“Rick, Rick, Rick… I think it’s damn near time you and I had a little talk,” Negan drawled with an almost amused smile. Behind him was Carl, his shoulders a bit hunched, and Rick’s eyes of course were on his son and not the threat looming before him with that damn bat rested on his shoulder. “You wanna take a little guess about how I got your little fucked up serial killer of a son here with me?”
“I told you, it was my idea, not—” Carl started but was cut off when Negan turned, pointing Lucille at the young man.
“Now I do not think I was asking you, was I?” Negan questioned, “And I have definitely heard enough of your mouth running for one day. Let the grown-ups talk.”
“I don’t know,” Rick said, his voice calm as it could be given the situation, just slightly strained with the stress the situation was causing. Michonne lingered close behind him, Gabriel shifting a little farther back. There were a few others, a defense should something happen, but the majority of the population had fallen back. They didn’t want to present too much of a threat to the Saviors, not right now… It seemed Rick’s son had had a different idea about that, though.
“Well then, let me just tell you. Your son is a regular suicide bomber, Rick! One of my trucks get back and the boy is in there with a machine gun. Real fucking adorable. Except he managed to pick off two of my men—do you see my problem here?” Negan questioned, striding forward a few steps as Carl remained still with the line of Saviors. “Look, I get it if you can’t control everyone here. Not all of us can command the respect of a goddamn leader. But not controlling your own son? That’s just sad.”
Rick didn’t seem to know what to say to that, his eyes going to his son. Carl tried to convey an apology of some kind, silently. He certainly looked guilty.
“I am sure we can fix this,” Michonne said in light of Rick’s continued silence, “We have everything you asked for… And more. Whatever you want, we can get it, we—”
“I do not believe I was talking to you, Miss Samuri,” Negan cut her off with a raised brow, “But I think we all know I get whatever I want with or without this kid fucking up.” He jerked a thumb at Carl before clicking his tongue. “Nah, that is not how this works. But we will go ahead and have an early pickup for what we’re due. It’s the fucking least you can do. And while that’s being done, Rick and I can chat.”
Everyone was still for a moment, which didn’t seem to sit well with Negan who banged Lucille against the metal of a car, making even Carl jump.
“Did I stutter? Let’s get a move on, dammit!” Negan ordered. That got people moving, albeit a bit begrudgingly on the side of the Alexandrians. Negan kept forward, grabbing Rick by the shoulder, making him stumble a bit before he fell into step with the man. “Hey, serial killer, you too—get your ass in gear.”
Michonne gave Carl a warning look as he hurried to catch up, one that said his recklessness would be discussed later. If later came, Carl thought as he followed the procession into the nearest house. It happened to be their make shift clinic, and with a hissed ‘go’ from Rick, the current medic hurried out. Carl held the door for him, and then slowly closed it, feeling like he was sealing up a fate he didn’t want. Negan had already made himself comfortable, leaning against the sick cot with Lucille tapping gently against one of the wooden legs of the thing.
Rick stood to one side, his arms crossed, and weight shifted to his left side. Uncomfortable, but trying not to show it. Carl didn’t move away from the door, that was until Negan looked to him and pointed—with Lucille—to the chair meant for the medic. Not seeing much of a choice, Carl went and sat down, wondering if he could snag another bandage while he was here, his own gone since Negan’s order to remove it. Instead, his hair acted like an eyepatch, but it irritated the area in a way. Right now, though, it wasn’t his biggest concern.
“You know, I really hate having to kill you people, Rick. I do,” Negan said, tone almost reluctant, “But you make it hard—you and your son. I thought we were done with these childish shenanigans.”
“We are, this was a mistake,” Rick told him firmly, shooting Carl a look, half concerned and half angry. Carl couldn’t blame him for being angry. He’d caused this, hadn’t thought of the consequences if he couldn’t go through with killing Negan… He could have, too. He could have, at least, tried harder.
“You people seem to make a whole lotta goddamn mistakes, Rick. A whole fucking lot. Usually you’re to blame, too. You get these big ideas and your kid is turning out just as stupid as you. Look, I get it—you’ve got your hands full juggling around the brats and your two precious gifts from God Almighty but come on.” Negan let out a groan, exasperated, knocking Lucille against the leg of the bed again. Carl felt uneasy. “You know I can’t just let this go, Ricky boy. I’d love to, really. I like the little serial killer—hell, I even fed him for you—but my guys aren’t too happy that we’re two down. So you and I are going to come to a little agreement before any of us leave this lovely little shithole. Got it?”
