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You aren’t scared of Negan. Sure he was intimidating as all shit but you aren’t afraid of him. You aren’t afraid of him because you aren’t afraid to die and that is all he has to hold over you. Sure he could threaten to kill one of your friends but you’ve been watching your friends die for quite a while so you had learnt the hard way how to compartmentalize your emotions. You aren’t scared of Negan but you sure as shit aren’t going to look him in the eye.

You stared at the dirt in front of you and listened to his eloquent speech about actions and consequences and all that power hungry shit he was spilling (the guy was nuts but at least he was well spoken). Your stomach plummeted to your toes when you heard him start walking down the line. Out of the corner of your eye, you saw Negan point his wire wrapped bat at each of your friends in turn and your heart sank with each tell-tale sound of the man’s downward strokes.

Negan reached Abraham who was kneeling on your left and you barely heard what he was saying over the blood that was rushing in your ears. Negan side-stepped and you found yourself looking at his leather clad feet.

Don’t look up. Don’t look up. Don’t look up.

“What have we here?” you heard that loud and crystal fucking clear. “So what are you exactly? I mean I understand why the boy is here, but what role do you have?” Negan took a step back. “She yours too Rick?” Rick must have answered non-verbally because a moment later Negan was on one knee in front of you. You had to make a choice and you had to make it fast; you were in a perpetual argument with yourself. Would looking him in the eye be seen as a sign of respect or an act of defiance? Would he think you brave or stupid? If you kept looking at the ground like an idiot he might think you weren’t even listening and you really, really did not want to be on his bad side right now.

Your predicament was rendered moot when two calloused fingers jerked your chin up so you were looking at Negan directly in the eye. His eyes were almost completely black save for a glint of rich, chocolate brown which was something you really should not be taking notice of right now.

“So?” Negan asked with a raised eyebrow and a sickly smirk on his face, “What are you doing out here, kiddo?”

You wanted to look away from his intense gaze but his hand was still holding your chin in place and you had nowhere else to look except right in his god damn eyes. The longer you stayed silent, the more the smirk slipped off Negan’s face and you knew that was a bad sign but you had been rendered utterly speechless by the blunt pressure being applied to your hip. The slight catching on your t-shirt told you that the pressure was Lucille and it was being pushed against you harder every second.

“Same as everyone else,” you said as calmly as you could but your voice still shook.

“And what’s that?” Negan growled out, the pressure at your side growing steadily harder to ignore.

“Enjoying the fresh air.” You regretted that immediately.

Without any warning, the wind was knocked out of you with one hard blow to the stomach from Lucille. You fell on to your back and drew in long ragged breaths, acutely aware of the stinging on your abdomen from where the barbed wire had pierced your flesh.

When Negan spoke, it was from further away than you expected. “Get her on her feet, Simon. I want her to have the best seat in the house.”

You were looking up at the sky when you felt two strong hands grab your upper arms and haul you to you your feet. You stumbled a few steps forward and then you were pushed back down on to your knees. You were in the middle of the clearing, facing the rest of your group but you didn’t look at them, you doubled over and placed both hands on the ground in front of you to better catch your breath. You turned your head to the right and saw Negan pacing in front Rick, whose eyes were fixed on you.

“Now,” Negan’s voice boomed in the silence, “You fuckers need to learn something and you better learn it real fucking quick; that kind of smart ass shit right there-“ he pointed at you and you shrunk under his gaze, “will not fucking fly with me. I am King Fucking Shit around here now and you better get that through your thick skulls quick smart or this shitty night will just be another in a long line of shitty nights just. Like. It.” Negan stressed each of the last three words by pounding the head of Lucille into the dirt. “I really don’t want this to last any longer than it has to because it is as cold as a witch’s tit in a brass bra out here and if I’m not balls deep in something hot and tight in the next hour I’ll turn into a fucking pumpkin.”

Negan came up behind you and you clenched your eyes shut as you felt two large arms, hard as iron, hook underneath your own and pull you to your feet again, those arms then snaked around your neck to pull you against his chest in what might have been a loving gesture had the circumstances been extremely different and if Lucille wasn’t now inches from your nose. Negan turned his face towards you, his nose brushing against your temple and he whispered in your ear, “I suggest you start behaving or I may just beat that attitude out of you, got it?”

The gravel in his voice sent a shiver up your spine that you couldn’t supress and you felt, rather than heard, Negan’s chuckle at your uncontrollable jolt. You stayed stock still and stared straight ahead, over the heads of the watching Saviors and into the darkness of the distant trees.

“Obviously I have a choice to make,” Negan’s voice blared in your ears, making you flinch, “but fuck me, it is just too damn difficult. So I have a better idea, this little ray of sunshine here,” he tugged you hard against his chest and your knees threatened to give way, “is going to make the decision for me.”

Your heart fell into your stomach and you felt bile rise in the back of your throat and your adrenaline suddenly peaked. You struggled against Negan’s hold on you but all he did was tighten his grip.

