed onto him.
He tips the liquid into her mouth and she drinks it, groaning afterwards.
“I don’t know what the fuck happened, Maddie-girl,” he smiles slightly, taking the warm rag off her face. She shifts under her blanket, face scrunching up in pain.
“I don’t know what the fuck happened either,” she whispers, licking her lips.
“Are you in pain?”
She manages a nod, closing her eyes again.
Negan panics, looking up and down her body before feeling her hot forehead, “Where? What hurts, sweetheart?”
The rain pounds against the roof of the barn, droplets making their way through the cracks in the structure.
Maddie shoves his hand away, clearly frustrated. He doesn’t take it to heart.
“Maddie, what is it? Tell me.”
“My stomach,” she sighs. He glances down at it, tempted to put his hand over it.
Negan scratches his beard, and then pinches the bridge of his nose. There really isn’t much he can do. It might be something she ate. Either way, the only thing he can offer is food and water. And they’re running low on water already.
He brings the bottle to her lips again and she gratefully accepts.
“How about some food?”
Maddie rolls onto her side, pulling her knees to her chest, “No, I’ll just throw it up.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes, I do,” she spits, “It’s just a waste.”
Negan proceeds to take care of the routine he developed overnight. Once the rag on Maddie’s forehead gets warm, he must change it. He dips it in the cold water. He squeezes. He dabs her face and rests it on her forehead. He goes outside. He changes the water. He keeps half of it for drinking. He cleans it. He uses the rest to cool down her body.
He sits back down next to the girl. She is asleep.
The sun has not risen yet. He should take a nap while it is safe. He glances at the imaginary watch on his wrist and sighs. He used to have a watch. A functioning watch. Lucille gave it to him for his 39th birthday.
His fingers play with the bandage on his wrist. It’s yellowing and crisp. He tucks one finger underneath to grip the end and starts unwrapping it. There’s no use in it anymore.
His skin is redder than the rest of his arm when he takes it off. It goes straight into the pot of water. He repeats the process. But this time, he leaves the bandage to soak up the sweat on her chest. Madison whimpers in her sleep, one leg twitching under the blanket.
He tries to think.
He could get the food ready for when she wakes up. The water is already waiting in a bottle beside her.
She might not eat. She might not drink. He must get to the root of the sickness.
Should he leave? It would be easier.
He bites his cheek for even thinking it.
He could go and scavenge for medicine. But how likely would it be that he finds any? With the Saviours around, there could be nothing left to loot. They are expanding their territory. They are looking for other communities.
Negan stands up and grabs Maddie’s nearly empty backpack. He flips it upside down and watches the remaining items fall out. Her pencil makes a sound that makes him flinch. Shit. If he broke that lead…
He picks up the inch-long piece of wood and sighs, tossing it back into the bag. The unicorn notebook goes in next.
Her diary is open amongst the hay. He avoids looking at the pages. His eyes glance back to Maddie. Still asleep.
She did write about him…
For a while, he watches the pages fluttering with the breeze coming from the rattling barn doors. That’s when the drawing catches his eye.
He furrows his brows, expecting to find only words. It is a diary, right?
He picks it up with one hand and focuses his attention on the page with the drawing, thinking he’d feel like a slime ball if he read anything that wasn’t necessary.
It’s a simple sketch. He can see what it is. Some sort of flower. His eyes jump to the cursive words scribbled into the top of the page. Lavandula.
He smirks when he sees a second name in brackets. Lavender.
His mind jumps back to when she said something about working in a beauty clinic. Tea tree oil… plants… it all makes sense. He got a hippie on his ass.
He flicks over a few more pages, shutting his eyes when strings of words cover the paper. He sees his name a couple of times but decides not to read any of it.
The word ‘daisy’ jumps out at him and he places a finger on the page. Wild daisy. Below these two words, a rough sketch… and then a recipe.
He scratches his beard, reading through it, latching onto the words that scream at him in bold.
GOOD FOR COLDS. INFLIMATION. PURIFYING. MAKE AS TEA.
He glances back at Madison when she rolls onto her side in her sleep. Damn. Daisy. Wild daisy. Could that be his answer?
Once his leather jacket is on his back, he heads out.
He surrounded the girl with food and water in case she wakes up. He did two laps around the barn to make sure it was secure in case of a raid or any dead fuckers deciding to waltz in. He shut her from the outside, trusting her and her common sense to stay the hell inside if she decides to wander. She should be fine.
Negan looks up at the barn doors, chewing his bottom lip. She should be fine. He won’t be gone for long anyway.
He walks across the field in the morning sun, glancing at the biters stuck in the soggy mud. His feet sink as he walks, making a squelching sound in the grass. At least this keeps the pricks out of the way.
He hugs the rifle to his chest as he enters the woods, looking around for damn daisies.
For reference, he takes out the diary again. He memorises the flower, but all he can see is Maddie’s face the day they met. She had it in her hair.
There is a walker by one of the trees. He takes it out with the butt of his gun.
Negan sees the tree at which Maddie collapsed yesterday. They came from behind it. That means the Saviours are most likely to be there. They have probably already claimed the building as an outpost. He goes the other way.
His eyes scan the ground like a motherfucking computer, to the point where he almost starts blanking out the walkers.
No daisies. But a shit ton of Lavender. Or should he say ‘Lavandula’.
He scoffs grumpily. Fucking science words.
He crouches down beside a blueberry bush and starts picking on it until there are no berries left. He wraps them up in a rag and shoves them into a pocket of his bag. Blueberry is a plant, right? So, it must have some sort of medical advantage shit.
He sighs and gets up, resuming his search for the rarest flower in the woods.
The orange glow from the fire flickers around the barn like a ghost. The smoke rises towards the roof, seeping out of the cracks in the wooden planks. Madison coughs into her forearm, nearly falling off the haystack.
She got worse.
It was lucky that Negan didn’t decide to be a gentleman (for once) and settled on reading her diary like it was a porno magazine. He practically studied it. And during the time he had to scavenge, he managed to get a handful of wild daisies.
Not an easy flower to find. Not at all.
He sticks his index finger in the dimple of his cheek as he looks over at the girl. He gave up feeding her, just like she wanted. Still, it does not sit well with him. She threw up three cans of peaches. And then some yellow liquid he could not identify. But that probably came from all the water he forced her to drink.
He picks up the pungent daisy tea he managed to brew in a metallic can and takes a sip, “Fucking fuck.”
He clenches his jaw as the liquid burns every inch of his mouth. A couple more minutes.
After setting the can next to the fire, he makes his way over to the girl, shuffling her into the right position. He wraps his scarf around her neck when she starts shivering, curious to see her opening her eyes.
Maddie looks up at him with an unreadable expression. Her pupils are dilated. The white parts of her eyes are yellowing at the edges. Automatically, he reaches over and pulls at the bottom part of the skin, viewing the colour of her eye socket. It looks normal.
She doesn’t flinch away and wipes her mouth.
“You’re a fucking badass, kid,” he talks, aiming to take her attention away from all the touching up he is doing with the rags, “Haaaaang in there for a little bit longer. I’m gonna try some fucking voodoo shit on you. See if that works.”
He takes the wet rag off her forehead and hangs it on one of the wooden planks near the hay to dry.
“Don’t call me a kid,” she murmurs, voice an octave lower.
Negan grins, tucking half of the blanket under her back, “Or what? You gonna fight me?”
She does not return his humour, instead looking past him at the smoke.
He sighs and settles down, retrieving the metallic can. He takes another sip and nods when he feels the liquid is drinkable, “Alright, just play along. I don’t fucking know how much good this’ll do.”
Maddie furrows her brows, “What is it?”
“Healing potion,” he grabs the back of her neck and lifts it up, “I brewed it myself.”
She gives him a questioning look, but drinks it anyway, only stopping when the granules at the bottom wriggle their way past her tongue.
Negan smiles slightly, glancing into the can, “I’ll make some more.”
“Wait,” she coughs, grabbing onto his wrist.
“What is it?”
She bites her lip before whispering uncomfortably, “I need to… go.”
She sighs, fiddling with the blanket, “To pee.”
He almost forgot she was still human.
“Oh… yeah, okay. Fuck, let’s go,” he sets the empty can down and turns back to her, awkwardly glancing at her legs when she makes no move to stand up.
She manages to flip the blanket to one side, automatically grabbing the bottom of her shirt to pull it over her thighs.
At least he doesn’t have to go through the awkward stage of taking off her pants.
The easy part is picking her up and carrying her over to the corner of the barn. Maddie glances up at him, “Inside?”
“I ain’t letting you freeze in the fucking fog, sweetheart,” she wonders about the smell, which makes her feel even more uncomfortable. But then Negan continues to say, “Don’t worry about the fucking piss odour. You fucking reek and I could smell it all the way from the woods. It’s bound to cover any smell.”
“Fucking asshole,” she slaps his chest, and he rewards her with a warm chuckle.
A rat runs past Negan’s shoes, which would have made the old Maddie scream and fall out of his arms. But not this Maddie. Not in this world.
He crouches down with her near a wall where the light from the fire cannot reach. Her arms wrap around his broad shoulders and he sits her on his knee. A moment passes and she pulls away to look at him.
“What are you doing?”
He grunts with effort as he tries to keep her upright, “Waiting…?”
Maddie pushes at his shoulders, fingers digging into the material of his shirt, “You can go. I’m not peeing anywhere near you.”
“Should I be offended?”
She scoffs, “I’m not kidding. Fuck off.”
The only positive side of this ‘virus’ is the fucking attitude it brought along. Even though she was feisty before, now she has more confidence. But he isn’t sure if that’s just the time bomb within her. Or maybe an influence from him?
“You can’t keep your head up, and you want to attempt to squat by yourself?” he sighs patiently when she glares, “I’m just sayin’, doll. It won’t bother me. I’ll look away too.”
“Absolutely not,” she grabs the wooden wall next to her for support, “Go… I’ll be fine.”
He makes his way back to the fire and busies himself with the fresh daisy juice for Daisy. This time he does not have to look at the recipe, it’s simple enough.
He feels Maddie’s presence behind him and decides against looking over his shoulder. It’s not a debate. If he looks, she would kill him. After getting better of course.
He thinks back to when his own wife could barely stand to take a piss. He had to carry her everywhere. It didn’t bother him. And it didn’t bother her. Well… actually maybe it did. But what other choice did she have other than rely on the only person who could get her around? All the responsibility fell off his shoulders once she arrived at the hospital.
In the corner of his eye, he sees the girl wobbling over to the hay stack. She puts out her arms and collapses with a grunt, trying to grab her blanket.
“Jesus Christ,” Negan mutters, getting up, “You should have called me.”
“I made it, didn’t I?” she spits, rolling onto her back. He lifts her hips and positions everything back to where it was, finally covering her shivering body.
Her jaw quivers as she tries to hide how cold she is. He puts a hand on her forehead, relieved to find that it isn’t hot anymore. He doesn’t keep his hopes up because that could change.
“Try and get some more rest, doll,” he sighs, glancing at the fire, “I’ll wake you up when the healing potion is ready.”
Maddie closes her eyes, failing to respond or even react to what he is saying. It’s like a punch in the fucking dick.
An hour later he feels her eyes on his back. He runs a hand down his beard and finishes chewing on the rat he stomped on earlier. When he turns around, surely enough she is looking at him.
He crawls over to her, settling down in the hay.
Her hand reaches out to tug on his belt. He swallows, trying to find the best way of questioning it and keeping his boner intact. He grabs her hand.
“What are you doing?” his voice is hesitant.
If she had the energy, she would have rolled her eyes.
“Your belt,” she whispers, “Take it off.”
He follows her orders and holds it out. When she goes to grab it, he does not let go.
“Darlin’, what are you doing?” he asks again. She holds his gaze before moving her legs under the blanket.
“I want you to tie me up,” she says.
Negan sits up, tossing the belt beside him. Maddie looks after it longingly.
“Jesus, sweetheart. No,” he insists.
She nods weakly, “Negan. I want you to tie me up,” she coughs, “We don’t know if I’ll make it through the night-“
“No!” he cuts her off, scratching the back of his head, “You’ll be fine. You’ll be fucking fine. I’m not gonna tie you up with my fucking belt. Jesus, have you lost your mind?”
She sighs sadly, waiting for him to finish, “Think about it. It’s not a bad idea.”
“It is a bad idea,” he gets up, angrily swiping the hay off his ass.
“Negan,” she whimpers, reaching for the belt. He grabs it before she can and wraps it around his waist.
“Get the fuck back to sleep.”
Later in the evening, he takes a sip of the newly brewed tea, satisfied with the temperature. It tastes like stale piss, but it’ll have to work. Wordlessly, he walks up to the girl, finding her to be wide awake.
He ignores her ignorance and lifts her neck like he did before. She drinks like she did before.
“Negan,” she attempts to speak, witnessing how his mouth goes into a frown. However, he doesn’t interrupt, “I’ll probably be fine.”
He watches her, wiping some moisture from her forehead.
“But I want you to tie me up. Just in case I won’t be.”
Negan sighs, shaking his head, “Maddie.”
“No, please,” she grabs his wrist, giving it a weak squeeze, “Please, tie me up. Just in case.”
He looks her up and down, considering it. It is not a bad idea. He needs to face the fact that people die in this world. Even the ones you get close to. Especially the ones you get close to.
His hand covers her own before travelling up her arm, feeling the ice-cold skin beneath. She shudders at his touch, relaxing back into the hay stack.
He recalls the time they were looting houses and he had to drop tea-tree oil over her damaged skin. She said the exact same words.
He takes off his belt, biting back his pride and giving in to reality, “Just in case.”
As the mornings come with their usual groans and moans from the aching girl on the haystack, it was weird to wake up to complete silence.
Negan darts up from his seat across the barn, dropping a pan full of water with a loud clang. It wakes him up somewhat, but the noise causes him to rub the bridge of his nose as a pang of pain goes through his forehead. There are streaks of light shining into the barn, highlighting all the flying dust in the atmosphere.
He looks around sleepily, thinking back and trying to pinpoint when he fell asleep. It couldn’t have been long ago.
Segments of last night’s conversation with Maddie pop up in chronological order, making his heart sink. Immediately, his eyes go to the haystack.
Ironically, the light shines onto the straw from a crack in the doors, as if to create a spotlight. The irony is that she is not there.
Negan trips up on his heavy boots as he stumbles towards the haystacks. His heart starts to beat loudly against his chest.
She is not there.
Her blanket and other necessities are left on the cold, rock floor, vacated and lonely.
Negan looks at the belt wrapped around a wooden plank, attached to nothing. He wipes his sweaty palms on his jeans, unwillingly going into survival mode. He pulls out his pocket knife, scanning the barn for any movement.
When he sees, and hears nothing, he decides to call out her name.
She calls back with a scratchy voice, “I’m here.”
Sharply, he turns to the barn doors, watching as Maddie leans against one of them. She has her usual attire: stained white t-shirt coming down to her thighs. Due to the sun behind her body, her silhouette makes it look like a dress.
Negan tucks away his knife, feeling his heartbeat return to normal.
“I peed outside,” she states, groggily pointing behind her.
Negan shakes his head, closing the gap between them, “You need rest. You shouldn’t be wandering around.”
But deep down, he’s relieved that she did. It means she is getting better.
Madison squeals when he picks her up without any warning, carrying her back to the hay, “I can walk, Negan.”
“I know you can, darlin’.”
The next few days are easy. They pass by like the apocalypse did not happen at all, probably because Negan does not have to worry about all the extra weight that had him hauling paranoia like an ass.
Maddie starts to consume small amounts of food. She starts to hold everything herself. She even gets dressed into her jeans and shirt, but claims that her skin is too gross to be wearing something as clean as that.
“We can go back to the lake?” she suggests, poking into the can of beans with a spoon, “Where else can we get clean?”
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea,” Negan murmurs, taking a seat beside her, “The water is cold. You could get fucking sick again.”
“So you expect me to be a fucking tramp forever?”
“Language,” he scolds, taking a bite from a roasted squirrel. He doesn’t know what caused him to start acting like her parent, and she surely does not appreciate it.
“What?” she snaps, “Now I can’t curse?”
“I don’t expect such filthy words to come out from such a delicate mouth,” he smirks.
“Are you shitting me? Is this a prank?”
“Eat your beans.”
They vacate the barn shortly afterwards, grabbing all things necessary with them. Maddie looks at the doors as they walk away, feeling empty and stupid. It was never going to be a home, but she felt safe. How long will it be before that happens again?
She catches up to Negan and playfully punches his arm. He smirks in return.
“That scarf is starting to look good on you,” he points.
Maddie loosens it around her neck, “What… do you want it back or something?”
“Fuck, keep it,” he says, “Do you like it?”
“Yes,” she answers with a smile, taking it off anyway, “But it’s yours. And it suits you better.”
They find a lonely gas station a few days later, taking up the whole day to loot it. Negan walks by all the shelves, lazily sweeping his hand along the dust. Maddie hangs back by the doors where the feminine hygiene section peeks out at them. She grabs all the pads and tampons, making sure to hide them at the bottom of her bag.
“What’s that?” Negan asks.
“Nothing,” she answers quickly. Having a talk like that with him is not something that sits well with her. So, she chooses to ignore the topic all together.
There is a loud clang behind her that she is sure is enough to lure a herd in their direction. She turns around with raised eyebrows, knife at the ready. Negan is crouching by one of the shelves, clutching his head.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” his voice is strained. He gets up slowly, pulling his bag with him.
Maddie smirks, clumsiness being one of the least occurring traits she would have expected from him, “Did you find anything?”
“A tub of Pringles.”
Her eyes light up, “Are you serious?”
He nods, “Yeah, but who knows how old they are?”
“Who cares?” she meets him in the middle of the building, placing one hand on the tall can, “Do you want to share them?”
Negan smiles with his teeth, chuckling, “How about tonight after dinner?”
She nods in excitement, “Yeah, of course.”
Pringles were her favourite kind of snack before the apocalypse and she would get excited every time her mother would bring a tub home along with her weekly shopping. However, finding a treasure like that in the apocalypse is almost too good to be true. They are probably mouldy. Yet, her mouth still salivates with the memories of the taste.
Negan tucks the tub into his bag, scratching the back of his head, “Where do you want to haul up, doll?”
It doesn’t take them long to find an abandoned car on the side of the road. It doesn’t work, of course. But the doors are open and it can be used for shelter.
They build a campfire together and lean against the vehicle as they eat their dinner which consists of a can of beans and the leftovers from a rabbit. This is their last can of beans and even though the constant taste has left Maddie with barely any taste buds, she will miss them. It means they must hunt for more food.
She places her stuffed backpack by her side and lets the can of Pringles stay up between her and Negan, as if it is some kind of rare artefact that needs to be worshipped.
The man runs his tongue across his lips in the darkness, waiting on her.
“Should we check it’s fucking safe to eat?”
Maddie nods hesitantly, grabbing the tube. She pops the lid off easily, losing it among the leaves on the floor. Won’t need it anyway if they’re going to eat them in one sitting. She grabs the edge of the paper seal, peeling it off as slowly as possible, waiting for the rotten smell to hit her.
“Come on, Maddie-girl, you’re killing me,” he murmurs.
Maddie smirks and pulls it off all the way. They exchange a quick look before she fits her small hand into the tube, lifting out a perfectly shaped Pringle. She puts it under her nose to smell it and moans in satisfaction.
“Oh, my God, they are not ruined.”
“Jesus,” Negan whispers, grabbing one for himself.
“Wait, stop!” she sits up. Negan gives her a questioning look, hand coming to a halt right in front of his mouth, “You can’t just eat them like that.”
“Then what the fuck do I do?”
“First you need to lick them,” she explains, making him laugh.
“I need to lick them? It’s food.”
“It’s so much better if you lick them first. You get all the flavour that way,” she giggles. Negan takes a deep breath before nodding.
“Darlin’, I can’t lick them with you staring at me like that.”
Maddie laughs, throwing her head back, “Are you shy? Why don’t we do it at the same time?”
“Facing away from each other,” he clarifies.
They move farther apart and sit back to back. He knows when she has tried it because her whole body relaxes against his and her head rests on his shoulder. She moans as if she just took an ecstasy pill. And then he feels her go completely stiff.
“Something wrong?” the girl stays silent until he turns to her, finally getting a glimpse of her face.
She smiles timidly, offering him the tub, “I mean… it’s perfect, isn’t it? Tonight.”
“It’s far from perfect,” Negan jokes. She chuckles and nudges him gently.
“You know what I mean.”
In her happiness, she starts to feel brazen and rests her head on top of his chest. Negan does not seem to mind. He cradles her, placing his chin on her head. For some time, she just feels him chewing on the snack. It makes her feel out of place. Mainly because he is a middle-aged man eating Pringles and she is casually cuddling with him.
She closes her eyes and pretends this is normal.
“You’re not eating,” he mutters, running a finger along her wrist.
“Thank you,” she blurts out, changing the topic. Negan taps her back gently.
“For what, doll?”
“You know,” she smirks, “Sticking with me… when I got sick.”
He sighs deeply, squeezing her closer. She shivers at the proximity.
Wordlessly, he gestures to the tub of Pringles and she takes a handful, eating them one by one until her thirst for water returns.
That night they sleep in the car with the doors shut. Maddie takes the backseat where she can sprawl across the space without taking up too much of it. Negan reclines in the driver’s seat, putting his hands behind his head. He glances at her in the mirror, flashing a toothy grin.
“What’s on tomorrow’s agenda?” he asks.
Maddie hums, rubbing at her eyes, “The usual, I guess.”
“Sleep tight, princess.”
“Stop calling me that,” she growls, but he senses a laugh between her words.
It is safe to say that in a few days’ time they vacate Saviours territory. The forest is new and the air is warmer, signifying their leap between states. They do not know where they are going. Not yet. But so far, they are heading in the right direction.
Maddie struggles to come to terms with the fact that she has welcomed this man into her life and allowed him to change her plans. She was looking for a sanctuary. And she has not seen one for a long time. But with Negan, she is safe.
He is the sanctuary.
“You’ve never seen Die Hard?”
“No,” Maddie answers, laughing, “What’s the big deal? I’m not into that genre.”
“Fucking amazing is not your kind of genre?”
“It’s a boys’ movie.”
“There are women in it.”
“Portrayed as objects?”
Negan groans loudly, “I fucking knew you were one of those feminist freaks!”
“A hipster and a feminist. Goddamn, this is worse than the apocalypse.”
Madison stands with her mouth wide open, “Negan!”
“I’m joking,” he smirks, giving her a wink, “But I do think it’s stupid for you to judge the movie before you’ve fucking seen it.”
“I’ve seen the memes.”
Maddie hides her laughter, trying not to bring up the ‘you’re too old’ joke again.
They have stumbled upon what looks like a used-to-be public park. There is a lake, and poles where the fountains used to function. Wooden benches are places alongside the water and the oddest thing is, the ducks are still swimming around, as if nothing has changed. The only ugly thing is the occasional walker that sees them from the distance and stupidly falls into the water in pursuit. It sinks to the bottom.
Negan holds Maddie’s hand as she tries to balance on the decorative rocks as she walks. They are straight, but falling and breaking a leg seems like the likely thing to happen, considering how lucky they have been with life so far. It does mean that the girl is a few feet taller. In fact, her feet start where his shoulders end. She looks down at him as he squeezes her fingers.
“Are you coming down? My arm is dead.”
Maddie nods, jumping onto the ground with his help. She adjusts the rifle on her shoulder and they continue walking.
“What movies have you watched then? Fucking enlighten me,” Negan gestures.
Maddie purses her lips, trying to think of a movie he might approve of, “Mr and Mrs Smith?”
“Angeline Jolie?” he asks. She smirks knowingly.
“Oh yeah,” she agrees.
Negan raises an eyebrow and they burst out laughing.
One thing we can agree on.
Her confidence skyrockets and she jumps up, “Oh! What about Miss Congeniality?”
“I wouldn’t push it.”
“Sandra Bullock though,” Maddie watches his face. He presses his lips in thought, and she knows how he feels.
“Alright, but only because of her.”
“You watched it?!”
“Yeah, because my wife-,” he stops mid-sentence, humour leaving his face. Maddie casts her gaze down, baffled by the sudden information. She is glad he finally let his guard down, but revelations like these are never comfortable to listen to. To her surprise, Negan continues, “My wife used to watch it a lot.”
She nods enthusiastically, as if praising him for opening up. She wants to stop the conversation but curiosity takes over.
“I didn’t know you were married.”
Negan gives her a curt nod, turning the mechanism in his brain to search for the right words, “Yeah.”
Maddie bites her lip, putting a hand on his back briefly. It takes her by surprise when he says, “She died of cancer.”
Getting so much out of him is rare. She is convinced it is only because of how light the mood was a few seconds ago.
“So did my brother.”
Negan looks at her, just as stunned as she is. He sighs softly, squeezing her shoulder. She smiles up at him, and just like that, it is silent again.
They catch a few ducks for dinner and collect water from the lake. There is a small building that used to be the park’s public toilets where they haul up. The ‘LADIES’ sign is splattered with blood. Maddie tries to ignore it.
They put down a hanging walker in one of the stalls. It stinks in such a small space, but they open the tiny windows and bolt the door shut for the night.
“I mean… at least we have somewhere to shit,” Maddie tries to lighten the mood again. Negan smiles, looking up from the awaking fire on the floor.
“Honey, we don’t need bowls for that.”
After dinner, Negan brings up the brilliant idea of trying to bathe. Maddie is overjoyed.
“Is this enough water?” she looks at their two full pots on the floor.
“There’s always more out there,” Negan sighs, “We’ll see how it goes.”
Maddie takes off her coat and hands it to Negan before placing her hands on her trousers zipper. Negan turns around slowly, scratching his beard.
“Just don’t look.”
“Couldn’t if I wanted to.”
Maddie rolls her eyes before stripping down to her underwear. Her feet stick to the rusty tile floor and she gags slightly, thinking of all the bacteria she could catch. She stands on her shoes and reaches for the gel soap next to one of the sinks. The tube is filthy, but the liquid that comes out is shiny and green. It smells like nothing.
“I hope this is anti-bacterial,” she mutters.
The noise makes Negan turn his head and she throws her shirt at him.
“I said don’t look!”
The whole process is a bit awkward. She dips her hand into one of the pots and smears the water over her armpits, and neck. She rubs the soap over the surface area and splashes it away, biting her lip at the warmth of the water. Good job they heated it up beforehand.
The smell of puke, sweat, and blood is not gone, but it is bearable. She shivers in the middle of the room before putting on her clothes. They stick to her, and it is the worst sensation ever. She slips into her shoes.
“Okay, I’m done.”
Negan turns around, handing her the coat, “There’s water left?”
“Yeah, you can use the rest.”
They switch positions and she holds his clothes while he bathes. She can hear the splashing and the small groans that leave his mouth at the sensation. Even while she is looking at the wall, she knows he is grinning at her.
“You don’t have to look away, darlin’. I’m not shy.”
“I’m quite alright, thank you,” she hollers, grinning.
He chuckles warmly before getting dressed.
As if she has not been grossed out enough, sleeping that night comes at a price. The floors are disgusting. So much so that a few maggots crawl near her feet. She had all this time to get used to the new world, but the inner girl from before the apocalypse pops out.
Negan senses her discomfort and points at the cleanest corner of the room, “I’ll sit down there. And you can scoot up to me, alright?”
Maddie watches as he arranges one of the shirts to cover the seating area. He sits down and pinches the bridge of his nose.
“Come on, kitten. This’ll have to do.”
She gets on her knees at first and then manages to sit on her bum beside him. They are pressed together by the fire. The only thing that gets her to relax is knowing that tonight is the only night they must spend in here.
Negan’s arm snakes around her to keep her body within proximity. She rests her head on his chest, feeling the moisture seeping through his shirt. His breath tickles her ear, “See? It’s not that bad.”
The next day, they wake up on the floor. Maddie jumps up in a panic, slapping her hair frantically when she feels lumps at the bottom of her strands, “Shit, shit, shit, shit!”
Negan rubs his face, wiping something from the girl’s ankle, “Spiders.”
They move on.
Maddie shudders in disgust at the memory of sleeping on that horrible floor. Throughout the day, she feels itchy. Her hands always scratch at her head, and every time Negan playfully tickles her hips, she yells at him.
“It’s not funny!”
He smirks widely, “It’s alright, doll. We can bathe again tonight if you want.”
“Yes. Yes, I think we need to.”
She tugs at her coat, as if to make all sorts of creatures fall from under her clothes.
They enter another forest. Trees, again. It’s better than abandoned public restrooms though.
Maddie takes a deep breath as they find a narrow path leading to a cluster of bushes. Negan walks in front of her, clutching his shotgun with one hand. They walk and walk and walk, until something catches her eye.
It’s a rusty old thing, capable of blending with all the leaves on the forest floor. It looks almost natural. But the spikes are a giveaway.
“Negan, stop!” she clutches his jacket, pulling him backwards.
He looks disoriented, shooting her a questioning look. She points in front of him. Bear trap. It’s obvious.
“Holy shit,” he slurs, “Good eyes, honey.”
“Maybe look where you’re going next time,” she warns.
“Look,” he thrusts his arm out, nearly hitting her in the face. She follows his gaze and spots another bear trap. Along with nets of captured squirrels. They exchange a quick look, trying to read each other.
Negan walks up to the nearest net, giving it a nudge so that it swings with the breeze. A dead fox.
“It looks fresh,” he hums, “Somebody is catching these animals.”
Maddie bites her lip, stomach twisting in hunger, “Should we take one?”
“You think that’s a good idea?”
“Yeah,” she breathes, “There are so many traps. Whoever is catching them won’t notice if one goes missing,” her eyes light up, “What if there’s a community nearby?”
Negan glances at her, less enthusiastic about her theory.
“Come on, then,” he clears his throat, “Bag one up.”
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”
The pair jump at the new voice, turning around to find the source. A thick southern accent matches the body of a middle-aged guy, holding a shotgun in their direction. He wears a cap, shielding all the expressive features of his face, including his eyes. He steps forward with his gun, pointing it at Maddie.
She raises her hands in surrender, unaware of Negan’s quick actions. He is holding his own shotgun. And she is sandwiched between two powerful men.
“Woah, put your weapon down, son,” another voice comes from the left. Maddie turns her head slowly to see the second man emerging from the trees. He is much older that the first guy. And older than Negan. He is bald, wrinkles coating his face. If Maddie had to guess, she would say he is about seventy.
The first guy pokes Maddie in the stomach with his shotgun, evicting an angry growl from Negan behind her, “They’re takin’ our stuff.”
The old guy has kind eyes. Maddie decides to look at him instead.
“No, we’re… we’re not looking for trouble. We’re just-“
“Shut up,” the shotgun wielding prick jabs his weapon into her stomach, sending her down onto her knees.
Negan acts quickly, and in two strides he is in the guys’ face, smacking the gun out of his hands. He falls onto the floor, cursing as Negan slams the butt of his weapon into his cheek.
“Stop!” the old guy shouts, taking out his pistol. He points it at Negan, clicking off the safety, “Step away from him.”
Maddie holds her stomach, watching everything unravel from below. Please don’t be stupid. Please step away.
Negan drops his shotgun and clenches his jaw in anger, raising his hands.
“You fucking heard her. We’re not looking for trouble.”
The old man nods slowly, but doesn’t put his pistol away, “I know… I know. You don’t look like trouble,” he glances at Maddie and his gaze softens, “You’ll have to excuse Trevor here. He’s just being cautious.”
She looks over at Trevor, who is clutching his reddening cheek with both hands. When his eyes meet hers, he growls like an animal, “Ya see what they did?!”
“Let’s all just calm down,” the guy raises his hand slowly, gesturing to himself, “My name is Mike,” his gun starts to go down, “This is my son, Trevor,” the man stands up and joins his father’s side, “We don’t live far from here.”
Negan crouches down to help Maddie on her feet. They stand together like a pair of meerkats, eager to know more about the new people, and on edge, ready for danger.
His hand travels down to her stomach. She squeezes his fingers, giving him a sign that she is okay.
“You have to understand that when we see a person stealing our food, we have to protect it.”
Negan erupts, “The prick didn’t have to fucking stab her. She has already surrendered.”
“I know, I know,” Mike sighs, tucking away his pistol, “And he’s sorry about that. Aren’t you sorry?” he turns to his son.
Trevor peeks out from under his cap and grunts a reply. Immediately, Maddie decides that she doesn’t like him.
“We’re not from here,” she speaks up, “We have nothing.”
Negan squeezes her shoulder; afraid she might say something stupid. As far as she knew, the idea of joining this little duo did not sit well with him.
“I can see that,” Mike nods, pointing behind him, “We have a group. It’s not big, but we’re surviving together. How about you stay with us for a little while? We welcome strangers.”
“Well, you shouldn’t,” Negan states, “We’re not interested.”
Maddie looks up at him with wide eyes, “Negan,” he meets her stare, “We can have a look.”
“We don’t know anything about them,” he warns, doing a bad job of keeping his voice quiet.
Mike chuckles, raising both of his hands again, “Look, I know this might seem suspicious. You don’t get a lot of friendly people out there, you know? But I promise you, we’re not bad guys. We want to help. You look very skinny, and we have food to spare.”
Maddie holds her breath, already sold on the idea.
“I said we’re not interested,” Negan growls, squeezing the girl closer. She tries to squirm away, not ready to let this opportunity slip away.
“No, please,” she speaks to Negan, “Please, we have to see what there is.”
He glares down at her, “Madison, don’t be stupid.”
She holds back her tears, shaking her head, “Please,” she repeats.
“You can leave anytime you want,” Mike clarifies, “There are women there too. And kids. About your age, sweetheart.”
Madison nods and looks back up at Negan, begging him with her eyes. His gaze softens slightly, and she knows that it is good enough for a ‘yes’.
“We have more than enough room for you and your daddy,” Mike says.
The pair exchange a look.
After a long minute of silence, Negan finally nods, “Okay. But only for tonight.”
The four people trudge through the woods together, forming a tight pack. Madison walks shoulder to shoulder with Negan, noticing how quiet he got.
Mike is walking behind them, all their guns slung over his shoulder. Trevor is at the front, pointing his shotgun at something other than Maddie’s stomach. She prefers this formation.
“You gotta understand,” Mike starts talking behind them, “I’m sure if this was you welcoming us, our guns would be confiscated too.”
“We get it,” Maddie speaks, glancing at Negan. He huffs in response, watching the space in front of them.
The trees seem to get closer and closer together, until it is hard to move. They slow down as their bodies squeeze through some thinner trunks.
A growl erupts from a pack of bushes by their side. Maddie bends her knees and backs up to Mike, knowing he has all the weapons in case things go south. There is a growl, but no walker. It takes a second to discover that the noise is coming from below. Maddie steps forward again, holding onto Negan’s arm.
What she sees below gives her vertigo: A dark hole that can easily be overlooked due to the fallen leaves and bushes around it. Maddie leans over and spots the source of the growling. A walker is jammed in the ground, legs splattered by the fall. It reaches with its arms, brain obviously intact.
“It’s a twenty foot drop,” Mike explains, “Most brains are destroyed by the fall, but this fucker obviously isn’t.”
Negan gives Maddie a look before glancing at Mike, “This your fucking doing?”
Mike chuckles, not yet acquainted with his friend Foul-Language-And-Rude-Gestures-At-Every-Moment.
“Some were here before us,” he explains, “And then we started digging further. This hole could have only been created with a machine.”
“Are there lots of them?” Maddie questions.
“All ‘round the facility,” Trevor slurs, gesturing around him, “Stops the damn ‘erds from comin’ in.”
“It’s smart,” she complements. At which point she is certain Negan whispers ‘Ass Kisser’.
“It is smart,” Mike nods, “We try to clear them out a couple times a week. Otherwise they would overflow with the dead.”
“It would be a damn shame if someone were to fall into one of those,” Negan states, which sounds more like a threat. Maddie nudges him, to which he rolls his eyes, “We nearly there or what?”
“Yes, right this way,” Mike narrows his eyes, starting to walk again.
They continue walking for about two minutes before they come into a clearing with a mansion in the middle.
Is this where they live?
Maddie grabs Negan’s wrist.
“Well, we don’t have a name for it,” Mike smiles, “We just call it home.”
She watches as Trevor waddles towards the house with his shot gun, raising it when more people come into view, “Visitors!”
It looks simple on the outside, but more than satisfactory for this world. There is a porch with a wooden bench, large windows on the ground floor and what looks like a massive garden at the front of the house. Maddie blinks quickly, trying to gather all the vibrant colours in front of her.
Flowers grow and weave through the wooden gaps in the porch, some climbing up the brick walls of the mansion. She wants to stand and stare at it forever but Negan’s hand starts to push at her lower back, prompting her to walk.
She sees two guys coming from around the house, one of them carrying a shovel. Negan’s hand runs up her back and squeezes her shoulder. Mike decides to speak again.
“That’s Martin and Harvey over there,” he raises his hand to wave, “We’ll get you acquainted.”
The men wave back hesitantly, clearly startled by the new faces.
Madison looks back at the house, curious by a moving figure in one of the windows. The curtains fall shut quickly.
