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The Truth

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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.”

Chapter Text

All you have to do is marry me.”

Rick had spluttered. Stuttered out half-formed nonsense words. Despite the situation, he’d actually laughed. It was a joke, right? He was supposed to laugh.

Except it hadn’t been a joke.

Negan had interrupted Rick’s fit of nervous laughter to explain himself:

“I’m not joking here, Rick. I mean it. You marry me, I go easy on your people.”

Rick had stopped laughing. He stared at Negan, mouth slightly open and eyes narrowed, trying to work out exactly what the hell was going on. Negan was standing now, looking at him intently. He wasn’t laughing. He wasn’t grinning. He was serious.

“What—why?” was all Rick could manage.

Negan shrugged. “You’re pretty. I get bored. I’ve got a couple of wives back at the Sanctuary, but I haven’t found a guy willing to say ‘I do’ yet.” Then the devilish smirk broke back out.

“And what better way to show that I own you completely?”

Rick didn’t know what to say to that.

After a long stretch of Rick just staring, completely dumbstruck by the proposal, Negan cleared his throat.

“So,” he said, his tone impatient, “What’s it gonna be? One, two, or three? You gonna let your people starve, let them all get beaten to death, or are you gonna marry me?”

Rick shook his head, trying to clear it so that he could form a coherent thought. What the fuck was happening? What the hell kind of insane person did this? He looked around at his group, his friends, his family. Battered, broken, grieving. They didn’t deserve this. He had been the one to lead them here. The weight of their grief, the weight of Glenn and Abraham’s deaths hung heavy over his head.

It wasn’t much of a choice, after all.

“Okay,” Rick said, tearing his gaze from the people around him to look Negan in the eye. “Okay. Option three. You leave my people alone.” Rick said.

Negan cocked his head, face like a Cheshire cat, amusement dancing in his eyes.

“And?” he asked.

“And,” Rick said, taking a deep breath, “I’ll marry you.”


 

That had been two days ago.

The “wedding” was today. Right now, in fact.

It had been a short engagement.

As far as weddings go, it wasn’t much of one. Rick had a feeling it was just for show, especially since Negan already had multiple wives. But here he was anyway, standing across from Negan in some part of the huge factory that the Saviors operated out of, with a man who may or may not have been an actual reverend, reciting words about death doing them part.

If only, Rick thought.

And then they were pronounced married, and Negan grinned his smug, shit-eating grin and looked at Rick.

“Time for me to kiss my bride.”

Rick’s breath caught in his throat. This was it.

He’d never kissed another man before. He looked at Negan and steeled himself, prepared for the man to grab him and make a big show of it, really rub it in that Rick was his now. He hadn’t known Negan long, but he’d seen enough to get the feel for what he was like.

Instead, he was surprised by large hands cupping the sides of his face. Gentle lips pressed against his, only for a couple seconds, before Negan pulled back, his smile a bit…softer than before, maybe? Surely not. The display of tenderness completely dumbfounded Rick. This was the man who had slaughtered Abraham and Glenn without a second thought, laughing while he did it. This was the man who threatened to wipe out all of Alexandria without batting an eye. Rick had not expected a gentle kiss and a soft smile from this man.

And then Negan let out a whoop, unceremoniously swept Rick into his arms before he had time to protest, and carried him down the aisle and out the door, and the moment of tenderness was over before Rick could decide if it was genuine or not.


 

“This is too fucking hilarious”

Negan laughed as he dropped Rick onto the bed in the small room that had been made up for him at the Sanctuary.

His room. His room that he would be sharing with Negan. At least, on the nights he wasn’t with his wives. The whole situation was so goddamn ridiculous that Rick almost started to laugh along with the other man. Probably a sign of a nervous breakdown, but still. He was married. To Negan. Because Negan thought it was funny. They were married because he got a kick out of it.

Rick looked around the room, taking in his new living quarters. It wasn’t nearly as nice as the house he shared with Michonne in Alexandria, but it wasn’t a complete dump. There was an overhead light, but it was off, and right now the only light in the room was coming from a lamp on the bedside table. There was a worn brown leather armchair sitting in a corner of the room, facing toward a small television. A stack of VHS tapes sat on the floor beside it. Rick couldn’t remember the last time he watched tv. It seemed impossibly strange that it was here, like something plucked from another time.

The room had a small connected bathroom, and the window on the far wall looked out toward a line of trees blocking the view of the fence that surrounded the Sanctuary. It had been dark outside for a while. An evening wedding. The bed was big enough for two to fit comfortably.

Oh.

The bed.

Rick looked up at Negan. The man had discarded his leather jacket onto the armchair, and stretched, fingers laced together, arms over his head so that his gray t-shirt rode up a bit, exposing a small strip of his stomach. Rick’s heart hammered in his chest. He hadn’t had much time to think about what exactly marrying Negan would entail. It had all happened so fast, and it was all so fucking strange…Rick hadn’t even stopped to consider that he may have given up a little more than his dignity with this arrangement. Surely….surely Negan just wanted to mess with him? This was all just a mind game, a way of keeping an eye on Rick, of controlling him. Surely Negan didn’t want to---

“So! Wedding night.” Negan interrupted Rick’s increasingly panicked thoughts, crossing his arms and looking Rick up and down. “I know you’ve done this before, Rick, you’re no stranger to being married,” Negan said, indicating the wedding band on Rick’s left hand, something he still couldn’t bring himself to take off, no matter how long Lori had been gone. Having Negan, of all people, bring attention to it, especially in this context, made Rick visibly flinch. Negan chuckled in response.

“Hey, no need for that. Marriage is great! I find it suits me real nice. I’m a great fucking husband.” At that, Negan gave Rick a smile and started undressing, undoing his belt and pulling it from the loops of his pants. Rick’s eyes widened in panic. He could feel his heart in his throat, beating wildly, his face growing hot. He backed up a bit, unconsciously, shifting himself further back on the bed, away from Negan. He felt sick. How had he not considered this possibility? Negan was deranged, violent, clearly enjoyed dominating those he considered to be beneath him. How the hell had Rick not realized that this would happen?

Negan wasn’t looking at him anymore, and he had stepped out of his pants, clad in the gray shirt and a pair of black boxers. He kicked his pants to a corner of the room and took a step toward the bed, looking back up at Rick.

Rick was shaking slightly, feeling absolutely nauseous and terrified picturing what was about to happen. He was not prepared for this, not even slightly. He opened his mouth, not knowing what to say, not knowing if there was anything that he could say to get the other man to change his mind about what he was about to do.

“P-please-” he started, all traces of dignity leaving him as he turned to begging once again. “I-I’m not…don’t-” Rick stammered, visibly trembling in fear. He should probably be more ashamed of how strongly he was reacting, but he couldn’t seem to get ahold of himself.

Negan stopped his advance toward the bed, taking in Rick’s terrified state. For a moment, he looked genuinely confused, and then he actually laughed.

Rick swore he could taste bile in his throat. He looked away.

Negan’s laugh stopped short.

“Hey! Shit. Look, Rick, it’s not like that. Hey, Rick, look at me,” Negan said, his voice suddenly serious. Rick, still tense, slowly tilted his head up to meet Negan’s eyes. The other man had his hands up, and took a step away from the bed.

“Shit, Rick, look, I’m no rapist, okay? That kind of shit doesn’t fly with me. I’m sorry I freaked you out, that’s really not what I was trying to get at there. I’m not gonna make you do anything you don’t wanna do. We’re gonna have us a nice, abstinent wedding night, okay?” Negan looked genuinely concerned. Rick’s fear faded into confusion as Negan’s words sunk in.

“Look, I’m bone tired, and I just want to hit the hay, alright? Getting married is exhausting,” Negan grinned, but Rick just stared at him blankly. Was he…trying to comfort Rick? Lighten the mood? Rick couldn’t comprehend what was happening.

Negan sighed and walked over to the side of the bed opposite Rick, pulling the blanket back and sliding in. He rolled onto his side, facing Rick.

“I’m serious, Rick. I’m not a fucking rapist. You can call me a lot of things, but you can’t call me that. Our marital bed will stay pure until you give me the okay,” Negan grinned, waiting for a response.

“I-I’m not…I’m not going to—ever—“ Rick stumbled over his words, shaking his head vigorously, eager to let this man know that there was no way in hell that he would be “giving him the okay”. Negan rolled his eyes and patted the bed, indicating he wanted Rick to lie down. After a moment, Rick obliged, feeling pretty tired himself, and slid under the comforter, still fully clothed.

“Get some sleep. Tomorrow you got a lot of work to do. You need to whip those little shits of yours into shape so they can actually be of some use to me,” Negan said, rolling over to turn off the lamp. Rick settled into the bed, turning onto his side and facing the wall, away from Negan. He heard Negan shuffle slightly on the other side of the bed, and then felt the weight of an arm flung over his waist and the warmth of a body against his back, causing him to jump. He heard Negan chuckle behind him in the dark.

“Just a little spooning, Rick, don’t flip your shit. And by the way,” Negan said, his lips so close that Rick could feel the warmth of the other man’s breath on the back of his neck, “You’ll give me the okay eventually. There will come a day where you’ll be begging for it.”

Chapter Text

Rick woke up to light streaming through the window, shining directly into his still-bleary eyes. He shifted slightly so that the light was less intense and let his eyes close again. There was a heavy arm draped around his waist and warm breath against the back of his neck, and he felt a comforting sense of security for a moment before he felt the unfamiliar scratch of stubble against his shoulder, causing him to seize up in confusion. That’s when he remembered: he wasn’t home in Alexandria, and it wasn’t Michonne’s familiar arm draped over him. It was Negan’s.

This was not a great realization to wake up to.

“Good morning, dearest husband!” Negan’s voice rumbled from behind him. “How’d you sleep? You sure as hell seemed to love having my arm around you. I’m gonna be honest here, I thought for sure you were gonna flip your shit when I tried that, but you just fucking took it! I fucking knew it wasn’t gonna be hard to get in your pants,” Negan chortled, sitting up and rolling out of bed. Rick looked at him, disgust on his face.

“I didn’t let you do that shit for me!” He snapped, face flushing. “What the fuck am I supposed to say to that? You’ve already proved that you’re completely fucking unreasonable, you really think I’m gonna risk pissing you off over something like that?” Rick glared as Negan’s face quickly changed from amused to angry.

“The fuck did I tell you last night?” Negan snapped. “I’m not forcing you to do anything you don’t fucking wanna do. I don’t know what your fucking limits are, so if I do something like that, you have the go-ahead to tell me to fuck off. I’m not gonna force you into anything physical. That’s not who I am, Rick. I knew off the bat that you weren’t gonna be okay with jumping right into fucking, so I didn’t try that. But everything else, you’re gonna have to actually speak up and tell me to fuck off if you don’t want.”

Negan’s tone was clipped and annoyed. He took a deep breath, then his teasing grin returned. “You definitely liked cuddling with me, though. I could tell.” Rick spluttered indignantly, but before he could form a proper response, he was distracted by Negan stripping off his shirt and stepping out of his boxers.

“What the hell?” Rick yelled, averting his eyes so he could stare at the floor. He couldn’t do this. The man had no boundaries. Negan just stared at him like he was a complete idiot.

“What? I’m gonna take a fucking shower. Do you have a problem with that, too, princess? Can you really not handle seeing a dick? Because if that’s the case, you’re going to have a real fucking hard time.” With that, Negan walked into the bathroom.

Rick just sat there, unsure of how to react. He could hear the shower starting up in the next room. He groaned, ground the heels of his hands into his eyes, and let himself fall back against the bed. He laid there for a while, unsure of what to do, trying to convince himself that this wasn’t actually happening, that this was just some kind of insane joke, some twisted nightmare that he would surely wake up from at any moment-

“Look alive, princess! There’s about to be a dick in the room, so unless you’ve managed to grow the fuck up in the last ten minutes, you should avert your precious eyes.” Negan’s voice boomed from beside the bed. Rick grunted and avoided looking at Negan, whose towel was slung over his shoulder instead of around his waist like a normal, decent human being, and headed into the bathroom himself, closing the door behind him. Just as he was about to turn on the shower, he heard Negan call through the door,

“Be quick, you’ve got a lot of shit to do for me today! You’re gonna meet Dwight at the front gate and he’ll set you up with a ride back to Alexandria for the day.” He called. “Oh! And I’ll see you back here tonight.”


 

Being back in Alexandria was…uncomfortable, to say the least. Dwight, one of Negan’s upper-level workers, had met him at the gate and insisted on driving him there, like a child being dropped off at school. To say it had been degrading was an understatement.

And then there was facing his people, his friends. Knowing that they all knew what had gone on, that he’d fucking married the man who had killed two of their people and was holding their supplies hostage from now on….knowing that they all probably assumed a lot about exactly what that marriage entailed. There was no way they could respect him now, no way they would ever be able to call him their leader again. If the defeat at the hands of the Saviors hadn’t solidified that in their mind, his utter submission to Negan definitely had.

Rick could feel their eyes on him as he walked through the gates, and he pointedly avoided their gazes, not wanting to see the judgment and disgust he would undoubtedly find there. He passed a few people on his way in, but he stared straight ahead, head up, trying to seem confident and unbothered. He may not have their respect, but there was no reason for him to act like it.

Facing his own group, the people he was closest to, would be the worst. The first thing he did upon arriving was head straight to his house-his old house, he reminded himself. As humiliating and uncomfortable as it would be, he had to see his family. He had to see Carl and Judith, see Michonne. He had to let them know he was okay, that everything would be okay, to tell them he was so, so sorry.

Walking into his old house, knowing that he no longer lived there, with the people he loved most, was a punch in the gut. He climbed the stairs, unable to even look at the bedroom he and Michonne had shared just a few short days ago. The thought of her sleeping in their bed, alone, Carl and Judith in the rooms across the hall, while he was in bed next to Negan was…far, far too much for him to handle.

“Dad?”

Rick spun around, coming face to face with his son. Carl was holding Judith in his arms, his face unreadable. Rick took a step forward.

“Carl…Carl, how-how are you? Is everything here okay? Are you okay? I-” Rick broke off, unsure of what to say. He took another step forward until he could reach out and touch Carl, putting one hand on his shoulder and the other on the back of Judith’s head.

“I’m…fine. Things have been tense here but…we’re fine. We’re handling it. People are training to go out on supply runs more often, we’ve all been working.” Carl’s voice was even, his face conflicted. He didn’t react to Rick’s hand on his shoulder. It was a physical blow to Rick, seeing his son closed off from him like this.

He couldn't blame him, though. How the hell could he? After everything that had happened, how did he expect Carl to react to him?

“Carl, I-” Rick stopped, then restarted, his words rushing out all at once. “Carl, I’m so, so sorry. I know-I know what you must think of me, of all of this, and I don’t blame you, if I was you, I’d-” Rick broke off for a moment before continuing, his voice wavering with emotion.

“I know that I screwed up. I got us into this mess, I did this to us, I know that this must just seem like I’ve abandoned you on top of everything else-I just…I didn’t know what else to do. I had to keep you safe, Carl, keep everyone safe, but especially you and Judith. I love you both so much, you need to understand-I know I’m asking for a lot here. And I’m not asking you to agree with the choices I’ve made, just know that everything I’ve done, everything I’m doing, I’m doing it because I think it’s the right thing, that it’s what’s best for everyone. But that doesn't mean I don't wish it could be different, that I'm not sorry that this is how everything went down. I am sorry. I’m so, so sorry, Carl” Rick said, his voice cracking at the end, unable to contain the depth of his remorse for what his choices have done to his family.

Carl looked down for a long moment, clenching and unclenching his jaw before he finally met Rick’s eyes. “Dad, I know. I know that you’re just-you’re just doing what you can to protect people. I know that. But these people-the fact that you’re not even trying to fight them-I know that we’re not as strong as them, but how can we not even try, dad? After what they did-to Abraham, to Glenn-” Carl’s voice rose, tinged with anger and confusion. His hands were clenched into fists, and he took a deep breath, calming himself.

“I’m trying to understand. I really am. But knowing that-that he has you, that you just gave in to him…it’s just going to take me some time.” Rick nodded, and tentatively pulled Carl toward him. Carl moved into his arms, and Rick relaxed as he held Carl and Judith close. Carl may not understand, and Rick wouldn’t expect him to, but he still loved him. And that’s all he could really ask.


 

Rick stayed for a bit, playing with Judith and talking to Carl, getting updated on how things were running in Alexandria. Before he left, he kissed Judith on the head and pulled Carl in for another hug, the feeling of his son's arms around him giving him more comfort than he thought possible. He gave Carl's shoulder one last squeeze before heading out to do the various tasks Negan assigned him with: supply checks, weapons training, making sure that the people of Alexandria were getting prepared for what they’re going to need to be doing from now on.

After his uncomfortable but ultimately comforting confrontation with Carl, Rick found it marginally easier to handle seeing everyone else. Going into it, he figured that the worst part of seeing his group again would be losing their respect.

I wasn’t. It was the concern. The pity.

Not that the loss of respect wasn’t uncomfortable. Rosita and Sasha side-eyed him as he walked past, and Spencer, the absolute shit that he was, looked almost smug. But Rick was used to there being a couple people now and again that took issue with his authority, so that that wasn’t the part that got to him the most.

It was Eugene not being able to look him in the eye. It was Olivia’s pat on the arm and assurance that she could watch Judith while Michonne was gone during the day. It was the concern in Maggie’s voice as she asked if he was okay. Maggie, the woman who was still recovering from Glenn’s death and the (thankfully non-fatal) complication with her pregnancy, felt the need to ask if he was okay.

Even Daryl, whom Rick could normally count on to be as removed as possible from anything even remotely approaching “that touchy-feely-bullshit”, as he would so eloquently call it, gave Rick an awkward pat on the back when he saw him.

Of course, Daryl also followed it up with a “I’m gonna kill that fuckin’ freak-show greaser-lookin’ bastard”, and then immediately changed the subject to how he was going to start helping Carl out with shooting now that he was having some aiming issues due to loss of depth perception, which made Rick feel slightly better.

It wasn’t until evening, when Rick was almost done for the day, that he caught sight of Michonne.

She was returning from a hunting trip, a deer slung over her shoulders, and she stopped cold when she saw him. There were about twenty yards in between them and Rick was unsure of what to do, suddenly questioning whether she would want to speak to him at all. After a few moments of hesitation, she walked toward him, coming to a halt in front of him and dropping the deer on the ground beside her.

“Michonne,” Rick started, once again feeling at a loss for words to properly say what needed to be said.

“Rick, I…are you…okay? What are you doing back here?” She asked, he voice full of concern.

“I’m okay. I’m fine. I’m here to help with training, and-and to take stock of supplies and report back. I’ll be here, sometimes. During the day.”

Rick inwardly cringed, wishing he hadn’t said the last part, knowing it drew too much attention to the question of what he would be doing at night. He didn’t want her thinking about that. He knew it was foolish to think she hadn’t considered it.

Michonne looked pained, as if his presence hurt her in some way. Of course it does, Rick thought to himself. We were together, we were becoming a family, and now you’re…he couldn’t even think the words right now, in front of her. It was all too much.

Michonne leaned forward, resting her hand on Rick’s arm, a comforting gesture that made Rick feel better and worse all at once. “Rick…” she started, “Has he…what is he…is he hurting you?” She tilted her head imploringly, and while there was no judgment in her eyes, Rick couldn’t meet her gaze.

“He’s not…it’s not like that. He hasn’t done anything to me. I’m okay.” He said gruffly, looking off to the side of her shoulder.

“Rick, look at me. You can tell me. I’m not- if he’s-you need to be able to talk about it to someone,” she said, still with that note of concern in her voice. Rick swallowed, and met her eyes, his face a mess of emotion.

“I’m telling you the truth. He’s not…hurting me. He hadn’t made me do anything but sleep in the same goddamn bed as him. It’s insane. He’s insane, it’s the most insane situation-I don’t know what to make of it, Michonne, I don’t,” Rick said, his voice becoming manic, his frustration and confusion pouring out all at once.

“I do not fucking know what his game is, it sounds so stupid- he- I fucking married him, Michonne, and he fucking slept beside me with his arm over me like this was all some huge game, like it was normal-”Rick broke off, unsure of what else to say.

Michonne’s face was steady, her eyes gentle. She was trying to give him space to let it all out, to help him make sense of something that couldn’t be made sense of. Rick just stood there, breathing heavy, unsure if his sudden outburst helped him to feel any better. Before he could decide, there was a honk outside the gate, and they both turned toward it.

Dwight was back to collect Rick. Visiting hours were over. Rick turned back toward Michonne, and she squeezed his arm before dropping it and stooping down to collect the deer back off the ground.  

Rick wanted to say something more. He wanted to tell her he was sorry, but the words seemed to stick in his throat as he watched her walk away.


 

The ride back to the sanctuary was quiet, thankfully. When they got back, Rick headed back to his room without being told to do so, strangely looking forward to it. He needed to lie down, to sleep and hopefully take his mind off of the absolute shitshow that was his life right now.

When he opened the door, Negan was already there, laying on the bed, book in hand. He was clad in a t shirt and boxers, like the night before.

Negan looked up when Rick entered the room, grinning broadly as he shut the door behind him. “Howdy, Rick. How was your first day back? Were all your little pals just pissing their pants worried what was happening to their poor precious leader?”

The thought seemed to amuse him. Rick ignored this, and avoided eye contact. He just wanted to go to sleep. He had put up with side-glances and awkwardness and unwanted sympathy all day and he didn’t have the energy to deal with Negan’s ridiculous teasing. Rick gritted his teeth and headed over to his side of the bed, about to get in when Negan stopped him by putting a hand out.

“I know you were probably more than a little shook up last night, so I didn’t mention how fucking weird it was that you slept fully clothed, shoes and all, but I’m gonna point it out tonight: that’s fucking weird, Rick. Is that some kind of weird quirk of yours or are you just shy?”

Negan’s eyes were glinting with amusement. More teasing. Though, Rick had to admit it, he had a point. Last night he’d been so disoriented and freaked out he hadn’t thought to undress. And now that Negan had pointed it out, it was uncomfortable. Not that it wouldn’t be already, but definitely more so now.

He didn’t exactly savor the thought of undressing in front of Negan. But it was that or awkwardly sleep next to him fully dressed every night, knowing that every time he did so it was admitting that he was too embarrassed to get undressed. And that wasn’t something Rick wanted to deal with.

So he walked over toward the dresser next to the tv and grabbed a t-shirt out of one of the drawers he had hastily shoved his clothes into and headed toward the bathroom.

Which, he should have known, was a mistake. Just as Rick was stepping into the bathroom to change, he heard Negan bark out a laugh.

“What’s the matter, Rick? To embarrassed to change clothes in front of your own husband?”

Rick visibly cringed at the word husband and Negan laughed again. The sheer number of times the man laughed at things Rick did was gratingly annoying, and at this point Rick didn’t want to give him any more excuses to do so.

He swallowed his pride, walked to the other side of the room, wrenching off his jacket and tossing it onto the worn armchair in the corner. A petty part of him wanted to throw the jacket at Negan’s obnoxious face, but he resisted the impulse, knowing that it would only serve to provoke more sarcastic commentary from the other man.

He could feel Negan’s eyes on him as he stripped off his shirt, slipping on the new one as quickly as he could. Rick tried to ignore the feeling of Negan watching him as he undid his belt and kicked off his jeans. He could feel his face heat up a bit, and he absolutely hated himself for it.

Negan was still watching him as Rick slid into bed, careful not to brush up against the other man. He continued to pointedly avoid eye contact as he turned onto his side, facing away from Negan like the night before.

"Not much of a talker, are you, Rick?" Negan mused as he set his book down on the side table and switched off the lamp. 

Rick continued to ignore him. Negan's inability to just shut the fuck up for even a second was possibly even worse than sharing a bed with him. Rick just wanted to sleep. That’s all he asked for, just a little bit of peace. He was so tired that he began to drift off almost immediately.

And then, like the night before, Rick felt Negan’s arm being slung over his waist, and the warmth of his body directly behind him. Rick suppressed a frustrated sigh, and attempted to ignore the unwanted contact as he drifted off.

Chapter Text

The next week went along very much the same as that first day: wake up to Negan, head to Alexandria to train people or go out on a run, and then come back to the sanctuary at night and fall asleep with Negan’s arm around him.

Negan, for the most part, seemed to respect the majority of Rick’s boundaries, minus the cuddling, and their interactions were somewhat limited due to both of them being busy from early in the morning until late at night. Rick found that he could mostly avoid him by just going to sleep.

Of course, Negan noticed that Rick was avoiding interacting with him as much as possible. Rick figured Negan probably knew that he was going to have to be rather ruthless in pursuing Rick’s time, and the only reason he waited was to give Rick time to adjust to his new situation. Which, he thought, was an oddly caring gesture, considering that Negan had basically forced him into marriage and was all but keeping him hostage.

However, after a week or so, Negan had clearly decided that Rick’s adjustment period was over, because he started pushing for more time together.

It started with Negan insisting that Rick eat breakfast with him in the mornings. Previously, Rick had been eating at the large communal dining area, quickly shoveling down whatever gruel-like meal that was being served that day before heading out to Alexandria.

Despite the truly terrible food, Rick had enjoyed it, as it was one of the few times he had to himself anymore.

And then one morning as he was about to leave, Negan flung out his arm to block Rick’s path as he tried to walk out the door.

“You know, Rick, you make me feel like a real shitty husband.” He said, shaking his head in mock disappointment. Rick huffed out a frustrated sigh, something he found himself doing often around Negan.

“Why’s that?” He asked, his tone indicating that he just wanted this conversation to be over. Negan frowned.

“See, that right there, Rick!” He said. “It’s that fucking attitude. You act like it’s the end of the fucking world that you’re here, being taken care of-” Rick sputtered, cutting Negan off and making his eyes narrow.

“I’m sorry, Rick. You have something to fucking say?” His face was focused and displeased as he waited for a response. Rick glared up at him in defiance.

“I’m so sorry I’m not more thrilled to be here, with the man responsible for killing two of my people and-” he stopped when he saw Negan rolling his eyes, like Rick was somehow the unreasonable one in this situation.

“Jesus, Rick. You hold a hell of a fucking grudge, you know that?” Negan said, looking annoyed. He held Rick’s gaze for a few seconds before he seemed to shake off the emotion, easing back into his usual relaxed demeanor.

“Alright, fine. You’re still pissed. I can understand that. I’m an understanding sort of guy.” He paused, and when Rick didn’t throw out a retort he kept going.

“Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable here? I’ve been treating you a little different from my wives because, let’s be honest with each other here, I imagine you’re not gonna be okay with lounging around all day in a little black dress doing fuck-all.” He grinned as Rick grimaced at the image.

“And, while we’re still being honest here, I’m still a little pissed at you for killing so many of my goddamn men. And I don’t fucking know if I can trust your little group to provide if they don’t have you around. So I want you out there working for me. But,” he said, tilting his head, “My girls get certain privileges, being my wives. They don’t have to work for points, so I provide food and shit like that. And it’s loads better than what I’m sure you’ve been gagging over every day with everyone else.”

Rick resisted responding, intrigued by the idea of food that didn’t taste partially digested, but not wanting to jump at the offer like Negan clearly hoped he would.

“Is that something you would want?” Negan asked when Rick maintained his silence.

Rick weighed the decision in his head. On one hand, he hated the idea of accepting any kind of favor from Negan. But on the other hand, he really, really missed having decent food. After spending such a long time scraping and scavenging for whatever food he could find, he never thought he'd miss cold beans straight out of the can; but just yesterday he’d eaten some kind of meatloaf-looking monstrosity that had left him with such intense stomach pain for the next two hours that he'd started to wonder if it was going to burst out of him, Alien-style.

In the end, his stomach won out.

“Yeah, alright.” He conceded. If he was going to be Negan’s husband, he may as well get some of the perks. Negan’s face lit up, and he grabbed the walkie-talkie he used to communicate with his men off the dresser.

“Jackson! Get Fat Joey to bring breakfast to Rick’s room. Enough for two.” He barked into the talkie, before placing it back on the dresser.

Rick raised an eyebrow. “We’re going to eat together?”

Negan laughed like Rick had said something funny. “Of course, Rick! We don’t spend enough fucking time together, and I wanna change that.”

Rick immediately regretted letting his stomach make decisions for him.

Ten minutes later, Fat Joey showed up with trays of food, which Negan directed him to place on the bed, before ducking out of the room, leaving Rick and Negan alone together again. Negan sat down on the bed and gestured for Rick to join him.

“Dig in, Rick.”

Rick had to admit, the spread looked much more appetizing than the stuff he’d been eating for the last week. There was fresh fruit and toast and…bacon? Was that actual bacon? Rick grabbed a piece and bit down. The flavor was a bit off, but compared to chest-bursting mystery meat, it was incredible.

They ate in comfortable silence for the next couple minutes, Negan watching as Rick devoured most of what was in front of them.

“I fucking knew you’d like it. The bacon’s from pigs we get from this other community-real fucking weird bunch, I’ll tell you what.” He said, shaking his head. The knowledge that he was eating the product of some other group’s subjugation to the Saviors probably should have bothered Rick more than it did. But he was hungry, and it was bacon. So he let it slide.

When they were done, Rick sat back on the bed, his eyes meeting Negan’s. The other man looked a little too pleased considering all Rick did was eat in silence across from him.

“Did you like it?” He asked, head tilted.

Obviously Rick had liked it, so he answered “Yes,” with little hesitation.

Negan grinned. “Good! Glad we’re fucking getting somewhere.” He stood up, about to head out the door, when Rick found himself saying something he hadn’t planned to.

“Thank you.”

Negan stopped short, clearly not expecting Rick to thank him unprompted like that. He turned, and Rick was surprised to see that his wolflike grin was softer than usual.

“You’re fucking welcome,” he replied.

After that, Negan had breakfast delivered to them every morning. They’d eat on the bed, and Negan would try his best to get Rick to talk to him. And, on a couple mornings, Rick managed to have conversations with him that didn’t leave him wanting to stab the other man with a fork.


 

Their evenings, apart from Negan’s insistent cuddling, remained mostly bonding-free. They both usually returned late and tumbled right into bed after getting undressed, falling asleep too quickly for Negan to try and force any "quality time" on Rick.

Then one night, when Rick got back early from a run, he found Negan in his room, sitting on the floor by the tv and rifling through the various VHS tapes in stacks beside it.

“Uh. What are you doing?” Rick asked, still standing in the doorway. Negan glanced up at him, giving him a look.

“What does it look like I’m doing? I’m finding us a fucking movie to watch.” He replied with a grin. Rick closed the door behind him and sat on the end of the bed, pulling off his boots.

“Why?”

Negan stopped his movie search to look up at Rick again, his face deadpan. “Because, Rick. I want to have a nice, domestic movie night with my favorite husband.”

Rick made a face akin to are you serious, and Negan laughed.

“Damn! That’s why I like you Rick, you’re a man of few words but fuck if you don’t make some of the best goddamn faces.” Negan grabbed one of the tapes and popped it into the player, grabbing the remote before flopping down on the bed beside Rick.

“I’m serious about movie night, though. We need a little man-on-man bonding time, don’t you think? Personally, I would prefer a different kind of man-on man action, but I figure you’re still not quite ready for that yet?” He phrased it like a question, looking up a Rick expectantly. Rick leveled him with a glare and Negan grinned in response.

“Yeah, that’s about what I figured. Movie night it is, then!” he announced happily, hitting play. He’d chosen Die Hard.

“I know it’s not Christmas, but I figure it’s a damn good enough movie to watch year round.” Negan said, shifting on the bed so that he was propped up on his elbows facing the screen. Rick sat all the way back against the headboard, determined to not let this be as friendly an evening as Negan wanted it to be.

Negan glanced back at him. “Can you see all the way back there? It’s not a big tv.” When Rick didn’t respond, Negan’s brows furrowed in annoyance.

“Hey, Rick, I’m been trying to be friendly here, trying to bond with you and shit. And you being mister-strong-and-silent-type was understandable at first, but now it’s getting fucking old. So how about you answer me now.” It was not a question, and in spite of Negan’s assertion that he was trying to be friendly, his voice had gotten low and dangerous.

“I can see.” Rick gritted out. Negan broke back into his wide grin.

“See! There we go, communication. It’s easy stuff, Rick, and absolutely essential to a lasting marriage.” Rick was about to throw out a retort about how he didn’t particularly want this to be a lasting marriage when Negan pulled himself up beside Rick, leaning next to him on the headboard. He narrowed his eyes at the tv screen.

“Rick, you’re a goddamn liar. You can’t see shit from back here. Hold on.” Negan paused the movie and got out of bed, moving the tv stand up so that it was right at the foot of the bed. Negan resumed his position beside Rick, nodding and unpausing the movie.

“Much better.”

Rick decided to let it go and just watch the damn movie. Once they got into it, he was able to tune out most of Negan’s running commentary and kind of enjoy himself. About a half hour in, Negan’s comments died down a bit to the occasional “Fuck!” or “Damn, what a shot”, which was tolerable. 

Rick glanced over at Negan, who was deeply entranced in the film despite obviously having seen it before. He was so goddamn animated, it was ridiculous. Who acted like that? A snicker escaped Rick’s lips when Negan swore at the screen as John McClane made a particularly daring dodge of a bullet. Negan tilted his head to look up at Rick.

“What’s so damn funny, Rick?”

Rick found himself grinning. “You are. You act like you’ve never seen this before when you clearly have.”

Negan grinned back. “Of course I have. The daring stunts of John McClane never get old, Rick.” Rick smirked and they resumed watching the movie.

Halfway through, Rick felt his eyelids starting to droop. He had always been terrible about staying awake during movies. He fought it for a few minutes before giving in and letting his eyes close, only slightly aware that he was sliding down a bit on the headboard.

He woke back up about twenty minutes from the end, his head resting on Negan’s shoulder. Negan’s head was leaning on top of his.

So much for not being friendly and domestic.

Rick stayed there for a minute, debating whether or not he should move. If he lifted his head up, Negan would likely immediately go in to tease him, he told himself. He should probably just stay there. To avoid the mocking.

When the movie ended, Negan pressed the off button on the remote and they sat there for a minute, the room still faintly lit by the static glow of the screen.

What the hell is he doing? Rick wondered. Was he just going to sit there and let Rick sleep on his shoulder?

“Rick.” Negan muttered from above him. Rick jumped slightly and Negan nearly folded in half laughing.

“Ho-ly shit! Jesus Christ, I was trying to give you the benefit of the fucking doubt, I really was, but you were actually awake!” Negan cried delightedly between fits of laughter. “How fucking long were you awake?”

Rick stayed silent and prayed that it was a rhetorical question.

“Rick! I asked you a fucking question, don’t be fucking rude.”

Not rhetorical. Of course.

“I just woke up.” Negan barked out another laugh.

“Of course you did. Alright, well, I’m not gonna push the issue, because I think you really got into the spirit of movie night, and I appreciate the hell outta that.” With that, Negan rolled out of bed and headed into the bathroom. Rick could head the sound of him brushing his teeth as he smothered a groan into his pillow.


 

So that was Rick's life now, day after day of waking up to Negan and falling asleep by his side. If he was completely honest with himself, it wasn't nearly as horrible as he had expected. It wasn't ideal, of course, but the whole thing could have been much, much worse. 

As strange as it was, all of it began to seem almost routine. Rick wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, but he decided to accept it anyway, for the sake of simplicity. As horrible as it was, it was easier to just go along with it than to constantly fight to make this new situation feel as abnormal as it was supposed to.

Then, one day, after spending every night together for the last two weeks, Rick came back to his room at the end of the day and Negan wasn’t there. He never showed up, and for the first time in two weeks, Rick slept alone. For the first time in two weeks, he wasn’t lying beside the man who had killed some of his closest friends. It should have been the best night of sleep he had gotten in a while.

Instead, he barely slept at all.

It was horrible, he knew that. He tried to justify it to himself all night: the curiosity. Where the hell was he and why the hell wasn’t he here, making Rick uncomfortable and smirking like an idiot? It wasn’t that he cared that Negan wasn’t there- that part was great. He hated Negan. He was glad he wasn’t sharing a bed with him, glad he didn’t have to endure his stupid jokes and near-constant laughter at Rick’s expense. He was just curious. He’d just gotten used to it. It had become a routine, that was all.

That’s what Rick told himself, anyway. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop him from tossing and turning all night, his room now feeling strange and foreign without Negan’s domineering presence. He woke up to a single-serve platter of food sitting on his dresser, but still no Negan. The rest of the day was spent in a tired daze, attempting to block out any intrusive thoughts concerning Negan’s whereabouts.

He’s probably off intimidating more innocent people, Rick told himself. Threatening to bash in the skulls of other people’s friends and family. Like he did to yours.

Rick kept up that mantra as the day when on without a sign of the man. He kept it up when he returned to his room at the end of the day to find it once again empty. And he kept it up until midday the next day, when he finally caught sight of Negan again.

Rick was at the Sanctuary that day, having been assigned to go out on a late run with a few of Negan's men, when he turned a corner and there he was. He was just strolling along, Lucille slung over his shoulder as he whistled a tune that Rick vaguely recognized but couldn't place. Rick stopped walking, suddenly extremely unsure of why he had been almost obsessively wondering where the other man was for the past day. Negan glanced his way, grinned, and walked over to where Rick was standing.

“Ricky boy! Haven’t seen you around, how’s it going?” Negan asked, smiling away like he was taking to a casual friend. Rick opened and closed his mouth, unsure of what to say, and then the words came spilling from his lips before he had a chance to think.

“Where’ve you been?”

Immediately after he spoke the words, he regretted them. Negan’s eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas, and his easy smile turned into a spiteful grin.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Rick! Really, I am, I didn’t realize you’d miss me so much.” The amount of amusement in Negan’s eyes was unbearable. “Seriously, I thought you’d need more time than that to warm up to all this, I really fucking did. Damn, that was almost too quick. I was hoping for a little will-they-won’t-they, some real fucking dramatic sexual tension, you know?” He laughed; a deep, resonating laugh that Rick felt in his bones.

Rick wanted nothing more in that moment than to pull back and clock him. He was pissed. The fucking implication- that Rick had somehow missed him- it made him want to lash out.

“I was asking to be polite. I assume you were off threatening more innocent people, having your fucking fun? I just wanted to know how many more people you killed, exactly how many more people you’ve forced into your service? Tell me, how many more fucking murders has my dear husband committed?” Rick snapped, spitting the words with venom, hoping they wiped out any notion the other man may have had about Rick missing him. It was the first time he’d said the word husband out loud in regards to Negan, and it felt good to hurl it in his face like an insult.

Negan’s smirk disappeared, his face going cold and threatening. “Innocent people? Wow, would you listen to that. Murders? Quite a goddamn set you’ve got on you today, Rick, I’ll give you that. It would almost be impressive if you weren’t so far off the goddamn mark." His eyes bored into Rick's.

"You just keep thinking about your little group like that, as the innocent people who got fucked over by the big bad Negan. You just keep fucking telling yourself that all twenty-something of my men that you all slaughtered were for some higher fucking purpose, that you’re somehow above all this shit. I know the truth, and deep down you do too: you’re no fucking different than me, Rick. You and your people were doing the same thing we are: just trying to stay alive, any means necessary. Consider that the next time you decide to get pissy because I leave for a day.” A satisfied smirk settled across Negan’s face, and he turned to leave, before stopping short and calling over his shoulder:

“Oh! And because you asked, I wasn’t in your bed last night because I was fucking one of my gorgeous wives. Honeymoon’s over, Rick. Why the fuck would I stay in your sad, repressed bed when I can get laid?” And with that, he walked off, leaving Rick feeling even more confused and frustrated than before.

Chapter Text

Despite Negan’s assertion that he would rather spend his nights with people who were willing to fuck him, a few days later Rick walked into his room to find Negan lounging on his bed again. He ignored Rick’s obvious confusion and just smiled and said, “Missed me?”

Rick balked at the idea, and Negan chuckled. "Well, I missed you." 

Rick gave him a skeptical look. He wasn't expecting that, but everything about Negan was so bizarre and unprecedented that it almost didn't surprise him. Plus, he was probably messing with Rick. It was impossible to tell if he was ever sincere when he smirked around every word he spoke.

"What, you don't believe me? Rick, I'm hurt." Rick sincerely doubted that. "I'll be here every few days. I gotta make time for my girls, but I don't want you getting too fucking lonely in here by yourself."

He spent the night next to Rick, arm around him like nothing had ever happened. And the next night, he was gone again.

I went on like that, Negan showing up a handful of nights a week to make sarcastic, vulgar remarks and spoon a reluctant Rick. Other than that, life continued like before, with Rick going out on supply runs, spending time in Alexandria, with his family, everything almost normal. Normal, other than the lowered morale and heightened anxiety surrounding the subject of supplies. Normal, minus the fact that every night Rick drove back to the sanctuary (after a few weeks of proving that he was obedient enough to come back on his own, Negan had allowed him to forego the chaperone), half the time to sleep beside the man who had forced him into this situation.


 

Three weeks passed by faster than Rick expected. If he was being honest, it kind of snuck up on him, and it wasn’t until the morning of that he remembered that Negan and his men would be accompanying him to Alexandria to collect their supplies for the first time.

He sat anxiously in the cab of the truck Negan was driving, trying to reign in the tension that he knew was probably rolling off of him in waves. The people of Alexandria weren’t exactly thrilled with their current situation, and many of them had rather vocally voiced their complaints to Rick over the last several weeks. It seemed that Rick’s acquiescence to Negan had left some people feeling a little more bold when it came to talking to him, and he’d gotten an earful from a handful of rather bitter people. He knew that, previously to this, several of them would have never dared to get up in his face the way they had. They saw what had happened to him with Negan, assumed he’d gone soft, and took the opportunity to really let him have it.

Rick tried to walk that line between being accommodating and being in charge, but treading that line had never been his strong suit. He usually aired on the side of asserting his authority, but he knew that that probably wouldn't be very well-received, so he’d ended up just nodding along and letting them know that he understood their concerns and that he wasn’t any happier with this situation than they were.

This hadn’t proved to be a particularly effective method, but it was all he could think to do. Getting up in their faces would only cause more division within their already fractured group.

So he’d heard out their complaints, and he could feel the weight of them as the truck rumbled along, his thoughts a panicked mess. His real fear was that someone would step out of line again, that some pissed-off citizen would do or say something that would end with Negan taking Lucille to the skull of yet another person. As much as he had seen that Negan was capable of reason, he would never forget the results of their first encounter.

