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Who We Are

Chapter Text

The images were still flashing through his mind as he laid in the back of the van Negan's men had thrown him into. His hands were tied behind his back and a gag had been placed in his mouth, but he was still able to kick his legs around wildly, slamming them into the walls in anger. He half expected them to pull the van over, take him out, and beat him, but a simple "Negan's going to love you" was all he got, whatever that meant.

Abraham's death had been brutal enough, but it had also been expected. Daryl had already steeled himself for the fact that someone was going to die in that moment and if he could have volunteered he would have gladly taken Abraham's place. Glenn on the other hand was his fault, he held no illusions about that, and that was what was tearing him apart inside right now. Glenn had been there since the beginning, a shining light of hope and optimism among the discontented masses that composed most of the rest of the group. Glenn had been like a brother to him and he had gotten him killed with an act of childish defiance. Thinking on it now he supposed that childish defiance was sort of his calling card in more ways than one.

"Well, well, well," a voice pulled him from his thoughts. "Look at baby brother now."

"You're dead," Daryl said. "You're not really here."

"No I'm not," Merle said with his trademark grin. "And thank shit for that."

"You look like you're in a bit of predicament here baby brother," he continued after a pause. "You guys just can't keep yourselves out of trouble can you."

"What are you doing here," Daryl said.

"Seems to me like you're feeling some self-loathing," Merle said. "And anytime that happens I apparently am the first person your subconscious turns to for answers."

"So what answers are you looking for baby brother," he continued.

"Not sure," Was his only response.

"You're such a pussy aren't you," his brother spat at him. "Someone died because of you and you're too afraid to even say you feel bad about it."

"I don't need your shit," Daryl spat back. "I know what happened."

"Clearly you do need me," his brother said. "Otherwise I wouldn't be here."

"Let's get it over with then," Merle continued and Daryl suddenly found himself pushed up against the wall of the van.

"He died because of your stupidity," his brother started. "His pregnant wife is never going to see him again because you just couldn't hold your shit together."

"Another minute and he would have been done," he continued. "And the ginger would have been the only one dead."

"But you just had to play the tough guy, the hero," Merle laughed at his own words. "And now a good man is dead and you're right here."

"You're such an idiot baby brother," his brother was relentless. "How many more people have to die before you realize that you aren't capable of protecting anyone?"

After another moment Merle was gone and Daryl was left a semi-sobbing mess huddled against the wall of the van.

"Is he crying already," one of Negan's men said to the other.

"He's going to be easy to break," the other replied.

He must have drifted off after that because the next thing he knew they were pulling him out of the van and throwing him into some kind of pen surrounded by chain link fence.

"This is your new home," one of the men said. "Don't get too comfortable though."

He went to the back of the enclosure and huddled with his knees drawn up to his chest. His mind began to wander again before another voice pulled him back again.

"I don't blame you," it was Glenn's voice.

"Of course you don't," Daryl said. "That's who you are."

"He's a bloodthirsty psychopath who was looking for any reason to kill someone else," Glenn said. "You just proved to be as good enough of an excuse as anything else."

"It's still my fault," Daryl said. "It was my fist, it should have been me."

"Listen," Glenn said. "My blood isn't on your hands, it's on Negan's; don't forget that."

"You guys will be fine without me," he continued.

"Not Maggie," Daryl said.

"Maggie is strong," Glenn said. "She'll pull herself together in the end."

"Besides," he continued. "I'll always be with her, watching."

"I should have done more," Daryl said. "Put up more of a fight."

"It would have only resulted in more death," Glenn said putting a hand on his shoulder.

"I failed again," Daryl said.

Suddenly another voice tore through the now, night air and when he looked up Glenn was already gone.

"Clearly he's not getting through that thick skull of yours Daryl Dixon," it was Beth.

He brought his eyes back down to the ground, unable to even look at her. "You shouldn't be here."

"Why not," she said and he imagined she had her hands on her hips. "You didn't expect me to just sit around while you had your little pity party."

"I definitely don't deserve anyone's pity," he said. "Especially not from your family."

"This is the third time someone your sister loves has died because of me," he continued. "She should hate me and so should you."

"I could never hate you Daryl Dixon," she said. "Your much too good of a man for that."

"Now look at me," she said and he couldn't refuse her. "You're a good man."

"Glenn doesn't blame you for anything," she continued. "Maggie doesn't blame you for anything."

"I don't blame you for anything either, stuff just happens sometimes," she finished.

"I should have done more," he said. "To protect you, all of you."

"You're just one man Daryl, not a superhero," she said motioning him to stand. "They could have never gotten this far without you."

She pulled him into a hug. He found himself reveling in the contact, forgetting for a moment that it was all just part of his subconscious.

"Now I don't want to hear any more of that blaming yourself that you've been doing," she whispered into his ear.

"You're a better man than you give yourself credit for," she continued. "One of the reasons I love you."

A gunshot sounded nearby and he was briefly pulled from his mind.

"The bad men are coming back," she said. "You can't let them break you, you have to fight, for all of us."

With that she was gone and soon enough Negan's men were unlocking the gate at the front of his enclosure. He tried his best to steel himself for whatever was about to happen next.

"Negan just got back," one of the men said with a sick smile. "Does he ever have plans for you boy."

He didn't know what was coming next, but he had to get through it, for Glenn, for Beth, for everyone he failed. Whatever it was it was a small penance that he had to pay compared to what they did.

Chapter Text

When she first hears the news she's so taken aback by it that a reaction doesn't even register on her face at first. The one that eventually occurs leaves her face looking truly lost, searching for comprehension. She's not sure how she get's there, but she finds herself sitting down against one of the houses in Alexandria with her knees drawn up to her chest. Denise was dead, Glenn was dead, Abraham was dead, and on top of it all the bastards responsible for all of it had stripped Alexandria down to a bare minimum that even the supplies she and Heath had brought back could barely make a dent in fixing.

She didn't cry, her ability to do that was mostly dead long ago and it didn't seem appropriate with the situation that the whole community was in; there was no point in drawing more attention to herself than necessary when neither her nor anyone else could do anything about what had happened. When she had lost her sister and niece it had been bad enough to the point where she had thought that her life couldn't get much worse, at least by apocalypse standards. Brian, or whatever his real name was, gave her a family again after her father's death and made her feel like a part of something for the first time in her life. When his true colors as the Governor came out it was almost like experiencing another death right along with those that she was actually experiencing.

She thought that she had found that family and sense of purpose again with helping Glenn find his wife and helping Abraham and Rosita in whatever small way she could to get Eugene to Washington. They had been their own tight knit kind of family during their travels together, a "Band of brothers" she had called it. The mission may have fell away, but that sense of family never did even after rejoining the main group and heading to Alexandria. And now two of her "brothers" were dead, their mission done, and she wasn't sure what exactly she was supposed to feel about the whole thing. She couldn't know for sure where Maggie was either, this was definitely going to be hard on her and she hoped that she didn't let her grief drive her into the waiting arms of death too.

On top of all of that was the history of her love life. She had told Denise that she loved her and that was the truth and maybe Denise felt the same way, was going to tell her whenever she got back, but what they had was still too fragile to determine where it was going. It was like Alisha all over again, the second she started getting close to someone they were taken away. What was it about her that people just seemed to drop dead after being associated with her? Maybe if Glenn had just left her to die back at the prison none of this would have happened. He had given her a chance when no one else would have and now he was gone just like everyone else who ever mattered to her eventually ended up.

"You look like you could use a drink," Rosita's voice drew her eyes up from where they had been staring at the ground.

At her confused expression the other woman handed her a bottle, "Come on, it was part of Spencer's stash anyways so it's not like your taking it from anyone that needs it."

"Shouldn't we be conserving what rations we have," she said grabbing for the bottle anyways.