“Nu-uh, no you don’t. Slippery little thing, ain’t she Rick?”

You continued to struggle, not fully aware of where each of your limbs were but trying your hardest to make contact with the solid figure behind you. Somewhere, in the back of your mind, you knew it was useless, but the flood of anxiety was clouding your judgement. You swung an elbow back with all the force you could muster and felt it collide with something firm. You had hit Negan in his side.

The arms around your neck retracted quickly, a spike of barbed wire grazing the side of your neck but you barely felt it as you were thrown forward on to the cold hard dirt. You heard several gasps from in front of you and, as if on instinct, you looked up, searching the familiar faces in front of you for Daryl. He was on all fours and his eyes were desperate and full of worry; you had never seen him look so afraid. Come to think of it, you had never seen him look afraid. You didn’t wasn’t to look away from him but your gaze faltered when you felt a warmth next to you; it was Negan. His tone was different when he spoke, almost caring.

“I understand, it’s a terrible thing to ask of you so I’m going to let that little outburst slide for now. It’s an impossible choice, I know, but unfortunately, you’ve given me no choice.” Negan rose from his knelt position next to you and unconsciously, your gaze followed him as he continued pacing up and down in front of your friends. He paused in front of Daryl, looked back at you and winked. The look on his face made you feel physically ill.

He resumed pacing.

“So!” the volume of his voice made you flinch. “Whose it gonna be sweetheart?”

Chapter Text

Negan’s question rang in your ears and you looked hopelessly at the scared faces of your friends who were knelt in front of you. Your eyes locked with Abraham’s and you found yourself never wanting to look away. You wanted to commit that shade of blue to memory and paint the whole damn world with it. You wanted to rewind back to the start and keep your mouth shut.

Abraham gave you a soft knowing smile and your heart shattered. Strong fingers had snaked their way around your soul and they were crushing it. You couldn’t breathe. You felt tears running you’re your face; fat and hot in the chilly air.

Abraham straightened his back and nodded at you. He was at attention, ever the soldier.

When you said it, it was barely more than a whisper: “Abraham.”


 You stood on the platform overlooking the front gate of Alexandria. It was two in the afternoon and the hot sun was beating down on you, sweat running in rivers down your back. This was the guard shift that no one wanted and you weren’t exactly in the position to be making trades.

Word had gotten out that you had been the one to blame for Abraham’s death. You were sure that words had been twisted and stories had been altered, but it didn’t matter. No matter how the story was told, the ending was always the same. You were to blame.

No one would talk to you. The looks you got from people who once respected you were now looks of disgust.

You heard someone climbing up the platform behind you. You heard the sound of someone climbing up the ladder behind you and you didn’t bother to look who it was until they were standing right beside you. When you looked to your left, you outwardly sighed.

“Unless you’re here to mop the sweat out of my ass crack then fuck off, Rick.”

“I probably deserved that.” Rick said, staring out at the road below him.

Probably? Rick, everyone here is avoiding me like the goddamn plague. You should see the way Eugene looks at me, it’s horrible. I wouldn’t have even been out there that night if you didn’t ask me to go with you.”

Rick turned away from the stretch of asphalt and looked at you with fire in his eyes. “Don’t you dare blame me for what happened. I didn’t force you to choose Abraham. That’s on you.”

The tone in his voice hit you hard, not unlike Lucille. “No, you didn’t, Negan did. But last I checked, you were the one who led the charge on Negan’s people in the first place. If you had just left well enough alone we wouldn’t be in any of this mess.” You stepped around Rick, refusing to make eye contact, and stepped down onto the first rung of the ladder. “I hope you don’t mind taking over my shift, I’ve got a whole heap of self-loathing to do and I’d hate to fall behind.”

When you reached the bottom of the ladder you walked down the street, ducking your head at the not-so-subtle looks that the other residents were throwing your way. You weren’t even going to bother trying to explain yourself to them; half of the people in Alexandria hadn’t even stepped foot outside the fences since they went up. They didn’t understand what it was like out there, they didn’t know what it was like to have another person’s life in their hands, and they couldn’t even begin to imagine the kind of fear, doubt and frustration that was involved with taking another person’s life.

You debated trying to talk to Rosita and Sasha but the thought of looking into their eyes and seeing the betrayal for yourself, rather than just imagining it, was more than you could handle. They didn’t even know that it was all a terrible mistake.

You didn’t mean to choose Abraham. When you said his name, it wasn’t meant to be a decision. You were scared beyond belief and all you wanted was to feel some semblance of safety and comfort, so you looked to Abraham. You locked eyes with him and he looked at you like he knew that everything was going to be okay. He gave you a small, almost indecipherable nod, and in that moment, you wished you didn’t know what that meant. But you did.

When you said his name, you weren’t giving Negan an answer. You were calling out to Abraham, begging him not to do what you knew he would if you didn’t speak up. You never meant to choose, you never meant to give an answer. You didn’t mean any of it.