“You alright there, Rick? You’re awful fucking quiet. What’s on your mind?” Negan’s voice pierced through Rick’s worried thoughts like a bullet. Rick continued to stare out the window as he answered.

“Just hoping nobody does anything stupid.” Negan nodded his head.

“You and me both, Rick. I told you before, I don’t wanna have to kill people. Your group forced my hand the last time, but I want to make this work. I just need a little fucking cooperation.”

“We’re trying. People are just scared. They’re not used to living like this.”

Negan grunted. “I’m aware of that, Rick. But if I’m being fucking honest here, I don’t particularly care about that. They need to get fucking used to it. I’m counting on you to get them used to it.”

Rick didn’t have a good reply to that, so he stayed silent as they approached the gates of Alexandria. Negan stopped the truck and turned to Rick.

“Do me a favor and go get your little gang to let us in, will you?” Rick nodded and hopped out of the side of the truck, walking up to the front gate. Rosita was on duty, and she scowled at Rick as he approached. She’d been one of the ones to give Rick a piece of her mind about Negan and their situation. Rick understood her particular rage, though, as she had lost Abraham.

“Hey. Can you let us in?” He could see a muscle in her jaw twitching as she bit back a grimace, not speaking to him as she opened the gate and the trucks started rolling inside.

“Hot diggity dog! This place if fucking magnificent, Rick!” Negan shouted as he exited the truck, Lucille slung over his shoulder. He strolled over to throw an arm across Rick’s shoulders, which earned him a disgusted sneer from Rosita that Rick tried his best to ignore. Lucille was still in the hand that was draped over Rick, and the bat hovered above Rick’s thigh in a threatening way that Rick didn’t particularly care for. A small crowd of people gathered to see what exactly was happening. Rick could see the familiar faces of Daryl and Aaron hanging a little further back, as if unwilling to get too close to the spectacle.

Negan’s arm remained around Rick’s shoulders as he barked orders to his men to start gathering supplies, reminding them to only take half. As the crowd started to disperse, wary eyes still watching as the Saviors started pillaging, Negan pushed his hip into Rick’s.

“So nobody started shooting off rounds when we got here. That’s a good fucking start.” He grinned, glancing down at Rick’s tense features. “C’mon, show me around this place. It’s fucking amazing here. Oh-” he removed his arm from around Rick, careful not to snag him with Lucille. He pressed the handle of the bat into Rick’s hand. “Hold this for me, would you babe? I keep worrying she’s gonna smack into you by accident and we wouldn’t want that, would we?”

Rick grimaced as the took the bat, letting it hang by his side. Negan’s arm was then thrown back around his shoulder and he could feel himself being steered further into the town.

Negan’s idea of being shown around turned out to be less of a tour and more of him wanting to make Rick as uncomfortable as fucking possible. Rick could only assume that was his goal, as they walked around observing the Saviors loading up their supplies. It seemed like every chance Negan could embarrass Rick in front of his group, he took. The arm around his shoulders as he was forced to carry around Lucille was bad enough. But then , as Negan was asking about food inventory, Olivia came over to help. Rick noticed that she eyed the possessive way Negan’s held onto him, and Negan picked up on it.

“Ain’t we just the cutest fucking newlyweds you ever seen?” Negan grinned, and Rick could feel his face betray him by turning what he was sure was a vibrant shade of red. Olivia looked rather uncomfortable herself.

“Um. I-I’m the one who keeps stock of the food and weapons. There shouldn’t be anything missing.” She stuttered, clearly nervous.

There most certainly shouldn’t be, Rick thought bitterly to himself.

They’d taken stock of everything several times over the last few weeks, not wanting to miss anything. There had been a bit of a situation with a couple of missing guns a little over a week ago. When asking and yelling and pleading hadn't worked, Rick had gone with his gut and ended up ransacking Spencer’s house and finding them hidden in a vent. Spencer had always given Rick some trouble, and Rick found that he didn’t really regret tearing apart his house to find the guns. He could question Rick’s authority all he wanted, but hoarding guns that he knew that Saviors would notice were missing was crossing a line.

Negan’s smile turned hard and dangerous. “There had better fucking not be anything missing, ah-” he tilted his head, “What was your name?”

“O-Olivia,” she shook out, clearly seeing the way Negan’s face changed.

“Right. Olivia.” Negan’s grip on Rick’s shoulder tightened. “Well, Olivia, you had better be goddamn sure that there’s nothing missing, or else Lucille here-" Negan's arm dropped down to Rick's waist, his hand nudging Rick's and making Lucille swing threateningly, "-is going to have a little meet-and-greet with the rest of you fine folks. And I wouldn't want to upset my dear husband by having to do that.” He leaned back as he spoke the last words, his arm winding back around Rick's shoulders, and Rick felt like a puppet being dragged around by him.

Olivia nodded fervently and returned to checking things off on the supply list as Negan walked Rick back outside. His men were loading supplies into their trucks as members of Rick’s group looked on helplessly. “You know, Rick, I have a good feeling about all this. Really, I think it could be the start of something great.” Rick couldn’t help the retort that spilled out of his mouth.

“Can’t imagine what would make you say that. What, is it the truckloads of supplies that you didn’t have to do shit to find, or parading me around like I’m your trophy wife?”

Negan leaned back enough so that he could look at Rick, as if he was shocked that Rick was the one who had uttered the words.

Admittedly, Rick was pretty shocked himself. He’d spent the whole morning worried that someone was going to say something to piss Negan off, and yet here he was, saying something that could piss him off.

There was a long moment of stunned silence where Negan stared at Rick and Rick held his breath, praying that his momentary lack of judgment didn’t reap any sort of dire consequences. And then Negan started laughing, his free hand clutching his side.

“Holy shit! Rick! Look at you, giving me sass. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were flirting with me.” Rick hadn’t expected that response, and he felt his face heat up when he noticed Daryl standing close by, the strange look on his face indicating that he had heard the whole exchange. Negan’s gaze followed Rick’s to land on Daryl, his grin widening.

“Hey! You’re Daryl, right?” he called.

When Daryl didn’t respond, Negan sauntered over, Rick in tow. “It is Daryl, isn’t it?” he asked, eyes trained on Daryl’s face. Daryl looked at the two of them, his eyes darting back and forth between Rick and Negan and the way that Negan’s arm was slung over Rick’s shoulders.

“What the hell is this shit?” Daryl spit out, his furious eyes meeting Negan’s amused ones.

This shit,” Negan intoned, “Is me taking a nice leisurely stroll through your fucking adorable little town with my husband.” He immediately noticed the way Daryl’s face contorted when he said the word husband, and raised his eyebrows.

“Oh boy, you do not look like a happy camper right now. Goddamn, you really have a problem with me being all over your buddy Rick, don’t you?” Negan tilted his head, looking intrigued. “That is interesting. Now, tell me Daryl, why exactly is that? You got a problem with the idea of two men knocking boots? Or…” A wicked grin spread across Negan’s face, “Damn, were you two gettin’ it on before I swooped in and stole Rick for myself?”

Rick’s stomach dropped when he saw Daryl’s face change and his fist clench by his side. He saw flashes of the scene from three weeks ago: Daryl punching Negan in the face and Glenn taking the hit for it. He was just about to throw himself at Daryl and physically hold him back when Negan laughed again.

“You’re not really gonna try that shit again, are you? Jesus, after your little fit got that Asian kid buried six feet under last time, I'd think you would’ve learned.” Daryl looked stricken for a moment at the mention of Glenn before he spat out a Fuck you and walked off. Rick was surprised that Negan actually let him leave, but his attention seemed to be refocusing on Rick again.

“You and Daryl weren’t bumping uglies, were you Rick?” he asked, his tongue poking out from between his teeth. Rick’s jaw clenched.

“No.” he gritted out. Why the hell would Negan think-

“Good. He seems like he’d be a possessive fucker and I don’t wanna deal with that shit. I don’t need your clingy exes whining about how I stole you away.”

Rick didn't respond and they keep moving, watching for a while as Negan’s men loaded up the last of the supplies and started moving out. As they walked back to the truck, Rick was overcome with a pang of sadness that he didn’t get to see Carl or Judith today. Carl definitely would have known they were coming- Michonne probably told him to stay away. He was more than a little shocked that that worked. Carl had never been one to stay where people told him to.

He was just thinking that he hadn’t seen Michonne, either, when he heard a voice from behind them.

“Rick!”

They both tuned to see Michonne standing several yards back. Her expression was unreadable. Rick turned to Negan.

“Can I have a second?” he asked.

Negan frowned, his eyes flicking from Rick to Michonne and then back. “No.”

Rick closed his eyes and gritted his teeth before looking back up at Negan. “Can I please have a second?”

Negan’s expression didn’t change, and his voice sounded strangely blank when he replied, “Fine.”

Rick squirmed out from under Negan’s arm and walked over to Michonne. She eyed the bat that he still had gripped in his hand as he made his way over.

“He…made me carry it.”  Rick said, running a hand through his hair. “Where were you?”

“I was out on a run. I just got back and was trying to find you. I’m guessing all those trucks I saw leaving were his. How much did he take?” Michonne’s face was distorted with anger. Rick couldn’t blame her.

“Half. Like he said. There’s still plenty to get by on, I watched to make sure.” That sounds terrible, like he’s defending Negan, like he just stood by and watched complacently as their hard work was ripped out from under them, and that’s not what he was going for at all. But he trusted her to know him better than that, and she does.

“I’m sorry,” she said, reaching out to put a hand on his arm, “I don’t mean to jump down your throat. I just…I went out on a run hoping I they would be gone when I got back. I didn’t want to see them. Didn’t trust myself not to say anything I’d regret.”

Speaking of people that can’t be trusted to not do stupid things…

“Oh, that reminds me.” Rick said, “Where’s Carl? I was sure he was going to show up while they were here.”

Michonne actually broke into a small smile at the mention of Carl. “He was with me. I didn’t trust him not to try something, so I made him come. He’s back at the house now.” Rick nodded.

“Good call.”

Michonne smiled, bigger this time. “I know him too well.” Rick felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude toward Michonne for caring so much about his son.

“Thank you. For looking out for him.” He glanced back to see Negan leaning against the front of the truck that they drove here, watching them with crossed arms. He tapped his wrist like a watch when he saw Rick looking back at him. Rick sighed.

“I have to go. I’m sorry. Thank you.” Michonne nodded and dropped her arm, watching as he left.

Rick headed back toward Negan. He wore a peculiar expression the Rick couldn’t place as he climbed into the cab. Rick set Lucille down on the seat between them and they pulled away and started driving, Negan being strangely silent for a few minutes before he finally spoke.

“It was her, wasn’t it?” He asked.

“What?”

“The person you were with before I came in. It was her.” Negan’s tone was odd and it made Rick reluctant to answer honestly.

“Why would you say that? You seem to be making that accusation a lot today.” He said, dodging the question. Negan wasn’t having it.

“Answer the damn question, Rick.” He growled. The venom in his voice surprised Rick.

“Uh, yeah, we were together.” Rick couldn’t help but wonder what the hell Negan’s issue is. He could see a muscle twitching in his jaw like he was gritting his teeth.

“Correct answer, Rick. You were together. Past tense. I don’t want to see that shit again, you got me?”

Rick spluttered. “I’m sorry, what?”

Negan slammed on the breaks, hard enough that Rick had to fling out his arms to keep himself from going flying into the dashboard.

“What the fuck are you-”

“You’re with me now, Rick.” Negan’s eyes were boring into him, and he was practically seething. “I realize now that I may not have been clear about his, but I’ll fucking make it clear now.”

He leaned in close, his face inches from Rick’s, his hard eyes glittering. “You. Do not. Cheat on me."

Rick almost laughed. Luckily, he saw the look of absolute seriousness on Negan’s face and contained himself.

“I’m not cheating on you. We haven’t been together since all of…this…with you started.”

This was true. He and Michonne hadn’t officially discussed it, but after Rick had married Negan, the romantic side of their relationship seemed to have been put on the backburner. Which was okay, Rick told himself, because it wasn’t like they had time to fool around on the days that Rick was in Alexandria. And because Michonne had always been so much more than a romantic interest to him. The truly important parts of their relationship, the trust and the respect and the way they balanced each other, were still there, and her love for his kids was still there, and that’s all that Rick could care about for right now.

Negan seemed to relax slightly, easing off the break so that they could continue driving. “Good. Good. Because I do not take kindly to cheating, Rick. Not at all.”

Rick couldn’t help himself. “Strange you feel that way, given that you have quite a few other wives that I know about.”

Negan barked out a laugh, back to his usual self. “One of the perks of being the big man in charge, Rick.” He replied, eyes on the road.

“Pretty hypocritical of you, though.” Rick commented. Negan side-eyed him for a second, eyebrows raised in surprise.

“Goddamn, Rick, you’ve got quite the mouth on you today. Any chance you want to put it to work somewhere else?”

For once, Rick didn’t flinch away from Negan’s innuendo. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” he mused. “Got you all worked up and jealous, didn’t I?”

He was pushing his luck here, he knew that. Eventually he’d say something that crossed the line and Negan would get pissed. But he found that he actually kind of enjoyed the banter. Negan spent so much of his time teasing Rick, it was nice to be able to get a couple jabs in for once.

Negan chuckled. “What can I say, Rick? I like knowing I have you all to myself.”

Chapter Text

Rick, despite himself, was becoming accustomed to his new life. He didn’t want to admit it, not to himself and certainly not to anyone else, but, when he considered the alternative- more of his friends’ skulls reduced to a bloody pulp by Negan and Lucille- this wasn’t the worst way it could have gone.

So the weeks went by with little incident, though there were a few moments that gave Rick pause. Or rather, they would, if he allowed himself to consider the implications of them. And he definitely wasn’t about to do that.

The first incident occurred a little over week after Negan showed up in Rick’s room again. He’d spent the night with him three other times since then, assumedly rotating between Rick and his other wives. It was the first morning he’d spent with Rick in two days, and Rick was sitting on the edge on the bed, buttoning his shirt.

Negan was already showered and dressed, about to head out the door. He picked up Lucille from where she sat on the worn-out armchair- Rick found it endlessly weird when Negan placed her there, as if he was concerned with the bat’s comfort- and said “See you later.”

All of this was relatively normal to Rick now, even the business with the bat and the chair, and Rick was about to respond with a brusque goodbye of his own when Negan did something that was decidedly not-normal.

As Negan was leaving, he leaned down and pressed a quick kiss to Rick’s lips.

The moment was so quick and without precedent that Rick didn’t even have time to respond. Instead, he sat there for a moment, stunned.

What the actual fuck was that?

Negan, to his credit, seemed almost as surprised at what he’d done as Rick did. He straightened back up slowly, as if anticipating Rick’s reaction, and he looked just as confused by what had just happened as Rick felt.

However, Rick only got to enjoy that look of confusion on the other man’s face for a moment, because Negan quickly proceeded to mask it with grin and drop a wink in Rick’s direction before heading out the door, leaving Rick to contemplate what the fuck had just happened.

It must have been a reflex, Rick thought to himself as he finished lacing up his boots. It was probably something Negan did with his wives that he’d instinctively done without thinking about the fact that he was with Rick. After all, for however brief a moment, it was clear that Negan hadn’t actually meant to kiss Rick. And he had spent the last two days with one of his wives. Yes, he decided, a reflex seemed most likely.

When it happened again the next morning, it was harder for Rick to convince himself that it was still a reflexive gesture. Harder still when it kept happening every morning that they were together after that. Negan no longer looked confused when he leaned down to kiss Rick, just annoyingly confident.

For the life of him, Rick couldn’t explain why he kept letting Negan do it.

But he did.


Incident number two happened a week after the first morning kiss.

Rick had been out on a run for two days with Michonne and Aaron. It was nice, he thought, kind of a throwback to simpler times. They took a truck and gathered supplies and cooked over open fires and Rick found himself actually enjoying it a bit. He never thought he’d miss the days of constantly being on the run, but there was something about them, the way they bonded people together. Of course it was nice to have a safe place to come home to, whether that be Alexandria or the Sanctuary, but it was also a reprieve to just get away for a couple days. Even if “Getting away” meant gathering supplies for the Saviors to raid when they got back.

They had packed everything up and were nearly back to Alexandria when they spotted a few people out on their own, two men and a woman. It was immediately clear that the people weren’t affiliated with the Saviors or any other large group by their haggard appearances and the way that it looked like most of their supplies were shoved into their backpacks.

"Should we stop? Looks like it's just the three of them." Aaron asked.

Rick glanced over at Michonne, who nodded her approval after a brief moment of hesitation. Satisfied, Rick turned back to Aaron. "Yeah, stop. We haven't picked up new people in a while, and we could use them right now."

They got out of the truck and approached the group with caution. The people looked on warily, and Rick was just about to ask them the usual “How many” questions when the larger of the two men lunged at Michonne with a knife. Rick immediately drew his gun on the man.

“Drop the knife! Do not make me shoot.” Rick’s voice was sharp and dangerous as he pointed the muzzle between the man’s eyes, eyeing the way he held the knife so close to Michonne’s temple. Fear gripped Rick, more so than it usually would in a situation like this. The man's hold on the knife was loose and unpracticed, and he knew that Michonne was perfectly capable of twisting free, but the encounter with the Saviors had left him feeling raw and on edge around new people, paranoid that he would underestimate the situation again and get more people killed.

The man froze, distracted by the gun aimed at him, and Michonne pulled her head back and grabbed the man’s wrist, quickly disarming him and reversing their positions so she held the knife to his throat.

The other two lunged at Rick and Aaron, weapons brandished. Rick shot the man who went for him immediately, the bullet piercing through the middle of his forehead, and he dropped like a stone at Rick's feet. The man Michonne held tried to escape her grip in the chaos, kicking out and frantically throwing elbows into her side, and she slit his throat quickly and efficiently, driving the knife into his temple as he bled out to keep him from turning.

Aaron had dragged the woman off of him and she had backed up a few feet. His gun was aimed at her temple while she brandished a knife in his direction, her hand surprisingly steady from someone who was outnumbered by people who had just killed her companions.

“You don’t have to die. You can walk away right now. Drop your weapon and go.” Aaron said. Rick moved toward her, hand outstretched to take the knife. She looked at him for a moment and went to hand him the knife. Aaron began to lower his gun, and she noticed immediately.

She lunged wildly at Rick, and Rick felt the burn of the blade as it cut into his shoulder.

“Shit!” Aaron drew his weapon and fired, hitting the woman in the side of the head as she tackled Rick. Rick could feel the hot spray of blood and God only knows what else hitting his face and neck as he fell back.

“Shit, Rick! Are you okay? I shouldn’t have let my gun drop, I’m so sorry-” Rick waved Aaron off as he sat up slowly, shoving the woman’s corpse off of him as he did.

“It’s fine.” He gritted out, wincing at the pain shooting up his arm, “I don’t think she got me that bad.”

He pulled off his jacket with some help from Michonne and inspected the damage. He was right, it wasn’t too bad, though it was bleeding a good bit and would need stitches. He pulled his sleeve back down over it and pressed down, hoping to stop the bloodflow. Aaron still looked guilt-ridden.

“I’m fine. Really.” Rick stood back up and headed back over to the truck. “I’ll get stitched up when I get back to the Sanctuary.”

Aaron drove faster than normal, and by the time they were back in Alexandria the bleeding had mostly stopped. After a couple minutes of insisting that he was okay and hadn’t lost a lot of blood, Aaron and Michonne agreed to let him go and watched him as he got into his car headed to the Sanctuary.

When Rick got back, he started making his way to the infirmary. He hadn't been at the Sanctuary for two minutes before he saw Negan heading for him.

“What the fuck happened to you?” He yelled, grabbing Rick by the shoulder. Rick involuntarily yelped in pain, and Negan wrenched his hand back, looking surprised and…remorseful?

“Shit! Sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t know-thought it was all someone else’s, you’re fucking drenched.” Negan said, his voice sounding almost worried. Rick didn't know exactly how bad he looked, but considering the woman had been shot nearly on top of him, he figured that yeah, he was probably covered in blood.

Gently this time, Negan put his hand on Rick’s arm, fingers peeling back the now-red sleeve of Rick's t-shirt to assess the damage underneath. There was a tenderness to the way he inspected Rick’s shoulder, as if he was genuinely concerned about Rick’s well-being.

“C’mon, you need stitches.”

Rick laughed. “I know that. I was heading to the infirmary when you stopped me by grabbing my fucking shoulder.”

Negan furrowed his brow. “Let’s go, then.” He said, his hand sliding down to the small of Rick’s back, nudging him along.

"I know where it is, you know." Rick muttered.

Negan escorted him to the infirmary anyway, and stayed as the physician stitched and wrapped Rick’s shoulder, watching with crossed arms against the wall. He stayed with Rick that night as well, and when he went to wrap his arm around him like usual, he was careful to avoid jostling Rick’s shoulder.

Rick didn’t know what to think of all of it. The tenderness, the concern, the way Negan had insistently stayed with him instead of just sending him off to get stitched up alone. Everything he did was in such direct opposition to everything Rick thought he was, everything that Rick wanted to think he was.

Because Negan being a terrible person was the easy thing to believe. It was what he should believe, after everything that had happened. Rick really didn’t want to be presented with evidence to the contrary, because he was supposed to hate Negan, and it would be easier, so, so much easier to hate him if he was just a bad person through and through.

But it seemed like every day Rick was being shown that that wasn’t the case. And that scared him. Because the more he saw of who Negan actually was, the more he thought that maybe, just maybe, he didn’t hate him that much after all.


Incident number three happened just a couple days after Rick had gotten stabbed.

Negan showed up just as Rick was getting ready to go to sleep, having already assumed that Negan wasn’t coming tonight. But then Negan strolled in, whistling, his normally slicked hair a mess, with visible red mark on the side of his neck.

“Howdy, Rick.” Negan grinned at him as he stripped off his shirt. Normally, when Negan undressed, Rick looked away, but, for whatever reason, he didn’t tonight.

Negan stepped out of his pants, and his back was to Rick as he fished through the dresser drawers to find a clean shirt. Rick immediately regretted not looking away.

Negan’s back was covered in faint red scratch marks. Suddenly the tousled hair and the late arrival and the cheery whistling made a lot more sense, and the realization that Negan had come here right after sleeping with someone made Rick’s face heat up for reasons that he neither understood nor wanted to explore.

Then, Rick noticed something else: the numerous scars across Negan’s back. In this world, it was uncommon to find someone without a couple scars. Survivors didn’t usually make it this far unscathed. There was a short, thick scar that looked like it was from a knife on his right shoulder blade. There was one that looked like it was from a burn on his left side near his ribs that was echoed on his shoulder, and a couple other scattered ones, mostly old and faded. Rick found himself wondering how Negan had gotten them.

Negan finally found a shirt and pulled it over his head, turning to face Rick as he did. When he saw that Rick was looking at him, he smirked.

“You checkin’ me out, Rick?”

Rick suppressed a groan. “You wish.”

Negan flopped down onto the bed, his leg brushing up against Rick’s. He turned his face up toward Rick and tucked his hands behind his head, which made his shirt ride up a bit. Without thinking, Rick’s eyes darted down to the strip of bare stomach. He caught himself almost instantly and looked back up, mentally cursing himself and praying that Negan hadn't seen, but of course Negan had noticed.

“Oh, you were definitely checking me out.” He was positively beaming, looking like Rick had given him the greatest gift he could think of. “See anything you want?”

Negan’s tongue was doing ridiculous things and it made Rick want to slap that infuriating smirk right off of his gorgeous face-

What. The fuck.

Rick’s brain whirred to a stop, everything in him now focused on the immensely idiotic thing he’d just thought. Gorgeous?

No. This was not happening. He was losing his goddamn mind. He was disoriented from his world being turned on its head and Negan’s constant flirting and physical contact was confusing him. He wasn’t attracted to Negan. Because that would be insane. Because Negan was a man, and a murderous raving psychotic one at that. He was a unrepentant killer who had made Rick’s life a living hell for the last month. There were a lot of adjectives Rick could be using to describe him, but gorgeous was definitely not one of them.

“Earth to Rick! Did I break you? Brain can't handle the flirting?” Negan waved his hand in front of Rick’s face, startling Rick out of his derailed train of thought.

“You had the weirdest goddamn look on your face just now, what the hell were you thinking about?”

See, it was things like that that made Rick have to question everything he thought about Negan’s character. Because Negan seemed to be waiting for an answer, like he actually wanted to know what Rick was thinking

Well, like hell was Rick going to say what was actually going on in his head.

“Where’d you get the scars on your back?” He blurted out. Negan looked genuinely surprised at Rick’s question.

“Oh. Well, the one on my shoulder was from a guy who felt that the best way to express his displeasure with my particular leadership style was with a literal knife to the back.” Negan chuckled. “Real douchebag, didn’t wanna work for points but didn’t wanna try to go out and scavenge for shit either. Didn’t have the skillset for it, anyway. The guy made it through hiding behind other people. Shouldn’t have been surprised when he decided he could only attack when my back was turned.” Rick didn’t have to ask what happened to the guy. The answer was obvious.

“What about the burns?”

Negan still had that look on his face, like he was shocked that Rick was actually asking, but he answered anyway.

“It was a while into everything. Probably a year or so. I was with a couple other people, just going day to day, finding shelter where we could. We’d gotten into some shit with this other group, a handful of guys who thought they were tough shit. We thought we’d lost them, and we were staying in this little woodshed for the night. Woke up and they’d set the place on fire, along with most of the woods and shit around it. The dead were walking around looking like fucking Ghost Rider.” He was trying to play it off, but Rick could vividly remember the barn fire at Hershel’s farm, and the image of being inside of that, surrounded by that, was terrifying. 

“Anyway, long story short, I got out, but the fire took some of me with it. Not much, and luckily not my pretty face.” He smirked up at Rick and Rick panicked for a moment, thinking that somehow he’d said what he was thinking before out loud, before he realized that Negan was just messing with him.

“Why the sudden interest in my body?” He grinned, tongue in cheek. Jesus, why did every other thing out of Negan’s mouth have to be sexual?

“Just thought I’d get to know you a bit. It’s nice to hear about you being the one in pain for once.” Rick retorted. Negan let out a whistle.

“Goddamn, Rick. You’re a cold fucker.” He settled himself under the blankets and Rick followed suit, prepared when Negan’s arm draped over him. He felt Negan press a little closer than usual, and his heart sped up a bit, goosebumps breaking out over his arms when Negan’s lips brushed against the shell of his ear.

“But, you know, I’m starting to figure out that that’s just how you flirt. So I’m pretty damn okay with it.”

“Fuck you” Rick muttered, pulling his head away so that Negan wasn’t breathing directly into his ear. He heard Negan chuckle behind him.

“Whenever you’re ready, Rick.”


Other than those moments, it had been relatively normal, considering the circumstances. Rick was doing his best to block out anything those moments may have made him feel, because he didn’t want to question whether Negan really was a genuinely evil person. He didn’t want to think about the moments of tenderness and genuine human emotion, because he should hate Negan. He should despise him and want to kill him like he had before all of this. This was the man that had enslaved his people, killed two of his closest friends, who had humiliated him and stripped him of any dignity or leadership he had. He shouldn’t be questioning his character, he shouldn’t be enjoying the small moments of affection that Negan had been showing him, and he certainly shouldn’t be calling him gorgeous in his head.

Negan is a sociopath, and he has you here against his will, Rick reminded himself. He kept up that mantra, repeating it to himself whenever he had his doubts, whenever Negan did something that made him seem almost human, whenever he kissed Rick goodbye in the morning.

But even as Rick did so, he could hear another part of himself wondering, If you really believed that, why do you have to work so hard to convince yourself?

Chapter Text

In spite of himself, Rick was getting used to the nuances of him and Negan’s odd relationship. There were certain patterns, things he now knew to expect, and unspoken rules that formed between them.

For example, Rick knew that Negan would kiss him goodbye every morning.  He knew that they’d shower at different times of day (Negan in the morning, Rick at night) to avoid the awkwardness of waiting on the other to be done. Negan now told Rick, in his own way, when he would be there the next day; if he would be spending the night with Rick again, he would say “See you tonight” when he left for the morning. If he was going to be sleeping elsewhere, he’d say “See you later”. He knew that Negan would provide breakfast every day, and on the days that he was with Rick they would eat together on the bed. And he knew that Negan never left before waking him up, so Rick used Negan as an alarm clock instead of his watch on the days he was there.

Honestly, Rick didn’t mind the routine. In a situation that was this goddamn bizarre, a little stability went a long way toward making things feel somewhat normal.

And then, one day about a month and a half in, Rick fell asleep beside Negan and woke up to him gone in the morning.

Rick woke up to the bed feeling strangely empty. He rolled over, confused as to why there wasn’t a now-familiar arm around him, and even more confused when he was met with an empty space beside him where Negan was supposed to be.

Strange. He always woke Rick up before he left.

Rick had gotten used to their morning rituals, but maybe Negan wasn’t as much a creature of habit as he’d thought. After all, it’s not like they’d been doing this that long. Maybe he had shit to do, and didn’t feel like waking Rick up.

And then he saw it: Lucille, still propped up against the armchair where Negan had set her last night. That definitely wasn’t normal. Negan always carried that bat with him, and the rare times she wasn't slung over his shoulder he didn’t just leave her lying around. Rick blinked, trying to clear his head. Maybe Negan had just stepped out for a minute?  He hadn’t heard the shower running this morning, either. Rick definitely would have woken up to that, he was a pretty light sleeper. Yes, Negan must have just stepped out for a minute. He’d be back.

Except he wasn’t.

Rick waited a long while, impatiently, almost annoyed by this break in routine. After a bit, he had to admit that Negan must have left early, so got dressed and headed out for the day. Wherever Negan had gone off to, it must have been in a hurry, because he hadn’t had breakfast sent up to Rick like he did on the other days when he wasn’t there. Rick headed for the mess hall, and as he was grabbing something to eat- and something was the key word, because Rick couldn’t for the life of him work out what it was- someone grabbed his arm from behind.

Rick spun in place, fist raised instinctively, only to see Dwight behind him. He scowled, and Rick lowered his fist.

“What do you want, Dwight?”

Dwight’s scowl didn’t waver. “Where’s Negan? He was supposed to meet us this morning to make the weekly run to the Hilltop and he never fucking showed.”

This news surprised Rick, but he refused to show it. “How the hell should I know?”

Dwight narrowed his eyes. “Because you were the last person to see him, that’s fucking why. I’ve already asked the girls and none of them were with him last night, so that leaves you. You were the last one to see him and now you’re showing up out here a couple hours after everyone else. Looks pretty fucking suspicious to me.”

“Look,” Rick snapped, feeling defensive, “I don’t fucking where he is! I woke up, he wasn’t there, and he left the bat in my room. I’m here late because I usually wake up when he does and I didn’t hear him leave today.”

Dwight’s expression changed minutely, from suspicion to mild panic, just for a moment, before his scowl returned. “Negan doesn’t just leave Lucille lying around. You’d better start talking, I think you know exactly what’s on the line if anything is going on here,” He snarled.

Rick was pissed at this point, and, even though he didn’t want to admit it, a bit panicked. If Dwight was accusing him of something, the repercussions of whatever he thought Rick did would undoubtedly fall on the citizens of Alexandria.

And then, there was that small part of him that had the audacity to be concerned that Negan appeared to be missing.

“What the hell do you think I did, exactly? I’ve been here, willingly, for almost two months! I’m doing everything I can to keep my people in his good graces, why the fuck would I do something now, on my own, when I know that it’ll just get all of us killed?” Rick snapped, exasperated. Dwight’s expression hardened. He stood there for a moment, narrowed eyes boring into Rick, trying to tell if he was lying or not, before setting his jaw and growling “I hope for your fucking sake you’re telling the truth” and walking away.

Rick didn’t feel any relief from Dwight leaving. If anything, after their conversation, he now had a strange knot of worry in his chest. He didn’t like not knowing where Negan was, and now that he knew that it wasn’t normal for him to just disappear like this, he was even more concerned.

What’s more, he didn’t really know what to do with himself now. It was always Negan or Dwight that gave him orders on what he needed to do for the day, and Negan was gone and Dwight was otherwise occupied, off talking to a group of men at the other side of the room, likely explaining the situation. Rick watched as the men dispersed, exiting the building in all different directions. Rick swallowed his pride and walked back up to Dwight, who was heading for the back door.

“What the hell’s going on-” he started, only to be cut off by the other man.

“I’ve sent people to find him; he’s probably fucked off and went on a run on his own. Nothing that concerns you.” Dwight said brusquely, sweeping out the door, leaving a confused Rick behind him.


 Rick decided against driving to Alexandria for the day. Logically, he thought to himself, it made sense to stay here. He hadn’t been given any orders, and the last thing he needed was Dwight thinking he was running off when the other man was already needlessly suspicious about him. Instead, Rick grabbed a knife and decided to explore the Sanctuary a bit. He’d been here almost two months, and he still didn’t know how big the place was.

As it turned out, it was pretty fucking big. It wasn’t as nice as Alexandria, and the living quarters weren’t exactly luxurious, but it was definitely a lot larger. When Rick reached the fence on the outer reaches of the Sanctuary, he paused, considering his options.

Following his earlier logic of not leaving so as to not attract more suspicion toward himself, he should probably turn back. But another part of him, the part that hadn’t been allowed to go out on his own for the last two months, was itching for some freedom. He’d been out on supply runs, sure, but he’d always been accompanied by either his men or Negan’s. The only alone time he got was on the drives back and forth between Alexandria and the Sanctuary, and that didn’t nearly compare to being able to walk alone outside.

There was a ladder built into the side of the wall leading up to a watchtower. Rick climbed up it and looked out beyond the gate. It was mostly forested, and there were only a couple walkers stumbling around.  He had a knife. He could easily take them out, and just have some time to himself out in the world for a few hours. Taking out his frustration on some walkers sounded pretty damn good right about now.

He knew he shouldn’t. Dwight’s men would be back at some point, and whether they found Negan or not, someone was going to be pissed that Rick was missing. Someone could come this way, a patrol or a person to man the tower. It would look very bad that he had disappeared right after Negan had. He should go back, wait on them to return. That would be the wise thing to do.

Instead, almost unthinkingly, Rick climbed down the half-ladder leading outside the wall, dropped the remaining few feet, and landed in the grass outside. He quietly approached the first walker, shoved the knife through its temple with a practiced precision, and then did the same with the second. Being outside the walls on his own felt good, he felt genuinely free for the first time in ages. Rick wiped the knife off on his jeans, and then headed into the forest.


 Rick only meant to be gone for an hour or two at the most, but ended up wandering the woods, killing the occasional walker and enjoying his temporary freedom until the sky started to shift toward dusk. He’d made sure to keep track of where he was so that he could find his way back before dark, marking his path every so often.

He didn’t know exactly how far out he was, but he was about to head back to the Sanctuary when he spotted a small cabin ahead. He decided to check it out; he hadn’t come across anything else like it all day, and for all he knew there could be supplies inside.

Rick approached the cabin quietly from the side, keeping alert for walkers or any signs of inhabitants, knife clenched in his hand. When he got up to the house, he walked quickly up the porch steps. The windows were boarded up, so he went for the door first, gingerly pushing it open, knife brandished in case of an attack. Nothing.

Rick banged on the frame of the door, trying to startle out any walkers inside. It was still light enough that he could fully see inside the cabin, which was mostly empty. After a few moments of silence, he walked in.

It was a simple structure, just an open first floor and a loft with a ladder. The first floor was barren, just the one room. It was long since abandoned, the sparse furniture old and musty. Rick picked through the kitchen, rifling through drawers that all turned out to be empty. He was just about to call it a day when he heard a shuffling noise from above.

The loft.

Rick’s heart stopped for a moment. He pulled out the knife again, backing against the wall, trying to keep out of the line of sight for what or who was up there. Another shuffling noise, and then,

“Who's 'ere?”

Rick froze, the voice from the loft slurred but immediately recognizable. He slowly crept toward the ladder leading to the loft, pausing for a second before climbing up.

At the top he was greeted by the sight of Negan, his hair mussed, his leather jacket thrown haphazardly in a corner, a mostly empty bottle of scotch on the floor beside him. Negan, obviously drunk, tilted his head at Rick and blinked a couple of times before recognition dawned on his face.

“Ricky boy!” He yelled, making Rick wince at the noise, “The hell are you doin’ here? You just couldn’t stand a day without me, huh?” Negan grinned, the usual teasing in his voice undercut by him slurring his words. “Well, come on, sit down, have a fuckin' drink!” He said, patting the floor beside him and indicating the bottle of scotch. Rick, completely dumbfounded by the scene in front of him, actually sat down beside Negan, though he declined the offer of a drink.

“Motherfucking fine by me, Rick, more for me!” Negan said, grabbing the bottle and downing the last of it. Negan stared at the empty bottle for a beat, sighed, and then suddenly threw it against the opposite wall, causing it to shatter loudly. Rick flinched. Negan was really drunk, and it was going to start getting dark soon, and they were couple hours out from the Sanctuary. If they were going to get back tonight, they needed to leave now.

“Look,” Rick said, turning to face Negan, “I don’t know what the hell you’re doing out here, but we need to leave now if we’re going to get back tonight. And we need to get back tonight. Dwight’s not real thrilled that you’re gone and he thinks I had something to do with it and I know I’m not supposed to be out here. And I’m sure once you sober up you’ll be pretty pissed I’m out here.” Negan laughed.

“I ain’t goin' nowhere, Rick. You can head your pretty little ass back and tell them where I am and that can be that, but I’m not fucking going back tonight.” He reached beside him, forgetting that he’d finished off the scotch, and frowned comically when he was met with air instead of a bottle. If Rick wasn’t so concerned about how the hell they were going to get back, he would’ve laughed.

Instead, Rick gritted his teeth in annoyance. “Yeah, actually, you are coming back with me tonight!” He snapped. “If we’re not back tonight it’s my head and, more than likely, my group’s heads as well, and I’m not gonna fucking put them and myself on the line so you can get wasted in the woods like a fucking teenager. So come the fuck on, we’re leaving. Now.”

With that, Rick stood up, grabbed Negan’s jacket out of the corner and threw it at him. He kept eye contact with Negan, who looked to be torn between laughter and seriousness.

“I’m not fucking around here, Negan. I’ll drag you out of here if I have to, but I’d really prefer to give us a fighting chance of making it back and you just do it yourself.”

Negan stared at Rick for a few moments. Then, his face formed a hard line and he pulled on the jacket. “Fine, you got it. Back to the Sanctuary it is. Lead the way, Rick.”

Rick breathed out a silent sigh of relief and made his way down the ladder, silently saying a prayer of thanks that Negan went along with it, because there was no way in hell Rick would have been able to follow through on his threat. Really, he had to appreciate exactly how drunk Negan must have been for that to have worked, because sober Negan would have laughed his ass off at Rick threatening to physically drag him back to the Sanctuary.

As it was, Rick was having trouble not laughing his ass off watching a very intoxicated Negan try to make his way down the ladder. He was clearly unsteady, nearly fell twice, and when he reached the bottom, swayed on his feet. Rick resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

“You got a weapon on you?” Rick asked, pulling out his knife. In response, Negan pulled out a knife of his own out of his pants pocket. Rick nodded. “Good, let’s go. I marked the path, and I brought a flashlight, for when it gets too dark to see. There weren’t a lot of walkers around when I came through, so we should be fine.” Negan nodded, and followed Rick out the front door, stumbling slightly. It took him a bit to get down the front steps, and Rick was losing patience. He grabbed Negan’s arm and pulled the man towards him, looping an arm under his shoulder to give him some support.

“I cannot believe I have to practically carry you through here. Fucking unbelievable. I should have fucking left you in there. I should have gone out the back door the moment I heard your voice.” Rick muttered as they walked.

“Why didn’t you?” Negan asked.

Rick was silent for a few moments. “I don’t know. I really don’t.”

They walked in silence for a while after that, and Rick was surprised that Negan hadn’t pushed the issue. They followed Rick’s markings, making decent time as far as Rick could tell, considering Negan’s current state of inebriation. There were only a couple of walkers stumbling around that Rick had to dispatch, and they stopped for a moment when it got too dark to see. Rick pulled out his flashlight before they continued on, Negan still leaning on him for support, his hip pressed into Rick’s.

It wasn’t until they were back at the gates of the Sanctuary that Negan spoke again. He stopped before he climbed up the ladder to the watchtower.

“Aren’t you gonna ask me what I was doing out there?” He asked, not turning to face Rick. His voice was strange, unreadable. Rick sighed.

“Just climb up. We need to get back.” he replied, too tired to have this discussion.

Negan didn’t say anything else, didn’t offer an explanation, just stood there for a second before boosting himself up the ladder.

When they got back to the Sanctuary, Dwight caught sight of them and immediately ran over.

“Sir! You’ve been gone all day, where were you? I sent a group out to take care of the Hilltop collection this morning.” He eyed Rick. “And what’s he doing with you?”

Negan collected himself, standing up straighter. “I was out, Dwight. Needed a day to myself without nosy little pricks like you sniffing around all day. Rick’s been patrolling. Like I told him to.” Negan didn’t give Dwight a chance to respond before he walked away. Rick quickly followed, not wanting to deal with Dwight’s questions about where he’d been all day.

Much to Rick’s surprise, Negan headed right to Rick’s room, shucking off his jacket as soon as he got in the door. He fumbled with his belt for a minute before he got it undone, clumsily stepping out of his jeans and collapsing onto the bed, facing the wall. Rick followed suit, stripping down to a t-shirt and boxers before getting into bed beside Negan. He waited on the other man to roll over and throw his arm around Rick like he normally did, but the moment didn’t come. At first, Rick thought it was because he was already asleep, but he could tell by Negan’s shallow breathing that he was still very much awake.

Rick bit his lip, debating whether or not to ask the question that had been burning in his mind for the last couple hours, before he gave in.

“Why were you out there?” Rick asked, ashamed of how small his voice sounded. He prayed Negan was still drunk enough to miss the neediness in his voice. A long silence stretched between them, so long that Rick almost gave up. But then Negan’s voice came out of the dark.

“It was…it was the anniversary of something. Something that happened a long time ago, right before the world went to hell. Well. I say it was the anniversary. You can’t really be sure of the exact day anymore, can you?” He chuckled without humor before continuing. “It was around this time, though. I…I lost someone. My wife. She was the last person I cared about.” Negan said, his voice much less slurred than before.