"Like I said, you're not taking it from anyone who needs it," the other woman said with a smirk. "Besides, we may all die tomorrow anyways so what's the sense in keeping shit around for that asshole when we're gone."

"Yeah," she said taking a swig.

"It doesn't get any easier," Rosita said sitting down next to her. "In the military they teach you to ignore it and push on anyways, but it doesn't go away."

"Is that supposed to be comforting," she said questioning.

"No, it's supposed to be practical," the other woman responded. "Sometimes shit just happens that you can't predict, but life goes on, you can't blame yourself."

"I don't know," was all she could say.

"I do," the other woman said. "War is Hell you know, not like this, but similar and the whole time you're out there in the middle of it all you see people you know, people you've spent day and night with for the last God knows how long, dropping like flies around you; eventually you start to ask why me, why did I survive?"

"I was there for a long time, I wallowed around and went through the motions because that's what I knew," she continued. "But that's no way to live your life, in war or here in this shitshow."

"If you let it eat at you long enough eventually you will end up the one dead," she finished.

"How did you do it," she asked taking another drink.

"By focusing on those that were still alive," the other woman said. "By focusing on my mission."

"You can keep that," she continued getting up from where she was sitting. "You need it more than I do."

Tara watched the other woman walk away still thinking about the words she had said before shifting her eyes down to the bottle. She looked around at the many houses that surrounded her before taking another drink. Rosita was right of course, if she continued to blame herself eventually she would see herself dead. The people of Alexandria needed her at her best if they were ever going to stop that bastard Negan from terrorizing everyone in a world already gone mad. With one last swig of the bottle she threw it at the wall of another nearby house and stood up to pat herself off. A world like the one they found themselves in was never going to be an easy one, but if she focused on what she still had around her instead of what she had lost then she could at least make the most of what she had. Fake it til you make it as the saying goes. Maybe she could fake it long enough that she could make something of a life in the mad world that she happened to find herself in, it was the least she could do for all of those who didn't have the chance to make it this far.

Chapter Text

Rosita found herself outside of the walls of Alexandria and walking down the road, looking for what she didn't know. The truth was that this had been happening a lot since Negan's visit to the community and it was increasingly more about getting away from that place and the people in it, people who were supposed to be her friends, than it was about looking for supplies or clearing out walkers. That place brought up too many bad memories and those people brought up too much anger nowadays for her to stick around long, so she had taken to asking for ever-increasing lengths of time to patrol the perimeter.

Rick and those closest to him were too busy bending their knees to Negan to even realize what she was doing and if she was being honest with herself she didn't much care what they thought anymore. Everything they had been through together as a group had been a fight from those freaks at Terminus to the crazy people in the hospital and even the Saviors at first, but now they were backing down and taking whatever treatment Negan gave them without question. It sickened her to see people that she would have died for without question not that long ago reduced to such husks of themselves. Maybe Carl and Enid had the right idea when they just up and left without any sign of where they were going or when they were coming back.

Spencer was another story altogether. She had thought that she had finally found someone who understood her when they started getting close and it had been alright for a while. Now though, he was showing himself to be nothing more than a coward. In a lot of ways what he was doing could be considered even worse than just laying down and taking the punishment. He hid those guns and almost got Olivia killed because of it and he hid all of that food from the rest of them just to cover his own ass. She held no illusions about the fact that if given the chance he would probably work for Negan if it meant that he could live the good life.

And then there was Tara. There was a certain connection that they're little group from the Washington mission had and she had always felt that her and Tara were pretty decent friends if nothing else. Now she was lying to her and she didn't even know why. Tara may have thought that she was being slick when she told her that she hadn't found anything while her and Heath were on the road, but she could see it in her eyes that there was something that she wasn't telling her. She didn't know what it was, but she was determined to find out. Maybe that's why she had been taking these trips an ever-increasing distance away from the walls.

She leaned herself against a nearby tree and pulled out her gun, the only gun they had now as far as she knew.

"What are we doing," she asked to the air.

The sounds of loud voices drew her attention and she pushed herself in the direction of the sounds. The scene she stumbled upon was that of two older women pushing a young woman forward at gunpoint.

"You don't even know where you're going out here," one of the older women said.

"Yeah," the other piped in. "What makes you think that you'd last a day out here without us around to protect you."

"Don't run off again or we'll drag you back," the first voice said sternly.

"Hey," Rosita found herself compelled to say something. "What's going on here?"

"Nothing that concerns you," the first woman said, she had a pony tail and an air of authority that made it clear she was in charge.

"She doesn't sound like she wants to go with you," Rosita said not backing down.

"She doesn't know what's best for herself," the other woman said, she had short hair and a distant look in her eyes.

"Let her go," Rosita found herself saying as she raised her gun, she only had one bullet but she still needed to look intimidating.

"You should just walk away before one of us does something we'll regret," ponytail said.

"I don't think so," Rosita said moving closer.

"Why do you even care," short hair said.

"I just do," Rosita said moving one of her hands to the handle of her knife.

It was over in a split second, her only bullet found purchase in ponytail's skull right as her hand pulled her knife from her belt and sent it in the direction of short hair's chest. Knowing that ponytail was dead for sure she turned her attention to the injured short hair who was now laying on the ground clutching her wound. Before the woman could grab for her dropped gun Rosita mounted herself on top of the other woman and proceeded to rain punches down until she was sure that the woman was out for good. As she looked up from what she had done she found that the young woman she had saved was just staring at her.

"You're welcome by the way," she said to the still unresponsive woman. "That was my only bullet."

As she was looting the two women of whatever supplies they had had, especially more weapons and ammo that she was more than happy to relieve them of she heard the woman say, "You killed them."

"Well, short hair over there might still make it," she said absentmindedly. "Now won't you grab that."

She pointed to the military grade rifle that one of the women had dropped in the skirmish, that could definitely come in handy the next time Negan showed up.

"What," the young woman said.

"Grab that, you're coming with me," Rosita said. "I'm Rosita by the way."

"Cyndie," the other woman replied sounding unsure.

"Well Cyndie, don't just stand there looking like I killed your puppy," Rosita said.

"I knew them," Cyndie said still not moving.

"Yeah I gathered that, but they were going to kill me so there wasn't much of a choice at that point," Rosita said.

"Why did you stop them taking me back," Cyndie said. "You don't know me."

"Just seemed like the right thing to do," Rosita said. "Now grab the rifle, we have to get back before sunset."

"Where are we going," Cyndie asked finally moving to grab the rifle.

"Back to my group," Rosita said. "It doesn't seem like you want to go back to your own people so you might as well follow me."

With that Rosita turned and began walking back towards Alexandria, the community was still a few hours away on foot, but if they picked up the pace they should make it there long before darkness began to threaten the world. Cyndie remained silent the entire way back and Rosita couldn't say that she much blamed her. They made it to the gates without much trouble and Rosita figured that that would be the end of the whole thing. Yeah, maybe Rick would have something to say about the supplies and weapons she suddenly had on her and how Negan wouldn't much appreciate that fact, but she didn't much care what he thought about it. What she didn't expect was Tara's look of recognition upon seeing her new traveling partner.

"Cyndie," Tara said confused. "How did you get here?

"Tara," Cyndie returned equally confused.

"Oh," Rosita said getting the gist of what was going on. "I see then."

She turned to level a look at Tara, "When you're ready to talk to me come and find me."

It wasn't that long before Tara came by to see her sitting on one of the porches of one of the many houses that peppered Alexandria. The other woman had an unreadable expression on her face, but Rosita was dammed sure not letting her leave again without explaining everything. As the other woman moved to sit down next to her on the porch Rosita moved over to give her room.

"So," Rosita said trying to keep the hurt out of her voice. "Out with it."

"It wasn't my intention to lie to you," Tara said keeping her eyes away from Rosita's. "About any of it."