Once you pulled yourself out of your own thoughts, you realized you were standing on the edge of the lake that sat in the middle of Alexandria. You walked halfway around the lake and stepped onto the bridge that stretched over the expanse of glistening water. You leant over the railing and looked straight down. There were still various rotting body parts floating on the surface that no one had gotten around to fishing out after Daryl set the lake ablaze not one month before.

Daryl.

Your heart ached when you thought of him. You felt sick when you let your mind wander to where he might be and what might be happening to him.

The two of you were nothing special; you weren’t together, you were barely more than friends. Since coming to Alexandria and having the luxury of soft beds and warm showers, the two of you had grown closer. Early on, there was a mix up with sleeping arrangements after a late night guard shift and Daryl had ended up stumbling into the room you had claimed and refused to move when you tried to shove him out of your bed. He was stubborn and heavy so you accepted defeat and laid down next to him, falling asleep almost instantly.

Daryl was a quiet sleeper and stayed on his side so you didn’t have a problem sharing a bed with the man, and in any case, you found it easier to fall asleep when he was there. No matter how little it bothered you, the fact that you were sharing a bed was never discussed between the two of you, let alone anyone else. You figured that people knew since you were sharing a house with five other people (six when Morgan was there) so it wasn’t like you were keeping some sort of secret, but somehow it still felt weird to mention.

You couldn’t help but wonder what exactly you and Daryl were. You were definitely friends, you knew that much. It is impossible not to become close with someone who has been a constant presence in your life for... shit. How long has it been since Atlanta? Since the farm? With the prison and Terminus it seemed that time was flying by but now, in Alexandria, it all slowed down to an unbearable pace. In Alexandria you had time to think whereas outside the fences, it was act first, ask questions later. Overthinking could sometimes be as deadly as the walkers

You followed the path of a severed forearm as it bobbed along the surface of the lake until you lost sight of it underneath the bridge. You thought about walking around the lake to fish it out when it hit the bank but you honestly couldn’t be bothered.

You stood on the bridge looking out over the water for an uncertain amount of time; all you knew was that when you started to think about heading inside for something to eat the sun was already starting to dip beyond the western fences. You sighed heavily and turned your back on the setting sun. You saw the old abandoned church in the distance and without really thinking about what you were doing, you crossed back over the bridge and started to walk toward it.

When you reached the church you noticed that the doors were shut and a note that said ‘morning mass moved to 8.30 am’ had been tacked to the dark oak. You assumed that had been done by Gabriel and that he had gone home for the night, so you pushed open the doors and went inside.

You weren’t exactly sure what you were hoping to find. Perhaps you were hoping Gabriel would be here after all because now that you were actually inside the building, the silence was deafening and you felt the weight of judgement even though there was nobody around. You weren’t a religious person, even before the apocalypse, so seeking answers in church was the last thing you thought you would be doing.

You walked up the aisle – fascinated with the brightly colored shapes that the stained glass window cast onto the wooden floor – and chose a pew further away from the entrance so when you sat down, you were only a couple of rows away from the altar. If all else fails, at least you found a quiet place to sit. You placed your forehead on the pew in front of you, heaving a sigh and looking down at your boots. You really needed to clean them; they were covered in dried blood and so much dirt that you almost forgot that they used to be black instead of brown.

You weren’t sure how long you had been there when you heard a noise to your right that made you sit up so fast that you were sure you pulled a muscle in your neck. The first thing you noticed when you lifted up your head was that the light had long since disappeared; there was no light coming in from the high window except for the faint eerie glow that came from one of the only working street lights just outside.

The sound you heard was Father Gabriel emerging from a side door carrying what looked like a stack of old bibles. The stack was so large that it obscured his vision and he didn’t see you for a few seconds. “Oh,” he said, setting down the tattered books on the altar and taking a few tentative steps towards you. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Yeah.” The word came out as more of a laugh; your pitiful excuse to relieve the obvious tension in the room.

“Can I help you with something?” Gabriel asked, sitting on the edge of the pew across from you with his legs sticking out into the aisle.

“Not really sure,” you mused, looking absentmindedly up at Jesus, hanging from his cross. “I guess I don’t really have anywhere else to go. I’m kind of a pariah around here nowadays, you know, given what happened.”

“Ah, yes. I heard about that.”

You grunted in acknowledgment and the two of you fell into an uneasy silence. You wanted to tell Gabriel the things that were running through your head and you wondered whether confessions still remained confidential in the apocalypse.

“I think Daryl might be dead.” You didn’t say it expecting to get a response, you just wanted the weight of it off your chest. You were still looking up at Jesus, your eyes fixated on the strands of sculpted hair that were falling into his eyes from underneath his crown of thorns.

“You’re worried about him.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yes.”

“You care about him.”

“Yes.”

“Then you must have faith.”

You tore your eyes away from the true pariah and looked at Gabriel in surprise. “Faith? Seriously Father? No offense, but where exactly has faith gotten you?”