“It broke me, when she died. I…after that, I ran on survival instinct. I still do. It’s what’s gotten me this far. It’s how I do what I do. I don’t feel, I just do what I have to do to keep going.” Negan’s voice was steady, but also thick with a sort of rawness to it that Rick had never heard him speak with before. It was unsettling. He had to still be drunk. There was no way he’d be telling Rick any of this if he was sober.

After that, Negan was silent. Rick wasn’t sure what to say, if he even wanted a response. He still faced away from Rick. Rick’s mind was overwhelmed with this new information, this knowledge that Negan had once been a man who had cared so deeply for someone, that that loss was the reason he could be the way he was…Rick didn’t know how to process it.

Rick thought of what Negan had said before, about them not being all that different. As much as the thought made his stomach turn, there had been some truth to what Negan had said.

Rick wasn’t a saint, not by a long shot. He knew that, he’d never claimed to be otherwise. He liked to think that he wasn’t quite on the same level as Negan, as he didn’t get any sort of joy out of killing, the way Negan did. It was just something that the world dictated as necessary from time to time, something he had to do to survive and keep the people he cared about alive. He used that knowledge- that he killed to protect- to justify a lot of his less-than-savory actions.

But maybe that was what Negan was doing, too. Sure, he was taking some advantage of the power he’d earned, and he seemed a little too cheery about beating in people’s skulls, but if what Negan had just told him was true, then that cheeriness was probably a product of years of detaching himself from everything. While Rick may not necessarily agree with his methods, there really wasn’t much use in denying that Negan was managing to survive and provide for a huge group of people. He did what he had to do to survive. Just like Rick.

And, just like Rick, he’d lost his wife. Negan had lost someone, and it had affected him so deeply that even to this day, years later, after everything else that had happened in the world, after all of the things he’d done, he still mourned that loss. The thought made Rick's chest tighten. 

“I lost my wife too,” Rick said after a long stretch of silence. He didn’t know why exactly he was telling Negan this. It wasn’t necessary, and Negan, in all likelihood, neither cared nor wanted to hear about Rick’s dead wife when he’d spent the day mourning his own, but Rick felt compelled to tell him anyway.

“It was a while into everything, and she was pregnant. The place we were staying at, it got breached by walkers- the dead- and she went into labor. I- I wasn’t there. I was fighting them off, she was with one of our group and our son. She…something went wrong, with the birth, and she…she didn’t make it.” Rick swallowed down the lump that formed in his throat. Even after so long, the pain of Lori’s death still felt fresh when he talked about her.

“My son- our son, Carl- he was the one who…who stopped her from turning.” Rick heard Negan suck in a breath beside him.

“Je-sus. Fuck. No wonder that kid’s a little future serial killer.” Negan murmured. “I’m sorry. Fuck. That’s fucking fucked up.”

Rick didn’t respond to that. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but he felt oddly grateful for Negan’s sympathetic words. He knew enough about Negan to know that “I’m sorry” wasn’t something he said very often, at least not with any sort of sincerity behind it. And Negan seemed to be completely sincere right now.

“Can I ask you something?” Negan’s voice came out of the dark.

Rick replied “Yes,” without thinking, feeling strangely willing to be open with the man lying next to him. Negan had bared his soul, albeit somewhat drunkenly, and Rick felt he owed him a certain level of honesty in return, at least for tonight.

“The baby. Did it survive?”

It was a strange moment, when Rick realized that Negan didn’t know much of anything about his life. He could say no, he could lie right now and keep Judith’s existence a secret from Negan, but that would likely eventually backfire if he ever caught sight of her on his trips to Alexandria. Plus, the idea of Judith not surviving, of there being some reality in which she and Lori had both died, was something that Rick didn’t want to think about, even if he knew it was a lie. So he told Negan the truth.

“Yeah. She did. Little girl, named Judith.”

“Good,” Negan murmured, “I don’t like to think about little ones like that dying. Sad as hell.”

Rick swallowed around the lump in his throat. He felt a strange rush of affection for Negan, and for once he didn’t immediately try to block it out. Instead, Rick rolled over, pulling himself close to Negan, chest to his back, and wrapped his arm around the other man’s waist. He smelled strongly of scotch and the woods. Rick felt Negan stiffen for a moment when he touched him, clearly not expecting Rick to show him affection. After the initial shock passed, he felt Negan relax against him. Rick closed his eyes and murmured “goodnight” against the nape of Negan’s neck before drifting off to sleep.

Chapter Text

The next morning when Rick woke up, Negan was still there, just like normal. Rick was still pressed up against his back, arm around the larger man’s waist.

This was probably the point, Rick realized, that he should be pulling away and looking back on last night with abject horror and regret. But instead, he allowed himself to stay. Yesterday had been a long, strange day and, at least for now, he was tired of pretending like he didn’t enjoy the affection.

Judging by his deep breathing, Negan didn’t seem to be awake yet, and the bed was warm and comfortable, so Rick stayed, tightening his arm around Negan’s waist and scooting a bit closer to soak up more of his body heat, letting his forehead press lightly against Negan’s back.

It was really kind of nice, being this close to another person again. Even if that person was Negan.

Rick closed his eyes and was just starting to doze off again when he felt Negan shift beside him, waking up. He heard the other man chuckle sleepily when he noticed that Rick was still wrapped around him.

Negan reached down and caught the hand that was draped over his waist, raising it up to his lips and pressing a kiss to Rick's fingers. Rick was momentarily stunned by the unexpected sweetness of the gesture before Negan released his hand and slid out of bed, forcing Rick back into reality. He rolled onto his back to see Negan pulling his shirt over his head and walking toward the bathroom, grinning when he caught sight of Rick.

“Sorry, sweetheart,” Negan said, amusement in his voice, “Can’t stay and bed and cuddle all day, we took the day off yesterday and we have got a hell of a lot of shit to do to make up for it.”

Rick watched as Negan headed into the bathroom, closing the door behind him. Rick lay on the bed for a moment, listening to the shower running. Of course Negan wouldn’t want to talk about last night, he thought to himself.

Somehow, this disappointed him. He’d thought that maybe…maybe what, Rick? He asked himself. Maybe what? Where could that thought possibly go?

Rick didn’t really have an answer, so he let it go, rolling out of bed and grabbing some clean clothes out of the dresser. Negan sauntered out of the bathroom, already dressed for the day- he’d stopped walking around naked after his morning showers after about a week, when Rick had thrown a towel at his face and yelled at him to “put some damn clothes on, I don’t want to see that shit”. Rick was still surprised that had worked, but maybe Negan saw it as a boundary that wasn’t worth pushing.

Negan leaned down to kiss him briefly, as he often did before he left in the morning. Rick had never kissed him back, never let himself even consider the possibility of doing so before. He knew that if he entertained that idea, it would be admitting defeat, that Negan had been right and that there was at least some part of him that wanted this.

But after yesterday, with the drunken heart-to-heart and Rick initiating affection for the first time, he knew that a line had been crossed somewhere in his mind, that some part of his resolve had cracked.

Knowing that he was capable of feeling something other than intense hatred for Negan was terrifying. It made him feel completely out of control, like it was no longer a matter of if he gave in to Negan, but when.

That was a truly terrifying thought. He no longer knew where his limits were when it came to Negan. He had no idea what would happen if he chose to kiss him back; if Negan would just let it happen and carry on as if nothing had changed, letting Rick’s resolve slowly erode away on its own. If Negan would pull back, laughing that deep laugh of his, and gloat over how he’d broken Rick. If Negan would keep going, seeing how far Rick would go, seeing how much of his resolve would give away at once.

Not knowing what Negan's response would be made Rick uneasy.

Not knowing what his own response would be if Negan were to keep going was even worse.

Before Rick could decide on what the hell to do, however, Negan pulled back, grinning as usual.

“I’ll see you tonight, gorgeous,” Negan called as he walked out the door. Rick stayed seated on the edge of the mattress, trying to shove down all of the thoughts that had just been running through his head.

Jesus, there was actually a small, sick part of him that was disappointed that he waited too long to kiss him back. What the hell was that about?

“See you tonight,” Rick muttered.


The rest of the day proceeded as usual, with Rick driving to Alexandria and working there for the day. Early on in the day, Michonne caught up with him and pulled him to the side.

“Rick, where were you yesterday? I thought you said you were going to be here?” Her voice wasn’t accusatory, only curious, but Rick felt a stab of guilt in his gut anyway.

“Oh, nothing, Michonne. I just decided to take a day off to wander in the woods and ended up finding Negan drowning his sorrows in a bottle of scotch. Don’t worry though, I didn’t leave the guy you all hate so much out there where he could get attacked, freeing us from this shitty situation. No, I practically carried him back home and listened like a good husband as he cried over his dead wife! Oh, and for good measure I told him my own tragic backstory and spooned him until he fell asleep. And how was your day?”

Yeah, like hell was Rick going to admit what had really happened.

“They switched my schedule, I got sent out on a run with a couple of Negan’s guys.” Michonne nodded, accepting his story without question.

Why the hell wouldn’t she? Rick thought to himself. God knows the lie sounded far more plausible than the truth.


Rick finished up in Alexandria and returned to the Sanctuary fairly early in the evening, immediately heading over to the dining hall to grab something to eat. Negan had offered a while back to have food sent to Rick’s room for dinner as well as breakfast, but Rick had turned him down. At the time, it had seemed like a good idea, as he would be avoiding eating a second meal with Negan.

Now, as he grabbed a bowl of whatever they were serving- it looked to be some kind of soup today, but there was really no way to be sure- he was regretting that choice. He sat down at an empty table and had only taken a couple spoonfuls before a small group of women descended on his table, taking up the empty seats around him. He glanced up from his soup and was met with three pairs of eyes looking at him with curiosity. He sat his spoon down on the table.

“Uh. Hey.”

The woman to his right, petite and dark-haired, spoke first. “So you’re Rick.” She said, looking him in the eye. It wasn’t a question, but she paused as if expecting an answer.

“Yeah...” Rick replied, unsure of exactly what these women wanted.

“I’m Sherry.” The woman replied. “This is Amber and Tess,” she said, gesturing to the two other women, a wide-eyed blonde and a tall redhead. “We’re Negan’s wives. Well, some of them. There’s a couple more of us, but we figured having all of us flock you at once may be a bit much.” Sherry paused, clearly waiting on Rick’s response.

“Uh. Okay.” Rick stammered, unsure of exactly what she wanted him to say.

“This may seem weird, and I know you’ve been here a while, so you may be used to all of it already, but we just wanted to offer you…our support, I guess you could say.” Sherry continued. “If you ever need to talk about any of it. I know that probably sounds strange, but Negan can be….intense. He’s never violent with us, never forceful, but he’s very intense, as a person, and sometimes it helps to be able to talk to people who are in the same boat as you. Also-”

Sherry, paused, seeming unsure of how to say what she wanted to say next. The blonde woman across from Rick, Amber, spoke up instead.

“Look, Negan’s never had a husband before, at least as far as we know. He’s been with men before you, but never as a long-term thing like this is. And we also know that you weren’t exactly…on board with the whole situation, that you’re a part of that group he just took over. Your situation is unique.” Rick just stared at her, not sure what she was getting at.

“And?” He inquired.

“And,” Amber continued, “We know that Negan has a certain set of rules he follows, and that he has his morals. He doesn’t hurt us. We’re not forced into anything here. But you…we don’t really know if his moral code extends to men. What we’re saying is that if anything is…happening….that you don’t want- we want you to know that we’re people you can talk to.”

She finished in a rush, clearly just wanting to get the whole thing out in the open.  Much to his annoyance, Rick felt his face flush slightly. Did everyone think that Negan was having his way with him every night? The people of Alexandria certainly seemed to assume that, and even the other women Negan was sleeping with thought that. The thought of everyone around him assuming that…that…was happening to him every other night made his skin crawl.

“He’s not….he hasn’t….” Rick stumbled over his words, trying to ease these women’s minds. “He hasn’t done anything to me. Nothing like that. He shows up in my room a few nights a week and we sleep in the same bed and he…kisses me goodbye in the morning, and that’s it. He told me flat out my first night here that he’s not a rapist so it’s obviously just a power play thing. He likes making me uncomfortable, keeping me from my group.” 

Rick broke off, his face hot. The admission that Negan was sharing his bed and kissing him, even to these women who had assumed he was getting much worse, somehow seemed like sharing something deeply personal.

As it was, all three women were looking at him very strangely. They seemed weirdly surprised by what he’d said. Amber was tilting her head at him in confusion like he’d said Negan was forcing him to dress up and role play as a fairy princess every other night, and it made Rick feel even more self-conscious than he had before.

“Look, I know it’s weird, God knows it would probably make more sense if he was just fucking me, but like you said, he has his own set of morals and-”

“No, that’s not it.” The third woman, Tess, interjected. “It’s just that- you said…he stays the night with you?” She stared at him, her tone disbelieving.

Now it was Rick’s turn to be confused. “Uh. Yeah. Three or four nights a week usually. Sometimes less. Why? I mean…I guess that kind of seems like a lot of nights with me but I seriously think it’s just because he likes to fuck with my head and make me uncomfortable and he can’t do it any other way.” All three women were still looking at him like he’d grown a second head.

“Rick,” Amber said, “Negan…he has certain boundaries with us. None of us stay the night with him, not ever, not even on our first night. We don’t stay with him, he doesn’t stay with us, no exceptions. None of us have ever spent the night with him. He’s really serious about it, too. Most of us think he thinks it’s too intimate or something.” Rick stared at her, not understanding. What the hell...?

“We don’t know anything for sure, but most of us figure that he probably had a wife or a girlfriend that died early on when everything went down or something, and it probably has to do with that, that he doesn't want to get too close to anyone. He calls that bat of his Lucille, after all. It could just be a quirk, he has a…strange sense of humor, but he really doesn’t joke around about that bat.”

Rick felt like the floor dropped out from under him. What the hell was this? She had to be joking, right? He looked around at them, searching their faces for signs of teasing. Their serious expressions told him she wasn’t, but he had to ask anyway.

“You’re screwing with me.”

Tess shook her head. “No, I'm completely serious. One of the girls asked him about it before, and he just said that he prefers sleeping alone.”

Well, that obviously wasn’t true. At least not where Rick was concerned.

Why? Why the fuck would he spend the night with Rick, multiple times a week, when he had a clear boundary established with these women? And what they were saying, about him probably losing someone, that that’s why he kept them all at arm’s length… Rick couldn’t help but think back to what Negan had told him the night before. If all Negan’s wives were doing was guessing at his past, there was no way he had told any of them what he had told Rick.

But why?

Rick looked around at the women crowded around his table. They had all slept with Negan, had known him much longer than Rick had, and yet they were looking at him like he had unlocked some key piece in a puzzle they’d been working on for ages.

“Look,” Rick said, trying to rationalize the situation to himself as much as he was to the women around him, “I don’t know what the hell that’s about. My guess is that since I’m not sleeping with him he just needs some way to fuck with me. I don’t know.”

He grabbed his uneaten bowl of soup and stood up. “I gotta go. Thanks…thanks for offering to talk. I appreciate it.” Rick awkwardly stepped around his chair and made his way away from the table. He was suddenly not hungry at all, but quickly downed his now-cold soup in a few gulps, not wanting to waste food.

He wasn’t at all sure how to process what he’d just learned, and he knew that this wasn’t something he could pretend didn’t intrigue him, because it did. For whatever reason, Negan was treating him differently than his other wives. He’d broken one of his own boundaries to share Rick’s bed, and fuck if that didn’t confuse the hell out of Rick.

He resolved to confront Negan about it that night. And until then he would just have to put it out of his mind carry on about his day.

Chapter Text

The revelation that he was the only one that Negan stayed overnight with was the only thing Rick could think about all day. He didn’t even try to block out the thoughts like he normally did; he incessantly mulled over them throughout the day like a dog with a bone. By the time he got back to his room that night, he was positively itching to confront Negan. So much so that as soon as he walked in the door and saw him reading in the ragged armchair, he started his barrage of questions.

“Some of your wives showed up while I was eating lunch and told me that you don’t stay overnight with them. Is that true? It has to be, I know they weren’t lying, why the hell would they?” Rick rushed out, answering his own question before continuing.

“Why? Why the hell do you stay with me and not them? Because if I recall correctly, you said there wasn’t much point in staying with someone who wasn’t fucking you, but here you are, every other night, in my bed, and it turns out you don’t even stay with the people who are fucking you! What the hell is that?”

Rick was getting worked up, but he didn't care. He’d spent too long obsessing over the question to be completely calm.

“I don’t get it. I don’t get you. What the hell is your game here, Negan? I’ve been trying to work it out for two months and I swear it only gets more confusing whenever I try to figure out how your mind works. Why the hell are you staying with me and not them? What exactly is this doing for you? Why did you tell me what you told me last night? I know you haven’t told your wives what you told me. They have all these theories, about how you must have lost someone and that’s why you don’t get too close to them, but that’s all they are to them: theories. They’re guessing, they don’t know shit about you, and here I am, two months in with you and I already know more about you than they do.” Rick ran his hands through his hair, unable to stop the words spilling from his mouth.

“So why me? Why break what they made seem like a pretty big rule of yours to spend the night with a guy who’s not letting you fuck him? Why the hell did you tell me what you told me? Why…why are you kissing me every morning like I’m one of your wives and not the guy who threatened to kill you?”

Rick took a deep breath, calming himself down. Negan had set his book down and was staring at Rick, his face impassive.

“Wow. That is an absolute metric fuckload of questions, Rick. I’m not gonna deny it, I don’t spend the night with my girls. And yeah, it is because of what I told you last night. I don’t like getting too cozy after all that shit. As for why I stay the night with you, well-” Negan stood up, stepping close to Rick, looking him straight in the eye.

“It’s because I like you. It’s because I want to fuck you, and that’s not going to happen if you don’t like me. If I don’t make you realize that you’re capable of wanting me to fuck you. Because you are, Rick, you bet your sweet ass you are. I stay the night with you because you’re a man, and it’s easier to separate sleeping next to you from sleeping next to my dead wife. I stay the night with you because every time I do, I’m one step closer to making you realize you want me, too. And I kiss you every morning,” Negan said, a smirk slowly spreading across his face, “Because you like it. The first time I did it, I’ll admit I didn’t mean to, it’s something I usually do with the girls before I leave for the night. Just a fucking instinct I forgot to check at the door that morning. I almost fucking felt bad for a second, seeing as I said I wouldn’t force any physical shit on you, but then I saw your face.”

“What the hell are you talking abou-” Rick interjected, only to be cut off.

“You fucking liked it. You didn’t tell me off, you didn’t get pissed; you fucking blushed like a teenager on their first date. It was goddamn adorable . And a huge win for me. So I kept doing it.”

Negan looked so satisfied with himself, it was infuriating. Rick had come in thinking he was going to force Negan into a corner, make him expose himself in some way, and here he was, gloating. It was unbelievable. And Rick couldn’t really say anything to the contrary- he had liked it, he had let Negan keep kissing him every morning.

“I-” Rick began, fumbling for words. “I-you…You like me.” Rick stammered lamely, knowing it sounded stupid, that the accusation was pointless as Negan himself had just said it aloud. Negan laughed, a hearty laugh, head thrown back and a hand on his stomach.

“What are you, ten? Is this grade school? You like me …Of course I fucking like you, Rick! I married you, you dumbshit! I feel like I’ve been pretty goddamn upfront about that. I said at the beginning of all this that I wanted to fuck you. My cards have always been on the table, Rick. All I’ve been doing is waiting on you to catch up so we can finally have us a little fucking fun.”

Rick wasn’t sure what to say to that. He really didn’t know what to say to any of it. How Negan had managed to be to one with the upper hand in this situation was beyond him, but he didn’t really know what he’d been expecting. Negan was right: he’d said from the beginning that his endgame was to fuck Rick. Rick was the one who had been obstinately denying any possibility of feelings or affection toward Negan. And yet, here he was, acting like a middle schooler, gossiping at lunch about who likes who. He felt like an idiot.

Negan was still holding eye contact with Rick, his gaze so intense that Rick found it almost invasive. He was right up in Rick’s face, their lips just a couple inches from touching. Rick’s heart was beating so fast he could practically feel it in his throat. He swallowed hard, breaking his gaze to glance briefly at Negan’s mouth. Negan’s tongue flicked out, a flash of wet pink as he licked his lips, still looking at Rick. Rick’s mouth went dry as his mind conjured up ideas of what else Negan’s tongue could be good for. Negan leaned in even further, his forehead resting against Rick’s, causing Rick’s eyes to flutter closed. His lips were so close that Rick could feel his breath as he spoke his next words.

“So, Rick. Cards on the table. Do you like me?”

Being this close to Negan was making it hard to think straight. His lips were so damn close to Rick’s and his scent- all leather and soap and something deep and musky that was just straight up Negan - was flooding Rick’s senses, sending his mind wandering down strange, unexplored paths.

“I…”

Oh my god, what the hell are you about to say? Rick’s mind screamed, panic overtaking him. I know you’re not about to tell him that you like him. You don’t like him! Are you a fucking idiot?

Rick’s mind warred over what to say.

I like you.

I hate you.

Fuck you.

Fuck me.

Jesus, where the hell was all this coming from? The words stuck in his throat, tongue weighed down by uncertainty, and he couldn’t decide if he was relieved or disappointed when Negan pulled back after a minute of silence from Rick.

Rick met his eyes expecting anger or amusement, which were the two usual emotions that could be found there. Instead, his gaze was curious, searching, as if Rick’s silence intrigued him.

“I get it. You’re not ready. That’s fine, I’m a patient man.” He threaded his fingers through the hair at the nape of Rick’s neck, playing with the curls for a moment before letting go and collapsing back in the chair.

Rick took a shaky breath, his senses still mixed up. He needed to get away from Negan, right now, before he did something stupid. He grabbed a change of clothes out of the dresser and headed toward the shower, locking the door behind him. He knew in the back of his mind that it was unnecessary; his first couple of days at the Sanctuary, Rick had avoided taking a shower, assuming that Negan would find some excuse to come barging in on him. Stupid, juvenile, maybe. But he hadn’t been ready to give up all his privacy yet. After three days, Negan had insisted that he take a shower.

“You smell like death and sweat, and I don’t want that in bed with me.” He’d said, and since not sharing a bed hadn’t been an option, Rick had showered once he’d gotten confirmation that Negan would leave him alone while he did so.

As much of a dick that Negan could be, when Rick set a boundary on things like that, he did actually respect it. Rick still kept the door locked every time, anyway. Just as a precaution.

He stripped off his clothes, sighing in relief when he felt the hot water spill over his back and shoulders. The Sanctuary didn’t have the luxury of having running water for every citizen, as it was a factory that housed a couple hundred and not a nice neighborhood that was home to under fifty, like Alexandria. There were communal showers that people used on a schedule, and the privilege of private showers and hot water was one that was only extended to Negan and his chosen few.

Rick ran his hands up through his dripping hair, reaching for the soap and lathering up, letting his mind wander in the steamy comfort of the stall. He thought about earlier that morning, Negan’s lips on his, how fucking close he had been to kissing him back. How stupid of a move would that have been?

What would have happened if he had gone through with it, he wondered as he rinsed the soap out of his hair. What if Negan had kept going? Pressed him back into the bed and straddled his hips-

Rick shook his head, wet curls flinging droplets of water flying in every direction. What the hell was his problem? He shouldn’t be having thoughts like that. He took a steadying breath and started to scrub the grime off of the rest of his body.

He tried to keep his mind from wandering back to that train of thought, but it ended up there again anyway. It was all he could think about, the what if . What if Negan had slid his tongue into his mouth, what if he’d pushed Rick back against the mattress and gotten on top of him, what if he’d reached for Rick’s belt and slid his hand between Rick’s thighs…

Rick squeezed his eyes closed, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.  He was out of control, losing his mind. There was no other explanation for it. He reached for the soap again, only to glance down and see that he was hard, cock stiff and flushed.

Christ, how had he sunk this low?

He bit his lip, weighing his options. On one hand, he could ignore it. Turn on the cold water and will it away. Pray that his mind didn’t wander back to Negan and his stupid mouth when he left the bathroom, or god forbid when he got into bed with him.

Or, on the other hand, he could take care of it. Quick and easy, then leave the bathroom like nothing ever happened. No chance of shaming himself by getting caught with a stupidly persistent erection.

Yeah, option two seemed best.

Rick let his hand wrap around his dick, head tipping back as he started to stroke himself. It was nice, a welcome relief from the tension he’d been feeling so much lately. He passed a thumb over the head, spreading the wetness there as his hips bucked into his fist. God, it had been forever since he’d felt like this. He silently thanked himself for always locking the door. With his luck, tonight would have been the night that Negan decided to walk in on him.

Fuck. There his brain went, redirecting his thoughts back to Negan. He really didn’t want to be thinking about him while jerking off. He really didn’t want to think about the kiss from this morning or how close their lips had been just a few minutes ago, or what would happen if he were to walk in on Rick right now, if he would be tempted to join him under the warm spray of the water and lend Rick a helping hand-

He hissed between his teeth, biting back a groan as he came hard over his fist, hips jerking and breath stuttering in his chest.

He was breathing hard, the water starting to run a bit cold as he gave himself a minute to recover. Once his mind cleared, the inevitable horror crept in. He’d just come thinking about Negan

Nope. No. He shut down the thought. He’d given Negan more than enough thought for the day. He really didn’t want to get into the implications of what he’d just done, he was way too mixed up and exhausted for that. Instead, he shut the water off, keeping his mind carefully blank as he dried off and got dressed, rejoining Negan in the bedroom.

He tossed his book to the side when he saw Rick, standing up and moving to get into bed. He’d changed into his usual sleepwear of boxers and a t-shirt while Rick had been in the shower.

“Everything alright in there, Rick? You were in there an awfully long time.” He mused. Rick knew that he was just messing with him, but his heart still stopped for a split second, thinking that somehow Negan knew what he’d just done. How did he manage to do that, get at what Rick was thinking without having a clue?

Rick joined him under the covers, suppressing a shiver when Negan threw and arm over him.

“So I was thinking, while you were in there.” Negan yawned from behind him. “I’ve got something I want you to do tomorrow. Something a little different.”

“What’s that?” Rick asked, feeling his eyelids starting to get heavy.

“It’s a surprise. You’ll find out in the morning.”

“Tease.” Rick muttered, without thinking. He heard Negan give a surprised bark of laughter.

“You are such a fucking flirt, Rick. I never would have guessed that about you.”

Rick grumbled incoherently under his breath, still annoyed at his slip of tongue as he drifted off.


The next morning, Rick was woken up by Negan throwing his clothes at his face.

“Wake up, Rick! Big day today!”

Rick grumbled, ambling out of bed and pulling his shirt over his head clumsily, feeling a bit like a grouchy teenager being woken up for school by an annoyingly enthusiastic parent. He tugged on his jeans and glanced up at Negan as we was doing his belt, cheeks flushing when he noticed the man staring at his bare chest, tongue between his teeth.

“What?”

Negan didn’t respond for a moment, looking like he was weighing his words before he spoke. “You’re fucking gorgeous, you know that?” The heat behind the words made Rick’s face grow hot. He averted his gaze, grabbing his shirt off the bed and tugging it on.

“Shut up.” He muttered, embarrassed. When he glanced up again, Negan looked very much like he didn’t want to shut up, but rather say more things to get that same flustered reaction out of Rick. Thankfully, he restrained himself.

“So. Anyway. About today. You’re gonna go on a run.” Rick gave him a look as he pulled on his jacket.

“You do know that I go out on runs all the time, right? That’s most of what I do these days.”

Negan grinned and grabbed Lucille from her place on the armchair. “Not like this. We’re going together.”

Rick choked. “You-you and me? Why?”

Negan’s smile didn’t falter. “I’m hurt, Rick. You don’t wanna go out with me?” There was laughter in his eyes, like he knew exactly how that sounded and that it was completely intentional.

"What is this, a date?" He couldn't help but tease. Negan looked delighted, like he always did when Rick joined in on his banter.

"It is if you want it to be, baby."

Rick suppressed and eye roll. "No."

Negan shrugged. "It's just a supply run, then."

“I didn’t think you went on supply runs. Isn’t that what you have your workers for?”

“I don’t, normally.” Negan conceded. “This is a special occasion. We don’t spend enough time together, and I want to change that. I figure it’ll bring us closer together.”

Rick didn’t want to know exactly how close Negan hoped they would be getting. “Yeah, okay. Fine. Not like I have a say in this, right?”

Negan pumped his fist in the air, thrusting his hips forward. “That’s the spirit, Rick!”


 Negan had a truck already waiting to go when they got to the gates. He retrieved the keys from the girl with the car check-out list and within minutes, they were pulling out onto the road.

“You have a plan, or are we just driving till we find something?” Rick asked.

Negan scoffed. “What do you take me for, Rick? Of course I have a plan. There’s a place about two hours out that my men came across while they were scouting. Said they got a good bit of what was there, but they weren’t have the space to take all of it, and that there was another place nearby that they didn’t hit at all.”

Rick immediately thought of his group, who were getting their supplies raided every few weeks. They needed these supplies a whole lot more than the Saviors did. He always hated going on runs with people from the Sanctuary, knowing that it was just him working directly for Negan, with no benefit to his group.

The thought pissed him off, and he stayed silent for a good while, anger stewing in his chest.

Negan glanced over at him. “Something wrong, Rick? You look like a moody fuckin’ teenager being dragged to family Thanksgiving.”

Rick whirled around and glared at him. “Yeah, something is wrong. I’m being dragged out here on a supply run for your people, when I could be in Alexandria helping them stock up for whenever you guys stop by to raid our stuff again.” He seethed. “I hate the days you make me go on runs with your guys instead of mine. Not just because that mean I won’t get to see my kids that day, or check to make sure everything is okay there, but because I know it’s a day that I’ve done absolutely nothing to benefit my group. At least when I’m going out with my people, I know I’m doing something, I'm providing for them. Instead of today, where it feels like I’m working for the people standing on their necks.”

Negan was silent for a long moment, processing Rick’s outburst. “If it makes you feel any better, Rick, technically every day that you’re married to me you’re doing them a service. If it wasn’t for you, they’d be losing supplies at three times the rate they are right now.”

Rick remained silent, unappeased by Negan’s words.

“Why do you feel like it’s a waste?”

Rick balked. “Because everything I get when I go out with you guys could have been going to my group. Everything we get today is food I’m taking out of their mouths. If I was there, I could be working to help them. I can’t do that when I’m with you.”

Negan seemed to consider this. “Alright. That’s fair. So what do you want to do about that?”

Wait. What?

“What do you mean?” Rick asked, confused.

“I mean,” Negan said, veering left at a fork in the road, “Is there some way that I can help you feel like going on this run today isn’t a waste of your time.”

Was he…offering to negotiate? Surely not. It was worth a shot, though. The worst he could do was say no, right?

Well, knowing Negan, there was probably a lot worse that he could do. But he seemed to be in a reasonable mood, so Rick went for it anyway.

“Half of what we find goes to Alexandria.” The words rushed out of him before he could overthink them too much. Negan didn’t respond for a long minute, and Rick sat in the seat tersely, anticipating anger.

“A third.” Negan said, breaking the silence. “I think that’s more than generous, since there’s two of us and we’re supposed to be taking half of your supplies anyway.”

Holy shit. Rick honestly hadn’t thought that would work.

“Fine. A third. And I don’t have to go on supply runs with your men anymore. If you don’t want me in Alexandria every day, fine, but I don’t want to fetch supplies with your men knowing that I’m taking them from people who need it more.”

He was sure that he was pushing his luck, but Negan seemed to consider it. “Alright. I can work with that. I want a little something from you, though.”

Of course he did.

“What do you want?”

Negan smiled to himself. “I think I’ll let it be a surprise for later tonight, actually. I want you to warm up to me a little more before I ask.”

“No.” Rick’s voice hardened.

Negan’s smile dropped. “I haven’t even told you what it is yet.”

“I think I can take a guess. I didn’t think you’d want to manipulate me into that, but I guess it was only a matter of time.” Bitterness wormed its way into Rick’s voice. He’d really thought that…no. Of course this was how it was going to be. It had been stupid and naïve to think otherwise.

Negan gritted his teeth and clenched the steering wheel, annoyed. “You got something to say, Rick? Wanna tell me what it is you think I’m asking?”  His voice was clipped, like he was trying not to yell.

“You want to have sex with me. I’ve been holding out on you for too long and you just got the opportunity to bargain for it.”

“Is that what you think?” Negan’s cheek twitched like he was holding back a snarl.

“That’s what I know.” Rick snapped at him. “You know I’ll do it, too. You know I’ll bend right over for you if I think it’ll help my group.” Rick wasn’t sure where all this was coming from, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. “That’s what you want, isn’t it? All that talk about not being a rapist, but if I agreed to let you fuck me, you’d take me in a heartbeat. Doesn’t matter if I don’t want it, as long as I tell you yes, right?”

“Rick, stop.” Negan’s jaw was clenched tight.

“No, I don’t think I will stop!” Rick yelled. “Because I know what you are. You fucking get off on manipulating people, having them bend over backwards to please you. You said you wanna wait for me to give you the okay, but I don’t think you do. I think you’d like it more if you had me like this, cornered and bargaining on a price that I’m willing to sell myself to you for. I bet you’d have more fun if I fought you a little bit, if I wasn’t willing.”

“Shut up, Rick.” Negan’s voice strained so much it sounded like it was about to break, but Rick kept going, hoping he snapped, wanting him to.

“I bet you’d like it more if you had to pin me down, rough me up a bit, wouldn’t you?” Rick shouted, wanting to see how far this could go.

“Shut the fuck up!” Negan shouted back.

“I bet you’d like it more if I cried when you pushed into me, if you could hear me breaking down as you fucked me.”

Negan slammed the brakes so hard that Rick flew forward against his seatbelt, a yelp of surprise tearing out of his throat. Negan yanked the gearshift into park and whipped around to grab Rick by the front of his shirt. Rage emanated off of him in waves, his face red and contorted with fury, and Rick felt a stab of fear, realizing that he’d taken things too far.

“Is that what you fucking think of me, Rick? That I’m such a fucking evil sack of shit that I’d like it more if I raped you?” He was seething, the hand gripping the front of Rick’s shirt shaking. "Well? Is that who you fucking think I am?”

Rick’s heart was pounding in his chest from the sudden slam to the brakes and Negan’s reaction. He wasn’t sure what to say. He wasn’t completely sure where everything he’d just yelled at Negan had come from, if he’d just said it to get a rise out of him, or if it was from somewhere else. From the deep, dark place inside Rick that had started warming up to Negan and was terrified that, one day, the other shoe would drop and the patient, caring side of Negan would disappear and Rick would find himself broken and bleeding on their bed.

He didn’t want to believe that that’s who Negan was. But that doubt crept into his mind anyway.

“Please answer the goddamn question.” Negan’s voice was surprisingly soft, as if all the rage had drained out of him at once. He sounded desolate and a little lost.

“I don’t want to think that. I really don’t. But I just-I’m scared.” It killed Rick a little to admit that, but he suddenly found it very hard to lie when Negan sounded so wrecked.

“Of me.” Negan said, his face contorted as if in pain. “You’re scared that I didn’t mean any of what I told you that first night. That I’ve just been sitting around, waiting for the right moment to jump you and-” be broke off, shaking his head in disgust.

Rick took a deep breath. “I’m scared that I’m making a mistake letting my guard down around you. You have no idea how badly I want to believe that you wouldn’t do that. But I’m not going to lie to you and say there’s not a part of me that’s scared that you’re going to turn on me, that one day you’re going to stop asking and start taking.” He felt like he was revealing way too much by saying all that, but it was true, and it was too late to take it back.

“Rick,” Negan let go of the front of his shirt, pulling away. “I meant what I said. I would never…I’m not going to turn on you. I don’t want you to think that’s the kind of man that I am. I don’t give a shit what else you think of me, as long as you don’t think that.” There was something in his eyes, something raw and honest that made Rick want to reach out and touch him.

“Okay.”

“Okay, you believe me?” Negan asked.

“Okay, I believe you.” Rick answered. Maybe it was stupid, but Negan seemed to have strong feeling about very few things, and this was one of them. That was the longest Rick had ever seen him drop the mask of mockery and sarcasm, and he got the strong sense that that Negan wasn’t quite in touch with his feelings enough to fake all of it.

Negan nodded to himself, seeming to come to his senses. He put the car back in drive and they continued down the road. After a minute, he opened his mouth to speak again.

“I’m sorry for reacting like that. Grabbing you and shit. I shouldn’t have.”

“It’s alright.” Rick said, never knowing how to accept Negan’s rare apologies. “I…I was getting in your face. Said shit I shouldn’t.”

“Doesn’t make it okay.” Negan said gruffly, eyes on the road.

“No,” Rick agreed, “But I was out of line. I was scared, wanted to hurt you. I’m sorry.”

Negan nodded. “I just-I don’t want you to think of me like that. I don’t want you to think I’d like it more if-”

“I know.” Rick cut him off. “I know that now.” Negan seemed to accept that and they lapsed into silence.

“One third.” Negan said after a minute. “One third, and you don’t have to go on runs with my men anymore.”

A smile tugged at the edges of Rick’s lips. “Thank you.”

They drove in silence for a long while, Rick looking out the window and Negan focused on the road ahead of them. Strangely, after the tension dissipated, the silence felt comfortable, like they’d been doing this for years. Negan, of course, couldn’t stay quiet forever.

“So what’d you do before all this, Rick?” he asked. Rick bit back a smile.

“I knew you thought this was a date.”

Negan let out a surprised snort of laughter that Rick had never heard before. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“That’s classic first date smalltalk! What do you do for a living, where’d you grow up, what’s your favorite color, top or bottom...” Rick smirked, trying to get Negan to do that snort of laughter again with the last one but only getting a surprised eyebrow raise.

“Damn, what kind of first dates were you going on?” Negan teased, tongue in cheek.

“That last one may have been for your benefit.”

Negan’s eyebrows arched higher. “Really? What kind of first dates do you think I was going on?”

Shit. “Well, um. You just-you seemed like this wasn’t your first time-with a man-” Negan’s laughter got so loud that he couldn’t finish his sentence.

“Holy shit, Rick! You can be funny, who fucking knew?” He wiped his eyes. “It’s not, but I’ll just let you know that that not really how my dates with men went, as far as I can remember. I don't think there was a sit down-discussion about positions over a candlelit dinner. It was a long time ago, though.”

“Ah, my mistake.”

“To answer your question though, gym teacher, Ohio, red, and top.”

Rick ignored the way his face flushed at Negan’s last answer. That wasn’t really new information, anyway. The job part, however…

“You used to be a teacher? You?” Rick asked, barely holding back incredulous laughter.

“You know, people always fucking react the same damn way when I tell them that. I’d be offended, but hell, I get it.”

“You don’t really strike me as someone who would go over well with kids. Or with parents. Definitely not with parents.” Rick agreed.

“I wasn’t much of a crowd pleaser at the PTA meetings, I’ll give you that one. Something about ‘unnecessary and excessive vulgarity’ or some shit.” Rick laughed, easily picturing it: Negan, somehow still wearing his ridiculous leather jacket, swearing up a storm at students to motivate them to run more laps. The thought amused him.

“Alright, your turn.”

“I was a deputy sheriff.” Rick answered.

“No shit!” He chuckled. “Damn, Sheriff Rick Grimes. That’s kinda hot, I’m not gonna lie.”

“Yeah,” Rick grinned, “I looked real sexy pulling over kids speeding in school zones and telling loiterers to ‘move it along, folks’. You would have found me irresistible.”

“I was thinking more about the handcuffs and voice of authority, actually.”

“I thought you were a top.” Rick teased, feeling the conversation wandering into dangerous territory but letting it go there anyway.

“I am. That makes it even better. A cop in his own handcuffs? Sign me right the fuck up.”

A filthy shudder ran through Rick at the thought.

“Anyway, you didn’t answer the rest of the question.” Negan said.

“Oh. Well, I’m from Georgia. I don’t really have a favorite color, because I’m an adult-” Negan scoffed but let Rick continue, “And I never had to ask myself that question with a woman.”

“Don’t be sexist, Rick. Women can top, too.”

Rick laughed. “Well, it didn’t come up with the women I dated.”

“That’s because you’re vanilla as fuck. I can help you with that, though.” Negan glanced over at him and winked. Rick gave his shoulder a shove. And he had the audacity to call Rick a flirt…

“Jesus, Rick.” Negan said mildly, “Control yourself. I know all this talk of topping has you all worked up, but I’m trying to drive over here.”

“Shut up.”


They managed to keep somewhat civil conversation for the rest of the trip, though Rick noticed it dipping back into flirtation a couple times. He didn’t mind that much, as it made Negan laugh, and Rick considered it an accomplishment to be able to make him laugh with him rather than at him.

Eventually they pulled up in front of a small warehouse. There was a gravel parking lot big enough for a couple trucks surrounding it, and from what Rick could see, after the lot ended there was nothing but trees. It was pretty out of the way; unless Rick had missed something, they hadn’t passed anything but a gas station or two for at least a half hour. Probably why it hadn’t been looted yet.

Negan put the truck in park and tucked the keys into his pocket and they both hopped out, grabbing their weapons out of the backseat. Rick was armed with his Python and a knife strapped to his hip, Negan with a knife, a pistol, and, of course, Lucille. When they’d first put their weapons in the truck, Rick had half-expected Negan to buckle the bat up like a child, but he had just set it gently on the seat.

“Why the gun? I didn’t think you usually used one.” Rick asked as Negan sheathed his knife and slid it into his back pocket.

“I don’t. My weapon of choice is always Lucille. But I usually have guys with guns with me, and we don’t have backup, so I figured I’d better have one in case of emergency. Better to have it and not need it.” He swung Lucille up over his shoulder. “Ready to roll, sheriff?”

Rick nodded, and they started making their way toward the warehouse. There were no windows low enough to look through, and when they got up to the entrance, it was boarded up. Rick shot Negan a look.

“We have to get up to the roof. There’s a ladder in the back. They said there were shelves that were tall enough that we could just drop in from the skylight.” Negan started making his way around back, gesturing for Rick to follow. There was indeed a ladder, and Rick scrambled up it after Negan and onto the roof.