"Well then, who's Cyndie and where does she come from," Rosita said. "I certainly don't remember you mentioning finding any people while you were out there."

"It's a group located deep in the woods just past where Heath and I got separated," Tara said reluctantly.

At Rosita's hopeful expression Tara added, "And before you get any ideas about anymore guerrilla operations the fact that Cyndie's here now doesn't change the fact that I made a promise never to hurt her people, her grandmother's the leader back there."

"She didn't seem all that excited to go back," Rosita said.

"Apparently Kathy and Beatrice had other ideas apart from just taking her back, more to blame on me I'm sure," Tara said. "She was running away from them not her home and now that you've killed them you've only made things more complicated."

"Oh," Rosita said. "I thought."

"I know," Tara said cutting her off.

"It's just that things around here have been so crap lately," Rosita said. "I just couldn't stand idly by and do nothing out there."

"She didn't have to follow me," she continued. "I would have let her go."

"She was afraid of you too,' Tara said nudging her shoulder. "And like I said once you killed them things for her got complicated, it is her grandmother but there's only so much trouble you can cause before you're too much trouble."

"Yeah," Rosita said. "I'm not too much trouble am I?"

"No," Tara said. "You're just the right amount of trouble and this group is lucky to have you despite what they may say now."

"I hope so," Rosita said.

"Hey," Tara said drawing Rosita to meet her eyes. "Things change, one day they'll realize you have the right idea about all of this and get their act together."

"And that day is coming fast so you better be ready," Tara continued.

"I will be," Rosita said.

Tara was right, she shouldn't spend her time wallowing in the fact that not everyone was completely onboard with her right now. The important thing was that eventually the other shoe would drop and they would be. The only thing she needed to do was not give up while her path was a lonely one and continue to get things ready for that moment that was only inevitable. A war was coming and it seemed that she was the only one who could see it. Well, she wasn't going to let the rest of the group down and by the time she was done Negan wouldn't know what hit him. She was going to love this.

Chapter Text

Carl looked at the furnace before him as he was led forward by two of Negan's men. He had known that this was a possibility when he hitched a ride on that truck and made a plan to infiltrate Negan's compound, well maybe not exactly this but he had went into it fully knowing that he could be seriously hurt or killed. The man who had gotten the iron only a few minutes ago, Mark he thinks his name is, still hasn't regained consciousness, but he's alive and that's more than can be said for Glenn or Abraham so he's been lucky in his own way even if he doesn't know it. They march Carl over to the same chair that Mark had previously occupied and push him down into a sitting position. Negan's already standing there with a smug smile as he begins another monologue.

"Now now everyone," he began. "I've given you all food, shelter, protection from the dead and most of you have been happy with that arrangement."

"Most of you haven't committed any serious violations that would make me doubt your loyalty," he continued. "But some such as Mark over there have needed to be taught a lesson."

"That same arrangement that I've given all of you was the arrangement I gave to Carl here and he betrayed that arrangement and tried to kill me, actually managed to kill two of our compatriots," he continued walking over. "Do you think that Carl here needs a lesson?"

The question hung in the air for a few moments before Negan finished, "Me too."

Negan calmly walked over and took the iron from Dwight's hand again before turning to face Carl.

"What do you think kid," he asked. "Do you need to be taught a lesson?"

"If you're gonna do it just do it," Carl said. "I've heard enough of your bullshit."

"You see," Negan said holding a finger in the air. "That's the kind of shit that doesn't fly around here; I figured you would already know that."

"Maybe the kid needs to be taught more of lesson than I thought," Negan continued turning towards his people.

"You see kid I was just going to iron one side of your face, let you keep your good side, but after that stunt you just pulled I don't think you get that privilege," Negan said turning his attention back to Carl.

"Stay away from him," Daryl chose this moment to jump in. "If you want to punish someone, punish me."

"What a novel idea," Negan said smiling. "But then Carl wouldn't learn his lesson and you'd be out of action for a couple of days while the burns healed; that just doesn't work for me."

Negan started moving towards Carl again.

"You son of a bitch," Daryl shouted and made an effort to charge at him. Two of Negan's men held him back while another put the butt of rifle in his stomach.

"Bring him over here," Negan said. "He needs to watch this."

The two men brought Daryl around and knelt him between the chair and the furnace.

"You see Daryl," Negan said moving ever closer to Carl. "This is what happens when you don't follow the rules."

"This is what happens," and with that he pressed the iron into the side of Carl's face with his bad eye.

Carl tried to hold his screams in, he really did, but the overwhelming pain from the iron became so bad that he couldn't even think straight. As the searing pain continued Carl's screams began to echo throughout the room. Daryl had a look of death in his eyes but the two men continued to hold him down on his knees. Negan just stood there with a smug smile on his face before eventually pulling the iron away. Carl hadn't passed out and for that he was grateful, he wouldn't give Negan the pleasure if he could help it.

"And this Daryl," Negan said still standing over Carl. "Is what happens when you talk shit and can't back it up."

The iron was pressed into the side with his good eye now and the pain, if it was possible, felt even more excruciating than before. Negan continued to stand over him with the same smug smile as before, giving a quick glance to Daryl as he thought necessary. Carl found himself slowly losing consciousness and he fought it every step of the way but eventually the pain became unbearable and soon he couldn't feel anything at all. The blackness was a welcome sight despite the vision of weakness that was being displayed to Negan on the outside.

Carl didn't know how much time passed between that moment and the time he woke up in what looked like a doctor's office. He briefly looked around the small space seeing various pieces of medical equipment and a couple of examination tables. An older man turned around from where he was working with something on one of the tables in the far corner and gave him a small smile, a little more genuine than he would have expected given the circumstances.

"Good you're up," the man said walking over to him. "I'm Dr. Carson, burns were a little outside my area of expertise before everything, but I've grown adept at treating them over time; you should be fine."

"Thank you," Carl found himself saying.

"It was my pleasure," the doctor said. "The boss will want to see you now that you're up though."

"Of course," Carl said.

Carl was marched back towards where he had met with Negan before the whole ironing happened by two of his men. As he entered the space he found Negan lounging in a chair. As soon as the other man realized who was coming to see him though he plastered that smile back on his face and walked over.

"Wow the iron really did a number on you didn't it," Negan said holding out his hand for a shake. Carl didn't shake it.

"Well if you ask me I think you look even more badass than before," Negan said dropping his hand. "Women are going to love the scars."

"Now," Negan said turning his back on Carl. "What would you have me do with you now."

Carl didn't feel like anything he would say would matter.

"No smartass remarks, that's a start at least," Negan said. "I think it's time to get you back to your dad, he's probably worried sick about you."

"Now you might be a little worse for wear, but I think he'll understand," Negan said motioning for Carl and the two men who were still in the room with them to follow him out the door.

With that they all loaded up into one of Negan's box trucks and proceeded in the direction of Alexandria. Carl didn't know what the future would hold for himself or the group, but he was more determined now than ever to not fall in line with his dad's plan of sit back and take it. The only way to stop someone like Negan's ruthlessness was with ruthlessness of your own.

Chapter Text

Tara had been sitting in her room on the second floor, trying to block the images of the day’s events from her mind, two more of their group had fallen to Negan’s psychotic desires and Eugene was being forced to do God knows what back at the Saviors’ camp, and she just wanted to be alone for a while. The first sign of trouble was the sound of the front door being slammed with a violent crash, but that in of itself wasn’t enough to completely stir her from her current location. However, the second even louder bang followed by sounds of pain from the only person who would just barge in like she owned the place drew her towards the stairs.

“Rosita,” she called from halfway down the staircase. No reply was forthcoming except for what sounded like muffled crying.