Gabriel simply smiled. “It got me here.”

You heaved out a frustrated sigh. “How is faith supposed to keep Daryl alive? Gabriel, there is no God, there is no such thing as faith. There’s a ninety-five percent chance that Daryl is dead and there is nothing I can fucking do about it! I can’t go out and look for him, I can’t save him; none of us can. Negan has us backed into a corner and we are all well and truly fucked!” You were on your feet and out in the aisle without even realising that you had moved, and you were looking up at Jesus again. “Daryl is gone and I can’t fucking sleep! I feel sick to my stomach when I think about where he might be and what those people might be doing to him because I didn’t even take the time to tell him th-”

No. No, no, no. That’s not right. Your breath was caught in your chest. You weren’t about to say-

“That you love him?”

You spun around to look at Gabriel again and he was still there, sitting on the edge of his pew, hands in his lap, as if you hadn’t just yelled a string profanities at him. You knew your eyes were wide but you didn’t have the sense to do anything about it. You rarely do have any sense after a shocking personal revelation.

“Wha-? No. We’re friends. We just –” You sat back down in your seat, this time facing Gabriel, and took a deep breath. “I don’t know. We’ve been sharing a bed for the past two months but that doesn’t mean that we’re together. I don’t know if it means anything because we’ve never even talked about it. It happened once and we just kind of let it keep happening.”

You looked at Gabriel desperately, knowing that you must look like an idiot.

“Maybe you never talked about it because talking about it would mean that it actually did mean something.”

“I don’t follow.” You said stupidly.

“Perhaps you are scared. I gather from your reaction that being in love isn’t something you expected to happen.”

You paused for a moment before answering. “Well, no.” you looked down at your hands and began to wring them in your lap before snapping your head back up again. “Woah, hey! That doesn’t mean I’m scared.”

“Okay,” Gabriel said slowly, “then think about it. You love Daryl –” you gave him a pointed look, “sorry, let’s say – for arguments sake – that you love Daryl. How does that make you feel?”

“It doesn’t matter how it makes me feel because I don’t love him. I mean, I feel better when he’s around and it’s easier to sleep when he’s next to me but that doesn’t mean anything.”

“Well,” Gabriel pondered, “maybe that’s what love is; two people relying on each other for comfort and safety. Maybe that’s all love gets to be now.” Gabriel stood up and placed a warm hand on your shoulder. “All I’m saying is that you can’t ask the world to stop just because you have doubts.” Gabriel retracted his hand and walked back towards the front of the church, probably to finish doing whatever it was he was doing before you interrupted.

“Wait!” Gabriel turned back around, bibles in hand again and a kind expression on his face. “What if it’s all for nothing? What if he doesn’t love me back?” You knew you must have sounded pathetic but you didn’t care. It didn’t matter.

“Then he’s a fool,” and with that, Gabriel disappeared through the door to his right, leaving you alone again.

“Well, shit.”

You got to your feet, looked up at Jesus one last time and walked out of the church into the biting cold.

Chapter Text

The walk from the church took longer than you thought. You had to backtrack all the way around the lake to get back to the main street running through Alexandria and the cold air was like ice on your exposed skin. You couldn’t believe how quickly the temperature had dropped, hours ago you were sweating like crazy and now here you are shivering like a little bitch. When you finally reached the short drive of the house you shared with Rick and the others you longed for the warmth you knew was behind the closed door. Your foot was on the bottom step of the porch when you stopped in your tracks.

What were you going to do when you got inside? Would Rick be there? Would he want to talk to you? And what if he wasn’t, would you just go upstairs to the bed you had shared with Daryl? How long would you toss and turn in the cold sheets before you finally gave up and ended up sitting on the stoop for the second night in a row?

Suddenly, you were fuming. You could feel the anger burning in the pit of your stomach. Anger at Negan, at Gabriel, at yourself, but mostly anger at Rick. It had been over two days since Daryl was taken and Rick hadn’t mentioned a single thing about rescuing him. How could he just abandon his best friend like that, how could he just sit around licking his wounds and blaming everyone else for his mistakes when he could be out there doing something about it?

Someone had to do something. You took another step and made your decision.

You weren’t wrong about the warmth; it hit you like a wave when you opened the door. The house smelt like it always did: of lavender and coffee and gunpowder. For some reason you were surprised by this, perhaps you thought that Rick’s cowardice and betrayal would seep into the carpet like a bad smell.

You saw him almost immediately, he was sitting on the couch in the living room next to Michonne, they looked like they were having a pretty serious discussion but it was hard to tell because their voices stopped at the sound of you coming through the door. Rick looked around and you could tell he was going to say something to you but you didn’t find out what it was as you made a beeline up the staircase; you had a feeling he was going to follow you but you didn’t care. You went straight into your bedroom (Daryl’s bedroom?) and shut the door behind you. You pulled an empty backpack out from under the bed and started stuffing things in it without really thinking. Jackets, shirts and two pairs of jeans all went inside followed by a knife, a belt and Daryl’s old handgun. You took Daryl’s pack of smokes and a lighter out of the bedside table and put them in your back pocket before zipping the backpack, slinging it over you shoulder opening the door again.