The skylight was shattered inward, ragged glass at the edges. There was one section that was broken away more than the rest, enough so that a person could drop inside without getting cut to ribbons. Negan walked over to it and peered inside. “Yep, there’s a shelf right under here. Hold Lucille for me, I’m going in.” Rick accepted the bat as it was thrust into his hand, surprised that Negan would volunteer to go first. Rick had figured that he would be the guinea pig.

Negan boosted himself into the gap in the glass, gloved hand carefully grasping the ragged edge of the skylight. He dropped out of sight suddenly and Rick’s heart stopped for a moment. Oh, god, if he died while they were out on this run together, that was not going to bode well for Rick when the Saviors found out…

“You coming?” Negan’s voice called from the hole. Rick breathed a sigh of relief and joined him, handing Lucille to Negan again before dropping down onto the top of the shelf beside him. He straightened up and took in his surroundings. There were about a dozen shelves, half of which were cleared out, the other half sporadically lined with boxes. There was an open front area, and no walkers in sight.

“What kind of warehouse is this?” Rick asked.

“Mostly medical, I think. Gauze, tools, some meds, shit like that.”

Good. The Saviors had been going after their meds the hardest, and while they still had the agreement that they would get the Saviors’ help if someone was seriously injured, it was better to not have to rely on another group.

Rick climbed down the side of the shelf and joined Negan in securing the warehouse, banging on the shelves with his gun to draw out any stray walkers. After they’d determined that the place was clear, they started grabbing the leftover supplies, setting the boxes by the front door. Rick flicked through a couple of them to see what all they were getting; there were a handful of boxes containing surgical tools, rolls of gauze and bandages, box after box of generic painkillers, empty syringes and rubber gloves.

They were able to make quick work of the place as it was already half-stripped and free of walkers, and there was a generous stack of boxes by the entrance by the time they were done.

“Pretty damn good haul, right? Not bad for a couple hours.” Negan said, coming up behind Rick. “Wanna help me pry these boards off so we can get the fuck outta here?”

The boards came away easily enough with a little knifework and pulling. Negan drove the truck up to the entrance, and as they were loading everything up Rick was struck by just how easy the job had been. It shouldn’t, but it set his teeth on edge. The last time a job went this well this quickly, he and Daryl had met a long-haired guy who called himself Jesus and their truck had ended up at the bottom of a lake.

Negan slammed the back of the truck closed and glanced at Rick. “You got a weird look on your face, Rick. You alright?”

Rick shook off the thought. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just thinking it was a pretty easy day.”

Negan nodded and headed for the cab, and Rick rounded the other side and hopped in.

“It’s not over yet, you know.” Negan said as he pulled away. “We still need to hit the other place. It’s not a warehouse, but it’s worth a shot while we’re out here.”

Oh, right. He’d forgotten that it was still early in the day. There was still time for things to go horribly awry.

As it turned out, the other place was a decrepit house about five minutes away. A couple of walkers staggered around near the treeline. Rick shot Negan a skeptical look when they got out of the truck.

“What?”

“Doesn’t look like much is all.” Rick replied, eyeing the sagging wooden structure dubiously.

“Yeah, but it’s something, and it’s right here. May as well take a look.”

Fair enough.

They quickly dispatched the walkers outside the house, Rick stabbing one in the head while Negan and Lucille took care of the other. Rick jerked his chin toward the door and they both slipped quietly inside.

The inside of the house was an absolute dump. The furniture was molded and sagging, the kitchen a cluttered pigsty of dishes and unopened mail. There were rotting stacks of newspapers throughout the room, piled into corners and around furniture, making the room into an untidy maze. At least a dozen empty boxes of bottles and cans were strewn through the living room, and the place reeked of rot and decay even more strongly than normal. The floorboards creaked alarmingly as they made their way through the house, Negan ducking into the closest room while Rick started scouring the cabinets for anything remotely edible.

“Nothing but more newspapers and trashbags full of old clothes. I think this place was a fucking hoarder’s nest or something.” Negan said as he reentered the living room. “You find anything good?”

Rick shook his head. “Nothing. All the cabinets are empty.”

“Shit. How’d someone find this place but not the warehouse?” Negan muttered.

“Maybe the owner cleared it out before they died.” Rick suggested. He glanced over at the other door down the short hallway. “What’s in there?”

Negan shrugged. “My guess would be the bathroom. Judging by the state of the rest of the house, I don’t think I wanna see what’s in there.”

He had a point. And the rest of the house had been a bust. But maybe there was something in there? Medication or even some toothpaste or soap or something. Couldn’t hurt to give it a look.

“I’ll check.” Rick said, heading for the room.

As it turned out, there were two doors down the hallway. Rick went for the one on the right first, and he’d been right, it was the bathroom. There was more unopened mail, stacks of envelopes and magazines ranging from Reader’s Digest to Penthouse. Rick rummaged through the drawers below the sink and came up with a handful of used toothbrushes and half-empty bottles of hair dye.

Okay, so the place was a bust. The floorboards sagged and groaned under his feet as he took a step across the hall and turned the knob on the door across from the bathroom. He managed to get a glimpse into the room to see pastel-painted walls and a crib before something slammed into the other side of the door, making horrifyingly familiar sounds.

“Shit!” Rick took a lurching step back, fumbling for his gun as the door opened wider and the walker lunged at him. He scrambled back into the bathroom and managed to get one hand on his gun before he heard a creaking groan as the wooden floor gave out under his feet. He yelped as he sank into the rotten floor up to his ribs, feeling his shoes hit the solid ground beneath the house. The hand on his gun was trapped by his side and he barely managed to catch the walker as it stumbled toward him, arms outstretched and teeth bared and snapping.

“Shit!” He shouted again, trying to hold it off with one hand. Negan’s head popped around the corner, and then he was running down the hall and whipping out his gun, shooting it in the side of the head so that it collapsed. He kicked it out of the way with his foot and stooped down in front of Rick.

“Jesus, Rick! You scared the shit outta me.” He ran a hand through his hair and looked Rick over. “Are you touching the ground right now?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, good. Makes this easier.” He got on his knees and wrapped both arms around Rick under his armpits, pulling up. Rick used his free hand to push off of the rotting wood around him, feet pushing off the ground, and after a few tense moments of struggle, Rick wriggled free of the hole. He kneeled on the floor, Negan’s arms still tight around him. He winced, pain shooting up his side, and Negan pulled back.

“Shit. You alright?” Worry flickered across his face for a moment.

“Yeah, I’m good.” Rick answered, hand brushing his ribs. “Just bruised up from the fall.”

He was about to stand up when Negan reached over and lifted the side of his shirt, warm fingers brushing over Rick’s skin. Rick glanced down and saw the bloom of purple and green over his ribs. “Could have gone worse.” He joked, pushing himself to his feet.

Negan frowned as he stood. “Just be more fucking careful next time. I need you in one fucking piece.” He muttered. He glanced at the room the walker had come out of, eyes widening when he saw the crib. “Shit.” He wandered into the room, as if drawn in by the horrific clash between the nursery and the rest of the dilapidated house.

Negan approached the crib and Rick followed behind, glancing around to see if there was anything that he could take home for Judith. He spotted a couple unopened boxes of diapers and was about to reach for them when he heard Negan suck in a sharp breath. His head whipped up and he saw Negan frozen by the side of the crib.

Everything in Rick screamed at him not to do it, but morbid, sick curiosity drew him closer, knowing what he was going to find and not wanting to see it but moving forward anyway.

Negan turned and pressed a hand to Rick’s chest, stopping him. “Rick, don’t. I’m fucking serious, you don’t want to-” Rick’s eyes widened in horror as he caught a glimpse inside the crib from over Negan's shoulder. It was a bloody mess, and there wasn’t much left, but it was more than enough to turn Rick’s stomach inside out. He stumbled back, nausea overtaking him. He hadn’t felt sick over the sight of death in a long time, but this…Jesus, the kid couldn’t have been too much older than Judith…

Rick bolted out of the room, not caring that it probably made him look pathetic. He needed to get out of this house, to breathe air that didn’t smell like death and molding newspaper.

He stumbled out the front door and leaned up against the car, trying to take deep breaths and get the stench out of his mouth. Negan followed him out a second later, placing steady hands on his shoulders.

“Fuck, Rick. I tried to tell you, why didn’t you-” he shook his head, realizing it wasn’t the time. “Let’s go. I’m sorry I dragged you over here. You were right, it was a bust.” He pushed a few stray curls out of Rick’s face and moved to get back into the truck, but Rick caught his arm.

“Wait. Can you-can you do something for me?” Rick asked, his voice weak. Negan stilled.

“What do you need?”

All of this didn’t have to be for nothing. “There were a few boxes of diapers in the room. I was going to grab them for Judith, could you-please-”

He didn’t even have to finish his sentence before Negan was back in the house. He returned a few moments later, the boxes in his arms. He nodded at Rick and tossed them in the back of the truck with everything else before climbing into the cab. Rick joined him, pulling on his seatbelt with shaking fingers.

“Thank you.” Rick said as they pulled away.

Negan kept his eyes on the road. “No problem.”


 They drove back mostly in silence. Negan tried to get Rick talking a few times, but the conversation kept dying out. Rick was too shaken over the scene in the crib to joke with Negan.

When they got back to the Sanctuary, they left the truck loaded. Neither cared to sort through everything tonight, so Negan told the woman keeping the keys to leave everything and he’d sort it out tomorrow.

Negan followed Rick to his room, stopping in the doorway as Rick crossed the threshold.

Rick started pulling off his clothes, discarding his shirt onto the floor, wanting nothing more than to get into the shower and scrub the day off of his skin. His mind replayed the scene in the crib over and over, with Judith as the baby. She was so little, so defenseless …Rick’s stomach twisted and threatened to empty itself onto the floor. He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes, wishing he could dig in hard enough to make the image go away.

Suddenly, there was a warm hand on his bare shoulder. He looked up at Negan, the concern in the other man’s eyes choking him up even more.

“Rick, I…” He looked conflicted, unsure. “Do you want me to stay or go?”

Rick’s mind dropped the image of the dead baby for a second to gawk over what had just happened. Since when did Negan give him a choice?

“I- what?” Rick couldn’t quite believe that he’d heard him right.

“I’m giving you the option. Just for tonight, because you’re freaking out. Do you want me to stay or leave?”

Jesus, he actually meant it.

“I-” Rick started, unsure of how to answer. He should tell him to leave. He shouldn’t want Negan here to witness him breaking down like this.

“I want you to stay.”

So much for that.

Negan’s eyes widened in surprise. “You do?”

Rick did. Damn him, he did.

“Yeah.”

Negan stared at him long and hard for a moment, searching for something to explain why Rick wouldn’t tell him to leave.

He wasn’t going to find it, just like Rick wasn’t going to find the answer as to why Negan was giving him the option to make him leave written across his face.

“Alright.” Negan finally said. He let Rick return to undressing, collapsing onto the bed. Rick ducked into the bathroom and stripped off his boxers. He could feel everything he’d seen on him like a layer of grime, and he needed to get it off.

Ten minutes later, once he was thoroughly scrubbed clean, skin rubbed red and raw, he joined Negan on the bed. Despite the hot shower, he felt cold all over, and he quickly made his way under the blankets, facing Negan. He had something he wanted to ask.

“What were you gonna ask me for?”

Negan glanced up at him, rolling over onto his side so he could face Rick. “It’s not important. Don’t worry about it.”

Rick frowned. “I want to know. Tell me. Please.”

Negan reached out and stroked a thumb over Rick’s arm. “It’s too much. Especially after today, you don't need me asking you.”

“Please.”

Negan bit his lip. Rick knew that it probably wasn’t fair to try to get it out of him right now, when he was trying so hard to appease him. But he really wanted to know.

“I…I was going to ask if I could meet your kid.”

Rick sucked in a breath.

“Judith, I mean. I’ve met Carl, obviously.” He winced, as if knowing that he was hurting his own case by reminding him.

“I know what you meant.” Rick murmured. “Why?”

“Why do I want to meet her?”

“Yes.”

“I-” He hesitated, thumb still tracing lines down Rick’s forearm. “I’d just like to, is all. I like kids. I never got around to having any of my own.”

Rick chewed his lip. Negan was right, this was just about the worst time the he could’ve asked that.

“I understand that’s asking a lot, Rick. Especially after today. Which is why I’m not asking.”

Rick nodded, thankful that Negan understood. He couldn’t say yes. Not right now.

“Why didn’t you? Have kids, I mean. Did your wife not want them?”

Negan shook his head. “She did. We both did. It was just never the right time, you know? We would talk about trying, then something would happen; I was a car salesman for a while, and I lost my job, and by the time I got the gig as a coach, we weren’t doing so well. By the time we patched thing up, something else would happen. We kept putting it off, waiting for the right time, not wanting to have a kid when we weren’t ready, but then she got sick, and it was too late.”

Negan’s voice was so raw that Rick couldn’t help but reach out and brush a hand against the side of his face. Negan stiffened for a moment, surprised. Then he tugged Rick forward, into his chest, and Rick let himself be wrapped in strong arms, let his forehead rest against Negan’s collarbone, let his arm wrap around Negan’s back and pull him closer. He felt Negan’s chin rest on the top of his head.

“Can I ask you something else?” Rick said, mostly into Negan’s shirt. He felt the other man nod.

“Go for it.”

“What was your wife’s name?”

He felt Negan’s chest shake with laughter against him. “Rick, I think you already know her name.”

He did, but it never hurt to ask.

“Lucille.”

He could practically hear the grin in Negan’s voice. “You fucking guessed it.”

Chapter Text

Rick smiled, bouncing a giggly Judith on his knee. It was a surprisingly nice day for it being autumn, a light breeze making orange-red leaves flutter down from trees and the sun beaming down from between the branches. There were other kids swinging on the swingset and climbing on the playground, but Judith seemed content to stay with Rick, her tiny fingers grasping at his beard.

He lay back against the grass and just enjoyed the feeling of being outside in such nice weather. The sound of kids shouting and playing in the background was a surprisingly calming ambiance. 

“Dad!”

Carl’s face flooded his vision, panicked and bloodied and- was he missing an eye? Had he always been missing an eye?

“Dad, I got the diapers for Judith!” He said, tossing a few boxes at Rick. He glanced around anxiously. “Where is she?”

Rick frowned. Carl was acting strange. “She’s right here, Carl. What’s wrong with your eye?”

Carl stared at him. “What are you talking about? Where’s Judith? Where is she?” His voice was growing increasingly panicked. Rick sat up, boxes of diapers falling out of his lap as he did so. Wow, that was a lot of boxes. How had Carl carried so many? It hadn’t seemed like that many a moment ago.

“She’s right here, Carl, what are you-” he turned, but Carl wasn’t looking at him anymore. He was huddled in the corner of his room-when had they gone home?- clutching something tightly in his fist. Rick crawled over to him.

“Carl, what’s wrong? Where’s Judith?”

Carl raised his head, tears streaming down one side of his face. “She’s right here, dad. I’ve got her. Don’t worry.” He took Rick’s hand and let whatever he was holding slide into Rick’s palm. It was wet and slimy.

When Carl pulled his hand away, Rick let out a horrified cry. Sitting in the palm of his hand was a tiny eyeball, barely bigger than a grape.

“Carl! What is this?” Rick gasped, wanting to drop the eye but also terrified of doing so. Carl’s face scrunched up.

“It’s Judith, dad! Don't you remember? Why are you being like this? Look.” He took the eye from Rick and pushed his hair out of his face, revealing the empty socket. He raised the eye up over it, grotesque and tiny and completely wrong.

“See, dad? Now you have a whole kid again!”

Rick bolted upright in bed, shaking and covered in a sheen of cold sweat. His stomach turned over, and he practically fell out of the bed, desperately disentangling himself from the sheets and half-stumbling, half-crawling to the bathroom and dry-heaving into the toilet. He felt too cold and too hot all at once, the back of his shirt soaked through with sweat, his whole body shaking uncontrollably, and he ran one trembling hand over his face. It came back wet. He hadn’t realized that he’d been crying.

It was just a dream. Judith is fine. She’s safe.

It didn't help. The image of Judith torn apart in her bed, only little bits of her left, was burned into his eyelids, and since it didn't seem to be letting up, he couldn't get a hold on himself. Tears flowed fresh down his face and he heaved into the toilet again.

“Rick? What the hell is going on?” Negan’s sleep-dazed voice came out of the doorway. Rick looked up at him, eyes wet, trying to explain, trying to find any words at all, but nothing came out. Negan took one look at Rick’s tearstained face and rushed into the bathroom, crouching down on the floor with him. He cupped Rick’s face, fingers pushing sweat-drenched locks of hair back and wiping away tears. “Rick, what’s wrong?”

Jesus, he was going to think Rick was an idiot, sitting in the bathroom crying and throwing up over a bad dream.

“I-I…it was nothing. Bad dream. Sorry I woke you up.” Rick sniffled pathetically, wishing the tremors running through his body would stop.

Negan’s face was contorted with worry. “Must have been some fucking dream.” His fingers were stroking Rick’s hair, gently tangling in the curls at the nape of his neck.

“It was…about Judith. And Carl. I just-” Rick’s voice broke when the dream replayed itself in his head, the tiny eye, the only remaining part of his daughter. Another sob ripped out of his throat, and Negan pulled him into his chest, one hand in Rick’s hair and the other wrapping around his back. Rick froze for a second, surprised, then let himself be held, pressing his face into Negan’s chest and gripping the back of his shirt as he started to cry again, shoulders shaking.

He should probably be horrified and embarrassed that he was sobbing so openly in front of Negan- into his shirt, no less, clinging to him like a drowning man with a life raft- but his mind was in turmoil, replaying the dream over and over. Picturing driving to Alexandria only to find Judith’s crib empty and Carl looking at him accusingly with tears in his eye. He should be there to look after them. If anything happened, it would be his fault.

They sat like that for a few minutes, Rick’s tears soaking into Negan’s shirt and Negan’s hand rubbing Rick’s back. Negan pressed a kiss to the top of Rick’s head and Rick felt warmth spread through him at the small bit of affection. He released his death grip on Negan’s shirt and stood up, relieved when his legs weren’t as unsteady as the rest of him felt.

Negan followed him out into the bedroom and back into bed. Rick turned toward him.

“Sorry for uh…crying all over you. And waking you up.” He let out a trembling laugh.

Negan slid an arm around Rick’s waist, pulling him closer. “You had a rough fucking day. You were concerned about you kid. Don’t worry about it.”

"You uh...must think I'm a complete idiot, crying over a nightmare like a kid." Rick was calm enough that his senses were starting to return, face flushing when he thought about what he'd just let Negan witness. He was supposed to be a leader, and here he was, crying into another man's shoulder because of a bad dream.

"Don't be fucking stupid, Rick. You're a parent, you're entitled to crazy protective parent shit." His hand was stroking Rick's back, and Rick could feel himself calming down, coming to his senses as the comfort of another person-someone flesh and blood and real- helped ground him back in reality.

Negan’s arm felt comforting and safe, a reminder that this was real and his dream was not. He probably shouldn’t be looking to Negan for comfort, but it was all he had and it was better than nothing at all. Rick moved toward the warmth, pressing himself into Negan again. Negan’s arms slipped around him, pulling him into his chest like he had earlier that night. Rick tilted his head up to look at him, eyes lingering on his lips. He was so warm, so close…fuck, he’d barely have to move to press their lips together-

“Go to sleep, Rick. You’ll see Judith tomorrow, and she’ll be fine. You know she’s fine.” Negan’s voice was tired and rumbling, his fingers weaving back into Rick’s hair and stroking soothingly. He leaned in a bit and Rick’s heart stopped beating for a moment.

He’s going to kiss me.

Except he didn’t, not in the way Rick expected. Rick closed his eyes in tense anticipation and felt the press of lips to his forehead, lingering for a moment before pulling away and tugging Rick’s head into his chest. Rick let out a breath that he didn’t know he’d been holding, simultaneously disappointed and annoyed at himself for daring to feel disappointed.


Thankfully, Rick slept through the rest of the night without any more gruesome nightmares. Even so, he still woke up feeling like hell, his face feeling swollen and tight from crying. He was still wrapped in Negan’s arms, and once again two different instincts warred inside of him: stay curled up with Negan, or pull away?

Then Rick remembered: Judith.

He sprung out of bed, already half-dressed when Negan grumbled sleepily and rolled onto his back, looking annoyed to be woken up so abruptly.

“What’s the fucking rush, Rick?” He asked, stretching and sitting up to watch Rick pulling on his jeans. Normally, Negan watching him getting dressed would have warranted some kind of reaction from Rick- either flushed embarrassment or an annoyed look- but Rick was too focused on getting to Alexandria as soon as possible to care if Negan was checking him out.

“Judith.” Rick answered, grabbing his jacket. Negan slid out of bed and leaned against the wall by the door, still watching him. Rick yanked the door open and was about to walk out when Negan’s voice sounded beside him. 

“Wait just a sec, Rick.”

Annoyance shot through him like an arrow. “What?” He snapped, turning to Negan. “Do I need your fucking permission to go? I’m pretty sure I’m assigned there today, and you said I could go see her last night. I thought after yesterday you wouldn’t be a dick about this.”

Maybe yesterday had left Rick feeling a little too comfortable with Negan. Even as the words left his mouth, he wished he could take them back. As much as Negan had shown that he could be reasonable, he was still in charge, and Rick mouthing off to him was probably something that he didn’t appreciate.

There was a flicker of something in Negan’s eyes that Rick couldn’t quite make out. Anger? Annoyance? Disappointment? It was only there for a split second, the rest of his face an impassive mask.

“You’re right. I said you could go.” Negan said, expressionless.

Rick breathed a sigh of relief. “Good. See you later.” And with that, he was out the door.

It wasn’t until he was in the car, halfway to Alexandria, that he realized that he hadn’t given Negan the chance to kiss him goodbye.


Rick made it to Alexandria in record time all but rushing the gate when Eugene opened it for him.

“Rick, I must say I’m quite thrilled you’re here, I have a question regarding the nature of the Saviors’-”

But Rick didn’t get to hear what Eugene had a question about, because he broke into a full-out run when he got inside the gate, making a beeline for his house with single-minded determination. He passed a couple people on the way, and if he bothered to stop he probably would have gotten some strange looks, but he didn’t pay attention. The only thing that mattered was seeing Judith and Carl.

Rick burst through the front door, earning surprised looks from Michonne and Carl, who were standing in the kitchen. They must have been eating breakfast together. Like a family, he thought with a pang of sadness. A pang that was echoed in his stomach because, whoops, he’d forgotten to eat before he came here, too.

“Rick?” “Dad?” Michonne and Carl’s voices sounded in unison, and Rick lurched forward and pulled Carl into his arms. Carl shuffled awkwardly, arms coming up to return his dad’s hug, albeit with less manic intensity.

“Uh, dad? Are you okay?” Carl asked, voice muffled by Rick’s shoulder. Rick pulled back after a second, hands on Carl’s shoulders, not yet willing to let go, scared that if he did, the image of Carl huddled in a corner crying over Judith would return.

“I’m alright. I’m sorry for just busting in here like that, I just-” Rick broke off, not wanting to say out loud what he had seen, but also wanting to get it off of his chest. Right now, if felt like a horrible burden that he was carrying, a gruesome nightmare that he couldn’t completely pull himself out of. “I went out on a run with Negan yesterday-” Carl made a sound of disgust, but let Rick finish. “And there was this house-this nursery-this crib…” Rick swallowed hard and shook his head, trying to get rid of the image. “The kid-it couldn’t have been much older than Judith, and I…I couldn’t get it out of my head.”

Michonne and Carl wore similar horrified looks. “Did you really think we weren’t okay? We’re fine.” Carl huffed. “Judith’s upstairs in her bed. Michonne and I have been taking good care of her.” There’s a bitter edge to his voice that sliced right through Rick, gutting him. He deserved it, he thought, but it didn’t make it any less painful to hear.

“I-I know that. I know. It’s just…it’s just something that happens when you’re a parent. You worry even when you know you don't have to.” Carl looked skeptical, but didn’t push it. Rick dropped his hands from Carl’s shoulders. “I’m gonna go see Judith.”

Neither of them followed, whether it was because they sensed that Rick wanted to have some time with Judith to himself, or because they didn’t know that to do with him right now, he wasn’t sure. The door to Judith’s room was open, and she was already awake, standing up in her crib and gripping the bars to greet Rick.

She was okay. Of course she was. He had known, deep down, that she had never been an any danger, but it was a relief to see her anyway, bouncing and grinning at Rick as he approached and scooped her into his arms.

“Judith. Judy.” Rick cooed, pressing kisses to the top of her head, inhaling her soft baby scent. She reached up with chubby hands and grabbed at his face, giggling when he kissed the hand that was over his mouth.

He stayed in her room for a long time, bouncing her on his hip and feeling his heart expand every time he made her burst into tiny, adorable laughter. He took her with him when he returned downstairs. Michonne was still at the counter, presumably waiting for Rick to be done with Judith so she could drop her off with Olivia, and Carl was about to head out the door.

“Carl! Wait. Can’t say goodbye?” Rick called, trying not to sound as hurt as he felt. Carl turned and let Rick wrap him in a one-armed hug.

“Sorry.” He sounded genuine, so Rick decided to let it slide. “I’ll see you before you leave, won’t I?” He asked. Rick nodded. “Alright. Good. Bye, Dad. Bye, Judy.” He gave his sister’s head a little affectionate rub before heading out.

Rick watched him go before turning to Michonne. “Where’s he going, anyway?” Rick asked, shifting Judith to his other hip. Michonne reached out and let Judith wrap her tiny fingers around one of her own, smiling slightly.

“He’s still doing target practice with Daryl most days. He was getting frustrated with the dart board and Daryl offered to help him let off some steam with the crossbow.” Rick felt a rush of gratitude toward Daryl for helping Carl out. He and Michonne and Olivia had really stepped up to the plate in Rick’s absence, and he was simultaneously thankful for their help and resentful that he couldn’t be there to take care of his family himself.

“Good. Is he getting any better?”

Michonne nodded. “Yeah, he is. Still has some issues, and it’ll take a while to get him back where he was, but he’s doing really well. He’s tough.” She smiled fondly, and Rick’s heart broke a little.

He loved being in Alexandria, he really did. It was his home, it was where his family and his friends were, all of the people he loved the most in the world. But there were times, like right now, where being there made him feel distant and sad, because he couldn’t be there the way he should. And, increasingly, he felt himself being pulled in two directions. For a long time, he’d just felt pulled toward Alexandria, feeling nothing but resentment and anger when he thought of Negan. But now, faintly, he could feel some part of him being pulled in that direction, small but determined.

He couldn’t explain it, and he certainly wasn’t going to give voice to it, but there it was: a tiny part of him that didn’t mind going back to Negan, that was quietly disappointed on the nights when he returned to the Sanctuary to find his bed empty. He didn’t know when it had started happening exactly, but the initial icy hatred had melted away into something much more complicated and confusing.

“So,” Said Michonne, noticing his silence, “You said you went on a run with Negan?” Her voice pulled Rick out of his thoughts and back into reality.

“Yeah. He, uh. He said he wanted to spend some quality time together of something.” He chuckled at Michonne’s confused expression. “I know. It’s weird. It’s just how he is.” Michonne shook off the look.

“And it didn’t go well, I take it, what with the…” She trailed off, leaving the rest unspoken, which Rick appreciated.

“No, I mean…It went pretty well. Except for the end. I got some diapers for Judith out of it. And medical supplies.” Which, of course, he had forgotten to take with him in his rush to get here.

Michonne raised her eyebrows. “You mean…for here? He let you keep what you found?” her tone indicated that she didn’t believe him.

“Yeah. For here. He let me keep a third of it.”

Michonne’s eyes were wide with surprise. “Wow. Husbands with benefits.” She immediately looked stricken when she realized what she’d said, but Rick just laughed.

“I guess so. He seems like he’s…I dunno. He’s being less of an asshole lately.” He bit his tongue and ran his hand through Judith’s hair. “Sorry, I shouldn’t talk like that around you, should I?” he cooed.

“That’s...good.” Michonne said, “How’s he treating you? Are you alright?”

Her face was all concern, and it took Rick a moment to come up with a less upsetting answer than ‘Yeah he’s great, he held me while I cried over Judith and I wanted him to kiss me last night and I think I might actually be starting to like him’.

“Yeah, I’m alright. He’s treating me fine. He was understanding about yesterday. I kind of…I kind of freaked out, and he wasn’t a dick about it.” He wasn’t sure why he added that last part. Maybe there was some part of him that wanted Michonne to warm up to him a bit, enough so that he didn’t have to feel so damn guilty while he was around her. Or at least so she'd stop looking at him with that concerned face, like she thought he was being kept in a cage and abused. 

“He wasn’t a dick about it.” Michonne repeated, sounding almost amused. She had a strange expression on her face, her head tilted just slightly, scanning Rick as if looking for some sort of explanation as to why he wasn’t taking the opportunity to rant about Negan. It wasn’t a bad look, necessarily. There wasn’t any judgment or even worry there, just an odd curiosity that made Rick wonder if he’d somehow said too much.

Then the expression relaxed, and she was back to her usual stoic self. “I’m glad you’re okay.” She pressed a hand to Rick’s shoulder for a moment before heading for the door. “I’ll see you later. Drop Judith off with Olivia whenever you’re done here.”

Rick lingered in the kitchen for a few minutes, soaking up the time he had with Judith, knowing he needed to drop her off with Olivia soon so he could get to work. Michonne’s voice lingered in his head. She’d sounded strange before she left, almost sad. Could she have caught on to his changing feelings toward Negan?

No. No, that couldn’t be it. She just disliked Rick being kept away from Alexandria. There’s no way she could know. What was there to know, anyway? He just didn’t hate Negan anymore. And he’d had some confusing thoughts about him.

It’s just because you’re so attention starved, he thought to himself. He’s so obnoxious and flirtatious and he’s the only one that’s like that with you anymore. It’s not like you actually like him.

Yeah, obstinate denial seemed like the best way to handle feelings other than hatred about the man who forced him into a sham of a marriage and subjugated his group. Anything that didn’t involve shoving those feelings way, way deep down was unbelievably stupid and counter-productive.

Judith pulled him out of his thoughts by tugging on his beard. He smiled at her, saying a silent prayer of thanks for everyone that was working to protect her and the rest of Alexandria in his absence. “Daddy doesn’t want to go, Judy, but he has to. I’ll come see you again soon though, okay?” He had no idea if she could actually understand any of what he just said, but he found himself comforted by the idea that he’d see her again soon. It made dropping her off with Olivia and spending the day gathering supplies to be raided by the Saviors more palatable, at the very least.


Rick left for the Sanctuary in the early evening after dropping by his house and seeing Carl and Judith one last time. He always found it difficult to leave at night, even though he knew he’d see them again soon, and yesterday’s events only made it harder. He clung to Judith and Carl longer than normal, trying to anchor himself to reality with their presence. Kissing them goodbye was a knife to the gut, but at least now he knew they were safe, had seen them and touched them and assured himself over and over that he’d see them again, alive and well, very soon.

As he was driving back to the Sanctuary, his mind finally able to relax on the subject of his kids, he found himself thinking about Negan again. About his hands in his hair and stroking his back while he cried and the press of lips to his forehead, soft and unexpected. About this morning, the tinge of disappointment in his voice when Rick had rushed out before he could kiss him goodbye.

A month ago, Rick would have assumed that his rudeness this morning-especially after Negan had shown such affection to him the night before- would have been met with Negan revoking his visitation to Alexandria for the day. He’d expected nothing but cruelty from Negan, but the fact that he had let Rick snap at him and leave without saying a proper goodbye was just further proof that Rick had been all wrong about him.

He pushed Rick’s buttons, absolutely; he seemed to delight in it. But he honestly couldn’t say that anything that Negan had done since his arrival here had been cruel.

Rick grabbed dinner from the dining hall when he returned- soup again, there seemed to be a lot of soup served at the Sanctuary- and downed it quickly, wanting to get back to his room. He wanted to see Negan, apologize to him for this morning. He would understand, right? He’d seen how worked up Rick had been over everything.

When he got back to his room, he hesitated for a moment before opening the door. Oh, god, what if he wasn’t there? What if Rick had pissed him off and he was off with one of his wives?

He pushed back the thought. If Negan wasn’t staying with him tonight, it would be fine. It didn’t matter. He would just tell him the next time he saw him. He needed to get a grip.

Rick opened the door to see Negan pulling off his shirt. He swallowed roughly as he closed the door behind him, his eyes drawn to Negan’s bare torso like magnets, and he couldn’t stop himself from wondering what he would feel like pressed up against Rick’s own chest-

Jesus, get yourself together, Rick.

Negan glanced over at the sound of the door closing and grinned at Rick. “Hey, babe! How were the kiddos? Everything peachy-keen on the homefront?”

Rick tore his eyes away from Negan’s chest and tried to ignore the ridiculously juvenile twinge of giddiness that he felt when Negan called him ‘babe’. He did it so rarely, and usually only when other people were around, as if asserting his place as Rick’s husband. Or to get annoy the shit of Rick and his friends. On their second time collecting supplies from Alexandria, upon catching sight of Daryl glaring at him, Negan had promptly planted a kiss on the side of Rick’s face and said, ‘you look so fucking sexy today, babe,’ which made Rick flush with embarrassment and something else that he definitely hadn't wanted to explore. Daryl had looked like he wanted to either take a few swings to Negan’s head or internally combust, possibly both, and Rick had been infinitely thankful when he chose to just turn away.

Rick pushed the thought back. “Yeah, everything’s fine. The kids were fine. It’s not that I really thought they weren’t. I just-I just needed to see them.” Negan tugged a shirt over his head, and Rick found himself disappointed and relieved. He'd been feeling that way a lot lately. 

“Good. Way you ran out this morning, you woulda thought the place was going up in smoke. You gotta trust them to get on without you, Rick. they seem to be doing alright for themselves.” He leaned against the dresser, crossing his arms in a way that did nice things for his biceps and Rick found himself distracted all over again.

Focus, Rick.

“About this morning…” Rick said, walking toward Negan, “I’m…I’m sorry that I left so quick. And that I snapped at you. I shouldn’t have. You were kind to me last night, and I appreciate that.” A small smile played at the edges of Negan’s lips.

“Apology accepted. I wasn’t mad, though, Rick. You were freaking the fuck out about your kid. I can understand that.” He reached out to Rick and laced his fingers through his hair, stroking affectionately. Rick wasn't sure if the gesture was something he was going to keep doing from now on, but he liked it. God help him, he liked it. Negan's fingers in his hair were comforting and his smile was genuine in the way that it so rarely was and it had Rick feeling things that he should probably be suppressing the fuck out of. 

Impulsively, Rick jerked forward, leaning up into Negan’s space to press their lips together, just for a brief moment. When he pulled back, he could feel the heat on his cheeks and Negan was staring at him, wide-eyed.

“Goddamn. What was that for?” He whispered, eyes glued to Rick’s lips.

“I-” Christ, what the fuck was he doing? “I left before you could kiss me goodbye this morning.”

Yeah, and you should be happy about, that, idiot! You should be thankful you got a day off, not making up for it!

Negan grinned, smug and triumphant. “I fucking knew you were warming up to me.”

“Shut up.” Rick muttered, turning away and heading for the shower. The words sounded halfhearted even to his own ears.

Chapter Text

Rick never really understood what the logic was behind the days that he was scheduled to stay and work at the Sanctuary. To be fair, it was usually only a couple times a week, but still. It would make much more sense to have him go out and scavenge on his own, or with his group, but here he was anyway, unloading crates from the Saviors’ trip to the Hilltop. He felt wrong just touching them, carrying the looted supplies into the back part of the factory that served as a storage area for food.

That was another reason it didn’t make sense: Rick would have thought that Negan would want him to see as little of the Sanctuary as possible, so that he couldn’t report any of it back to Alexandria. Maybe he just didn’t care?

No, Rick knew what it was. It was the same reason as everything else Negan did: a power play. It was him wanting Rick doing things that made him uncomfortable. And he let Rick see into the Sanctuary for the same reason the he’d made him hold Lucille the first time they’d gone to Alexandria: to dangle temptation in front of him, solely because he was confident that Rick wouldn’t actually do anything about it.

And, shit, he was right. Didn’t mean it didn’t get under Rick’s skin, though. At least Negan had kept his word and Rick hadn’t been sent on any more supply runs with the Saviors. Being around them was unpleasant, both because they were the people terrorizing his group and because they saw Rick as a prisoner. A prisoner whose terms of imprisonment they seemed to find rather amusing, judging by the mocking snickers and sneering he got whenever he was around them. And all the snide remarks about him being 'Negan's bitch'.

“Take this down those stairs.” The woman in the back of the truck doling out boxes said, dropping a heavy crate of bottles into Rick’s arms and indicating the stairs that led down into the back room. Rick obliged, walking carefully down the stairs, followed by a bulky bald man whose name escaped him.

When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he realized that he had no idea where to put the crate and paused a moment. He opened his mouth to ask the other man where he should set it when he felt something slam into his back hard enough to throw him off balance.

“Fucking move, dipshit! Is being Negan’s fucktoy all you’re good for?” the bald man yelled, shoving the box he was carrying into Rick’s shoulder again, making Rick stumble against the wall. He heard the sound of glass shattering as couple of the bottles in the crate he was holding knocked into each other and broke.

The other man reacted immediately, dropping his box and wrenching the crate out of Rick’s arms, setting it on the floor before shoving Rick up against the wall by his throat. Rick’s head slammed into the wall so hard that he heard an audible crack of bone against cement, his vision going black for a split second.

“What the shit?” The man screamed in Rick’s face, spit flying. “What the shit is wrong with you? Are you a complete fucking idiot? Do you know how goddamn pissed Negan is gonna be when he sees this shit?” He punctuated each question by slamming Rick against the wall again. The man took a deep breath and let go of Rick’s neck, fists clenched as he glared at Rick and the crate of broken bottles. Rick felt a little dizzy from the blows to the head, his legs unsteady underneath him.

“Well? Anything to fucking say for yourself?”

What the fuck was this guy’s problem? “Are you serious?” Rick snapped back, annoyed. “You slammed into me, twice. It’s hard to keep your balance when someone’s doing that, you know.”

This was absolutely the wrong thing to say, because the next thing Rick knew, the man’s fist was pulling back and slamming into Rick’s cheekbone, knocking him sideways. Rick stumbled, hands flying up to protect himself from further blows. He threw a couple punches, catching the other man in the jaw once, until the man grabbed him by the collar and shoved him face-first into the wall so that the side of his face met concrete and he could taste blood in his mouth.

“You think you can fucking talk to me like that? What, you think ‘cause you’re Negan’s little bitch I won’t fuck up that pretty face of yours?” The man pressed up against Rick, his weight pinning him as he hissed into his ear, breath too hot on the back of Rick’s neck. Rick’s head was spinning, but he tried to pull away, only to be met with several sharp blows to his side that knocked the wind out of him. Pain shot through his ribs as knuckles collided with the same place that had gotten bruised on the run with Negan a couple days ago.

“Shit, you really aren’t good for anything but fucking, are you?” the man growled into Rick’s ear, reaching down and grabbing a handful of his ass. Rick’s breath caught in his throat, fear choking him as the man chuckled darkly and squeezed.

“N-no…” Rick could barely hear his own voice, like he was underwater. He tried to squirm out of his attacker’s grasp, but between the man pinning him down and the onslaught of dizziness from having his head slammed into the wall, he couldn’t shake him off.

“Yeah, that’s right. You can struggle a little if you want. Shit, I like a bitch with a little fight.” The man’s voice was grating and rough as he pressed Rick further into the wall, forcing him to feel the bulge against his back.

“Fuck, I bet you look real pretty bent over. I can see why Negan keeps you around. Now, normally I wouldn’t mess with any bitch of Negan’s, but you’re not just any bitch, are you? You're just some sorry fucker he's messing with for fun.” Rick could hear the sound of a belt being unbuckled, and nausea threatened to overwhelm him. He lurched to the side, trying to pull away, only to be pressed back into the wall, one of the man’s hands on the back of his neck, holding him in place.

“Somehow, I don’t think he’d mind if I took a little taste.” A hand cupped Rick’s groin, and he couldn’t stop the pathetic whimper of fear that escaped his throat. The combination of terror and head trauma left him dizzy and weak, and his stomach threatened to empty itself onto the floor when the man pinning him reached for his belt.

Like hell is this gonna happen.

Rick spun in place and clocked the guy, knuckles meeting bone and bloodying as he hit him again and again, only stopping when the guy stumbled back a couple inches. Rick pulled away and scrambled for the stairs, only to have the room spin and the floor drop out from under him as he collapsed to his knees, the back of his head throbbing in pain. He tried to pull himself back up, only to earn a kick to the ribs from his attacker, who seemed to have pulled himself together enough to focus on Rick again.

Rick gasped in shock and pain, arms shaking, as the man’s fist collided with the side of his head again, making his vision blur. He felt a foot on his back, kicking him down on his stomach and knocking the wind out of him. He could feel the man straddling him, weight pinning him down. "What's the problem, bitch? I figured you'd be used to this by now. Just settle the fuck down." Rick heard the sound of a belt being undone and hands on his hips, trying to get his jeans down and oh, god, how the fuck was this actually happening-

“What the fuck?” A voice boomed, echoing through the room. Negan’s voice. Negan’s extremely pissed-off voice.

The weight on Rick’s back was gone as the man sprung off of Rick, backing away. Rick scrambled to his knees and pulled himself closer to the stairs.

“What the fucking fuck is going on? What the shit do you think you’re doing?” Rick looked up, vision blurry at the edges, and saw Negan setting Lucille to the side before slamming Rick’s attacker into the wall, forearm across his windpipe. Negan’s face was a picture of absolute rage, expression terrifying and his face red.

“Well? Fucking tell me, exactly what were you doing to my husband just now, David?” Rick had never heard Negan’s voice the way it was now, all uncontrollable rage and emotion. The man, David, tried to speak but was only able to make ragged gasping noises with Negan’s arm against his throat. Negan loosened his hold, just enough so the man could talk.

“I-I…I wasn’t…I didn’t think you’d mind- he’s just some bitch you pulled out of the new group- I didn’t know-” He visibly shook as he spoke, and Negan let out a feral-sounding growl as he slammed the man back into the wall again.

“You didn’t think I’d mind? Is this a fucking joke? Are you fucking joking right now?” He shouted into David’s face. “You’re going to look me in the fucking face and tell me that you didn’t think I would mind if you raped my husband?