She followed the sounds into one of the side rooms and took in the scene before her. Rosita was sitting in one corner of the room with her head in her hands as the sounds of muffled cries continued to escape from her. There was a noticeable hole in the wall where she guessed Rosita punched it causing the second loud bang. The state of Rosita’s hand, which looked bad even with Rosita’s gloves covering most of it drew her to sit down next to the other woman.

“Your hand,” she said reaching for the injured hand.

“I’m fine,” Rosita said pulling away.

“You punched a hole in the wall,” Tara said sternly. “You’re not fine.”

“What do you want me to say,” Rosita asked.

“You can tell me what’s bothering you for starters,” Tara said.

“You know what’s bothering me,” the other woman moved to stand up. “My only chance to actually do something and I completely fucked it up.”

“In fact,” she continued. “I made it 100 times more fucked up than it already was; some soldier I turned out to be.”

“You couldn’t have known,” Tara said calmingly.

“No, but I still could have at least slowed myself down to aim before just whipping a gun out and firing a wild shot,” the other woman said pacing the room. “My old drill sergeant would probably be laughing at my bad form right now if he was still around.”

“We all make mistakes,” Tara said.

“My mistakes got people killed,” Rosita said continuing her pacing. “People who would still be alive if I wasn’t so trigger happy.”

“Listen to me,” Tara said drawing Rosita’s gaze with her tone. “None of this was your fault.”

“Spencer made his own bed before you even did anything and Olivia died because of Negan, not you,” she continued meeting Rosita’s gaze with a look of concern. “Eugene wasn’t your fault either.”

“It should have been me,” Rosita said tearing her gaze away. “It should have been me who got killed, it should have been me who got taken, but all I have is this stupid cut on my face.”

The cut in question ran from just above her eye all the way down her cheek on the right side of her face. Tara found herself wondering when it happened as she had only seen something miniscule in comparison after Negan’s people had left.

“Did you do that to yourself,” she found herself asking before she could turn on her own filter.

“It doesn’t matter now,” Rosita said turning to face the wall. “I deserve worse.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it,” Tara felt her voice level rising.

“This whole situation’s bullshit,” Rosita said voice level also rising. “This whole world’s bullshit; we’ve been running from one safe space to another eking out whatever pitiful existence we can before the next shitstorm shows up to tear it down again, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t see a fucking light at the end of the tunnel anytime soon.”

“That’s living now Rosita,” Tara said. “We have to make the best of the situation that we can without giving up, you can’t give up.”

“I’m not giving up,” Rosita said as the tears started flowing again. “I just don’t want to see anyone else die because of my mistakes.”

“We’ve all made mistakes,” Tara repeated her earlier statement as she stood up from her spot on the floor.

“Before I met Rick I was surviving with my sister and my niece and this guy named Brian who my sister took a particular liking to and I thought that I had it made,” she started.

“It was good for a while but Brian wasn’t the man he said he was and he ended up leading us and the group we found ourselves with into a fight with Rick’s group at a prison,” she continued. “My sister died, my niece died, my girlfriend died, everyone in our group died, he freaking cut Maggie’s father’s head off with a sword to start the whole thing, all on a whim from a madman and I’ve asked myself every day since Glenn found me amid the aftermath why I got to survive and no one else did and I still haven’t found an answer.”

“But I’ve never given up Rosita,” she finished moving in to wrap the other woman in a hug. “And neither should you.”

Rosita slowly returned the hug as the tears started flowing freely.

“Eugene told me not to do it, Gabriel told me not to do it, everything was screaming not to do it and I still made a half-assed attempt at it anyways,” Rosita said. “I’m an idiot.”

“No you’re not, you were just doing what you could to stop this whole thing before more shit happened,” Tara said comfortingly. “No one should fault you for that.”

“We’ll get Eugene back and we’ll stop Negan, but we have to do it together,” Tara said after a short pause. “No more lone wolf attacks.”

“I almost had him,” Rosita said.

“I know,” Tara said.

They stood like that for a few more minutes just taking whatever comfort they could from each other in the moment.

“You really did a number on that wall,” Tara said with a slight smile as she pulled away.

“My hand feels like shit though,” Rosita said.

“Well let me take a look at it,” Tara said motioning for her to give her her hand.

She slowly took off Rosita’s glove to reveal gashes in the knuckles and bruising on the rest of the hand. Moving to get the first aid kit that she kept in the house she pulled out a bottle of antiseptic to clean the gashes before wrapping the entire hand up with bandages.

“There good as new,” Tara said before sliding the glove back on. “Now how about we go for a walk to clear our heads.”

“I’d like that,” Rosita said slightly smiling.

“Have I ever told you that I dig women with scars,” Tara said as they made their way out the door.”

“No, do tell,” Rosita said smiling before Tara leaned up to kiss her.

“They’re pretty sexy,” Tara said pulling away. “Not that you need any help in that department.”

“I think I get the picture now,” Rosita said.

She leaned in to whisper in Tara’s ear, “But maybe you could show me more later.”

A shiver went down Tara’s spine and she found herself imaging the implications of that statement. By the time she shook herself out of it Rosita was already a long way ahead of her. She moved to catch up knowing that her day was about to get a lot better.

Chapter Text

She wasn’t thinking straight, she was smart enough to admit that to herself but at the moment Arat didn’t much care. She should be at her post, Negan won’t like it if he finds out that she shirked her duties for a quest of personal vindictiveness. She also shouldn’t have walked alone into a community of people who hate her guts at best and want her dead at worst, but she needed to do this alone. She had checked her gun to make sure it was fully loaded and strapped on a knife beforehand just in case things went south.

Everything had been going so well, they made their point back at Alexandria and acquired a new treasure trove of supplies for their troubles. It had been unfortunate that there needed to be casualties, but a little blood now to make a point would prevent further blood loss in the future as long as everyone got it through their thick skulls how the game worked now. It had all been so easy too, if they wanted to make a real effort at usurping Savior control they could have at least made a challenge of it instead of running in like a bunch of chickens with their heads chopped off. A concerted effort as a group would have been a real challenge and she relished the thought of someone trying that.

It had been all well and good how things turned out because that meant that Negan didn’t get it in his head that he wanted to take the pool table back with them. That would have meant having to assemble a group to actually carry the thing along with working out a way to fit it in with everything else they had already taken. As it was they each got their fill without any extra effort and she actually managed to snag a particularly kickass pair of boots before the guys could get their hands on them. And on top of all of that they had their own bullet maker once Negan broke him down enough to convince him to work for them which she guessed wouldn’t take much. For a moment life was good.

It all went to shit after they got back to base though. The first sign of trouble was the discovery of Fat Joey’s body near where they stashed the motorcycles. His head was bashed in with particular purpose and despite them not being particularly warm and cuddly with each other she couldn’t help but feel sorry for the bastard. It only took another moment’s observation to find out that Daryl’s cell was empty revealing the likely source of Joey’s demise. She had to hand it to Daryl, the man never broke and he showed some real ingenuity actually managing to get away. Of course the worst news, the news that brought her to the gates of Alexandria again, had been yet to come.

The first signs had been when she got back to her room to find it noticeably lacking in the presence of another person, or to be more specific one redhead in particular. That in of itself wasn’t necessarily a red flag considering that Isabelle often went on runs that took her far away from base for days on end. The red flag was when a couple of scouts reported finding her car abandoned in the middle of the woods with her body, a single shot through her head, still inside. She wouldn’t necessarily call what she went into at the news a rage, but it had made her blind enough to everything that she found herself outside of Alexandria about to pound on the gate in no time at all.

The gate opened far slower than she would have liked, but eventually it was open enough for her to walk through. The one in the priest garb, she thinks his name is Gabriel, was the first one to catch her eye and he instantly looked both surprised and terrified at her presence. She pushed him out of the way with a shove, she didn’t have time for his nonsense, and quickly made her way to the center of town where she promptly unholstered her weapon and fired into the air.