She looks up at the roof as they get closer, noticing large blocks of solar panels. She raises her eyebrows, “You have electricity?”
“Yes,” Mike answers, throwing a smirk at the girl, “We only really use it towards the afternoon when it gets dark. Or in the daytime when Martin decides to fire up his DVD player.”
Maddie watches him like a new-born, astounded by the new sights. A DVD player? She hasn’t even seen electricity since the world went to shit.
“They also come in handy for showers,” Mike continues. Maddie gasps.
“You have hot water?”
“Indeed, we do, sweetheart.”
Negan shoots him an uncomfortable look, as if that nickname is only reserved to use by him.
They walk past the vegetable patch and the blossoming trees. She hears the bleat of a goat behind the house, smile widening. It’s like a farm.
She looks up at Negan, hoping he is feeling the same way she is about the situation, but his face is stoic and unamused.
“Like I said, we have plenty of food,” Mike continues, “There’s a cow and a goat around the house, a shed full of chickens… in fact, we’re having one of them tonight. You like chicken?”
Maddie nods in excitement, her stomach already growling at the thought of roasted poultry.
They come up to the porch, stairs creaking with their weight. A woman with a pixie cut folds her arms in front of the doors, her bright eyes on them. The pair stop in their tracks awkwardly, waiting for Mike to speak.
“Ah, Nikki, how are you?” he smirks. The woman places her hands on a prominent bump on her stomach.
“Don’t patronise me,” she replies, walking off the porch.
Maddie raises an eyebrow at her attitude, wondering if she did something to trigger the heavily pregnant member of the group. Maybe it’s the hormones?
Negan stares at her bump even when Nikki is walking through the vegetable patch.
“Ah, don’t mind her,” Mike waves, opening the front door for them, “She’s pissed because I ate the last of the pickles the other night.”
Negan stands on the porch like a stubborn cat, holding onto her shoulder. Mike gestures towards the house, “Aren’t you gonna come in?”
“We’re not fucking convinced that you won’t try to kill us,” he says, making Maddie drop her gaze. He is going to ruin this.
“And why would I do that?” Mike shuts the door, challenging him, “I am welcoming you into our community. We have a pregnant woman here, why would I risk her safety if I thought you were dangerous, or visa versa?”
“We’re not dangerous,” Maddie confirms, stepping forward, “We already handed you our weapons.”
Mike points to their backpacks, “And what’s in there?”
The pair exchange a look. Maddie answers, “Just water and clothes.”
“I trust you,” Mike nods, opening the door again. Negan glares down at him, creating the most awkward silence. The goat bleats again, defusing the tension.
There is chatter near the vegetable yard. Maddie glances over to see Trevor, Martin and… Harvey? Was that his name? They are all making their way towards the porch.
And then another guy pops up from around the mansion, his smile brightening the whole clearing. For a second she thinks that he is smiling because he is squinting at the sun, but even when he comes into shade, the expression is still on his face. Maddie smiles back, glad to receive a little wave from the guy.
He looks younger than the others. About her age. Was he one of the ‘kids’ Mike mentioned earlier?
She waves back, catching Negan’s attention.
“Are these the newcomers?” one of the two men with Trevor asks.
Mike introduces him as Harvey. He has thick square glasses and looks like he has never seen daylight. The second man’s name is Martin. Maddie looks away from him when his eyes start to travel down her body.
“Nice to meet you,” she says, refraining from extending her hand. Negan wouldn’t let her do that anyway. He is in a pouncing position.
There is small talk between Mike and the men. Something about Nikki being a bitch again. Maddie stops paying attention when the smiling guy leans against the porch, folding his arms on the dark wood. He is wearing gloves and a Nicks baseball cap. His eyes wander from Maddie to Negan, at which point he decides to stop feeling confident.
“Give this place a chance,” Mike says to Negan, gesturing to Maddie, “At least have dinner with us tonight. You two look exhausted.”
She sees Negan’s lips moving and cuts him off before he declines his offer, “Can you give us a tour?”
Martin and Harvey chuckle softly, “That’s the spirit,” one of them says. Maddie is overwhelmed by the new company, and keeping track of names will take some practice.
Somehow the pair get pushed into the house, directly into what looks like the living room. It’s rustic and dark and does not reflect on the outside of the house at all. But it is cosy.
The stairs leading upstairs are squashed, reminding her of a representation of the Weasley’s house in one of the Harry Potter books she used to read. There is a lot of stuff in here, which is probably why the space looks tiny. Either way, it is probably better to bear when there aren’t seven people crammed into the room.
“This way,” Mike points to the stairs. The girl takes a deep breath before following him. Negan follows suit, probably getting an eyeful of her ass.
They come up to the first floor, all the walls lined with paintings and shelves full of useless shit. Maddie bumps into one, making something clatter to the floor.
“Don’t worry about it,” Mike says.
He leads them down the hallway which eventually expands into a space that makes Maddie feel less claustrophobic. There are too many doors to count.
“If you’re planning on staying the night,” Mike points to one of the doors, “Sweetheart, you’ll be in here. Dad, over there,” he points to another door. Someday they will have to start correcting him. They are not related.
“No,” Negan growls, “If we stay, we’ll be in the same room.”
It’s hard to argue with him on that point. She doesn’t feel right to leave his side either. Especially after being together for so long and practically using each other as pillows.
“There’s not much space,” Mike shrugs, “There’s only one bed per room.”
“That won’t be a fucking problem,” Negan says.
“Well, I guess there is the couch,” he sighs, deciding to drop it.
The fact that he has to unlock the door is unnerving, but when he hands the key to Negan, all paranoia diminishes.
“I’ll see you downstairs for dinner,” he says, “It’s in around two hours. Make yourselves comfortable.”
The door shuts and the pair sigh in unison. A smile erupts on Madison’s face from all the happenings of today. She remembers the friendly guy at the porch, and then the chicken dinner. And it feels like it’s too good to be true. She looks at Negan, who has spilled the contents of his bag onto the double bed.
Her smile fades, “What are you doing?”
“I’m checking something.”
He doesn’t reply. His hands rustle through all the clothes and bottles. Then he picks up a knife, striding over to the impressive wardrobe and tucking it under one of the boards behind it.
“Negan!” Maddie whispers, “We had to hand over all the weapons!”
“I’m not that stupid, Madison.”
There he goes using her full name again. She groans.
“You will get us into trouble.”
“I’m keeping us alive.”
She shakes her head and decides to ignore him. He is paranoid. That much is clear. But she isn’t going to challenge him. Otherwise he might turn into the Negan she first met.
The room is bigger than the hallway and stairs put together. There is a double bed in the middle, a wardrobe by the door, and a couch by the window. She walks over to it, parting the white curtains to get the view of the little farm she did not have a chance to see.
A chicken coop is noticeable closer to the mansion. The cow and the goat walk together in the middle of a fenced area. The smiling guy catches her eye again. He is throwing grain over to the coop.
She smiles to herself, pulling away from the view.
“Is that another door?” she points. Negan follows her finger and walks over, opening it to reveal a small bathroom, “Holy shit.”
She remembers what Mike said about hot water and buries her face in her hands. It’s like she died and went to heaven. Negan’s hands slide up her wrists.
“Are you okay, darlin’?”
She finds herself tearing up at his words and reveals her face. He pulls her into his chest slowly, resting his chin on top of her head. They stay in the embrace for a while before he finally speaks.
“Do you really want to stay?”
“Yes,” she breathes, pressing her face against his chest, “I’m tired of how it’s been.”
Negan pulls her closer, kissing the side of her head. Maddie closes her eyes at the new contact, allowing a tear to escape. He wipes it with his gloved hand.
The goat bleats from the yard again, making the pair smile.
“Can I shower first?”
Negan looks up at her from the bed, nodding, “Go ahead, daisy.”
She grins, playing with the hem of her shirt, “I’m so excited.”
“Go or I’ll beat you to it.”
She chuckles, looking at the door. Hot water. That is the stuff of dreams.
They still have a couple of hours until dinner and neither one of them want to make a bad first impression with their greasy hair. Well, Madison is not sure about Negan, since he is acting all nonchalant about finding this place. But she certainly wants to be clean for when the food is on the table.
A knock on the door causes them to exchange a quick glance. Maddie starts walking to open it, but Negan practically pushes her out of the way and presses down on the handle.
“You’re such a man-child,” she huffs.
Instead, she settles for standing behind him, trying to see the visitor from behind his arm.
It’s a woman. She looks like she is in her late 30’s. Her silky brown hair reaches to the middle of her spine, the excess strands collected at the back with a butterfly shaped clip. Her eyes light up when they land on Maddie, but Negan does not let that last.
“Can I help you?” he grunts.
The woman smiles gently, thrusting a giant hamper basket up to his face, “I didn’t mean to disturb you. This is a little…” she shrugs, “Gift basket, if you like.”
Maddie smiles when their eyes meet.
“It has um… cleaning products, clothes…” despite being so beautiful, this woman seems nervous. Maddie would never be nervous if she looked like that. She would own that shit. Her eyes light up at the products inside. A bright blue loofa catches her eye and she remembers about her shower.
When Negan doesn’t reply, Maddie nudges him. He sighs, “Thank you for thinking of us.”
The sarcasm in his voice is undeniable to a point when Maddie starts to feel embarrassed of how he is acting.
“Take it,” her voice becomes more confident. Maybe she realized what an ass Negan is? “It’s for you and your daughter.”
Apparently, they have a reputation. Negan decides to break it, grabbing the basket off the woman, “She’d not my daughter.”
“Oh?” her brows raise at Maddie, and she can’t help but smile.
“We’re just friends,” she grins, pushing past Negan to grab the woman’s hand, “I’m Madison.”
Her hand is warm and small. She squeezes back, “I’m Kate.”
Negan walks backwards into the room, setting the basket on top of the bed, “This is Negan.” Maddie points behind her, “He’s not my dad.”
Kate laughs and nods, “It’s nice to meet both of you. We rarely get new people.”
“How come?” Negan asks, which makes Maddie roll her eyes.
All the discomfort is well concealed in her bright eyes, “It’s a forest.”
Her blunt reply makes Maddie like her even more. That’ll show him.
“Anyway,” Kate backs up into the hall, “I’ll leave you to get comfortable. Dinner shouldn’t be long.”
“Thank you, Kate,” Maddie smiles, closing the door when the woman starts to walk away.
She turns back to Negan, raising an eyebrow, “Could you please be a little less irritable?”
To her surprise, he smirks, “Sorry, princess.”
The basket on the bed seems to be taking up most of the room, which is physically impossible. It feels like Christmas. Inside there are soaps, gels, shampoos, thick socks, clothes… Maddie gasps. A fucking hair dryer.
She grabs a white shirt that says ‘Brooklyn Babe’ over the tits and wiggles it out from underneath all the cleaning products. There is a pair of panties which take a lot of skill to fish out without being noticed.
Negan sits back on the bed, watching her.
Their eyes meet again, “I’ll try to be quick.”
“There’s no rush,” he sighs, pulling out a giant pair of pants and a checked shirt.
“Going for the farmer look, huh?” Maddie teases.
She goes into the bathroom and locks the door. A luxury she has not been able to afford for so long. Privacy.
The shower merges with the bathtub and there is a plain plastic curtain hung onto the railing. A simple sink accompanies a mirror above, and a toilet is placed on the other side of the room. She can’t help but notice a laundry basket there too. Do they have a lot of clothes? And a washing machine?
Maddie strips and gets into the shower, bringing a range of products with her. Neatly, she places the shampoo, conditioner and soap in line near the shower wall, feeling content with the power of control that was suddenly brought into her life.
Her greying hand starts the water and she gasps when the warmth hits her face. Then it starts to get hotter and hotter, and she endures it. The grime, dust and mud paint the water brown near her feet. She chokes back a sob, her skin itching for something more. She grabs the bar of soap and starts to rub it over her shoulders.
The shampoo get out most of the dirt. She is surprised when a twig tangles in her wet hair.
There is a razor on a shelf near the shower and she uses it to shave her legs. She laughs in disbelief, running a hand along her now smooth ankle. Why stop there?
She gets rid of the hair under her arms and bites on her lip when she looks down at her crotch. Maybe later.
Getting out, she looks into the mirror, not recognising herself at all. Her cheeks are hollow, her skin is pale and her lips have been painted red, probably due to the sudden heat of the water.
There was a mirror back at the houses they managed to loot before she got sick… but she has been through so much since then. She looks like a tramp. Is this what Negan sees too?
Maddie dries herself off with a fluffy towel hung by the door and slips on the panties and shirt. Her dirty clothes go into the laundry basket. Even if it isn’t used, she’ll sort the mess out later either way. Right now, she wants to dry her hair and moisturise her hands and have food. Proper food.
She finds Negan in the exact same spot she left him in. Sat on the bed, with the clothes in his hands and the hamper basket by his side.
He looks up at her, eyes lingering on her bare legs. Why didn’t she grab a pair of pants?
“How was it?” he manages a smile.
“Heavenly,” she giggles, walking up to stand in front of him. He inhales the humid fog floating out of the door, closing his eyes at the scent of strawberries and fruity shampoo.
“Jess, doll, you smell divine.”
He gets up, nuzzling his nose at the top of her head. She bursts out laughing, pushing him back gently, “Don’t be weird. Go and clean yourself.”
Negan grins lazily, taking that as his command to leave. The mood changes dramatically. Even Maddie starts to feel lightheaded from how good she feels after the wash. It’s like she is back home. And she can lay down and let the sleep take her away.
She sighs deeply, deciding to not get too lost. She still has to get dressed.
When she hears the shower water running, she dries her hair. It burns when the hot air reaches the wound caused weeks ago, but she ignores it.
There is a pair of blue jeans in the basket and she pulls them on. The shower water is still running when she finishes getting dressed. Her eyes land on the bed and a mischievous smirk takes over her face. She grabs the basket and sets it down on the floor before jumping onto to mattress, giggling when her body bounces.
“Oh, my God, this is better than food,” she whispers.
The door to the bathroom opens when her eyelids start to get heavy. Maddie sits up slowly and waves when Negan walks out. Something is different.
She squints her eyes.
When he runs a hand along his jawline, she sees that his beard is gone.
“Wow, you look…” she trails off, unsure of what to say.
Negan smirks, showing off his prominent dimples. He is wearing trousers and the checked shirt he picked out earlier. It suits him. It makes the muscles in his body stand out.
Maddie looks away quickly.
“You don’t like it?” he comes closer, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. She smiles, putting a hand on his check. It’s so smooth. Very different to looking like a caveman.
“It’s like a completely different person.”
They both laugh. He grabs her hand and places a kiss into her palm, taking advantage of smelling her again.
She giggles, shaking her head, “Come on. Dinner time.”
Thank you to everyone still reading this story!
Your comments and feedback are greatly appreciated!
This link is for everyone who wants to check out the character face claims for the 2 main characters, since Chapter 17: https://twdwalker5.tumblr.com/post/174419405042/call-it-what-you-want-main-characters
After the best shower in the world, the pair made their way down the stairs. Even though this building is very cramped on the inside, it still has a shitload of rooms. When they got lost, they followed the sound of voices. Eventually, the stopped in the doorway of a dining area.
The people seated at the table didn’t look up at first, but Kate waved from the other side of the room, and some managed to lift their heads.
“Madison, honey, over here,” she walks over to one of the chairs and pulls it out, her brown hair falling past her shoulders. The girl smiles politely and starts to walk.
Negan grabs her hand.
Maddie glances up at him and squeezes. She is not sure whether he is nervous or letting paranoia get to him again. Either way, they walk to the chair together and after a sigh, Kate manages to pull up another chair for Negan.
They take their seats, alert and listening to the chatter of everybody there.
Maddie sees Trevor at the foot of the table, piling on what looks like mashed potato. He is far too busy talking to Harvey, the guy with the glasses, to notice her presence. She is grateful. Right now, is not a good time to interact with him. Any time is not a good time. Not after he jabbed her in the stomach with a shotgun.
He still has his stupid cap on his head.
The pregnant lady, Nikki, is sitting next to Harvey, looking pissed off as usual. Her eyes fall on her and Madison looks away quickly.
Martin, the other guy they met earlier, the one who kept staring at her, is sat opposite Nikki, running his fingers over the cutlery at hand. Occasionally, he interrupts Trevor’s speech with a remark, which ends in a collective laughter.
Mike is nowhere to be seen yet, but Maddie hopes that he will join them.
“You alright?” Negan murmurs to her left. She smiles slightly and nods.
“Yeah… are you?”
He nods, cracking a grin. With the shirt he is wearing, he looks absolutely domesticated.
Maddie looks down at her empty plate, noticing a few scratches from where the knife cut previously down the middle. Her stomach starts to rumble. She has not eaten in a while. Looking back, she has not eaten at all since breakfast. And that consisted of a dead rat.
There is a glass of water by her plate, which she takes immediately. Midway through drinking it, Kate kneels by her side.
“We can mix some berries in with that,” she proposes, “It’ll be flavoured.”
“Oh, umm, no thank you.”
“Are you sure? It’d just take a second.”
Maddie smiles and shakes her head, “No, I’m fine.”
She leaves, resuming her position in hovering around the table. She realises that one of her jobs must be acting like a housewife. She’s probably the one who made dinner. Maddie notes that she needs to thank her later.
Negan chews on his cheek by her side, trying to read each person. From Maddie’s point of view, it’s not that difficult. Everybody is an open book, or at least she hopes that what you see is what you get with these people.
There is a squeak of a chair next to her and a scent of smoke invades her space. She turns her head to see a boy, around her age, preparing for the meal.
Wait a minute… she has seen him already. He smiled at her when they were on the porch.
Maddie looks down at her lap and smirks, eliciting the same reaction from him. They look at each other and he releases a heart-warming chuckle.
“Hey,” he starts, stretching out his arm, “I’m Noah.”
“Madison,” she smiles, shaking his hand, “But… most people call me Maddie.”
She glances at Negan. His stare is hard. He gives a brief nod towards Noah. They don’t talk so she feels it is right to break the ice.
“This is Negan,” she says, leaning back in her chair to let them have a chance at a hand shake. Neither one of them go for it.
“Nice to meet you,” Noah nods back, smiling. Negan looks away first.
The guy is stupidly attractive. Like… ridiculously hot. The old Maddie would have been all over him. He looks like the type to bring a whole herd of guys to a party and be their ringleader.
He has un-kept dark hair, which adds to the cute puppy look… but then there’s the slight stubble and neck muscles which add to the holy-crap-I-am-from-Magic-Mike vibe. It’s a good combination.
Noah reaches for the fork on the table and starts tapping. It could be annoying if he wasn’t this attractive.
“You must be hungry,” he says, leaning forward slightly, “I heard you’ve been out there for a while.”
Maddie nods, eyes widening at the thought of food, “Yeah, it’s been tough.”
“You’re in for a treat, tonight,” he winks, “We don’t usually eat the chickens unless there are many of them at the coop.”
“Is that your job? Reproducing chickens?”
Noah smiles, eyes lighting up, “There are worse jobs to have.”
“Of course, I don’t just reproduce them… I look after them. Y’know… feeding and cleaning. Same goes for the goat and cow. I don’t know if you’ve met them?”
“No, we’ve not yet been acquainted.”
Noah chuckles, glad to have found somebody who is his age and has the same sense of humour.
She wants to say something else but the smell of roasted poultry makes her stare at the source of the scent as if she is in a trance.
Kate carries a large chicken into the middle of the table, setting it down with the help of oven gloves. Maddie’s heartbeat starts to race because she knows that she has to share with all these people.
Salads and finger food appear in the gaps between places and cups, and nobody wastes any time in picking their delicacy. Maddie waits until a fair number of people have their turn before reaching out and spooning a mountain of sweetcorn into the centre of her plate.
Kate gives her a wink.
The chatter in the room diminishes when Mike appears in the doorway. There is a person below him and that’s when she realizes that the man is in a wheelchair. Mike pushes the wheels until they reach the table, presenting a brand-new face.
“Sorry, we’re late,” Mike sighs, walking over to his seat by Kate, “Please, don’t stop on my account.”
Everyone starts to fill their plates again.
Maddie looks at the new face and bites her lip when the pair of eyes land on her. It’s a dark-skinned man, middle aged, glasses. The fact that he is in a wheelchair gives her an idea of how secure this place is.
“We got guests, everybody,” Mike says, gesturing. All eyes land on her and Negan and the room falls silent again.
Negan straightens his back, going into predatory mode. Maddie glances at her lap, gripping the edge of her chair. She is not used to this kind of attention.
“I think it’d be good if we could all introduce ourselves,” his eyes go from person to person, “Make them feel at home. Please, Kate…”
The woman smiles and glances at Negan.
“I’m Kate,” she releases an awkward laugh, “I don’t know if you noticed but I work with food here,” people nod along, encouraging her to carry on speaking, “I’m also a nurse. Well, I was… but Mike has unofficially promoted me to the doctor of the apocalypse.”
Maddie smiles, astounded that these people have a person with medical knowledge in their facility. It’s rare to come by. Negan leans in, probably thinking of how he’d use her skills to his advantage.
No matter how weird this whole introduction thing is, they keep going. Maddie feels like she is back at school.
Mike skips his turn, but that’s okay because they know nearly everything about him. Nikki speaks with a fed-up voice, referring to herself as the ‘cleaner’ and pointing to her bloated stomach, referring to it as ‘an unfortunate event’.
Maddie presumes that Harvey is the father because he gives her a scowl and it is obvious that he nudges her under the table.
“I’m Harvey, and I help Louis,” he points to the man in the wheelchair, “Keep this place going.”
“I’m Trevor. I go shootin’ with my dad an’ stuff.”
“Martin,” he winks at Maddie.
Louis slides his thick glasses up his nose, “My name is Louis. I maintain the electrical system of this facility and whatnot.”
Maddie labels him as ‘Brains’. She won’t remember his name.
Noah introduces himself as the animal keeper. She already knew that, which is why they exchange a brief smile.
It’s her turn. Shit.
“Madison,” she says, a bit too formally, “I’m from New York originally,” everybody seems to look at her with surprise, “And… I’ve been on the road for a long time.”
Negan is surprisingly chilled when all eyes focus on him. He folds his arms, and it’s obvious what he’s thinking: this is stupid.
The natural charisma comes, and his past leader shows when he gives the briefest introduction ever, each person in the room hanging onto every word, “I’m Negan.”
“You said you were from New York?” Mike questions, taking a bite of some brown bread.
Maddie nods, trying to swallow her mouthful quickly in order to speak, “Yeah, I was born there.”
Most people at the table watch her from their seats, somehow fascinated by her origins. It can’t be that interesting, can it? It is a city that is far away but she had plenty of time to get to this state.
“Where are your parents?” Nikki presses, taking a sip of her water.
Maddie squeezes her legs together, trying to overcome the flashbacks of their smiling faces. Just say what happened to them.
“They didn’t make it,” she replies.
“That’s unfortunate,” Nikki drills on. If it was possible to kill a pregnant woman and not feel bad, she would have done it by now.
Yes, they told everyone Negan was not her dad.
Negan’s large hand on her knee makes her bump the table. It crawls up her leg squeezing, “Are you alright?”
She notices that this is the fifth time he has asked her in the space of an hour. She nods and grasps his hand under the table, detaching it from her leg.
The chicken is almost gone. Sharing it between this many people made the consumption process rather quick. The side salad and other bits and pieces around the table were always there though. She made sure to try all of it. At first, she shovelled them into her mouth and Negan had to tell her to slow down.
“Were you a part of a group before?”
“No, we are the group,” Maddie says.
“I was talking to Negan,” Nikki bites, resting her chin in the palm of her hand. Her vengeful eyes burn holes into the man’s skull.
Negan pats her knee under the table, not wanting to make a scene by verbally comforting Maddie. She grips his fingers, squeezing them hard and pretending they are Nikki’s intestines.
“I was a part of a community,” Negan murmurs, taking a sip of his drink, “It didn’t work out.”
Maddie sighs when he goes on with the conversation, never mentioning that he was the leader. Thankful that he has the bitch occupied, she turns to Noah.
He grins at her, no longer eating, “Did this meal fulfil your expectations?”
She smiles, “I should stop eating. In about ten minutes, my stomach will explode.”
“Yeah, take it easy. You should let your stomach get used to this amount of food.”
Maddie crosses her legs and leans towards the boy, resting a hand on her thighs, “Have you lived here long?”
Noah coughs into his fist and shrugs one shoulder, making some of his hair bounce, “You could say that. Harvey found me. Brought me here.”
“Were you in trouble before?”
“Same place as you,” he grins, “Barely surviving.”
Leftovers do not exist in this community. Everybody has eaten what they picked, especially Negan and Maddie.
He looks towards Mike, “The giant holes you have around the area… is that the only form of a barrier?”
Mike chuckles warmly, wiping his mouth, “No, we have wires closer to the house. The holes keep away the herds. If one slips through, it’ll get caught in a wire. And there are the bear traps, of course,” he glances at Maddie, “They’re useful for protection as well as hunting game.”
Negan plays with his fork, while Mike continues looking at him.
“You should come with us tomorrow. We’ll be clearing out the holes. Possible job opening?” he ends the sentence with a question.
Negan nods, but glances at Maddie. She can tell what he is thinking. He is not ready to split up.
Dinner concludes with Nikki excusing herself to go to the ladies’ room, making Harvey go after her. After which, Louis rolls away on his wheelchair and beckons Mike to come with him. The only people left at the table are either engaging in small talk or holding their stomachs, trying not to throw up. Maddie takes place in the latter category.
“I told you to go easy,” Negan smirks, wiping his mouth with a napkin, “Will you be able to get up?”
“I’m fine,” she rolls her eyes, the taste of chicken and tomatoes still lingering on her tongue.
Kate cleans up most of the table, and Noah insists on helping her. When she walks past the pair still seated, Negan grabs her wrist. It’s so unexpected that Maddie jumps up.
He better not start anything.
“Excuse me,” he smirks, letting go when the woman stops, “Kate, is it?”
The purr in his voice puts Maddie at ease. He has good intentions. That much is clear.
The woman smiles slightly, resting her hands on the back of Maddie’s chair.
“We didn’t start off on the right foot, and I feel… being the gentleman that I am…” Maddie rolls her eyes, “it would be peachy if we started to treat each other with a little more respect, especially since I’m gonna need you to do me a favour.”
Kate raises her brows in surprise, clearly amused.
“You want me to do you a favour?” she puts her hand on her chest.
Maddie glares at Negan, unsure of what game he is playing, cautious to find out.
His eyes land on Maddie and he sighs, “You said you were a doctor.”
“Unofficially,” Kate clarifies. Negan grins.
“What are you doing?” Maddie asks, turning in her chair to face him.
He ignores her question and gestures to Kate, “I want you to take a look at her. She went down with some shit not long ago, and I was wondering if a diagnosis was possible at this stage?”
Kate looks at Maddie and nods, a crease appearing between her brows, “I can do that. Shall we go and do this now?”
“The sooner the better,” Negan winks. Kate ignores his flirtatious nature and puts a hand on Maddie’s shoulder.
“Whenever you’re ready, honey.”
The doctor’s office has a cosy feel to it. It is not medical at all. There is a large couch at the end of the room, a bookcase full of books, and a burning fire in the middle. It’s warm and orange and relaxing. However, a metallic table resides by the window and a few trolleys hold bandages, syringes and boxes of supplies. Overall, it is like a kid’s doctor’s room. There is even a bunch of toys on the carpet.
Negan grabs a teddy and starts playing with its torn ear. Kate grins at him, “For when the baby is born.”
Maddie hops up onto the metallic table and tries to not to pay attention to Negan. She had no idea he could be so embarrassing in front of other people.
“Okay, let’s see what we have here,” Kate sighs, grabbing a stethoscope and wrapping it around her neck. She takes a digital thermometer out of a small box and turns it on with a rapid beep, beckoning for Maddie to open her mouth.
She does as she is told, all while holding down the churning food in her stomach.
Negan walks over to the action, folding his arms gingerly. Maddie knows that he wants to ask something, but is refraining from doing so. He chews on his cheek instead, keeping an eye out for anything scary like needles.
Kate lifts Maddie’s shirt enough to wiggle the cold part of the acoustic device towards her chest and back.
“Deep breath in,” Kate listens while she breathes. The silence in the room is interrupted by the inhaling and exhaling, as well as the crackling of the fire.
Negan runs a hand down his jaw, scratching behind his ear.
“And out,” Kate soothes, finally taking the device back.
“Wh-What did you find out?” Negan asks.
Kate glances at him and sighs, “Nothing terrible. There is a tremble and a rasp as she breathes, but we can fix that, honey.”
Negan walks over the bookcase, trying to distract himself. Maddie turns to Kate when the thermometer in her mouth starts to beep.
The woman looks at the numbers as she busies herself with grabbing a few other equipment. Maddie sees a wooden stick in her hand, realizing she is going to have that stuck down her throat. God, what an awful part of any check-up.
“Hmm, okay,” she puts the thermometer down.
“What is it?” Negan pipes up.
“She has a slight fever still. When did you say, you got sick?”
Negan’s eyes widen in panic as he walks over to place a hand on the girl’s head, “A fever? Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” she replies, “When did she get sick?”
“About a week ago,” Maddie responds, suddenly feeling very warm, “But I got better shortly after.”
Kate nods and smiles kindly, giving Negan a look so that he would move out of the way, “Open your mouth for me.”
Maddie does as she is told, feeling the rough wooden stick holding down her tongue. Afterwards, Kate shines a light into both of her eyes and checks her ears.
“Okay, you can hop down,” she gestures. Maddie grins and jumps, feeling Negan’s hand snaking up her shoulder from behind.
He squeezes the base of her neck gently, waiting for Kate to break the silence.
“Pneumonia,” she nods, smiling at Maddie, “It’s… it doesn’t look too bad now. But I’ll start you on a course of antibiotics.”
Negan bites his lip, “Are you sure? It wasn’t from the dead fuckers? I don’t think Pneumonia makes you vomit.”
“It’s Pneumonia,” Kate states, looking at him, “It probably combined with a stomach bug of some sort. Her immune system was weak, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a couple viruses going at the same time.”
Maddie leans against his front, feeling his heart beat through his chest, “Thank you, Kate.”
She smiles at the girl, “You’re welcome. Here.”
Maddie looks at the white box in her hands with a name that she might never be able to pronounce. How do they have medicine like this? It looks like she did a jog to the nearest pharmacy and grabbed it.
“Two a day. One in the morning and one before bed,” she glances at Negan, her smile dropping, “Do you need a check-up too?”
Negan grins, “No, darlin’. I’m all set.”
The pair make it back to their room in silence. Maddie shuts the door behind her and Negan takes the extra effort to lock it as well. She rolls her eyes.
“I don’t think there is any need for that.”
“Better safe than sorry,” he tucks the key into his pocket.
“Didn’t you like them?” she smirks, placing the pills onto the night stand near the bed. Negan scratches his beard, glancing out of the window and shutting the drapes.
“It’s not about fucking liking them. It’s about staying safe.”
Maddie rolls her eyes, “Whatever.”
She goes over to their basket and takes out a tube of toothpaste and a pink toothbrush. Negan watches her from the distance. She grins, holding the items up in the air.
“For you,” she jokes.
He doesn’t reply.
“What?” she puts them down.
“How are you feeling, doll?” he sits on the edge of the bed, extending his arms. Maddie slides her hands into his, feeling a shudder go down her spine as he sits her on his lap. This is different. They have been closer before but this is different.
“What do you mean?”
Negan wraps his arm around her waist, playing with the hem of her shirt. Due to how close his face is, she has to look down. Otherwise they’d be breathing onto each other’s noses.
“I’m sorry I didn’t notice you were still sick,” he says.
“What? Don’t be ridiculous,” she smiles, “You had no way of knowing. Besides, I’m hardly sick.”
“You have a fever- “
“I have the antibiotics,” she reassures. Her fingers trail the tattoo of a gun on his wrist. She feels stupid because she had never noticed it before, “I’ll take one after I brush my teeth.”
Maddie giggles, making him smile, “What?”
“I can’t believe I am going to brush my teeth,” she squeals.
He taps her back gently, signalling for her to get up, “Just don’t make me smell your breath afterwards.”
“You know I will.”
After they both visit the bathroom and Maddie takes her antibiotic, they settle down for bed. She watches as Negan arranges a blanket on the couch, fluffing one of the pillows before laying down. He has taken off his pants and slipped on a white shirt, like the one he had.
Maddie can see a part of his leg from here, peeking out from the blanket that is too small for him.
The sun has finally set and it is pitch black, except for the light from the moon and the stars. She watches his chest rise and fall slowly, but he is not asleep. He would not fall asleep. He still thinks one of them should keep watch.
The mattress below her squeaks at every move, but the sound reminds her how lucky she is to be on a mattress.
She twirls her hair with a hand, observing the ceiling and how it is not perfect. It has bumps and yellow stains but nothing compares to it after what they went through. She turns on her side and faces the wardrobe, noticing her silhouette in the mirror.
She turns over and goes back to looking at Negan, who is running his hand down his face.
“You always this fucking giddy at night?”
Maddie smirks, “I just feel bad that you are on the couch.”
He doesn’t reply, so she sits up.
“Negan, come and sleep here. There’s loads of room.”
Surprisingly, he is quite easy to convince. He brings his pillow and blanket, draping it over the foot of the bed. Maddie shimmies over to the other side, listening to the bed creak as his weight rests on it. He sighs loudly before his body goes completely still.
“Goodnight,” Maddie whispers, making Negan smirk. She can see it even in the dark.
Minutes go by as they struggle to fall asleep. Maddie tries not to move as much, fearing that he might scold her again. She got her wish, so why is she still like this?
The room is silent, but she can hear faint footsteps in the distance and the sounds of the trees swaying with the wind.
One of her legs touches his and he stops breathing, “Wow, they’re really smooth,” he comments.
Maddie giggles quietly, “Well, you shave your face, I shave my legs.”
“Do you shave anything else?”
“Negan!” she slaps his chest. He laughs, swearing to God that he didn’t mean it in a dirty way.
Eventually, she curls up to him, in return feeling his arms wrap around her and pull her onto his chest. She listens to his steady heartbeat, settling one of her legs between his. She then realizes that she is wearing only a shirt and panties, and it makes her feel exposed.
It starts with her on top of him. He feels the hot air around their bodies suffocating them, but he does not care.
Her hair smells like strawberries and some of it is stuck in his mouth. There is a lot he could fix about their position but he does not want to scare her away. She needs his full attention.
She giggles when Negan runs his hands up her smooth skin. It’s like porcelain. She almost doesn’t look real. Her breasts are perfectly round and her nipples harden at his touch.
She leans in and kisses his bare shoulder, “You want me?”
Negan manages a whimper, his throbbing cock pulsing against her folds. It feels like he could explode from one slight movement.
He wants to thrust his hips upwards to finally bury himself inside of her, because it is becoming unbearable. The heat coming from her pussy is taunting him.
He jerks his hips upwards and whines when he fails miserably to enter her. He notices that his arm is trapped and he cannot move it. He jerks it slightly and groans when she grinds against his cock so hard that his balls nearly explode.
Suddenly, he is awake. The room is darker than it is in the dream. It must be night-time.
He lifts his head slightly, feeling Maddie’s hair stick to the side of his face. Sweat has formed on his forehead and he can feel it between his legs and on his chest, where Maddie is pressed against him.
He tries to move his arm but the girl is using his bicep as a cushion.
Negan gasps quietly when he feels how hard his cock is against her ass. If she was awake, she would have killed him.
He moves his hips backwards, grunting when her backside follows. She must be having dreams of her own.
He grips her hip, feeling her hot skin at his fingertips. Her shirt has rode up to her chest and her stomach is exposed.
For a moment, he wonders how bad it would be to cop a feel.
“Jesus, I’m going to hell,” he whispers.
Maddie seems to be completely knocked out, although she whimpers something in her dream. He takes the opportunity to slide his arm from below her head and sit up. His shirt is sticking to his chest and back. Stupid fucking heat.
Negan stands up quietly, his boner prominent in his boxers. He looks down at it, knowing only one way to make it go away. He heads to the bathroom.
The morning is cool when Maddie wakes up, stretching in the bed. The softness of the mattress makes her smile and her hands run underneath the pillow. She opens her eyes to see the curtains blowing in the breeze. It’s sunny outside.
Negan moves in her peripheral vision and she turns her head, delirious with happiness.
“Good mornin’, darlin’,” his velvet voice greets. She smiles, watching him buckle up his belt. He is already dressed.
“I’ve had the best sleep ever,” she informs, rolling through the sheets until her legs are hanging off the edge.
Negan grins widely, nodding to the tub of pills by their bedside, “Don’t forget your antibiotics.”
He just hopes that she can’t recall the events of last night. And it looks like she can’t.
Maddie smiles and grabs the container, watching him.
“Why are you up so early?”
Negan watches as she tugs her shirt down her thighs as she sits on the edge of the bed. Fuck, he needs to look away.
“Couldn’t sleep,” he says.
She takes her pills and washes them down with a glass of water Negan prepared for her earlier.
He seems restless. He goes to sit next to her but changes his mind at the last minute, taking a seat on a chair near the wall instead. Maddie smiles, playing with the hem of her shirt.
