Negan's right, in this hellish landscape there is no happy ending. But as the two of you begin to see the silhouette of an old house in the distance, you think to yourself 'there can be happy moments.''
The sun has nearly set already, and you grip your axe handle tightly, prepared for whatever comes next. The sides of the house are overgrown with weeds and shrubbery, making it impossible to look through the windows. Negan doesn't say a word to you, but you effortlessly fall in step behind him as you both round the house. With a swift hard kick, Negan knocks the front door open and you both take a moment to listen for walkers. When you're both sure you don't hear the growls of a mass suicide pact, you step in to begin clearing the rooms.
He looks at you and nods towards the upstairs, while you silently agree and begin moving through the lower level. The first room your in- the living room- is obviously clear. So you move on to the kitchen. It's kind of funny, before the fall of humanity, you used to think open concept living was overrated and stupid. 'A gimmick in those stupid house shows my step mother used to watch.' Open concept may look stupid, but at least it makes the walkers easier to find.
You search beneath the kitchen table for crawlers, and then the lower cabinets for any lurkers. You know enough to know that walkers could be literally hiding anywhere. You sigh in relief as the kitchen is cleared, and move on to the guest bathroom. From the guest bathroom you move to the dining room, once again checking beneath the table and behind the thick fancy curtains. You've checked every door, and there doesn't seem to be a basement so you make your way up the stairs to find Negan.
When you reach the top of the steps Negan meets you. "It's all clear up here," he says, but then he points Lucille toward a little rope hanging from the ceiling. "All except there."
'The attic,' you think, following Negan over to it. He taps Lucille against the ceiling and immediately you hear a shuffle.
"Ah, shit." Negan tightens his grip on Lucille and motions for you to pull the attic cord. Dust and debris spill down from the attic, and you gasp in horror as Negan suddenly closes his eyes.
"Fuck!" He shouts, wiping his face. Clearly something isn't right, but you can hear a quickening shuffle making it's way towards the opening. Negan's head's still turned away and it's all happening so fast.
You hear it getting closer, closer, closer- and suddenly a little gray body falls through the hole. You swing your axe handle with all your might, sending it crashing against the hall wall. Without hesitation, you bring the handle down twice in rapid succession, crushing the tiny skull. It's then that you notice that this walker was just a child before it turned- probably no older than three. You feel sick at the thought, but Negan seems absolutely tickled.
"HOLY HELL! You just hit that little son of a bitch like piñata!" He's shaking his head in disbelief, "I've never seen a walker fly across a room like that before, that shit was hilarious! You really are a savage!"
"Which room was the kids room?" You ask, ignoring his chuckles. That seems to sober him up, and he points Lucille towards the room at the end of the hall. "Thank you," you say, scooping up the tiny corpse. As you do so you hear Negan climb the attic ladder, presumably to finish clearing.
You lay the tiny body down on it's bed, and bring the covers up over it's head. You don't mind killing walkers, but the child walkers still give you giant helpings of sadness. You can't help but feel as though children should somehow be immune to it all.
You hear a gentle knock, and Negan steps in. He stays silent for a moment, watching you. But you don't know what to say. You want to tell him that babies are innocent, they don't deserve the cruel things the world has to offer, that your brother didn't deserve any of the cruelty he received. But you don't need to tell him to know what he's going to say. No happy ending. To your surprise however, Negan places one of the stuffed animals on the bed. He lets you mourn, even if it simply consists of sitting in silence. And when the last of the days sunlight finally begins to fade you both leave the room together.
In the kitchen, Negan starts a small fire in a tin pot. It doesn't do much to illuminate, especially since the moon is full and bright. But you watch him work in silence as he opens a can of shredded beef and warms it over the fire. He takes a few bites before handing you the can.
The meat isn't bad, especially if you ignore the dog face on the can. 'At least they fed their dog the good stuff,' you think. It's not like you're above eating it, and you've certainly eaten worst. You're just glad your stomach isn't twisting in hunger anymore.
You take another bite, and suddenly you feel a small chuckle bubble out of you.
"What's got you laughing over there," Negan asks, reaching for the can.
You can't help it, you're full blown laughing now. Clutching your sides, tears streaming down your cheeks- the whole nine. And you hear Negan chuckling in both amusement and confusion.
"You w're right," you manage to say between fits of laughter. "It did look like a fuckin piñata!"