“Everyone better get out here now or I’m going to start knocking on doors,” she yelled as loud as she could.

“What seems to be the problem,” Gabriel said from behind her.

“I’ll let you know once everyone gets their asses out here,” she said in a bitter tone.

Slowly the people of Alexandria made their way out of their houses and onto the street. She worked to hide the conflicted emotions she was feeling behind a sneer.

“Where’s Rick and the rest of his lackeys,” she posed the question to the group.

“Away,” Gabriel answered.

“Anybody have any idea where they went,” she said dismissively.

“Anybody,” she asked again after no answer.

“Gathering more things for you of course,” Gabriel spoke again.

“Of course,” she said. “Well maybe you can help me out with something.”

“Whatever it is I’m sure we can work it out,” he said.

“I want to know who’s the son of a bitch who killed my girlfriend,” she said not betraying any emotion.

“We weren’t aware of anyone from your group being killed,” Gabriel said. “Surely one of our group couldn’t have been responsible though, you had us particularly occupied.”

“Don’t play stupid with me,” she said. “She got shot in the head and in light of recent events in connection with where her body was found I’m inclined to think it was you guys.”

“Surely circumstantial evidence isn’t enough to accuse someone,” he tried.

“Didn’t I just tell you not to play dumb with me,” she said moving into his personal space. “She was headed this way when she left and her body was found halfway between here and our base.”

“There hasn’t been any other resistance to our rules recently so circumstantial evidence or not I’m blaming you,” she finished inches from his face.

“So anybody want to fess up,” she asked after stepping back.

“No,” she said after receiving no response. “It probably wasn’t any of you rejects anyways.”

“You don’t think Rick and his lackeys got out of dodge because they knew they would be facing shit for what they’d done,” she posed the question.

“No,” Gabriel said. “Our business was done and they went out on another run.”

“Our business is far from done,” she said moving up to pistol whip him.

His hand moved up to cover the wound and he howled in pain but no further words left his mouth.

“Just for being so cooperative I won’t kill you,” she said. “But you all better watch your backs because if you think you had shit before it’s only going to get worse now, because now it’s personal.”

“And when I do find out who put a bullet in her head I’ll enjoy making their death as slow and painful as possible,” she continued. “Good day.”

With that she walked out of the community and started making her way back home. It may not have gone exactly as she planned and she may not have succeeded in her goal but it still felt good to get all of her excess energy and emotions out for the moment. Briefly she allowed images from her and Isabelle’s last night together flood through her mind bringing a smile to her face.

“I don’t know what happened Bell, but I’m going to make them pay for it,” she said to the air. “You can count on that.”

Chapter Text

Daryl sits sullenly on the ramparts that make up the Hilltop’s guard posts. He’s seen Maggie up here a few times since they were all reunited in a cacophony of hugs and happy faces, just looking. He’s not sure what she’s looking at but it’s not his place to pry anyways, he’s the one that got her husband killed and while she may say she forgives him he’s sure it’s never going to be the same between them again. He himself stares out at the tree line that stands tall not that far away from the community’s walls and allows his mind to wander.

Rick says that they’re ready to strike their first blow against Negan tomorrow now that they have both the Hilltop and the Kingdom to back them up. He’s ready for the fight, ready to finally get some revenge on the bastards that held and tortured him for days on end. If need be he’s also ready to die to protect those around him, his life isn’t that important anymore anyways and he’d rather not see anyone else die for or because of him.

Sometimes he finds himself back there, back at the graveyard, back at the house where everything had started to make sense again for the first time since the prison. He can see and hear everything so clearly, Beth’s angelic voice lulling him to sleep as he laid in his coffin bed. They could have made a life there, probably wouldn’t have ever found the rest of the group ever again, but they could have made a life, a life that was theirs. Then he had to go and ruin it by opening that door and letting the Walkers in. If only he wasn’t such an idiot, if only he had kept the door closed, if only he hadn’t left her alone, if only he’d kept running he could have saved her. If only he hadn’t given up she would still be standing right next to him.

Other times he finds himself back at Grady Memorial reliving the last moments of Beth’s life. He had barely contained his relief at having her back within arm’s reach. The second Dawn had said that she wanted Noah back in trade he knew that it was going to go south somehow, Rick wasn’t backing down and everyone’s guns were being pointed at the other side with intent. Beth had said, “I get it now” before striding confidently towards the other side of the standoff. What she “got” and what that meant or didn’t mean to Dawn he still couldn’t figure out. The next thing he knew Beth was stabbing Dawn with a pair of scissors and Dawn’s gun was going off. There was no active thought when he pulled his gun up to aim and shot Dawn dead right then and there, it was as if his body was acting with a mind of its own. If only he hadn’t let her go back over there, if only they had just broken down and given up Noah, if only he had just backed Rick’s plan from the get go she would have made it out alive. In the end he had been unable to protect her just like he had been unable to protect her father, just like he was unable to protect anyone.

That wasn’t where his mind went to this time though, this time he was somewhere else. As he looked around at his surroundings he saw large, sweeping walls that all met at a circular fresco painting on the ceiling. The painting was of a forest scene with various animals standing around and looking at a blond haired woman, that looked vaguely familiar, playing a piano. The sounds of an actual piano being played and an angelic voice that was very familiar drew him into his more immediate surroundings. The room was some sort of concert hall, but he was the only one occupying any of the seats. A slightly older looking Beth than the one he remembered was seated at a large piano in the middle of the stage with a spotlight shining on her singing a song that he didn’t particularly recognize, but still left him enthralled. After a few minutes where he just sat there staring the song ended and she got up to take a small bow, a smile lighting up her face as her eyes landed on him.

The whole thing made him think about what could have been. What could have been if things had gone differently and she were still alive today. What could have been if the world had never gone to shit in the first place though he was pretty sure they would never have met if that were the case. Even if they had met in the world before things would have never been as easy as they were after the prison. She was barely 18 and he was just some low trailer trash back then, things definitely wouldn’t have been easy.

He was pulled out of his thoughts by someone shaking his shoulder and figured that whoever it was that decided it was a good idea to disturb him should count themselves lucky that they didn’t immediately get a knife in the throat for their trouble. It was Maggie, perhaps the last person he wanted to see right now, probably up to do her own staring off into the nothingness. He got up with a huff from where he was seated and stormed off towards the mansion where he knew he would find Rick before she could say anything. He didn’t need her questions and he definitely didn’t need her sympathy, didn’t deserve it either.

Rick was looking over a map of the area where they had marked the locations of several of Negan’s outposts after a series of delicate scouting missions that surprisingly went off without a hitch. Rick looked up from what he was doing as he heard Daryl enter and offered him a nod of his head as if answering some unvoiced question. Daryl slowly made his way over to the table and looked down at the map himself. He recognized some of the locations from missions he himself had gone on. The rest were a mystery to him but he was sure that Rick would fill them all in when the time came to actually carry out the assaults. The plan as he understood it was to hit a bunch of the outposts at once, before the Saviors had time to react and warn each other. It seemed solid enough in his mind, but he knew this was only the beginning.

“Tomorrow’s the beginning of the end,” Rick said suddenly. “We’re taking that bastard down or we’re gonna die trying, either way it will be over.”

“Mm,” was all Daryl said.

He didn’t doubt that this would be the end one way or the other for the war they found themselves in right now. The fight with the Governor had eventually ended, the fight with Terminus eventually ended, the fight with Grady Memorial eventually ended and he had no doubt that this would end too. Still, Daryl knew that it would never really be over and he hoped that Rick got that too, they had been struggling to survive since the beginning and just because they took down one more psychotic asshole didn’t mean that another wouldn’t take his place. One way or another they were all going to succumb to the horrors of the world they found themselves in eventually. He was ready, had been ready for quite a while. Whether or not he was still physically drawing breath his life had ended there on that hospital floor along with hers. It was only a matter of time before that caught up with him.