There is a rooster screaming in the garden. The sound is amplified because the window is open. Maddie thinks about how many walkers this may attract, but then she thinks about the giant holes around the facility, and her heart resumes its normal pace.
Negan runs a hand down his face, sighing. She can tell that rooster murder crosses his mind.
“Are you going out to clear the holes today?” Maddie asks, filling the silence.
“So Mike says,” he replies.
She smirks, “You’re in no position to make demands. You’re the guest.”
Negan leans back to look at her, “I don’t feel fucking right about splitting up.”
“I’ll be here,” Maddie confirms, crossing her legs. He sees a glimpse of her underwear, “I could go with you?”
He sighs again, rubbing his chin, “I guess we gotta listen to the boss.”
They make their way down to breakfast, fresh in their new clothes and faces scrubbed clean of the world outside. The back door is open near the kitchen, showing a glimpse of running chickens and the cow rolling around on the grass. Maddie smirks at the sight, breathing in the farm-infused air.
Kate stands at the counter in a floral summer dress, cutting up what looks like strawberries. She tosses them into a bowl along with other fruits from the garden. Maddie wonders if she ever has to do the dirty work. Maybe not… if she can afford to wear dresses like that.
“Good morning,” she exclaims when she sees the pair. Maddie greets her just as enthusiastically while Negan gives a smile, scanning the surrounding area, “Ready for breakfast?”
Maddie sees some people outside, gathering that thy have already eaten.
“Yes,” she smiles, standing next to Kate. Automatically, she grabs a second knife and starts cutting.
“I trust you took your antibiotics?”
“I made sure of it,” Negan pipes up, reminding everyone that he is not useless.
Kate nods slowly and smiles when she turns back to Maddie.
“Are you feeling better?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Together, they prepare a fruit salad and fry some eggs. Kate informs them that they have to keep a checklist of all the food they harvest to make sure that they are not over eating. This place seems like a paradise, but it still stands in a horrible world. Maddie and Negan know the value of food better than anyone, so they have no problem with writing their names down next to everything they have eaten.
They calculate what they can still eat today, and it’s more than Maddie hoped for. There is still a big dinner in the evening and two opportunities for a snack.
“What happened to your hair?” Kate tilts her head, “If you don’t mind me asking.”
Maddie grabs the tips of her uneven locks and glances at Negan, “He had to cut it short.”
“With a knife and fork?”
There is an invitation for an argument but Negan simply glares at her. Maddie understands that it sounds like a funny situation, but Kate has no idea of what happened with the walkers… and how he had to cut it.
“Close. Just a knife,” Negan smiles, leaning back in his seat.
Kate sighs and folds her arms, “I could clean it up for you, if you’d like? I used to cut my daughter’s hair.”
Maddie nods, “Sure. That’d be great.”
She senses no presence of a daughter here, and assumes that Kate does not have one anymore.
The next hour moves surprisingly fast. Mike comes into the kitchen to collect Negan for their hole-cleaning day along with Trevor and Harvey. He is reluctant to leave but Maddie convinces him that she’ll be okay here. Noah flashes a smile from the garden and Kate suggests Maddie helps him with the animals.
It sounds like a fun job, and she’d rather stay close to the camp. It’s a win-win situation.
Negan grabs the back of her head when a rifle is slung over his shoulder. He pulls her in and places a long kiss on her forehead.
“I’ll be back soon,” he says.
“I know,” she smiles, “I’ll be here.”
When he disappears into the tree line, Maddie walks out onto the farm area. She gets greeted by the goat who snuggles its head into her legs.
“Hello,” she says awkwardly, patting its head.
“That’s Molly,” Noah calls from the other side of the yard, squinting against the sun.
Maddie smiles at him, glancing around, “Can I hang around here? I want to help.”
He gives her a pair of thick gloves and together they begin cleaning the yard. Molly chases after them and starts to head-butt Noah’s back when he crouches. It makes Maddie laugh.
“Does she hate you, or something?”
“It’s how she shows affection,” he grins, wiping some sweat off his forehead.
The cow seems to have retreated far away to get a daily dose of the fresh grass growing in the distance. A wooden fence surrounds the farm, keeping it safe. Maddie can tell the cow is young, judging by the rolling around earlier and the obvious size. Where is the mother? Did she die?
Maddie begins to throw the seeds for the chickens, which she seems to enjoy more than the cleaning part. Noah sits back and takes a sip from his water bottle.
“I’m surprised Negan let you stay behind,” he jokes. Maddie glances at him, giggling softly.
“He’s protective, that’s all.”
“Did you know him before all this?”
“No,” she watches the chickens run and hop over one another to peck the seeds, “We met after.”
Noah nods slowly, smiling at the girl. His bouncy hair moves with the breeze, and a part of his shirt sticks to his chest due to the heat. She looks away quickly, instead focusing on the task at hand.
“Do you know what they’re doing out there?” she nods towards the woods.
Noah looks at the trees, “They clean out the holes a couple times a week. Standard procedure,” he shrugs, “We don’t want them overflowing.”
“Yeah, that’d be bad,” she agrees.
They mimic each other’s nods and laugh.
“So, umm…” Maddie thinks, “Do I do this every day?”
“If you want,” he shrugs, “I’m the only one working with the farm. Company would be nice.”
Maddie smirks, “Why are you the one working with the animals?”
“I wanted to graduate with a veterinarian degree,” he explains, “Mike thought I’d be perfect for this kind of work.”
“I see,” she smiles, putting the bucket of seeds down and leaning next to him against the fence.
Together, they watch the chickens, breathing in the fresh air. When the sun goes behind the clouds, she glances at him.
“You’ve been with Mike from the start?”
“No,” Noah shakes his head, and she notices that he is chewing on a straw, “They found me. Well, they found me and Nikki… and Harvey.”
“So you were a group?”
“I guess you could say that,” he smiles.
Maddie filters the brand-new information. Vet student. Grouped with Nikki and Harvey. Likes animals.
She looks towards the trees again, anticipating Negan’s arrival.
Maddie sits down in front of a big mirror. Her reflection changes constantly. She was a skeleton when she arrived yesterday… and she is still a skeleton today… but her eyes have changed, and her skin is glowing.
She grips the chair’s arm rests and clears her throat as Kate throws a thin sheet over her chest. She ties it at the back of her neck gently and picks up a pair of scissors.
Maddie watches her in the mirror, “There’s some hair growing out of the wound on your head.”
“Yeah, give it time and the patch will disappear,” Kate smiles, parting some hair around her scalp.
Maddie grins, feeling a flood of relief wash down her body. She also hates herself for it. Hair is not everything. She needs to remember to keep her vanity swept under the carpet.
Kate starts to run locks of Maddie’s hair between her fingers, measuring the amount that needs to be cut off, “You don’t want it short?”
“Just even,” she replies, shrugging. In the end, the hair will come out short anyway.
The first snip is heard loud and clear, which sends a chill down the girl’s spine. It feels like her head starts to weigh less and she tilts it forward. Kate smirks down at her, “How about some music?”
“You have music?” Maddie lights up, glancing behind her. Kate walks over to a black stereo and inserts a shiny CD into the slot in the middle. The device accepts it and makes some whirling noises before the distinct voice of Whitney Houston fills the room.
“Of course we have music,” she answers, going back to snipping Maddie’s hair.
The girl smirks, closing her eyes. If she concentrates hard enough, it’s like she is back in her mother’s car, listening to the classics.
They stay silent while the song cuts out the awkwardness around them, and before they know it, it’s all over.
“Here we are,” Kate smiles, stepping in front of her. Maddie looks up, allowing the woman to check her front strands. She tucks some hair behind Maddie’s ear, smiling down at her, “See what you think.”
She steps out of her way. Maddie leans forward into the mirror, running a hand through her locks. They’re not that short. She is pleasantly surprised. Her hair stops just below her shoulders. It weaves naturally, giving her a long bob.
“Do you like it, honey?” Kate asks, putting down the scissors.
Maddie wonders how many times she must have done this to her daughter. She wonders where she is now, but feels out of place to ask, “Yes, thank you.”
Kate winks at her.
As the sun starts to paint the sky orange towards the end of the day, Negan, Mike, Trevor and Harvey begin to head back home.
He couldn’t help but feel nervous when they arrived to clear out the holes. Not because of the walkers that fill them, but because a voice in his head kept telling him that there would be a loophole that sends this whole security structure down the drain.
However, as the day went on, he started to feel more confident with the protection around the place where he and Maddie sleep.
At a second glance, the holes appear deeper and bigger. The gaps between the holes are covered with fences and barbed wire, tangling the dead pricks effectively. There is a steady stream of walkers, and they do not make a dent in the walls this community has built.
Negan curses under his breath as he slings an arm into the pile of bodies before them. All the holes are cleared out. And the walkers will be burned.
Mike lights a match and tosses it into the fuel-soaked pile. It bursts into flames.
“And breathe,” Harvey sighs, leaning against a tree.
“Wasn’t that hard, was it?” Mike grins at Negan.
He nods in return, but honestly, this much physical work does not bide well with him. He’d be more comfortable locked up in a big bedroom, screwing one of his wives and snacking on pretzels.
The men stand and watch the flames, which is a perfect opportunity for Negan to catch his breath.
He is impressed by this arrangement. Coming out here a couple of times a week to clear out the holes, get rid of the bodies, make the place safe again. The only thing that he could complain about was the amount of smoke rising into the air. It could probably be seen from miles away.
They would have to toss the bodies further away from camp in the future. He makes a note in his mind that he should bring that up next time.
“Burn, ya motherfuckers,” Trevor spits next to his feet, puffing out his chest.
They dawdle back home, the sunset warm against their necks. Negan’s arms ache from throwing walkers around all day and putting the moaning ones down. He didn’t realise how hard it would be to clear out a bunch of holes. He hopes he does not have to keep this job. Anything else would be better than this.
He wants to join Maddie with whatever she is doing. Petting goats and cleaning chicken shit. That sounds like a vacation compared to this.
He sees her with the mansion in the background. She raises her hand to her forehead, blocking the remaining sun from her view.
He sees her smile from here, which makes him grin in reply.
She starts to run towards them, which is a refreshing thing to see considering her journey from when they met. She looks well. And it should remain that way. Negan will make sure of it.
When she does not slow down five feet from the men, Mike says, “Watch out, big guy.”
She jumps into Negan’s arms, burying her face in his chest.
“How’re you doin’, kid?” Negan greets, kissing the side of her head.
Maddie tightens her arms around his neck, not caring what the others might think of her. She has not seen him for the whole day. She is used to eating and sleeping with him. They have not been apart for that long before.
Plus, she is in a good mood. She has a new haircut. Dinner is about to be served. And Negan arrived just in time.
He strokes her back while the others continue to walk towards the house. They pull away after a while and Negan runs his fingers through a strand of hair at the front.
“Is this shorter?”
“Kate gave me a haircut,” Maddie states, watching him, “She said you need one too.”
Negan rolls his eyes, “Of course she did.”
She laughs, stepping back so they can walk together, “How was your day?”
He groans in response, thankful that he has someone he can be honest with.
“That bad?” she teases, nudging him, “Lucky you, it’s almost time to eat.”
“Is food all you talk about?”
Maddie laughs, pushing him, “Shut up.”
They enter the house and the atmosphere is buzzing. Something delicious is in the air and Kate is out of sight. She must be cooking.
Negan announces that he will come back down after a shower, but not before Nikki goes up to them both, sucking on what looks like a frozen fruit pop.
“Campfire after dinner,” she sighs.
“Campfire?” Maddie asks, holding Negan by his wrist.
“Yeah. Singing songs. Eating marshmallows. You’ve been camping before, right?”
Maddie ignores her snide remark and looks up at Negan, “What are we celebrating?”
“What aren’t we celebrating?” Nikki smirks, resting a hand on her swollen belly, “New addition to the group. Successful day of working. Mike wants us all to spend some quality time together.”
Her eyes linger on Negan, but he glances down at Maddie, not noticing.
“Sounds fucking peachy.”
There are crickets chirping in the tall grass around the house. The cold air comes in a gentle breeze every now and then, making Negan take another long puff of his cigarette. He leans against a tree, observing the morons around the campfire. Maddie is among them.
He will never understand how they can arrange these stupid events in a world like this… knowing full well that the only thing keeping walkers out of their backyard are a few holes.
He takes another drag from the cigarette, remembering the time when he thought this place was protected. It seemed like it was, in the daytime.
But when the night comes, the fog separates around his eyes. The hole might stop walkers but they will never stop people.
And this fucking girl/boy scout campfire bullshit they have going on could only attract them. The flames are not too tall, but the chatter is loud.
He watches as Noah tries to feed Maddie a marshmallow from a stick. She opens her mouth and tilts back on the log, missing the target completely and ending up with the white sticky substance across her cheek.
He smirks from his spot by the tree, hearing them both laugh.
This is the kind of life she has been after, but Negan refuses to believe that they can let their guard down for a second. He thinks back to the Sanctuary and the security he provided for his people. It was without a doubt the best thing he has ever done.
“Not hungry?” Kate grins, walking up to him in the shadows.
Negan watches the wind blow the hair out of her face. She is wearing pyjama bottoms and a tank top. Must be freezing.
“Can I?” she reaches for the pack of cigarettes in his hand and he lets her pull one out. She places it between her lips, waiting as Negan lights a match for her.
What she doesn’t know is that he took the pack from a cupboard downstairs. Nobody noticed yet.
“Did Madison take her pills?” she asks, obviously irritated that he isn’t speaking.
“Yes, she did,” he takes another drag, “Not long ago.”
“Good,” Kate nods, turning to watch the girl. Negan grins as she spots him in the shadows and waves. He waves back. And so does Kate.
The conversation finds its dead end and Negan does not find the energy to re-start it. Neither does he find the energy to care about the awkward silence that follows.
He drops his cigarette and stomps it out, watching a cloud of smoke emerge from his mouth.
Kate chews on the end of hers, glancing up at the man, “Are you planning on staying here forever?”
Negan looks at her, sliding his hands into the pockets of his trousers, “I don’t know, doll. Still figuring it out.”
“Madison seems to be adamant on staying,” she points out, smoking in small puffs, “I know you’ve not been convinced about the stability of this place.”
“How did you figure that one out?” he smirks.
Kate smiles, shaking her head, “I’m just saying… I’m glad she made you see the light.”
“No,” he says, stepping forward, “I haven’t changed my fucking opinion.”
“Which is?” she challenges, “That this place sucks?”
Negan chuckles quietly, running a hand across his jawline, “I have my doubts.”
“It’s safe,” she confirms, but he does not believe her. They both glance at Maddie before Kate sighs, “We have talented people here. They’re all working together for a better future. I want you to know that these people do not turn on each other. I mean, sure… everybody has their disagreements but in the end, survival is important.”
“Why do you say that?” Negan asks.
“I’ve been in groups that fell apart before this one,” she takes another drag, “I’m not naive. I know what people are like… but these people… them, you can trust.”
“I only trust Maddie,” he states, watching the woman’s eyes dilate.
“I think you need to start trusting more people.”
“I think you need to get inside, darlin’,” he smirks, “You’ll freeze.”
After she leaves, Maddie waves him over from her spot by the campfire. He looks at some of the people watching and then saunters over. Noah has disappeared inside where the front door is left open. Negan guesses they just ran out of snacks.
Barely anyone notices him stop behind Maddie. Most are occupied watching Trevor feed the flames with alcohol.
“Don’t waste the vodka, son!” Mike shouts over the laughter.
Maddie looks up at Negan, stretching out her arm. He grabs her hand and squeezes her fingers, feeling her freezing skin.
“Jesus, you want to catch a cold, doll?”
“I’m not cold,” she says, probably wanting nothing more than to stay out here for longer.
“Bullshit,” he groans, shrugging off his leather jacket. She smiles up at him, the warm jacket hugging her shoulders, “Put your arms through it.”
She follows his orders and then zips up the jacket, knowing that will be his next request. He leans down to kiss the top of head, keeping his hands on her shoulders.
“Do you need anything?”
“No, I’m good,” Maddie pats one of his hands, crossing her legs on the log.
He grins before walking over to an outdoor table that has been set out specially to hold the drinks and snacks for the evening. He swats a few flies away from a plastic cup of water before taking a sip. It’s not nearly as strong as what he normally drinks.
“You like what you see?” a man stands beside him, piling cut up pickles onto his plate. Negan steps back to take a better look at the bastard.
Martin. They met briefly before.
“It’s a whole new world now,” he grins, nodding towards Maddie, “Anything goes.”
He bites the inside of his cheek, trying to understand exactly what the fuck he is saying to him. He looks at Maddie, who is re-joined by Noah. They laugh at an inside joke, to which she nearly tips backwards on the log.
“What the fuck are you saying exactly?” Negan puts his cup down, the cold air blowing against his bare arms.
Martin releases a chuckle, obviously a little startled at his sudden change in tone, “You know, man,” he glances at Maddie again, “If you don’t try to get some of that young pussy, let someone else have a chance.”
Negan clenches his jaw, baffled.
“You know what I mean?” he chuckles, scratching an area on his chest.
The cold air cannot cool him down now. He feels his blood boil past the point of no return and shoot straight up to his face.
His only instinct is to squash the bug before it lays eggs all around the property.
Negan finds no weapon on the table, not one that could do serious damage.
He clenches his fist instead, and targets it right at Martin’s face.
The sound of a jaw dislocating has never been so satisfying in Negan’s ears. The man’s yells seem to spur him on, so he punches him again, this time sending Martin to the floor.
The chatter around him stops, replaced with a united gasp.
“Get this lunatic off me!” Martin shouts, spitting blood like a fountain. Negan punches him again, hoping that at least one of his teeth cracks and falls down his throat so that he can choke on it.
His fists have turned into bloodied weapons, but in the moment, he does not notice any blood; Only Martin’s face, and how he has insinuated that if Negan does not rape Maddie, he will make a move.
“What the hell is going on?!” Mike calls from across the fire.
After multiple punches, his anger seems to subside and all the voices around him come as clear as day.
“Negan!” Maddie pushes him, getting in front of the blubbering mess of a man on the floor, “Negan, stop!”
He grabs her arms for support, focusing on her piercing blue eyes.
She winces as his fingers dig into her skin through the leather jacket, but she endures it because if she moves, he will kill him.
“Do you fucking know what he just said to me?!” Negan fights back, trying to shove her out of the way.
She presses herself against his chest, pushing him further away from his target.
Somebody kneels to help Martin. Kate has emerged from the house, looking at the events from the porch. They try to lift Martin up, aiming for the house. That’s when Negan remembers that Kate is a doctor and they are going to fix him up. It makes him angrier.
“Enough!” Mike stands dangerously close to him, “Everybody, get inside. Negan. Madison,” he looks at them, “My office.”
The adrenaline courses through Negan like there’s no tomorrow and if he is not punching anyone, he needs to get rid of it another way.
“Is this a fucking joke?”
“Negan!” the girl scolds him, trying to get him to look at her, “Calm down, you are going to ruin this.”
He ignores her, “You, boss man, need to control what kind of people live here.”
Maddie watches him in horror, and he realises that nobody knows what has caused him to explode. Explaining himself is the last thing on his mind right now.
“That has never been more clear to me than it is right now,” Mike says, folding his arms. He sees Trevor and Harvey take position behind him, hands reaching towards the back of their holsters.
Negan shocks everyone by releasing his rage through laughter. He squeezes his eyes shut and stomps his foot into the ground before nudging Maddie away from him. She stands where she has been before, in the line of fire. Just in case things go south.
“Me? You mean… fucking me?”
Maddie shakes her head, praying that for once he will shut his mouth.
Martin has been taken inside to be treated. The only person left on the porch is Nikki. He sees Louis rolling away from the window in his wheelchair on the second floor.
He sees Noah extending his arm for Maddie, but she does not take the bait. The gesture pisses him off so much that he grabs her hand and pulls her towards him again, “Hey, kid, she’s fine.”
Mike takes a deep breath, “I’d like to continue this chat in my office. Now.”
They walk into their bedroom. To Maddie’s dismay, Negan shuts the door softly behind them, when all she wants to do is slam it.
This is it. He is going to get them both kicked out. Or maybe just him. She sighs.
Even if that was the case, she’d never stay without him. And she thinks that the feeling is mutual.
She turns around to face him, shrugging his leather jacket off her shoulders.
A grin plays on his lips as he leans against the door. Maddie glares at him.
“What is so,” she throws the jacket at his face, “fucking funny?”
Negan catches it before running a hand down his face. She sees how his skin has cracked around his knuckles, seeping blood down into his wrists. That could be Martin’s, but she feels from that little outburst, he ended up injuring himself more.
“This,” he answers, suddenly tossing the jacket back. It wraps around her ankles and she kicks it off, “This fucking place. It’s a motherfucking nightmare.”
Maddie furrows her eyebrows, watching him, “What are you talking about? Do you not remember what happened back there?”
“Oh, I remember,” Negan nods, walking towards the wardrobe, “Lock the door, would you?”
“What?” she groans, “Negan, stop this!”
He pulls out a pistol and clicks it into place, tucking it into the waistband of his jeans. Maddie grabs her head in disbelief.
“Are you crazy?!” she tries to keep her voice down, lunging at him, “Where the hell did you get that? Do you know what kind of trouble we will get into if they find out you’ve been keeping a weapon?”
“Godammit, Madison!” he shouts, making her jump, “Who’s side are you on?!”
She hides her face in her hands, trying to keep her emotions under the covers. It’s late and the whole house can probably hear them arguing. They don’t need people like that living here.
“I am trying to keep us safe,” Negan snarls, “I am trying to keep you safe.”
“Safe from what?” she watches him, “I’ve been more safe here than I have all that time out there with you!”
“Is that what you really think?”
She steps back, taking a seat at the edge of the bed. She didn’t mean what she said, and she thinks that he knows. At this point, it is all about scoring points. It’s childish.
Negan did not sugar-coat his version of the story in Mike’s office. He said it like it happened, which evicted no major reaction from the boss. He listened, he nodded, he wasn’t surprised… or shocked.
He said they were just words, and Martin would never act on them.
He said Negan was stressed.
And then he said that Negan should apologise, otherwise this is his last night here.
“What? Why are you crying, doll?” he pries her hands from her face, wiping at her cheeks.
Maddie sobs, looking down, “You have to fix this.”
Negan clenches his jaw, sitting down on the floor in front of her, “Fix it how?”
She knows he will not like her answer. He likes being right. And he is stubborn as hell. Swallowing his pride seems impossible.
Forgive Martin and pretend none of this happened? Continue living in the same house as that fucker, but be confident that sanctuary is guaranteed?
He is not sure he wants it that much.
“Talk to Mike,” Maddie nods, “Do what he says. Just please…”
He cuts her off, “How can you fucking say that?”
She rests both hands on his shoulders, feeling the raging beast fighting to break free under her fingertips.
“Just talk to him,” she says again, “Do something,” she watches Negan shake his head, ignoring that option completely, “I don’t want to go back out there.”
“You won’t have to…”
This time she cuts him off, “No, I will! I will have to! And so will you!” she slaps his chest, “And then we’ll both be out there, back to having sleepless nights and eating rats and not knowing when the next herd is going to come and make us run again!”
Negan grabs her hands, feeling her shake.
“Please talk to Mike,” she sniffs, glancing down at his hands, “And go see Kate. She’ll bandage them up.”
“I’m not going to let her waste medical supplies on my hands just like she is doing on that ass-wipe right now,” he stands, tempted to throw something. Maddie huffs in exhaustion behind him.
“Are you listening to me?”
He glances at her, “Yes.”
“Are you going to go down there?” she stands up too, grabbing his fingers with one hand, “I am begging you.”
“Fine,” he sighs, closing his eyes when her arms wrap around his body. He hugs her back, feeling relief bursting from within her, “But people are more dangerous than herds, daisy.”
Maddie wakes up as the bed sinks beside her. She opens her eyes in the dark, watching Negan’s sunken figure stare at the floor. For a moment, she wonders if it would be better for her to pretend to be asleep.
It’s pitch black outside. The house is quiet. He has been in Mike’s office for hours.
Her curiosity overrides her fatigue state of mind and she stirs. This catches Negan’s attention and he turns his head to look at her.
“How did it go?” she whispers, propping herself up on an elbow. He takes his time constructing his answer. He rubs his growing stubble with one hand, nodding slowly.
“We’re staying,” he says.
Maddie smiles slowly, rising to rest her chin on his shoulder, “Really?”
“Yeah, darlin’,” his hand creeps up on hers, intertwining their fingers, “Go back to sleep.”
She squeezes his fingers and allows relief to wash over her body. She smiles against his back, wondering what it is that he said to make them stay. Did he apologise? Did they argue? Is that why it took so long?
She knows he wouldn’t want to talk about it, so she gives him the satisfaction of staying quiet.
She yawns into his shirt, sleep coming more naturally now that she has nothing to worry about. She thinks of Martin and what Negan claims that he said.
That’s not a problem. He wouldn’t do it again. She is sure of it.
“Are you going to sleep?” she whispers, feeling him straighten his back.
“In a while,” he turns his body so that he can fully look at her. Their faces are inches apart. Maddie drops her gaze and pulls him in for a hug, nuzzling her nose into his neck. His arms squeeze her until she is halfway onto his lap.
“Thank you,” she mutters.
“For what?” Negan frowns, feeling uncomfortable. She should not be thanking him for keeping them here. He rubs her back as if it will make his guilt of not killing the prick fade away.
“Keeping the peace,” she smirks, pressing her nose against his ear. It sends a shiver down his spine, “We really need it, you know?”
“I know, doll,” he kisses her shoulder, making goose bumps rise on her skin.
She feels heat starting to rise between her legs and presses her thighs together in embarrassment. Maybe it’s the extra-long touches he has been leaving on her body recently, or just the fact that she is sat on his fucking lap. And it’s dark… and quiet… and he just did something he totally disagrees with to make her happy.
She smiles softly and slides back to her side of the bed, “Goodnight.”
He grins, glancing back down to his now bandaged hands.
The days blend into weeks, and the “unfortunate incident” (to quote Mike) is forgotten by everyone but Negan. He keeps an eye on the prick, and all of the pricks who live here. The only people that he likes other than Maddie is Kate, but that could be because she is resourceful. And a fucking doctor.
The other ballerinas fly around the place like they are living in some sort of fairy land. They are unaware of the dangers beyond their camp, because most of them did not experience what Negan has. Maybe he is being dramatic. Maybe they are aware… but hosting parties and nights around the campfire seem to add fuel to his flame of anger.
It’s pointless. It’s stupid. And they should not ever be this relaxed in a place without tall walls and a dozen guard posts.
Maybe he has gotten used to the Sanctuary. Yeah, that could be it. He had it easy. He knows that other people don’t.
He had a day when Louis, the Stephen Hawking of this world, rolled outside to fix up some solar panels and maintain the electricity around the perimeter. Negan had to do the hard work, seeing as the bastard cannot walk to save his life.
“Make sure the transmitter is buried under that hatch,” Louis points from his wheelchair to the ground next to Negan, “It has to be hidden for the fuse to work.”
Most of the time, he has no idea what Louis is saying to him, but hell… if this technical shit keeps their power going, he is not going to question anything.
With each coming day, Maddie seems to be floating off to fairy land as well. He keeps her on her toes when he can, but she gets lazy and forgets about the blood, sweat, and tears that Negan expects when building up a place like this. It’s like she has been brainwashed. Or maybe she is simply tired of being afraid.
“I want to come with you,” she says, watching Negan sling a rifle over his shoulder. A new day to clear the fence and burn bodies.
“What about all the chicken shit that needs cleaning?”
Maddie gives him a look, “Honestly? I need a change of scenery.”
He grins, patting her shoulder, “Get back to work. Noah is waiting.”
She frowns at him.
“And if we’re having chicken for dinner, make sure you slice that fucker’s head off,” he points to the screaming rooster, “I don’t need his fucking alarm at the break of dawn.”
“We need the rooster,” she sighs, “Who’s gonna fertilise the eggs?”
He leaves camp with Trevor and Harvey, watching Maddie wave from the porch. He wants her to have tougher jobs too, but he feels more comfortable leaving her at the house. Maybe he is being a hypocrite, but this will have to do for now.
They arrive at the first hole and it is filled to the top. Some fuckers are trying to crawl out.
“Put them down and drag them out,” Negan orders, and the men do as he says.
“Looks like a herd could have been passing through,” Harvey says, chewing his lip. A habit he has developed since this shit went down a year ago, “You think we’ll need to put another fence up? Just in case?”
Negan leans against a tree, trying to think.
“Or we could come out ‘ere to clean ‘em out more of’n. Ain’t that right?” Trevor pulls down his baseball cap.
“No, we’ll definitely need to put up a fence,” Negan says.
Harvey drops another body onto the growing pile, “We should talk to Mike about this. He’ll know what to do.”
Negan bites his tongue. Jesus fuck. If he was in charge, this shit wouldn’t be a problem.
“How about we fix this now? And not wait to talk to Mike, further wasting out time?”
“You ‘ave a problem with how pop runs this place?” Trevor pokes Negan’s chest with a machete, “Maybe we should mention that as well.”
Harvey glances at Negan nervously, clearly not wanting to start anything.
He looks at the holes littered through the forest, almost all of them overflowing. Some walkers have been caught in the fence, but it looks like it could collapse at any minute. This is a problem. Mike needs to know about this.
But walking to camp and talking this through with their fearless leader will take at least a couple of hours. By the time they get back, some of the walkers might already be wandering near the porch. It’s lucky they got here before any of that happened. A day, or maybe two hours later, this stream of the dead would be hard to control.
“We do this now,” Negan says, watching as Trevor shakes his head, “The sooner the better.”
“And what exactly is it we’re supposed to do?”
He gets a whiff of rotting flesh and death that is carried by the breeze.
“Refrain from using your guns. No wasting ammo,” Negan sinks his machete into a dead one’s skull, “Put down as many as you can and burn them. When this is under control, we’ll call for more people to help. Then we’ll set up a second fence.”
To his surprise, they obey his orders. Gradually, they create three or four giant piles of bodies ready to be burned. The holes are not yet empty, but it is getting to a point where it is safe to call the other fairies for help.
Negan groans as his machete slashes into the body of an elderly woman. It could be the melting skin that makes her look old. He doesn’t know. He kicks her into the nearest pile, wiping sweat from his forehead.
The sun is ready to go down when suddenly; a yell makes Negan look up.
Harvey is pushed into one of the holes by a walker he did not notice. Now that his eyes are in the right direction, he sees about five more of them staggering towards the holes. No, staggering towards the hole where Harvey has fallen.
“Shit!” Negan sprints towards the action, “Trevor! Pull him out!”
He doesn’t think before raising his arm and sending his machete into the soft skull of a roamer. The moans start getting closer and suddenly, about five hands are on him, grabbing and pulling and sinking their fingers into his leather jacket.
“Fucking fuck!” Negan yells, “Trevor!”
He sees the bastard cowering behind a tree, while Harvey is gritting his teeth, almost out of the hole. Arms come up behind him and start dragging him down again.
“Trevor, you motherfucking prick, pull him out!” Negan groans as he fights to get some movement between himself and the dead, lashing out, cutting anything and everything in his way. Some hands fall to the floor and about two of the dead drop near his feet. He has a chance now.
He takes off towards Harvey and collapses near the edge, stretching out both of his arms. Harvey is trying to climb up again, jamming him feet and hands into the muddy walls of the hole, kicking at the snapping jaws below him.
“Negan!” he whimpers, shoulders shaking. Shit. He will lose it.
“Take my hand, you prick!” he almost falls in himself, trying to reach the man.
When the first set of teeth sink into his shoulder, he stops trying. He stands up and watches Harvey’s helpless eyes. He listens to him beg for his help. But it’s too late. They both know it.
His screams still echo in the woods as Negan races towards Trevor, who has taken care of two biters on his own.
“I got ‘em!” he boasts proudly.
Negan slams a fist into his jaw, “You think you deserve a motherfucking medal?!”
Trevor screams as blood pours from his face, hands blocking his eyes from Negan’s relentless punching, “Stop! Stop it!”
“You fucking killed him!” he roars, “I told you to pull him out while you had the chance, you cunt! And what did you do? You hid like a fucking pussy!”
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Trevor turns into a blubbering mess on the floor even after Negan has gotten up. He catches his breath and looks down at his knuckles, which are bleeding again.
The screams have stopped and now there is only the sound of distant growling and flesh being torn away from bone. Negan closes his eyes, blocking out Trevor’s sobbing at his feet.
Maddie rubs her arms on the porch swing, looking at the forest. They should have been back by now. They missed dinner.
She hugs herself, thinking of the worst.
“They’ll be back, don’t worry,” Noah smiles behind her. She smiles back as he coats her in his jacket.
“Oh… thank you,” she blushes, looking back at the swaying trees in the distance.
“I didn’t want you to be cold,” gingerly, he takes a seat beside her. They swing together in silence until Kate steps out of the house.
“Hey, come on,” she gestures with her head, “Get in and help me with the dishes.”
Noah squeezes Maddie’s hand and gets up, disappearing into the house.
She knows that Kate is still there. She can hear her breathing.
“They’ll be back soon, honey,” her voice is soothing, and it makes tears spring to her eyes. What is they’re not back soon? What if they are not back ever?
Maddie’s silence causes Kate to take a seat next to her, where Noah has just been. She sighs and nudges her, “Did you have a good day?”
“Yeah,” Maddie speaks with a stone in her throat, “We got a lot done.”
“Good,” Kate smiles, “Maybe tomorrow I can show you how to milk the goat. We’ll make some cheese. How does that sound?”
Maddie nods quickly, knowing that all this talk is just to make her feel better. The truth is, nothing will make her feel better until she sees Negan. Until he can tell her one of his dick jokes and scold her for using up all his soap.
Her fingernails are in her mouth and she starts chewing. It has been hours. Why are they not back yet?
The sound of crickets and grasshoppers fill the silence. She watches the trees. She sees two dark figures emerging. One of them is dragging one foot behind them. Is that a walker?
“There they are!” Kate jumps up first, running down the wooden steps. Maddie follows when she sees Negan’s tall form. And… blood. Why is there blood?
She races past Kate and stops only a few feet away from the men, when she notices Trevor’s swollen face. Negan is keeping him up with one arm and pushing him forward.
“What happened to him?!” Kate panics, extending her hands to the injured man. Negan pushes her away angrily.
“Don’t help him,” he groans dragging him all the way to the porch. When he releases Trevor, the girl jumps into a hug.
“What happened?” Maddie asks, shocked, but relieved that Negan is okay. He is limping, but it’s not the end of the world. Trevor looks like he got ran over by a truck.
Even though anger is radiating off his body, he hugs her back, kissing the side of her face.
“Where is Harvey?” Kate asks, already using a cloth to dab at Trevor’s face.
“He’s fucking dead,” Negan replies. Kate looks up at him in disbelief. Oh, is she not used to that? Well, she’s going to have to be. Because from what has happened today, Negan has declared this group broken.
Maddie pulls away, trying to keep her emotions stable, “What do you mean, ‘he’s dead’?”
At that point, everyone races out onto the porch, including Hawking. Including Nikki.
The mother of Harvey’s unborn child.
The Book Room is the most appropriate name for this space. Oddly, during her time here, Maddie has never stepped a foot into this part of the house.
The bookcase blends into the wall until it is hard to tell whether the shelves are built into it. Maddie looks up and down, knowing there is at least five hundred books on one wall. She pulls a black one out by its spine, keeping her feet planted in the hardwood floor.
She turns it over and reads the title. Eris: A Greek Goddess.
There is an illustration of a white, floaty silhouette on the cover. It’s obviously a woman, and she is holding a knife.
Maddie smirks as she remembers how her brother used to call her Eris, “You are so mean; you are definitely the devil.”
Madison gasped, folding her arms, “The devil is a man. I’m a goddess. Goddess of discord.”
“You’re Eris!” her brother threw the TV remote at her. They were in a fit of anger, but were both bursting with laughter.
She sighs, putting the book back. Better not open that door again. She wipes away a few tears from her face and leans her head on the wooden bookcase.
She hears Nikki’s hysterical screams upstairs, and a few calming voices. Next door, men arguing. Negan is in there.
Maddie tries to put together how everything hit rock bottom so fast. One of their group members is dead. And Negan was involved again.
She chews on her thumb, knowing that he did not kill Harvey. But he did punch the shit out of Trevor. And in Mike’s eyes, that is nearly the same thing. He is his father, after all.
The door bursts open and hits a wall with a loud thud. Maddie spins around, seeing an angered Negan in the doorframe. His eyes soften when he sees her.
She opens her mouth to greet him but his feet are so fast that he envelopes her in a hug, “It’s okay, don’t get upset, darlin’.”
She wasn’t even aware that she has been crying.
“What happened back there?” she asks, his long fingers wiping at her cheeks.
“I already told you what happened,” he grunts, pulling back, “Trevor killed him.”
Maddie sighs, “This is so messed up.”
Negan senses that she wants to ask about their stay here again. He puts her out of her misery, “We’re not going anywhere.”
To her, it sounds more like a threat. And she does not want to make these people upset.