He looked like he was on the verge of grabbing the man’s shoulders and shaking him, but he settled for digging his elbow in until David was struggling and gasping for air. After a moment, he let up enough so that the man could respond.

“I just thought-since he’s basically just a prisoner- I would never do that to one of your actual wives, you know that, sir.” He groveled, hands shaking uselessly at his sides. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think- I didn’t mean to- I swear, it won’t happen again, it won’t-” He was cut off by Negan pulling back and clocking him. He crunched over in pain and when Negan dragged him back up by the shoulders, his nose was bent at a strange angle and pouring blood down his lips and chin.

“What the fuck are you saying, you didn’t mean to? What, you didn’t fucking mean to be down here with your hands all over him?”

The man visibly shook and tied to stammer out a response only to be cut off.

“And Rick is my actual fucking husband, you worthless sack of shit!” Negan shouted into the man’s face. “And even if he wasn’t, that shit is disgusting, it’s fucking inhuman. We do not sink to that fucking level, do you not get that? Repeat after me. We. Don’t. Rape.”

“W-we don’t rape.” David repeated, his voice shaking. Negan didn’t loosen his hold on his shirt.

“That shit is unacceptable, David.” He shook his head. “Rape is against the rules here. You do remember the rules, don’t you?” He released David, pushing him into the wall as he did.

“I’m sorry, sir.” David said, looking thoroughly shaken.

“You really crossed the line here, you stupid fuck.” Negan growled, snatching Lucille from her place against the wall. Rick could see the absolute terror in the man’s eyes in the split second he had before Negan was turning around, Lucille whistling through the air to collide with the side of David’s skull.

Rick sucked in a breath as he watched David’s head split open, his skull crushed between the bat and the concrete wall. Negan pulled Lucille back and hit him again, the flesh on the side of the man’s head ripping away with the barbed wire, exposing muscle and bone.  Negan kept swinging, even after David’s body collapsed lifelessly against the floor, leaving a bloody smear against the wall. By the time Negan got his fill, everything above the man's shoulders was an indiscernible lump of meat.

Negan’s shoulders heaved, his breathing heavy as he turned to face Rick. He took a deep breath as if willing himself to calm down before kneeling down in front of Rick. He gently set Lucille against the wall again, and Rick’s eyes flicked over in horrified fascination. Strips of shredded skin and clumps of bloodied brain matter that, just seconds ago, used to be part of a person clung to the barbed wire.

The last time he’d seen Negan do that to a person, it was Glenn, and it was to punish him. To break him.

This time, it had been to protect him.

“I’m sorry you had to see that, Rick.” Negan said, his voice gentle. “I’m so fucking sorry that piece of shit put his filthy fucking hands on you. I promise you, it will not happen again. We’re not monsters here.” Rick took a shaky breath as Negan reached a hand out, not touching him yet, just offering.

Rick stared blankly at Negan’s outstretched hand for a moment, wondering what he expected him to do. Why was he waiting to touch him?

Negan moved to pull his hand back. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, Rick. Not as long as you’re with me.”

Oh.

He was waiting for Rick’s okay before he touched him. He was trying to be respectful of his space after what had just happened.

Rick felt oddly touched at the gesture. He reached up and caught Negan’s hand as he was pulling back, nodding once to indicate that he was okay. Negan leaned forward, one hand gently cupping the side of Rick’s face while the other ran through his hair, pushing away stray curls.

Negan’s gaze dropped from Rick’s eyes to his cheekbone, which Rick realized was probably bruised from where David had hit him. Negan’s thumb brushed over it lightly, careful not to cause him more pain, and his eyes went hard, his jaw clenched in anger.

They sat there like that for a few moments, Rick’s eyes fluttering closed as relief washed over him, the soft brush of Negan’s fingers against his face strangely comforting. Negan was the first to speak.

“Are you okay?” Rick opened his eyes and was met with a look of concern. He nodded, wincing when the movement brought his attention back to the splitting pain in the back of his skull. Worry flashed across Negan’s face. “You sure about that?” He sounded skeptical.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m fine. He, uh…he slammed my head into the wall a couple times, just hurts a bit.” Negan’s expression darkened when he mentioned getting slammed against the wall. Rick never would have thought he would be like this, all righteous anger and protective instinct.

Negan stood up, taking Rick’s hand. Rick moved to boost himself up, only to have the room spin and his vision go blurry when get stood, and when he went to take a step, he faltered to the side, head throbbing. He managed to catch a glimpse of Negan’s panicked expression before the other man caught him under the arms, holding him up. Rick’s arms involuntarily flew up to Negan’s shoulders to steady himself, unsteady fingers gripping at leather.

“You’re clearly not fine.” He said, pulling Rick in close enough so that he could look into his eyes. “You can’t fucking stand and your pupils are dilated. Come on, I’m taking you to the infirmary. You probably have a concussion.” He looped one arm under Rick’s shoulder and the other held his hand in place, easily supporting his weight. Rick’s mind flashed back to the woods, to him doing this for Negan when he was drunk and unsteady.

Rick was determined to walk on his own, but Negan half-carried him up the stairs anyway. He allowed Rick a bit more control once they were on flat ground, but he was still shouldering the brunt of Rick’s weight as they made their way to the infirmary.

They made their way inside and Negan helped Rick onto the exam chair, standing vigilantly next to him like he was afraid that if he left, some other terrible thing would befall Rick.

The Saviors’ doctor walked in, quirking an eyebrow at the way Negan lingered beside Rick but not saying anything on the matter. “What’s the problem?” Rick noticed that when he spoke, he seemed to be addressing Negan, eyes turned to the leader like there was a chain of command when it came to Rick’s well-being. A chain of command that, for some reason, Rick was not at the top of.

Whatever. Now wasn’t the time or place, and Rick’s head was still throbbing, so he was silently grateful for Negan to be there to speak on his behalf.

“His head got shoved up against a fucking concrete wall. How many times, Rick?” Negan spit out the words like the whole situation still disgusted him, anger radiating from him like heat.

“Uh…” Rick hadn’t really been counting, and even if he had, he couldn’t focus enough to remember. “A few times. Don’t remember how many.” He glanced down and saw Negan’s hand gripping the side of the chair so hard that his knuckles were turning white.

“His eyes are all pupil and he can’t stand up straight. And he got punched in the face at least once.” The doctor leaned in to test Rick’s vision and take a look at the back of his head while Rick sat awkwardly on the chair. He spared a glance at Negan and was surprised to see him staring intently, eyes trained on Rick like he was the only thing in the room.

After a few minutes of checking Rick over, the doctor walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a small bottle, handing it to Negan. “He’s got a concussion. Give him a two of these for the pain and have someone keep an eye on him for the next twelve hours or so, don’t let him fall asleep for too long.”

If Rick was feeling less shitty, it would probably bother him a lot more that the doctor was discussing him without ever acknowledging him, like a child.

“He’ll be okay, though?” Negan asked, not taking his eyes off of Rick.

“Yeah, he’ll be fine. It’s all mostly precautionary. Just be a little less rough with him next time.” The doctor’s eyes widened in horror as he finished his sentence, his whole body freezing up. Clearly he hadn’t meant to let that last part slip out.

Negan tore his gaze away from Rick’s face, eyes blazing. “Fucking excuse me? What the shit did you just say to me?”

“I-I didn’t mean-”

“Nobody fucking means anything today, but yet they still pull shit like this.” Negan snapped, fist twitching at his side like he wanted to clock the guy but knew that wouldn’t help his case. “You think I’m the one who hit him?”

“I-I don’t…”

“Are you fucking joking? I'm the one who brought him here! He’s my husband! What the hell is wrong with you? I would never fucking-” Negan broke off as if sensing that he was getting too worked up and needed to leave before he did something he’d regret.

“Fuck. Fuck. You’re goddamn lucky that you’re a fucking doctor and that we need you here.” Negan spit out, sounding disgusted and like he truly regretted that he couldn’t beat the shit out of the man. He took another deep breath and turned back to Rick.

“Good to go, Rick?” Negan asked, sliding an arm under his shoulders again.

Who was this strange person who showed concern and threatened doctors that implied that he’d hit Rick and asked if he was ‘good to go’?

Well, the threatening doctors part wasn’t shocking, just the context for it. But regardless, Rick was shaken by the new side of Negan he’d seen today.

“Yeah, I’m good.” Rick replied, letting Negan walk him out.


 

Negan led Rick back to his room, sitting him down in the armchair and getting him a glass of water from the tap in the bathroom. He held it and two small pills out to Rick, watching as he swallowed them down. He knelt down in front of him, and the armchair was low enough to the ground that when Negan rose up on his knees, he was just barely shorter than him. He stretched out a hand and repeated the face-stroking gesture from earlier, a strange, possessive sort of look in his eyes.

“I’m sorry about today, Rick.” He said gently as Rick pressed his face into the contact. “You know I’d never let shit like that happen to you, right? That I’d never hurt you?” He sounded almost desperate, like he really needed Rick to know that he wasn’t the man that David and the doctor thought he was.

It was a strange question to ask, considering how this whole thing had started with Negan wanting to break him. Despite how caring Negan had been toward him all day, Rick still couldn’t help but give voice to that thought.

“All of this started with you wanting to hurt me.” Rick pointed out.

He almost immediately regretted it for the look of despair that passed over Negan’s face.

“Rick, I…Jesus.” He shook his head slightly, as if trying to shake off Rick’s words. “That was when we were enemies. When you were just some guy who had swept in and killed a bunch of my men. We’re married now, I would never…” he broke off, his hand gently cupping the back of Rick’s neck and pulling him forward just slightly as he sat up, pressing their foreheads together.

“You’re my husband, Rick. I would never hurt you like that. I know I’m a lot of things, but that’s not the kind of man I am. I need you to know that. Please tell me you know that.”

The rawness in Negan’s voice made Rick ache. He thought back to how Negan had treated him since he’d gotten here, all of the patience and moments of concern and affection. He’d agreed to these terms expecting to be treated like shit, but from the moment he’d gotten here, Negan had behaved the complete opposite way he’d expected.

So yeah, maybe it was stupid and naïve, but Rick believed him.

“I do. I know that.” Rick breathed.

“And you know that I’d never let someone else touch you? You know what that piece of shit said today, about me not caring if he raped you- you know that isn’t fucking true, right?”

Rick thought of all the moments between him and Negan, the way he’d held him and comforted him when he was panicking about Judith, about the surprisingly protective and caring side he’d shown. He couldn’t picture the man that had allowed him cry into his shirt letting someone do something like that to him.

And there was the whole thing where Negan had bashed in the skull of the idiot who had tried.

“I know.”

Negan relaxed against him. He felt Negan lift his head a bit and press a kiss to Rick’s forehead like he had the other night after Rick’s nightmare. He pulled back after a moment, his smile bright and genuine in that rare way it sometimes was.

“Good. Good. I’m glad you know that. Now-” Negan glanced around the room. “Luckily, it’s early enough in the day that keeping you awake shouldn’t be too hard. There anything you wanna fucking do?”

“Uh…” Rick hesitated, unsure of how to answer. As far as he could tell, there weren’t a lot of options for leisure activities here.

“Yeah, I know there’s not a lot to do. I’d take you over to where the ping pong table is, but that’s probably not the best idea right now.”

Rick laughed, surprised. “Ping pong? You play ping pong?”

Negan grinned. “Yeah, I actually used to play it with my students.”

The image of Negan as an actual fucking gym teacher was one that Rick never got tired of. He could see it now: Negan and a bunch of middle schoolers, all getting way to intense over a game of ping-pong of all things. Negan would swear and shout and the kids’ parents would complain, and Negan would revel in being the cool, rebellious gym teacher.

Rick chuckled at the thought. “So, what can we do for the rest of the day, since ping-pong is out?” His head was definitely feeling better, he noticed. The pain had diminished to a dull throb. The pills must have kicked in while they were talking.

“Wanna watch a movie? Something funny this time. Can’t have you falling asleep on my shoulder again.”

Rick nodded, trying to ignore the way his face flushed. “Sure, sounds good.”

Negan rifled through the tapes scattered on the floor, pulling out two options. “Your choice, Rick. Weekend at Bernie’s, or Revenge of the Nerds?”

“Weekend at Bernie’s, definitely.” Rick replied, and Negan popped the tape into the player, grabbing the remote as he stood up. Rick moved to stand as well, feeling less dizzy, only to have Negan lean in and sweep him into his arms, carrying him to the bed.

“I could have just walked, you know.” Rick muttered as he was carefully placed on the bed like he was a delicate porcelain doll.

“Don’t be stupid, Rick. I’m not gonna risk you falling and hitting your head again.” Negan sprawled out beside him on the bed, the edge of his mouth twitching upward like he knew that Rick was fine to walk and had carried him just to get on his nerves. Asshole.

They settled in to watch the movie, and Rick noticed a little while in that Negan wasn’t being nearly as vocal as he had been the last time they’d done this. He’d occasionally give a laugh, but there was no running commentary this time. Rick glanced over to see if he’d fallen asleep or something, despite it being the middle of the day, and his eyes were met with Negan’s own.

How long had he been watching him?

“Bored already?” Rick teased.

“No. I’m just keeping an eye on you. Don’t want you falling asleep.” Rick didn’t know whether to be touched or creeped out.

“I’ll be fine. Just watch the movie. You’re creeping me out staring at me like that.” Negan huffed a laugh and turned back toward the screen. Throughout the rest of the movie, Rick found himself glancing over at Negan every so often. A couple times, he was facing the screen, but most of the time he was gazing at Rick, watchful and possessive, like he couldn’t bear to keep his eyes away for too long.

They watched a couple other movies, and when night started setting in outside the window, Negan radioed down to have dinner brought to Rick’s room. Rick didn’t fight him on that. To be honest, every day he ate in the dining hall, the more he regretted turning down Negan’s initial offer of having all his meals delivered. Fresh food was infinitely better than the canned mystery gruel that was being served on a daily basis to the working-class Saviors.

They ate on the bed in comfortable silence, Rick savoring his sandwich like it was a gift from God himself. When they were finished, Negan laid back on the bed and looked up at Rick, arms behind his head.

“So. How’s your head?”

“It’s better. Doesn’t hurt much.” Rick replied, and Negan grinned.

“Wanna play some ping-pong, then?”

It was definitely a sign of how long it had been since Rick had spent any time just having fun for the sake of it that playing ping-pong with Negan sounded like a good time. “Yeah, let’s do it.”

Negan looked overjoyed as he hopped off the bed and came over to Rick’s side, scooping him into his arms again. Rick made a noise of protest.

“I can walk! There’s no way you’re carrying me all the way there.” Negan ignored him and headed for the door with Rick still in his arms, stopping when he got there.

“I sure as shit am. You’re injured, and you’re not hard to carry. You’re fucking tiny. Could you get the door for me?” Rick crossed his arms.

“No, what the hell? You’re not carrying me all the way there.” Rick reiterated, and Negan chuckled and set him down.

“You’re such a buzzkill, Rick.” He said as they started down the hall. Rick shoved his shoulder. “Hey, no fair getting physical with me!” Negan smirked, “I can’t very well fight back against an injured man.”

“Shouldn’t bother you much, seeing as I’m so fucking tiny.” Rick mocked.

Negan grinned wickedly down at Rick as they approached a room down the hall from Rick’s. “True. You’re not tiny where it counts, though.”

Rick spluttered. “You-I…You haven’t even seen my dick.”

Negan doubled over, clutching his stomach and wheezing. “Jesus Christ, Rick! I was talking about your heart, you being so fucking sentimental and all,” his voice dripped with gleeful sarcasm. “Oh-” he raised his eyebrows, widening his eyes in mock surprise, “Was that your way of telling me it is tiny?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Rick jabbed back.

Negan’s tongue poked out from between his lips as he leaned against the doorframe, looking Rick over. “Oh, I will know. You give it time.”

“What, you planning on sneaking a peek in the shower?” Rick found himself drawing closer into Negan’s space, their thighs brushing.

“Fuck no. I plan on being in the shower with you.”

How the hell was he so fucking cocky? It was obnoxious. 

“In your fucking dreams.” Rick muttered, smirking in spite of himself as Negan pushed open the door and they stepped inside. The room was small, about the size of Rick’s, though without the bed and dresser. There were two armchairs shoved up against the wall, and there was a ping pong table in the middle of the room, and that was about it. Negan strolled over and grabbed a paddle, twirling it in his hands.

“So, Rick. Care to make a little wager? I win, I get to make my dreams a reality.” He tossed Rick the other paddle.

“What?”

Negan rolled his eyes. “What you just said. I win, we take a nice, hot shower together, see where things go.” His grin was wide and teasing, eyes full of mirth.

“That’s…not gonna happen.” Rick said, shooting Negan a halfhearted glare. Negan put his hands up in surrender.

“I figured as much. Worth a shot, though. You ready to play, Rick?”

Rick nodded. “Sure.”


 

They ended up playing well into the night, bantering and swearing and shouting and laughing. Negan won, in the end- it really wasn’t even close. He clearly had more time to practice than Rick. Through it all, Rick couldn’t help but think that it almost felt normal, like the chaos of the world outside melted away and they were just two people hanging out, no walkers or community disputes. Just him and Negan.

“Damn, that was a good time!” Negan tossed his paddle back on the table and threw an arm around Rick’s shoulders. “What time is it, Rick?”

Rick glanced at his watch. “Just past midnight. We’ve been here a while.” It hadn’t felt that long. He’d actually enjoyed himself.

“Good, you’re officially in the clear as far as the concussion goes, then. C’mon, let’s head back.”

When they got back to Rick’s room, Negan hovered in the doorway as Rick entered. “You coming in?” Rick asked.

“I, uh…I wasn’t planning to, no. I was gonna give you the night off. Figured you may want your space.”

Disappointment seeped into Rick’s chest, tugging at him.

You shouldn’t be disappointed. You should want him to go.

Except he didn’t.

“You, uh. You don’t have to go. Unless you want to.” He cringed, wishing he’d kept his mouth shut. Negan had been with him most every night this week. On top of it being ludicrously stupid to want him to stay, Negan probably wanted to spend the night alone. Or have sex. Neither of which would be happening if he stayed with Rick again.

Negan was silent for a long moment, scrutinizing Rick as if he thought he was joking. “You…want me to stay, Rick?”

Say no. Play it off as a joke. Why would you want him to stay?

“Yeah. If you want.”

What the fuck, Rick?

Negan’s eyebrows raised and he stepped inside, walking up to Rick so he could look him in the eye, tilting his head like he was trying to figure out Rick’s angle. “Why?”

Rick was asking himself that same question.

“I…” He needed a reason. There had to be a reason. “I don’t like sleeping alone.”

Negan narrowed his eyes at Rick and looked him up and down, waiting for a punchline that wasn't coming. “Huh. Alright. Yeah, I’ll stay with you.”

Inexplicable warmth spread through Rick. He’d expected Negan to be more of an asshole about Rick asking him to stay, but he seemed to be too caught off-guard to come up with ways to mock him. It was a nice change.

They got dressed and slid into bed, Negan pulling Rick into him and rick relaxing into it, the feeling of someone behind him, warm and steady, making him feel strangely safe.

“You keep surprising me, Rick. And I’m not an easy guy to surprise.” Negan’s words tickled the back of his neck.

“Really? You seem pretty damn confident that you’re gonna get in my pants.” Rick joked.

Negan huffed out a laugh. “Yeah, but that’s sex. I figure all the flirting and tension and shit will eventually just get to you and you’ll need to let off some steam. Hate-fucking is a very real thing. I just…I didn’t expect this.”

“Didn’t expect me to ask you to stay?”

“I didn’t expect you to start actually liking me.” His voice was smug and self-congratulatory. What a dick. 

Rick scoffed. “I don’t like you, jackass.”

Negan chuckled behind him, tightening his arm around Rick’s waist. “You keep telling yourself that, Rick.”

Chapter Text

For the next few days, Negan made sure Rick was working in Alexandria rather than the Sanctuary. He seemed aggressively adamant about it, and Rick could only assume that he was still pissed about David and didn’t want to run the risk of having something like that happen again. He didn’t mind; more time with his kids and less time with the Saviors was always a win in his book. He always had more to do to keep himself busy in Alexandria, anyway. A lot of the time when Rick was at the compound, he got finished early in the day and was stuck with little to do.

After a few days, Negan seemed to calm down, and Rick was back to being stuck at the Sanctuary, unloading supplies. This time, he noticed, a familiar-looking female Savior was with him at all times. She wasn’t overly obvious about it; it just happened that wherever Rick was, so was she. She was quiet and kept her distance, so she wasn’t particularly unpleasant company, at least as far as Saviors went, but it was uncomfortable having someone keeping an eye on him all the time. He noticed her watching, arms crossed, as he unloaded crates from a supply run.

“Any particular reason you’re following me around?” He asked, trying not to sound as annoyed as he felt.

The woman was silent for a long minute, and Rick was about to give up on getting an answer when she spoke.

“Negan told me to keep an eye on you.”

“Why?” A stupid question, really, but he wanted to hear the answer for himself.

“Said he didn’t want anyone else fucking with you like David did.”

Great. Realistically, he’d known that people would probably have some questions about why Negan killed one of his own men, but he’d hoped that they wouldn’t know exactly why.

“So I’m being babysat?” His voice was bitter.

“Basically.” She replied, a note of amusement in her voice.

Rick glared. “That’s really not necessary.”

She looked annoyed. “You think I wanna be the one in charge of watching you?” She scoffed, “Fuck no. But he was royally pissed about David, went on a fucking tirade about rules and morals and how ‘nobody else better lay a fucking finger on my fucking husband’ and shit like that.”

Something stirred inside Rick. For years, he had been the one protecting people: his kids, Lori before she died, his friends, even people he barely knew. He’d had people watching his back, sure, but nobody had ever acted protective like this with him before. It was strange and new and he didn’t know if he should find it insulting or endearing.

“Is he usually like this?”

The woman gave him a look. “Like what?”

“Unnecessarily overprotective.”

“How the hell should I know? It may shock you, but this kind of thing doesn’t happen a lot. You may hate us, but we’re not a bunch of savages. David was just an asshole, a stupid one at that, and he should have known better than to do what he did. Negan really doesn’t let shit like that fly here.”

Rick wasn’t sure what he was looking for there. Maybe just confirmation that this was normal behavior, that Negan would send a bodyguard after anyone else. It seemed like a little much, though.

Rick let the subject drop and went back to unloading boxes under the watchful gaze of his sort-of bodyguard. When they were done, Rick headed for the dining hall to grab something for lunch, only to stop short when he heard a loud, drawn-out cry of pain from the main workroom. He turned and ran toward the sound, wondering what the hell was going on.

There was a crowd of people in the room, all facing toward something that Rick couldn’t see. The scream died off suddenly, and Rick heard Negan’s voice rise over the mass of people.

“That wasn’t so bad now, was it? Doc, come over and do your thing.” Rick couldn’t see who it was that Negan had first addressed, and he tried to move through the crowd to see what was going on, but there were too many people tightly packed together.

“Well, the pussy passed out. But it’s settled, we’re square, everything is cool. Let Mark’s face be a daily reminder to him, and to everyone else, that the rules matter.” Negan’s voice addressed the crowd. “I hope that we all learned something today, because I don’t ever want to have to do that shit again.” Rick glanced in the direction of Negan’s voice and saw him heading for the exit.

“As you were!” He shouted over his shoulder, and then he was gone, and the crowd dispersed enough for Rick to see what had taken place.

A man was seated in the center of the room, slumped slightly forward and passed out, the doctor looking him over. Rick didn’t see why at first, and then his head was turned toward Rick. The left side of his face was severely burned, looking half-melted. Alarm rang through Rick. What the fuck? Did Negan do that?

Rick heard a sob from behind him, and turned to see a group of women huddled together. He recognized the woman who was crying, the blonde one whose name he remembered to be Amber. He recognized Sherry and Tess as well. Among them were two other women, a small dark-skinned woman and a curvy brunette, both of whom were comforting Amber as she wept. Rick approached the group awkwardly, feeling intrusive. Sherry looked away from Amber to address him.

“Rick.” She seemed tense, and Rick felt bad to have to ask her about what happened, but he needed to know.

“What…happened? Who is that?” He indicated the man slumped in the chair. Amber let out another sob and Sherry broke away from the group, pulling Rick out of earshot.

“Sorry. Amber’s a bit…well. It’s understandable. The man in the chair is Mark. He was her boyfriend before she married Negan.”

“What the hell happened?” Rick repeated, not understanding.

Sherry sighed and crossed her arms. “She made a mistake. She met up with Mark, while he was supposed to be working no less. Negan…found out. And then this happened.”

“What exactly is this? How’d his face get burned like that?”

“Negan has an…an iron that he uses when people cheat on him.”

Jesus Christ. Rick was suddenly infinitely grateful that he and Michonne’s relationship had dwindled back into non-sexual territory after Negan came in. The idea of something like that happening to her made him feel sick. He thought back to Negan’s anger when he had seen him and Michonne on the first Alexandria run, the insistence that Rick remain faithful to him.

“He’s the jealous type, then.” Rick muttered, and Sherry gave him a look that told him that now wasn’t the time to make light of it. And he wasn’t. He just didn’t know how to process it all. He watched as Sherry turned her back to him and rejoined the other women, looking sadly at Amber. Rick spared her a last glance, briefly considering offering his condolences before thinking better of it. She barely knew him, and his words would probably ring hollow. She didn’t need another person to fuel her grief.

Instead, he headed for the door that he’d seen Negan leave out of, wanting to ask him about what had happened himself. He should probably be scared, pissed, disgusted. And there was definitely a part of him that felt all of that. But underneath, there was a burning curiosity, a need to know Negan’s reasoning behind the brutality.

Rick wandered the halls of the Sanctuary for a while, peering into open rooms until he found Negan in the room that they’d played ping-pong in the other night. He had pulled up one end of the table so he could play against himself, aggressively smacking ball after ball against the back of the table. Rick stepped in gingerly and leaned against the wall, arms crossed.

“Somethin’ I can do for you, Rick?” Negan didn’t look up at him, and his voice was strained and tense.

“I was wondering if you would explain what the fuck just happened in there.” Rick said, the words coming out more aggressive than he intended. Negan kept hitting balls against the back of the table.

“I’m a reasonable man, Rick. I offer up the option of getting married to me to people who don’t want to deal with the stress of working for points. It’s a completely voluntary position. Every woman I’ve married knows that. They do it because they know I’ll provide for them. And I don’t fucking mind providing for them, so long as they’re willing and faithful. Those are my only two rules.” He hit a ball particularly hard, making it ping off the backboard and bounce off to the other side of the room. He didn’t bother to get it; instead, he tossed the paddle onto the table and turned to face Rick.

“The willing part isn’t an issue. I’m very up-front about what getting married entails with my girls, and I they’re not into it, we don’t have a deal, everything stays the same. If they are, fantastic, wedding bells!” He chuckled humorlessly. “Most of them go into it seeing it as a job, and I get that. That’s fine. An exchange of services, sex for a life of luxury. I’m a motherfucking sugar daddy.” A snort of laughter escaped Rick, and Negan smirked for a second.

“Yeah. So that’s that, fine. They all eventually enjoy it as something other than a job, because, hell, I’m a fantastic fucking lover.” He dropped a wink and a filthy smirk in Rick’s direction, making him flush pink. “So that’s really not much of an issue. It’s the staying faithful. I get it, I do, they have boyfriends or husbands or some shit, whatever. But they chose to be with me. They chose to leave whoever they’re with so they wouldn’t have to work for points. They knew the rules when they signed up. So, yeah, I don’t take very kindly to people cheating on me.”

“So you burned a man’s face with a fucking iron?” Rick asked, disgusted.

“Yeah, I did. I have one fucking rule with this marriage shit and they broke it. Mark and Amber knew exactly what would happen if they did it, and they decided to do it anyway.”

“Seems pretty extreme, don’t you think? Is this how you keep people in line here? It’s a miracle nobody’s snapped and killed you yet.”

“I’m not here to be best buddies, Rick.” Negan replied. “I’m here to provide. The rules here exist for a fucking reason, and if I just let people break them without any real consequences, there really wouldn’t be much of a point to having them, would there?”

“You really think the punishment fit the crime? Really?” Rick snapped. “Yeah, I get it, it was your one rule. You don’t like cheaters. So why don’t you just divorce her? Cut her off, make her go back to working for points?”

“I’ll have you know that option was given to her. It was either go back to Mark and go back to working for points, or let Mark get his face ironed, and stay with me. She made her choice.”

Wait. Amber…chose to leave Mark to Negan?

“Jesus…” Rick breathed, shaking his head. How could someone do that? Just turn their back and let the person they supposedly cared about shoulder the punishment for a decision they made together?

“Yeah. Real stand-up gal. I mean, I can’t blame her, just look at me.” Negan gave Rick a grin that Rick didn’t return. “Aw, c’mon, Rick. Lighten the fuck up. Somehow I feel like you’ve done some fucked up shit to keep people in line, too.”

Rick’s mind flashed back to when he first came to Alexandria; to him, trying to convince Deanna that execution was the only way to deal with the situation with Pete and Jessie, and then him and Pete attacking each other in the street. He thought of himself, waving a gun around, covered in blood and raving about how people needed to come around to his way of thinking.

Negan didn’t need to know about that, though.

“That…doesn’t make it okay.”

“Why the hell do you even care, Rick? Really, why do you care if I burned the fuck out of some random guy’s face?”

“Because…” The answer popped up in Rick’s mind: Because you don’t want Negan to be a violent, unreasonable person. Because you like him.

Negan didn’t need to know that, either.

“Because it’s pretty fucking jarring to realize that you ironed a guy’s face.”

Negan made a disbelieving face. “Really? You saw me bash in a guy’s brains in right in front of you the other day, and you think this was unreasonable? The guy’s still breathing, isn’t he?”

“I…you did that to protect me. You weren’t protecting anyone by doing this shit. You were just proving a point.”

“Damn right I was. And the message was received, loud and clear: do not cheat on me. Do not be the sorry shit that my girls cheat with. Because at the end of the day, it’ll be me they come back to.” He looked pleased with himself.

“You’re sick.” Rick muttered, though it lacked venom. What could he say? He didn’t even find the violence shocking anymore.

Negan shrugged. “Maybe. Or maybe, like any other person, I don’t fucking like being lied to.”

“Jealous?” Rick teased. He should be angrier, or more disgusted. He didn’t know why the hell he wasn’t. This should have been a wake-up call, a big red flag waving wildly in Rick’s face screaming ‘Negan is dangerous and violent and you shouldn’t be inviting him into your bed and kissing him’.

Negan stepped around the ping-pong table and slid into Rick’s space, looming over him.

“Yeah, in fact, I do get jealous. That’s a pretty stupid question, Rick, considering what you just saw.”

Rick swallowed hard. “I didn’t actually see you do it.”

Negan smiled, looking pleased by this information. “Good. It was gross as shit. And I don’t need you getting all scared of me again. Not after all the progress we’ve made.”

Rick choked. “What progress?” A stupid question, really. He’d been here almost three months, and to say that him and Negan’s…relationship…hadn’t progressed was a flat-out lie. Just the other night he had asked him to stay in his bed, for god’s sake.

Negan narrowed his eyes. “Are you fucking with me, Rick? You’ve gotta be, even you can’t be in that much goddamn denial.”

“Fine, yeah. I’m not scared of you anymore. I’ve actually seen you be…be kind to me, so yeah, I’m not scared of you.” A massive understatement, but Negan didn’t need to know that.

“I feel like you’re selling yourself a bit short there, Rick,” Negan purred, leaning into Rick’s space, “I think you’ve moved way past the ‘not scared of you’ phase and into the ‘I’m gonna fuck him any day now’ phase.”

Rick scoffed, wanting desperately for the words to be untrue. “You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you?” Negan grinned.

“Oh, I know that’s where you’re at, Rick.” He was so close now that Rick felt their thighs brush against each other, his breath catching in his throat.

“Do you now?” He managed to get out, surprised that his voice was actually even.

Negan wrapped an arm loosely around his waist, his hand pressing lightly against the small of Rick’s back. “I do. I think you don’t wanna admit it, but I turn you on. You may not understand why, but I do, and you’re holding out on me in some battle of mind over body that you are going to lose.”

Rick met Negan’s eyes, willing himself to stay firm. “You’re pretty damn confident for a guy who’s been sleeping beside me without getting any for three months.”

Negan chuckled. “I play the long game, Rick. You’re not gonna warm up to me right away, I get that. But I think you’re plenty warm now.” Rick felt his face heat up, and he hated himself for it. “Now it’s just a matter of you letting go and actually following through on what you want.”

“And just what is it that you think I want?” Rick asked, holding his gaze.

Why. Why would you ask that? You know exactly what he’s going to say-

The hand that wasn’t lingering on Rick’s back came up to cup the side of his face, and Rick felt himself wanting to relax into the touch. He didn’t allow it. That would probably not help his case at the moment. Negan leaned in close, breath warm against the side of Rick’s face and he murmured into his ear.

“I think you want me to bend you over right here, Rick.” He growled, “I think you want me to strip you naked and work you over, shoved up against the wall. I think you want me to get you all nice and ready for my dick…it’ll be your first time with a man, right? I’ll go nice and slow, take my time with you. Work you open with my fingers. Or-” Rick could hear the smirk in his voice, “Would you rather me use my tongue? You’re so fucking repressed, I bet you’d absolutely lose it with my tongue inside you.”

Rick’s face felt like he was standing on the fucking sun, and he could feel his cock twitching with interest at Negan’s filthy words, which seemed to be travelling straight from his ear to his dick. He pictured Negan spreading him out on their bed, tongue teasing him and slipping inside- fuck, he shouldn’t be thinking about this.

“I’d go slow, but I’d bet you’d want it a little hard, wouldn’t you? I’d have you absolutely falling over yourself, begging me to fuck you. I think you’d want me to make you beg, though. I think you’d want me to tease you until you’re aching for it, until you’re whining my name and pleading for me to slide my dick inside you.”

Rick tried to breathe normally, desperately willing away the extremely inconvenient bulge in the front of his jeans. What the fuck was going on? A minute ago, they were discussing Negan burning half a man’s face off. How had the conversation managed to take this turn?

Negan leaned back enough so that he could look Rick in the eye, seeming amused when he saw how red Rick had turned. “Whadaya say, Rick? You finally ready to give it up for me?”

Hell no. No. There was no way that was happening. Absolutely not.

“I…”

Do not say yes. What the hell?

“Why have I had someone babysitting me all day?” He blurted out, desperate to say anything to take his mind off of how badly his body wanted what Negan promised. Negan pulled back a bit so that he wasn’t right in Rick’s face anymore, looking a little disappointed that Rick was continuing his denial, but respecting it anyway, however begrudgingly.

“What’s with the stupid questions today, Rick? I feel like the answer is pretty damn obvious.”

Rick sighed. “Yeah, it’s obvious. It’s also completely unnecessary. We both know I don’t need a bodyguard, and I really don’t think anyone else would be stupid enough to pull something like that again after you beat a guy to death. So why do it?”

“I’d rather you be safe.” Negan shrugged.

“I am safe. You’re just doing this to piss me off.”

Negan pulled a face. “You really think that’s why I’m making Arat follow you around?”

Right, Arat. That was her name. It sounded familiar. “That’s the only thing that makes any sense! We both know it’s not necessary, so you’re clearly just doing it to get under my skin, treating me like I’m helpless.”

“Oh, I know you’re not helpless, Rick.”

“Exactly!” Rick shouted, “So you’ve gotta be doing this to piss me off.”

Negan’s mouth twitched into a frown. “You’re really fucking stupid, Rick.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Rick snarled.

“It means,” Negan said, crossing his arms, “That if you haven’t figured out why I’m having you watched, you’re really fucking stupid. And here I thought I was being too obvious.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Rick,” Negan slid his hand behind Rick’s neck, tilting his head up to look him in the eye, “The shit with David freaked me the fuck out. I don’t want you getting hurt. Arat’s watching you for my own peace of mind. Not because I think you’re fucking weak, not to piss you off.”

Rick’s mouth went dry and he felt at a complete loss for words. Negan…was worried about him? That wasn't possible. Negan wasn't the kind of guy to worry about people.

“Why the hell are you like this with me? What kind of fucking game are you playing?” Rick whispered, “I don’t understand what you’re trying to do here. You just scarred a man for life like it was nothing, and you expect me to believe that you’re worried about me?”

“Is that really so shocking? Really?” Negan shook his head in disappointment, “I’d think after the past few months, you would’ve seen enough that this wouldn’t be news to you.”

“I just…” Rick trailed off, confused. “Why me? I’m supposed to be a prisoner, why the hell do you give a shit what happens to me?”

Negan pulled his hand back and ran it through his hair, smiling to himself as he moved to leave the room. “That’s a damn good question, Rick.”


 

Rick never had a lot to do at the Sanctuary, so he spent the rest of the day wandering the grounds, walking the length of the inner gate and obsessively mulling over him and Negan’s conversation. Rick felt overwhelmed and mixed up and confused. So, so confused. Everything that happened between them just left him feeling more unsure of how he felt about Negan and how Negan felt about him.

He’d come in hating the man, and now…now he couldn’t even say what he thought of him. He’d spent so long trying to keep thinking of Negan as a monster, but after three months of actions that contradicted that thought, he didn’t know what to think. He was an asshole, but Rick liked being around him. He was violent, but so was Rick. And the things he’d said today, about Rick wanting him…it sickened Rick to admit it to himself, but it was true. As much as he wanted to deny it, there was some sick part of him that wanted to give in to Negan. Whether it was because he actually was starting to like him or because he was just so fucking frustrated and pent-up, he couldn’t say.

Rick sighed and scrubbed both hands through his hair, confused and distraught. It was rapidly approaching nightfall, and he needed to head inside. He wondered if Negan would be in his room tonight. He couldn’t recall if he’d said so that morning.

Stop. Stop thinking about him.

He’d been spending more and more nights with Rick lately. In fact, he’d slept in Rick’s room every night so far that week.

Because he thinks you like it. Because you fucking asked him to stay. Like a dumbass.

Rick groaned to himself, heading inside and trying to shut down his inner monologue.

Negan wasn’t in his room when Rick got there, and a wave of disappointment washed over him before he could stop it. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, willing the disappointment away as he stripped off his clothes and made his way into the shower. So Negan wasn’t going to be there tonight. Big deal. He should be thankful. Rick breathed in deeply as the warm water ran over him, trying to clear his mind. Or, at the very least, think about something other than Negan.

He showered quickly and dried off, towel hanging loose in his hand as he stepped back into the bedroom to grab a change of clothes.

“Hot fucking damn! I knew you weren’t tiny where it counted!” Rick practically jumped out of his skin at the sound of Negan’s voice, jerking the towel forward to cover himself. Negan was sprawled out on the bed, his eyes roaming over Rick’s body hungrily, tongue swiping over his lips like Rick was something to eat. Rick felt a blush creeping over his face and chest, all of a sudden feeling way too warm.

Negan leaned forward on the bed, eyes never leaving Rick’s body. “Sorry to fucking scare you. I really didn’t plan this, if you can believe it. It must just be my lucky day.”

“Must be.” Rick muttered, avoiding eye contact and wrapping the towel firmly around his waist before grabbing his clothes and retreating into the bathroom. He emerged moments later, face still hot, and Negan grinned at him.

“I have to say, seeing you naked has been the highlight of my day, Rick. Granted, it has been a shitty fucking day, but I promise you, even if I’d woken up to Scandinavian supermodels sucking my dick, that still would’ve been the hottest thing I’ve seen all day.”

Rick crossed his arms and shifted awkwardly on his feet, unsure whether he felt more embarrassed or flattered. Negan chuckled and patted the space beside him on the bed.

“C’mon, Rick. You’ve got nothing to be shy about. It was gonna happen sooner or later, anyway.”

Rick snorted and sat on the bed, still avoiding eye contact. “I thought you said you didn’t plan it.”

“I didn’t.” Negan replied, rolling onto his side to face Rick, “But like I said, you’re gonna give it up to me eventually. All those pent up feelings are gonna just explode right outta you one of these days, and I am gonna fucking love taking you apart on this bed when they do.”

There it was again, that obnoxious cockiness. “You’re so full of shit.”

“You’re right.” Negan conceded, and Rick actually whipped his head around to look at Negan, because what the fuck why was he admitting Rick was right-

“It may not be the bed. You may snap somewhere else and I’ll have to fuck you against a wall or in a storeroom somewhere. Or on a ping-pong table…” He gave Rick a cheeky grin, and Rick rolled his eyes.

“You’re not fucking me on a goddamn ping-pong table.”

“Hey, it wouldn’t be my first choice, either. But you’re not gonna fucking hear me telling you no when you’re begging me to bend you over and-”

Rick made a noise in the back of his throat, cutting Negan off. “Can you really not go five seconds without saying shit like that?”

Negan’s grin didn’t drop. “Not usually, but I’m gonna give it a shot real quick, because I actually want to ask you something.”

Rick quirked an eyebrow at him. “You want to try to have a civil conversation with me?”

Negan chuckled. “Don’t sound so fucking surprised, Rick.” He dropped the air of nonchalance and looked Rick in the eye. “I’m being serious right now, though. You said something earlier, and I want to know if you actually meant it or if you were just putting on a show. Are you really not scared of me anymore?”

Rick furrowed his brow. It was an actual question, not just a segue into more innuendo. “No, not really. Being here…if nothing else, it’s shown me that you’re capable of being reasonable. Sometimes.”

“I scarred a man for life because he was fooling around with one of my wives. I fucking smashed a guy’s head into mystery meat right in front of you just a few days ago. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m glad you can see all that and not think I’m a fucking lunatic, but given how much you claim to hate my fucking guts, I can’t help but wonder why.” Negan tilted his head, searching Rick’s face for answers.

It was a fair question. “I…look. I don’t agree with what you did today. Especially seeing as you have multiple wives and you’ve said yourself that what you and them have is basically just an exchange of services. I’d understand it more if you were actually in love with them, but I really don’t think you are.”

Negan shrugged, “Fair.”

Rick continued. “So I’m not gonna act like I’m alright with you going around burning people’s faces to enforce rules is something that sits well with me, but I can see your reasoning behind it. Even if it’s fucked up.”

Negan looked mildly surprised. “That’s pretty big of you, Rick.” There was that usual underlying note of sarcasm in his voice, but he seemed appeased enough.