Chapter Text

Rosita sat sharpening a stick with her pocket knife, something Negan didn’t know she had, and smiled at that fact. If somebody were to come up and ask her what she was doing she wouldn’t have a very good reason to give them. She just needed some time alone before Rick inevitably dragged them off to look for Gabriel. If she was able to keep a careful eye on Sasha while she did her brooding, that was just icing on the cake. The other woman was talking to Maggie, probably about something Hilltop related, and hadn’t noticed her gaze as of yet; if she ever did that would only make her glare harder.

Her little attempt to start up small talk earlier hadn’t been even remotely entertained as something she wanted to do. They weren’t ever particularly close and that was before the whole situation with Abraham. She didn’t blame her per se for everything that happened, relationships required two people, but she certainly wasn’t looking for her pity. If Sasha wanted to alleviate some kind of guilt that she felt now that Abraham was dead by talking to her she was barking up the wrong tree. Before that particular train of thought could go any further she heard footsteps approaching from behind her.

She must have still had a glare in place when she turned around because Tara’s face looked alarmed and she said, “Woah, okay, I don’t know what I did but I’m sorry.”

“That wasn’t meant for you,” she replied trying to work up a more neutral expression. “Sorry.”

“No probs,” Tara said as she moved to sit down next to her.

“What did you want,” she said.

“Just wanted to tell you how badass that was, what you did earlier with the bomb,” Tara said.

“I used to defuse IEDs while under fire in Afghanistan,” she said. “That was nothing.”

“Well I still think it was pretty badass,” Tara said.

“It was an unnecessary risk,” she said. “One wrong move and the “uprising” against the Saviors could have been over before it began.”

“Like trying to take on Negan with only a single bullet could have led to us all getting our heads bashed in,” Tara said giving her a knowing look.

“Yeah,” she said tentatively. “That wasn’t my best moment.”

“Rick made the call, you did your thing with the bomb, no one got hurt, and now we have a bunch of explosives to do with what we please,” Tara said. “I’d call that a win.”

“I guess,” she said lamely.

“So who’s drawing your ire,” Tara said as a change of topic.

When Rosita didn’t give an answer she continued, “It’s Sasha isn’t it.”

“What makes you think that,” she attempted to misdirect.

“Really,” Tara said in a disbelieving tone. “You’d have to be one of the Walkers not to feel the tension radiating off between you guys.”

“Plus I overheard your conversation back at the Kingdom,” she continued with a smile.

“We’re fine,” she said.

Tara only gave her a disbelieving look in response.

“Ok but I’m not mad at her for what happened,” she relented. “I mean I was when it first happened, but I’ve moved on.”

“Then what’s bothering you,” Tara prompted.

“He’s dead now and that shouldn’t change anything, but she seems to think it does,” she started. “We can mourn him in our own ways without her constantly being up my ass trying to start a heart to heart.”

“We were never friends before it happened and we’re not friends now,” she continued. “And if she really thinks that offering me her pity will make it so we start braiding each other’s hair or some shit and it will all be better then fuck her, she doesn’t really know me at all.”

“Have you told her that,” Tara said.

“No,” she said. “Like I said, we don’t need to talk about it, just stay out of each other’s way and get on with our lives.”

“Maybe you should tell her though,” Tara said. “Maybe she’s not looking for forgiveness or even to give pity, maybe she’s just looking for a response, something other than an emotionless wall.”

“We were both there when it happened, we both had an understanding in the aftermath,” she said with a sigh. “Shouldn’t that be enough.”

“Maybe it isn’t for her,” Tara said. “Maybe she needs one conversation just to give her closure, that doesn’t make you friends, just two people clearing the air with each other before things boil over and start to affect the group as a whole.”

“You think that could happen,” she asked.

“Yes,” Tara answered. “If you guys continue to go down this path it would only take one major fight or argument before the whole thing boils over and leaves the rest of us having to choose sides.”

“We’re about to go to war with the Saviors Rosita,” she continued. “The last thing we need is unresolved tension or division within our own ranks.”

“You’re right,” she conceded. “I don’t want our petty relationship drama affecting the group.”

“I’ll go talk to her,” she said getting up.

“Just tell her what you told me,” Tara said getting up herself. “She’s smart, she’ll understand how you feel.”

“Ok,” she said. “Wish me luck.”

“You’ll do fine,” Tara said smiling. “It’s just another bomb you have to defuse.”

Tara was right, there was no reason that talking to Sasha and airing out all of her feelings should be any more intimidating than defusing a bomb. She walked over to where Sasha was still talking to Maggie and steeled herself for what was about to come. This was for the good of the group and if it meant everyone being more focused on the situation at hand then she would do it. As she approached the two other women she looked over at Maggie in askance and nodded slowly when she only gave her a smile. In only a matter of moments she was standing alone with Sasha and the whole thing felt too real. She froze up.

“What do you want,” Sasha said. “You made it pretty clear earlier that we had nothing to talk about.”

She snapped herself out of it and coughed awkwardly, “Right, well I’ve reconsidered that fact and I think it’s time we cleared the air.”

“Oh,” Sasha said surprised.

“Yeah,” she said. “I just wanted you to know that I’m not mad at you for anything that happened, that was between you and Abraham.”

“I’ve moved on, had moved on when you guys did what you did so none of that really matters now,” she continued. “And just because he’s dead now doesn’t mean you have to explain yourself to me any more than you would have to if he were still alive.”

“We can mourn him in our own ways without having to trudge through everything that happened in the past,” she kept going. “We weren’t friends before and you don’t have to try and be my friend now.”

“We do have to work with each other though, so I just wanted you to know that we’re good, and I don’t hold it against you,” she finished.

“Ok,” Sasha said putting her hand on Rosita’s shoulder. “Thank you for letting me know.”

“You’re right,” she continued. “We weren’t friends before and we don’t have to be now.”

“I don’t hold it against you either that you still feel something for him,” she finished.

“I have to go talk to Maggie now,” Sasha said after a short pause.

“Ok,” was all she could say.

As she looked at the now darkening sky she couldn’t help but feel an intense relief. Her and Sasha’s minds were clear for the war against the Saviors now and there wasn’t any risk for a blow up. Everything was amicable between them and if something fucked up group cohesion it wouldn’t be on her. She allowed herself the hope that the whole situation with Gabriel would work out just as well. Maybe this war with the Saviors would finally be the battle that won them final peace.

Chapter Text

“What you’re doing with my people needs to stop Margaret,” Enid heard Gregory yell as she sat just outside of his office. Him and Maggie were going at it over the training of the volunteers she had pulled together and she couldn’t help but roll her eyes at how predictable it all was.

“I told you not to call me that,” Maggie yelled back. “And they volunteered, at least they’re smart enough to want to fight back.”

“You’ve obviously fed them some more empty promises,” was his retort. “Just like you fed me.”

“We didn’t know there were more of them, we’re sorry it didn’t work out,” Maggie said almost exasperated. “But this dance you’re doing with them right now, bending a knee and taking it will only get you killed in the end.”

“And this “uprising” you all want to launch could get us all killed a lot faster,” he retorted.

“At least we’d die trying to be free,” she said. “Don’t your people deserve at least that.”

“If we’re all dead at the end of it what’s the point,” he said.

“That we went down swinging,” she said. “That we didn’t just sit back and wait to be tossed aside like yesterday’s trash.”

“As good a sentiment as that is, it’s all platitudes,” he said. “We have to deal with reality here.”

“They volunteered, I’m not forcing them to do anything,” she said. “And you couldn’t stop me if I was.”