“He said that?”
He hesitates, nodding.
Maddie scratches the side of her head, watching him look around in confusion, “Is this a fucking library?”
She follows his eyes to the dark wood material covering the room, and a scatter of colour owned by the leather spines.
“Shit, and I was sat in our room, bored out of my fucking mind.”
Her fingers start to itch and she has a sudden need to write in her diary.
“I can’t believe Harvey is dead,” she says.
Negan looks back down at her, “It’s done,” his face hides emotion but she sees it behind his eyes, “Now we have to clean up the mess.”
She is about to question him but then she thinks of Trevor with his broken face, and Nikki without her partner.
They head back upstairs silently and it is hard to sleep because of Nikki’s sobs echoing throughout the house. Negan sighs loudly, propping a pillow behind his back and sitting up. Maddie watches him through the darkness.
His knuckles are shattered again and it pisses her off that he never wants to use any of the medical supplies they have. She takes his hand gently and starts tracing her thumb over the wounds. Negan winces, “I thought you were asleep.”
“I can’t sleep.”
She crawls up until her head is on his chest, and in this position, she is almost sat up too. He leans back a bit, stroking her hair.
“I’m not going back out there,” he declares.
“That’s fine,” Maddie closes her eyes, listening to his heartbeat, “It must have been traumatising.”
“No, darlin’, no,” she feels him shaking his head, “I simply don’t want to save these clumsy fucks anymore.”
She chews on her lip, making it bleed. Then, she brings her thumb to her mouth, biting on it.
“Stop that,” he pulls her hand away and kisses it, “It’s a bad habit.”
They stay like that for what feels like hours, and the noises of the house never stop. Through a nearby wall, she hears heavy footsteps down the corridor, and then the same feet running back. Then more crying.
Negan’s heart speed up and she knows that he doesn’t want to say anything else about them… out of respect. She listens to it, allowing the rapid thudding lull her to sleep.
He buries his nose in her hair, feeling the girl go limp in his arms. He is surprised she managed to pass out so fast. Meanwhile, he is wide awake, listening to everyone freak out in other rooms. He already knew this was going to happen. These people are so stupid; they cannot even realise that the real danger is themselves.
Nikki releases a long wail. He clenches his jaw, knowing that this is nobody’s fault but Trevor’s. If he was the leader, he would have him executed.
Negan places one of his hands over Maddie’s ear, hoping it would help to block out the sounds and keep her in the deep slumber.
She breathes steadily, her small hand twitching on his chest. He focuses on it, noticing that her fingernails are perfectly clean. Strange, as she basically works in the mud all day. Then he remembers her home remedy obsession. She washes her hands at least ten times a day.
“Little psycho,” he chuckles, kissing the top of her head.
He runs his hand up her wrist and gives her hand a squeeze, rubbing his thumb over her finger. Then he feels a bump. He grabs her hand, observing the simple golden ring around her middle finger. He never noticed that before. Did she always have that on?
Maddie mutters something in her sleep, so quietly and incoherently.
Suddenly, she jolts awake, gasping for air. Negan sits up sharply, grabbing her shoulders as she shakes against his chest, “It’s alright, Maddie.”
She opens her eyes, wiping away the fresh tears. He pulls her back, looking into her eyes.
“Are you okay?”
She nods, taking a few deep breaths to calm down. It’s rare to have nightmares these days, considering that every day is a nightmare. But lately, they have had time to relax and get back into the old pattern of the day. Although, today was hardly relaxing.
“Come on, go back to sleep,” he whispers, noticing that the screaming has stopped.
“I’m fine,” she confirms, voice wobbling.
“Do you wanna talk about it?”
“No,” she sighs, pressing her face against his chest. After a while, she says, “I’ve never felt more alone.”
Negan frowns, rubbing up and down her back, “You have me, doll.”
She makes a sound which is something between a laugh and a sob, “I know. I don’t want to lose you.”
“Where is this coming from?” he pulls her up so that he can see her eyes, “I’m not fucking going anywhere, you hear me?”
She nods, “Yeah, it’s easy to say that.”
“No, I promise you,” he says, pressing his forehead against hers, “You mean more to me than anything else that ever existed. I’d never leave you, alright?”
She nods slowly, feeling his breath on her face. He strokes the side of her head, making her feel slightly nauseous.
“Okay, goodnight,” she says, rather quickly. He smirks, leaning back to give her space.
“Has she been sat here all day?”
“Pretty much,” Noah replies, glancing over his shoulder. Nikki is sprawled on the muddy floor by the chicken hutch, cradling one of the newly hatched chicks in her hands.
Maddie bites her lip as it chirps within her grip. Nikki’s eyes are dead, and she does not respond to anyone who has called her so far. It’s nearly dinner time now, and Maddie doubts she will be getting up for food.
“Do you think we should get her inside before it gets dark?”
Noah sighs, putting down his axe and throwing fresh wood onto a big pile nearby, “There’s no point. She’ll come around.”
Maddie isn’t sure that she will.
She pulls off her gloves and sets them down near the house, glancing at Negan near the porch. He puts out his cigarette and comes down the steps slowly, stopping when he is facing Maddie.
“Go inside,” he gestures with his head, “Dinner is almost ready.”
“Yeah, it’s almost time,” Noah adds, grabbing some more logs.
“You too, Noah,” Negan says, receiving a look of surprise from the boy. Maddie tries to hide her smile as he complies and steps inside.
“Are you coming too?” she asks. Negan pats her shoulder.
“In a second.”
She watches Negan crouch down beside the pregnant woman from the window. The sound of dishes and cutlery clashing together inside makes it difficult to hear what is being said. Maddie leans in until her head is almost out of the window frame before someone grabs her waist.
She shrieks, jumping back. Noah stands there, laughing, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it.”
“God, you nearly gave me a heart attack!” she slaps him away. He retreats into the living room and she focuses her gaze on Negan again.
He appears to be speaking and nodding his head. She has no idea what he must be saying but it captures Nikki’s attention. She starts crying as Negan grabs the chick from her hands and puts it back in the hutch it hatched in.
Nikki flings her arms around Negan’s neck and he helps her to her feet. They stand there for ages. She is crying into his chest and Negan is visibly swaying her from side to side.
Shortly after, he manages to get her into the house. Maddie meets him at the front and watches as he takes the woman up the stairs.
When he comes back down, he sighs, “She’ll be eating in her room.”
“Is she okay?”
Negan rubs his stubble, dodging her question, “We need to calm her down. It’s not a good state to be in, especially with how far along she is.”
Kate walks by with her giant oven mitts and Negan grabs her attention. He tells her to bring a plate up to Nikki’s room.
“Sure,” she nods, hurrying back over to the kitchen.
Maddie watches him for a second, trying to figure out what was said between them. She knows he means well, but her curiosity pushes words out of her mouth.
“What did she say to you?”
Negan raises his brows, leaning against a doorframe. He pulls out his pack of cigarettes and puts one in his mouth. She glances at the front door, figuring that he’s going outside again.
“She knows it wasn’t my fault.”
“Well… that’s good,” Maddie smiles slightly, “At least she is not camping outside now.”
Negan smiles before squeezing between her shoulder and neck. He walks outside without another word at the same time when Mike comes into the room.
He is his usual self, but more on edge. There is a crease between his eyebrows and he is wearing the same clothes as yesterday. The bottom of his shirt is dotted with blood. It probably came from Trevor’s face.
All Maddie wants to do is eat, but to her dismay, Mike spots her by the door and starts walking forward. Before she can get away, he says, “Come with me.”
She widens her eyes, a little taken aback. What could he possibly want?
He leads her outside through the back entrance. Maddie wonders if he is doing that to avoid Negan who is smoking on the front porch. She keeps her eyes on Mike’s back, playing with her fingers as they walk. He is quiet, and she does not want to be the conversation starter.
She glances over her shoulder to see Kate waltzing around in the window, spooning food onto everyone’s plates. Her stomach rumbles.
“Here we are,” Mike sighs, unlocking the door of what looks like a small shed. She has seen it before, but never knew they used it.
It’s dark inside. Mike starts to get lower and lower as he walks. She notices that there are stairs leading straight down. Is this some sort of basement?
Maddie wedges a rock under the door to keep it open. Just in case.
She follows Mike down to the “basement” and stops when he approaches a grand, wooden cupboard. Glass makes it possible to see inside the storage unit. There are bottles stored horizontally on plenty of metallic shelves. She can only see the bottoms of them.
Mike opens one of the doors with a creak and pulls out an elegant bottle with dark liquid inside, “1920. France.”
Maddie folds her arms uncomfortably as he launches into explaining what this wine is made of, where it came from, and how he found it. She doesn’t want to be rude but she couldn’t care less.
She glances at the open door above when a howl of wind passes.
Mike takes out two glasses and pours a generous amount into each one. He raises a glass and nods at the girl, “Take it.”
She grabs the glass and takes a sip when he does. She has not had alcohol for a long time, and it is a shock when the wine burns its way into her stomach. She closes her eyes to savour the moment.
“I am a forgiving person… but your travel partner is gnawing at my last nerve.”
She sighs, taking a seat on a creaky chair near the cupboard, “With all due respect, you’re not the one who is having a bad time here.”
Mike glares, but listens. His son is not dead. He was punched. Wounds heal. He will get over it. Nikki lost the father of her child. And this was because of Mike’s son.
It is a hard-to-swallow pill, but Maddie will make sure he swallows it. And if not, she’ll get Negan to push it down his throat.
She considers that Mike is going to start an argument, but his next sentence starts with Harvey, “We can’t bury him. He’s chewed to bits, I know it.”
Maddie grimaces, but nods. It’s true. Not to mention, he died in one of those holes, from what Negan says.
Mike starts pouring himself another glass as Maddie takes a sip from hers, “Go, now. You must be hungry. Take that with you.”
She leaves the glass on the table before climbing the stairs back to the open sky. Her first deep breath makes her taste oncoming rain and the dampness of dirt. She leaves the door to the basement open and enters the house through the rear entrance.
Nikki’s room is more or less the same as Negan and Maddie’s. It has the same architecture and the same furniture, but it lacks curtains and an en suite.
He watches the woman sit on the edge of the bed, her eyelids swollen. She left the plate of food on the nightstand, only managing to swallow a piece of a potato.
“You have to eat, darlin’,” he rubs his stubble, leaning against the door.
“I can’t eat,” she releases a sob again, burying her face in her hands. He crosses the room to crouch down in front of her.
He thought that after leaving his wives at the Sanctuary, he would not have to deal with crying women again.
“I know it seems impossible,” he wiggles his hand through her wrists until she allows him to rub the tears from her face, “But it’s not.”
“Easy for you to say,” she takes a breath, running her hand through the short, blonde hair.
Negan grins sadly, “No… I’ve been through it.”
Nikki sniffs, watching him.
“You’re carrying a baby. You need to eat.”
She puts a hand on her belly. It’s hard to keep eye contact with the fucking bump in between them.
“Is it a girl or a boy?”
“I think it’s a boy.”
“What are you going to name him, doll?”
She smiles sadly, not wanting to say his name. Negan nods, placing a hand on the side of her belly.
“That’s okay, darlin’,” he says, “Can you try and eat for him?”
Nikki wipes fresh tears from her face and nods, taking the plate from Negan. He doesn’t leave until she swallows it all. He knew that if he left, she wouldn’t eat.
“Where have you been?” Maddie asks, pointing to the oven. He takes out his portion of food and sits down at the kitchen table. Maddie sits next to him.
She raises an eyebrow, feeling a pang of jealousy. It’s uncalled for. Maybe she’s confusing it for something else.
Negan smirks, “What? Are you jealous?”
She blushes, “Of course not.”
“Don’t worry, Maddie,” he winks, “You’re still my number one girl.”
She giggles as he pokes at her hip, “Eat your potatoes, old man.”
Spending the day on her hands and knees in the garden, Maddie inevitably developed an ache in her neck. She sits up and stretches her back, tilting her head towards the sun.
It’s hot. It’s so hot. The crops are beginning to shrivel up, which is why gardening became a priority in the past few days. Even the people who usually go out to scavenge have been asked to stay behind and help.
Two of them have been bringing water from a nearby lake and filling up a tank that will be used to water the crops. It stands in the shade by the house, dangerously close to the screaming goat.
She watches Kate spray the mammal with a hose, making it roll around happily in the cracked ground.
Maddie wipes her sweaty forehead, smirking as Negan brings her a glass of water. The condensation drips into her palm and she has to press the glass against her face. God, that feels good.
His features are blurred by the heat of the sun, “Stand up, daisy,” he shakes a yellow tube of sun cream before squirting it into his hand.
“Do I have to? It’s so sticky, and gross.”
Negan smirks, “Do you want to burn your fucking skin off? We have enough to deal with as it is. Now turn your ass around.”
She does as he says, feeling a slap of cold lotion on the back of her neck. Her body shudders at the feeling. There is nothing more disgusting than sun cream. Worst of all, it dries up almost immediately.
“Stop squirming,” he says, running his hands up and down her arms. She lifts her head and feels the cream go into her hair. At that point, she must slap his hands away.
“Ew, stop! It’s going everywhere!”
Negan frowns when she jumps away. He is wearing a simple white shirt and jeans. She mirrors his look. There are no shorts lying around in the house, but if she had any, she would wear them. Her jeans feel like they are melting into her.
“Put some on your face,” he orders.
“What did you say?”
He acts wounded, and it makes her laugh. But even afterwards, his expression remains the same.
“Why don’t you put some on your face?”
“I did,” he says, “It’s important to protect your skin, Maddie.”
She thinks about skin cancer and wonders if that is what his wife had. Her brother had a tumour in his bran. It’s not the same thing.
“This will last me a lifetime. Look, there’s still white patches here,” she points to her arm where the cream had no time to settle.
“You’ll be fine,” he smiles, tucking the bottle into the pocket of his pants. He scans their surroundings and sighs, “Almost done here?”
“Not quite,” she gestures to the drying tomatoes, “We need more water.”
“I didn’t expect this fucking heat,” he moves a hand to his beard.
When the sun starts to set, Maddie takes a deep breath and lays down by one of the flower beds. She hears the cutlery being fiddled with in the kitchen and tries to straighten her back. It kills. She has been crouching for the whole day.
Noah blocks the sky and gives her his hand, “Need some help?”
“Thank you,” she smiles, getting up.
They walk to the house quietly, both exhausted from the day’s work. She sees Nikki looking out of the window on the second floor. She doesn’t have to do shit. But that’s okay.
“I think I’m gonna have a bath,” Maddie says, rubbing her neck.
“Are you coming back out?”
“Do you want me to?” she smirks.
Noah pushes her gently, chuckling, “Yeah. Unless you’re tired.”
“I’m not tired.”
She enters her room to see that Negan is not there. Strange. She didn’t see him in the kitchen either. Maybe he’s taking care of Nikki again. She feels a pang of jealousy as she strips her clothes. They are all sweaty and smell like trash.
If they were still out there, she’d have to put them back on after washing. Her jealously turns into a feeling of gratefulness. It could be worse.
She is amazed by how perfect the bath turns out to be. She makes sure that the water is lukewarm as she would feel like she was in a witch’s cauldron if it was hot. She grabs some bath salts from the hamper basket they received on their first day here and scatters them around. It starts to fizz. She puts her head underwater.
The air is cooler when she gets out, but this could be because the sun has set. She runs her fingers through her damp hair and slips her feet into Negan’s socks. There is a light brown dress which looks like a shirt in the wardrobe, and she wiggles into it. Her nipples are visible.
She folds her arms. That’s better.
Maddie skips down the stairs, noticing that the only people in the kitchen are Louis and Kate. She leans against the doorframe, waving at them. Then she folds her arms quickly.
“Have you seen Negan?”
Louis pushes his glasses up his nose and takes a bite of an apple. Kate answers, “No, but I think he’s with Nikki.”
She tries to look nonchalant, “What about Noah?”
“He’s outside,” she smiles, wiping the corner of the table with a wet cloth.
Maddie walks out onto the porch, feeling the warm breeze sway past her ankles. There is a creak of the swings to her right. She sees Noah waving her over.
“Enjoy your bath?”
“How did you know I had a bath?” she asks playfully, sitting next to him.
He seems to blush, but she can’t place why, “I would’ve guessed that you prefer baths to showers.”
“I prefer showers,” she smirks, “But I’ve been having a back ache,” she rubs the back of her neck as if to prove her point.
Noah drapes his arms over the swinging bench, casually tapping Maddie’s shoulder. She hides her smirk at his attempt to be smooth and looks towards the trees. Her hair starts to dry due to the breeze.
She glances at Noah, who has taken out a little metallic case, “Do you want one?”
“I don’t smoke,” she grins, crossing her legs.
She raises her eyebrows in surprise. Noah presses his finger to his lips.
“Don’t tell anyone, they’ll start a riot,” he starts rolling a joint with his steady fingers, “Kate will start a riot. The rest will follow.”
She watches him, thinking back to Kate’s natural maternal instincts. She’s like the mother of the group.
“I won’t tell.”
“Do you want one?” he asks again.
Maddie laughs, suddenly plucking up the courage to be rebellious. She’s not a kid. She makes her own choices. So what if she smokes a little bit? Negan smokes like a chimney. He can’t give her shit for what she is about to do, can he?
She shakes her head, and then nods, “Let’s do it.”
Noah takes her into the trees, giving her a piggy back ride so that her socks don’t get dirty. He sets her down by a tree and towers over her, lighting the joint, “I don’t want anyone to smell it.”
She grabs the drug stick and puts it to her mouth, not quite understanding how to do it. She stops when a cough erupts from her mouth and smoke starts spilling out as if out of a volcano.
“Take it easy,” Noah grabs the joint off her, “It’s your first time.”
“I’m not a pussy,” she says, her inner Negan coming out.
“I didn’t say you were,” he grins, smoking.
He clicks his container shut and shoves it into the back pocket of his jeans. He allows her to smoke the rest of it, which makes her feel pleasantly delirious. She laughs as he gives her a lift to the front door.
Just as she is about to open the door, he kisses her. If she was in the right state of mind, she would have protested a little. But her head is spinning so much she can’t even feel his lips.
Finally, she shoves at his chest, laughing, “Noah!”
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist,” he grins.
Maddie’s journey up the stairs is an adventure. She almost trips and falls backwards but the railing is there to catch her. She thanks it and stumbles towards her room in the dark. There is light underneath the door and she takes a deep breath before entering.
Negan is sat on the bed, fiddling with his pack of cigarettes. He could tell her off for smoking, but he is doing it himself. It’s ironic. So ironic that she bursts out laughing.
Negan looks up and smiles, scratching the side of his face, “What’s so funny, doll?”
Maddie presses her lips together and leans against the door. She forgets that her shirt is practically see through. She forgets that it reaches the bottom of her thighs and she forgets that she is wearing his socks.
His eyes flicker from her chest to her toes.
He gets up slowly, watching her face, “What is it?” he asks seriously.
Maddie walks forward a few steps as if to prove her sobriety. She pinches both of her cheeks, thinking that the action is not out of the ordinary.
“Don’t get mad,” she says slowly before laughing again. It’s a hilarious situation. The way his brows furrow… the way he curls his lip downwards. God, she could laugh forever.
He sniffs near her mouth and she covers it with both of her hands quickly.
“Is that fucking pot?”
“It’s marijuana,” she whispers, “Not pot.”
“Jesus, what were you thinking?”
He talks quietly, which is odd because she thought he would have started a full-blown argument. Something holds him back. He is disappointed but not mad.
“I’m sorry,” she wraps her arms around his neck, hugging him, “I wanted to have some fun with Noah.”
“Noah?” he groans, “Did he fucking give it to you?”
“It’s no big deal,” she feels his hands on her lower back. She feels his rage building up at the mention of his name.
“Go to sleep. We’ll talk in the morning,” he sighs.
“Are you mad at me?” she smirks against his neck, enjoying the way he is holding her, “It’s only marijuana.”
“Madison, you stink.” Uh-oh, here comes the full name, “And you can’t take me seriously. Do you think I am mad at you?”
It’s hard to tell. He could be playing games.
“No,” she answers for him, laughing when he looks away.
“Go to bed,” he repeats, pulling away to look at her face.
“Where were you?” Maddie pokes his chest before walking over to the bed, “I hardly see you.”
“What are you fucking talking about? You see me every day.”
She giggles, taking off her socks, “You spend an awful lot of time with Nikki.”
He doesn’t find that one funny. He folds his arms, coming to the foot of the bed. She takes her time crawling under the covers. Her head drops to the pillow and she watches the ceiling spin.
“Goodnight, sweetheart,” he says, bringing the covers over her legs. That’s weird. She thought she was already under them.
“Are you going to join me?” she waves her arm and accidentally hits the headboard.
Negan sighs, bringing her hands down to her hips, “Yes. I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?”
“To brush my teeth.”
She smiles slightly before closing her eyes. Negan watches her fall asleep. He presses a finger against the palm of her hand, listening to her gentle snoring. His dreams about her have increased in length and arousal. Every time he sees her now, he can barely keep his semi concealed.
He runs a hand through his hair, sighing in frustration. He should never have kissed Nikki. She is vulnerable and desperate. And he has no attraction towards her whatsoever. Well, not no attraction. He is still the horniest man on the planet.
He doesn’t want to mislead her, but most of all he does not want to hide his feelings for Maddie with some one night stand.
He won’t take things further. She’ll just have to deal with it. From what is certain, he does not have to mention the kiss at all. And then it will be like it never happened.
Maddie stirs the tea leaves around her cup by the kitchen counter. Not many people are up yet. For some reason, the drugs from last night made her wake up super early. However, other than the marijuana, her total lack of self-control can be blamed for her insomnia.
She was stupid when she accepted to smoke, and even more stupid when she kissed Noah. He kissed her first, but she kissed him back. She remembers. It is clearer now.
It's not the end of the world. Nothing she did is wrong. Not at all. But why does something inside her tell her that it is?
Negan didn't yell at her, but why would he? He isn't her dad. She can do what she wants. She can sleep with half of this group if she feels like it.
The thought makes her shudder. Negan wouldn't yell, but he would be disappointed. It would feel like some of his respect is gone. And she needs his respect. She doesn't know why but she needs it. He cares for her and she cares for him. They are close. She doesn't want anything to be pushing them apart.
She needs to apologise when he wakes up.
Did she tell him about the kiss? No, probably not. Even when she is completely off her head, she wouldn't be boasting about what she has done.
Will he care to know? Probably not. But she wants to tell him.
Nikki comes into the kitchen wearing a thin nightgown which makes her bump look massive. It rides up at the front. Maddie shoots her a smile before looking away quickly. In return, she gets a sigh of disapproval.
"Is that finished brewing?" she asks, pointing at the cup of tea.
Maddie looks at it and hesitates, "Yes, I think so," she grabs a tea spoon and starts fishing the green leaves out.
When she drops the spoon into the sink, Nikki grabs the cup in both of her hands.
"Oh, actually that's…"
Nikki raises her brows, "It's what?" she snaps.
Maddie purses her lips and watches the bitch leave the room with the cup of tea she has been perfecting for about twelve minutes.
Sighing heavily, she opens the cupboard and takes out more tea leaves, starting to brew a new drink.
Once her tea is ready to consume, she perches herself on the corner of a counter and starts sipping. It burns her tongue and she jolts, spilling some of it onto her lap and through her sweat pants.
As if on que, Negan walks in, grinning from ear to ear. Maddie puts her cup down and starts fanning her thigh area with her hands.
"Good mornin', doll," he purrs, grabbing her tea and taking a sip. Is he immune to the heat of it? And why is everyone stealing her drinks today?
She smiles awkwardly, pulling at the fabric of her pants, "Hey."
Should she bring up yesterday's events? He seems like he is in a good mood, so maybe it's unnecessary to bother him.
"You still high or something?" he asks.
Maddie puts a hand on her forehead, trying to find the right words, "I shouldn't have done that, I'm sorry. Drugs are bad for you and- "
"Woah, hey," he smirks, patting her knee, "You think I'm going to fucking lecture you on this shit? Hell no. Have you just fucking met me?"
She raises an eyebrow, "You're not mad at me?"
"Why would I be mad?" he licks his lips before squeezing her knee playfully, "Did you burn yourself bad?"
"No, it's… it's fine… but wait, why are you not mad?" she changes the subject again, watching him. Negan rubs his chin before gesturing for her to get down. She slides off the edge and into his arms, surprised when he hugs her.
"It was irresponsible. You're old enough to know that," he starts, closing his eyes, "But, honey, I ain't mad at you," he pulls away to look her in the eyes, "You're not going to do it again, right?"
"No," she answers quickly, smiling.
"Good," he grins, glancing at her lips, "Now tell me where I can find that prick Noah."
Maddie laughs, taking it as a joke, "I haven't seen him yet. He's probably asleep."
"Well, when he gets up tell him to find me," he moves towards the kitchen table and takes a seat on one of the chairs. Her smile starts to fade as she forces nervous laughter.
"Why?" Negan looks confused, "Because I need to drill some sense into his thick skull."
She laughs again, coming over to take his hands, "No. No, you don't."
"Fuck yeah, I do."
"No, you don't," Maddie states, squeezing his fingers, "It's okay, we were just having fun. It won't happen again."
She remembers the kiss and how she has yet to mention it. Negan would probably love a good gossip. But something in the back of her head tells her that he might have a completely different reaction.
"You were having fun," he repeats, "What if a walker came by? You think it would fucking stop to have fun with you? You think you'd be in the right state of mind to protect yourself?"
Maddie shakes her head, feeling some aggression in his words. Has he been hiding it behind that dazzling smile?
"Nothing would have happened. We were safe."
"You weren't safe," he says, "You're never safe. I would not have been there to protect you. And I don't trust that junkie- "
"He's not a junkie!" she suddenly feels very defensive. Her side of the argument is pointless but goddammit, she will continue to argue until he understands that she can never be wrong.
Negan releases her hands, letting her words go over his head, "Do you think you would have been able to defend yourself? This is not a game, doll. You know what kind of world we live in, and it's careless to do what you did last night."
She scoffs, running a hand through her hair. Why is he suddenly such a prick? He was alright when he came into the room!
"Where were you then?"
"What?" he narrows his eyes, standing up.
"Where were you?" she asks again, "You said I wouldn't have been able to protect myself. So why weren't you there? If I'm so stupid and careless, why aren't you following me around like you did at the start?"
He seems baffled by her words, and for a second she wonders if she sounds stupid. But no, she must have a point. She knows what she is talking about.
"Because I trust you to make the right choices!" he growls, trying to keep his voice down for the sake of everyone who is still asleep, "Which you obviously abandoned as soon as you saw that Brazilian piece of shit!"
Maddie walks away to the other side of the kitchen in a desperate attempt to ignore his words. Where is this coming from?
"Don't talk to me about making the right choices. I'm not the one who is beating every member of the community and risking our chances of staying here."
Negan follows her, "Are you seriously fucking saying this?"
She raises her hands for a moment, "Just stop, okay? Let me breathe, for once."
He chuckles darkly before rubbing the bottom of his chin where most of the beard length is. He needs to shave again.
"Fuck, so breathe, you stupid- "
Something comes over her and she picks up an empty cup and tosses it at his head. It misses, luckily for him. She didn't want him to finish that sentence.
"You out of your fucking mind?" he yells.
"Oh, go fuck yourself, you prick."
He goes outside onto the porch. She can smell the smoke from here.
Her chest rises and falls with each breath she takes. The house is oddly silent when they are apart. There is creaking above her which sounds like hesitant footsteps.
Maddie leans against the counter, looking at the broken glass on the floor. What did she just do?
In a panic, she grabs a broom and starts sweeping at the debris, making a little pile in the corner of the room. Shit, everybody in the house must have heard their argument. Her cheeks flush as a wave of embarrassment settles on her shoulders.
What were they even arguing about in the first place? What was the issue? Was it worth this broken cup? And swearing at the man who saved her life multiple times? Was she being stupid?
She cleans up the kitchen at record speed, sweeping the argument under a rug. If somebody came in here, they would never guess was has happened.
"Are you okay?" Kate asks from the corner. She looks horrified, as if she just witnessed some sort of domestic abuse.
Maddie sighs, rolling her eyes, "I'm fine."
It's strange. For the first time, she does not feel like crying. She's just angry.
"Would you like some breakfast?" the woman fiddles with her hands uneasily, glancing around for any signs of danger.
Maddie nods slowly, looking at the front door, "Yeah… thank you."
The pair avoid each other for the rest of the day. It seems impossible to not interact with someone who lives with you and breathes the same air as you, but it can be done. Only if you put your mind to it.
At one point, they had to harvest vegetables from the same plant in the garden, and it was like they were invisible to each other. Strangely, Maddie enjoyed his silence. However, she could feel the intensity between them. One wrong move, and he would have exploded. She learned to stay out of the way.
"Need some help?" Noah smiles, grabbing the basket of food out of Maddie's arms before she has a chance to say anything.
She smiles back, wiping some sweat off her forehead, "Thank you."
"Erm, so what the hell happened?"
She glances at him, oblivious to his question, but then she remembers the argument in the morning. How could she forget?
"Oh, nothing," she smirks slightly, "It's stupid."
They enter the house together and Noah sets the basket on the table. He scratches the back of his head gingerly, turning to face her. She smiles, folding her arms.
"My sister and my dad used to argue like that all the time."
Maddie chuckles, "Negan is not my dad."
"He might as well be, right?"
She shakes her head, "No, I don't think so."
She watches him grab the corn and potatoes out of the basket, sorting them into piles and bagging them up. There are some sweat stains on his shirt, which would look so much hotter on Negan.
Maddie bites her lip, scolding herself for thinking about him again, "You said you had a sister?"
"Yeah," Noah glances at her, still busy with the veggies. She decides to help and grabs some of the carrots. They're all covered in dirt.
"I had a brother," she offers. Noah pretends to be interested.
"Yeah," she nods.
And then there is silence. She wonders if he will ever mention their kiss. Does he think she was so high she forgot it? It insults her.
She is about to start talking when Mike walks into the room. He is wearing the same unimpressed expression from the day when his son was repeatedly punched. He looks at Maddie, forcing himself to nod.
"How's it going?" he asks. Noah answers first, and she appreciates it because he has no grudge against Noah. She comes with Negan as a package deal, and she learned that if Negan does something wrong, she might as well be blamed for it. And vice versa.
"How is Trevor?" she asks politely. Mike nods slowly, pouring himself a glass of water.
"He's okay. He's coming around," he says. She has not seen him for days. He was not forced to do any work, and understandably so. Mike would never let him do anything as long as he had a scratch on his face.
Mike asks her about 'all the racket in the morning'. She feels the embarrassment again, saying that everything is fine. She apologises for the noise. He asks her if she needed Negan to 'take some time off'. Whatever that means. She said no.
After dinner, Maddie finds Negan swinging on the porch.
The crickets are chirping in the grass and an owl starts to hoot nearby. It's silent again. Except for her irregular breathing and Negan's exhales of smoke.
Should she take the first step and apologise? The more she thinks about their fight, the more she feels like it was her fault. He is only trying to protect her, after all.
She swallows a stone and turns around quickly to get back into the house.
"Maddie," he calls. She looks at him waving her over, "Come here."
Well, her escape attempt was futile. Now she must face the problem head on.
She folds her arms and approaches the swing slowly, keeping her eyes down. Negan puts out his cigarette and turns his body to face her, "Are you gonna sit down, or what?"
Maddie takes a seat on the other end of the bench, leaning backwards. She feels his eyes on her.
Before he can say something that will make her even more uncomfortable, she opens her mouth, "I'm sorry."
He seems to be amused when she hears him chuckle. She lifts her eyes and sees him scratching his cheek, grinning into the distance.
"What are you sorry for, doll?"
Oh, no, he is not doing this. She knows he loves details. Details make her uncomfortable. Isn't a simple apology enough for him?
"You know," she rolls her eyes, "For what I said."
He meets her eyes and grins even wider. It makes her smile slightly, and she feels dumb, "I'm sorry too, darlin'," he extends his arm. She accepts his invitation and nuzzles into his side. He kisses the top of her head.
"What are you sorry for?" she jokes.
He chuckles quietly, "Being a jackass. But you shouldn't have thrown anything at me."
"I know, I'm a bitch."
"You're not a bitch," he takes her by surprise when he pulls her into his lap. She laughs awkwardly, running her hands down his chest, "You're just a little annoying."
"I'm not annoying!" she gasps.
"Fuck, you are," he plants a kiss near her ear, "You're so annoying."
"Are you trying to start something again?"
"No," he laughs, "I'm sorry, sweetheart."
What did you think? Who was in the wrong here?
“Can I come with you?”
The words feel like déjà vu when Negan turns to look at her.
“There’s shit to do here, Maddie.”
She folds her arms, watching the man prep his backpack. He packs a water bottle and two cereal bars for the day, along with basic things like a machete and pistol ammo.
He slings the backpack over both shoulders and grins down at her. The heat made him wear a wife beater that is way too loose on his lean body, “And you tell me I’m a hipster?”
He raises a brow, glances down at himself and rolls his eyes, “Very funny.”
“Let me come,” she whines, “I want to. I’ve not been outside this fucking house for weeks.”
“Stop fucking swearing,” he warns.
His hypocrisy exhausts her, “Right. I’ll just ask Martin. He’ll say yes.”
Of course, he’ll say yes, Negan thinks.
For the sake of keeping her out of that pervert’s reach, he grabs her wrist, “Fine. You can come.”
“Really?” she beams.
“Yes. Quick. Get ready.”
Maddie walks out of the house wearing blue jeans and a fading grey shirt to mimic Negan’s style. She pushes a Twizzler stick between her teeth and slides on a pair of dark sunglasses, hopping down the porch. Her bag is on her back when she approaches Negan. He stares at her for a moment.
“What’re you doing?”
“I thought we’d be cute, and match,” she smirks.
“Haha,” he sighs, taking the Twizzler out of her mouth and putting it in his. She protests a little but ends up pushing past him to follow Martin on their quest.
Their scavenging group is down to two… well, three. Including Maddie. Trevor is still “recovering”, Noah needs to keep an eye on their livestock, Kate is the lady of the house, Mike is angry at the new arrivals still, Harvey is dead, Nikki is huge, and Louis is paralysed.
The only capable people left to go out are Martin, Negan, and Maddie.
She feels oddly excited. She has not seen a walker in ages, which is great, but staying in that house made her very relaxed. Too relaxed. Negan would agree, but for some reason now he doesn’t want her to go anywhere.
She watches as he swallows the rest of her Twizzler as they walk through the woods, “That’s stealing.”
They step over branches, being led by Martin. He tunes them out naturally. It’s weird how much they have forgotten. Only recently he threatened Maddie right in front of Negan’s face, but the proximity of this group leaves them no choice but to get along.
Soon, they come across the holes and take extra care crossing them. Negan glances at where Harvey was torn to shreds. There is nothing there now. In fact, most of the holes are empty today.
Maddie pulls her sunglasses up, noting that the trees are doing a good job hiding the sun.
“Where did you get those hip shades from?” Negan asks.
She gives him a look, “Please don’t try to speak my language.”
They both laugh. Martin glances over his shoulder awkwardly, holding onto his rifle.
“I found them lying around,” she shrugs, “Why? Are you jealous?”
Getting through the woods is a piece of cake as for most of the journey they seem to dick around. Martin ignores them as best as he can and soon they step onto a concrete road with no cars in sight. There is nothing to scavenge here. They’ll have to walk more.
Martin points towards a gas station across the road, “A couple of miles from here.”
Maddie grabs her water bottle and takes a sip as they resume walking. The clouds have drifted over the blue skies, making her feel stupid for bringing sunglasses. She tucks them into her backpack.
There are a few walkers on the road that look like they’re heading towards the house. Negan and Martin put them down subtly.
Neither of them can believe their luck when a deer saunters across the deserted street. Maddie holds her breath as Negan pulls out his gun, aiming at the animal. It turns its head directly at them, antlers curling in different directions.
Her over-sensitive but not smart enough self is about to put a hand on Negan’s arm to stop him. Martin makes the shot.
She jumps backwards as the loud crack of his shotgun echoes through the forest. Negan raises an eyebrow at the man and then at Maddie, “Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” she squeaks, watching the deer fall onto the ground.
They all drag it back to camp and leave it with Kate before making their way towards that road again. Half of the day is gone, so if they want to scavenge something other than food, they’ll have to hurry.
When they come across a massive shopping centre, it becomes clear that half a day will not be enough at all.
“We’ll do a quick scan, see what we can find,” Martin proposes.
Nobody says anything to stop him and they walk across the car park together, weather becoming worse by the second. A spit of rain drops on Maddie’s head and she glances at Negan, “It’s gonna be pissing down soon.”
As they reach the entrance, Maddie can’t help but notice that all the remaining cars on the site have been stacked on top of each other to form a somewhat stable wall. There is a crane beside the shopping centre. She tugs on Negan’s vest.
“Do you think somebody lives here?”
He considers it before sighing, “Maybe.”
She wants him to tell them they should turn back but he doesn’t. Maybe it’s not a big group. Maybe it’s abandoned. Maybe they need supplies more desperately than she thought.