You must have been fast because Rick was only just at the top of the stairs when you shut the door behind you. You had every intention of ignoring him and walking right back down the stairs but he caught your arm before you even put a foot on the top step.

“Where are you going?” He asked.

You ripped your arm out of his grip before grunting out a single word. “Hilltop.”

Rick visibly relaxed, “Oh, I thought you were going to storm into Negan’s compound singlehandedly or something.”

“No, not singlehandedly. I’m getting Jesus first.”

Rick tensed up again, “So you are as dumb as I thought you were.”

You felt the anger in your stomach bubble dangerously and you fought the urge to push Rick down the stairs. “Yeah, guess I am. Get out of my way.”

Rick took a sideways step to block the staircase, making it much easier for you to push him down, but again, you fought the impulse. “No,” said Rick, “I’m not letting you get yourself killed, and believe me, that’s what’s going to happen.”

“Get the fuck out of my way, I’m just doing what you’re too much of a coward to do yourself. Its your fault that Daryl’s gone and if you’re not going to fix your dumbass mistake then I’ll do it myself.” You shouldered past Rick before he could stop you and took the stairs two at a time. You grabbed a set of keys you knew belonged to a reliable sedan before darting out the front door and setting off down the street towards the front gate.

It was a Thursday night, that meant Eugene was on gate duty, you figured it wouldn’t be much of a problem getting past him, he’d probably open the gate gladly if he knew you might die while you were gone.

When you reached the sedan that was parked along the fence just inside the gate you shouted at Eugene to open the gate and just as you suspected, he did it without argument. As you drove out, you looked back in your mirror just in time to see Rosita on the top platform shouting animatedly down at Eugene and Rick running up behind them.

Chapter Text

It felt like you had been driving for hours; but according to the illuminated dashboard clock it had only been thirty minutes. Your mind was racing a hundred miles an hour, you knew you should be filled with fears, doubts and what ifs but you weren’t. All you could think about was Daryl: Daryl being safe and sound back at home with you in the bed that you shared, and right now the only thing stopping that from happening was the stretch of road in front of you: so you pressed your foot harder against the accelerator. The quicker you got to the Hilltop the quicker you convince Jesus to come along with you to the Sanctuary and the quicker you rescue Daryl.

 

It was only about twenty miles to the Hilltop as the crow flies but with the condition of the roads and the obstacles put in the way by the Saviors you likely wouldn’t make it there until dawn, if you made it at all. Being alone on the road was never a good idea, so many things could go wrong, and the danger only doubled at night. You could only see as far as the headlights illuminated so the risk of running down a walker and losing control of the car was pretty high. But you didn’t care. Not right now.

___

 

You were right, the horizon was burning a soft orange and the clouds were like pink floating feathers by the time you rolled up to the Hilltop gates. The air was sharp and chilly when you got out of the car and the grass crunched a little under your feet as you hiked your backpack over your shoulder and walked towards the towering planks of wood that surrounded the whole base. You looked up to see one of the regular guards standing on the platform behind the fence and watched as he nodded wordlessly to the men down below once he saw you; within seconds the gates were opening before you, unveiling the hum of the community within. It must have been before six o’clock in the morning but the grounds were already buzzing with people working: metallic bangs came from the blacksmith shed and the dull thud of shovels and hoes sinking into the fresh earth could be heard all around you.

 

It didn’t take you long to find Jesus amongst the fields of stubborn tomatoes that he was trying to grow. He did a double take when he saw you but straightened up and dusted the dirt off his knees with a wide smile on his face.

“What are you doing here so early, we weren’t expecting a visit from any of you guys for a while given what went down the other night.” Jesus’ smile faltered when he noticed you grimace. “I heard what he made you do, I’m so sorry.” He added sympathetically, and you knew he genuinely meant it. Jesus did not have an insincere bone in his body.

“Well that’s kind of why I’m here,” you said. “They took Daryl.”

“Yeah Maggie told me, I’m sorry.” Jesus said sadly.

You shook your head, “Stop saying sorry, I’m not looking for sympathy, I want to get him back. It’s been days and Rick has no intention of doing anything about it so I guess its up to me.”

“That doesn’t really explain why you’re here, (Y/N)” said Jesus, pulling off his muddy gloves and sticking them in his back pocket.

“You’re going to help me.” You said defiantly.

“I am?”

“Yes. I cant do it alone and I have no idea where their base is so yeah, you’re going to help me. Guide me there at the very least.”

 

Jesus gazed at you for a few moments and even though you were extremely comfortable around the man, you had the overwhelming desire to look away, to break eye contact. You felt like you were being scrutinised, like a child who’d just done something naughty. You could’ve sworn the words “I’m not mad, just disappointed” were about to come out of his mouth. But then Jesus sighed, turned around and began walking towards a cluster of trailers close to the east wall of the compound. You stood there dumbfounded for a second before he turned around and said “you coming or what?”