“As for the other day…it’s not like I’m not biased, since it was me he was attacking. Maybe killing him like that was unnecessary, but you seem to have a pretty big issue with rape, and maybe I’m just relieved to know that you really do hate it that much and that you have a set of morals. And I…I really can’t fault you for reacting like that. I’ve done things, in the heat of the moment…things I should probably regret, but I don’t.” Rick stared ahead at the wall, feeling Negan’s eyes on him as he spoke.

“Like what?” Negan asked, voice strangely quiet. Rick bit his lip. Were they really doing this right now?

Negan was still looking at him expectantly, so apparently they were. He sighed.

“There was this group a while back, before we found Alexandria. Just a few guys, but they snuck up on us, me and Michonne and Carl, when we were separated from the rest of our group. They had guns to our heads, and one of them grabbed Carl had him on the ground…” He swallowed hard, the scene playing over in his head.

“I kept hearing him struggling, hearing the leader go on about what they were going to do…the two of us ended up going at each other, throwing punches, and he got my arms pinned to my sides, and I could hear Carl crying out in the background as some fucking guy pinned him, and I just…snapped. I fucking went in, sank my teeth into the guy’s throat, ripped it out. I could taste his blood in my mouth. The guy that had Carl…I killed him. Sunk a knife into his gut and dragged it up to his chest. I just kept stabbing him after that. I don’t know how many times. It wasn’t enough.”

Negan was silent for a long moment, gazing at Rick before murmuring “Jesus…”.

Rick squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, shoving the memory back into the recesses of his brain. “Yeah. So I...I really can’t blame you. For what you did the other day.”

“Goddamn.” Negan breathed, “I knew you were a bad motherfucker before, what with how you and your guys did my outpost, but fuck. That’s some hardcore shit. Is it wrong that I’m a little impressed right now?”

Rick couldn’t stop the surprised laugh that tumbled out of him. “I don’t know why I expected anything less.”

“I’m serious. I’m about fifty percent more into you now that I know there’s enough righteous anger in you to rip out a guy’s throat with your goddamn teeth. That’s fucking intense.”

Rick smiled slightly to himself, feeling somehow lighter than before. He’d never really talked about what had happened that night except with Daryl right after the fact, who had basically told him that it had been necessary, that nobody could blame him. But he’d seen how Carl had looked at him for a long time after that, with that tiny hint of fear. And while it had eventually gone away, Rick couldn’t help but carry that with him. It wouldn’t have bothered him as much if he could say he regretted the brutality of it. But he didn’t. He thought back on that moment with a dark, sick satisfaction that he’d never been able to express before now, out of fear that he would get a reaction like Carl’s. It was strange to think that there was something that was easier for him to talk to Negan about.

“You’re a fucking interesting guy, Rick. You never stop surprising me, you know that?”

Funny, Rick found himself thinking that about Negan at least once a day. He chuckled.

“Yep, that’s me. I’m the whole package, interesting, bloodthirsty, and a nice cock. I can see why you’re so into me.”

Negan’s sudden burst of laughter was so loud Rick nearly jumped, watching as the other man rolled onto his back, clutching his side. “Fuck me, Rick! You’re too damn much sometimes.”

Rick slid down on the bed, turning his body toward Negan. “I’ll pass on fucking you, actually,” He said, grinning.

Negan rolled toward him, hooking an arm around his waist to tug him in closer. “You sure about that, Rick? You sure all this talk of killing people doesn’t have you all hot and bothered?”

“Shut up.” Rick grunted, shoving him away. Negan gave a dramatic sigh and rolled over, turning off the lamp and sliding under the covers. Rick followed, and felt himself being tugged back into Negan’s arms. He was quiet for a few minutes, and Rick thought he’d fallen asleep, but then he spoke again.

“I’m glad you aren’t freaked out about the other day.” He said, his voice quiet against Rick’s shoulder. “I’d hate it if I drove you away over that fucking prick. I didn’t want to scare you. I don’t want to scare you. Not anymore, anyway.”

Something tugged at Rick, something deep and strange that lit an unknown fire inside of him. It happened every time Negan talked to him like that, all honesty and genuine feeling, and it made him want to do stupid, reckless things. So he did.

Rick rolled over in Negan’s arms so they were facing each other, the faint outline of Negan barely visible in the dark of the room. “I’m not scared of you.” Rick whispered, heart in his throat. Negan’s hand cupped the side of his face, running his thumb along the stubbly line of his jaw, and he gave in.

Rick leaned forward, pressing their lips together, his hands sliding up Negan’s back to pull him in closer. He heard Negan make a small noise of surprise that was muffled against Rick’s mouth, and Rick felt lightheaded as their lips moved against each other, tasting and teasing. It was nothing like the quick, chaste kisses they shared in the mornings. Rick tentatively slid his tongue into Negan’s mouth, exploring languidly, and he felt the other man’s hand slip back down to his waist and grip at his hip, bunching the fabric of his boxers in his fist as they kissed. He pulled Rick into him so that their bodies were flush against one another, and Rick heard himself let out a breathy moan into Negan’s mouth.

The noises Rick made seemed to spur Negan on, and he took the opportunity to deepen the kiss, dipping his tongue into Rick’s mouth as his hand slid down over Rick’s ass and cupped the back of his thigh, hitching Rick’s leg over his hip. Rick’s mind was both spinning out of control as Negan pulled himself up on top of him, his hips pressing up between Rick’s legs. Rick’s hands slid up his back, pulling him closer, wanting to be wrapped up in him completely, wanting to erase everything he was thinking that wasn’t about Negan’s lips on his. His head was a whirlwind, the only thing anchoring him to reality was the feeling of Negan’s hips pressing into his, Negan’s hot mouth on his own, Negan’s hands on the side of his face, holding him steady.

Negan groaned, pressing his lips to the side of Rick’s neck and rocking his hips into him. “Fuck, Rick…” Something thick and hard pressed up between Rick’s legs, the heat obvious even though the layers of their boxers. Rick’s breath hitched in his throat, his mind whirring to a sudden halt as fear and uncertainty gripped him. He tensed against Negan, suddenly very aware of their position and very unsure about where this was heading.

Negan felt him tense up and stopped, pulling back so he could look Rick in the eye. “What’s wrong?”

Oh, god. What wasn’t wrong with this situation?

“I just…” Rick bit his lip, feeling like an idiot. He’d been the one to initiate what had just happened, and now he was too scared to see it through? “I shouldn’t have done that.”

Negan looked frustrated. “Why?”

He should say ‘because I’m supposed to hate you’, but that wasn’t why he’d stopped. “Because I- I don’t think I’m ready for what comes next. I know I’m not.” He admitted.

He expected Negan to look pissed, but his face actually softened, the frustration disappearing. He’d obviously been expecting a different answer, probably one more along the lines of what Rick knew he should have said. “Oh. Jesus. Alright, one sec-” He rolled off of Rick and back onto his side of the bed. He reached out with one hand and wound it around the back of Rick’s neck, thumb brushing the side of his face. “Shit. That was too much, wasn’t it?” He grinned slightly, "I guess I do still scare you a bit."

“I wasn’t thinking. It was an impulse decision, I…I didn’t think about where it would go.” Rick muttered. “I’m sorry. That I…uh, led you on, I guess.” The words felt silly and juvenile coming out of his mouth.

Negan shook his head. “No. No, it’s alright. I told you I’d let you set the boundaries, and I meant it. If that’s all you’re comfortable with, that’s all we’ll do.”

Rick breathed out, relieved. He inched a bit closer to Negan, letting the other man drape and arm over him. “Thank you.” He said softly.

Negan hummed in response, resting his forehead against Rick’s. “Like I said before, Rick. You never stop surprising me.”

Chapter Text

There were hands in Rick’s hair, teeth and lips teasing his neck as he was bent over the side of the bed. He felt his pants being jerked down his legs and he fisted the sheets in his grip when he felt hands slide down his back and over his ass, spreading him open. Something hot and thick and slick pressed against him, teasing, and he desperately wanted to push back against it.

Then he was being filled, and the person behind him was pressed hot and heavy against his back as he was fucked into the mattress.

“Please, oh, god, please…” Rick whimpered, needy and desperate and wanting more. A filthy chuckle sounded from behind him. 

“Fuck, I told you I’d have you begging for my dick.” Negan’s voice was husky and deep and Rick wasn’t even surprised that it was him. He heard himself moaning and crying out, being pushed closer and closer to the edge, the feeling of Negan’s dick inside him and his lips against the back of his neck driving him out of his mind with lust-

“Rise and shine, Sheriff Grimes!”

Rick was jolted out of his dream by Negan’s hands shaking him awake. Oh, Christ, what the actual hell-

“Hey, that kinda fucking rhymes.” Negan mused, releasing Rick’s shoulders when he saw that he was awake. He turned away from Rick and stripped out of his shirt, tossing it onto the armchair as he headed for the bathroom.

Rick’s mind was still lust-addled and confused from his dream, so it really wasn’t his fault when his eyes lingered on Negan’s ass as the man got undressed. Yep, definitely just because of the dream.

God, that dream. He squirmed on his side, closing his eyes and trying to will down the raging hard-on in his boxers. No was in hell was he getting out of bed like that. He took a few deep breaths, trying to get his blood flowing somewhere else. The fact that Negan was walking around half-naked certainly wasn’t helping matters.

“Rick! Wake the fuck up!” Rick’s eyes opened again. Negan whirled on him, grinning, and Rick definitely didn’t glance down to Negan’s crotch, nope. He definitely wasn’t staring at the trail of dark hair that disappeared into his boxers, because that would be insane. “C’mon, Rick. We have pickup in Alexandria today, I know you don’t wanna miss that.”

What a dick-

And then Negan jerked the covers off of Rick, and Rick’s eyes went wide with terror as he curled further into himself, trying to keep his problem concealed from Negan.

Please, please, just leave me alone and go get in the fucking shower-

Negan flopped down on the bed beside Rick, tugging his arm until he was forced to turn over on his other side to face him, legs still drawn up to his stomach. “What’s your fucking problem this morning, Rick? Don’t wanna get up?” He glanced down and gave him a strange look. “What’s with the fetal position? You got something you’re trying to fucking hide from me down there?” His words were teasing, not at all serious, but Rick’s body betrayed him, face flushing as he tried to squirm away.

Negan grinned, wolfish and predatory. “C’mon, Rick.” He said, grabbing Rick’s wrists. “Time to get up.” He tugged Rick out of bed before Rick could stop him and the small noise of distress that came out of his throat made the other man glance down. Negan’s eyebrows shot up when he caught sight of the prominent bulge in Rick’s boxers, his grin widening impossibly.

“Je-sus, I didn’t actually think- fuck.” Rick squirmed, humiliated, feeling his face grow hotter under Negan’s gaze. The other man leaned into Rick’s space, so close that he could feel Negan’s thigh brush lightly against his swollen cock, making him suck in a breath.

Negan’s hands wrapped around his hips, breath hot against Rick’s neck as he murmured into his ear, “Fuck, that is so fucking hot. You want me to help you out, Rick? I don’t mind being a little late if it means watching you come all over yourself.” Rick practically choked on his own saliva, the thought of Negan’s hand sliding down the front of his boxers and wrapping around his aching length flooding his mind.

He felt Negan’s thumb dip just under the waistband, just enough to brush the skin of his hip. Rick jerked back reflexively, startled, and Negan chuckled again as he drew his hand away.

“Not ready for that yet? Still holding out? Fuck, you’ve got some willpower, I’ll give you that.” He looked Rick up and down, eyes hungry. "Fair enough. You just let me know if you change your mind, though. Door will be open."

With that, he sauntered into the bathroom, leaving the door cracked just slightly behind him. Rick collapsed back onto the bed, listening to the shower running and internally cursing. If he was being honest, he wasn't sure if he was more upset that he'd gotten caught, or that he'd jerked away from Negan's touch. He honestly hadn't meant to; he'd just been surprised. God, had he wanted him to keep going. He'd wanted Negan's hand wrapped around him, stroking him and teasing him...Rick squirmed at the thought, still achingly hard. He palmed himself through his boxers, hips twitching up to arch into his hand, wanting more. 

God, that felt good. He shoved his hand into his boxers, wrapping around his length and stroking, mind going hazy as he lost himself in the slide of his fist, nudging himself closer and closer to the edge-

"Holy fucking hell! My lucky day continues!" Rick's eyes flew open and he jerked his hand back and scrambled into a sitting position, face going scarlet as a towel-clad Negan let out a low whistle. "Oh, please, Rick, don't let me stop you. From the look of it, you really fucking need it."

Rick shifted uncomfortably on the bed, wondering exactly how many times he was going to shame himself today. He was off to a great start. 

Negan licked his lips and looked him over, his eyes settling between Rick's legs. "Seriously. Don't stop on my account, I don't fucking mind. I'll keep my hands to myself, promise."

Fuck. He shouldn't give in. He absolutely shouldn’t and Rick absolutely shouldn’t be laying back on the bed and looking up at Negan with lust-filled eyes, and he shouldn’t be laying back and running a palm over his erection and biting down on his tongue to keep from making any sound.

But he did all that anyway, choosing so follow up on last night's recklessness and act on impulse without giving himself time to think about it, consequences and reason be damned. Negan pulled the armchair around so that it was at the foot of the bed and sank down into it, looking surprised that Rick actually went along with what he’d suggested.

Rick slid a hand back down into his boxers, wrapping it around his dick again and starting to stroke himself, giving in to the pleasure. He’d only just begun when he saw Negan rise from the chair and hover over him, hands gripping his waist again. He nudged up the bottom of Rick’s t-shirt a bit and hooked his fingers into the top of Rick’s boxers, giving them an experimental tug and gauging Rick’s reaction. When Rick didn’t immediately protest, he grinned.

“You don’t mind if I take these off, do you?” Negan’s fingers toyed with the waistband, each brush of his fingertips against Rick’s skin feeling like a tiny spark of electricity. “I wanna get a good look at you touching that gorgeous prick of yours.”

Rick nodded his head and lifted his hips in invitation, shivering when Negan tugged his boxers down and he felt his cock spring up, flushed and swollen between his legs. Negan licked his lips, looking very much like he wanted to pounce on Rick right then and there, but he held himself back and sank back into the chair, hungry eyes dragging over the length of Rick’s body.

“You have no fucking idea how hard it is not to have my fucking hands all over your right now. Fuck, you’re gorgeous.”

Rick’s face felt like it was moments away from catching fire, the intensity of Negan’s gaze scoring into his flesh like a brand. His cock was leaking steadily, and he ran his thumb over the head, spreading the wetness there and bucking into his fist again, swallowing back a moan. He felt lightheaded and completely out of control and damn if he didn’t like it. Knowing that Negan was watching him, getting turned on by seeing Rick like this made him even harder, his cock drooling onto his stomach as he stroked himself, small sounds of pleasure escaping from his lips without his permission.

“Spread your legs.” Negan’s voice was as rough and lust-filled and Rick felt and his body obey the command before his mind could decide to. He heard Negan suck in a breath and looked up, his eyes meeting Negan’s dark ones, his gaze intense and piercing and making Rick feel even more stripped than he already was. He felt the pull of arousal in his stomach, building with each stroke, and fuck if Negan looking at him like he wanted to mount him right then and there wasn’t the hottest goddamn thing-

“Come for me, Rick.” Negan growled, not tearing his eyes from Rick’s writhing body. “I want to see you come all over yourself on our bed.”

Rick couldn’t have resisted that if he wanted to. Pleasure coiled itself and came undone inside of him, his back arching and a loud groan tearing itself from his lips as he spilled over his hand and onto his stomach, hips twitching as he rode out his orgasm.

Rick’s mind was blissfully blank as he laid on his back, chest heaving. “Ho-ly fuck, that was so goddamn hot.” Negan growled, crawling up the bed beside Rick. “I really didn’t think you go for that, but fuck am I glad you did. Jesus."

Negan traced a finger through the slick mess on Rick’s stomach, making him shiver. “You just let me know if you ever wake up like that again. I’ll be more than happy to give you a hand, gorgeous.” Negan winked and slid the finger into his mouth, licking it clean and smirking at how Rick’s eyes widened. “Fuck, you taste amazing.” He stood up, grabbing his clothes and wandering into the bathroom, tossing a towel out at Rick a moment later.

“Clean yourself up, we gotta go pay your gang a little visit.”


The blissful thoughtfulness that came with Rick’s orgasm managed to last him through breakfast with Negan, which they ate quickly, practically on their way out the door. It wasn’t until they got in the car and Rick found himself sitting between Negan and Arat that he came to his senses.

Arat was proof that other people still existed, that there was a world beyond him and Negan’s room. That damn room must have been some kind of strange alternate world where the logic of reality no longer applied and shame didn’t exist, because in the real world, it was pretty fucking obvious to Rick that what he’d done that morning- and last night, as well- was nothing short of unbelievable insanity.

All at once, Rick felt the crushing weight of utter humiliation and shame. What the fuck had he been thinking? There was absolutely no explaining it. He could only hope that he was having some sort of psychological breakdown, because nothing else would explain why he’d allowed it to happen. Why he’d wanted it to happen.

It had to be what Negan said before: the tension. Rick was just frustrated and wound up and he didn’t have an outlet for it anymore, and it was making him do crazy, idiotic things. It didn’t mean anything. He was wound so tight that he could go off at any given moment, and Negan’s constant pushing and flirting and getting in his space was fucking with his brain. It wasn’t that he wanted Negan, specifically. Because that would be insane.

No, Rick told himself, You just need some kind of relief. And Negan’s the only one you can get it from right now. That’s all.

He needed to believe that. Because if it was anything more, he didn’t know how to handle it.

“You’re awful fuckin’ quiet, Rick. Something on your mind?” Negan was grinning at him, tongue between his teeth like he knew exactly what was on Rick’s mind and couldn’t be happier about it. Asshole.

When Rick didn’t respond, Negan took it upon himself to keep the conversation going. “Oh, Rick! You and Arat have already met, seeing as I made her your bodyguard of sorts for a few days. I think you may have met before that, too…”

Rick suddenly remembered why she’d looked familiar. The second time the Saviors came to Alexandria had been mostly uneventful, minus a brief hiccup where Spencer, prick that he was, was caught hoarding some more supplies. Nothing major, but it had slipped under Olivia’s radar this time, and Arat had given her a hard time before Rick had pulled Spencer to the side and threatened him with violence and the reminder that missing supplies meant Olivia’s head. He’d eventually coughed up the single handgun and bottle of whiskey he’d taken, and luckily no one had gotten hurt, but Rick got the feeling that Negan had a watchful eye on Spencer now. Rick couldn’t really blame him.

“Anyway,” Negan said. “She’s my top girl, minus Lucille. Helluva woman. I woulda offered to marry her, but as it turns out she is super gay. Probably for the best, though, because she’s a damn good soldier. It'd be a real waste of her potential to just sit around.” Rick was pretty sure Negan was only talking because he knew that Rick wanted nothing more to melt into the floor of the truck and disappear.

“Arat,” Negan continued, “I’d like to formally introduce you to Rick, my lovely husband.” Arat acknowledged Rick with the briefest glance, hardly taking her eyes off the road, and still it was far too much eye contact for Rick’s taste. He would very much like to endure the rest of the ride in shameful silence as he tried to pretend that this morning had never happened.

Negan seemed to sense that Rick wasn’t going to be very talkative, so for the rest of the drive he and Arat talked back and forth about what sounded like an ongoing pool rivalry between the two of them, while Rick tried very much to suppress the memory of that morning with little success.

The overwhelming feeling of guilt Rick felt every time he showed up in Alexandria with the Saviors was not something that went away. Logically, he knew that they were going to be coming either way, and that if he wasn’t with Negan, they’d be barging through the gates much more often, but the discomfort of getting out of the truck behind Negan and feeling everyone’s eyes on him was relentless.

Rick shifted awkwardly beside Negan as he barked orders at people, watching as the Saviors dispersed into Alexandria to begin their raid. He scanned the small group of people that had gathered nearby, looking for Michonne or Carl but not finding them. He hadn’t expected to; every time the Saviors came to visit, they took a trip beyond the wall, waiting out the chaos.

He understood why they did it: they were both strong-willed and violently opposed to this arrangement, and while Michonne could likely keep herself under control, Carl was a whole other story. Rick could easily picture him doing or saying something that could result in disaster, and while he was extremely proud that Carl had grown into such a strong, passionate person, that passion had a tendency to get him into trouble, and the last thing Rick wanted was for Carl to get hurt. He appreciated that Michonne cared enough about Carl’s well-being to get him out of Alexandria when they came.

Negan was too busy to pull his usual ‘walk around arm in arm like a happy couple’ charade that he liked to do with Rick during his Alexandria visits, so Rick wandered a bit, trying to ignore the people hauling things out of houses and storage areas, wanting to find Daryl and ask him how Carl was doing with his aim. Instead, he found Aaron, keeping out of the way of the Saviors best he could. He gave Rick a genuine smile when he looked up and saw him.

“Rick! Hey, how are you?” He didn’t ask the question with the usual air of condescending concern. That had been fading from a lot of people’s voices lately, probably because they assumed that Rick had been in his situation long enough to get used to whatever they though was happening to him. He found that he didn’t mind, whatever the reason was.

“I’m fine, Aaron. How are you? How’s Eric?” A small smile tugged at the corner of Aaron’s mouth at the mention of his boyfriend’s name.

“He’s good. I’m alright. This isn’t the most ideal situation,” he indicated the Saviors hauling crates of ammo into the back of their trucks, “But it’s hardly the worst thing that I’ve seen happen.” Rick gave him a strange look, and he shrugged. “Maybe that sounds bad, a bit defeatist, but as long as my heart’s still beating, I’m grateful. That’s not to say that all of this is fine by me, but…after what happened, I think I’m just glad that me and Eric are both still alive.”

If only more people could see it that way.

Rick chatted with Aaron for a bit, appreciating the normality of it all, despite the chaos around them. He was mid-sentence when he felt an arm wind around his waist from behind.

“Rick, who’s your friend?” The words were a purr in his ear, and the intimacy of it in front of Aaron made Rick want to sink into the ground. He glanced down and caught sight of Lucille dangling from Negan’s other hand. Aaron’s eyes flicked up to Negan, and Rick was quietly thankful that he didn’t look particularly scared.

“This is Aaron. You- ah…you’ve met, actually.” Rick mumbled. Negan leaned in so that his head was right next to Rick’s, and was silent for a moment before he snapped his fingers.

“Ah, right! You were there the night I proposed!” Oh god, why did he have to say it like that? Like it was some sappy, romantic moment and not a night of horror wherein he’d murdered two of their friends? He got such joy out of it, too, know that it made Rick squirm.

“I…yeah, I guess I was.” Aaron replied, looking just as disturbed by the phrasing as Rick was. Negan grinned, letting the awkwardness of the conversation roll off his back, unbothered.

“What a fucking night that was, huh?” Negan’s hip thrust turned into him bumping his crotch into Rick from behind, and Rick’s face went red. “I know you guys didn’t have quite as good a night as I did, but goddamn! I get chills just thinkin’ about it. The night I met my gorgeous husband…” He trailed off, wrapping his other arm around Rick’s chest as best he could while still holding Lucille, smirking at the discomfort on Aaron’s face. He let them both stand there and stew in the awkwardness for a few moments before breaking the tension.

“Rick, could you come with me, baby? I’ve got something for you.” He tugged Rick along beside him, not waiting for an answer, leaving a confused and disturbed looking Aaron behind them.

Rick managed to disentangle himself from the arm holding Lucille so he could walk beside Negan, the man’s other arm still clutching his waist. “Do you really have to do that?” He muttered.

“Do what, Rick?” Negan smirked, looking pleased with himself.

Why did he have to be so goddamn difficult? “Every time we’re here, you feel the need to pull shit like that, acting like we’re some couple on our honeymoon. I know you’re just doing it to embarrass me and make them uncomfortable.”

“Maybe I like embarrassing you and making them uncomfortable.”

Rick bit back a groan of frustration. “Yeah, I know you do. Could you maybe stop?”

Negan stopped for a moment, hand tightening on Rick’s hip as he narrowed his eyes. “No, I don’t think I will. I like letting everyone know exactly who you belong to. And I think, deep down, you kinda like it too.”

“Bullshit.” Rick snapped. “Why the hell would I want everyone I know thinking that I belong to you?” The words felt horrifyingly wrong and right on his tongue and it made him want to physically spit them out of his mouth.

Negan’s face was the picture of smugness. “Because you like belonging to me, Rick. You like me putting my arms around you and calling you baby and making you squirm and blush in that adorable way you do.”

“You know, I really don’t.” Rick sighed, knowing that all the protesting in the world wouldn’t change Negan’s mind. Negan’s eyes flicked away from Rick for a split second and then back, and he smirked, pulling Rick in closer.

“You know, I really think you do. Why else would you have laid yourself out on our bed like you did this morning?” His grin widened when he saw Rick flush in embarrassment. “Somehow, I don’t think you let just anybody watch you as you whimper and come all over that tight little stomach of yours.” Rick dipped his head, looking away, unable to meet Negan’s intense gaze.

Just when he thought he’d reached peak amounts of shame, he saw it: Daryl, a couple feet away, standing frozen in horror, disgust written across his face, clearly having heard their conversation. Rick found that he couldn’t quite meet Daryl’s eyes, and he had a sinking feeling that him overhearing them wasn’t a coincidence. He glared up at Negan.

“You planned that, didn’t you? You saw him and thought, ‘Hey, what’s a good way to ruin Rick’s life today?’.”

Negan’s smile was wicked. “I may have. It didn’t have to be that way, you know. You could have just admitted that you like being around me.”

Rick scoffed. “That’s not going to happen.” He sighed. “It really doesn’t matter, anyway. Pretty much everyone already thinks you’re fucking me, anyway.”

Negan’s face contorted. “Ah. I see.” His arm dropped from around Rick’s waist and he started walking again. Confused, Rick followed.

“What did you expect them to think, Negan? That I was living it up with you? Or that you just threw me in a cell somewhere? The whole marriage thing has a lot of implications.”

Negan didn’t look at him. “I don’t want people thinking I’m a fucking rapist.”

“Well, tough, because I’m not going to call a town meeting announcing that we’re not having sex. That seems like overkill. Hey-” he grabbed Negan’s shoulder, forcing him to meet his eyes. “Why do you even care what everyone here thinks? God knows I’ve been trying not to, and I actually care about them. I know the truth about you. That’s all that’s important, right?”

Negan’s face changed, looking almost amused. “That was kind of fucking sappy, Rick. You’re a big fucking softie.”

“I had to keep you from gettin’ all bent outta shape. You’re a real dick when you’re upset.” Negan laughed, all deep with his head thrown back, and wrapped an arm around Rick’s waist again.

“Fair enough, Rick, fair enough. Back to what I dragged you away from Aaron for, though-” they approached the truck they’d come in and Negan opened up the back, revealing several crates and a stack of diaper boxes. “Didn’t want to forget all this shit.”

Oh yeah, the stuff from their run last week. He’d almost forgotten.

“Arat! Do me a favor and help Rick out with this shit, would you?” Arat wandered over, and grabbed a crate from the back. To Rick’s surprise, she didn’t say anything, just headed for the place where their medical supplies were kept. Negan must have explained what was going on to her beforehand.

They unloaded the crates quickly and Arat ducked out again, rejoining the other Saviors. Negan handed Rick the boxes of diapers. “My guys weren’t too thrilled to hear about our little deal. I think they think it makes me look soft on you.” His smirk returned. “Which is just stupid, because I’m actually quite hard-” Rick waved his free hand, cutting him off.

“Yeah, yeah, I get it. Thank you.” He tilted his head at the truck as he peered into the back. “Wait. We only grabbed three boxes on our run. There’s six in there.”

Negan smiled. “Yeah. Consider it a gift. I asked my guys to keep an eye out for baby stuff on runs. There are some kids at the Sanctuary, but no babies, and it pissed them right the fuck off that I was asking for shit for your kid, but I don’t give a single fuck about that. I figured as long as they’re out there and someone could use it, why not grab it, right?”

Rick didn’t have words. Negan had asked his own men to get stuff for Judith…no strings attached, no benefit to himself. It was…there was no other word for it: it was sweet. Negan, sweet. Who the hell was he? How was this the same asshole from earlier who had tried to embarrass him in front of Daryl and Aaron?

“You alright there, Rick?” Negan asked, amused. Rick just stared at him.

“You…you had them get stuff for Judith?”

Negan leaned against the truck. “Yeah. I just figured, you know…one less thing for you to worry about with her.”

A surge of gratitude and affection toward Negan washed over Rick.

“Thank you.” Rick said, a little awestruck. Negan shrugged.

“You’re welcome. It’s not a big deal. Really.”

It was. He knew it and Rick knew it and neither of them wanted to acknowledge it, but there it was.

Rick took three of the boxes in his arms. “Can you grab the other three?” Negan obliged and followed after Rick.

“You’re taking me to your house?” He sounded surprised, and Rick couldn’t blame him. He’d carefully avoided going near his house while the Saviors were here before, not particularly caring to have Negan ask him for a tour. But now…now there was something he wanted to do.

Rick opened the front door and they stepped inside, Negan letting out a low whistle. “Nice fuckin’ place you got here, Rick. Real fancy.”

“Oh, uh, hi Rick…I didn’t know you would…be here.” Olivia’s voice came from the top of the stairs, eyes flitting nervously to Negan. She obviously didn’t want Negan discovering Judith.

“Olivia, hey. It’s alright, we’re dropping some stuff off for Judith. We’ll uh…be a few minutes, I’ll come get you when we’re done, alright?”

Olivia wrung her hands as she descended the stairs, seeming uncomfortable. “Right. Um. Judith’s in her room, if you just wanna leave those down here, I can take them up later.”

Rick shook his head. “Nah, I wanna see her. Thank you, though.” He started up the stairs and noticed the Negan hung back. He turned to him. “You coming?”

Negan looked surprised, but he followed, stopping at the landing at the top and trying to hand Rick the rest of the boxes, but Rick shook his head again. “You said you wanted to meet her, right?”

A shocked look crossed his face. “Rick, I don’t- don’t feel like you have to do that shit, that’s not what I was fucking going for with this. I’m not gonna fucking force you to let me meet your kid, I get why you don’t want me to-”

Rick cut him off. “I know that. I’m offering. Come on. Er-leave the bat, though.” He walked down the hall to Judith’s nursery, setting the boxes on the floor as he walked inside. Negan set Lucille against the wall in the hallway and hesitated in the doorframe, as if expecting Rick to change his mind and tell him to get out. He’d never seen him unsure about anything, and it was a refreshing change, if unnecessary.

“You can come in.” Rick told him, reaching into the crib. Judith was wide awake and playing with a stuffed rabbit that she immediately dropped when Rick reached for her, raising her hands to be picked up. Rick smiled and scooped her up, pressing a kiss to her head and turning to Negan, who had set the boxes he’d been carrying alongside the others and was looking woefully out of place. His face softened when he saw Judith in Rick’s arms.

“Well, look at you.” He breathed, taking a step forward. “You two are just about the cutest things I’ve ever seen.” His hand slid between Rick’s shoulder blades, eyes focused on Judith as she peered up at him curiously.

“She’s cute as a button, Rick. You make some fucking adorable kids.” He bit his tongue and made a goofy face at Judith, and she giggled. “Sorry. Gotta watch my mouth around you.”

“It’s alright. God knows she’s seen and heard worse.” Rick said, trying to ignore the way Negan interacting with Judith warmed something inside of him. “You wanna hold her?”

Surprise was written plainly across Negan’s face. “You sure?” Rick nodded, maneuvering Judith into Negan’s arms gently, watching him as he adjusted to holding her. His face was awestruck and tender in a way Rick had never seen before, and he rocked her on his hip, letting her tiny fingers wrap around one of his long ones.

“Hey there, little angel. I’m Negan. You’re just about the sweetest thing, aren’t you?” He grinned when she brought her hands up to grab at his nose and beard. Rick leaned against the dresser and watched them. Negan looked ludicrously out of place in the nursery, he thought with amusement; all huge and leather-jacketed and gruff among the pastels and baby toys. But he was holding Judith and making faces at her like he’d been doing it his whole life, and it made Rick’s heart ache in his chest.

They stayed there for a few minutes, Rick looking on as Negan made Judith giggle, before Olivia appeared in the doorway, her eyes widening in fear when she saw Judith in Negan’s arms.

“Rick…?” Her voice wavered, not taking her eyes off of Judith.

“Olivia. Um. Look, it’s fine, they’re fine. It’s okay. Did you need something?” Goddammit. If Michonne heard about this she would flip her shit, and Michonne was not a woman whose shit was easily flipped.

“I…uh. The Saviors are getting ready to leave. There’s a woman asking where you two are.”

Rick looked over at Negan and he nodded, handing Judith off to Rick and slipping out the door, grabbing Lucille from the hallway as he went. Rick pressed a kiss to Judith’s forehead and Olivia took her, clutching her close.

“Uh…” Rick started. “If you could maybe…not mention this to Michonne or Carl. That would probably be best.” Olivia frowned. “I swear to you I wouldn’t have let him come in here if I thought there was even a remote possibility of her being in danger. You know me, Olivia. I’d die before I let something happen to one of my kids.” Her lips pressed tightly together in disapproval, but she nodded anyway.

Rick followed Negan downstairs and saw him and Arat waiting by the front door. They left Rick’s house and got back in the truck, Arat in the driver’s seat again and Rick in the middle.

“Thanks. For letting me meet her. You didn’t have to do that.” Negan murmured as they pulled out.

“I know. I…I wanted to. I can trust that you wouldn’t hurt her.” Why he believed that, he wasn’t sure, but he did. There wasn’t a chance in hell that he would’ve let him meet her, or even told him about her, if he didn’t think that.

Negan’s mouth quirked up at the edges. “Well, I’m so glad you can trust me not to murder babies.”

“You’ve proven that you can be reasonable. Sometimes.”


When they got back to the Sanctuary, Rick was surprised when Negan diverged from the path to his room, instead heading up the stairs to the upper levels of the factory.

“Where are you going?” He cringed, hearing how unintentionally needy the words sounded. Negan glanced down at him halfway up the first flight of stairs.

“We gonna have sex tonight, Rick?” He asked, blunt and uninhibited. It made Rick blush.

“I- uh. No?” Yeah, no was the right answer. Keep holding out, Rick. Keep hoping you’ll come to your senses about all of this.

Negan shrugged his shoulders, “Then I’m gonna go find somebody who wants to. I’ve been blue-balling myself in your bed for almost a week, I keep that up and people will think I’ve gone soft.” He grinned at the unintentional innuendo. “Enjoy your night off. I’ll be back to cuddle with your repressed self soon enough.”

With that, he was off up the stairs again, and Rick felt something clawing at his chest, something that he hadn’t felt before with Negan: jealousy.

Chapter Text

Rick wasn’t sure where it came from, but there it was: he was jealous. The feeling was so sudden and unexpected that he just stood and watched as Negan disappeared up the stairs, stunned by his own reaction. It wasn’t until other people started brushing past him on their way up the stairs that he came back to himself, turning on his heel and making his way to his room alone.

He sat on the edge of the bed when he got back, tugging off his boots and obsessively thinking about what Negan was doing. Or, rather, who. Which one of the women upstairs was he going to be fucking tonight? Or would there be more than one, to make up for how long he’d spent with Rick? He could picture it too easily, Negan and one of his gorgeous wives all entangled underneath the sheets, and the thought made his stomach twist unpleasantly.

He shouldn’t care. He knew he shouldn’t. The fact that he did care was, frankly, disturbing, as it implied that there was something more to his complicated feelings for Negan. Something that went beyond sexual frustration and tension, something that Rick would really rather pretend that he didn’t feel.

But there really wasn’t any pretending, not now. Not when he was sitting here, fuming and thinking about Negan’s hands all over someone else. It bothered him. It bothered him a whole hell of a lot more than it should, for someone who wasn’t sleeping with him, for someone who was supposed to hate him.

Really, though, he didn’t hate him. Not anymore, and if he was going to be honest with himself for once, he hadn't for a while. Hatred was far too simple a feeling, too straightforward, and how he felt about Negan was anything but that.

Negan pissed him off. He annoyed the hell out of him. He had this way of saying things that made Rick want to simultaneously punch him in the face and grab him by the front of his ridiculous leather jacket and kiss him. He was borderline unhinged sometimes, but in a way that Rick was almost beginning to understand. He was brutal in a way that Rick saw traces of his own self in. He made idiotic jokes that Rick now found himself laughing at before he could stop himself. He was, at times, sweet and protective and affectionate and gentle in a way that Rick could have never anticipated. He seemed to never go a day without surprising Rick in some way. And Rick liked that. He liked him.

He could try to beat around the bush about it all day, but there it was: he liked Negan. He enjoyed being around him, their playful banter, the casual touches and the more intimate ones, the way that he felt, more and more every day, like this was a person that he wanted to be around. It didn’t make any sense whatsoever, but it was the truth.

There were times, on the drives to and from Alexandria, or when he had a dull day at the Sanctuary, that he thought about what it may have been like if he’d met Negan before he was the way he was now. Before the Saviors and the wives and everything that came with it, if they had crossed paths earlier on, and he’d joined their group. It would be so, so much easier. None of this would have to be complicated, it could just work. They could lead together, as allies, as partners.

It was a pointless thought. They hadn’t met before, and everything about the situation was so intensely fucked up that Rick couldn’t see a way out, but he wanted it anyway. He wanted Negan. God help him, he wanted Negan, and the fact that the man was several floors up having doubtlessly filthy sex with one of his wives was driving him up the goddamn wall.

Rick quickly undressed and took a shower, wishing the water would wash away the incessant thoughts about Negan. He settled into the empty bed, closing his eyes and turning over on his side and feeling strangely lonely without the warmth and weight of Negan behind him.


Rick woke up the next morning to breakfast being dropped off for him by the man whom he’d heard Negan refer to as Fat Joey. He ate slowly, finding that he didn’t particularly want to spend the day ambling around the Sanctuary with nothing to do.

Of course, that’s what he ended up doing anyway. Without having to work for points, Rick found himself with very little to do most of the time at the Sanctuary. He’d never had this much leisure time in his life, and he honestly couldn't say that he liked it. He definitely didn’t like it at the Sanctuary, where the only person he was interested in being around was the guy in charge. And he was nowhere to be found.

Strangely, Rick wanted to go beyond the wall. Go on a run, be productive, do something. But going on a run meant taking people with him, Negan’s people, and he didn’t particularly want that. He’d asked Negan before, on a different uneventful day, if he could just go out on his own, only to be promptly shut down, him telling Rick that: “There’s no fucking way I’m sending you out there on your own. I don’t give a shit if you were a fucking badass nomad for two years, I’m a big believer in the buddy system. You gotta have someone watching your back.”

Which was a fair point, but it made for a lot of unproductive days.

Rick spent the day aimlessly wandering the Sanctuary, exploring the place and trying to see how well he could find his way around. For as long as he’d been here, there were still places he came across that he didn’t recognize, and for the life of him he still wasn’t sure where Negan slept when he wasn’t with him.

He spent most of the day thinking about where Negan slept, actually. And who he was sleeping with. It was a constant, obsessive attack on his subconscious, one that he couldn’t seem to drive away no matter what he did. Leave it to Negan to find a way to constantly be on his mind by not being around.

At the end of the day, when he headed back to his room, there was a tight knot of anxiety in his chest. He felt strung out and restless and for some stupid reason, he knew the only way it would go away was if he opened the door and Negan was there. It mattered far, far too much, and it made him hesitate to go inside, hand frozen on the doorknob. He wasn’t entirely sure what he would do if Negan was inside, he just knew he wanted him there. With him, and not someone else.

“Hey, Rick.” A smooth voice sounded from behind him, and he whirled around, coming face-to-face with Negan. Rick’s heart skipped a beat in his chest, and he found himself cursing his body for reacting in ridiculous, uncontrollable ways.

“I thought you’d be gone longer.” Rick said casually, trying to play off how relieved he was.

“I missed you.” Negan was wearing that smirk that said he was messing with Rick, but the words filled him with warmth anyway. “Wanna go inside?”

Rick pushed the door open and Negan followed him in, settling against the dresser and staring Rick down. “So, Rick. What the hell have you been up to today? Whole lotta fucking nothing?”

“Pretty much.” Rick grumbled taking a seat on the edge of the bed.

“Did you miss me last night?”

Oh, there it was. He could lie. He could so, so easily lie. Or...or he could see where it went. Try being honest with himself for a change.

“I might have a bit, yeah.”

Negan made a startled noise that made Rick’s head snap up in his direction. His eyes were wide. “Fuck me. I didn’t think you’d own up to it.” He said, chuckling in surprise.

Rick scoffed. “Own up to it?”

“Yeah, Rick. Own up to it. Because I was just asking to give you a chance to be honest with me. I already knew you missed me.”

Rick crossed the room and stood in front of Negan, getting up in his space the way he loved doing with Rick. “How’d you know that?”

“Oh, c’mon, Rick. You were like a little lost puppy last night, all sad eyes and tail down when I told you I was gonna be sleepin’ somewhere else.”

“I think you were imagining things.”

“Oh, I think we both know I wasn’t. C’mon now, Rick. How long are we gonna play this little game? I know it’s been fun. Hell, I enjoy the thrill of the chase as much as anyone, but at some point you’ve gotta stop fucking blue-balling yourself.”

“Meaning?” Rick asked. He was being difficult, dragging things out, still overthinking.

Meaning,” Negan intoned, leaning in closer and hooking his fingers into Rick’s beltloops, “That I think it’s time you fucking gave in. You’ve been slipping, and in some pretty damn major ways. You can’t still be pretending you don’t want this, Rick. Not after you fucking kissed me, and certainly not after that little stunt you pulled yesterday morning.” Rick’s face flushed slightly at the reminder, and Negan grinned. “I’ve been real patient, and I meant it when I said I’d wait for you to be ready, but you have fucking been ready, and I think you need a bit of a push.”

Rick bit his lip and met Negan’s eyes. “So push me.”

Negan’s eyes lit up with a fevered intensity, and he jerked Rick even closer by the loops of his jeans, their bodies flush against each other, foreheads almost touching. “Do you want me to kiss you, Rick?”

Moment of truth, Rick. Cards on the table.

“Yes,” he whispered. Their lips were so close that he could feel it when Negan smiled.