Either way, Martin walks through the revolving doors with confidence, so to hell with safety. They follow him.
The inside looks spacious but uninhabited. The large glass roof of the mall is shattered in places, and if there are people living here, they have not cleaned it up. It’s so quiet. There is only the sound of slow raindrops bouncing on what is left of the roof.
Maddie sees an escalator in the distance, which must be leading up to even more stores. There is thick dust blowing in a stream of sunlight nearby. She glances out of the revolving doors. The clouds are parting but it is still raining. There’ll be a rainbow.
An abandoned McDonalds stands to their left. Maddie groans lowly, almost whimpering in desperation.
“What I wouldn’t give for a portion of fries.”
Negan keeps his gun raised at the silence, “I was thinking the same thing.”
They explore the mall slowly until it becomes evident that there are no people in it. Martin heads to one of the hardware sections while Negan and Maddie stay near healthcare.
“Can you put this in your bag?” Negan holds up a big torch, “I don’t have space anymore, doll.”
“I don’t have space either,” she shrugs.
“What the fuck have you been filling it up with?” he dips a hand into her bag to pull out a handful of tampons. Automatically, his face flushes. Maddie finds it rather amusing.
“Is there a problem? Should I throw it away?”
“No,” he says quickly, retreating to his bag, “No, it’s fine. I’ll find space.”
It takes her great strength not to burst out laughing.
With their bags heavy, and no water left, they decide to take a quick glance around a second store to gain an idea of what they will have to be ready for tomorrow. This place is massive. It’ll take weeks to do a sweep once.
Martin comes back and waits for them near the entrance. He has so many supplies that one of the zips on his bag is threatening to break.
“Shit,” Negan whispers. Or at least, Maddie thinks he whispers.
“Huh?” she turns around, watching his shoulders rise and fall. When he ignores her, she walks up to him and looks at what caught his attention.
There is a massive box of… Advil? She scrunches up her nose, grabbing one pack, “This is useful.”
“No, put it back,” he orders.
She watches as he scratches his beard, “What do you mean?”
“We shouldn’t have come here.”
Negan picks up a piece of paper with a bunch of names on it. It means nothing to Maddie, but he stares at the words with such intensity that it scares her.
He knows these names. Next to them is a brief explanation of things to do. He notices shit like ‘Clear the parking lot’ and ‘Fix the fences’ before he starts going lightheaded.
The Saviours have expanded their territory. To come here and start building an outpost? How many people must they have now?
Maddie watches him, not understanding a thing, “What is it?”
His eyes drop to another name on the paper.
‘Dwight – Collect all the medicine.’
“We have to go,” Negan insists, stomping over to the entrance of the abandoned mall. Maddie watches him, feet already following without her thinking.
Martin stares at them, confused, “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Back,” Negan growls, turning around, “Come on, Maddie. Now.”
Martin’s curiosity fuels hers and she stops, “Wait… why?”
He looks at her like she should never be questioning him. But he’s been wrong before.
“There are fucking people here. We’re stealing,” he tries to play the morals card.
“They’re not here now,” Martin shrugs.
“Maddie,” Negan warns, clutching his gun. She sighs and walks up to him hesitantly.
“There is a lot of stuff here that we can use,” she says.
“We’re not taking from them.”
He dumps the stuff they found and takes off without her. She is left with no choice but to follow. It’s that, or staying here with Martin. Maddie is positive that he took some of the medicine, with the way he was dawdling behind on the way back.
The day is over when they get home. Maddie takes the leftovers of dinner and brings them out onto the porch where Negan is smoking like a chimney. She glances around to confirm that there is nobody else here and takes a seat next to him.
“Thanks, doll,” he takes one of the plates off her.
She grins and they begin to eat in silence. That lasts for about ten seconds. And then Martin walks out along with Mike and Trevor.
Maddie notices most of the bruising is gone and sighs in relief. Negan grunts like an animal.
“Can we have a word?” Mike folds his arms. Negan puts his plate down on the wooden floor. There must be a limit to how many times he should hear that.
“A word about what?”
Martin places his hands on his hips, puffing his chest out to present authority. Here it goes.
“About the medicine we had to leave behind,” he answers. Maddie feels her chest tightening between the two sides of the argument and gets up to lean against the railing.
Negan gets up too, though he doesn’t have to. Any person with a brain cell can tell that if you piss him off, he’d go on a rampage. Not these three idiots.
“You’re a survivor, Negan,” Mike begins, looking at the floor, “You know what is at stake here. Why do you feel the need to purposely bring this group down?”
Negan clenches his fists to stop himself from exploding. He takes a deep breath, “Those supplies did not belong to us.”
“Who cares?!” Martin waves his arms about. Mike raises his hand to shut him up and continues the conversation.
“Nobody was there. And there were a lot of supplies, Negan,” he nods, “Surely taking one third of it would not have made a difference?”
The way he repeats his name sets his teeth on edge. Patronising prick.
“Yes it fucking would have,” Negan spits. Maddie bites her lip, sensing his reason without him having to explain himself. She knows he must sound bizarre to these people.
Mike sighs deeply before gesturing for everyone to go back into the house. Before he walks in, his eyes focus on Negan, “You will not be making any more supply runs.”
Maddie senses that he has a clever comeback that would probably make things worse, but he keeps his mouth shut. She is proud of him.
Once everyone has disappeared, he turns to her, “Can you believe these fucking cocksuckers? Fucking ass wipes.”
“Just finish your dinner.”
He raises an eyebrow, “Wait, you’re on their side? Do you think I’m being fucking unreasonable?”
“No!” she presses her face against his chest, thankful that he wraps his arms around her, “Was it… Was it the Saviours?”
She tries to remember the group name he told her. Once his body goes cold, she knows she must have got it right.
He hugs her tighter, but does not reply.
He revealed little information about The Saviours, and all she knows is that he did something wrong and things did not work out. He doesn’t look like he is going to elaborate on the topic, so she gives him a push in the right direction.
“Are you afraid of them?” she looks up, earning a kiss on the forehead.
He is visibly uncomfortable, “No… I’m not afraid of them.”
“Then why do you keep running away?”
“It’s complicated,” he sits back down on the bench. She watches him rub his beard, turning the cogs inside his head. They needed supplies and they left them just because Negan told them to. Mike does have a point. There were mountains of medicine, and taking a little bit would not have been a big deal. Right?
“Talk to me,” she sighs, “You’re afraid, aren’t you?”
“Maddie,” he leans back, grabbing a new cigarette out of his pack.
“Maddie what?” she smirks slightly. He rolls his eyes, “I know for a fact that if this was another group, you’d have no problem stealing.”
He starts to smoke, ignoring the plate of food he has not yet finished, “They’re under bad fucking leadership. And getting involved with them is a shit show.”
“How do you know they’re under bad leadership?”
“Because I was there when everything changed.”
She remembers the time when he told her he was the leader. The time when they were cornered into a closet by the Saviours and had to fight their way out. She got sick shortly after that.
She remembers how he told her there was a target on his back. Something went wrong. And he still can’t tell her what.
She rests her head on his shoulder, listening to the distant hooting and howling. She tries a different approach to the topic, “Do you think they’ll kill you if they find you?”
“Yes, darlin’,” he puts out the cigarette and wraps his arm around her, “They would have found me eventually if I got the fucking supplies. They would have a fucking reason to look.”
She nods slowly. Maybe if Negan can convince the Saviours that he is dead, they will back off. It’s like he is hiding from the law.
“Mike wants to go back for the supplies,” she reminds him.
“It’s his funeral.”
She bites down on her lip before sticking her thumb into her mouth. She starts to bite off the skin before Negan tugs at her wrist.
“Holy shit,” she whispers eventually, “We can’t just let them go there. The Saviours might be there this time.”
Negan closes his eyes, “They’re deaf to common sense, doll. Don’t waste the energy.”
For some reason, she does not feel very afraid for them. Negan is with her. That’s all that matters. But then she gasps, “But what if they lead them back here?”
Negan opens his eyes to that, “If we say something, they’ll kick us out. If we don’t, I die.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better? Negan- hey!” she slaps his chest, “How are you acting so relaxed right now?”
“I’m not acting.”
She shakes her head, “Can you be serious? What do we do?”
He stays silent for a long minute. Is he finally thinking of a plan? She glances at him. He is looking into the distance.
“I’ll talk to them tomorrow, okay?”
“And convince them not to go?” she raises her brows.
He nods, “I’ll try, babygirl.”
She puts her head back on his chest, somewhat comforted.
“So you’ve been dumped from clearing the holes, and now scavenging supplies.”
He says nothing, waiting for her to continue.
“What are you gonna do?”
Negan chuckles softly, hugging her closer, “Can I decide tomorrow? I’m too tired to think, doll.”
She rolls her eyes, “Fine.”
They swing on the bench until Maddie hears the faint sound of snoring. She looks up at the man, amused.
Maddie tilts her head at the book in Kate’s hand, “What are you reading?”
The cover is a purple foetus with an umbilical cord that forms the title. She can’t quite see it from her spot behind the doorframe.
Kate grins and peeks over at her, “Nikki is due any day now,” she folds her legs on the floor, “I’m preparing.”
She meets Negan outside, digging around tomato plants like a dog. He is jobless now. Is this his way of looking busy?
“Good morning,” her hand brushes over his back. He looks up, the sun creating a halo around her head. Negan leans back, wiping sweat off his forehead with his even sweatier wrist.
“How’re you doing, doll?” he greets.
“What are you doing?” she shakes her head, “No… why are you doing this?”
He smiles, “I’m being a fucking gentleman and doing your dirty job so you wouldn’t have to. For that, I get fucking questioned?”
Maddie sees his heart beat through the moist shirt he is wearing, “Go inside before you get heat stroke. And take a shower!”
Negan glances around at the vegetables. She knows he is only here so that Mike would get off his back. He can’t complain if Negan is doing something, right?
“You take a shower.”
“Is that your great comeback?” Maddie teases, “I said go.”
His eyes focus on something behind her and she turns her head to see Nikki on the porch. She goes inside once Maddie notices her.
Negan takes his dirty gloves off slowly, sighing, “I should go and see what she wants.”
“Why?” she raises a brow, “She didn’t call you over.”
He smiles slightly and pats her shoulder, “I’ll be right back.”
She watches him disappear inside the house, leaving a trail of musk and sweat in the air. If there is something going on between them, it won’t matter. Nobody could be attracted to a man that dirty.
Later, Maddie finds herself curled up on Negan’s lap, his legs making the swing sway. The air is cold tonight, and even though Maddie is only wearing a tank top, the way Negan holds her makes it warmer than ever. Not much has happened today. Most of it contained looking busy and avoiding leadership around this place.
Right now, most of them have gone to their rooms, while some of the others buzz around in the kitchen, cleaning the plates from dinner.
“Did you talk to Mike this morning?”
“Mhmm,” he hums, pressing his stubbly cheek against her forehead, “They told me they wouldn’t go back.”
“Really?” she lights up, “So where did they scavenge today?”
“Must have found some other place,” he shrugs, closing his eyes.
Maddie smirks at him, poking his ribs. He jolts slightly, “You look like an old man, enjoying his retirement.”
“I can’t fucking close my eyes?”
“You have nothing to be tired about,” Maddie stretches her back, breathing in the fresh air. She coughs when a cloud of smoke slaps her in the face, “Gross!”
Negan chuckles, holding the cigarette between his fingers. Did he swap alcohol for cigarettes? That is what it looks like. Maddie rolls her eyes, nuzzling his neck. At least the smell of aftershave there overpowers the smoke. She inhales with pleasure.
“Smoking isn’t good for you,” she sighs.
“You can’t talk, junkie.”
“Negan!” she slaps his chest. He guffaws, tilting his head back.
“I’m just joking, darlin’,” the swing creaks beneath them.
“Your jokes aren’t funny,” she scoffs.
“Let’s agree to disagree.”
Maddie twists around in his lap for ages before finally settling down again. She almost falls asleep at Negan’s slow breathing and regular humming of the same old melody. She grins slightly, deciding against teasing him. Once that mouth opens, she will not be able to shut it.
“Tell me about your wife,” she listens, but he never responds. She pulls back to look up at him, “Negan?”
“Tell me about your wife.”
She shrugs, “I don’t know. I’m just curious.”
His eyes are distant, but he quickly learns that he shouldn’t blame her for asking. It’s in her nature.
“Which one?” he jokes.
“You had more than one wife?” Maddie focuses on his chin from her spot against his chest.
Well, that attempt to lighten the conversation backfired. He drags a hand across his face. It would have been better just to talk about Lucille.
“No, never mind.”
Maddie waits before talking again, “Have you ever travelled for a vacation?”
“Yes,” he answers, “Wait… you mean overseas? No.”
“No? Then where did you go for your honeymoon?” he closes up again and she scolds herself for bringing up a sensitive subject.
“We didn’t go abroad,” he starts, surprising her, “We went to New York.”
“Really?” she sits up quickly, smiling, “That’s where I used to live!”
Negan smiles at her, nodding, “Yes, I know that.”
“Where did you go? All the popular places? Did you go to Times Square? I used to have a part time job there at a burger stand. It lasted for a few days. I wasn’t good enough.”
Negan laughs, “We went around Christmas time. There was snow fucking everywhere.”
Maddie forces herself to calm down and nods, listening to him, “That’s crazy. We could have seen each other before this.”
He smirks, “I think I would fucking remember seeing you, doll.”
She blushes, leaning against his chest. He grunts and wraps his arms around her, both falling silent again.
Suddenly, she gets a crazy idea. Maybe it’s completely insane. She would be encouraging alcoholism to an alcoholic. Well, maybe he isn’t an alcoholic anymore. Maybe it’ll be fine.
She sits up in his lap, a wild smile on her face.
“What?” he grins, tucking a strand of her hair back.
“Don’t tell anyone what I’m about to tell you,” she folds her hands, feeling butterflies in her stomach.
Negan shrugs carelessly.
“No, you have to promise!”
“Okay, I promise,” he sighs, squeezing her knee. She giggles before bringing a finger to her mouth. A habit she developed when she gets nervous. It enrages Negan.
“They have hidden booze here,” she nods.
He raises a brow. She managed to capture his attention. Her chin tilts upwards proudly. Finally, some fun.
“And I know where to get it.”
Her chest deflates when he shakes his head, looking like a disappointed father, “Isn’t that stealing, Maddie?”
“Oh, what? Now you have morals?”
“What’s that supposed to fucking mean?”
“Come on!” she whines, “Come with me. I’ll show you,” she slips off his lap quickly, dragging his hand. He only gets up on his own accord, towering over her.
“You’re a bad influence.”
Maddie tiptoes down the stairs of the shed Mike has introduced her to not long ago. Negan follows lazily, not bothering to be discreet at all.
“Shut the door behind you!”
“Don’t fucking worry, nobody will catch us.”
When she pushes him towards the wine closet, his demeanour changes completely. His eyes light up and he lifts his head, being the first one to open the glass doors.
“Holy shit, they are hiding all this booze down here?”
Maddie giggles in excitement, noticing the trees sway in the dark up through the door, “Yes, but hurry. I don’t want to be caught.”
This is so exciting. She has not felt this much adrenaline since the day she sneaked into their neighbours’ garden with her brother to retrieve a ball. They were not very nice people, and when the door knob started twisting, Maddie had to duck to stay hidden from the view of their windows. It was frightening. But fun.
Negan sighs deeply, biting his lip, “This isn’t right.”
“Bullshit. Take one and let’s go,” she folds her arms, “They have so many bottles, I doubt they’ll notice if one of them goes missing!”
Déjà vu sets in and she remembers the scenario with the Saviours’ medicine.
“Only one,” Negan chews on the inside of his cheek.
“Two,” Maddie smirks wickedly.
“Fuck, doll. You’re relentless.”
They trudge through the bushes in the dark, concealing the bottles as best they can in their shirts. Negan has his jacket, and it seems to sort of blend in. She didn’t even notice which ones they took. Either way, they are getting hammered.
“Wait,” she tugs on his sleeve, “Maybe we should stay away from the house?”
“Are you proposing we drink in a motherfucking forest? With those dead fucks?”
“We’ll stay close by,” she glances at the lights in most of the windows of the house, “We’ll drink and then we can bury the bottles in the dirt.”
“Destroy the evidence.”
“Exactly,” she smirks. It’s a wonder he is going along with this. Well, maybe not. He likes to drink.
They hide behind the thick trunks of trees with the house in sight. It’s dark so nobody will see anything moving in the tree line. Plus, nobody cares about them enough to come and look for them if they do discover they are missing.
Maddie unscrews the bottle as she clenches her thighs around it. She takes the first swing when Negan sits down next to her.
“Fuck,” he whispers, doing the same.
The wine is revolting and it burns down her throat, but she continues drinking until the trees start to dance around her.
She smiles warmly at Negan, wondering why she never made a move on the man. He looks at her, concerned and happy.
“The things I do for you.”
“Pfft,” she laughs, “You would have done the same thing if you knew about this jackpot.”
“Maybe,” he sighs, taking another swing. She watches the muscles in his neck move before getting concealed in the darkness of his jacket.
There is dirt on her back from the way she is leaning against the tree. She’ll wipe if off later. She scans their environment, seeing nothing out of the ordinary.
“What the fuck are you laughing about?”
Maddie puts a hand over her mouth, nearly dropping the bottle to the floor, “I don’t know.”
“I think that’s enough,” he takes the bottle off her, surprised at how light it is, “You fucking drank it all?”
Maddie blinks at how he waves it around in front of her. Did she really drink it all? She looks at his bottle and sees the dark liquid swimming around the top. How the tables have turned.
“I’ve not had a drink since my prom. Relax.”
He chuckles softly, shaking his head, “I don’t believe that.”
“What do you believe?” she leans in so close that her head ends up laying on his chest. He strokes her hair gently before squeezing her shoulder.
“Holy shit, you’re freezing.”
“I feel warm.”
“Of course you do.”
He shrugs his jacket off, wrapping it around her. His heat is absorbed into it. It feels nice. She rests her head back on his chest, being bold enough to go as far as wrapping her arms around his neck.
“You’re slow, old man.”
“Stop calling me old.”
“Stop calling me a kid,” her nose brushes against his chin. He doesn’t lower his face down to kiss her. Weird, “Kids don’t go around sleeping with all the men in the community.”
“What?!” he bellows.
She falls backwards from the impact, laughing. He pulls her back up, “I’m joking!”
He shakes his head, taking another swing, “Your jokes aren’t funny.”
“What?” this time Negan laughs, “I said you’ve had enough.”
She ignores him and drinks out of his bottle before handing it back, “Mmm, I just tasted your DNA.”
He rolls his eyes, “This is what I fucking get for letting you drink,” he tilts his head back, closing his eyes.
She watches him and how he breathes. One of his arms balances on his knee, holding the half-empty bottle. She melts inside his jacket, curling her legs up to her chest.
“Noah kissed me.”
She sits up, offended, “He did!”
Negan opens one of his eyes, “If he did, why would you tell me?”
“We don’t share anymore. You’ve not read my diary in weeks…”
“I’ve never read your diary!” he sits up, looking at her.
“Yes, you did. I’m not stupid. And Noah kissed me.”
He seems to believe it now, and his rage doesn’t know what topic to continue, “When?”
“Now you believe me?” she grins.
“Maddie,” he warns, furrowing his brows, “When?”
“Why should I tell you?”
He laughs, wiping the frustration off his face.
“You’re jealous,” she teases, pressing her arm against his.
“I’m not fucking jealous,” he states.
“Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not.”
“I’m not going to tell you because you can’t tell me.”
“Tell you what?”
“About Nikki.” For a drunk person, she’s surprisingly smart.
“What about Nikki?” he glances down at the bottle.
She rolls her eyes, “Don’t worry. I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me.”
“Maddie,” he chuckles, “What are you talking about?”
She stays quiet and lets him do the thinking. When the silence becomes unbearable, he looks at her.
“Alright. I’ll admit it.”
“Admit what?” she grins.
“That I kissed Nikki.”
Her heart sinks at his words. It was better when he was denying it. Now it’s too real.
“She’s vulnerable,” he explains, making himself sound like an ass, “You have to understand that.”
“It doesn’t bother me,” she repeats and nuzzles into his chest. He hugs her tight, “Did you finish the bottle?”
With her help, the bottles are emptied and they bury them next to the tree where they sat.
Getting up the stairs is an adventure. After tripping twice, he has to carry her up and she nearly pees herself laughing. Her hand grips his shirt as she shushes him in the corridor, “People are trying to sleep!”
“So stop yelling.”
He had no idea she was such a lightweight, and he doesn’t know whether to be angry or amused. He settles for somewhere in between.
It’s unbearably hot after he shuts the door behind them. Maddie wipes her hair from her face with both hands, stumbling around the room as Negan watches her.
She giggles at his gaze, blushing when he leans against the door. Her filter is gone. Her awkwardness disappears. And she brushes a hand over her lips at the thought of kissing him.
“Are you going to get dressed?”
Maddie nods subtly, bumping into his chest. When she looks up, his eyes twinkle with something she does not recognise. He is smiling. Woah, no, not anymore. The smile just dropped.
She takes his face in both of her hands and kisses him softly, afraid he might pull away. But he doesn’t.
She lets the jacket drop off her shoulders, but it doesn’t cool her down at all. If anything, the room becomes hotter.
She giggles against his lips before they detach. His breathing is heavy and his eyes are still closed. He doesn’t look happy anymore. Maybe it’s because she can’t see his eyes?
Her neck starts to hurt from tilting her head so much and she plants her face in his chest. She only wishes she wasn’t drunk for this.
“Come on,” he says, “Get dressed and go to bed.”
She nods slowly before kissing him again, “Okay,” she opens her eyes. He is looking back at her, “I’ll be right back.”
Sobriety is a quick wave when she splashes water onto her face. And when she walks back into the room, it’s spinning again.
Negan has set up a bed near the window on the small couch. She bites her lip, slipping onto the mattress of their regular bed.
“Why are you over there?”
“You kick in your sleep,” he smiles, pulling a blanket up to his chest. She can’t tell if he is shirtless or not.
They lay in silence for a while. He isn’t asleep because he isn’t snoring. She sits up suddenly, looking over at his silhouette. He pretends to ignore her.
“Why are you over there?” she asks again.
“Maddie, go to sleep.”
“I never knew you were this shy,” she smiles, clenching her thighs together. Just the thought of him is making her horny. When he starts talking, it’s like foreplay.
“I’m not shy, doll,” he croaks, “I just want to sleep tonight.”
“I want you,” her cheeks burn, but she is not embarrassed. If she was sober, she would be. Better take a hold of this opportunity.
She hears him scratching his beard, “Fuck.”
Maddie crawls to the edge of the bed, letting her feet touch the floor, “Do you want me to beg?”
He shifts under the blanket, blinking quickly.
She makes her way over to the couch slowly, stopping when the hard wood hits her ankles, “Come on. I bet I’m the only one who has ever had to beg for your cock.”
He looks up at her, getting ready to catch the drunken mess above, “Maddie.”
She crawls on top of him carefully, satisfied when she feels a bump between her legs, “Normally, you’re very easy to convince.” As if she knows what normal is.
He grips her hips when she presses them against his.
“Stop playing hard to get,” she slaps his chest, “That’s my job!”
Negan sits up carefully, suddenly caught by the girl who wraps her arms around his neck. She feels his breath on her chest and closes her eyes.
“I know you want me,” she moans, grinding against his arousal, “Please, take me. I’m begging you.”
“Fuck,” he whispers, nuzzling her neck, “Maddie, I can’t.”
It starts to become painful, how much she wants him. His hands slide up and down her back, making her whimper.
She kisses him again, and this time he is more eager. However, somehow she ends up in her own bed while Negan takes a trip to the bathroom to jerk off.
Maddie wakes up to a cool breeze against her legs from the window. She realises that the blanket is tangled around her body due to a restless night. One of her hands slides down her thigh, gripping the soft material of an oversized shirt. Okay, she is not naked at least.
She drops her head to the size as a wave of nausea washes over her. However, the need to hurl is quickly clenched by her stomach as Negan places a glass of water on the nightstand. Even the soft thud of glass against wood hurts her head.
“Good mornin’, doll,” he greets, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. His weight causes the mattress to dip and her dead legs roll down until they touch his back. It makes her ankles warm.
She remembers her horrible behaviour of last night and places a hand over her face, hiding it.
“Oh, God,” she moans.
She feels Negan place a hand on her forehead and brush some hair out of the way, “That bad, huh?”
She opens her eyes to see that he is fully dressed, wearing a smug grin on his face. How long has she been asleep? Did she skip breakfast?
“I’m so sorry,” she frowns, hiding her face with her arms in shame.
“What’re you sorry for, sweetheart?” his hand draws circles on her stomach, which makes her feel way worse.
“I feel so embarrassed,” she admits. Her seduction techniques from yesterday are clear as day in her head. You’d think the beauty of a hangover would be that you get to forget most of the events. Not Maddie.
Did she say the word ‘cock’? Did she really kiss him like that? And not let him sleep when he moved onto the couch?
Negan chuckles softly, continuing to rub circles around her abdomen.
“How long was I asleep?” she croaks, thinking of how wonderful it would be to quench her thirst right about now. Her mouth is like a desert.
“Not long,” he says, “But you did miss breakfast.”
She groans, burying her face into the pillow.
“Don’t worry, I saved you some pancakes,” he smiles.
She feels like throwing up is the only solution to this hangover. Thinking of greasy pancakes makes her gag.
“Drink this. You’ll feel better,” he says again.
Maddie can’t even lift her head. She smiles politely, keeping her eyes closed, “Thank you.”
She feels the mattress move again and the brightness is blocked from her view. She opens her eyes to see Negan’s neck. He kisses her forehead softly, and then keeps his nose nuzzled in her hair.
“I’m sorry,” she says again, cringing at the memory, “I was so stupid.”
“Don’t be sorry,” he grabs her chin gently and places a kiss on her lips. She looks up at him afterwards, slightly confused, “We’ll try this again sometime, yeah?”
She nods slowly, blushing when he winks. Her urge to throw up comes back again and she tries to think of the fastest way to get him out of the room.
“Get some rest, darlin’,” he stands up, pointing at the glass of water, “I’ll be back soon with food, okay?”
They hardly talked for days after that. Maddie soon came to realise that maybe he kissed her just to be nice, just so that she wouldn’t feel embarrassed. She knows he would have never done anything with her while she was that drunk. That much is clear. And then maybe she scared him off.
Great. Now he knows how she feels and his emotions are still in the dark. Like always.
Every time they went to bed, her back was always pointed in his direction. And vice versa. It got awkward fast. It was crazy to think that after a night of virtually dry humping; they went to not talking at all.
Well, they still sat next to each other at dinner and breakfast. And exchanged greetings from time to time. But instead of spending time with each other, like always, their interests flew somewhere else. Negan was taking care of Nikki, and Maddie would always hang out with Noah.
One day, they were fooling around with the goat while cleaning the whole farming section, and Maddie slipped onto the boy. They both fell into the dirt screaming, and when the goat came to lick the mud off their faces, they started laughing.
“Molly get out of here!” Noah exclaims, helping Maddie get up.
She ties her hair back into a ponytail when her eyes suddenly catch Negan staring at them. He’s on the porch, standing still… but she can’t see his expression from here.
“You’ve got some dirt on your face,” Noah goes to scrub it off with one of his thumbs. When Maddie turns back to look at Negan, he is gone.
Late in the evening, he is nowhere to be seen, so she decides to take a bath. All the work with the crops and animals has been a strain on her back and the only thing that relieves the pain is hot water.
Dinner is over with so it’s unlikely anyone will need her until tomorrow. She grabs a big towel for her body and a smaller one for her hair out of the closet.
The water takes a while to run; but once it’s all collected in the ceramic tub, Maddie grabs a container of bath salts and sprinkles a shitload into the water. Leaning on the tub, she tests the water with her hand, satisfied when it’s a little cooler than scorching.
She strips and steps inside, ignoring how the liquid stings her ankles at first.
There is a clatter in the room next to hers and voices below the bathroom. Immediately, her mind jumps to Nikki. He’s probably with her again. Trying to make her feel better. She shouldn’t be jealous. Nothing can ever happen with him.
As if to contradict her situation, the bathroom door flies open to reveal Negan looking confused and… angry?
Maddie gasps and starts to gather all the bubbles floating around on the water around her breasts, knowing they probably won’t conceal much, “Um… hi?” her voice shakes.
“Did you really kiss Noah?” Negan asks, closing the door behind him.
“Yes,” she is blunt, trying to make this encounter as fast as possible, “What the hell are you doing?”
He seems to be thinking about something, not even realising what he has just walked into. When his eyes glance down at her chest and back to her eyes, he slips off his shirt.
Maddie widens her eyes, trying to make herself as small as possible at one end of the tub.
“Negan,” she yelps as he pops the button of his pants and tugs them off.
“What? I can’t get a fucking bath without being judged now?”
She looks away when his hands touch his boxers.
“I like your hair like that,” he comments.
Maddie brings a hand up to her messy bun, all while looking at a nearby wall, “It’s nothing. It’s just to keep it up.”
The water splashes as Negan steps into the tub. Maddie slides down further into the water to hide her bare shoulders but it results in her knees popping up instead.
The tub is too small for two people who don’t enjoy each other’s company. What is he thinking?!
His long legs go on either side of her body and she feels his ankles touch hers. The contact makes her shiver. Suddenly, the bath starts to go cold.
She finally looks at him. He wets his hand and drags it across his face, leaning back comfortably, “Pass me the soap, would you?”
Maddie stares at him.
He rolls his eyes, “Please?”
“Negan, what the hell are you doing?”
“I am taking a fucking bath.”
She shakes her head, “No, you’re being weird.”
He laughs, “This is your version of ‘weird’?”
“But when you go around kissing random fucking guys, it’s not weird?”
Maddie raises her brows, “Are you being serious right now? Noah is not random! Besides, you made out with Nikki, and I’m not grilling you over it!”
“I did not fucking make out with Nikki,” he roars.
She grabs a razor, ignoring him completely. This is pointless. He might be a grown man, but inside he is insecure and petty and just stupid!
And if he wants to stay in the same bath while she shaves her legs, so be it. She’ll pretend he isn’t here.
After a while, she feels Negan’s hand on her ankle, squeezing it gently. She jolts but he taps it reassuringly, “Rest it here. That is a shit position if you want to get the hairs below your knee.”
She allows him to grab her heel and place it on his chest. It is such a bizarre thing to do in this situation that a giggle overcomes her entire body. Negan smiles at her, flashing his teeth.
Making sure her breasts are beneath the water and under all the foam, she leans forward and drags the blade from the bottom of her leg, all the way up, until the razor hides underneath the soapy liquid.
It is oddly arousing to have Negan watch this grooming session, but he holds her foot firmly, as if when he lets go, she will accidentally cut herself.
His smile widens as he places a soft kiss on her foot.
Maddie shifts underwater to feel a burning sensation between her legs. She bites her lip, putting the razor down.
This is so fucking weird.
Negan lowers his hand into the water to feel himself growing harder and harder by the second. One wrong move and he could freak her out. He knows that getting into the bath with her was a bit unexpected at the time… but there is only one way to find out if this is what she wants.
Maddie grabs a rectangular bottle of liquid soap and pops the cap open, a few drops flying over the edge of the bath.
“Let me,” Negan smirks, extending his hand.
She watches him and places the bottle into his hand, blushing at what he is insinuating.
She thinks about leaning forward, but turning around is the safest option. She faces the wall and sighs in relief, backing up until her back touches his chest. The bath groans and creaks with all the movement, making it the most unsexy thing ever.
Negan chuckles softly behind her and places a kiss on her ear. Maddie bites her lip, already feeling his full anatomic package pressed against her back.
She sees him squeezing some soap onto his palm from the corner of her eye. He rubs his hands together before wrapping them around her neck, massaging the liquid into her skin. She tries not to groan, feeling his thumbs circle lower and lower down her back. Naturally, her head tilts forward. Negan grabs her chin and pushes until her hair is buried in the crook of his neck.
“You like that, Daisy?”
Her eyes snap open and she rolls them at the ceiling.
“I’m not Daisy,” she smiles as he trails his kisses down her cheek.
Bravely, her arms slither down to rest on his thighs, giving her chest no visual barrier whatsoever. Her only hope are the soapy bubbles covering her skin.
Negan stops breathing for a minute.
She waits for him to snap out of his trance before turning her head. He smirks down at her before placing a soft kiss on her lips. She responds to it, feeling him smile against her skin.
Like always, there are voices downstairs. It brings Maddie back to reality somehow, and she remembers that they are not alone in this house. Although, it feels like it.
Negan wraps an arm around her waist, fingers brushing under her breasts. She bites her lip, wanting his hand to go lower.
He hums as his other hand dips into the water, grazing her tummy and disappearing between her legs. She gasps softly, squeezing her thighs together.
Negan chuckles, “Don’t be nervous, sweetheart. It’s just me.”
She kisses him back eagerly as her hips push forward. It’s not that she’s nervous. She has known Negan for a while, and on some level, this is a bit weird. But for the other levels, it’s perfect.
Maddie squeezes her eyes to block out stupid thoughts and weird dialogues inside her head.
She focuses on how his long fingers slide between her folds, taking her out of this dirty world and bringing her closer to the one she has always known. She doesn’t even realise how much she arched her back, bringing her hard nipples to the surface.
Negan groans softly, massaging her chest, “I never want to get out of this fucking bath, baby girl.”
Maddie brings her knees up, moaning as he slides a finger into her throbbing core, “Neither do I.”
This seems to spur him on. She feels his pulsing cock against her back, impatient and awaiting some sort of attention. His breath rattles against her ear as he raises his hips slightly.
He grabs her face again, kissing her passionately. She lowers her hand to grab his wrist, controlling the already skilled fingers bringing her closer to the edge. He hums against her neck as he trails wet kisses in every direction.
The bathtub groans as Maddie moves her legs back and forth, sliding up higher and higher against his chest. He swears under his breath and leads her small hand towards his cock. Immediately, she curls her fingers around it, clumsily wanking him off underwater.
“Holy fucking fuck,” he grunts, tossing his head backwards. The position is awkward and she cannot get the right angle, but somehow it does not bother him. He buries his fingers deeper inside her, making her whimper in response.
His thumb circles around her opening, taking away the burning sensation and replacing it with a shattering orgasm.
She moans, releasing Negan’s manhood and gripping the edge of the tub instead.
“Hmmm, grind against my fucking fingers,” he chuckles softly, “Just like that, sweetheart.”
The way he talks makes the sensation last for a lifetime, but then too soon, it is gone.
He leans forward, turning her around to face him. She barely registers it as stars swim in front of her eyes. When she blinks them away, Negan is smirking down at her.
Maddie smiles, pressing her lips against his. His arms pull her onto his lap and she straddles him, feeling his cock poking at her entrance.
She bites her lip, leaning over him, “Wait.”
Negan hums, kissing her chest as his hands slide down to her ass. She gasps when he takes her nipple into his mouth, groaning against her skin.
She grinds against his hips, his length presses against her pulsing core, “Do you want me to fuck you, Maddie?”
She nods, a shudder going down her spine at the way he pronounces her name.
His hand squeezes her thigh so hard, it must leave bruises afterwards, “Yes or no?”
She squeals, jumping at the pain, “Yes! Yes.”
Negan gets all the encouragement he needs and pushes her down on him, arms wrapped around her like a vice.
Maddie feels him stretching her, unable to silence her moans, “Slower.”
He groans against her neck, filling her with his every inch. She hisses, shifting uncomfortably on his lap. She doubts there is any way to stop him now though.
“Jesus fuck,” he grunts, “Ride me with that virgin-tight pussy.”
Maddie whimpers, throwing her head back as he kisses over her neck. His hips are erratic, unable to find rhythm or sync with hers. She blames that on the fact that they are fucking in the world’s smallest bathtub.
He stills inside of her, groaning against her shoulder. She wonders if there will be anything after the pause and she is answered when he slides out of her.
“It’s okay,” she blinks.
“I will fucking make it up to you,” he grabs her chin, kissing her passionately.
She moans against the kiss, something lighting up again in her stomach.
He helps her out of the bath and holds the big towel out for her. She walks into it, smiling when he wraps it around her shoulders.
The air is cold in the bedroom which is a relief in comparison to all the steam they had to breathe in earlier. Maddie wiggles her toes in the soft carpet below and reaches up with one hand to release her hair from the nest on her head. It falls to her shoulders, tips getting soaked with the water on her skin. She starts to rub it with the towel.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Negan murmurs behind her. She turns to see him with one of the smaller towels wrapped around his hips.
Maddie smirks, pointing to the closet, “To get some clothes.”
They both grin at each other as if listening to the same joke. He shakes his head, crooking his finger at her, “Come here.”
She bites her lip and fixes the towel tighter, walking towards him until their lips touch. When she goes to pull away, his hand grips the back of her head.
“Get on the bed, sweetness,” he whispers.
She glances at the towel around his waist and sees a prominent bulge. Already?
He doesn’t give her a chance to sit before pushing her backwards against the mattress. All the air is knocked out of her lungs. She gasps, watching him position himself on top and use one hand to pull at her towel.