Negan joins you in laughter, nearly choking on his bite of food. "Jesus Christ!" He says, wiping a hand over his face. You don't remember the last time you laughed this hard, and it feels good to just feel the pain of a good laugh. But then you feel something else too. A fluttering in your chest at the sound of Negan's laughter. It rumbles out of him and soon you feel your laugher fading as you watch him instead. Laugh lines crease the corners of his eyes and down along the sides of his brilliant smile. You know you're staring but you can't seem to look away.
"You're my kind of girl," he tells you, talking another bite. He goes to hand you the can but the look you're giving him stops him in his tracks. For a moment he just stares back at you, his tongue peeking out to wet his bottom lip. He quirks an eyebrow. The longer you stare the more it feels like your insides are heating up. You don't really know what you want to do, but the urge to do something is eating you up.
"Negan-" you start to say, but you're instantly distracted by the most beautiful sound.
You both turn towards to the sink, where a single drop of water has escaped from the faucet.
"Oh shit," Negan watches in awe as he turns on the tap and a stream of water comes gushing out. Its brown murky color soon turns clear.
"Well water," you say in astonishment, "Oh my God, I'm going to shower!" You feel like you could cry from excitement. You turn to run up the stairs to the master bathroom, but stop suddenly. "Do you mind if I go first?"
Negan seems surprised by the question. "Not at all, darlin," he says softly.
You smile joyfully and run up the stairs, already halfway undressed before you get to the bathroom. The master bathroom's got a pedestal tub and a large stand-in shower, but you don't care. You just want the grime of earlier to be washed off of you. You step into the shower and even though the water's cold and smells a bit like rust it's the best feeling in the world right now. An old bottle of shampoo is sitting in a cubby, and you pour it generously into your hair. The bottle says it's supposed to smell like vanilla milk and papaya extracts, and you don't even know what that means nor do you care because you could be in heaven for as good as you feel.
From the filtered moon light coming through the large window, you can see the blood stained water circling the drain. You wash and scrub your entire body, under your nails, behind your neck and back, and- like your dad used to say- the pits and slits. Soon the water's running clear and you're shivering so you step out to search the closet for some clean clothes. There's not much to choose from, it seems whoever lived here before was not your size. But you find a pair of loose jeans and long sleeve tee. Over the shirt you throw on a short sleeve and pull out a jacket. You see a scarf tucked in the back of the closet and decide to pull that out too. You toss the jacket and scarf on a nearby chair, deciding you'll wear them tomorrow.
When you finally go back downstairs Negan is sitting on the couch, illuminated by his small fire in a pot, and writing in a notebook.
He looks up at you and smiles. "Saved you some peach cobbler in a can."
"Thank you," you say happily, taking the can from him. You sit on the sofa beside him, pulling your legs beneath you. As you take the first bite of sticky sweet pie in a can you can help but sigh in happiness. You rock gently back and forth, savoring each bite.
"That good, huh?"
"Oh, yeah," you tell him, scraping the spoon against the inside, trying to get every drop.
Negan just chuckles. "Good. I'm glad." He places his notebook down and reaches into his bag, "c'mere. Let me see your shoulder again."
You turn towards him, but this time when you show him your shoulder he's surprisingly gentle.
"Just some Neosporin," he tells you, pressing the sticky salve into your skin. He lets his thumb ghost over your scratches, carefully looking for any sign of infection. Then he gently presses on the skin around it. The rough pad of his thumb grazes over your collar bone and you can't help but shiver from his touch. He must notice because he shifts closer, letting his hand move up your neck. You lean into his touch, and when he leans closer you're absolutely sure he's gonna kiss you.
Instead he presses his forehead against yours. "I ain't a good man, baby doll," he warns you.
"You could be," you tell him, breathless. You know you should feel shameful saying it, but the words spill out anyways. "I'd follow you."
For some reason Negan pulls away. He seems torn, running his tongue over his bottom lip as he thinks. "(Y/n), I- I want you to find your mother. Don't get hung up on a guy like me."
He places his belongings in his bag and stands. "I'm gonna go clean up, kid. You should get some rest."
You watch him as he walks away, your heart pounding from both excitement of him being so close and the slight embarrassment of being turned down. But still, even though he's walking away, he pauses for a moment and it doesn't feel like he's telling you no. You realize as he disappears into the bathroom that what happens next is up to you.