 

You jogged to catch up, quickly falling in step with him. Maybe he was just going to get his gear together so you could leave, maybe he left his gun in his room or something. “So are you going to help?” You asked hopefully.

“When was the last time you slept?” Jesus asked

“Well it’s been a - Wait, what? Why?” You spluttered incoherently, wondering why the hell he cared about how many zees you’d been catching when there were more important things to be worried about.

Jesus stopped suddenly in front of a trailer and rested his hand on the rusty metal doorknob, “(Y/N), no offence but you look like shit. You’ve been through a lot in the last few days, to witness something like that is just.. nightmarish. Trust me, I get it, but you need to look after yourself. You’ve obviously driven all night and you’re no use to anyone when you’re running on fumes so,” he turned the knob and swung the door open to reveal a small room consisting of pair of bunk beds, a couch and a worn down camping table with a couple of mismatching chairs cramped around it, “get some sleep and then I will not only take you there, I will go in with you guns blazing to get Daryl back. I promise.”

 

Jesus stretched his arm out, gesturing for you to go inside. You almost fought him on it but you hadn’t realised how exhausted you were until someone pointed it out to you. The last few nights sitting on the porch until the sun came up hoping and praying that by some miracle Daryl would walk back through the gates like nothing happened. The sleepless hours spent replaying the events over and over again in your head like a broken record, even though you knew you were just torturing yourself. You looked back at Jesus and rolled your eyes before stepping inside, throwing your backpack into a corner and collapsing onto the bottom bunk of one of the beds.

 

“I’ll come wake you in a few hours, we’ll get going before sundown.” Jesus said before softly closing the door. You heard a metallic click and you began to wonder what it was but before you could question it, sleep had taken you.

___

 

You woke up to a bright orange light shining in your eyes. For a moment you thought someone was shining a flashlight in your eyes and in a panic you sat bolt upright so you could defend yourself against your would be attacker. Alas, all you accomplished was hitting your head really hard against the bunk above you and as it turned out, your “attacker” was just the sun reflecting off the trailer opposite yours and shining through the cracked venetian blinds.

 

You carefully stood up from the bunk and rubbed the back of your head. Your heart rate started to  slow down and it took you a few seconds to orient yourself and remember where you were. The events of the morning quickly came back to you, as did the last thing Jesus said to you. You straightened up suddenly and looked around the room; you took in the shadows that the sun was casting along the cracked floor boards and the deep burning orange of the light: it was almost sundown. You snatched up your backpack and went to rush out of the door, you went to turn the knob but there was no give in it. Rusty piece of crap.

 

You threw the bag back down and dug the knife out of the tangle of clothes inside. It took you less than ten seconds to jimmy the shitty door open. You slid the knife into the sheath on your belt and picked up your bag again before stepping out in search of Jesus. You jogged across the field and picked your way across the gardens, all the while keeping your eyes peeled for the long-haired scavenger. He must have been on his way to wake you, he said he wanted to leave before sundown and it looked like that would be pretty damn soon.

 

You got all the way to the gates with absolutely no sign of him, all the while avoiding Sasha who you spotted sitting on the top step of Barrington House. You looked up and saw the same guy from before standing guard on the platform above you so you called out to get his attention.

 

“Oh, if it isn’t Sleeping Beauty!” He called back down to you, “you must be hungry, Maggie should be inside with Gregory, she can fix you up with something.”

Huh? “What, no, I’m fine.” You said, crossing your arms. “Where’s Jesus?”

The guard motioned something you didn’t quite understand to one of his buddies on the ground, and started to climb down the ladder towards you. When his feet his solid earth his buddy climbed up to replace him.

“Listen, uhm - sorry I didn’t catch your name yet…” the guard said.

“(Y/N)” you grunted.

“Right, well I’m Samuel, you can call me Sam.” Sam stuck out his hand, you didn’t bother uncrossing your arms, you didn’t have time for this shit.

“Where is Jesus, he didn’t leave without me did he?”

Sam shifted uncomfortably at that, sensing your patience fading fast. “(Y/N), you’ve been asleep for like thirty six hours, Jesus left yesterday.”

That sneaky little fucker! The door wasn’t stuck, he locked me in there on purpose!”

Sam didn’t reply straight away and you didn’t give him a chance to, “Did you say Maggie was inside?” Sam nodded quickly and you left him standing there with a wary look on his face, it looked like he was trying to figure out if he’d done the right thing.

 

You stalked back across the grounds towards the towering mansion of Barrington House. You walked up the stone steps and Sasha looked up from where she sat sharpening her knife.

“(Y/N)? What are you doing here?”

You stopped in your tracks; you were really hoping she’d ignore you. “Uh… Well, I came here to see Jesus.”