Enid expected a retort, maybe even another whole stanza of back and forth, but all of a sudden Maggie just stormed out of the room and walked outside with a defiant gait. There was no doubt in Enid’s mind that Maggie intended to get back to training the volunteers immediately. There was also no doubt that despite his protests Gregory would never actually do anything to try and stop her, he knew the truth of her parting words too well to try something that stupid. It was all as could have been predicted before Gregory even discovered the training an hour earlier. It was what had become the norm since she had arrived at the Hilltop and she was sick of it.

“What about it Glenn,” she said pulling the watch from her pocket. “Do you think I have a chance of changing either of their minds?”

After a few seconds ticked by she said, “That’s what I thought; it’s what you’d do though.”

She put the watch back in her pocket and slowly made her way into Gregory’s office. She had been inside of it before, but had never really gave it more than a quick once over. It had similar furnishings to the rest of the manor that dominated the Hilltop’s landscape. She couldn’t see any titles on the spines of the books on the bookshelf to give an inkling as to what they may be, but she assumed that even in a place like this no one was really inclined to heavy reading; it still looked nice. Gregory sat disheveled at his impressive desk with his head in his hands, not at all seeming like the same man who had been going toe to toe with Maggie and hadn't backed down only a few moments ago. She cleared her throat.

“Yes,” he said jumping up. “Oh it’s you; what’s your name again?”

“Enid,” she said.

“Right Edith,” he said gathering himself. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“I overheard your conversation with Maggie,” she said. “I know how you feel.”

“You do, do you,” he said unconvinced.

“Yes,” she said crossing her arms. “You think she’s taking this community away from you and you don’t want to give up control.”

“Look, I get it, no one wants to give up power, if I was in your position I’d probably be doing the same thing,” she said before he could respond. “But you could be helping her instead of constantly fighting, working together to do what’s best for the community instead of being so wrapped up in your arguments that you don’t get anything done.”

“We were just fine before you showed up,” he said. “The Saviors paid us no mind and we were able to work out a decent trade pact with the Kingdom, life was good.”

“The Saviors were a problem before we showed up,” she pointed out.

“I know that,” he said. “But ever since you took out their outpost they’ve been cracking down, taking more and more.”

“That would have happened eventually anyways,” she said.

“I know,” he said.

“Look, I’m not asking for you two to be best friends or anything, but is there really anything wrong with her keeping your people prepared for the inevitable,” she said. “If Rick can’t find more willing bodies it’s all a moot point anyways except to better be able to protect the Hilltop itself; is that such a bad thing?”

“I guess not,” he said.

“Don’t fight her on it and maybe she’ll be more amenable to something you want in the future,” she said. “But if you keep fighting she’s going to fight for control and we both know who will win it then.”

As she turned to walk away he said, “You’re a smart kid Enid.”

“Not smart, just have a perspective from outside all of the bullshit,” she said with a smile.

With that she left the office feeling on top of the world. However the debatably harder task of convincing Maggie that they could work together was still ahead of her. Grabbing the watch for strength she marched herself out to where Maggie was still training the volunteers. They were doing simple physical exercises, nothing too crazy yet, but Enid could already see Maggie’s satisfaction at their progress. She walked up and tapped the other woman on the shoulder.

“What is it Enid,” she said turning around slightly.

“Can I talk to you for a few minutes,” she asked.

“Anytime,” Maggie said. “Take a break guys, we’ll all start up again in a few.”

“So what is it,” she asked turning to Enid as the crowd dispersed.

“It’s about Gregory,” she said cautiously.

“What about him,” Maggie said tensely.

“I overheard your argument earlier,” she said.

“He’s a spineless coward,” Maggie said. “Can’t he see that dying while fighting for freedom is better than a life under someone else’s thumb.”

“Maybe if you presented the idea to him in a less antagonistic manner,” she ventured.

“He’s the one that won’t even call me by my real name,” Maggie said crossing her arms. “Why should I be nice to him?”

“Because he cares about this community and its people and maybe if you actually talked things out with him instead of just yelling at each other and resorting to schoolyard bullshit you could convince him to see things your way,” she said. “As it is he just sees you taking power away from him and acts defensively.”

“Diplomacy never hurt anyone,” she continued. “I’m sure Deanna would say you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar or some other shit like that.”

“Diplomacy won’t defeat the saviors,” Maggie said.

“No,” Enid conceded. “But it will stop us from tearing ourselves apart from the inside which is exactly what you and Gregory are doing.”

“I suppose I could try to be nicer to him,” Maggie said. “For the good of the group.”

“That’s all I’m asking,” she said smiling as she walked away.

Later as she saw Maggie and Gregory watching the volunteers train together, looking like they were having at least an amicable conversation, Enid couldn’t help but smile.

“I can’t believe I actually managed to get through their thick skulls,” she said holding out the watch again. “Just like you would have done it.”

Maybe the Hilltop could finally start running smoothly again. Maybe they could start focusing on the real enemy again. She could only hope.

Chapter Text

Richard’s plan had been a solid one, better than the hope for more people to just magically appear out of nowhere and join their cause that Rick was hedging his bets on, Daryl could admit that to himself. If the plan had had nothing to do with Carol and had instead put some random stranger in harm’s way he would have sacrificed their life without a second thought. He could even admit to himself that he had probably overreacted at finding out that the plan did in fact involve Carol, he was smart enough to know that threatening potential allies could come back and bite them in the ass at some point. The plan did involve Carol though, would most likely have ended in her death and he wasn’t about to let another person he cared about die as long as he was still breathing and capable of stopping it.

He had allowed other people to plan and posture with Beth’s life, had allowed himself to be drawn into Tyreese’s “safe” plan that ultimately just ended up giving Dawn and her group the ability to draw the situation out into what it became. He wasn’t going to let anyone else use the lives of people he cared about as simply bullet points to be acknowledged and used at the discretion of whatever genius was devising each particular plan. He had been unable to protect Sophia, he had been unable to protect Hershel, he had been unable to protect Beth, and he had been unable to protect Glenn and he was dammed if he didn’t put all that he had left into protecting Carol.

Morgan had been right about one thing, they were all holding on to something. The thing he was holding on to wasn’t the hope that the assholes that roamed every corner of what had become of the world would all of a sudden become better people like he did though, he wasn’t that much of an idealist. No, he was holding on to something much more real, he was holding on to Carol and all that she represented. She was the last person besides Rick who actually understood him. If he were to lose her he would be essentially losing the last vestige of something more within himself that had cropped up during their time at the prison. Rick was his brother, they had said that and meant it to each other, but it wasn’t the same.

So, he hadn’t told her about Glenn and Abraham or what was really going on with their group’s relationship with the Saviors. If she ever found out the truth it would break her, just like she said it would, and she would launch a one-woman vendetta against the Saviors and everything they held dear. It would be just like Terminus and there was no guarantee that she would walk out of it on the other side this time. He couldn’t lose her that way either. He had let Beth go off on her own back at Grady Memorial when she had been safe and within arm’s reach and she hadn’t come back.

He was back at the Hilltop now, Maggie’s own little fiefdom to do with what she wished. Gregory was a pushover and Daryl sincerely hoped that the specter of death that seemed to constantly follow him around enacted its perverse nature upon him. If he was an unbiased observer he could admit that Maggie had been slightly unhinged since Glenn’s death, but he was unhinged himself and couldn’t blame her, wouldn’t blame her if she wanted to see him dead for his part in the whole thing, so he just let her go on the way she was. As he sat and stared out at the road he hoped that Rick would soon be making his way up that road with a new army and a plan to finally take the fight to the Saviors. Then he could finally get off his ass and do what he did best and not have to think about all that he had lost since the whole shitshow that was the apocalypse began.

He hadn’t known Sophia all that well aside from the fact that she was Carol’s daughter, but after she went missing he had made it his mission to find her and return her safely to the rest of the group. His efforts had been futile as she had been inside Hershel’s barn the entire time already turned. It had been his first failure in protecting someone.

