Rick couldn’t believe he had actually agreed to this.
No. Not agreed to. Rick couldn’t believe that he had volunteered for this.
The situation had been dire, he told himself. It was a matter of protecting his people, his family, a way of ensuring their safety from Negan and his men. It was his duty as a leader to do everything in his power to keep his group and everyone at Alexandria as shielded from Negan’s wrath as possible. They’d already lost too much. They were desperate. After watching Abraham and Glenn die at Negan’s hands, knowing he was the one who had led them to slaughter, Rick was desperate.
And in that desperation, Rick did something that he never did, that he had thought, prior to this night, that he would be too proud to do: he begged.
His group, having just watched their friends and family have their heads bashed in by Negan, was in various states of shock and grief, kneeling in a circle. Some openly wept: Maggie, Eguene, Sasha. Some, like Michonne and Carl, wore looks of absolute, unabashed rage. They had been cornered and beaten, there was no way around that. There was no fighting their way out of this, there was no negotiating. Negan and the Saviors vastly outnumbered them, by exactly how much none of them knew, and Negan was positively gloating over his display of dominance. The man had been borderline giddy, cracking jokes and making a point to get in Rick’s face. His attitude was completely disconcerting in the face of the atrocities he’d just committed.
And then, his whole demeanor shifted back to one of dominance and control as he’d laid out the new rules: half of what they currently owned was now his, and half of the supplies they scavenged from now on would be turned over to him and his men every week. The ever-growing horror on his group members’ faces said it all: this was not a deal that they and the people of Alexandria would be able to hold up.
Supplies had been dwindling for a while now, as they had been rapidly clearing out all of the buildings in the surrounding area. Not only that, but they were down two of their best men: Glenn’s swiftness and stealth and Abraham’s fearlessness and brute strength had been invaluable, and the sheltered people of Alexandria were hardly well equipped for the increasingly long and dangerous supply runs. Alexandria had already been struggling to get by, and giving up so much every week would have meant people going without food, without medical care.
Rick thought of Maggie; pregnant, with a complication that they hadn’t even been able to address yet due to them being taken hostage, and suddenly without a husband because of Negan. Because Rick had led them straight to Negan. He owed it to everyone, but he especially owed it to her.
“So, you sorry shits got all that? Any more objections? Not that I’d recommend that, but hey! Lucille’s always up for some more fun…” Negan trailed off, grinning down at them.
Rick heard Eugene let out a frightened sob somewhere off to his left. In his peripheral vision, he could see Maggie, hunched over slightly, silently weeping as she looked on at the remains of her husband. Rick swallowed his pride.
“Please.” He choked out, “We…we can’t afford to give that much. We have a lot of people, injured people, and our supplies have been running out. We can’t…we can’t do that.” Rick pleaded.
Negan, shockingly, was unmoved.
“Really! Is that so? You know, this isn’t really a negotiation here, Rick,” Negan smirked, mocking him. “Did you not pick up on that? Was I not clear? Because I can absolutely help you understand how fucking serious I am about this shit. I honestly thought two was enough to get through to you, I was gonna be nice, you know? Especially considering just how many of my men you people took out. But maybe you still don’t quite get it?”
Negan lunged at Rick, Lucille held over his head, and then swung down, the bloodied bat whistling past Rick’s face and slamming into the ground beside him, making him flinch. Negan grabbed Rick’s face with gloved fingers again, kneeling down until he could look the other man in the eye.
“You. Belong. To me. Your people belong to me. Your supplies belong to me. Everything that you own is no longer yours, do you get that?” Negan barked, his voice rising. “I’m not hosting a fucking party here, Rick. This is not a RSVP-check-yes-or-no situation. You. Do not. Have anything to offer me other than your supplies. You have people to provide for? Tough shit!” Negan tightened his grip on Rick’s jaw, “So do I. And you and your little group are gonna be helping me out with that now. Do you understand?”
Rick breathed in deeply, trying to keep himself steady. “I-” he stopped, then started again, steeling himself.
“I understand. I know, we fucked up. I fucked up. We killed your men, we’re paying for it. I get that. But we can’t provide what you’re asking for. Please,” Rick, paused, hating himself for begging, hating that he’s backed himself into this corner. “Please, just give us more time. It takes us at least 3 days to make a worthwhile supply run, and even then it’s not nearly enough. There’s got to be something. Something else I can offer you, some way you’ll give us more time to get you what you want.”
Rick’s voice was steady, thankfully, but he was internally panicking. He had no fucking clue what the hell he had to bargain with here. He had nothing. He had no idea why he bothered to say any of that, and for all he knew all it served to do was further piss Negan off. Rick worked to keep himself composed, to maintain eye contact with Negan, to urge him to understand their situation.
Negan held his gaze, his dark eyes intense. He smirked.
“You sure do have some pretty eyes, Rick,” he said, his voice unreadable.
And then his demeanor shifted, once again, from killer to charismatic. His face broke into a wide grin, and he stood up, releasing Rick’s jaw.
“You know what?” Negan asked, picking up Lucille and swinging her back over his shoulder. “You’re damn right, Rick. You’re absolutely goddamn right, your little group’s not gonna be able to get their shit together enough to get my shit every damn week. Just look at y’all…biggest bunch of sorry, sobbing fuckers I’ve seen in quite a while.” He punctuated the word with a dramatic thrust of his hips. “And that’s just…well, that not great, now is it?” He asked, his voice mocking. “That’s just not great at all. A bunch of sorry, sobbing fuckers who can’t get shit done is one goddamn bitch of a situation. So I’ll tell you what, Rick. I’ll give you a fun little choice here. You got three options."
"Option one! You and your shit-for-brains group do your damnedest to do what I’ve asked of you, which, according to you, is gonna mean some of your people are gonna be left wanting for a lot.” Negan paused, letting this sink in, before moving on.
“Option two!” He barked, “Since you have basically just told me that your people can’t do shit for me, I’ll kill you. All of you. Let Lucille have her way with each and every one of these sniveling fuckers on their knees beside you. Make sure my men get back to your camp and wipe. You. Out. Nobody left standing. And then we take all your shit for ourselves.” He grinned wickedly at the look on Rick’s face.
“Or, you have option three. Now, option three is available to you purely out of the goodness of my heart, Rick. I’m offering you this solely because I am a stand-up guy, you get that?” He asked.
Rick nodded, “Yes”.
“Good.” Negan beamed, “So, option three. You take option three, your people report to me every three weeks. Anyone critically injured or sick, we’ll take care of personally. I’m not talkin’ the sniffles, but if it looks like you’re gonna lose someone, we’ll step in.” Negan paused, letting Rick take in what he just said. Rick can hardly believe what he’s hearing. It’s not ideal, but it’s three times the amount of time they had before, and medical care for their wounded. Medical care for Maggie and the baby. He looked up at Negan suspiciously.
“In exchange for what?” Rick asked. Clearly, this offer wasn’t going to come without a price tag. He didn’t think it was possible for Negan’s grin to get any bigger.
He was wrong.
“Oh, that’s the best part, Rick.” He said gleefully. “You, personally, get the best end of this deal by far.”
Rick stared blankly at the other man, not understanding what he was trying to get at. Negan proceeded to squat down in front of him again, not grabbing his face this time, just making sure he’s looking Rick straight in the eye.
“For my lenience, Rick, for the care and keeping of your people, all you have to do is marry me.”