Her finger goes to her mouth as he trails his hand over her breasts and down to her thighs. Her eyes flutter shut when he starts to talk.
“Nothing to say, huh princess?” he smirks, tossing his towel across the room.
Maddie turns her head to the side, whimpering when he forces it back to look at him, pushing a thumb past her lips.
“Come on, darlin’,” he purrs, “Where did that filthy mouth go?”
She flushes at his words, squeezing her thighs together. It’s like she can’t speak anymore. The way he looks down at her burns her skin and although she is slightly shy, she never wants him to stop looking.
He parts her thighs with one of his hands before furrowing his brows at her hip, “Is that a tattoo?”
He runs his finger over the dark blue ink, smirking. She nods, “Yes.”
“How did I not notice it before?” Negan leans down to place a kiss on the simple design of a flower. Much to his disappointment, it is not a daisy.
She shivers at the contact, arching her back into the mattress.
He remembers his dream and her porcelain skin and her perfectly round-breasts. In reality, there are freckles scattered around the curves and dips of her body; There is a scar near the tattoo on her hip, and her breasts are smaller than what he imagined.
He kisses over the imperfections, feeling himself grow harder at her moans, “You’re fucking perfect.”
She blushes, unable to hide anymore. His dick grazes her stomach, giving her an idea of what areas inside her he can reach.
“Negan, I want you,” she moans.
“Yeah?” he grips her thighs, pressing them against his hips, “Say that again.”
She lifts her body, groaning as Negan holds her ass in the air, “I fucking want you.”
Maddie gasps as he slams inside, watching her writhing body beneath him, “Fucking fuck. I forgot how tight you were. Motherfucker.”
He places a hand over her mouth as she starts calling out his name. He watches her, banging the headboard against the wall.
“Not just yet, honey,” he grunts between breaths, “We don’t want… fuck. We don’t want the fuckers downstairs to… hear us, do we?”
Maddie shrieks against his hand, gripping his shoulders when he lowers himself onto her.
“Or would you like that, huh?” he thrusts harder, leaving a permanent Maddie shape in the mattress, “You filthy fuck.”
The more he talks, the more she wants to start ignoring him. She can’t help but concentrate on the more important things right now. Like the way his foot-long boner is claiming her his.
He groans into her ear as she squeezes around him, body practically levitating with pleasure, “Oh, shit. Fuck. Fuck!”
He slams inside her one last time, biting her earlobe so hard she feels like it’s falling off. Strangely, it’s not painful.
They lock gazes as Negan starts to wipe all the damp hair from her face. She can’t move underneath him. It’s too hot. It’s too sweaty.
His spunk starts to seep out of her and she gasps at the unfamiliar feeling, tilting her head in that direction. She has never had anyone cum inside her before. It was always condoms, or nothing. Maybe she was slightly uptight as a college student.
She looks up at Negan who continues to kiss around her sweaty forehead, “Oh, my sweet girl.”
“I think I need a shower,” she cups his face as he grins down at her lovingly.
“I think we both do.”
Maddie wakes up to the most peaceful atmosphere she has ever been in. Her legs are curled with the blanket and her hands rest beside her head. She smiles at the sound of birds tweeting outside the window. Her eyes open and Negan is grinning down at her.
Pulling the blanket up to her chest, she curls up to him, allowing his arms to envelope her, “Good mornin’, doll.”
“Hey,” she smiles, chest hairs tickling her cheek.
“We missed breakfast,” his lips press against her forehead.
“What?” she looks up, “Why didn’t you wake me?”
“You looked so happy,” his fingers poke at her hip under the covers, “Did you have good dreams?”
She giggles, squirming, “Stop.”
“Were they about me? Hmm?”
“Negan!” she laughs, managing to push herself away to the end of the bed. He pulls her back, whispering apologies into her hair, “They are going to murder us. We’re such slackers.”
“We’re not fucking slackers,” he replies, pecking her lips, “It’s the weekend. And we deserve a break.”
“How do you know it’s the weekend?”
“I can feel it.”
Maddie laughs again, shaking her head, “Come on. We have to get up.”
He pulls her to his chest, nuzzling her neck, “How about I go and get the breakfast, and you go in the shower. I’ll meet you there.”
“Why do you always insinuate that I stink?”
“What? Fucking when?”
“Just now,” she smirks, “What if I don’t want to go in the shower?”
Negan bites her shoulder playfully, “Fine by me. I just thought ‘the wetter, the better’.”
She pushes him off and collects some towels while he tries to snatch her back into bed with his long arms. When she manages to get away, he gets dressed and makes his way down the stairs. His fucking luck just changed big time.
To his surprise, Kate is still in the kitchen, cleaning up the breakfast dishes. She gives him a smile, watching as he approaches the refrigerator.
“Oh, yeah,” he scratches the back of his head, fishing for various foods. Then he realises that she is trying to make a conversation, “You?”
“Yeah,” she nods, taking off her apron and hanging it up on the door, “Where’s Maddie?”
“In the shower.”
Kate folds her arms, “Alright well, when you see her, tell her that there’s a lot of carrots waiting to be harvested.”
“You can count on me, boss,” Negan replies, eyes searching the kitchen. Kate rolls her eyes.
“If you need a tray, it’s right in front of you,” she points, “I take it you decided to bring food upstairs, yes? Making your own rules.”
Negan turns, glancing down at her summer dress, “Is that a problem?”
“Food in bed? Only for you. Making your own rules?” she makes a face, “That might be a difficulty.”
“Well, it’s not like I’m fucking ordering anyone around,” he smirks, pouring two cups of tea carefully.
“Getting warmer,” she smirks. He looks at her again, but before he can open his mouth, she brushes past him, “Enjoy your breakfast.”
He walks back up to their room and places the tray down on the foot of the bed. The sound of a shower running making his dick twitch and he takes off his pants, practically drooling at the fact that she left the door open. He flings his shirt at a wall and hops out of his boxers before walking into the steamy room, noticing Maddie’s blurred body behind the curtain.
Thinking he has the advantage of playing with the element of surprise card, he smirks, walking towards the shower slowly. Maddie wipes the water off her face, shouting, “I’m getting out. You were too slow.”
Negan frowns, sliding the curtain to the side. She stares at him, “You didn’t fucking tell me there was a timer.”
She backs up when he gets in too, yanking the curtain shut, “Maybe it was obvious.”
He shakes his head, stepping under the stream of water with her.
Maddie smiles slightly, covering the tattoo on his chest with her hand, “When did you get that done?”
He laughs, squeezing her hips, “You wanna talk? Now?” As if to prove his impatience, he presses his boner against her stomach.
She kisses him slowly, giggling against his lips, “Yes. Tell me.”
“How about I tell you after?” his lips attach to her neck.
“After what?” she moans.
He grabs her face, “Maddie. I will fuck you so hard, you won’t be able to walk.”
She smirks, finding it hilarious. Negan takes her chin, smirking too.
“You don’t believe me?”
She glances down at his lips, “Tell me when you got that tattoo.”
“Jesus, you’re a handful,” he groans, spinning her around. She shrieks as he slams her against the cold, tile wall, holding her neck. Just when she thinks the water might make her slip, he penetrates her, sandwiching her body between himself and the flower patterns on the tiles, “If only you were this eager to talk how I want you to talk.”
“How do you want me to talk?” she challenges.
He groans, pressing his lips to her back, “Baby, tell me how this fucking feels.”
She bites her lip, deciding to give him a break. He clearly enjoys it, “This feels so fucking good.”
He growls, holding onto her hips as he slams into her, “Fuck. Fuck.”
Maddie moans, the sound of his throbbing cock entering her again and again louder that the soft water on top of them. She pushes back, whimpering as he thrusts deeper into her.
“Goddamn, honey,” he groans, “Why did we wait this fucking long?”
She presses her temple against the wall, allowing him to tug at her hair. Even if she could answer, she would not have the right one. Why did they wait this long? Maybe they were unhygienic before this place? Or maybe Negan was too much of a mess at the time? Or maybe she was the problem, with her constant nagging and bickering. Nobody would want to sleep with her.
Negan runs one of his hands up her back, and then down again. She arches it in response to his touch, pushing off the wall and pressing against him. Thankfully, he catches her, holding her close as her legs start to give.
“God!” she moans, throwing her head back. He chuckles against her ear, enjoying the way her thighs shake against his.
“Maybe I should let you go,” he smirks, slowing his thrusts, “There will be time to fuck you into unconsciousness when you open that mouth again.”
She laughs, glancing at him, “You’re stopping because you’re giving me another chance? Or because you can’t last anymore?”
“What did you just fucking say?”
He lays her down on the bed gently, keeping her wrapped in the fluffy blanket. She whimpers when his hand trails down her thigh, squeezing it gently. Her eyelids are heavy from the orgasms and her reproductive organs feel like they’re about to fall off. She smiles into her hand, treasuring the feeling.
Negan watches her from above, wiping water off his chest with the other towel, “How was that for an ‘old man’?”
“I only called you that because your hip started to hurt during the second position change.”
He blinks at her, “You fucking smartass.”
In all honesty, he would be delighted to punish her all over again. But he has zero energy left. Maybe he is getting old.
With a huff, he sits down next to the breakfast tray, “Great. The fucking tea is cold.”
He grabs the plate of toast and places it next to Maddie, taking one for himself, “Eat, darlin’.”
She sighs happily and sits up slowly, grabbing the toast, “Thank you.”
Negan smirks at her, chewing, “You woke up in a very fucking good mood today.”
“Didn’t you?” she smiles.
He kisses her softly, pulling her into his lap.
“It’s probably almost lunch. And we still haven’t done anything productive.”
“It’s a nice fucking change,” he says, bringing a piece of toast to his mouth.
Maddie watches him, crossing her legs slowly and pulling the towel over her shoulders. Her eyes go down to his tattoo again and she touches it with her fingers.
Negan grins at her, “I’ll tell you about mine if you tell me about yours,” his hand slides under the towel, grazing her hip where the flower tattoo is.
She giggles, flinging an arm over his neck, “Alright. Erm… I got it in college. As an initiation sort of thing. Everyone who lived in our apartment got one.”
He raises an eyebrow, “Initiation? For what?”
“To fit into the gang.”
“You were in a gang?”
She laughs, “No, it was a friendship group.”
He shakes his head, “You college kids are weird.”
“Where did yours come from?” she traces the skull gently, observing it. His chest raises and falls as he sighs.
“I just got it one day.”
“Bullshit,” she smirks, “What’s the story?”
He smirks back, “I went out drinking with one of my friends. And afterwards, I got the tattoo.”
“Were you drunk?”
“I think so. I don’t remember having it done.”
She laughs, pressing her face against his chest as he hugs her, “What about this one?” she points to the cross on his arm.
“That’s not fair. We agreed I’d tell you about one of mine if you tell me about yours.”
“It’s not my fault you have more tattoos,” she shrugs, “Don’t you like sharing?”
“Oh, I like sharing,” he kisses her cheek slowly.
“Woah! You have one here too!” she points to his other arm. This cross is a different design. She compares them.
“I got them because they looked cool.”
“Is that the only reason?”
“I like them,” she smirks as he nuzzles her neck, “Stop that. We need to get dressed.”
“Finish your breakfast.”
After dinner and hard work, they sink back into their routine of doing nothing. Maddie grabs Negan’s hand, pulling him into the living room. She closes the door and giggles when he presses her against it, kissing down her neck. Eventually they will get told off for acting like teenagers, but right now neither of them care about the consequences.
“Do you want to watch a movie?” she asks.
Negan groans against her neck, “Fucking movie right now?”
“Yeah,” she decides to be playful, tugging his hair back until he looks at her, “I want to watch a movie.”
He sighs, concluding their passionate encounter with one last kiss, “Alright.”
Maddie smiles before walking past him to the couch and sitting in front of the TV. She eyes the DVD collection on the wall, which he grabs with one hand and lowers down for her.
“Do you think Mike will mind if we use the TV?” she looks up at him.
“Fuck him. Do what you want.”
“Don’t say that,” she laughs. He smirks slightly, taking a seat on the other end of the couch.
It’s quieter in this room than all the rest. Maybe that’s because the radiator in this room is broken and makes zero noise. The fire place is lit up, which is the warmth they are relying on right now. Maddie props her feet up onto the wooden coffee table, looking through all the plastic boxes of DVD’s.
“Hmm, what do you think?”
Negan watches her, draping an arm over the back of the couch, “James Bond.”
“They don’t have James Bond,” she tries to hide her smile, “But they do have Pan’s Labyrinth.”
Halfway through the movie, Maddie falls asleep with her feet on his lap. Negan grins at her, running his fingers up and down her ankle. He already got scolded twice for touching her feet because she is ticklish; So ticklish, her feet start to kick him.
He wraps his hand around one of them, enjoying the silence that follows.
Her arms are bent backwards over her head, hands hanging off the edge. Her head is tilted to the side and her lips are parted, wheezing out soft noise. He tugs at the top of her sock gently, pulling it up a bit more.
The music intensifies on the screen and he turns down the volume.
“A bit early don’t you think?” his wife gathers the beer cans around the sofa, glaring at him.
Negan glances at her, pointing the TV remote at the screen to make it louder, “It’s almost lunch time.”
“It’s 10am,” she spits, groaning as she finally collects all the cans into a black bag. Her tight pencil skirt prevents her from bending down too much, and her high heels make her bounce back up from the floor, “We talked about this. They’ll be here any minute and you are supposed to drive us. What do I fucking tell them?”
“Calm down, woman,” he scratches his beard, grabbing her hand from his seat. She yanks it away, “The lake isn’t that far away. We’ll get a taxi.”
“And who’s paying?”
“I’ll fucking pay,” he replies, watching Lucille pace the living room, “Who are you trying to impress anyway?”
“My fucking parents and my sister in law!”
Negan sinks into the back of the couch, glaring up at her.
“She’s bringing her five-year-old child with us. It’s supposed to be a fun day out and now I see that you’re not even going.”
“I am going!” he says, “I told you. I’ll call the taxi service and we’ll go to your fucking picnic near the fucking lake.”
She shakes her head, securing a strand of hair with a bobby pin. He takes her silence as a sign of forgiveness and smirks.
“You wanna get on my fucking lap?”
“No, I fucking don’t,” she mimics him, rolling her eyes. “Get ready. They are coming.”
Negan blinks back his tears, turning the TV off. It was so long ago, yet somehow it stays fresh in his head. He looks back down at Maddie sleeping on the couch and squeezes her ankle gently.
There is no way he is going to screw up this time.
Nikki is a ghost in the arch way behind the couch. She disappears just like she appeared in the first place. Quietly.
“Deep breath in,” Kate waits, “And out.”
Maddie follows her instructions, watching the woman concentrate on her stethoscope. She bites her lip as Kate pulls the metallic saucer out from underneath her shirt.
“Am I good?” Maddie smiles slightly.
“Yes,” she nods, “Yes, everything looks fine.”
She sighs in relief, brushing all her hair over one shoulder, “Thank you.”
The woman puts all her equipment into a box as Maddie hops off the table. She can’t wait to tell Negan.
“Oh, in the future, look after yourself in the cold,” Kate adds.
“Yeah, of course,” she grins, walking over to a bookcase where she notices a tub of cream. The package is beige and looks homemade, “Is this hand cream?” she points.
Kate turns her head, smiling, “Yeah, I made it myself.”
Her heart skips a beat as she grabs it off the shelf, “You make your own hand cream?!”
The woman laughs, walking up to her, “Well, I used to. Can’t exactly get the proper ingredients nowadays.”
Maddie thinks back to her time working at the clinic. She used to make hand cream as well, with mint. It was her secret ingredient.
“You can have it if you want. I got two more tubs hidden somewhere.”
She rubs her thumb against her index finger, hearing the dry skin. Hand cream is not easy to come by. She chews on her lip, looking up at her, “Are you sure?”
“Of course, honey. Take it.”
Maddie smiles, opening the lid and taking a whiff of the pungent vanilla. She closes her eyes at how good it smells.
Kate laughs a little, “Come on. Off you go,” her hand is on Maddie’s back, “I’ll see you soon for dinner, yeah?”
The girl saunters over to the bedroom where Negan is scratching his beard by the mirror. She rolls her eyes at his vanity. Once he hears the door close, he turns his head to look at her, “How did it go, darlin’?”
“Look what Kate gave me!” she opens the lid for him, but as expected he envelopes her in his arms instead, kissing her temple, “No, wait, just look.”
He pulls away, watching as she swirls her finger around in the hand cream, raising it to his nose. He backs away slightly, “What is that?”
“It’s moisturiser. Hand cream. Do you want some?”
Negan raises an eyebrow when she smears it over his nose, “My skin is already soft, doll.”
“Well, mine isn’t,” she grins, pulling away to sit on the bed, “Do you know how rare hand cream is? Kate made this herself!”
“Agh, the hipster talk,” he clutches his head.
“You are such a jerk.”
“Alright, I’m sorry,” he rubs the cream into the tip of his nose, “How did it go with the check-up?”
“Fine,” she shrugs, closing the lid and tossing the cream onto her pillow, “I’m not sick anymore.”
He smiles like an idiot, “That’s fucking great.”
“Yeah, it is,” she nods, “Okay, I’ll meet you downstairs.”
“Wait, where are you going?” he grabs her hands when she stands up, “Don’t you want to fucking celebrate?” his voice softens.
Maddie laughs, leaning down to kiss him. He takes advantage and curls his arms around her waist. When she manages to pull away, his lips are stuck to her chest, “We can do that later. There’s something wrong with the goat. She’s vomiting everywhere.”
“Oh, shit. Really?” his eyebrows furrow and he lets go. Nowadays issues like this can be serious. There is only one goat, therefore the only resource for specific foods. And vomiting isn’t a good sign of said goat preparing to lead a long life. There aren’t any vets here either, which is why Kate is down there getting puked on. She only got a few minutes off to go and check up on Maddie.
Negan stands up, scratching his nose where the cream was smeared, “This shit smells like a prostitute’s tits.”
Maddie gapes at him, “It’s homemade! Besides, how do you know what a prostitute’s tits smell like?”
She rolls her eyes and follows him into the bathroom where he lifts the tap handle. They both stare at the sink, waiting for the water to come out. After a groan in the pipes, it splashes into the sink once, making them jump back.
“Woah!” she frowns, turning it off when it starts leaking with yellow discharge. She looks up at Negan who is already rubbing his chin in thought.
“This shit isn’t good,” he says.
She bites her lip, wondering if anybody else has been experiencing these problems. Water shortage. This could be lethal. Automatically, she starts thinking about where the nearest river is located. Without access to clean water, they will suffer. Maybe it’s just a blockage in the pipes. She crosses her fingers. Please, let it be a tiny blockage.
Negan taps her arm, “Come on. We need to sort this shit out.”
They come outside where most their community is gathered around the goat. Mike has his arms folded, watching Noah rub her bloated stomach. Maddie sighs. This does not look good.
Nikki sees the couple soon enough and gestures with her head to Negan. From this distance, they can’t be sure of what is being said. Everybody turns to look at them.
There is a shriek from inside the house, which catches everyone’s attention. Kate runs out onto the porch, wiping violently at her apron. It is stained with the familiar yellow colour Negan and Maddie saw in their tap. But this time, there is an addition of dark red.
“What happened?” Mike panics, running up the stairs to reach her. Trevor follows his dad, and Maddie notices that the bruising on his face is almost gone.
Kate groans in disgust, taking off her apron, “There’s something wrong with the water.”
Everybody exchanges a look that says something along the lines of ‘Oh, shit. We’re all going to die.’
A few minutes after, half the group marches over to Louis’ room, knocking on his door. After a few thuds, he finally opens it, fixing his glasses.
“There’s no clean water!”
“Fucking bullshit, this is.”
“What do we do?”
“Alright, alright,” Louis raises his arms, “One at a time please.”
Kate waits for everyone to calm down before speaking, “There’s no tap water. And when there is, it comes out in these explosive gooey yellow-red bombs!”
Maddie nods, agreeing with the description. Mike sighs behind them, “Did you do any recent upgrades to the system?”
“No,” Louis furrows his brows, wheeling past them in a hurry, “Water shortage is a serious issue and I’ll need to inspect the root of the problem, which could be laying in the back garden around the shed,” he takes a breath, “There are a few pipes that can be opened back there. I’ll need some strong hands as well.”
When they go back outside, the goat is still in Noah’s arms. He sets her down near the flowers uncomfortably, shaking his head. Maddie puts a hand on his shoulder, knowing that there are bigger problems here. At least they still have the cow.
Kate stays behind to comfort Noah, and Trevor gets ready to dig a hole, “Maybe we should freeze ‘er up. There’s still meat on those bones.”
Nikki groans, “I am not eating a dead goat!”
Louis wheels himself over to the wine shed, Negan, Maddie, Martin and Mike following behind hesitantly.
“Over here,” Louis points to a wooden door in the ground, “Open it up.”
Negan steps forward, leaning down to yank at the planks. Martin joins him, and together they discard the wood. In unison, they put their hands over their noses, coughing.
“What is that smell?” Maddie cries, backing away slightly.
Louis coughs, “Beats me.”
The men lean over the hole to peek inside. It all looks normal. Black pipes without a hint of rust on them. Louis outdid himself building the water system. But what has ruined it?
After a moment of thinking, he points to the other side of the shed, “The pipes lead around there.”
They follow him and start clawing at another wooden door, all while holding their faces in disgust. Maddie glances back at the house, watching Nikki lead Noah inside. Kate starts running towards the shed, slowing down when her hand lands on Maddie’s shoulder. She whispers, “How’s it going?”
Maddie looks back down at Negan, who has opened the door, revealing a disturbing truth. Instead of backing away at the smell like they did last time, everyone steps forward, tilting their head to get a better look.
One of the black pipes has been opened, unscrewed carefully, not bashed. There are nuts and bolts placed neatly in the ground near it. Inside the pipe is a bleeding arm. From the tips of fingers, up to the elbow, it is squeezed into the pipe, a checked shirt wrapped around it. It is hard to tell the colour of the fabric due to the blood and pus staining it. Just like the water that came out of their taps.
Maddie raises an eyebrow, not knowing who to look at. The hand attached to the arm has a golden ring on one of the fingers.
“Holy shit,” Kate curses for what feels like the first time ever.
Louis shakes his head from side to side, “This isn’t good.”
“You all realise that… it is fresh, right?” Kate scratches her head. Everyone looks up at her and then back down at the arm. She is right. It isn’t rotten like a walker’s arm would be. The flesh is pale pink with minimal scars and wounds. It has been cleanly cut off the unfortunate person.
“How can an arm end up in our water system?”
“It can’t,” Louis gets defensive, “Unless somebody has placed it there.”
Oooooh, shit. I must admit, I did not realise that I was killing off the goat as I was writing this. My fingers took over and I started creating a different path for all the characters. However, I will resume my original idea in the next one.
“How about now?” Maddie yells across the farm, looking at the house. Kate runs out onto the porch, with both of her thumbs in the air.
Everyone sighs in unison, looking down at the pipe. Together, they managed to clear it and get clean water flowing again.
Louis starts wheeling himself away, “Make sure you boil it before you drink. At least for a couple of days.”
She looks at Negan, who is busy covering up the hole in the ground. He stands up slowly, eyebrows furrowed. She knows what he is thinking. Who in the hell would shove a human arm into the water system?
He glances at her before scratching his beard, “Go inside, honey.”
“What? Why?” she grabs his hand, squeezing, “What’re you going to do?”
“Nothing,” he rolls his eyes, “I just want you inside.”
To be safe? To be out of the way? Maddie shakes her head.
“It’s fine. I’ll stay out here.”
He sighs dramatically, “Madison.”
“Don’t Madison me,” she points, “We’ll figure this out together, okay?” she lowers her voice, “Besides… I doubt it was somebody from our group who did this.”
She almost wants to say it was an accident. But an accident would have looked… accidental. There were fucking screws positioned near the arm in neat lines.
Negan runs a hand down his growing beard, “I need to shave this shit.”
“Don’t you dare,” she steps forward. They both smirk.
Side by side, they walk back to the house where Noah is grieving the goat. Negan decides to pay his respects by awkwardly nodding. He didn’t give a shit about the goat. She wasn’t very resourceful. Aside from goat milk and cheese, which Negan hates anyway.
Maddie looks at the cow behind the fence. Thank God the cow is safe.
“It just dropped fucking dead?” Negan asks.
Noah stands up and wipes his eyes, seeking comfort from Kate beside him. She shoots Negan a look that says ‘Be a little more sensitive, you prick’.
“I… I don’t know,” Noah answers, running a hand through his hair, “She was okay this morning.”
“Her stomach is bloated. Maybe she ate something?” Kate proposes.
“But what? All the grass around here is safe.”
Maddie looks down at her feet as Negan pulls her against him gently. She rests her head on his chest, “Do you think it’s linked to the water?”
Kate sighs, “I don’t know, Maddie.”
When it starts to drizzle, everyone resumes going about their tasks. Mike, Trevor and Martin disappear inside. Nikki and Noah help Kate around the kitchen, taking their minds off the deaths that happened. Louis hauls up in his room, and Maddie convinces Negan to sit with her on the porch swing.
He drapes an arm around her shoulders as they watch the rain spray down. Some of the water drips in front of them and Maddie flinches as it lands on her face.
“What are you thinking about?” she asks after a long silence.
Negan narrows his eyes, “I think someone is watching us.”
Something churns inside her stomach and she sits up, scanning the trees. Negan smiles slightly.
“Not right this second, darlin’.”
“Oh,” she looks back at him, “You mean…?”
“Yeah,” he nods, “Nobody in this group would fuck up the water. What would be the point of that?”
She shrugs slowly, trying to understand the situation. None of it makes sense to her. Unless like he says, somebody on the outside is doing this. But why? Clearly, they want to be noticed. Otherwise, why the theatrics? Why not just clog up the pipes sloppily? Why clean around it? Why arrange the nuts and bolts in neat lines?
It sends a chill down her spine. Somebody that messed up…
“I’ll keep watch tonight,” he says, “I don’t fucking trust the security in this place.”
“We’ll lock the door,” she says, “We’ll be fine.”
“You can’t be sure, darlin’,” he leans down to capture her lips, as if to get away for a few seconds, from this fucked up world.
She kisses him back slowly, placing a hand on his heart. Only at the sound of somebody clearing their throat, they jump apart. It’s Mike.
Maddie smiles awkwardly, turning her body to face him. Negan doesn’t give a shit. He looks away.
“I was wondering if we could have a talk,” he says, pulling out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat off his forehead.
“Sure,” she nods, standing up.
“No, sweetheart,” he looks at Negan, “With him.”
It takes a whole minute of eye signals to make her step away from the two men. She watches Mike claim her seat next to Negan. When they start talking, she is too far to hear. At least the rain stopped. She hops down the steps onto the grass.
She lifts her head up, feeling the last spits of water drip down on her face. Her hands go into her jacket pockets as she takes a deep breath of the air. If she closes her eyes and focuses really hard… it’s like she is in her back garden… hanging up the washing.
A laugh erupts from the two men and she turns quickly. They are both stood up, shaking hands. There is a smile on Negan’s face. Well, that is hard to believe. She blinks and continues watching. What just happened?
Mike waves at Maddie and she steps closer to the porch, “Sweetheart, bring us a bottle of France’s finest,” he gestures to the shed, “We have a lot to celebrate. And erm… mourn.”
He looks down at the ground, shaking his head.
“It’s a shame about Noah’s goat. What a tragedy.”
Negan and Maddie both agree, nodding and murmuring as if small talk has reappeared in the apocalyptic etiquette.
Negan walks down the steps, finally getting rid of that weird thing on his face. A smile. Maddie gives him a weird look and he shrugs. Did they just settle their differences? That fast?
“France’s finest was gobbled down by a fucking college girl,” he whispers.
“Shut up,” her cheeks redden and she slaps his chest. Mike grips the railing on the porch, oblivious to their exchange of words.
“Just try and get something that looks similar,” Negan suggest.
Maddie rolls her eyes, “I think he’ll read the label and figure it out, stupid.”
He chuckles, darting his tongue across his bottom lip, “Just go, darlin’.”
She leaves a soft kiss on his lips before jogging over to the shed, grinning like an idiot. She is about to get into a lot of trouble. Shit. This will either be hilarious or really bad. But she is already smiling. And she thinks one look at Negan will push her over the edge to burst into laughter.
The door is slightly open when she reaches it. Strange. Maybe somebody left it open when they were all trying to fix the pipes.
She pushes it open all the way with a loud creak and starts descending the stairs. The air feels wet, but it’s the kind of air she likes to smell. She takes a deep breath, smirking as she imagines what is going to happen when she hands Mike the wrong bottle. It’s like being a teenager again.
“Hello, Maddie,” a figure at the bottom startles her.
She gasps loudly, holding onto her chest. And then she starts laughing, “Jesus, you scared me.”
Martin smiles slightly before turning back to the wine closet. She hears him chuckle in response, “I’m sorry.”
Her feet are glued to the stairs as she tries to figure out what Martin is doing here. She looks back up to the open door and the grey sky before her eyes start adjusting to the darkness again. Is there a light switch somewhere? The darkness doesn’t seem to bother Martin.
“What are you doing down here?” she takes a few steps down hesitantly, noticing a half-empty wine bottle in his hand. His back is turned to her so she doesn’t have to fake a smile.
Martin sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose, “Having a drink.”
She nods and glances at the wine closet where she is heading. He is standing right in front of it. This is going to be awkward.
“Excuse me,” she moves past him and opens the doors, pretending to read the names of the wine bottles. It’s not like she can concentrate on anything. His breath is scattered against the back of her neck.
“I think Mike is about to throw one of his parties,” she jokes.
“Oh, yeah?” she hears movement behind her, “What does he have to celebrate?”
“I think he’s trying to make friends with Negan. And the water, we fixed the water.”
“Hmm,” she can almost hear him shrug.
Maddie turns around carefully, and to her dismay he is still in the position he was when she came down here. Does he have a thing against personal space? She can smell the wine on his breath.
“I saw you and Negan,” he takes another swing, sloppily putting the bottle down on the table. That’s when she realises he is drunk, “Guess he took my advice.”
“What does that mean?” she raises a brow, stepping back when he steps forward. Her back is against the closet. She folds her arms casually, keeping an eye on the open door at the top of the stairs.
“About fucking you.”
She flinches at his words, looking away when his eyes land on her chest. She watches them fill up with tears, and for a second considers asking about it. But her fear renders her speechless. Why is she afraid?
“Mike is waiting for me,” she laughs nervously, “I should go.”
“No, he’s not.”
His arm blocks her way. She winces and turns her head when he starts closing the distance between them.
“Negan is at the top of the stairs,” she blurts, voice breaking.
It’s enough for him to realise that she is lying. He brings his hands up to slide the jacket off her shoulders.
“Please, stop,” she tears up, looking at the door again, “I’ll shout for help.”
“No, you won’t,” Martin slides a hand down the curve of her chest, the only barrier being her tank top. No, she won’t.
What the fuck is wrong with her? Scream! Scream now!
“Help,” she whimpers, paralyzed.
“You don’t need to be afraid of me,” he chuckles, petting her hair, “Aw, don’t cry.”
She shudders as his fingers wipe her tears. She manages a loud groan. Okay, now just turn the sounds into words. She can’t.
He kisses down her neck, hands running across her back, “No, please don’t!”
“Shut up,” his voice turns cold as he grabs her neck, “You’ll shut the fuck up. This won’t take long.”
Her hands are clenched into fists by her side but she can’t move them.
“Get on the floor,” he orders.
“No,” she cries, shaking her head, “Please, don’t.”
When did she become so pathetic? She can’t even defend herself against a drunk nobody. And it’s not like he is hurting her. It’s his words. Why can’t she fight back?
He pushes her down, which knocks the air out of her lungs along with a scream. She tries to mimic the sound and make it louder. Negan. Negan is right above her. He’s outside. He could hear her. She has to try.
“Shut the fuck up,” he grabs her face, straddling her trembling body.
“I said shut up! I will fucking kill you!”
Maddie covers her face when he strikes her. He gets busy working on his belt. She closes her eyes and forces herself to scream, “Help me!”
“You stupid bitch,” Martin’s eyes widen and he grips her neck, “I said shut up!”
“NEGAN!” she screams, kicking with her legs. Something crashes behind Martin. Must be the wine bottle, “HELP ME!”
“Fucking cunt!” he yells, securing both hands around her neck, “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”
He lifts her head and crashes it down against the floor repeatedly, until her voice is taken.
She hears ringing and feels her eyes bulging as his fingers begin to squeeze. She tries to scream but it’s impossible. She can’t even take a breath.
Her arms dart out as she tries to grab his shirt. She can’t quite reach. Her legs are useless and her eyes start to darken. She digs her nails into his hands but that only makes him squeeze harder.
At this point, she can’t breathe. She can’t gasp. She can only convulse underneath him like a fish out of water.
Her mother’s fingers run through her hair, her smile coaxing her to sleep, “There’s nothing better than doing nothing.”
Maddie smiles up at her, eyes slowly closing, “I’m staying like this forever.”
She seems to feel the world move underneath her. She has stopped fighting ages ago, or maybe it was a few seconds… Time is a funny thing.
Her head flops to the side as Martin growls above her.
“Go to sleep,” her mother sighs, “I’ll be here when you wake up.”
His cold hard fingers are pried from her throat, and her body jumps, chocking on the air.
“You fucking piece of fucking shit! Motherfucker!”
Maddie opens her eyes, arching her back as her instincts kick in. She tries to take a breath, but it is never enough. It feels like a knife has been lodged in her windpipe. She coughs, but it makes it worse. Tears spring to her eyes.
“I’m gonna fucking rip your dick off and fucking feed it to you!”
Maddie gasps for air when Kate kneels beside her, placing a hand on the top of her head. She pulls away quickly at the red liquid that coats her palm, “Shit.”
“Piece of shit!”
Maddie hears grunts and thuds, which are easy to identify as Martin’s.
“Negan! I need your help!” Kate screams, putting a hand on Maddie’s chest, “Honey, don’t move.”
Somehow he manages to tear himself away from the attacker and collapse at Maddie’s side. She doesn’t concentrate on what she sees, but focuses on what she can hear. Which is nothing but sounds of displeasure. From everybody.
“Help me carry her!”
Negan lifts the girl carefully, and within seconds she feels herself being lowered onto a bed.
“Pass me the bandages,” Kate instructs, “Quickly!”
Negan knocks some stuff about before returning to Maddie’s side. He wants to touch her, but the blood that has been smeared across her face makes it look like one touch might kill her. He watches her chest rise and drop rapidly as she struggles for breath.
“Why is she making that fucking noise?!” he panics.
“She can’t breathe,” Kate states, keeping a level head. He backs away slightly as Kate retrieves some sort of tubes. Negan runs a hand down his face. Not her. Not her too.
Maddie gags as the nurse lowers a thick pipe down her throat. She tries to scream against it, but it feels like her voice has been crushed.
“Kate,” he warns, grabbing her arm.
“I know what I’m doing!” she keeps her head steady as oxygen starts to flow, “Pass me that IV. Negan. Negan, where are you going?!”
He can’t get that prick out of his head. Out of all the things that could have happened today, this becomes one of them. He fucking knew Martin was the danger. And nobody listened. Not even Maddie.
He closes the door behind him carefully, leaving his girl in the capable hands of Kate.
Suddenly, he begins to find it funny. All of it. A smile creeps onto his face and he scratches the side of his cheek. This is so typical. The amount of times he tried to warn everybody. Tell them that without his knowledge, they would die. Cease to exist.
And now he has to kill one of them.
When his black boots take him outside, a crowd has gathered around Martin’s bleeding body. The fucker managed to crawl out of the shed. And now he is moping around, trying to convince the other fairies that he was attacked first.
Negan walks over to where the chicken coups are rattling with the wind. Noah has been building a few more because the chicks have arrived. Amongst the planks of wood and two hammers lays a nail gun. He grabs it calmly before walking over to stand under the sky.
“What the hell is going on here?!” Mike yells, storming over to Negan. That’s when he starts to laugh, “You find this funny? Look at him!”
He points to Martin sobbing on the floor. The multiple punches didn’t seem to sober him up. But this surely will.
Nikki runs a hand through her hair as she appears on the porch with Louis. They help themselves down the steps, joining the rest of the community.
Trevor tries to lift Martin by his arm, but he is having none of it.
“Leave him there,” Negan commands.
“That’s another violation of our rules!” Mike waves his arms around.
Negan shakes his head, dropping the nail gun by his feet, “Do you even fucking realise what he fucking did?”
“That’s enough,” he snaps, “Pack your bags.”
Negan doesn’t move.
“I said pack your bags,” Mike growls, walking closer, “We’ll keep the girl.”
Everyone seems to jump back as Negan pulls out a pistol, pointing it at Mike, “Don’t you fucking come any closer.”
Nikki places a hand on Mike’s back, guiding him backwards carefully.
Noah raises both of his, looking the most confused, “What’s going on? Where’s Maddie?”
Everybody turns to look at Martin, as if following the direction of Negan’s pistol. He chuckles slightly, gesturing with the weapon, “Get up.”