“What exactly did you have in mind…?” Rick asked, voice a little rough and he cleared his throat. Negan gave him a small grin.
“I was hoping you’d ask. Y’see, my first idea—that’s right Rick, I’m giving you options so you better be real fucking grateful—is that we play this in the traditional way. Eye for an eye. Your son took two of my people, I let Lucille here have two of yours. It’ll be just like old times, we can even have you all march your asses out to the woods.” Negan was grinning as color drained out of Rick’s face. Carl’s mouth felt like it was filled with cotton. This was his fault. Two people were going to die because of him. “Hell, I’ll even let you pick if you want. I’m just that generous today.”
“You said options,” Rick spit out, trying not to have a temper with the unstable man. It’d only cause more trouble, and his son had already done enough of that for the whole week… “I don’t want any more deaths, Negan. Please.”
“I am so fucking tickled by your initiative. Really,” Negan chuckled before pushing himself away from the cot and taking a few steps to stop right next to Carl. “The way I see it, this was just all a big misunderstanding made by one little idiot. So we can solve it with one little—”
“No!” Rick shouted, looking ready to jump on the other man, but Negan raised Lucille to settle the end of the bat against Rick’s chest.
“Hold your goddamn horses and let me finish before you shit yourself, Rick. I’m not going to acquaint the kid’s head to the pavement today. I told you I was feeling generous, didn’t I?”
There was silence between the two, Rick’s eyes narrowed in a glare and Negan with a shit eating grin. And Carl, still sitting and pale and feeling a little nauseous when Negan’s free hand landed on his head.
“Like I said, seems like you’ve got your hands full playing little league leader here. And your kid is suffering in his fucking manners for it. Turning out like a psychopath. But I’m one of those that thinks children are the future, and I was always an advocate for sending the shitty ones off to school. Mainly to get them away from shitty parents,” Negan noted, the last statement said harder as the smile fell to a glare at Rick.
“Here’s the deal Rick. Either Carl comes to stay with good ole Uncle Negan for while—you know, as long as I see necessary—or you pull two names out of your ass and we play ball.” Negan lets Lucille fall back against his shoulder, free hand still on Carl’s head like a weight. And Carl already knew what his dad was going to choose. What he had to choose.
“I want to be able to see him,” Rick said, his voice breaking though his stance stayed strong. Like this wasn’t tearing him apart. “I want to know he’s safe.”
“This isn’t exactly the time for you to start giving demands, you realize,” Negan said lowly, a smirk at his lips. “Our little Carl here will be as safe as he lets himself be. He jumps in front of a fucking chomper, I’m not taking the blame. If he behaves, we won’t have a problem. This is about learning respect. A damn good lesson for both of you.”
Rick’s eyes meet Carl’s one. He understood and tried to make that clear.
“So Carl, are you going to behave so your daddy here isn’t pissing himself with worry as soon as we leave?” Negan questioned, eyes glancing from Rick down to the boy. Carl’s jaw set, trying not to let any of the fear show… He’d done enough of that earlier. Negan raised a dark brow at him. “My questions do require answers now, Carl. Dunno how your pussy of a father plays it, but—”
“Yes. I’ll behave,” Carl growled out, jerking his head away much to Negan’s amusement.
“Well shit, that’s a start,” he chuckled before shoving the bat into Carl’s hands, “And as a reward you get to hold on to my darlin’ here. Get her nice and safe to the car, and maybe I won’t make you go to bed without dinner for your goddamn attitude. Go on. Go. And don’t get anymore of those fucked up ideas in your head.” His gaze turned to Rick. “I’m done being nice to your people. Would hate to see two fuck ups in one day.”
Carl stood slowly, not liking the feel of the bat between his fingers, not when he knew what it had done. What pain it had caused, not only to his people but so many others. But he didn’t go as he was told.
“Sorry, did I imagine I said that out loud or did you already forget that you’re supposed to be acting like you were raised with some goddamn manners?” Negan asked.
“I want to say goodbye to my dad,” Carl bit out, tense and glaring. Negan’s expression didn’t change much, just a brow raised.
“And what do we say when we ask for shit, kid?”
Carl had to resist the urge to give Negan a whack in the shins with the spiked bat, instead gritting out a "Please.”
“Dog isn’t old enough to learn some new tricks, now is it?” Negan gave Carl a pat on the back. “We leave in ten minutes. Say goodbye on your way to get some of your shit. Do not make me come looking for you, kid. Same goes for you, Rick. And maybe raise the other one right so we won’t have to do this again in a few years, huh? I’m getting too old for all this.”