“Oh, he’s not here. He left yesterday afternoon, didn’t say when he’d be back.” Sasha replied.

“Yeah, I’m aware. The little shit locked me in one of those trailers and skipped out on me.”

Sasha dropped the knife. “What? Wait, how long have you been here?”

“About thirty six hours according to Sam down at the gate… Oh shit! He took my fucking car didn’t he?”

“Blue Honda out front?” Sasha asked cautiously.

Fucker!” You yelled, stomping up the last few steps and shouldering open the front door.

 

Maggie was in the hallway when you got inside, she’d obviously just left one of the rooms to see what the yelling was about. “You’re awake.” Was all she said when she saw you. You closed the distance between the two of you and wrapped your arms around her. She huffed out a small laugh and reciprocated, her hand rubbing idle circles on your back for a few moments. When you drew apart you looked her up and down: she looked tired and a little skinner than you remember but she looked a lot healthier than the last time you saw her. “The baby, is it okay?” You asked desperately.

“Yeah, I’m fine. We’re both fine.” She said, smiling softly.

 

The two of you looked at each other for another few moments, the air between you full of questions you could both ask each other, but chose not to. Something dawned on you suddenly.

“Wait, you knew I was here?”

“Jesus told me where you were before he left yesterday, I went in to check on you a few times but you were still asleep.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?” You demanded, trying your hardest to keep your voice level and your temper in check. It wasn’t Maggie that you should be pissed at.

“I assumed you needed the shut eye. And I think I was right.” Maggie said patiently. You sighed and rubbed the heels of your hands into your eyes. When you didn’t say anything, Maggie spoke again, “Jesus didn’t want to leave you here but he couldn’t take you with him either, not in the state you were in. He didn’t want to wait too long and risk not getting to Daryl in time.”

 

You wanted to continue being angry. You wanted so bad for Jesus to be here so you could yell and scream at him and call him an asshole and tell him he screwed you over but even through your rage, you knew that wouldn’t be fair. It wasn’t Jesus you were angry at, it wasn’t even Rick. It was this whole fucked up situation you had landed yourself in. It was Negan and the Saviors tearing your newly found, comfortable life apart, it was this goddamned world that just kept piling the shit on top of you right after you’d just finished scraping the last layer of it off, it was the never-ending fear and uncertainty, it was not being able to sleep through the sounds of walkers scraping their cold, dead hands against the fences, it was the constant nightmare that you had to live through day after day after day.

 

You’re tired, you are fucking exhausted and all you want to do is give up. Throw in the towel and call it a day. But you can’t, can you? You’re one of the best scavengers that Alexandria has and without a sustainable source of food, you’re it. Without you, people starve. So you endure it, you keep going until all you have left to give is anger.

 

You sunk onto the ornate sofa that was pushed against the wall next to the front door, sighed deeply and rested your head in your hands. “Have you heard anything from him?” You asked, trying not to sound so pitiful.

You felt Maggie sit next to you, “no not yet, although he may be out of range.” She said. You knew that was a lie since you guys used military grade walkies, but you appreciated Maggie’s attempt at comfort anyway.

 

You and Maggie sat there in silence for a few minutes before Maggie brought up dinner and you realised just how hungry you were. Apparently Sam made an amazing rabbit stew and there were leftovers in the kitchen waiting to be reheated. So you and Maggie made your way into the spacious kitchen and you perched yourself on a stool and watched Maggie move about absently. You noticed how she seemed to know where everything was kept, like she’d been living here for months instead of just the last few days. She seemed at ease here.

 

Maggie sat down on the other side of the bench after serving up the stew and buttering bread for the two of you. After just a few bites (holy shit this is delicious) you noticed a tension in the air, you could tell Maggie wanted to say something but she was holding back. After she had opened her mouth to talk and then closed it again for the fifth time you decided to nudge her along.

“What is it, Maggie?” You asked, smiling at her when she looked mildly shocked. “If you want to say something, just go ahead.”

Maggie hesitated for a second before finally putting her spoon down and looking at you, “I know Sasha was outside before you came in, did you talk to her at all?”

“Uh yeah, briefly. Why?” You asked, mindlessly poking at a lump of carrot before scooping it up and eating it.

“She wasn’t aggressive was she?” You could tell Maggie was trying really hard to keep her voice light and conversational.

“She blames me too, huh?” You said, poking at your stew again, not wanting to meet Maggie’s eyes.

“What do you mean ‘too’”? Maggie said, suddenly dropping her casual tone.

“Well everyone back in Alexandria heard what I did. They all think I threw Abe under the bus and got him killed and now they all hate me. Even Rick blames me so I can take a guess as to where Sasha stands.”