Martin holds his bleeding nose as he manages to get to his feet. These scumbags always need a little persuasion.
“Why don’t you fucking tell them, huh?”
“Tell them what?!” Martin covers his head as Negan shoots a bullet at the sky. Everyone cowers, backing away to form a circle around Negan.
“You twisted fuck,” he spits, “Tell them what you did!”
Mike seems to have lost his balls in a split second. Instead of stopping the danger before him, he stays back along with Trevor, watching the events unfold. Negan doesn’t give a shit. Let them think he is insane. He is serving motherfucking justice.
“Or should I?” his patience wears thin and he squeezes the trigger, sending a bullet through Martin’s thigh. He screams in pain. Good. If Negan doesn’t kill him after the little speech he has prepared in his head, maybe bleeding out will. The slower the better.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Stop!”
Negan tucks his pistol into his jeans, picking up the nail gun instead. The whole community follows every move he makes, “Is that what she told you before you put your filthy fucking hands on her?”
Martin’s scream brings Kate out of the house when he puts a nail into his shoulder, “Stop!”
Negan notices the blood stains on Kate’s shirt even from this distance. She doesn’t seem like she has given up hope, which means that Maddie is fine. He turns back to Martin.
“Somebody stop him!” Martin shouts, landing on his back when Negan strikes him.
“This waste of fucking space is the source of all your people’s problems! He is ruining the fucking garden! And I am here to help you pluck out all of your weeds.”
Nikki places a hand on her belly, casting her eyes down to her feet. Nobody seems like they are about to stop him, so he continues.
“I don’t fucking know… what kind of fucked up shit he had to do to a young woman to make her struggle for breath,” he pauses, pushing emotions to the side as he finds his smirk again, “I am here to set a fucking example.”
The only thing he seems to be missing is Lucille.
“You tried to rape her, didn’t you?”
Martin shakes his head, which turns into nods. Negan knees him in the chin when he tries to stand up.
“Somebody get me a fucking wine bottle,” he orders. All the citizens exchange looks, feet glued to the ground by fear. Negan smiles widely, laughing, “Come on, people! Somebody needs to volunteer!”
When the silence persists, he looks over at Nikki.
“Be a doll.”
She moves quickly as he waits with the others in silence, listening to Martin begging for life. Being the smart woman she is, the bottle she gives him is empty. Negan smirks, placing a kiss on the top of her head before telling her to stand where she stood before.
“Watch this,” he says before smashing the bottle against Martin’s bleeding shoulder. It shatters into pieces before him, serving as an anti-climax… until Negan speaks again, “Eat it.”
“Are you crazy?”
“Do I look fucking crazy to you?” he scratches the bridge of his nose with his thumb, pacing around, as if waiting on him, “You crushed her motherfucking neck. It would bring me a lot of pleasure, Martin, to watch you suffer like she is right now.”
He unleashes the fucking sob-monster and Negan stomps with one foot, groaning.
“Don’t make us wait, Martin. We want you to put on a show for us.”
Mike steps forward, raising his hand, “Negan, listen-“
“SHUT UP!” he thrusts his arm out, pointing, “You don’t get to call the fucking shots.”
He backs away like scowling dog, resuming his place next to Trevor. Negan sighs as everyone falls in line and turns back to Martin.
“Eat it or I will cut your dick off.”
Nobody expects him to do it, but he grabs the shards and pushes them down his throat. At first, he tries to swallow the pain, but the passage starts to get clogged up and blood pours out of his mouth.
“Alright, that’s enough,” Negan laughs, patting his back, “See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
Martin grabs his neck, unable to breathe. He watches as his eyes start to gain a red shade and instead of drooling clear liquid, he starts to drool blood. It drips down his chin and onto the floor.
“You disgust me.”
Exhausted, Negan decides to place the nail gun to his head. Without hesitation, he pulls the trigger, sticking the metal stick in between his eyes. Martin chokes, as if a nail in his head isn’t the biggest problem.
“That is fucking gross as hell!” Negan laughs, “And still he won’t fucking die!”
Another few strikes and the man finally lands on the floor, twitching from the torture. Negan drops the nail gun beside him and sighs like a weight has lifted off his shoulders. He looks up at Mike, then Trevor, then Nikki and then everybody else. Until his eyes land on Kate.
They all seem to be conveying the same expression, covering either their mouths, or eyes. Trying not to throw up.
Negan finds this hilarious and squeezes his eyes before yelling, “Welcome to a brand-new beginning, you sorry shits!”
“Is she okay?”
“She’s sleeping,” Kate sighs, “I gave her some painkillers.”
Negan steps closer to the bed, resting his hands on the railing at the foot of it. Kate watches him cautiously, folding her arms.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
“Like what?” she shrugs, averting her eyes. Negan smiles slightly and shakes his head.
“Like I’m a monster,” he says, “I mean… I fucking know I am, but at least I use my powers for good.”
The woman leans against the wall, trying to use her words correctly. She saw what he did to Martin. He has that in him. Martin was a piece of shit and everything, but seeing somebody standing up to him like that… it was something.
She looks away when he steps closer, “Let me fucking tell you something, darlin’.”
“No, spare me the lecture,” she puts a hand on his chest, “Fuck off, Negan. I know you did the right thing, but it doesn’t make it less horrific.”
He laughs softly, invading her space, “I knew you’d come through, sweetheart.”
“I’m not your sweetheart,” she pushes him gently before resuming her place by Maddie’s side.
He sighs, following her, “I appreciate what you are doing.”
She takes him seriously because he doesn’t try to swear. He’s an asshole. But the good kind.
“I think you saved her life.”
“Just… keep an eye on her, okay?” Kate runs a hand through her hair, “I’m gonna go and check on the others.”
“Check on them?” he stops her, “They’re fine. They’re strapping that limp dick to a tree.”
She glances out of the window to see the group working as a team. Martin’s dead body hangs and falls on everybody’s shoulders. They all try to push him up again without getting dirty. Kate is surprised that they are actually following Negan’s orders. Maybe they are afraid.
“Still, I’m going to see how they’re doing.”
“Conspiring against me?” Negan asks, glaring down at her.
She smiles politely, “I am fucking starving. Can I go now?”
He steps out of her way and waits for the door to shut. When silence takes over, it is like he is alone again. Maddie is here. But is she really here? She is so deep in her slumber due to the drugs, she probably won’t even register him when her eyes open.
He sits near the bed, watching her chest rise and fall slowly. Kate has stuck a tube into her mouth and secured it with a mask. She said that breathing is a struggle. Negan listens to the machine whirl next to her. She would have died without electricity. And if they were on their own, out in the woods, he would not be able to save her.
Negan runs a hand down his face, trying not to lose it. It’s alright. She is safe. She is alive. She has Kate.
“Fractured Larynx,” Kate says, bringing in two cups of hot coffee. Negan takes his cup wordlessly, looking back at the girl, “Direct impact causes a break in the voice box. It’s the worst of her injuries. Thought you should know.”
He latches onto all the familiar words, furrowing his brows, “Voice box? A fucking break in it? What does that mean? Is it going to heal? Will be speak?”
Kate raises her hand, sitting next to him, “I’ll make sure she does. Okay? We just need time.”
“Fucking fuck,” he stands up with the coffee, all humour gone from their previous interaction, “That piece of fucking shit.”
Kate allows him to grumble. She sips her coffee quietly, watching the bruises blacken on Maddie’s neck.
“How… how long?” he sighs, glancing at her.
“It depends,” she shrugs, “I wish we had a way to scan her neck. I’d be able to see the damage that way. But… obviously, we can only judge from exterior wounds… and how much pain she will be in once she wakes up.”
Negan rubs his eyes, pacing the room. She wants to tell him to calm down but she knows what kind of person he is. He will snap and they will fall out.
“Why is she not waking up?” Negan asks two hours later, “She must be getting hungry, right?”
Kate watches as he fixes the duvet around Maddie’s legs. She twitches slightly in her sleep, “Strong painkillers. She’s not getting worse, Negan. She is just knocked out.”
He feels pain in his stomach before it starts to make embarrassing noises. Kate raises a brow at him, “Go and get something. I’ll be here.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“You are hungry, I can hear your- “
“Let me fucking re-phrase that,” he stands up, “I can’t fucking eat right now, okay? I can’t even think about eating.”
She watches him scratching his head again, at conflict with himself.
“That’s alright, take it out on me.”
“I’m sorry,” he sighs, raising his hand in defeat, “I fucking owe you one, okay?”
Kate smiles, shaking her head, “No, you don’t. I’m just glad I can be useful to her.”
“Your daughter died, right?”
She watches him before averting her eyes. He kicks himself and sighs. Fucking great. Because if somebody said something like that about Lucille, he would answer.
“I’m sorry, I just- “
“No,” she snaps, “She died and I couldn’t save her. But I can save Maddie.”
“I appreciate that,” he hangs his head submissively, hearing Kate walk out of the door.
His emotions have been up and down all day. Maybe he is going crazy. He re-visits his memory of killing Martin to pick out the faults and little things that should make him shrivel up into a corner, but he can’t find any. Everything seems like the right choice. All of it. He doesn’t regret giving him brain damage. He doesn’t regret pushing glass down his throat.
None of the members of this community are used to this kind of violence. Maybe that is why they are so distant. Except from Kate. She is just a little jumpy. But he can understand that.
He does not leave Maddie’s side for the whole day. The house quiets down as the sun sets and that’s when she decides to wake up.
He leans in as her eyes scan the ceiling, confused at the situation.
“Darlin’, it’s alright,” he takes her hand, “I’m here. You’re safe.”
She parts her lips before darting her hand up to the mask on her face. He stills it, glancing at the door in hopes of Kate coming in soon.
“Leave it on, doll,” he sighs, “Trust me.”
Maddie winces into the plastic, fogging up the round equipment with her breath. It looks like she is about to sit up before a sudden force pushes her back down. He squeezes her hand.
“What is it?”
Her eyes shut in pain and he sees her neck moving. Tears spring to her eyes as all her limbs are brought back to life. She can’t lay still.
“Hang on, sweetheart,” he stands, “I’ll call Kate. Don’t move, okay?”
She bursts through the door as if reading his mind from the other side of the house. Her hands still Maddie’s head as she starts to fire soothing words at her, calming her down.
He paces by her side, watching the girl arch her back, “Kate, what is going on?”
“She’s in pain,” her answer is simple, “Shit. Okay… um. Pass me that bag.”
Negan grabs the transparent bag full of liquid and hands it to the nurse, who connects it to the IV line in Maddie’s arm, “It’s alright, honey. Just a second.”
“Is that for pain?”
“Yes,” she sighs, “We have to be resourceful… we only have two left.”
“We’ll get more,” he confirms, “Just make her better.”
Maddie’s body visibly calms down as the liquid enters her blood stream. She closes her eyes again before reaching out to take Negan’s hand. He smiles sadly, squeezing it.
“It’s alright. I’m here.”
Kate watches, shaking her head, “Stay awake, Maddie. I’ll ask you some questions, okay?”
Her eyelids are heavy as she forces them open. Negan sits on the edge of the bed and strokes her hairline, as if that will bring her back to reality before she can fall asleep. He wipes her tears gently, glancing at Kate.
“She can’t talk with that thing in her throat.”
Kate nods, watching her, “It’s alright, sweetheart. The tubes help you breathe, okay? We’ll have to keep them there for the time being, and when you start feeling better, I will take them out.”
Maddie blinks slowly to replace nodding.
Kate smiles, “Okay, with your fingers rate the pain you were in when you woke up.”
Negan supports her wrist as she lifts her hand, showing five fingers, and then three. Eight in total.
He starts to realise that she only woke up because the painkillers started to wear off.
“Does it hurt to swallow?”
Maddie blinks slowly, almost unable to open her eyes again. These painkillers are sedating her. Negan glances at Kate, “How is she supposed to eat?”
“I’ll figure something out,” she sighs before looking back at the girl, “Are you hungry now?”
Maddie shakes her head carefully, letting it tilt to the side as her eyes close again.
“She’s gone,” he sighs, leaning in to kiss her forehead, “I’m staying with her. I’ll call you when she wakes up.”
Kate pinches the bridge of her nose, figuring out her next move, “Alright. I’ll… I’ll be in the kitchen for now anyway.”
“No,” she sighs, giving him one last look before leaving.
He rearranges the pillow under Maddie so that her head stays straight. He wanted to ask Kate about her trouble swallowing before she left, but he can do that in a minute. He wipes some drool leaking from the corner of her mouth with a towel. Her throat is fucked up. And they are running out of painkillers.
Negan kicks the chair leg in frustration. He should not have let her go down to that basement alone.
A knock on the door tears him away from his thoughts. He slides his jacket off before watching Nikki appear in the doorway. Her eyes glue to Maddie before she directs them back at Negan.
He sighs, walking up to her, “What is it, doll?”
“Will she be okay?”
It’s not like she gives a shit. She must want something from him. He scratches his beard, looking at her, “She’ll be fine.”
Nikki folds her arms over her swollen belly, “That was really fucked up what you did.”
“Oh yeah?” he raises a brow, “You gonna start judging my decisions now?”
“No,” she looks down to the floor, “I don’t know.”
Negan opens the door a bit more to get through, “Go to bed. It’s been a long day.”
She pauses, looking away from him.
“Is there something you want?”
Their eyes lock. She starts playing with her hands, “I just… I didn’t want to be alone.”
He is not stupid. He knows what that means. Nikki brushes her short hair back, glancing back at Maddie. What a weird place to confess your love to somebody.
“I know, doll,” he softens, “But you know I can’t leave my Maddie.”
She scowls, looking down again, “Not even for two minutes?”
“Not even for one.”
He doesn’t understand how a woman with a functioning brain can find it normal to ask a guy out while his girl is practically on her death bed. Maybe he has been leading her on. Again, everything is his fault.
Nikki bites her lip, one hand stroking her belly. Negan sighs, “Go to bed. You don’t need this, darlin’.”
“I just… I don’t want to be alone,” she tears up. He places a hand on her cheek, leading her into his chest.
She wraps her arms around him as he kisses her hair, “You’re not alone. You have us. And soon you’ll have your baby, okay? But nothing is going to happen between us.”
She gasps before pushing him away, “Then why did you kiss me?”
He shakes his head as she walks away without giving him the chance to talk. He fucks up everything.
The bed around her is soft and warm. Everything is quiet. She smiles slightly as her legs stretch underneath the covers.
Maddie moves her head to the side, feeling a cold liquid all over her cheek. She raises her hand to wipe it, noticing that she has drooled all over her shoulder. Gross.
The mask on her face prevents her from closing her mouth. She tugs on it slightly, gagging when a tube moves in her throat. Holy shit, how far down is this thing lodged?!
She clenches her throat to swallow and that is when the pain comes back. It’s like one big fragment of glass has been stuck there for decades. She moans quietly as it moves, legs kicking out.
She sits up quickly, finding herself unable to swallow. Once the bed creaks from her panic, Negan appears at her side, placing a hand on her chest.
“Hey, hey, hey,” he shushes, pushing back down, “Lay down. You need to lay down.”
Maddie gasps against the mask, trying to remove it from her face. What if the tube is not helping? What if her throat is collapsing? She cannot see the damage but imagining it makes it worse.
“Baby, calm down. Breathe. Don’t move. Kate!” he glances behind his shoulder before turning his attention back to Maddie.
She watches as the woman rushes into the room, starting to fiddle with the IV line she set up. How long has she been out? When was she hooked up to this?
The pair above her start talking but she can’t register anything. She rasps as she fights for breath, meanwhile trying to get Negan’s hands off her shoulders.
“Did the fucking painkillers wear out?” Negan growls.
Kate sighs, fidgeting by his side, “Yes.”
“Well, give her more.”
“Negan,” she warns, “There’s only one bag left.”
“Use it,” he hisses.
Kate follows his orders and races across the room to retrieve the plastic bag. She hooks it up to the IV, glancing down at Maddie, “I’ll set the drip to the lowest flow. Maybe we’ll be able to use it for longer.”
Maddie starts to calm down once the drug hits her blood stream. She feels her whole body going numb. Her head starts spinning, but she is not unconscious. Low flow indeed.
Negan grabs a towel and starts dabbing the side of her face, wiping the stream of drool from her mouth all the way down her neck. She feels disgusting. Even more so because he must take care of her like this. Again.
Kate runs a hand through her hair and for the first time, Maddie sees panic in her eyes. She wants to ask her so many questions but the woman shakes her head.
“Don’t strain your muscles,” she says, “It’ll slow down the healing process.”
“She’s not asleep,” Negan points out.
Kate nods, “Yeah. At this rate of the drug flow, she’s not going anywhere. Besides, I need to try and feed her.”
Maddie allows a tear to escape her eye. Even eating sounds painful.
“Can I sit her up?” Negan breathes across her face. She closes her eyes.
“Be careful,” Kate advises. She feels four hands at her back and then a soft pillow elevating her. She opens her eyes.
“Do you need anything, doll? Bathroom? Water?” he strokes her hair as she stares at him. He furrows his brows before glancing at Kate, “Do you have anything to write with?”
“Oh, yeah. Good idea.”
The woman hands her a pad with two standard sized pieces of paper and a small pencil. Finally, she feels like she has a voice. Maddie grabs the equipment and bends her knees to write on the pad.
Her eyes glance up at Kate. She’s not looking. She shows the note to Negan quickly, embarrassed as hell. He notices her discomfort and nods.
“Alright, darlin’,” he stands up. The hissing of the mask on her face makes her feel like some sort of robot, “You hold onto the IV, I’ll scoop you up.”
“Woah, where are you going?” Kate raises her hands, “She can’t move anywhere.”
Negan scratches his beard awkwardly, “How is she supposed to go to the bathroom?”
“It’s alright, I have a commode pan,” she turns to retrieve an object. Negan and Maddie watch her curiously, and when Kate flashes a dark grey cardboard urinal, her stomach drops.
She hurries to grab the pencil and scribbles down a note.
Kate smiles sadly, glancing up at Negan, “Can you leave for a second?”
“Hold the fuck up. She’s only embarrassed around you.”
Maddie sighs and writes: With Kate.
Peeing in front of the man she not so long ago had sex with, or Kate? An experienced nurse who knows what she is doing.
Negan nods and leaves the room quietly.
After the affair is over, Negan walks back in with a bowl of fruit and a bag of pretzels. Maddie’s eyes light up as her stomach reminds her that she cannot go on without food forever.
Kate steps in quickly, raising her arms, “Woah, whoa, what the hell are you doing?”
“What?” Negan frowns helplessly.
“She can’t eat that. She can barely swallow.”
He sighs, “So what do we do then?”
“Just… stay here. I’ll go and make a paste.”
“A fucking paste?!”
“Or soup,” she glances at Maddie, “Are you okay with that?”
She nods, knowing there are not many other options. Kate smiles slightly, walking out of the door.
Maddie glances up at the IV to see that half of the bag is already gone. She will not have the luxury of not being in pain soon.
Negan goes to sit on the side of the bed, placing the pretzels and the bowl on the night stand, “I’m sorry, darlin’. I didn’t know things were this bad.”
She watches as he pinches the bridge of his nose. His old-man brain forgets that he needs to feel sorry for her in the next five minutes, because he grabs the bag of pretzels and starts eating them.
Maddie smirks, looking away. If she can’t eat them, it doesn’t mean she needs to stop him from doing so.
She closes her eyes and concentrates on swallowing. Her throat clenches and it feels like broken glass is shredding her tissue. It feels like the worst cold ever.
Kate comes back with a small bowl in her hands, supported by a towel. Maddie takes a deep breath, knowing this will hurt like hell. But she needs to eat.
After Kate takes the mask off her face, she feels how hard it is to breathe without it. Still, she doesn’t let anybody know.
“Okay, try and eat some,” Kate smiles gently.
Maddie grabs the bowl of green liquid and stares into it. At least they are not spoon-feeding her. She tries to sip it casually as the pair stare at her from above, but it all ends in a coughing fit and after the first attempt, Kate shoves a new tube down her throat.
“I’ve got it,” she tells Negan as he fusses, “It’ll go down to her stomach. She’ll be fine.”
Maddie grabs his hand as she allows a machine to feed her. There is nothing in her mouth. There is nothing sliding down her throat. It’s going straight to her stomach. Is she going to feel full this way?
Negan paces the room, before finally walking out. She watches helplessly before looking back up at Kate. She has started to stroke her hair.
“Don’t worry, honey,” she says, “It won’t be like this forever. Once you heal, you’ll be able to eat and speak normally again.”
Maddie winces as the woman cuts the flow of painkillers on the IV.
“Ten minutes. Tops. I need to conserve it, sweetheart.”
Ten minutes feels like a lifetime. It’s unbelievable how necessary the drugs are right now. When Kate continues the flow, her vision starts to blur. Hopefully she will fall asleep and never wake up.
Maddie stares up at the blurry ceiling, blinking away her tears.
It has been two days since the painkillers wore off. She knows they ran out, but for some reason Kate is too afraid to tell her. Either that, or she has become immune to them.
Her pain is as intense as the day Martin strangled her, which only makes her feel worse, because it means she isn’t getting any better. What about eating again? Drinking? Talking?
It is like she has become a dummy to play the role of Madison. She’s just there.
Negan squeezes her hand, thumb grazing her fingers as he continues talking, “Never mind a fucking storm when the real threat is the tornado.”
She has been spacing in and out of his dialogue. Another downside to being like this is the fact that Negan talks twice as much. He talks for himself and he talks for her. Filling the silence with pointless shit. It pisses her off, but shaking her head or making any movement would kill.
She closes her eyes, trying to block out the words out of the book he is reading. She can’t see from here but she is sure that the book is about the killer weather. Because there wasn’t anything better to pick from the library.
“Holy shit, ten thousand casualties,” he scoffs, “Even I didn’t know that. This is like the cheapest goddamn college ever, right Mads?”
She opens her eyes slowly, praying that Kate will soon come in and tear that stupid book away from him.
“I gotta piss,” she hears the chair moving. From the corner of her eye, she sees him standing up before leaning down to kiss her hand, “I’ll be right back, Daisy.”
When the door shuts, she releases a sigh through her nose. The cannula around her face wiggles as she breathes, tickling her nostrils. This was an unexpected upgrade. Kate said that she can breathe better now, so the monstrous gas mask is redundant. But some aid is still needed.
As if to answer her prayers, Kate walks into the room. She knows it is her by the short steps and slight clacking of her shoes.
“Alright, sweetheart, you ready?” she fiddles with something on the nightstand as Maddie shuts her eyes. She has been turning oral pills into powder and trying to get Maddie to consume them. It’s not ideal, but it works. The effect is less than satisfactory, but it is something.
Negan appears at her side again, folding his arms. She concentrates on the tattoo on his forearm while Kate feeds her the drugs. They are both silent throughout the process. It’s a nice change.
The woman smiles slightly, sighing, “I’ll be back with dinner in around thirty minutes, honey.”
Maddie manages to smile back as she waits for her to leave. But she lingers, glancing at Negan.
“Can I talk to you outside for a sec?”
He scratches his beard, nodding, “I’d love to hear what you have to say.”
She leads him out of the door and down the stairs. He chuckles as he follows, shaking his head at the distance she is putting between himself and Maddie.
“Where the fuck are we going?”
“In here,” Kate holds the door open to a room he has never been in. When he sees the bed, he guesses it is her room. He folds his arms and leans against the closed door, watching her pace like a madwoman.
“What’s the problem, doll?” his eyes stalk her, “Getting me alone for a lil’ freaky deaky?”
She stops, staring at him, “Are you crazy?”
“Wow, you people have no sense of humour,” he pushes himself off the door with his foot and starts exploring the new surroundings, not hesitating to pick up a few items for inspection. They are mostly books and bottles of cream.
“Look,” her shoulders drop, “We don’t have any meds for Maddie.”
“Yeah, I know that.”
She stills her hand in mid-air, watching him, as if frozen. When their eyes meet, she looks away, “That’s a problem, Negan.”
“You’re saying that as if I don’t know.”
She scoffs, “Well, are you going to do something about it? Or maybe get somebody else do something about it? Since you’re the big bad leader now.”
Negan’s smirk stretches into a smile as he steps closer, “You got quite a mouth.”
“Don’t dodge my question,” Kate folds her arms.
He runs a hand down his face, sighing deeply. It’s obvious that he does not want Maddie to be in pain. But it’s like he has given up.
Kate clenches her fists as he walks over to her desk, picking up a lifestyle magazine. It’s dated back to three years ago.
“I was thinking,” she starts, “Maybe we should scavenge for supplies at that abandoned mall.”
“No,” his answer is quick, “Nobody is going there.”
She shakes her head, watching as he flicks through the pages, “Negan.”
“No. And that’s final.”
She feels tension rising in the room, creating a wall between them. He drops the magazine onto the desk, clenching his jaw. He looks like he is about to explode. Still, she pushes.
“She is miserable.”
The slam of his fist on the desk makes her jump. Something plastic clatters to the ground, “Nobody is going. It’s too fucking dangerous.”
“Because there are people there! They have claimed the fucking mall, goddammit!”
“Oh, bullshit,” she shakes her head, “Since when are you scared of people?”
“I am not fucking scared,” he seethes.
“Do you know them?” she raises her eyebrows, “Is that why you would risk Maddie’s health?”
Negan steps closer, trying to keep his anger to himself. He knows she means well. He grabs Kate’s shoulders, “Listen to me. We cannot go to the fucking mall to steal their supplies,” she opens her mouth to speak and he grabs her chin before she can, “No! We can’t steal them. We can’t barter with them. We can’t talk to them. Alright?”
She shoves his hand away, but he refuses to step back.
“Those people are more dangerous than any goddamn illness, disease or bone fracture put together. So, if you want to seek help from them, you might as well just kill Maddie yourself.”
Kate’s eyes widen in shock, but she chooses to stand her ground. She wriggles out of his grip and shoves at his chest, “Don’t you fucking raise your voice at me, you piece of shit.”
Negan pushes his tongue into one of his cheeks, eyebrow raising. Maddie will be able to heal on her own, but she will have to ride through the pain. There is not much choice there. Negan knows that.
“Well, damn,” he smirks slightly, finally stepping back as she walks past him to the door, “I think I just found my boner.”
Kate looks at him in shock before scrambling out of the room, mumbling, “Asshole.”
Did I just hear the crack of a whip?
The swelling in her throat has been reduced to a slight ache. Weeks later, she begins to eat normally.
Negan watches her like a hawk as she picks up a glass of water and drinks it. She leans against the headboard and rolls her eyes, picking up the writing pad.
He reads it. Stop staring at me.
“Alright, doll,” he gets up slowly, scratching his brow, “I have shit to take care of anyway. Don’t miss me too much.”
Maddie smirks as he walks out of the room. The torturous days have not been kind to her, but at least her throat is getting better. Once they ran out of painkillers she could consume, it was a freefall. Thankfully, Kate has allowed her to get up and walk, as well as eat whatever she wants.
There’s just a little hurdle left to climb over: Talking.
Kate says that in a few days she will have a sit down with her, and guide her through the steps. At first Maddie raised her eyebrow at this. Guiding her how to talk? She tried to hum when Kate left the room and was terrified when nothing came out.
She will wait until the time is right. Otherwise she might make the healing process worse.
Negan runs a hand down his chin, watching as everyone works on the crops. His eyes glance briefly to Martin, who is now a rotting corpse struggling to free himself from the tree. His arms reach out to try and grab Negan, but he will never catch him.
Mike tosses a rotten carrot behind his shoulder and scoffs, “I don’t see why we had to tie him up.”
Negan chuckles softly, using his long legs to swing on the porch bench, “Less questions, more work.”
He knows that there was a grunt of a reply but standing up and confronting him would mean he would lose his incredible view. Everyone is following his orders without questions. He doesn’t give a fuck whether they are all afraid of him, or maybe it’s something else, but all that matters is that things are finally getting done.
“Negan,” Noah walks up to the porch, glancing at his boots when they make eye contact. His shirt is muddy and his hair is all over the place. Just how it should be.
“Now, why would you come up here and ruin this tranquil atmosphere that I have going on right now?”
Noah notices a brewing cup of tea on a wooden table next to the swing. The steam jitters as the wind blows past it.
“I was going to ask you,” he begins, scratching the back of his head, “Can I see Maddie?”
“Why?” his eyes are hopeless.
Negan takes a deep breath, “Because I fucking said so.”
“That’s not a good enough reason,” for the first time he seems to add fire to his words.
Negan laughs, slapping his knee, “Look at this badass,” he sighs, “I already said that you can see her when she gets better.”
“She’s been in that room for weeks.”
“And she’ll be out pretty fucking soon.”
Noah stomps back to the patch of carrots, where Mike and Trevor are busy plucking them out. It looks like it will start to rain soon. He shouldn’t keep them out here for too long. Dinner will be ready in an hour.
Negan glances at the front door as it opens, revealing Nikki with a tray of freshly baked cookies. His smile twists in gratitude as she places the tray on the wooden table. It also gives him a great view of her ass. He shifts his hips uncomfortably before looking up at her, “Thank you, darlin’. That’s everything.”
She glances at him before moving back into the house wordlessly.
He pinches the bridge of his nose. That reminds him… when the fuck is this baby due?
He stands up a while later and goes to search for Kate with a mouthful of cookies. She ends up being in the kitchen, violently stirring some sort of liquid in a jug.
“Just the woman I wanted to fucking see,” he smiles.
Kate looks over her shoulder at him before rolling her eyes and getting back to making dinner, “What do you want?”
“Oh, that’s no way to talk to your boss.”
“You’re not my boss.”
Negan seems to skip in excitement as he approaches her. He dips a finger into a stuffing mixture and almost tips back when he sucks it off, “Mmm! That’s what I’m fucking talking about.”
Kate ignores him as best she can, changing the temperature of the oven. When she turns around, he is right in front of her, darting his tongue over his bottom lip.
“I have a burning question for you, my dear Kate.”
She leans her head back to meet his eyes and decides to humour him with a smile, “And what would that question be?”
“I was wondering when oh, when, that baby is supposed to pop out of Nikki. I just can’t wait to meet that little bundle of joy.”
She raises her brow before shaking her head, “She could go into labour any day now.”
“And have you been preparing, as a good doctor should?” he runs his fingers down her shoulder, grinning.
“Yes,” she smacks his hand away, “Can I get back to cooking now?”
“Always so eager to please,” he grabs a slice of freshly baked bread and walks out of the kitchen, humming some sort of song. Kate waits to hear the door slam before muttering her favourite curse word, reserved specifically for him.
Maddie opens her eyes when a familiar tune starts playing in the room. She looks to the source of the sound and sees Negan fiddling with the small stereo, pushing buttons at random, “Goddammit.”
She sits up in bed, raising her eyebrow.
“Shit, sorry,” Negan sighs, “I don’t know how to work this thing.”
Maddie smiles, stretching out her arm. He grabs the stereo and places it by her pillow. She uses her thumb to push the jagged ring, making the volume louder.
Negan places a bunch of CDs on the nightstand, “Thought you might wanna listen to music. I know there isn’t much to do for you.”
She smirks slightly as she recognises the lyrics.
In New York. Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There’s nothing you can’t do.
She remembers the day that song came out. Later, she danced with her friends to it at the club.
Negan doesn’t seem satisfied with this gift, “Do you want me to find you another book? I bet there’s one about fucking night cream and shit. Maybe different kinds of edible flowers. What else do you like?”
If she could laugh, she would do it.
Maddie points to the notepad and pen before Negan brings it to her. She starts scratching words into the paper quickly, desperate to communicate.
“Are you writing an essay?” Negan jokes. She ignores him, knowing that if she added a reply for that, the flow of her words would be ruined.
She shows him the pad when she’s finished.
Negan rolls his eyes, “You can say you’re not a hipster, but you fucking are, okay?” His eyes drop to the other words, reading them, “You’re welcome. So, you don’t need a book?”
She shakes her head. Reading seems too tedious right now.
“You know,” he scratches his beard, “I heard that sex speeds up the healing process.”
Maddie raises an eyebrow as if to say ‘Where did you hear that?’
He grabs the notepad and draws a horizontal line, grinning from ear to ear, “So if you can sign your consent right here… we can get down to business.”
Maddie breathes out a laugh, taking the pad off him. She writes her name along the line and hands it back, enjoying the way he lights up. If the most excitement she can get is listening to music and reading books, she might as well put her boyfriend to good use.
He moves the stereo out of the way and wraps his arms around her waist, pulling her in for a kiss. It hurts to lift her head like this, so she lays back down, urging him to do the same.
He climbs on top of her, grabbing the blanket and sliding underneath it. Playfully, she pulls it over his head until it is hard to breathe and the only thing she can see are his glistening eyes.
“You dirty girl,” his hot breath sizzles against her ear, “Did you miss my cock?”
Fuck yes. And that filthy mouth will take some getting used to.
She nods awkwardly, knowing she can’t speak. She wonders if Negan can still remember. Unless… these are rhetorical questions.
He pulls the blanket down, welcoming the crisp, cold air. Maddie smiles as he places gentle kisses on her neck, where the bruising has started to subside.
For some reason, the sound of his belt buckle clacking together is what does it for her. She rubs her thighs together, biting down on her lip.
“Are you wet for me, doll?” she nods quickly, “Yeah? Fuck, you aren’t wrong.” She closes her eyes when his fingers brush down her heat through her panties, “Show me your tits.”
She furrows her eyebrows as his hand tugs at the top of her shirt. Their eyes meet and he tilts his head in curiosity, “What? Too vulgar?”
Maddie rolls her eyes.
“Okay,” he clears his throat, “Breasts. I meant breasts.”
She laughs against his lips when the door opens and Kate walks in with a tray of food, “Oh, jeez.”
Maddie pushes Negan away quickly but he is in no rush to disappear. He laughs as he tightens his belt, watching the woman, “Welcome to the party.”
Maddie shrinks into the mattress, thanking God that they are still fully clothed.
“What is wrong with you?” Kate pushes past him to place the tray on the bed, “She is sick.”
Her hand goes to the blanket, tugging down slightly to reveal the flushed girl. Kate sighs in what feels like disappointment. Maddie offers her a small smile, and it only widens when she sees Negan wink at her from behind Kate.
“I brought your dinner, honey. It’s still very hot. Be careful.”
“Maybe blowing it would help,” Negan chuckles.
Kate looks up at the ceiling before grabbing a pillow and tossing it at his head, “Get out of here!”
Maddie props another pillow behind her back and sits up, embarrassed to see that a button has been ripped from her shirt, revealing the top part of her chest. She grabs the fabric and tugs it upwards, grabbing the food from the nightstand.
Maybe it’s for the best that they didn’t get laid. How awkward would it be not to be able to make any sound?
Kate turns off the music before standing up, “If you need anything, I’ll be in the kitchen. Okay?”
“Oh, I do hope that there’s enough left for me, darlin’,” Negan smiles.
Maddie pretends not to have heard him use that nickname on someone other than her. It’s weird. Maybe it’s nothing. She doesn’t understand where this personality came from. Kate doesn’t seem to bend to his rules though. She is still rolling her eyes and calling him a prick. Nothing changed.
“Go to the kitchen and get some yourself.”
He puts a hand on his chest, “You aren’t going to serve me? Oh, boy, that does not make me feel very appreciated.”
Kate places a hand on her hip, giving him the coldest look, “You’re not.”
Maddie looks up from her plate of food as silence fills the room. Awkward. She lowers her eyes, wondering what the hell has been happening while she was bedbound.
“You might want to re-phrase that, darlin’,” he speaks quietly, barely audible to Maddie. Kate folds her arms, being the first to break eye contact. He steps closer to her, tightening his jaw.
Kate shakes her head before he can launch into a speech, “Fine. You are appreciated. Is that what you want to hear?”
“Hell fucking yes, it is,” he smiles, “But I do sense a hint of sarcasm, you fucking sass.”
She walks out before anymore can be said. Maddie releases a breath she did not realise she has been holding. Holy crap, what was that?
Negan turns back to her, taking a seat on the edge of the bed. His boner is still prominent in his pants, “Finish your dinner, doll,” he smiles slightly, brushing his hair back.
She does as he says, questions burning in the back of her mind. She could write them down but he might not answer. If she could speak, she would probably try and convince him. It’s a little hard to do on paper though.
She will write them in her diary for now.
In this one, Maddie is back to restore some order. Enjoy!
Kate squeezes the sides of Maddie’s neck, causing her to flinch away, “It’s alright,” she smiles in reassurance.
Maddie glances at Negan beside her, who looks like he is thinking things over. When their eyes meet, he gives her a smirk.
“Try and talk, honey,” she says, putting her hands down. Maddie glances at the book in front of her, picking a line.
Her heart starts to beat faster as she feels something in her throat. What if she can’t talk anymore? What if all this is pointless?
Negan looks like he wants to say something, but he figures it would be best to give her a chance. He does not want to ruin anything with his stupid mouth.
Maddie sighs and looks down at the book again. Negan picked it out. It’s a breakfast cookbook. She raises an eyebrow before focusing on one line, “Spoon the mixture into the frying pan.”
It comes out in a whisper. She starts to panic.
“No, it’s okay,” Kate smiles, “Try again. Louder.”