“What was that, Rick? I didn’t quite hear you. What is it that you want?” Rick clenched his jaw. Of course, he thought. Of course Negan would make him ask.

“I want you to kiss me. Please.” Rick said, voice stronger this time. The please slipped out involuntarily, but Negan loved it. As soon as it left Rick’s mouth, Negan’s lips were on his, surprisingly soft and warm and they molded perfectly to Rick’s as Negan pressed himself into the smaller man. His hands wrapped around Rick’s hips and pressed him backwards, not breaking the kiss, until Rick’s back was against the wall.

Rick kissed Negan back, cautiously at first, then with fevered intensity, letting his hands slide up Negan’s broad back into his short hair. Negan deepened the kiss, his tongue slipping into Rick’s mouth, causing Rick to groan, which in turn made Negan let out a self-satisfied chuckle into Rick’s mouth. Rick responded by kissing him harder, muffling Negan’s laughter.

Stubble brushed against stubble, a sensation that Rick found much less strange and much more enjoyable than he’d expected. Negan nipped at Rick’s lower lip, causing him to jump slightly, before running his tongue over it and sucking it into his mouth for a moment. Rick felt Negan’s lips leave his mouth and he made a small noise of protest before he felt wet lips pressed against his neck, kissing down to the crook of his shoulder where the neckline of his shirt started. Negan kissed at the skin there, teeth nipping lightly, before giving a hard suck that would surely leave a mark. Rick groaned, his hips stuttering, making both of the men to shift their positions slightly so that one of Negan’s legs slipped between Rick’s, his thigh pressing up into Rick’s crotch. Rick let out a little hitching gasp at the friction, his grip on Negan’s hair tightening, and Negan chuckled into the side of Rick’s neck. Negan's mouth was ravenous, and Rick felt like the room was spinning out, melting away until everything was focused down to the places where Negan’s body met his own. Then there were lips right next to Rick’s ear, warm breath tickling Rick’s skin as Negan asked in a husky voice, “Bed?”

Rick didn’t think, didn’t even want to, just gasped out a breathy “Yes, god yes,” and then Negan was walking him back toward the bed. His calves bumped against the bedframe and then he was on his back, Negan half on top of him, pressing him forward until he was up against the pillows. Negan moved his hands down from Rick’s face to place them on either side of Rick’s hips, and swung a leg over so that he was straddling Rick.

Negan leaned forward, capturing Rick’s lips again. Rick closed his eyes and lost himself in kissing Negan back. Negan’s kisses were wild, unpredictable, much like the man himself. One moment, his lips would be just barley brushing Rick’s, teasing him and leaving him wanting more, and the next moment Negan would have his tongue in Rick’s mouth and Rick would be squirming under him. Negan moved from Rick’s lips to his neck, pressing hot, opened mouthed kisses to his jugular, causing Rick to moan in a way that he wished he was able to control. He could feel Negan grin against his skin, stubble rubbing against his neck in a way that he shamefully found pleasant. Rick’s hands slid up Negan’s back, coming to rest on his shoulders. Negan’s assault on his neck continued, shifting to the other side now, and he felt one of the man’s legs slip between his own again.

Negan’s mouth moved to the juncture between Rick’s neck and shoulder, and he bit down hard enough to make Rick gasp and dig his fingertips into Negan’s back. Negan pulled away, his face unsure in a way that Rick hadn’t seen before.

“Too much?” He asked, looking almost apologetic.

In response, Rick grabbed the bottom of Negan’s shirt and pulled it up and over his head, briefly allowing himself to take in the sight of his bare chest before breathing out a “Fuck no,” and kissing him again.

He felt Negan’s fingers beginning to undo the buttons on his shirt, exposing his chest. The other man kissed wetly down Rick’s torso as he undid the buttons, teeth scraping against skin every so often, earning strangled moans from Rick each time.

Rick felt like he couldn’t breathe in the most amazing way, the feeling of Negan’s bare chest pressed against his driving him crazy. Rick was hard as a rock at this point, and knowing that Negan could feel just how turned on he was made him flush pink. The temptation to arch his hips up and grind against Negan’s thigh was too high for his comfort. He felt desperate for contact, needy almost, and the feeling was both terrifying and exhilarating.

Negan continued peppering teasing kisses to Rick’s chest, taking his time, his lips tracing down his torso, nipping at flesh here and there and making Rick yelp. Rick felt Negan’s tongue trace around his right nipple, teasing it into hardness, before closing his lips around it and nibbling lightly, making Rick ‘s breath hitch in his throat. Negan kissed his way over to the left one and repeated the motions, his right hand sliding up from Rick’s waist to continue to tease the other one. Somehow, Negan knew exactly how to play him. He felt drunk and hazy and out of control, all of his sense and willpower going right out the door.

Negan kissed down the sparse trail of hair leading into Rick’s jeans, stopping at the waistline of his pants. Negan quickly undid Rick’s belt, unbuttoned his jeans, and shoved them down his legs, letting Rick kick them the rest of the way off until they were bunched up with the sheets at the foot of the bed.

One of Negan’s hands slid up Rick’s thigh, hooking it over his hip as he slid back up Rick’s body, going in for another kiss. The new position allowed Rick to feel Negan’s hard length pressed up against him through his boxers. The feeling was strange and new and so unbelievably arousing that Rick didn’t know what to do with himself. Knowing that he was the cause of Negan being so turned on…was incredibly hot. Rick tentatively let his hands trace down Negan’s sides, gripping his hips for a moment before he reached for the other man’s belt, his hands trembling embarrassingly. Negan paused his assault on Rick’s lips for a moment to shift and allow Rick to undo his belt and pants. The position wasn’t very accommodating for undressing, and after a moment of clumsy fumbling on Rick’s part, Negan impatiently shoved off his pants and kicked them to the foot of the bed with Rick’s.

Then Negan was on top of Rick again, kissing and sucking and biting at Rick’s neck and collar bones in such a way that would definitely leave marks the next day. Marks that anyone would see, and know exactly who had put them there. For some reason, Rick didn’t mind.

One of Negan’s hands was pinning his wrist down, keeping it trapped against the mattress, while the other gripped his hip. He felt Negan slip the tips of his fingers into the waistband of his boxers and give them a slight tug, testing the water. Even with Rick half-naked under him, he was still being patient. Still giving him time to back out.

But Rick was ready. He’d been playing this ridiculous game of denial with himself for the past couple months, and he was fucking ready for whatever Negan would give him. He grabbed the hand that was gripping the edge of his boxers, causing Negan to freeze up, uncertain as to whether this meant Rick wanted him to stop. Rick lifted his hips up slightly and, using Negan’s hand, shoved the boxers impatiently down his thighs, leaving him naked underneath Negan.

“As sweet as that is, I’m ready for you to fuck me”. Rick whispered into Negan’s ear, feeling a shudder run through the other man’s body before Negan grabbed both his wrists, pinning him to the bed. He could feel Negan’s cock twitch against him as he growled into Rick’s ear,

“Oh, I’m gonna fuck you, alright. I’ve waited way too goddamn long to slide my dick into that gorgeous ass of yours, Rick, way too fucking long.”

Negan’s hand released Rick’s wrist and ran down Rick’s side before sliding under Rick’s hip and roughly grabbing a handful of Rick’s ass, making him gasp involuntarily. Negan grinned, his face amused. “You’ve never been fucked by a man before, have your Rick?” he asked.

The answer to the question was obvious, but even still Rick gasped out a “No” as Negan nuzzled into his neck, the brush of beard against the kiss-bruised skin making him shudder. Negan chuckled into the side of his neck, amused by Rick’s breathless obedience in answering his question. “You’re in for one hell of a night, then.” He said, his hand releasing the handful of ass he held with one final squeeze before drifting down and beginning to push off his own boxers.

“I can’t wait to get my hands on you, to get inside you and work you open until you’re just begging for my dick.” Negan growled wetly into Rick’s ear, nipping at the lobe as he did. Rick moaned under him, trembling and wishing desperately that Negan would stop teasing him and just fuck him already. His dick was hard and aching, pressed up against Negan’s bare stomach and leaking steadily. He watched, unable to tear his eyes away, as Negan shoved his boxers the rest of the way down his long legs, swollen cock springing up. Rick’s mouth went dry, tongue swiping across his lips. After a long moment he managed to tear his eyes away from Negan’s length, and looked up to see an amused face smiling down at him.

“Like what you see, Rick?” he teased, his smile widening. Rick’s face flushed, embarrassed to have been caught so openly checking him out. Negan smiled and ran the pad of his thumb over Rick’s lower lip. “Turn over, gorgeous. I’m gonna make you feel real fucking good”.

Rick obeyed immediately, scrambling to turn over onto his stomach. Negan huffed out a laugh at his eagerness, but Rick didn’t care. His untouched cock was pressed up against the mattress, every nerve in his body begging for Negan’s attention.

Rick buried his face in a pillow and felt Negan shuffling behind him, heard a drawer being opened. He felt Negan’s hot breath on the back of his neck as the other man kissed down his back, making Rick squirm against the sheets. He stopped at the base of Rick’s spine, and then Rick felt a sharp nip on his right ass cheek, causing him to yelp in surprise, which in turn made Negan snicker again.

Negan was doing far too much laughing for this situation, Rick decided.

Negan pushed Rick’s legs apart and settled between his thighs, his hands coming to rest on either side of Rick’s ass. Rick felt Negan grip ass in his hands, squeezing and lightly massaging for a moment, letting Rick relax a bit before he felt himself being spread open, his vulnerable entrance on display to Negan’s hungry eyes. Negan pressed his thumb against the tight resistance of Rick’s opening, just slightly, causing Rick to whimper into the sheets, his face burning from how on display he was. The hand retracted and Rick could heard the sound of a cap being popped open, then felt a wet finger rubbing at his entrance teasingly. Rick let out a frustrated whine, and was about to snap at Negan to just fucking do it already when he felt the slick finger slip inside him, forcing a strangle noise out of Rick’s throat. The feeling of having something inside him was utterly foreign to Rick, and while it didn’t hurt, it was an odd feeling.

Slowly, Negan began to pump his finger in an out, and the sensation went from strange to pleasurable, arousal pulling at Rick. Once he was groaning consistently, Negan slid in a second finger, pumping them in and out of Rick’s ass as Rick squirmed beneath him. When Negan finally angled his fingers to brush against Rick’s prostate, the pleasure was so intense that Rick couldn’t help but cry out, his hands fisting in the sheets around him.

“You okay down there, Rick? Sure as hell sounds like you’re having a good fucking time.” Rick could practically hear the smirk in his voice, and somewhere deep down he knew it should probably annoy him, that Negan was getting so much amusement out of having this much power over him. At the very least, he should probably feel at least a bit of shame at being so spread out and vulnerable in front of this man, but Rick was way, way too far gone for annoyance or shame.

He didn’t have the capacity to focus on anything but Negan’s fingers inside him, three of them now, thrusting in an out and brushing up against that sweet spot inside him that left him writhing and moaning below the other man.

“Fuck, Rick. You have any idea how fucking hot it is to have you under me like this?” Negan breathed out, voice deep and rumbling as he leaned over him, slick fingers still working Rick open. “I couldn’t stop thinking about yesterday morning all. Fucking. Day.” He punctuated the words with thrusts into Rick’s ass, making him whimper into the sheets.

“Jesus, I was so fucking hard by the end of the day. I was thinking about you the whole fucking time last night. You, laid out on our bed touching yourself for me. Fuck,” He groaned, and Rick felt the hard heat of Negan’s erection being pressed against his ass, “I kept picturing you as I was fucking my wives last night. You, all spread out and moaning under me like you are right now.”

Then Negan withdrew his fingers, Rick let out a truly embarrassing and completely involuntary whine, immediately missing the feeling of being so full. Stubble brushing against his ear as Negan whispered, “Don’t worry, gorgeous, you’re not gonna be empty for long,” his voice husky. He nipped lightly at Rick’s ear as he sat back again, and Rick shivered. He could hear Negan popping the cap on a bottle again, and then felt a strong hand on his hip and the slick head of Negan’s cock pressing against his stretched entrance. Rick sucked in a breath and reflexively tensed up, and Negan felt it. The other man paused, pulling back a bit.

“Rick,” Negan started, his voice gentler now, “Are you sure that you want this? Absolutely fucking sure? Because-”

Rick cut him off. “Yes, fuck yes, I’m sure. I’m fucking sure,” he babbled, desperate for Negan to fill him up again. He could practically hear Negan break into a grin behind him.

“You fucking positive about that, sweetheart?” he asked, his voice now teasing. “Cause I don’t wanna force you into anything you don’t want, you know.”

Rick growled impatiently, fed up with Negan’s taunting. “Just fuck me, you bastard, I’m sure!” he snapped.

Negan’s grin widened and he pressed the tip back against Rick’s hole, still teasing. “What was that, Rick? I’m gonna need you to say that again. Ask me real nice and maybe I’ll fucking give it to you.”

Rick barely suppressed a groan of frustration. Of course Negan would make him beg for it. Underneath his frustration, though, a part of Rick enjoyed it, being made to beg to be fucked. That was...unexpected. Negan was driving him insane, but fuck if he wasn’t hard as hell because of it. “Please,” he moaned, his face flushed and the feeling of Negan’s dick against him driving him crazy. Any feelings of shame or hesitation or pride were completely abandoned. “Please, I want it, I want you to fuck me. Please fuck me,” he begged.

“Good boy,” Negan grinned, pressing the tip of his erection into Rick. Rick let out a strangled moan at the feeling of Negan entering him, and Negan continued to press in, letting out a satisfied groan when he was fully inside Rick. “Fuck,” he hissed, leaning over Rick’s back so that his words were spoken mostly into Rick’s hair, “You are so. Goddamn. Tight.”

The feeling of Negan being fully inside him was overwhelming, the stretch slightly painful, but in a way that was almost pleasant. “Move,” Rick growled after a few moments, “Now. Fuck me.” Negan didn’t need to be told twice, pulling out and slamming back into Rick, causing them to moan in unison. Negan continued to fuck in and out of Rick, one hand gripping his hip and the other reaching forward to lace their fingers together on the mattress.

“Fuck, you feel so fucking good. You like having my cock in you, Rick?”

Negan’s voice was barely more than a grunt, and Rick was already so far gone that he was barely able to get out a “Yes, oh, god yes,” in response before he was shouting out in pleasure when Negan hit his prostate. He gripped the sheets, his whole body shaking as Negan thrust into him with abandon. He didn’t know how to handle feeling so completely caught up in Negan, so completely at his mercy in an entirely new way. He was shaky and panting and couldn’t catch his breath, and it felt amazing.

He could hear Negan moaning and swearing behind him, his cock throbbing inside of Rick. He was consistently brushing up against Rick’s prostate, sending shockwaves of pleasure shooting up Rick’s spine and making him lightheaded and dizzy with arousal. Rick’s cock, still untouched, was twitching and leaking steadily onto the sheets below. Negan’s hand released Rick’s and slid down over his chest, tweaking his nipples and caressing his abdomen before drifting lower, his fingers stroking the hair below his navel, teasing him, and Rick’s hips bucked forward, desperate for Negan to touch him.

Negan chuckled into the back of his neck. “You want something, Rick?” His hand slid lower, ignoring Rick’s aching cock to reach between his legs and cup his balls.

“Fucking touch me!” Rick snapped, feeling himself getting nudged closer and closer to the edge and desperately wanting Negan to push him over. He felt Negan’s fingers dip lower, brushing over the place where they were joined, making Rick’s breath hitch in his throat. Fucking tease-

“What’s the magic word, Rick?”

Fucking arrogant smirky teasing bastard.

“Please!” Rick heard himself growl, desperate and wanting.

He heard Negan laugh again behind him, but for once he actually obliged Rick and moved his hand to wrap around Rick’s cock. He gave it an experimental stroke, causing Rick to keen and cry out immediately, thighs shaking and head bowing as he gripped the sheets. Negan spit into his hand and wrapped his fist around Rick’s length again, stroking him in time with rough thrusts in and out of Rick’s ass.

Rick’s face was half-buried in the mattress at this point, which did little to muffle the cries of pleasure escaping his throat as Negan worked him over. He was a whimpering, moaning mess, and Negan’s hand around his dick was tight and wet and perfect, his thumb occasionally passing over the sensitive head and spreading the wetness leaking from the slit. Rick felt his release coiling inside him, getting closer with every thrust of Negan’s thick cock into his body.

“You gonna come for me, Rick?” Negan breathed into his ear, “I’d fucking love it if you did.”

Negan’s voice seemed to have a direct line to his dick, so as soon as the words left his lips, Rick was crying out, his back arching, spilling over Negan’s fist and onto the sheets as he came and feeling the world shatter around him and then come spinning back together.

Negan continued to fuck him through his orgasm, groaning loudly into the nape of Rick’s neck when his orgasm consumed him a few moments later. Rick could feel the heat of Negan’s seed as the other man came inside of him. They both collapsed, spent, onto the bed; Rick face-first into the pillows and Negan thankfully rolling off to the side to avoid knocking the wind out of Rick.

Rick’s mind was utterly wiped clean. The only thing he could focus on was Negan: the way he looked post-orgasm, his hair mussed from Rick running his hands through it and curling slightly, his face flushed, his lips still pink and swollen from kissing Rick. He could feel Negan’s come leaking steadily out of him, down the inside of his thighs. The evidence of his own orgasm was a slick mess between his stomach and the sheets. He probably shouldn’t have collapsed right down on top of that.

Negan turned his head toward Rick, his cheeks tinged with pink and a lopsided smile playing on his lips. His eyes roamed over Rick’s naked body, and Rick rolled onto his side to face him. When he did, the sheets clung to his stomach, making him cringe Negan laugh heartily. “Yeah, that’s the problem when you get two dicks in the mix,” He chortled, “You get jizz fucking everywhere.” He eyed Rick for a moment before he swung his legs over the side of the bed and walked toward the bathroom. He turned back toward Rick, his face expectant. “Come on, I know you don’t want to go to sleep with that shit all over you.”

Rick followed Negan into the bathroom, watching the other man as he leaned into the stall of the shower to turn on the water. Rick’s eyes were instantly drawn to Negan’s ass, the temptation to grab it and give it a squeeze taking hold. He had a nice ass, those thoughts just couldn't be helped. Negan straightened up and glanced over his shoulder, smirking when he saw where Rick’s gaze fell.

“If you’re done checking out my ass, you can get in,” Negan teased as he slid open the door to the shower and stepping inside. Rick ignored the comment and followed suit, sliding the door closed behind him to keep the warmth in.  Negan was standing under the spray, water running down his head and over his chest.

For the first time, Rick let himself just stare at Negan. He’d spent the last couple months awkwardly averting his eyes when the man had walked out into their room with a towel around his waist or when he was undressing. Even these last few weeks, as he’d found his eyes drawn more and more to Negan, he had never allowed himself much more than a glance. But, considering that Negan had just thoroughly fucked Rick into the mattress, he figured it was time he allowed himself the simple pleasure of enjoying the sight of Negan in the shower.

Negan was more lean than he looked in his usual leather jacket, but still muscular. His hair was drenched and when he ran his hands through it, it dripped down over his forehead, small curls forming. Rick found himself wanting to reach out and touch him, to run his hands over his hard chest, grip his hips and grab his ass, push his fingers through his wet hair. He’d spent so long denying himself, all he wanted to do now was make up for every time he had refused to admit how much he wanted this. Instead, he stood there, half under the water, unsure of where to put his hands first.

Negan was more decisive. He wrapped a hand around Rick’s waist, letting it settle on the small of his back, and switched their positions so that Rick was under the showerhead. Negan reached up, working the water through Rick’s hair, pushing it out of his eyes. He let his hand trail down from Rick’s hair to cup the side of his face, stroking his stubble. Rick closed his eyes, nuzzling into Negan’s touch and humming contentedly. Negan smiled, a small smile compared his usual toothy grin, but completely genuine, and it made warmth spread through Rick that had nothing to do with the hot water.

Negan cupped some of the falling water in his hands and began to wash the mess off of Rick’s torso. His hands ran over Rick’s chest and stomach, making him shiver. Negan washed him clean as Rick stood under the spray of the shower, still not sure what to do with himself. Then, Negan’s hands slipped over Rick’s hips and around his back, grabbing his ass and pulling him close so that Rick’s bare chest was flush against his own. Rick found his hands moving to rest on Negan’s waist on their own accord, his body overriding his mind. He let himself enjoy the feeling of Negan’s large hands roaming over his ass and thighs, rinsing off the rest of his come. Negan brought his hands back to Rick’s chest and let his fingers trace over the round, indented scar on Rick’s shoulder. “How’d you get it?”

“About a month before everything went down, I was shot on duty,” Rick answered, fingers running up and down Negan’s sides. “Put me in a coma, and when I woke up the world had gone to hell, hospital was abandoned.” Negan whistled.

“God fucking damn, what a way to wake up. Jesus.” He let his thumb linger on the scar for a moment, and then surprised Rick by leaning in and pressing his lips to it. When he pulled away, his eyes met Rick’s, and Rick suddenly didn’t feel indecisive anymore. He brought his hands up to cup the sides of Negan’s face, and kissed him. He kissed him like Negan was water and he was a man dying of thirst, all desperation and clinging. Negan responded in kind, gripping Rick’s hips hard enough to bruise and pressing him back against the wall of the shower. By the time they pulled apart, the water was beginning to run cold.

Negan turned the shower off and Rick stepped out of the stall, toweling off and trying to hide the fact that he was, embarrassingly, half-hard again just from the kissing. Which, really, he should have known was a completely futile endeavor seeing as he was naked and Negan wasn’t the kind of guy to let things like that go unnoticed. The other man sidled up behind Rick as he was drying off and murmured “I can take care of that for you, you know,” directly into Rick’s ear, making goosebumps break out over Rick’s body.

“I…um. Wouldn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of the shower?” Rick stuttered. Negan smiled wickedly.

“Not at all. Go take the sheets off the bed and I’ll take care of you.” His tone was positively sinful, making Rick’s cock harden further. Rick threw his towel onto the sink and walked out into the bedroom again, grabbing the sheets off the bed and wadding them into a ball that he tossed onto the armchair. Negan followed him out and put one hand on the center of Rick’s chest, fingers splayed. “Lie down, gorgeous, and spread those pretty thighs.” Rick immediately and eagerly did as he was told, clambering onto the bed and laying on his back, his legs open and his hard cock standing erect between his hips. Negan stood at the foot of the bed, his hooded eyes roaming hungrily over Rick. Rick’s cheeks burned, still not used to being so open in front of Negan.

Negan joined Rick on the bed after a moment, crawling up Rick’s body to press their lips together again. Rick kissed him back with fervor, melting into the kiss and letting his arms come up to wrap around Negan’s back, fingertips scratching lightly. Negan made a soft, pleased noise in the back of his throat before letting his lips drift from Rick’s mouth to his jaw, then down his neck to his chest. He continued to kiss down Rick’s body until he was settled between Rick’s open legs. Rick lifted his head off the pillows and glanced down at Negan, his eyes questioning. While it was pretty damn obvious what Negan intended to do, Rick couldn’t imagine him doing it. It seemed almost submissive. Entirely out of character for the man who sauntered around swinging a bat and threatening corporal punishment for disobedience.

Negan’s eyes glinted wickedly as he dipped his head and kissed the inside of Rick’s thigh, teasing him. He maintained intense eye contact with Rick as he leaned in further and let his tongue flick out, licking a broad stripe up the underside of Rick’s cock. Rick gasped, his head dropping back down onto the pillows and his back arching slightly. Negan chuckled, taking the tip into his mouth and sucking lightly, swirling his tongue around the weeping head. Rick whimpered at the feeling of wet heat surrounding him, his hands clenching and unclenching at this sides, so tempted to reach down and lace them through Negan’s hair but fearing that Negan would see that as Rick trying to take too much control. He bit his lip, trying to get a grip on himself, which proved to be even more difficult when Negan dropped down, taking all of Rick down his throat in one smooth motion.

"Fuck!" Rick hissed, his eyes clenching shut as he threw his head back, caught up in the sensation. His hands flew up to Negan’s head against his will, coming to his senses in just enough time to stop himself from grabbing ahold of Negan’s hair. Instead, his hands hovered awkwardly just above Negan’s head as Negan released Rick’s cock. He looked up at Rick from between his legs. Rick swallowed hard, the image of Negan’s dark, lust-filled eyes staring up at him, lips inches from his swollen, spit-slicked cock sending jolts of arousal through him.

“What the fuck is this hover-hand bullshit?” Negan asked, his eyes mischievous. “Please, feel free to grab my hair all you want. Fucking knock yourself out, I like it a little rough. Lets me know you're having a good fucking time.” Negan’s words, accompanied by the feeling of Negan’s mouth enveloping his cock again, made Rick groan. This time, when Negan dipped his head and took Rick down his throat, Rick let his fingers twist into Negan’s short hair. Negan began sucking and bobbing his head, playing with the thick vein running along the underside of Rick's cock and occasionally pulling off just enough to tease the slit with his tongue, making Rick moan under him.

He hadn't been expecting this. He hadn't expected Negan to be so concerned with his enjoyment, and he definitely hadn't expected him to be so good at this in particular. But really, what would be the point of a day without Negan surprising him?

After a particularly hard suck, Rick cried out, his fingers tightening in Negan’s hair and his hips arching forward a bit. Rick panicked for a moment, worried that Negan would be pissed that he’d tried to thrust deeper into his mouth, but instead he was met by a pleased hum from Negan, which felt absolutely amazing around his achingly hard dick. Rick took this as permission to thrust a bit, and after a few moments he was lightly fucking Negan’s mouth, careful not to push his luck too far. Negan seemed to be enjoying it, though, humming in enjoyment and continually dipping his head to take in more of Rick’s cock, truly obscene slurping noises escaping his lips.

Rick could feel his orgasm building, the sensation of fucking Negan’s warm, wet mouth quickly overwhelming him. His legs were shaking, thighs straining against Negan’s hands as he held them apart.

F-fuck-Negan…I’m-I’m gonna-” Rick tried to stutter out a warning, unable to form coherent thoughts, much less complete sentences. He glanced down at Negan’s head, still bobbing up and down between his legs. Negan looked up at him, shooting Rick a wink and maintaining eye contact as Rick felt himself come apart. His fingers tightened in Negan’s hair, hips bucking and vision shattering as he released into Negan's mouth with a broken cry of pleasure.

Negan readily swallowed, licking his lips as he pulled off of Rick and crawled up to where he was at the head of the bed. Rick opened his eyes, finding himself staring into Negan’s for a breathless moment before the other man leaned down and captured Rick’s lips in a filthy, open-mouthed kiss. Negan’s tongue slipped into his mouth, and Rick realized he could taste himself. He never knew that tasting his own come in another man’s mouth, in Negan’s mouth no less, could be so fucking hot. Negan broke off the kiss and whispered into Rick’s ear, his voice deep and gravelly, “You look so fucking gorgeous when you come”. Rick felt his face heat up, the vulgar compliment pleasing him in a way that only Negan could.

He pulled back again so that he could see Rick's face. “So, Rick. Did you fucking enjoy yourself?” Rick had to restrain himself from rolling his eyes at the obvious question. Though, considering Negan had just made him come twice, he really wasn’t in much of a place to refuse to stoke the man’s ego.

“I did. But you knew that.” Rick couldn’t help but add, smiling in spite of himself. Negan beamed, and leaned in to nip at Rick’s earlobe.

“Of course I did. Just wanted to hear you say it. Sounds fucking amazing coming from you,” Negan placed a quick kiss on Rick’s jaw before leaning over him to turn off the lamp next to Rick’s side of the bed. He settled back down behind Rick in the dark, and they resumed their usual sleeping position, Negan behind Rick, arm over his waist.

Rick reciprocated the action, scooting back a bit so that he was pressed against Negan’s firm chest. Negan smiled into the back of his neck, and Rick brought one hand up and let his fingers tangle together with the hand that Negan slung over him. Rick sighed contentedly, allowing himself to enjoy the contact. He knew that, at some point, he was going to have to face himself, and all the people he’s let down, knowing that he allowed what just happened to happen. But for right now, he let himself fall asleep, for once feeling at peace in Negan’s arms.

Chapter Text

Rick woke up to warm lips brushing against his neck and a strong arm tight around his waist. He smiled and pushed back into the contact, making a contented sound in the back of his throat that turned into a pleased groan when Negan’s hands started roaming over him, nails dragging lightly over his chest and fingers tweaking his nipples into hardness. He heard Negan chuckle deeply behind him.

“Roll over, I want my morning kiss,” He purred into Rick’s ear. His voice had a just-woken-up sort of lilt to it that Rick found amusing. He obliged the request, rolling over and coming face to face with the other man.

“You usually get a kiss on your way out, you know,” Rick said with a teasing smirk. Negan laughed.

“I was hoping I could get an advance. Or maybe-” he slid his arms around Rick’s waist, coming to rest on his still-bare ass, “we could have ourselves a little extra fun,” he said, punctuating the innuendo with a squeeze that made Rick’s breath hitch. “Whadaya say, Rick? Morning quickie?” Negan grinned.

“Uh-yeah, yes.” Rick nodded enthusiastically. Just the quick squeeze to his ass and the insinuation that sex was an option was enough to get his cock twitching toward hardness. Negan’s grin widened, and he released his hold on Rick’s ass to roll over and fish something out of the bedside drawer. Rick assumed it was the bottle of lube, but when Negan rolled back to face him, he produced a small tin of mints.

“Gotta get rid of that morning breath. Nothing ruins a nice morning fuck like making out with your mouth tasting like the devil's ass.” It was Rick’s turn to laugh, and he let Negan pop one of the mints into his mouth. Spearmint, he thought to himself, as he rolled it around on his tongue. Negan popped a mint himself, wrapped his arms around Rick’s waist, and pulled Rick on top of himself so that they were face to face with Rick straddling his hips.

Spearmint.

Rick’s mind flashed back to Michonne. To the first night they’d slept together. She’d requested spearmint and baking soda toothpaste, her favorite, and him and Daryl had gone out on that truly horrible supply run and he’d come back with no toothpaste, but a roll of mints that they’d had a good laugh over.

Negan pulled Rick in for a spearmint-flavored kiss. Rick was frozen, unable to move, unable to breathe, his mind and body swirling in horror. He was lying on top of a man who had killed his friends, had subjugated his people, had pulled him away from his family and the incredible woman who had become a part of it. He’d kissed him, he’d let Negan fuck him. Worse, he’d begged for it. How the fuck had he fallen this far? How the fuck had he managed justified any of it?

Negan noticed Rick’s sudden lack of enthusiasm and broke off the kiss. Rick couldn’t meet his eyes, and instead stared blankly at the white wall behind the headboard. “Rick. Hey, I know I did a lot of the work last night, but it takes two to tango here.”

When Rick didn’t respond, Negan gently took his chin and his hand and turned his face forward so they could see eye to eye. “Earth to Rick. What’s with you? Don’t like spearmint?” He joked, his head tilted.

Rick jerked his chin away and rolled off of Negan and out of the bed, collecting his scattered clothes off the floor and getting dressed, refusing to meet Negan’s eyes. Negan sat up, face twisting into a frown.

“What the hell, Rick? I thought we were going to have a little fun? It sure seemed like you were into it a few seconds ago.” His voice wasn’t angry, just tinged with confusion. Rick ignored him and continued to grab for his clothes, wanting to cover himself up as quickly as possible, as if no longer being naked would somehow erase some of the overwhelming shame and guilt he was feeling.

Negan swung his legs over the side of the bed and stood up, grabbing Rick’s arm.

“Rick! What the hell is the problem?” He asked, sounding annoyed. Rick wrenched his arm out of Negan’s grasp, as if his touch burned him.

“Don’t fucking touch me,” he spat, glaring up at Negan, his eyes burning. Negan took a step back, throwing his hands up, mimicking the first night they’d spent together when Rick had thought Negan was going to force himself on him.

“Rick, I’m not looking to force you into anything here. You fucking know that. I just thought- after last night- that you would enjoy an early-morning romp in the hay. If that’s not something you want, that’s totally fine, I just need you to fucking say something-” Rick cut him off, his gaze furious.

“It’s not something I want. None of this is something I want, don’t you get that?” He spat, “You fucking forced me into all of this, and you’re standing here, acting like somehow I would want any of this?” Rick forced a laugh, cold and unfeeling. “I don’t know what the fuck is going on here, I don’t know what the hell kind of mind games you’re playing, but that’s the end of it. I cannot fucking believe I let it get this far. I don’t know if it’s Stockholm syndrome or…or what, but this has gotten completely out of hand. I don’t know how the fuck any of this happened, but it’s not happening again.”

Negan’s face went slack for a moment, his expression one of surprise and…something else. Something that looked an awful lot like hurt. And for the briefest moment, that look of hurt on his face was enough to make Rick want to take it all back, but he pushed the impulse down. A second later, Negan’s face changed, closing off, his eyes darkening with anger, all the emotion that was there moments ago now replaced with cold fury.

“Wow. That’s quite a fucking set you’ve got on you there today, Rick,” he snapped, arms crossing over his bare chest. “I forced you into all of this? Really? All of it? Because, as I recall, I was pretty goddamn motherfucking clear to you, from the beginning, that anything physical that happened between us was completely your choice. You’re here, at the Sanctuary, away from your people, because you took the best option for your group. Because you fucking killed my men and didn’t want to deal with the fallout, so you took my extremely generous deal and decided to come stay. I get that that's not your ideal fucking situation, but you chose it anyway. And I told you- I fucking told you, up front, that you weren’t obligated to do shit with me. The only thing you had to do was stay here and sleep beside me a couple nights a week. Which is a pretty fucking small price to pay for your people’s supplies and access to meds.” Negan was shouting now, clearly pissed. Rick continued to glare at him.

“You fucking knew since the beginning of all this shit that you didn’t have to do anything you didn’t want. And you didn’t. You haven’t done a goddamn thing you didn’t want to do, Rick. The only reason we fucked last night was because you wanted it, because you said you wanted it, because you fucking begged me for it.”

Negan’s face twisted into a malicious grin, but there was no humor behind it, and it didn’t reach his eyes. “And you can’t fucking stand that. You cant’s fucking stand that you gave in, that you actually wanted me to fuck you. So you’re pulling this bullshit, trying to cover your ass, trying to make yourself feel less fucking guilty for wanting to bone the guy who killed your pals, but we both know the truth, don’t we, Rick?”

He leaned in close to Rick’s face, seeming intimidatingly large, and Rick wanted to be able to look him in the eye, wanted so desperately to be able to deny that everything that Negan had just said was true. Instead, he glared at Negan’s shoulder, his face burning hot with anger and shame.

“You want me. You don’t want to, you fucking hate yourself for it, you wish you didn’t, but you want me. But you just can’t let go of your pride enough to actually fucking let yourself enjoy it.”

Negan smirked, his tone returning to its usual spiteful teasing. He pulled back, his eyes scanning Rick’s face for a moment before he turned his back to Rick, heading into the bathroom.

“Don’t you fucking worry, Rick. I can take a hint, I have no fucking desire to fuck with people who are just going to have meltdowns about the moral implications of getting laid the morning after the fact. I’ll leave you be, you can fucking sleep alone and you can jack off every night thinking about how much you wish I was there. And please, when you inevitably get sick of the fucking charade, come crawling around me again, following me around like you did before, like a fucking dog begging for scraps. Come tell me how much you miss me so I can laugh in your fucking face. Don’t deny me the fucking pleasure of seeing you beg for me to come back to your bed after this.”

Rick swallowed hard, unable to look in Negan’s direction. Partially because his words filled him with a nauseating rage, and partially because Negan was still naked. Negan, having said his piece, slammed the bathroom door shut behind him. As soon as Rick heard the shower start, he bolted from the room, shaking with anger and confusion.

Rick wove his way out of the section of the factory that his room was in, desperate to get outside. The building seemed inexorably cold and suffocating, and all he wanted to do was get somewhere he could breathe and clear his head. He stumbled out a door into dirt and grass, turning a corner and finding a small, secluded area behind an unused loading dock to catch his breath. He half-collapsed against the brick wall, relishing the dull pain from slamming into it and and sliding down to sit in the dirt, his knees tucked into his chest, head in his hands. Disgust and shame and rage and humiliation swirled in Rick’s gut, making him feel physically nauseous.

Negan was right. As much as it nearly killed Rick to admit it to himself, he knew he was right. Rick had wanted Negan to fuck him, he’d asked for it. It wasn’t out of obligation, or fear, or anything else but Rick’s insane and unsettling feelings for Negan.

Feelings.

That made it worse, he thought. If he'd just wanted to fuck him for the sake of getting off, that would have been one thing. He could deal with that. But the thought of having any feelings for Negan other than disgust and blinding hatred was absolutely revolting. Obstinate denial seemed like a pointless game now. He could try- and fail- to convince Negan that they didn’t exist, but after last night, there really wasn’t any way to keep lying to himself. He had feelings for Negan. Strange, confounding, complicated feelings, but feelings all the same. He felt lust, and desire, and affection, and, perhaps the strangest of all, even a little compassion for the man who had lost someone who had clearly meant so much to him. The fact that they’d both lost their wives, that they were both widowers, gave Rick a bizarre sense of camaraderie with the man.

Rick thought of the strange, soft moments between him and Negan, the surprisingly gentle kisses, the way the man curled against him at night, the concern when he’d been stabbed and when David had attacked him, the drunken confession about his wife. He pictured the moments that made his whole body heat up, the look of lust in Negan’s eyes when Rick had finally given in, the image of Negan’s head bobbing between his legs, the feeling of Negan filling him up in a way that left him wonderfully wrecked, the way he’d growled “You look so fucking gorgeous when you come” into Rick’s ear.

And then he pictured Michonne, her concern for his well-being every time he returned to Alexandria for the day, despite the fact that he’d left her. Michonne, who was practically raising his children in his absence because she loved them so damn much. Michonne, whose strength and wisdom and patience had saved his ass more times than he could account for. Michonne, who was beautiful and kind and loving and who hated Negan for everything he’d done, as she should. How the hell could he ever face her now, after last night? How could he face his family, his group, the rest of Alexandria, knowing that he’d turned a blind eye to their suffering and sacrifice because he’d wanted to get laid?

He wouldn’t be able to lie to her, not again. He’d been lying to her by omission for the last couple months, telling her everything was fine, that he was okay, that he was sorry all he wanted was to get back to Alexandria and away from Negan. And not all of that was untrue. He was sorry, incredibly so. And he was fine, and he did genuinely miss his family and his friends. He genuinely missed her.

He just also didn’t particularly want to get away from Negan.

He should have confided in her, he realized that now. Michonne was understanding, level-headed. If he’d just talked to her about all of the confusion he was feeling about Negan, she might have been able to help him work it out, help him rationalize it and maybe make it go away. Or, at the very least, listen to him and have the news that Rick had fucked him come as such a goddamn shock.

But instead, he’d stuffed it way deep down, let the shame keep him from being completely honest, and now there was no way around it: he had to tell her. She’d be disgusted, without a doubt. Probably furious, if not for the fact that it was a personal betrayal to her, then certainly because it was a betrayal to the people they cared about. It would be horrible, and humiliating, and he certainly wouldn’t blame her if she hated him afterwards, but it had to be done. Today. The guilt of it all felt like it was eating him alive, gnawing on his bones and sucking out the marrow until there was nothing left of him.

Rick stood up, took a deep breath, and left his hiding place to find a car to get to Alexandria. He was scheduled to be there today anyway, so nobody would question why he was gone. He picked out a car, letting the woman keeping watch over the keys know where he was going, and after she checked off that he was indeed scheduled to be in Alexandria for the day, he sped off.


All the way to Alexandria, Rick planned out the conversation with Michonne in his head. It seemed best to go in with some notion of what he was going to say, or else he could see himself just stumbling over his words and apologizing a lot. And he didn’t want to do that, she deserved better. She deserved a proper explanation of what was going on, not incoherence, and she certainly didn’t deserve to have to comfort Rick after what he’d done.

By the time Rick arrived in Alexandria and was let in the gates, he had a long speech planned out about his many shortcomings and his confusion and his mistakes. He was still going over it in his head as he headed straight for his old house, his steps quick and determined. When he walked up the front steps and through the door, he was repeating his opening line like a prayer in his head: Michonne, I need to tell you something, it’s not going to be easy to hear and I know I should have opened up to you about what was going on with me sooner…

And then he saw her, standing in the kitchen, katana slung over her back, looking like she was about to head out for the day. She smiled when she glanced up and saw him, and Rick’s stomach twisted with guilt. She walked over to Rick, reaching out to place a hand on his arm, and he felt sick. He didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve her smile, her touch. He felt unworthy to be in her presence, unworthy of standing in his own home. He avoided her eyes.

“Rick! It’s good to see you. How are you- is everything alright?” She always started their conversations with asking if everything was alright these days. And he’d always told her yes. All of those yesses felt misleading now. He swallowed hard.

“Are Carl and Judith here?” He asked, still avoiding her gaze.

“No, Carl’s out with Daryl, doing some shooting practice. Working on his aim. And I just dropped Judith off with Olivia for the day. Did you want to see them?” She asked, her voice warm. Rick shook his head.

“No. I mean, yes, I want to see them, but not…not right now. I need to talk to you. About something. Something important.” He still couldn’t raise his head to face her, and she dropped his arm to reach up and tilt his face toward hers. Her warm smile faded when she saw the look in his eyes. He knew exactly what she saw there: the guilt, the shame, the self-loathing. She could read him like a book.

“Rick…” she said, her voice gentle now. “What’s wrong? What happened?” Her concern made him hate himself that much more.

“I…” He trailed off, his whole planned speech going off the rails as his mind went blank. Nothing he could say could possibly make any sense, nothing could justify it. He turned his face away again, chewing on the inside of his lip as he stared at the wall trying to work up the nerve to say something. When he turned his head, he heard her suck in a breath.

“What the fuck is that?”

Rick swiveled his head back around to face her, the sudden anger in her voice surprising him. “What?”

“That. On your neck.” Her voice was strained, and she reached out with a shaking hand to press two fingers to a spot on the left side of his neck. Rick was confused for a split second before he remembered, his eyes widening in horror.

Negan, pressing him up against the wall. Kissing his neck just above the line of his collar, sucking hard enough to leave a mark.

A mark that he’d forgotten about until just this moment.

Shit.

Michonne’s face was a portrait of barely contained fury. When she spoke, her voice was so tight that Rick was sure she would snap at any moment.