Hershel had been a better father to him than his own deadbeat of a dad could have ever hoped to have been. He saw the good in him when not many other people had. In the end though he had fallen victim to the Governor’s madness. His second failure to protect someone.

Beth was something that he hadn’t deserved but got anyways. She had seen the good in him despite it all, it must have been a Greene family trait, and trusted him with her life wholly and without much complaint. Together they had formed something that he still wasn’t quite able to put into words and those weeks with her were still the best weeks of his life. Failing to protect her had been his most egregious error.

Glenn was a friend, an unexpected friend, but one of the greatest friends he had ever had. He had never deserved his friendship, hadn’t particularly wanted it at first, but that had never stopped Glenn. Glenn was a good person, a better person than Daryl could ever hope to be at his best and he certainly wasn’t at his best right now, and he hadn’t deserved to die like he did. It had been his own bravado and stupidity that got Glenn killed and he would never truly forgive himself for that. Just the most recent in a long list of failures that had been filling up since long before the dead overtook the living.

He wasn’t a good person, had gotten better due to the people around him, but he had never been one and wasn’t one now. He killed that Fat Joey guy without a second thought when it really wasn’t necessary just because of who he’d happened to fall in with. None of them were any better than the Saviors when you really got down to it, especially himself, and him calling them out for being monsters, doing what they did, was nothing more than full-fledged hypocrisy of the highest order. If he happened to catch a bite or a scratch from one of the dead one day or meet the end of Negan’s bat there would be those amongst the group that would miss him, maybe even shed tears, but he would deserve none of it. He had failed Sophia, he had failed Hershel, he had failed Beth, he had failed Glenn, and he would probably end up failing Carol too, but he was still holding on for dear life to the possibility that just maybe, this once, he could do what he had failed to do countless times before. Maybe, just this once before he met his inevitable demise, he could finally do something worthy of all the admiration shown to him by the people he had ultimately failed.

Chapter Text

Enid’s leaning casually against the brick wall of their high school, one headphone in blasting the familiar tones of Spotify’s Alternative playlist, only half listening as Ron and Carl have an intense debate about the latest video game release beside her. It’s one of those Call of Duty clones that seem to be in endless supply and the topic when she tunes back in seems to be about the layout of a certain divisive map within the multiplayer community. Ron’s on the side that it’s perfectly fine, one of his favorites even, while Carl lays in the camp of it’s too small to provide an effective battle experience. She checks the time on her phone and sighs when it indicates school’s been out for twenty minutes; she could be home right now if she had simply taken the bus. She leans back into the wall again, closes her eyes, and finds herself wishing that they were talking about an RPG so she could actually take an interest in the conversation.

“Dammit,” Ron says quickly several minutes later. “Do either of you remember what Ezekiel said about the next theater club meeting.”

“Forgetting your shit already,” Carl says teasingly. “I can hear Liz clinching the presidency as we speak.”

“Don’t even joke about that shit man,” Ron pleads. “She’s a tyrant.”

“After school next Monday,” she speaks up from her spot on the wall. “Just some preliminary stuff to get the schoolyear started, shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes.”

“At least someone has my back,” Ron says.

The sight of a familiar green car saves her from being subjected to anymore of their bickering and she smiles as Glenn rolls down the window and waves at them.

“Try not to kill each other while I’m gone,” she says smirking. “And if you end up making out at least take pictures.”

A chorus of ews rings out from behind her as she opens a back door laughing.

“What’s so funny,” Glenn says in that confused way that must be inherent in parental figures when it comes to those they’re parenting.

“Nothing you’d get,” she says letting him down gently. “Where’s Maggie?”

“We’re picking her up from work,” he says reaching up to adjust the mirror before pulling out of the school’s parking lot. “There was a campaign blunder that they had to rally the troops for so she’s been stuck at Headquarters all day.”

“What did Deanna do, kiss a baby too hard,” she says chuckling again at what could have possibly been considered a campaign blunder for the consummate professional that was the tenacious Congresswoman.

“I didn’t really get the details,” he says. “How was school?”

“The usual,” she replies. “The Scarlet Letter is the most boring book I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

“It can get much worse,” he says laughing lightly. “Jane Eyre is like three times as long.”

A comfortable silence settles over the car after that and she returns her attention to the music still playing in her ear. She watches out the window as first the suburbs and eventually the familiar skyline of downtown Alexandria flow across her field of vision. They pull to a stop in front of the moderately sized office building that’s serving as Deanna’s reelection campaign headquarters and Maggie’s current base of employment. She’s had her foot in the door of the political game for a few years now, but this is her first opportunity at being campaign manager. Glenn shoots her a text on his phone to tell her they’ve arrived and they both silently hope that they won’t have to wait too much longer for her to be released. She comes out of the building several minutes later and the bags under her eyes make it all the more clear to Enid that this vacation they’re about to go on is necessary. When Maggie achieves her eventual goal of running for office herself and wins they won’t be able to do this quite as easily.

“Hey you two,” she greets softly getting into the passenger seat.

“Hey,” Enid and Glenn say almost in unison.

Maggie goes on to talk about her day, apparently the campaign blunder had something to do with an aide and not Deanna herself, as they make their way out to the airport. Enid repeats her earlier comments about The Scarlet Letter and Maggie tells her that she could be reading political philosophy by Aristotle. Glenn remarks that that doesn’t count in the context of their discussion since she read that for a college course. Enid doesn’t even want to think about college, she’s still got one more year of high school cliques to navigate, but smiles at the easy banter anyways. Her life wasn’t always this easy going and she counts herself lucky that two people so loving and in love took an interest in her.

The truth is that Maggie and Glenn aren’t actually that much older than her, both in their late twenties with thirty approaching faster than they’d like. They were both barely out of college themselves when they walked into the group home that first day. They couldn’t have kids themselves, so they went the adoption route and it would have been perfectly logical for them to go for one of the younger kids. For some reason they saw something in the antisocial fourteen year old that she was back then and chose her instead. It was the kind of dream that she had allowed herself to have as a much younger child, new to the system, who had just lost both of her parents in a car crash and had no one else to take care of her and sometimes she still didn’t believe it, but every time she’s woken up and pinched herself to make sure it’s real since she’s stayed right where she is.

Their flight is long and uneventful and by the time they touch down in Atlanta Enid is eager to get out and stretch her legs. Maggie’s brother in law Daryl is there waiting for them, wearing his usual look of disinterest, and they all squeeze into his four door truck after reacquiring their bags. Enid’s learned over the years that he’s actually a big softie under the rough-looking exterior. He has stories though about the crazy things he and his brother used to get up to in their younger days and she always makes it a point to have him tell her one or two while Beth isn’t around to filter. Beth is Maggie’s sister and Enid assumes that since she’s not with Daryl picking them up that she’s probably still busy with the after school daycare that she volunteers at. She’s also a teacher at the local elementary school and Enid’s never been able to understand how she manages to put up with little kids for so long.

They leave the city far behind and eventually she can see the fields of the Greene Family Farm stretching out into the distance before her. The truck stops at the end of the dirt driveway in front of the large farmhouse and before she’s even unbuckled her seatbelt Daryl is already carrying some of their bags inside. Enid squints a little at a fence line in the distance and thinks she can make out Maggie’s brother Shawn with a hammer, hard at work. Maggie’s father and stepmother make their way out of the house a few moments after Daryl’s unceremonious entrance. She’s not typically one for hugging, or physical interactions in general, but she gives each of them one all the same before carrying her own bag inside and making her way upstairs to the guest room that she always claims as hers when they come here. They’ve only got a few days before she has to get back to school, Maggie has to get back to the campaign grind, and Glenn has to get back to his delivery job. For now though, as she lays back in the familiar guest bed, she can’t help but think that life is good.