“(Y/N), no!” Maggie gasped, making your eyes snap up. “She doesn’t blame you, how could she? She was there. The people in Alexandria don’t get it, they don’t know what its like out there, how fast things can happen when the shit hits the fan, they just don’t know. Something horrible happened, we all lost people who were important to us,” you heard her voice waver for a moment.  “They need someone to blame for that and they don’t fully grasp the magnitude of Negan and the Saviors yet so they choose to blame you. They don’t know any better.” She reached out and placed her hand on yours, it was gentle and caring, a very sisterly gesture and it made you feel warm. “You cant blame yourself for this, you go down that road and you might not come back. I fully expect to have this conversation with Daryl when he gets back too, you know what he’s like with this kind of stuff.”

If he gets back.” You said miserably.

“Oh shush,” Maggie said a little harshly and pushed your stew closer to you. “You need to eat.” Maggie was going to make a great mother.

Chapter Text

The rest of the night passed fairly quietly; you and Maggie finished up your dinner and stood side by side at the sink; you washing the dishes and Maggie drying them and putting them back in their various cabinets. You sat together in one of the living areas on the second floor for a little while making small talk and you felt the baby kick a couple of times before excusing yourself to get some air.

As soon as you stepped out of the front doors of Barrington House you took a deep breath, closing the door softly behind you. It was a clear night, not a cloud to be seen across the deep velvety sky, the only light coming from the high windows above you and a few torches that were still alight down by the gates. You thought about taking a short walk around the perimeter and then turning in for the night but by the time you foot hit the last stone step and onto the dewy grass below; the tranquility had been shattered.

First a shout sounded from just outside the gates, then came the sound of guns being cocked and clips loaded. Most of the lights from the trailers came to life and multiple people started running across the grass towards the gates. You joined them, sprinting as fast as possible without slipping on the slick lawns and retrieved your knife from your belt as you went. By the time you reached the gates they were already halfway open, exposing two flaming headlights that obsured your vision. Were we in danger? Were we getting attacked? Were the Saviors here for more?

Your mind was racing with possible scenarios and you were already mentally preparing yourself for a fight. Your face was set and your knife was up. The engine of the car shut off suddenly and the headlights were extinguished. The guards at the gate lowered their weapons when two men emerged from the car but they were nothing more than silhouettes from where you were standing. When the car doors closed softly one of the men rushed around to the other side of the car, ducking and supporting the other man with an arm around his shoulder. As they moved slowly and unevenly towards you and further into the light their faces became visible.

It felt like the breath had been knocked out of you. Right there in front of you, there he was: Daryl Dixon. He was battered and bruised and sporting what looked like a severely sprained ankle but he was alive. Your feet were rooted to the spot, you couldn’t move, you stood stock still, unable to move out of pure shock as Jesus helped a stumbling Daryl up the steep drive. By the time they reached flat ground most of the concerned residents had returned to their homes having learned there was no immediate danger and two of the Hilltop guards were already working to close the gates.

Jesus spoke quickly as he got closer to you “We need to get him inside, he needs a once over by the Doc.” You sensed the tone of his voice and quickly shoved your knife back into your belt and ducked around to Daryl’s side and pulled his other arm across your shoulders. Jesus started towards Barrington House but with every step Daryl seemed to be getting heavier. “He’s losing consciousness… get him to the trailer… its closer,” you said with difficulty. The weight of Daryl slumped across your shoulders was already taking its toll on your lungs. You got him to the makeshift plywood stairs and you let Jesus take the weight while you got the door open and cleared a more direct path inside to the bottom bunk.

You helped Jesus get Daryl into a horizontal position, the top bunk made it an extremely awkward task but between the two of you, you managed it without banging Daryl’s head on the metal above you. You both stood up to catch your breath, after a few seconds Jesus spoke again. “I’m going to get the doctor, stay here with him. Keep an ear on his breathing, I’ll be right back.” He ducked out the door and you watched as he ran towards the house. Once you lost sight of him behind the blacksmith shed, you pulled one of the camp chairs right up close to the bed and sat down heavily.

You took in Daryl’s face: there was a deep cut above his eyebrow, his hair was matted and bloody and there were several nasty bruises forming around his eyes and mouth. He was a mess. You wanted to reach out and touch him, run your hands through his hair, brush fingertips over his forehead or hold his hand. You don’t know what was stopping you. He barely looked like him self. Sure, Daryl was always pretty roughed up, his hair was never brushed and it was starting to look like he didn’t believe in showers but this was a whole other level. This was scary.

You started looking worriedly over your shoulder waiting for Jesus to get back, it felt like he had been gone for hours instead of seconds. Your worry soon outweighed whatever it was before and you reached out and slipped your hand into Daryl’s. It still felt the same, still rough from gripping his knife too hard, his fingers still calloused from pulling on his bowstring. His knuckles were bloodied and scabbed but that wasn’t out of the ordinary for “rough as guts” Daryl Dixon. You ran your thumb over the back, laid your other hand over his heart and softly rested your head on his bicep. His arm hair tickled your nose as you took in several deep breaths trying to calm yourself.

“You’re alive. You’re alive. You’re alive” you muttered.

You closed your eyes against his skin and timed your breathing to his heartbeat.