She looks at Negan who puts a hand over his eyes. He is not sugar-coating anything.
Maddie says the same line again. This time her voice breaks mid-way through the sentence. She clears her throat.
“Good, good,” Kate reaches out to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, “Keep going.”
She brings the book closer and reads out a different line, “Serve with strawberries.”
Kate smiles as her voice comes through steadily, almost sounding like herself again.
“This is stupid,” she says, making Negan grin widely.
“That’s my girl.”
“You think I can go outside now?” Maddie folds her arms, looking at the man in the doorway. Negan smirks, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“Take it easy, doll. That was quite a mouthful.”
She rolls her eyes, “I already put my shoes on. Let me out.”
“Alright, but only for a little white,” Negan grabs her hand, kissing it, “I don’t need that boy Noah to be flapping around you like a headless fucking chicken.”
“He’s my friend!” her voice breaks at the end, which he picks up immediately.
“You call this getting better?”
She reduces her voice to a whisper, “Would it help if I talked like this?”
“You know,” he grins, pulling her closer, “I can think of a few ways to warm up those vocal cords of yours.”
He kisses her neck slowly as she wraps her arms around him, “Oh yeah? How?”
“Oh, you know,” he chuckles huskily, “I could do that thing you like.”
Gradually, they start to step away from the door. Maddie only notices how far they have got when her legs hit the mattress. Oh, that is not going to work.
“You know another thing I like?”
Negan hums softly, kissing across her shoulder, “Tell me, sweetheart.”
“Going outside,” she shoves him away gently, smirking.
He runs a hand down his face, looking at her, “I guess I can’t stop you.”
She shrugs, walking up to the door again, “Come on. You clearly want to follow me around. Let’s go.”
Negan grabs her hand, smirking as they walk down the stairs, “You know… it’s so nice to hear your voice.”
She smiles over her shoulder when they reach the living room.
“Try not to shout, or talk too much, you know?”
Maddie giggles softly, “Negan. I know. Okay? Stop worrying so much.”
The house is oddly quiet when they reach the kitchen. Maddie giggles in amusement, turning to Negan.
“Where is everyone?”
He shrugs one shoulder, walking over to a cupboard and pulling out a bottle of scotch, “Working.”
“What are you doing?” she widens her eyes.
He raises a brow, pouring himself a drink, “Do you want some?”
“No,” she takes another look around, trying to piece the puzzle together, “Negan, where is everyone?”
He takes a sip, leaning against the counter. The end of his belt sticks up slightly, and his white shirt hangs loosely around his torso. Weirdly, it turns her on. Just the way he is standing. Drinking that scotch.
He licks his lip, smirking, “I told you, darlin’. Working.”
“Working on what?”
“The crops,” he points to the nearest window, “The holes. What’s with all the questions?”
Maddie saunters over to him and stands on her tip toes casually, “You’re not gonna hear the end of it from Mike.”
Negan furrows his brows, putting his drink down beside him, “What do you mean?”
“This!” she points to the scotch, “You can’t just take whatever you want!”
“Oh,” he laughs smugly, tipping his head back, “I forgot to tell you.”
This time, she slaps his stomach, making him lean forward, “Tell me what?!”
“I run this place now,” he smirks.
“Yeah, right,” she rolls her eyes, losing interest in his jokes. He watches as she skips around the kitchen, going from window to door, seeing if everything is still in its original place. It is. Then she turns to him, “Why are you smirking like that?”
“You know what would be really fucking nice right now?” his eyes travel down her legs.
She raises an eyebrow, ready to leave, “You’re acting weird.”
“I’m not acting,” he shrugs.
“That just means you’re weird.”
Negan laughs, shaking his head, “Come over here.”
She jams her finger between her teeth, closing the space between them. His arms snake around her waist and he takes her wrist, pulling her finger out of her mouth.
“What did I tell you about that silly habit?”
She pretends to think, “That you like it?”
His constant smiling is putting her off. When they came here, he was a paranoid mess and now he is grinning from ear to ear, joking around and talking shit.
He presses his lips to the palm of her hand, “The only thing that should be in that pretty little mouth is my dick.”
Maddie blushes even thinking about it. She glances away, but when her eyes jump back to him, he is still staring at her.
“What? What’re you thinking about?” he smirks.
“Nothing,” she laughs, feeling his lips kiss each one of her fingers.
“You are so fucking adorable, Daisy.”
“I’m not Daisy,” she rolls her eyes, trying to turn her hips. He will not let go.
When she thinks that he will start talking again, his breath is on her neck. She giggles as he kisses down to her chest, undoing one of the buttons on her shirt. Her hand shoots up to grab his.
“Why not?” he grins, cutting her off with a wet kiss on her collarbone, “I recall somebody telling me that one of her fantasies was to be fucked on a kitchen counter.”
She laughs nervously, blushing farther from his words. When did he become so forward? Or was he always like this?
“And who told you that?” she plays along, being pressed against the counter.
“Oh, it was this girl,” she feels his smirk against her neck, “She had a flower tattoo on her hip,” his fingers slide underneath the waistband of her trousers to press against the ink.
“Negan,” she gasps, pulling at his wrist, “Someone might come in.”
“Nobody is coming except from you,” she hears the clacking of his belt, “And me.”
He seems to find that one amusing as he tips his head back in laughter. Maddie watches him before glancing over at the door. It is slightly open. Why is he so cool about this?
Before she can register what is happening, she finds herself pushed against the kitchen counter, face pressed against the cold surface. Negan’s hand presses against her back and her trousers pool at her ankles.
He senses her discomfort and lifts up a part of her shirt to kiss her back, “Nobody is coming in, doll. Trust me.”
“How can you be so sure?” she looks over her shoulder, finally hearing the normal Negan talk.
“Because I told them not to,” he grins, “And they fucking listen.”
She gasps when he enters her, burying himself to the hilt before his arms go around her waist. Maddie bites her lip, adjusting to his size.
“Fucking fuck,” he hisses, “You are drenched, darlin’,” she hears his smirk, “Look at you, taking my big, bad cock like a fucking champ.”
She moans when he pulls out, only to slide back in, just as slowly as the first time.
“I fucking own this place, baby,” he groans, pressing his face to her back, “I own it and I own everyone in it.”
She furrows her brows, her eyes widening in realization. Does he own it? He must do. Even Negan wouldn’t bend anyone over in the kitchen if he was a guest. She turns to look at him, finding that crease in the middle of his forehead as his eyes shut.
“Wait, Mike isn’t in charge anymore?”
One of his hands grabs her breasts, groaning through his teeth. He opens his eyes, “Jesus, can we talk about Mike later? I don’t want to be picturing him.”
She releases a laugh before covering her mouth, “Sorry.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“Is this doing anything for you?” he grabs her hips, halting his movements. She looks at him again to see his thinking face, “Do you want me to warm you up a little?”
She smirks slightly, making him find his own smile again.
“You’re just not going fast enough, old man.”
“You fucking smartass.”
It is over in about ten minutes after Maddie finds her release. She hears Negan groan in relief as he spills inside of her, “Fuck!”
He hugs her once they are decent, and she presses her face against his chest.
“I swear it wasn’t this hard before,” he breathes, a little disappointed, “Am I really getting old?”
Maddie laughs, “No, it was me. I was just… it was the Mike thing.”
He sighs, tilting her chin upwards for a kiss, “It’s true, doll. I own this place.”
“How did this happen?”
Negan picks up his scotch, taking a sip. She waits for ages until he is finished. Then he starts to talk.
“Soon after you got hurt,” he clenches his jaw, turning away.
That answers nothing, “What changed?”
“I killed that prick in front of everybody here,” he says, referring to Martin, “And then… people fell in line.”
The way he says it makes it sound like there was something wrong with leadership here before he came. She knows that is not the case. It just had some bad eggs.
Maddie folds her arms, looking down at her feet. There is pure silence for a bit until Negan starts chuckling again.
“I don’t understand, sweetheart,” he comes closer, “Are you not happy?”
“I am happy,” she smiles, meeting his lips when they come down.
She needs to talk to Mike about this. People don’t just fall in line. He must have done something. She knows he was a leader before this community, and she knows that somehow that fell apart.
“Where is everyone?” she asks again. She doesn’t want to say Mike because Negan will probably sniff out her suspicion.
He sighs, pointing to the door, “Noah is near the carrot patch. Or he fucking should be.”
She smiles when she sees him. Outside, he turns around, shirt all dirty and sweaty. Noah shows his dazzling smile before it diminishes slightly at Negan behind her.
“Hey,” she squeals, throwing her arms around him. He hugs her back but is quick to step away.
“Hey,” he smirks, “Glad to see you’re doing better.”
She would have preferred more enthusiasm. Feeling a bit uncomfortable, she folds her arms and looks at Negan. He nods before glancing at the house.
“Can we have a moment? I don’t need a bodyguard.”
That seems to piss him off a little. Nevertheless, he walks away.
“You seem to be the only one to have an influence on him,” Noah sighs.
“What does that mean?”
“Nothing,” he shakes his head, “I’m really happy you’re okay.”
The wind pushes her to the side slightly, raising goose bumps on her skin. Noah points to the sky.
“You need to get inside. It’ll start raining soon,” he picks up a shovel, idly kicking it.
“Okay, what about you?”
“I still have work to do,” he turns around as if on que and starts digging.
Maddie blinks at him, “In the rain?”
“It won’t take long,” he smiles, crouching back down.
She lifts her eyes to see the rest of the garden. Trevor is digging a few feet away. He doesn’t look at her once. Where is everyone else?
She huffs and stomps back inside just as it starts pouring down. Negan is in the living room with his feet up on the coffee table. When he sees her, his arms spread out, “About time.”
“Tell them to go inside.”
“What are you-?”
“Cut the bullshit.”
“Woah!” Negan widens his eyes, laughing, “What is with all this bad-assery? Are you trying to turn me on?”
Maddie tilts her head to the side. Is he joking?
“If you’re in charge of this place, tell them to get out of the rain and have a break!”
He bows his head in submission before sauntering over to the girl like a lost puppy. Behind him, she sees a new glass of scotch. Figures.
“There is a strict schedule, sweetheart,” he shrugs, “And we are already behind. The crops are rotting, and I need someone to solve the arm in the pipe problem.”
“And that means getting people to work outside without breaks?”
“Desperate times,” he shrugs slowly.
“Tell them to get out of the rain,” she orders, turning around to leave.
“No!” she snaps, pointing at his face, “Don’t be an asshole.”
He doesn’t follow her when she heads to the infirmary. Luckily, it does not take long to find Kate. She lets herself in quietly, smiling when the woman closes her book and stands up from the armchair.
“Hey, honey,” she says, “Are you feeling okay?”
Instinctively, her hand goes to Maddie’s forehead before taking out an electric thermometer from the front pocket of her skirt.
“Oh, I’m fine,” she laughs, “I just came here to thank you.”
“Thank me?” her eyebrows raise in surprise, “For what?”
“Are you joking?” Maddie laughs slightly, “For fixing me, of course.”
Kate waves it off like it’s nothing and pulls her in for a hug, “Take it easy, sweetheart. I’ll need to keep an eye on you for the next few days.”
“That’s fine,” Maddie inhales, closing her eyes when the pungent smell of orange hits her. Kate pulls away to show her a small tub of cream. She unscrews the lid.
“I made this yesterday,” she says, “Hand cream.”
“With almond oil extract?” Maddie catches on.
She laughs, “Yes. You have quite the sense of smell.”
“It’s a gift.”
“You finally got them out of the rain, huh?”
Negan turns to see Nikki in his doorway. One of her hands is on her bump, rubbing soothing circles. He grins widely, getting up from his spot.
“Take a seat,” he gestures to the sofa, “Your feet must be killing.”
“They are,” she waddles over to the sofa and flops down. The crackling of the fire over the sound of thunder is all that can be heard for a while. She looks up at Negan, unable to stay away, “I think I’m overdue.”
“Don’t you fucking worry,” he eases back into his seat next to her, “You’re in safe hands with Kate.”
“I’m not worried about that,” her heart picks up when his large hand runs from one side of her belly to the other. He chuckles in excitement, biting down on his lip.
She nods quickly. When the baby kicks, she grabs his hand and puts it in the right place. She is pleased when his grin widens, “Jesus, this is a miracle.”
Nikki looks down at her bump, relishing the moments of this physical contact. When he pulls away, she closes her eyes in disappointment, but smiles when his arm drapes over the back of the couch.
“Is there anything you need, doll?” his low voice murmurs in her ear.
She decides that there isn’t much left to lose and turns to face him. He is so close that in just a few inches, their lips could connect. He has rejected her once before, so she won’t make the same mistake again.
“I just didn’t want to be alone.”
He squeezes one of her shoulders in reassurance, “You’re not alone, darlin’. Never alone here.”
Strangely, his words seem to prove the fact that he will never make a move on her. She is never alone here, but she is. And he has Maddie.
She has never been good at talking, so it is a relief when he continues the one-way chat, “We can go for a walk when the rain stops. I read somewhere that walking induces labour. So, we’ll induce the hell out of it.”
She scoffs, “You read pregnancy books?”
“Well, not on purpose.”
Maddie meets Negan in their room towards the evening. He watches as she walks past him to the wardrobe, picking out a clean shirt. His eyes burn into her back, but she stands her ground, ignoring him.
“Come on,” he sighs, “I got them out of the rain.”
“And you needed a ‘kid’ to guide you in the right direction, huh?” she uses that word he likes to call her, rolling her eyes.
Out of all the things he could do, he starts laughing.
“I knew you were gonna throw that at me one day, darlin’,” he slides his hands into his pockets.
The rain has stopped and the sun has come back out. He stomps his foot behind her like a child having a tantrum. It’s hard to take him seriously.
“Come on baby doll,” he waits, “Are you going to make me say it?”
“Say what?” she slams the wardrobe door and turns to look at him. Negan puckers his lips, trailing his eyes down to the floor and then back up to her again.
“Don’t be mad at me,” he sighs, “We should be celebrating. I’m sorry.”
“I didn’t expect you to turn into a jackass, okay?”
“Alright, now that’s a step too far,” he raises his hands, “I ain’t a jackass for wanting this place to thrive.”
“You’re a jackass for throwing people out into the rain and scaring them into work.”
“On the bright side, you don’t have to work at all.”
She lowers her arms, clutching the clean shirt in her hands tightly.
“Alright, what I meant to say was… I’m sorry.”
She rolls her eyes, “Don’t apologise to me.”
Negan sighs deeply, scratching his left eyebrow, “What do you want from me?”
“If you can’t figure that out for yourself, I can’t help you,” her smile is forced. He narrows his eyes.
“Don’t start sassin’ me, doll.”
She pushes past him, but he grabs her wrist and keeps her in place. Maddie groans, trying to get out of his grip. He yanks the shirt out of her hand and takes her other arm. Firmly but gently.
“Alright, alright, stop thrashing. I said I was sorry, okay?” when she calms down, his hand goes to cup her face, “Look at me. I said I’m sorry. I’m an asshole. Is that what you want to hear?”
She looks up at him, sighing as his thumb grazes her cheekbone. He leans down to kiss her forehead.
“Okay, I get it,” he nuzzles her neck.
“I mean it.”
“I know,” she pulls away, “I forgive you.”
“You’re not smiling,” he points to her lips.
Maddie scoffs, looking away.
“Come on, I need to know we’re good. I’m a fucking asshole.”
His comment makes her smirk, but she looks down quickly.
“Nope. There it is,” he grins, “Was that a smile?”
Maddie laughs softly, covering her face with both hands. He pulls her into an embrace, muttering apologies into her hair.
“I’ll make it up to you tonight.”
She rolls her eyes, “Do you ever think about anything other than sex?”
“I didn’t say anything about sex,” he pecks her lips slowly.
“Oh?” she giggles, “Now I’m intrigued.”
She sits on the bed as Negan leaves to shower. When she hears the water running, she picks up the clean shirt and changes into it. It smells like hospital for some reason. Maybe it’s just too clean.
Maddie gets up and goes over to the window, watching as the rain droplets fall from the roof down onto the wooden window frame. The grass is shiny and the trees around the clearing drop glass-like crystals of water from the branches.
She sees something moving amongst them and leans in, pressing a hand against the window.
She watches as the woman waddles into the trees and out of sight. What the hell is she doing?
In a panic, Maddie grabs her jacket and throws it on. She squeezes her arm between the wall and wardrobe to grab Negan’s pistol.
Hearing the shower water turn off, she runs out of the room to follow the pregnant woman into the forest.
I feel like I need to inform the people who are following this story about the difficulties in my life right now which have made it impossible to update sooner. There has been a lot going on. I am not going into detail but I am going to say that I needed to be with my family, and I still do.
Things have been clearing up a little, which is why I was able to post this chapter today.
On top of all that shit, there’s the other shit with university, which is absolutely suffocating. I am getting through it gradually, but if you wanted to know why the updates have been slow, there you have it.
I’m okay and I am working on future chapters. This one is heavy with angst and Negan only appears at the end, but it is important for character development.
Enjoy if you can lol
When Maddie is out of sight from everyone in the house, Nikki is nowhere to be seen. She couldn’t have gone too far. She is slow and heavily pregnant.
Maddie pushes forward, breaking into a jog. She stops near a tree, pressing her forehead against it. She squeezes her eyes shut, all the tiny sounds of the forest amplified. There are cracks of twigs not far away. Some birds flutter their wings as they take off suddenly. When she opens her eyes, there is a distinct sound of a person walking.
She starts moving again, her eyes scanning every section of the woods. Soon, a white blaze stands out from the greenery. Nikki’s shirt. Maddie speeds up until she is certain of what she saw.
She sighs in relief when the woman turns to look at her. She has this weird anger in her eyes.
“Okay…” Maddie takes a deep breath, “Thank God.”
Nikki rolls her eyes and continues walking.
“Wait!” Maddie exclaims, “Where are you going?”
“What’s it to you?”
She approaches with caution, raising one of her hands, “I’m worried.”
Maddie tries a different approach, “Come on. We need to get back. It’s not safe.”
“Leave me the fuck alone, Madison.”
Her cold comebacks make her heart race. Can’t she see that she means her no harm?
Nikki continues walking, one hand on her bump. The closer they start getting to the holes, the harder Maddie’s heart hammers against her chest. She is afraid to speak, but she has to.
“Nikki, please,” she says, “It’s not safe.”
The woman ignores her until Maddie finds the courage to reach out for her arm. She gets struck in the face, almost falling over. Nikki stumbles from the impact herself.
The girl holds her cheek, hesitant with eye contact.
“I said leave me alone.”
She watches Nikki turn back around and waddle deeper into the forest. Maddie feels tears stinging her eyes. She never did anything wrong to her. It’s like Nikki hates her for no reason. There must be a reason.
She considers turning away, but this isn’t just about her. A child is involved. An innocent child that had nothing to do with anything. If Nikki dies, the child dies.
Maddie follows her, this time keeping her distance. She doesn’t want to get slapped again. She wishes somebody was here with her. Hell, she wouldn’t mind if Negan was with her. As long as they all got back to safety.
“Where are you going?” Maddie asks.
To her surprise, Nikki turns to look over her shoulder, “I’m taking a walk.”
“Can you take a walk in the house?”
“Are you fucking sassin’ me?”
Maddie drops her eyes to the ground obediently, “No.”
“That’s what I fucking thought.”
It starts to drizzle lightly as the temperature drops. Nikki continues walking forward, looking from side to side for any signs of danger. At least she is not being completely reckless. Still, Maddie tightens the grip on her pistol in her back pocket. It’s been forever since she felt this lost and scared.
Sounds of growling begin to put her on edge. She feels her stomach do a flip when Nikki approaches the holes, glancing into them.
“Stay back!” she orders in a panic. It is clear that Nikki will listen to nothing.
Taking a deep breath, she runs to catch up until she is shoulder to shoulder with the woman. If she gets slapped again, so be it. It’s that or death for more than one person.
They both stare at the two walkers reaching up for them. One has no legs, and the other is limping around in a circle. Maddie gets a crazy idea that Nikki might push her in, so she jumps back.
“We need to get back,” she reiterates.
“I am not going anywhere.”
“Wait,” her voice shakes, “Please, wait.”
Helplessly, she watches as the woman walks on the thin land bridge to the other side. To the dangerous side. To the side where she will be helpless.
Nikki doesn’t stop to wait for her when she passes the holes. Maddie whimpers before going after her. Her legs are like jelly. Even seeing the walkers below is less frightening than what she feels is ahead.
They walk for what feels like two miles before Nikki finally starts to talk, “You have no fucking idea how it feels to lose someone twice.”
The statement pisses her off and she decides to snap back, “You don’t know shit about me.”
Nikki smiles for the first time.
“Is this about you not being able to seduce Negan? Because that’s a pretty stupid thing to get yourself killed over.”
“You’re as dumb as you are ugly.”
It doesn’t bother her one bit because she knows that the woman is simply trying to get under her skin.
“You didn’t like me from day one.”
“Mhmm,” Nikki hums, stopping by a tree to catch her breath, “And what about it?”
“Why?” Maddie raises an eyebrow.
She turns her head away, looking up at the sky. The rain drops can’t be felt through the thick leaves above, but the sound confirms that it is raining.
Maddie looks around, never letting go of her gun, “We need to get back.”
“I’m not going back,” she says.
“You have to.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do!”
“No, I fucking don’t!” Nikki snaps, glaring at her, “I’m not going back to Negan, and I am not going back to being alone.”
Maddie furrows her eyebrows, “What are you talking about?” She acts confused but the pieces in her head start to make the puzzle picture. This is more than jealousy. And she will never be able to understand it because she isn’t a mother and she didn’t lose the father of her child, and the one person she wants to rely on isn’t fucking a younger woman.
Maybe she is naïve. But she doesn’t feel like it’s her fault for what Nikki is feeling.
“Do you want to lose your baby?”
“What?” Nikki feels defensive, “No.”
“But you will,” Maddie nods, “If you don’t go back to the house.”
She takes a deep breath, closing her eyes for just a moment. God, she wishes somebody was here with her.
“Call it what you want,” Maddie starts, “But you won’t survive out here in you state. And that baby will freeze to death as soon as it climbs out of your rotting corpse.”
“What the fuck did you just say to me?”
Right now, she is trying all the possible ways of getting through to her. Being gentle didn’t work, so maybe this will.
“We need to get back right now!”
Suddenly, Nikki gasps, clutching her bump. Maddie stands up straighter.
“What? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, go fuck yourself, Madison!”
“I’m trying to help!”
She watches as the woman leans against a tree, breathing through the obvious pain she is in. Her hand goes from one side of her belly to the other, as if to feel the source of the pain.
“Let’s… Let’s go back now,” Maddie says, watching her, “Kate will have something for the pain.”
Oddly, Nikki nods and starts to walk back in the direction they came from. There are no painkillers at the house, but she doesn’t need to know that. Otherwise there will be no way of dragging her back. It’s a miracle that she is moving.
They don’t get ten steps in when Nikki collapses onto the ground, holding her upper body up with the help of an old oak.
“No, no, come on! We have to go!” Maddie approaches to reach for her hands, but jumps back at the sight of blood, “You’re bleeding!”
Nikki looks down at her legs, watching dark red soak through her trousers. She sits against the tree, knowing there is no way she can walk now.
Maddie panics, dropping down beside her, “What do I do?”
She is no doctor and Nikki has not been preparing for the worst-case scenario, but unfortunately, this is exactly what it is.
“I’m just… I just need a minute.”
Is she planning on getting up? Maddie’s heart lifts at the hope of getting her back to the house safely. She doesn’t want to be here with her. And she doesn’t want to be the last person Nikki sees.
They need to get back as soon as possible.
Maddie takes a few steps away from her as a few walkers approach. She takes them down with her pocket knife quickly. Even that seems like a breeze compared to the mess she is in with Nikki.
When she sits back down near the woman, all hope is drained from her eyes.
Nikki creates a circle with her arms around the bump, “I’m gonna start pushing.”
Maddie chews on her bottom lip.
“Are you going to help me or not?!”
She snaps back to reality when Nikki gives her a kick in the shin, “What do I do?”
Nikki discards her pants, making herself a vulnerable mess on the forest floor. There is too much blood. Maddie wonders how she is not losing consciousness. She can’t afford to think like that. This needs to be done.
For the first time, the woman releases a pained cry. It is going to attract walkers, but there aren’t any to be seen yet. They have time.
It suddenly dawns on her that there is about to be a baby. This place is far from hygienic for a brand-new organism. Maddie shrugs off her jacket and places it by Nikki’s legs, ensuring that it stays clean.
“Pull it out when you can,” Nikki orders, gritting her teeth. All the breathing exercises and preparation for birth has gone out of the window. She is out of breath and her eyes are starting to cross. The worst thing is that Maddie cannot make any of this better, and it is making her lost.
Pull it out? How can she pull it out? Babies are fragile. What if she breaks it?
She glances around the forest again. No walkers.
Nikki screams in agony, but each time her screams become quieter.
“I think I see it,” Maddie says, “Push harder.”
“Get it out!”
She reaches for the baby when there is something to grab. It shows resistance but when the shoulders appear, everything becomes easier. Maddie catches it clumsily, being quick to wrap it in her jacket. Her eyes blur with tears. Right now, she can only make out the shapes.
“Madison, slap it.”
“What?” she whimpers, holding the doll-like creature upright. The odd thing is that it isn’t making any noise. That’s when she starts to follow Nikki’s orders.
Her hand goes down on the baby’s back gently. It splutters like an engine before giving out its first wail.
They both sigh in relief.
Maddie tightens her jacket around the baby and brings it to her chest. She looks at Nikki nervously, preparing for another insult, but she is smiling. Maddie mimics her expression before looking back down at the child. It is crying but that is not a bad thing.
She sighs and reaches for the umbilical cord with her trembling hand. Somehow she manages to tear it to separate the mother from the child.
She looks back up at Nikki. Her face has drained of colour but she continues blinking.
Her heart starts to jitter, “Go and get help.”
Maddie nods, holding onto the hope that they are all going to make it still. It remains even when the first walker of a herd sinks its teeth into Nikki’s neck.
She screams, waking up from her momentary paralysis.
Maddie falls back as another walker launches at the screaming child. Her legs work quicker than her brain and she brings herself to stand up, turning in the direction of the house.
Her thoughts are scattered. She clutches the baby to her chest as she runs, glancing back to see Nikki being eaten alive. This is all her fault. She was not prepared for this.
She wants to reach for her gun but it’s not there. She left it on the floor in the puddle of blood. As she runs, she begins to feel the sticky substance everywhere. Between her fingers, up her neck, seeping through her shirt from the baby.
It feels like hours have gone by when she reaches the holes. Her shaky legs manage to cross the land bridge to the other side. People need to be here. The holes aren’t going to hold a herd. That’s what she must remember to say: There are walkers behind her.
The house appears before her, but it brings her no relief when the image of Nikki flashes in front of her eyes. She sobs at the reality, feeling the baby’s rapid heartbeat against her chest.
“Maddie!” Kate appears on the porch first. She runs down the steps towards her. Negan follows once he sees her.
She feels the baby being pulled from her chest. Kate is telling her something but her ears have started ringing.
She gasps for air when Negan places his hands on her shoulders. He is saying something too.
Maddie leans forward to press her face against his chest.
My writing is a little rusty after taking a giant break. Apologies.
Maddie clutches her head as everything moves around her, and before she can realise what has happened, she finds herself in the bathroom with Negan.
He shuts the door and takes his place in front of her shaking body. His hands stroke her shoulders gently. She stares at his chest, feeling the blood drying on her skin. He tries to wipe some off her cheek.
“What happened out there?”
Maddie watches as he runs a bath before helping her out of her shirt. She raises her arms obediently, not noticing how his eyes drop to the floor. He learns not to ask about the incident very soon.
The events happening repeatedly in her head have made time move very quickly. Her naked body shivers in the lukewarm water. Trust Negan to run a bath.
She glances up at him through her teary eyes. He sees that her glassy look has disappeared and cups her face gently. “You’re okay now, darlin’.”
He wants to ask her if some of this blood is hers, but decides to avoid questioning her. There are no signs of injury on her skin. Negan breathes a sigh of relief, still confused by what has happened.
“It’s all my fault,” she grasps the bath tub.
“No, it’s not.”
“You weren’t there.”
“I know it wasn’t your fucking fault, okay?” he leans in to kiss the side of her head.
She dismisses him with a shaky sigh.
Negan dips a hand into the milky water, turning red, and retrieves a sponge. He starts scrubbing dirt and blood off her neck, feeling the girl start to shake again. He notices fresh tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Fuck,” he whispers, “Let’s get you cleaned up, okay?”
Madison grabs the sponge off him and starts to wash her face. In his crouched position on the floor, he notices a tinge of anger in her actions, but he does not take it personally.
When the bath turns dark red, he helps her stand and holds the shower head above her hair, rinsing her down. She closes her eyes before he wraps a towel around her shoulders and picks her up.
“There’s a herd coming,” she chokes out, sobbing. He puts her down on the bed, kneeling in front of her.
“It’s alright, you already told me.”
Maddie leans into his touch, closing her eyes, “Okay.”
He watches her, kissing one of her hands as he fixes the towel around her legs, “Do you need a drink?”
“It’s all my fault. I should’ve dragged her out of there,” Maddie covers her face, sobbing into her hands.
Negan takes a seat beside her, pulling her onto his lap, “Shh, you did everything you could. None of it is your fault.”
“That’s bullshit,” there’s venom in her voice but she wraps her arms around his neck. She’s not angry at him, at least.
“Did you deliver the baby?” he feels her nod into the crook of his neck, “And you got it to safety. You did everything you could.”
“It wasn’t enough.”
“No, stop,” he pulls the towel over her shoulders as it falls off again, “I don’t want to hear any of that, alright? You saved the baby. That’s all that matters. Nikki was a loose cannon.”
She furrows her eyebrows at the way he talks about her. Especially now that Nikki is dead.
“You can’t say that,” she pulls away to look at him.
“It’s true, sweetheart,” he sighs, kissing her forehead, “We all tried to help her. But some people don’t want to be helped.”
She takes a deep breath and wipes her face with both hands before leaning against his chest. Negan squeezes the back of her neck.
He wonders if anything he just said made anything better, but when he feels fresh tears against his shirt, he knows he fucked up.
So, he stays in the same position until she is all cried out before laying her down on the bed. Her eyelids are heavy as he drapes the blanket over her body.
“Where are you going?” she grabs his hand.
Negan takes off his boots, “Nowhere. I’m right here.”
He lays down behind her. There is still the issue of getting her in some clean clothes but this isn’t as important as calming her down right now. He closes his eyes and listens to the distant sound of raindrops on the forest trees. There is a brand-new voice in the house amongst that, wailing.
Negan leans forward to look at Maddie’s face and sees that she is asleep. It is dark outside now. He must have been here for a couple of hours.
Fuck, the herd.
Careful not to wake her up, he stands up and pulls his boots back on. Before leaving, he glances at Maddie again. He needs to come back before she wakes up, because waking up alone could be the worst thing for her right now.
When he gets downstairs, everyone is acting like the world is ending all over again. They can’t be left alone for one minute, the idiots.
“Alright, I need Trevor and Mike to go down to the fucking holes. There might be an issue.”
“What kind of issue?” Louis asks from his wheelchair.
“The issue in that they could be over-fucking-flowing with the dead,” Negan points to the door. “Go now. Sort it out. And don’t come back till it’s done.”
“Where’s Nikki?” Trevor asks.
“She’s fucking dead. Now go.”
“Who killed her?” Louis asks.
“Nobody fucking killed her,” he rubs the bridge of his nose, “She died in childbirth.”
At least that’s what he thinks. There is no way of knowing until Maddie decides to open up about it.
“Where’s Kate?” Negan asks as the two pricks head out of the door.
Louis leads him to the medical room and parks near the door. Kate turns her head and gestures for everyone to be quiet, “She’s asleep.”
“It’s a girl?” Negan grins, walking up to the crib they managed to prepare for the new arrival a while back.
He sees her in the crib, wrapped in a turquoise blanket. She has blonde hair like Nikki, and full cheeks like her father.
This may be the only baby he will ever get to raise, considering that he may never become a father himself. He smiles and reaches down to stroke her chubby hand.
“Look at this little angel.”
“Don’t wake her,” Kate panics, pressing a hand against his chest.
“I’m not going to fucking wake her,” he whispers back, keeping his smile.
Kate sighs and glances at the girl, “She’s fine. Healthy. Thank God,” her eyes go back to Negan, “Where is Madison?”
“Did she have to deliver the baby?” Kate holds her cheeks.
“Yeah, yeah, she did a good job. I’ll find out what happened later, alright?”
Kate nods, “Bring her to me when she’s awake. That poor girl.”
Louis finds his place next to the crib, cooing over the new-born.
“Where’s Maddie?” Noah shows up in the doorway. In unison, everyone shushes him.
“She’s fine. She’s asleep. You stay away from her, alright?” Negan points a finger at him.
Kate raises an eyebrow, “He’s just worried.”
“I don’t need people crowding around her.”
Kate manages to shove everyone out of the room, or so she thinks. She sees Negan beside the crib, playing with the baby’s hair.
“What are you still doing here?”
“Relax, boss. I’m going now,” he grins as the baby starts to fuss in her sleep.
“Have you never seen a baby before?”
“No, not a brand-new one.”
Kate rolls her eyes before grabbing his arm, “Go. You’ll hear her when she wakes up. And then you can come back.”
He goes back upstairs and sneaks into the room where Maddie is softly snoring. Carefully, he presses her against him. There is nothing left to do but wait until she is awake.
It has been a week since Nikki passed away. Negan sent for people to bring her body back for a burial but the only thing they could find was an arm and a leg. Those sons of bitches ate her up, and they were still hungry for more.
Mike put them all down once they came closer to the house.
It was all calm now. Well, as calm as it can get. The baby was fussy and nobody knew why. She had food, she had warmth, but it all came down to her mother’s personality. Unfortunately, she will be stuck with that forever.
Maddie refused to leave the room. At first, Negan was gentle with her, giving her space and listening to what she had to say. But it has been seven days and his patience started to wear thin. Not because it annoyed him how weak she was, but because she blamed herself. And he knew abso-fucking-lutely that none of this was her fault.
“Breakfast is ready, doll,” he strokes his chin in the mirror.
“I’m not hungry,” she sighs into the pillow.
“I’m not asking. Get up.”
She glances over at him. From her perspective, he is being an asshole.
She sits up slowly, wiping her puffy eyes. It has been a week and she does not feel better. She still blames herself for everything.
Something soft is thrown in her face and when she looks down, she sees a clean shirt, “Put it on.”
Maddie juts her chin forward before sliding the fabric down her arms and over her head.
Negan walks up to the bed as his hands buckle up his belt. She glances up at him before rolling her eyes.
“I don’t want to be down there, Negan.”
“Well, you’re goddamn going to be down there at some point, so I suggest you start fucking now.”
Maddie whimpers into her hands, “Why are you doing this?”
“Because you are being ridiculous,” he grabs one of her wrists, tugging, “We’re all fucking grieving here. Why should you get the special treatment?”
“I’m not asking for special treatment,” she spits, “Get off me!”
He steps back, sighing into the palm of his hand. Well, at least she is not crying. Being angry is good. It’s the first step.
“You best be downstairs in two minutes.”
“Or what?” she challenges, glaring up at him.
“You’ll find out.”
Luckily, she doesn’t have to. She finds her seat at the kitchen table next to Louis, who has wheeled himself closer to the table. Negan walks over and squeezes her shoulder gently, showing encouragement. It pisses her off.
Kate’s eyes light up when she turns around with a pan of fried eggs, ready to serve, “Feels like I haven’t seen you in months, honey.”
Maddie smiles slightly, trying to hide her hollow cheeks with her hair.
She picks at her breakfast, the thought of eating making her sick. Negan does not say anything, however. It’s a big step that she came downstairs in the first place. He leaves her alone.
Next time they run into each other is when he is sat on the porch with the baby, cooing things into the side of her head.
He swings on the bench slowly, one of his hands stroking up and down her back. Kate found a white pair of overalls that suit her perfectly.
Maddie stands behind him, watching the baby’s eyes dart from his shoulder to the house.
She hears him humming a Johnny Cash song and rolls her eyes, stepping next to the bench to make her presence known. Negan glances at her, smirking.
“Hey, doll,” his lips go to the baby’s head, “How are you feeling?”
“Okay,” she shrugs, looking at the trees.
“Do you want to hold her?”
“No,” her response is automatic.
He nods slowly, tapping the bulging diaper.
“I’m surprised Kate is letting you walk around with her like that.”
Negan smirks widely, looking back down at the child, “She’s only quiet when she’s with me.”
Maddie scoffs, but releases a soft laugh, “That’s ironic.”
Negan chuckles deeply, keeping his nose in the baby’s hair. Maddie blinks.
“Does she have a name yet?”
“No, not yet,” he looks at her, “I was waiting for you to decide.”
She shakes her head, “I don’t need that kind of power.”
“You could throw in a suggestion, doll.”
Maddie sighs deeply. The only name popping into her head is ‘Nikki’. She shakes her head again.
“I’ll see you upstairs,” she leaves before he can stop her.