“Did he do that to you?” she asked, her fingers still on his neck. Rick pulled his eyes away from hers, the intensity of her anger too much for him to look at.

You deserve this. You deserve anger.

She hissed between her teeth, interpreting his silence as an affirmative and pulling her fingers away from his neck and ground the heels of her hands into her eyes, distress rolling off of her in waves. Rick took a couple of steps backward and sat down on the coffee table in front of the sofa, guilt simmering in his blood. She looked down at him, eyes still intense.

“What else did he do to you?” She hissed, sounding horrified. Rick’s stomach flipped over.

“He…I…” Rick swallowed, looking down at his hands. This wasn’t going well. Michonne knelt down in front of him so that they were face to face again.

“Did he…” she broke off, her face disgusted, then forced herself to start again. “Rick, did he rape you?” she whispered, her voice breaking as she reached up to touch the side of his face. Rick sucked in a breath, surprised.

Oh, right. She would assume that any physical contact between him and Negan wasn’t consensual. Why the hell would she think otherwise?

He forced himself to look into her concerned eyes as he said, “No. No, he didn’t…rape me.”

Michonne breathed out a sigh of relief, her smile returning. “Oh, thank god. Oh, god, Rick, when I saw that, I thought…Jesus. You scared the hell out of me.” She saw that Rick still looked distraught and he smile faltered again. “What’s wrong?”

Rick squeezed his eyes shut and lowered his head into his hands. He couldn’t do this, not while looking at her. “Michonne, he…he didn’t rape me, but something happened. Something’s been happening, for a long time, and I’ve been too scared to admit it, too fucking terrified to say it out loud and make it real, but I can’t keep lying to myself. And I can’t keep lying to you.” He took a shaky breath.

“Michonne, I…I slept with him, last night.” He heard her suck in a sharp breath. “And before you say it, what I just told you was true. He didn’t rape me. It…I wanted it. I asked him for it. I…I’ve been really confused, about him, about how I feel about him. I’ve been confused for months, and I kept hoping that it would all just go away, that I could will it all away, because it’s fucked up. It’s so, so fucked up, and I hate myself for thinking it, I hate that I have to say it, but I don’t hate him. Not anymore.” Rick kept talking, knowing that if he stopped it would be next to impossible to start again.

“I’ve seen a different side of him since I’ve been there, and it’s been getting harder and harder to hate him, even knowing what he’d done, to us, to our friends, to Glenn and Abe...” Rick swallowed, “I know it’s fucked up. I know I should have told you how I was feeling sooner, and you probably could have helped, could have made me see sense. But I was so ashamed, I’m still so fucking ashamed of it. I…I let him fuck me, and I liked it. He’s been kissing me every other morning for months and I’ve liked it. He never forced himself on me. I chose all of it, and I don’t know why.”

Rick’s face was burning with shame by the time he trailed off. He knew he was going to have to open his eyes and face the reality of Michonne’s disgust at some point, but he couldn’t bring himself to just yet. The two of them sat there in silence for several moments, and Rick could swear he felt his heart pounding in his chest as he waited for her to respond, to yell, to berate him for betraying her and their family and friends.

“Rick,” Michonne whispered, sounding pained. “I don’t…I don’t know what to say to that. I really don’t.”

“Michonne, I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry. I know that all of this is coming as a shock, I know that there’s nothing I can do to make any of it better-” Michonne shook her head, cutting him off.

“No. No, Rick it’s…god. I should have known. I should have seen it.” Rick’s mouth falls open slightly in confusion, about to speak, but she puts a finger up.

“No, really. Hear me out. I knew something wasn’t right. The first time you came here after the…the wedding…there was something off. I thought…I was afraid that, when you agreed to marry him, that it meant that he was going to force himself on you. And when you told me that he didn’t, when you kept telling me every time that he didn’t, it threw me off. And I could tell, I could tell that it was throwing you off, too. When you talked about him, I could tell you were hiding something, that there was something you didn’t want to say. At first, I was terrified that he actually was hurting you and you just didn’t want to worry anyone.”

Rick dug his fingers into his palm. “But then…then I started noticing other things. You said his name more easily. Sometimes, when you talked about him, you had this…look on your face. It was the strangest look, but it wasn’t one of hatred like it had been before. You try so hard to keep your cards close to the vest, Rick, but a lot of the time I can read you. And after a month or so, I stopped worrying so much about you, because every time you were here, you seemed okay. Not like you were putting on a brave face, but genuinely like you were alright.” She paused, her head tilted. Rick searched her face for signs of disgust and anger, but found none. She looked…disappointed, maybe. Distressed. But, somehow, not angry.

“Michonne, I didn’t mean for this to happen. I…I hate myself for letting it happen, for wanting any of it. I don’t understand why I do. After everything he’s done, how can I not hate him?” He whispered, his voice broken. The question was directed more at himself than her, but she answered him anyway.

“I don’t know, Rick. I really don’t. I’m not going to lie to you and say this is easy to hear. While I may have had my suspicions that you were…warming up to him, in a way, I can’t say anything could have prepared me for this. And I still hate him, for what he did to us, to Glenn and Abraham, for taking you away.” She took a breath, trying to stay rational. “But I also understand that you know him differently than I do, that you’re the one who’s been living with him for the past couple months. I don’t know exactly why you feel this way, but I know you, Rick. And I know that you wouldn’t feel this way about him unless you had a good reason to, unless you saw that there was more to him that what happened that night.”

Rick blinked. “What are you saying?”

Michonne took a deep breath. “I’m saying,” she began, “that if you want to be with him, for the time that you’re there, then I am...willing to work on getting used to the idea. It’s not ideal, it’s not something I would have ever thought I’d be okay with, but since you don’t have a choice in where you’re spending your time, and you clearly have…feelings for him,” she spoke the words with a slight grimace, but Rick could see that she was trying, “then I’ll stand behind you. I may not agree with everything you do, Rick, but I do trust you. You know that.” She gave him a small smile, just the side of her mouth turned up a bit, but it filled Rick with warmth.

“Michonne, I need you to know, that none of this, none of it, changes how I feel about you. I care about you, you’re-” she cut him off, shaking her head.

“I know. I know that. And I’m going to try my best to not let any of this change how I see you. I am. You know that I…I care about you, that I love Carl and Judith like they were my own.” Rick nodded, bowing his head. He deserved so much worse.

“And Rick?”

He looked up again. “Yeah?”

Michonne’s eyes were deep, intense. “When I said I wouldn’t hold it against you if you’re with him while you’re there, I meant it. I really did. But don’t think for a second that any of this changes anything for me. I don’t see any of this as permanent, Rick. You may have to be there right now, but this isn’t forever. Alexandria is going to rise up at some point, and when we do we’re going to bring you home.” Her voice was full of conviction, and Rick could tell she meant every word. She was never one to give in, never one to stop fighting. It was what he admired most about her. He gave a small smile.

“Thank you,” he said simply. She nodded, and stood up, adjusting her katana over her shoulder before heading out the door. Rick let himself stay sitting for a moment before going out and working for the day, letting himself mull over their conversation in his head.

It should have been infinitely comforting, hearing her tell him that they were going to get him back, that his semi-captivity was temporary. And certainly, to some degree it was comforting. He missed his friends- his family- and his children more than anything, and to be back home with them would be a dream come true, and the part of him that had been in charge for years absolutely hated being subjugated like he was now. But he couldn’t deny that there was a part of him- he wasn’t sure how big a part- but there was definitely something in him that had felt a glimmer of fear when she’d said that this was all temporary. There was a part of him that didn’t want to let Negan go.


Of course, he remembered that night as he was driving back to the Sanctuary, that after that morning’s little breakdown, he didn’t actually have any sort of relationship with Negan anymore. He’d done his best to burn that bridge, and Negan had made it pretty damn clear that he wasn’t in the business of chasing after someone who couldn’t make up his damn mind. Rick’s brain involuntarily dragged up the image of the cruel smirk Negan had worn when he’d told Rick that he’d laugh in his face if he tried to come crawling back to him. Rick’s stomach turned. He’d finally come clean, and Michonne had all but given him her blessing, and everything was over before it even fucking began because Rick had insisted on being an idiot. Masochistically, he replayed this morning’s argument with Negan over and over in his head as he pulled into the Sanctuary, returned the keys to the car, and headed back to his room.

Like a complete fool, some miniscule, optimistic part of Rick hoped that he would find Negan behind the door when he went inside, reading or admiring Lucille or something. He wouldn’t care if he was standing there waiting to shout at Rick some more, as long as he was there.

But he wasn’t.

Rick sighed, closing the door behind him and fumbling blindly for the lamp beside the bed and turning it on. The room was empty, the dim light from the lamp making it look pathetically sad and bare. Rick pulled off his clothes, stripping down to his boxers, and wandered over to the dresser, opening a few drawers to check if Negan had taken the clothes he’d kept stashed there with him.

He had. The only clothes left inside were Rick’s own. His heart sank pathetically and he slid into his still-sheetless bed alone, still replaying the argument over in his head.

He was being ridiculous. He knew he was, but he couldn’t be bothered to stop. He’d allow himself one day of ridiculousness, he decided. He’d been mercilessly hard on himself when it came to Negan for the past couple months, and, fuck it, he was going to allow himself one day where he could pathetically pine over him. He would lay in bed tonight and allow himself to feel the loss, to openly miss Negan’s all-consuming presence, to wish that the other man was behind him, all warmth and muscle.

And tomorrow, he would wake up and get his shit together.

 

Chapter Text

Getting his shit together was much easier said than done.

Rick woke up the next morning still feeling the full weight of yesterday sitting on his chest, heavy and all-consuming. It made him want to groan and stay in bed the whole day like a moody teenager. C’mon, just five more minutes.

But he was a goddamn adult, and his allotted time to moon over him and Negan’s…relationship- if he could even call it that- was over. So Rick dragged himself out of bed and got ready for the day and pushed all thoughts of Negan to the back of his mind. Whatever had been growing between them was done, Rick had made sure of that, and while he was sure that Negan would get a kick out of him crawling back pleading for a second chance, he also knew that doing so would be pointless. A futile exercise in mortification and groveling that would only serve to stoke Negan’s overinflated ego and further crush Rick’s broken one. It wasn’t worth it, especially not if it didn’t get Negan back in his bed. And it wouldn’t, Rick knew that. The idea of Negan taking him back after everything he’d said was downright laughable.

Rick tried not to dwell on it, though. He went about his day as normal, surprised to find that his breakfast had been delivered like usual. Either Negan had forgotten to inform whoever brought Rick breakfast of their current…situation, or Negan wasn’t petty enough to withhold the privileges of being married to him from Rick.

He’d probably forgotten. Negan struck him as someone who could be prone to pettiness.

Rick headed out for the day, wishing desperately that he was assigned to be in Alexandria, to no avail. So it would be a long day with little to do to keep his mind preoccupied and off of Negan. Great.

Rick closed his eyes and shook his head, trying to physically rid himself of the thought, when he turned a corner and spotted Negan strolling along, Dwight and a group of other upper-level Saviors trailing him as he gave out orders. Rick ducked back behind the wall and began briskly walking in the other direction, not yet ready to face Negan, especially with a crowd of Saviors surrounding him. He could too easily imagine Negan calling him out and saying things specifically to make Rick squirm in front of his men, and he wasn’t in the mood to deal with that. When he was a safe distance away, far enough the he could no longer hear Negan’s booming voice, he slowed to a normal walk. God, this is so high school, Rick thought. He was avoiding him in the halls, like a jilted prom date. Pathetic.

He’d definitely made the right call, though. No doubt about that. Rick had no desire to deal with whatever fallout came from seeing Negan again right now.

So he avoided him. He avoided him the rest of the day, and the day the followed, and the day after that.

It was easier on the days like today, when he got to go home to Alexandria. A week in, avoiding Negan had become exhausting and being back home made things much easier.

Well. For the most part.

Being around his group was never easy anymore, not like it was. There was a strain there, a tension that had emerged after he’d taken Negan’s deal. He understood it, of course. They’d seen it as weakness, as him giving in. And, hell, they weren’t all wrong. After what he’d seen happen to Glenn and Abraham, he’d just wanted it to stop. At all costs. He hadn't known what else to do to keep more people from dying, so he'd made a tough call. If they chose to see that as weakness, so be it. As long as it was him paying the price, right? 

Not that the other citizens of Alexandria weren’t paying their own share to the Saviors. It’s just that…it could have been worse. Much, much worse. He’d taken the deal to buy them time, it wasn’t like he’d had much of a choice in the matter.

Rick groaned, rubbing his temples as he sank down onto the steps of his front porch. He didn’t know what to do, about any of it, how to make anything better or change it back to normal. Or if it was even possible.

He was still in deep thought when Daryl made his way over and sat next to him, slouching over in the way he always did.

“Hey.” He grumbled, voice gruff as he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one, taking a short drag and letting it rest between his lips for a long moment before casting a sidelong glance at Rick.

Their eye contact was awkward, to say the least. Rick hadn’t seen much of him since the last time Negan was in Alexandria, when he’d…overheard them talking. He couldn’t imagine Daryl would want to talk about that, but the suffocating discomfort between them was setting Rick’s teeth on edge. He was going to have to set the record straight with him at some point, both for the sake of transparency and because he hated the awkwardness that had wormed its way into their relationship. The thought of not being at ease around Daryl, his right hand man, his brother- he hated it. He just didn't particularly want to start up the whole 'I was very briefly sleeping with Negan' conversation.

Luckily, he didn't have to. Daryl did it for him.

“Are you fuckin’ him?”

Rick seized up involuntarily at the question, momentarily startled. He hadn’t expected him to just ask, but Daryl wasn’t exactly one for beating around the bush and subtlety. He must have picked up on the distance between them, too, because there's no way in hell Daryl would start a conversation like this unless it was really bothering him. Or if he could tell it was really bothering Rick.

“I’m not…judgin’ or nothin’. Just…what he said, the other week. And he’s always all fuckin’ over you when he’s here.” Daryl took a long drag of the cigarette and flicked ash off the end with his thumb.

“I, uh. Kinda. I was. Yeah.” Rick answered, relieved that he didn’t have to be the one to bring it up but also wishing that this conversation wasn't happening, because holy hell was it uncomfortable.

“You were? You’re not anymore?” 

Rick dragged his hands through his hair. “No. I…it was one time. I…I kind of freaked the fuck out the morning after, when I realized…realized what I’d done.”

Another drag, then an exhale of smoke through his nose. “Why?”

“Why’d I freak out? I feel like that’s pretty damn obvious-”

“No, why’d you fuck him?”

Rick couldn't get a read on how Daryl felt about the situation. His face was turned away again and his voice was as gruff and impassive as ever. “I…I don’t know. I didn’t know when I did it and I still don’t.”

Daryl was silent, and Rick suddenly felt everything he’d tried to keep at bay come rushing out of his mouth, word-vomit style.

“He’s not who I thought he was. I’ve seen a different side to him, bein’ there. It doesn’t make up for any of it, for anything he did, for what’s been going on here, with the supplies. But…shit, I don’t know. Nothing I say can make it make sense, can make it look like anything but me losing my goddamn mind.” Rick sighed, frustrated. “But I did it. I did it ‘cause I don’t hate him anymore, ‘cause…I don’t know how I feel about him. I can’t even say that I regret it. It sounds fucking horrible, but I regret flipping out and telling him to fuck off a hell of a lot more than having sex with him.”

Shit. That was a lot.

Daryl finished his cigarette and stubbed out the end on the sidewalk in front of the porch, eyes still not meeting Rick’s. A long, uncomfortable silence stretched between them.

Fuck. I shouldn’t have said any of that. I should have just told him we fucked that that it’s over-

“He killed Glenn and Abe.”

Rick clenched his jaw and let his head sink into his hands. “I know that.”

“He’s stealin’ our shit every few weeks.”

“I know.”

“Everyone here wants to fuckin’ go to war with them, you know that?”

Rick did know, actually. There had been talk among the group of revolting against the Saviors since the beginning. It was impractical- they didn’t have the manpower, or the supplies for that matter, but that didn't stop them from wanting to fight back anyway.

“I know. I fucking know.” Rick growled, frustration working its way into his voice. There was another long stretch of silence, and then Rick heard a sound from beside him that made him raise his head and actually look at Daryl.

He was laughing. Actually fucking laughing.

“What the fuck are you-”

Daryl cut him off by shoving his knee, still laughing a laugh that sounded hoarse and underused. “Fuck, man. You got it bad for a fuckin’ psycho.”

Rick gave him a deadpan look, and Daryl let out a snort.

“C’mon, man. It’s so fuckin’ fucked up that it’s funny. What're you gonna do but laugh at it?”

After a moment, a smile twitched at the corners of Rick’s mouth. “It’s pretty fucked up.” He chuckled, feeling lighter suddenly, gratitude and relief overtaking him.

“You got weird taste in men.” Daryl said, shaking his head.

“I thought you’d be pissed.”

“I don’t get it. At all. He’s a fuckin’ crazy murderin’ asshole. And I'm ready to go to war with them. They've been a thorn up our asses for too damn long. But nothin’ good’s gonna come outta me bein’ pissed at you. You’re so fucked up over it I’d feel bad if I was. You seem pissed enough at yourself.”

“Thanks.”

Daryl stood up, clapping Rick on the shoulder as he did. "Right. 'Nuff of that touchy-feely bullshit." He made to walk away, but Rick stopped him. There was something he needed to know. 

"Daryl. Are you...are you still with me? Do you still trust me after all this?"

Daryl turned and met Rick's eyes, nodded once. "You know I do."

Rick felt a weight lift off his chest. "Thank you."


Rick managed to avoid coming into direct contact with Negan for almost two and a half weeks, the only hint of communication between them being Rick’s daily assignments, which were given to him through Dwight or some other high-ranking Savior. And it was good, Rick thought. It was easier not to see him if it meant not dragging up feelings he was still trying to bury. But he was working on it. He was making progress toward letting it all go. So when Rick did finally run into Negan, he was cautiously optimistic that he could play it cool.

He couldn’t.

After two and a half weeks of very deliberate avoidance, Rick ran into Negan while coming home from an Alexandria run. He was sweaty and somewhat disheveled from running into a surprisingly large group of walkers with Rosita and Daryl, and he was still a little distracted as he headed back to his room, which was what led to him, quite literally, running into Negan. He turned a corner and walked, face first, into a very familiar black leather jacket. Rick scrambled to regain his composure after knocking into the taller man, and Negan observed him calmly. Rick was just about to duck his head and keep moving, desperate to avoid whatever awkward conversation that would unfold if one of them spoke, but of course Negan just had to say something.

“Oh hey, Rick. Didn’t fucking see you there.” Negan folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the wall nonchalantly as his eyes swept over Rick, an easy smile on his face. “I haven’t seen you around much lately. Bit surprised, if I’m being honest, I thought you’d come sniffing around me like a stray after a week or so, but you’re really fucking holding out!” He laughed, a deep, throaty laugh that sent a jolt down Rick’s spine. “Hey, good for you. Finally grew yourself a motherfucking pair! So, how you been? Holding up alright?” His voice was teasing, and the implication that he thought Rick was still pining after him struck Rick as a bit condescending.

It was true, but still. Condescending.

Rick set his jaw and met Negan’s eyes. “I’m fine. Thanks. You?” Short, curt. Nothing to be read into there. Negan continued to grin.

“I’m doing just grand, Rick! Thanks so much for asking. Really, it means the world to me.” Rick’s face twitched into an annoyed frown. He didn’t have the patience to deal with Negan’s assholeish antics.

“Alright, well, I’m gonna get going then.” He said stiffly, moving to leave. Negan reached out and placed a hand in the center of Rick’s chest, stopping him from escaping.

“What’s the rush, Rick?” He smirked, clearly amused by Rick’s desire to flee. Rick huffed out an annoyed breath.

“I got shit to do, Negan.” He snapped, “Just let me go.” Negan’s grin widened, but he removed his hand from Rick’s chest. Rick brushed past Negan, only to have the man snag his arm so that he jerked to a stop. Rick made a sound of irritation in the back of his throat and Negan leaned in close, to that his mouth was right next to Rick’s ear.

“Say, Rick, before you go, just tell me something. Have you done what I said you would yet?” When Rick’s face remained blank with confusion, Negan rolled his eyes, as if Rick was the one being difficult.

“You know what I’m talking about. I know you miss me. And I know there’s a certain part of me that you’ve gotta be missing a lot right now. So tell me, Rick,” his voice was dangerously low, and Rick could feel every word reverberating in his chest. “Have you laid in that bed, alone, thinking about me? Have you touched yourself, picturing how I fucked you? Have you fucked yourself on your fingers, whimpering my name and wishing for my dick?”

Rick shuddered involuntarily, his face on fire, Negan’s filthy words striking a chord in Rick that seemed to go straight to his groin. Negan pulled back, laughing heartily and rocking back on his heels, then walked away with a vague wave behind him.

Rick stood rooted to the spot, horrified. Really, that couldn’t have gone much worse. Overt sexual innuendos and confusing but infuriatingly insistent erections were very high on the list of ‘Worst-case-scenarios-for-when-I-inevitably-run-into-Negan-again’ that Rick had created in his head over the past couple weeks.

For what it was worth, Rick hadn’t actually done that yet. There had been several nights where he had been tempted to, but doing so felt like losing, like giving in to Negan when he wasn’t even there, which somehow seemed even more pathetic. So, yes, Rick had been blue-balling himself for the past two and a half weeks in order to maintain some semblance of dignity.

Not that he had much dignity right now, with his face still beet-red and his cock straining against his jeans. Rick took several deep breaths, trying to will away his erection so he could carry on about his day. After a few moments, he managed to get himself under control enough to keep moving. But, as he headed toward his room, Negan’s words played over and over in his mind, slowly unraveling the past two weeks of mental conditioning Rick had been building up.

Fuck.

By the time Rick returned to his empty room, he was ready to climb the walls. He stripped down to his boxers, brushed his teeth, got into bed and turned off the lamp, just wanting to lay in the dark and try to get some rest. After some fitful tossing and turning, he gradually drifted off to sleep, relieved that his mind would finally have a break from the constant torment that was Negan.


Rick felt the light brush of lips across his chest and he hummed a soft, pleased sound in the back of his throat. The kisses continued down his torso, getting lower and lower until-

He gasped as a warm, wet mouth wrapped around him, taking in his length inch by inch until he was bucking into the wetness, pleasure singing in his blood. He reached down and tangled his fingers into short hair, pulling hard and being rewarded with a groan around his cock that shot straight up his spine. Stubble scraped against his thighs as his legs clenched, and then they were pushed further apart by strong hands as the mouth left his dripping cock and dipped a little lower, teasing his balls.

Then the tongue was even lower, and Rick was crying out as his eyes flew open in shocked pleasure, his gaze snapping down to the very familiar person between his legs...

Rick jolted awake, sitting straight up in the darkness, his heart pounding. His breathing was labored, and he could feel his hands shaking slightly as he buried his face in them.

Negan. It would be Negan. The man was so goddamn all-consuming, of course it was only a matter of time before he showed up in Rick’s dreams again.

Because really, what would Rick do if he didn’t have yet another confusing yet infuriatingly insistent erection because of Negan.

Rick groaned, dragging his hands down his face and reaching over to turn on the lamp so he could check the time on his watch. 3:47 am. No choice but to go back to sleep and just pray that the dream didn’t pick back up where it left off. Rick switched the lamp back off and settled back into bed, trying desperately not to think about what he had just woken up from. Which was difficult, considering how annoyingly stubborn his dick was being.

He tossed and turned for a couple minutes, trying to will it down. He tried to picture something absolutely mundane and mind-numbingly boring, like laundry. He still needed to grab some new sheets, he’d been sleeping on a bare mattress for the last couple weeks. Ever since-

Goddammit.

Rick cursed, annoyed as hell that his mind insisted on connecting even boring shit like laundry to Negan.

He had it bad. There was no denying that. He’d been working so hard these past couple weeks, and one encounter had brought him right back here, fantasizing about getting fucked. Rick sighed. His erection was just as persistent as when he’d just woken up.

His resolve broke.

Rick let his hand slide between his legs and he palmed his hard cock through his boxers. He shoved a hand under the elastic, stroking himself, remembering the dizzying friction of Negan’s thigh pressed up between his legs as he’d kissed him. He grunted, letting his fingers trail down to cup his balls and brush lightly against his hole. He could practically hear Negan’s voice from earlier that day, growling low and sultry into his ear,

“Have you fucked yourself on your fingers, whimpering my name and wishing for my dick?”

Rick keened and gave his now heavily leaking cock a few more strokes. He brought two of his fingers from his other hand up to his mouth, dipping them between his lips and wetting them. He propped up one knee, opening himself up a bit more, and brought his fingers down to press against his hole.

He hesitated only a second before be started to work them in, still stroking his cock. He groaned, so close to the edge as he fucked himself on his fingers. He pictured the way Negan had thrust into him, how he’d gripped his hips and purred filthy things into his ear. Negan’s words came to him again, unbidden;

“You look so fucking gorgeous when you come.”

Rick let out a strangled groan, shooting hot and wet into his hand. His breathing was heavy, his thoughts a post-orgasmic haze. When he finally came down and settled into the bed to go back to sleep, only one thought consumed his mind:

He had to fix this.

Chapter Text

When Rick woke up the next morning, his mind was singularly focused on one thing: fixing things between him and Negan. There was just one slight problem, though.

He wasn’t sure how the fuck he was supposed to actually do it.

Well, in reality, there were a lot of problems with Rick wanting Negan back, but he didn’t really want to start in on the semantics and questionable morality of the situation. Not anymore. He’d spent the past few months in constant, confusing turmoil over what to do and how to handle his ever-changing feelings toward Negan. He’d wasted too much time in denial, trying to cling to the remnants of his pride, but he knew the truth. It had taken him a damn long time to accept it, but he was ready now. He had no fucking clue what it meant or how deep these feelings went or how long any of it would last, but damn if he didn’t want to try anyway.

He just had to get past the whole “I violently rejected Negan and now he’s pissed at me and will probably laugh in my face if I try to talk to him about it” issue. Which, to be fair, was a rather big issue.

Rick sighed and slid out of bed, and as he brushed his teeth and got dressed, he plotted how exactly he would confront Negan. He’d have to be prepared for the initial negative reaction. That much was obvious. Negan wasn’t a man of empty threats, and the colossal size of his ego would have an absolute field day with Rick crawling back to him like this. There would be mockery, scorn, probably about a hundred jokes made at Rick’s expense, and that would just be the beginning of it.

Rick groaned, hunched over on the edge of the bed, midway through pulling on his socks. He’d really fucked up. He thought of the Rick from a few weeks ago, the Rick that had told Negan to leave and that it had all been a mistake, and wanted nothing more than to go back in time and strangle himself. Jesus, he was so stupid. He’d slept with Negan, for fuck’s sake, how he’d thought that trying to pass it off as an honest-to-god mistake the morning after was a good plan was beyond him. Who the hell had he been kidding?

But what was done was done, and he was left here with the choice of continuing on like this, with gut-wrenchingly confusing feelings of want and pining, or he could suck it up and actually go talk to Negan and hope that some part of the man missed him, too.

The idea that Negan liked him and may miss him was basically the only thing that gave Rick any sort of hope that his plan would work. It wasn’t like it was an entirely unfounded idea. Negan had said it himself: he liked Rick. And while that could certainly be interpreted as “I find you attractive and want to fuck you senseless”, Rick preferred to be optimistic. Negan had opened up to him about Lucille. He’d stayed with him and shown concern when Rick was hurt. There were the soft moments between them, the ones that had made Rick’s feelings toward Negan change from hatred to something else entirely. The morning kisses, the protective side he’d shown, the feeling of Negan leaning heavily on him out in the woods, his arm still around Rick’s shoulders long after he’d sobered up enough to walk without help.

And then there was that moment when Rick had yelled at him to get out. That spit second, however brief, when Negan had looked hurt that Rick had turned on him so suddenly. Rick held on to that moment like a lifeline: it proved that Negan had cared about Rick enough that his change of heart had caused him pain.

It was a strange realization, that Rick had the power to hurt Negan. It was one that he would have killed for at the beginning of all of this, one he would have wanted so he could use it against him. Now, all he wanted to do with the information was use it to get him through what would doubtlessly be a very uncomfortable conversation. He just needed something to hold on to, something that would keep him from cracking and giving up while Negan was mocking him. Something that would give him a little hope that, after all was said and done, Negan would take him back.

It was a hell of a long shot. But it was all Rick had.


 

It was funny how these things worked: the last couple weeks when Rick hadn’t wanted to see Negan, he had needed to actively avoid him, ducking around corners and into rooms, the man seemingly popping up wherever Rick seemed to go.

And now that Rick actually wanted to talk to him, he was nowhere to be found. Despite the fact that he didn’t have a job assignment that day and was basically just wandering aimlessly around the Sanctuary in search of Negan, he wasn’t anywhere that he normally was. Rick briefly considered jumping the fence and going to look for the cabin again, but that seemed a bit extreme. There really wasn’t a reason for him to be there, and if he wasn’t it would be a waste of a day to walk all the way out there.

And considering the state that he found Negan in the last time he was there, even if he was at the cabin, he probably wouldn’t be in a great frame of mind to have a discussion like this.

Evening was starting to settle over the Sanctuary, and Rick was starting to lose hope of finding Negan, or his way back to his own room for that matter, when he opened a heavy metal door and headed down a stairwell he hadn’t been in before, only to be met with the sight of Sherry and Dwight leaning against the wall, smoking, halfway down. They looked up at him with guarded expressions, and Sherry spoke.

“Rick. Looking for something?” Her voice was casually disinterested, but there was an underlying note of anxiety, a tenseness in her shoulders and a nervous flicker in her eyes that Rick picked up on and made him think that she probably wasn’t supposed to be down here with Dwight. An idea came to him, and he decided to file his observation away in case she decided to be withholding.

“Sherry. Yeah, I am looking for something. Someone, actually. Negan. You know where he is?” Rick tried to keep his voice casual. He could be asking about Negan for any number of reasons. Strictly platonic, non-sexual reasons.

Sherry took a drag and breathed out a lungful smoke when she said, “Nope. Haven’t seen him,” just a little too fast for Rick to be convinced.

“You sure about that? I really need to talk to him.” Rick’s fingertips tapped the metal railing, impatience rapidly wearing through his calm demeanor.

“I’m pretty sure, Rick.” She replied, her voice pointed in a way that screamed leave now.

Rick hated to be a dick, especially since what she was doing seemed to be pretty innocuous, but she was being unnecessarily difficult and if he didn’t talk to Negan soon he felt like he was going to start pulling his hair out. Or chicken out and never talk to him at all.

“Look, we both know you know where he is, and I don’t know why the hell you’re not telling me, but since you’re acting all twitchy right now, I can only assume you’re not supposed to be here. With him.” Rick nodded, indicating Dwight. “So can you just save us both the time and trouble and tell me where he is?”

Sherry’s eyes narrowed, and Dwight looked like he was about to sprint up the stairs and deck Rick, but she put a hand on his arm and he seemed to relax.

“Fine. He’s in his room. Fourth floor of the west unit. It’s at the end of the hall, you can’t miss it. Don’t fucking tell him where you heard that, either.” She added. “He seems pretty pissed at you and I don’t want him knowing I’m the one who sent you to him.”

Rick nodded, satisfied. “Thank you.”

He heard Dwight mutter something vulgar and directed at him as he was leaving, but he ignored it. He knew where Negan was, and it was time for him to get some things off his chest.


 

Sherry was right, you couldn’t miss Negan’s living quarters. It was the only lived-in room on the fourth floor of that particular building, and there was a guard stationed outside the door, keeping watch like a loyal dog.

Rick approached the guard with confidence. “I need to talk to Negan." The man smirked and Rick had to resist letting out a frustrated sigh, because of course the guy was going to be difficult. It seemed to be the thing to do today.

“Who are you, and what do you need to see him for?” the condescending smirk on the guard’s face told Rick that he definitely knew who Rick was and had his own assumptions about why he was here.

Whatever. Who cared what this prick thought of him. God knows he was going to have to deal with a much bigger prick once he got in the room.

“I just need to talk to him. It’s important. I’m…his husband. Rick.” The guard openly laughed when Rick gritted out the word husband between his teeth, but Rick let it roll off his back. As long as he got in the room, it didn’t matter.

“Aw, that’s right. His little husband.” He spat the word like it was curse. “Sure, go right in. Have fun.”

Rick ignored the comment and the accompanying sneer and pushed inside, wanting to get all of this over with.

Rick stumbled into Negan’s room and was immediately struck with how different it was from the rest of the Sanctuary. Since it had been factory before, the Sanctuary wasn’t exactly a homey place. It was set up for function and not comfort. Before now, Rick’s room had been the nicest space that he’d seen, and even it was drab and sparsely furnished compared to the luxurious houses in Alexandria.

Negan had obviously used his influence as the leader to make is living quarters a lot more comfortable. There were plants and nice wooden furniture, a four-poster bed with a dark gray silk comforter that Rick could too easily imagine himself spread out on underneath Negan. He shook the thought off. He needed to focus if he was going to get through this, and picturing that wasn’t going to do him any good.

On the right side of the room, there was a seating area around a glass coffee table. Negan was sitting on the couch, notebook in hand, pen frozen over the page as he stared up at Rick. His eyebrows were raised, like he was intrigued but not overly surprised that Rick had just burst into his bedroom.

“Well, well, well. Rick. To what do I owe the pleasure?” His voice was clipped, closed off, the usual mocking element toned down, and it made Rick more uncomfortable than the teasing.

Rick closed the door behind him and scrubbed a hand through his hair. He wasn’t sure what to do with himself. He felt far too restless to sit, and opted to stand awkwardly directly behind one of the chairs in front of Negan.

Negan’s eyed flicked up to Rick, down to the chair in front of him, and then back up to Rick, as if to say you can sit, you know. Rick ignored this, worrying over what he was going to say. He had a whole thing planned, starting off with apologizing profusely for acting like an idiot, but the words seemed to catch in his throat, choking him.

Negan was giving him a weird look. It had been to long since he’d spoken, and Rick started to panic a bit, spitting out the words stuck in his throat.

“I miss you.”

Shit. That wasn’t what he meant to say.

A look of surprise passed over Negan’s face, just for a moment. Always just for a moment, because God forbid he be genuine for more than a split second. Annoyance shot through Rick. Here he was, trying to have a genuine discussion about what was going on between them, and Negan couldn’t even bother to show emotion for more than a second.

Fuck groveling and apologizing. They were going to have it out.

Negan was smirking, but the usual mirth in his eyes wasn’t there. “Is that so? You miss me, Rick? You sure about that? You seem to have a hard fucking time figuring out how you feel about me.” There was a bitter edge to his voice that slid under Rick’s skin like a razor, harsh and biting. He knew that bitterness came from a place of hurt, he knew it did. If Negan didn’t care, he’d be acting like his usual joking dickish self, but he wasn’t.

“Yeah, I miss you. And you miss me too. I know you do.” Rick surprised himself by not stumbling over the words like the thought he would. Negan’s eyes hardened.

“Oh really? You think I miss you, Rick?” He tilted his head. “And just what makes you think that? Why the fuck would I miss you?”

Rick had a whole backlog of reasons that he’d been mulling over for the past day, but because his mouth seemed to have it out for him, he just lamely said, “You like me,” which in turn made Negan double over in mocking laughter.

“I like you! Really? Is that the best you have to go on, Rick? Jesus, I thought you’d be better prepared than this, have a little something more to go on than that. Haven’t you used that line on me before?” His voice was still off, and there was something there, something almost like disappointment that that was all Rick could come up with.

“No, I-”

Negan cut him off. “Why the fuck would I miss you, Rick? Tell me, because I genuinely want to know.” He stood up, setting his notebook on the glass table and moving toward Rick, ignoring rules of courtesy and personal space as usual. “Why would I miss someone who never wants to be around me, who openly claims to hate me, who begs me to fuck him and then the next morning tries to act like he never gave me the okay? Why the fuck would I want to spend another second with you when I have shit to do and wives who are all too willing to give it up for me?”

He was right up in Rick’s face, voice raised so that he was shouting. Rick could hear the venom in the words; they were pointed, meant to inflict damage. The edge to the words made Rick want to flinch away, but he steeled himself.

 He’s lashing out because I’m right, Rick told himself. He wouldn’t be pissed if he didn’t care.

God, he hoped he was right. If he wasn’t, pushing Negan like this was probably a very bad idea. It was probably a bad idea, anyway.

“I don’t know why you miss me, I just know you do.” Negan scoffed and looked like he was about to start in on Rick again, but Rick cut him off.

“I know you miss me, because why else would you keep me around? Like you said, you have plenty of other people to fuck. And I piss you off and- and freak out and say stupid shit like I did. I’d understand why you’d keep me around if I was sleeping with you, but I’m not, and you keep me around anyway.” Negan’s eyes bored into him, and Rick pressed on.

“So there’s something about me you like. You said it yourself, you like me, and I don’t think you just meant you wanna fuck me. I think you actually like me.”

Negan crossed his arms and stepped back to lean against the wall, eyes still trained on Rick. “What the fuck makes you think I actually like you? You’re a fucking tease, you’re a whiny little bitch. I told you I liked you because I wanted to fuck you, Rick. I wanted to pin you to the bed and make you beg for my dick in your ass, and I got what I wanted. All of the shit I’ve been doing, spending quality time with you and opening up to you and sharing your fucking bed…you didn’t actually think that that meant anything, did you?”

Rick’s mind reeled. Fuck. Fuck. This was not how this conversation was supposed to go down.

Negan caught sight of the panic in Rick’s eyes and laughed. “Oh, Jesus, Rick! You actually fell for it, didn’t you? For fuck’s sake, I thought you’d be smarter than that! I really did.”

Rick wanted to speak, but he felt like his tongue was too heavy to form words. Negan grinned, his dark eyes sparkling with malice. “What the hell did you think all this was, Rick? Did you think I was getting soft and falling for you like some starry-eyed schoolgirl?”

He wouldn’t have used that exact phrasing, but he’d thought…after everything…surely he hadn’t imagined it all?

Negan shook his head in mock disappointment. Or maybe he really was disappointed that Rick turned out to be this fucking cliché. “Fuck, Rick. I mean, I’m not gonna say I didn’t mean to lead you on a bit, because I sure as shit did, but hell. I just figured you’d warm up to me enough so we could fuck. I didn’t mean for you to get all sentimental and come crashing in here saying you miss me.”

Doubt ran wild through Rick’s mind. Oh, God, was everything Negan had done the past couple months was just a long con to get Rick into bed with him? Was that really all it was? He felt sick.

“That’s on me, though. Totally my fault. Must have turned on the charm a little too much. I can be pretty fucking charming when I want to be, as you may have noticed. How the fuck else would I have gotten this far?” Negan said with a self-satisfied smirk.

Rick tried to reel in his thoughts. He had a plan. He had things to say, and he wasn’t nearly done. He’d expected this. Sure, it wasn’t great hearing it out loud, but the idea that Negan had spent the last few months faking everything wasn’t something he could accept.

No. No way. He wasn’t buying it.

Rick pulled himself together and looked up at Negan. “Bullshit. You expect me to believe everything you did was just because you wanted to have sex with me?”

Negan cocked his head and spread his hands in front of him as if to say duh. Rick shook his head.

“No. I know it wasn’t. I could believe that if it was just us eating breakfast together and the goddamn movie night. I’d believe it about you kissing me every morning. Hell, I might even believe it about you spending the night in my bed. Maybe. But not about everything else.”

Negan’s face was carefully impassive. “What’s everything else then, Rick?”

“Everything else is you walking me to the infirmary when I got stabbed, even though I fucking told you I knew where it was. It’s you telling me about your wife when you haven’t told anyone else. It’s you actually listening when I told you about mine. It’s the look on your face I manage to catch a glimpse of every so often, before you cover it back up again by smirking and being a dick.”

Speaking of which, that same dickish smirk was still plastered across Negan’s face as Rick spoke. “A look? What look do I give you?”

“It’s different things.” Rick started. “Sometimes you look at me and the stupid charade drops and you look like a normal fucking person for a second. I’ve seen you look concerned about me. I’ve seen you looking like you wanted to laugh at something I said. Not at me, like you usually do, but like you actually liked something I said.”

That made Negan laugh. “Ridiculous. You’re so fucking serious, it kills me. If you said something funny, you’d probably internally combust.”

“Right, because you definitely don’t love it when I throw your stupid snark back at you.”

Negan grinned. “I love it because it’s how you flirt with me, not because you’re funny.”

“You like it because you like having someone that pushes back. You get sick of everyone treading lightly around you so they don’t piss you off, you get bored with everyone being afraid. You like that I’m not scared of you. You like having someone around that will throw the shit you say back at you instead of just taking it.”

“I like that because I like you flirting with me. It’s adorable to see you try to go toe to toe with me.” Negan pushed off the wall and slid into Rick’s personal space, one hand on his hip, tugging him in by his beltloops, the other reaching up to cup his jaw. “You like me flirting with you, don’t you, Rick? Turns you on.”

“I like it about as much as you do.” Rick said, with slightly less conviction than he intended. Negan being so close did things to his brain that made it hard to focus.

Negan chuckled, searching Rick’s eyes for traces of dishonesty, seeming satisfied when he didn’t find any there.

“Good. Doesn’t change the fact that you’re way off the fucking mark with all this, though.”

His fingers started to loosen on Rick’s jaw when Rick spoke again.

“I saw how you looked at me when I told you to leave.”

Negan pulled back slowly, crossing his arms again. “And what way do you think I looked at you, Rick?”

“You looked hurt.”

“Bullshit.” Negan snapped, the edge to his voice back.

“It’s not. You tried to cover it up real quick, but I saw it.”

“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.” Negan looked pissed, and something in the back of Rick’s mind was screaming Oh my god you have to stop before you push him too far and he does something stupid, but he ignored it and kept going anyway.

“I know exactly what I’m talking about, and so do you. You were upset when I freaked out, and it wasn’t because you were missing out on screwing me. You like me.”

Negan barked out a short, mirthless laugh. “You sound like a fuckin’ middle school brat with their first crush, Rick. You’re so fucking far off-”

“You wouldn’t be so damn pissed off right now if that was true, Negan.” Rick said, a grin slipping onto his face. “You didn’t expect to actually like me this much, and it’s got you all worked up trying to cover your tracks. But I know you, I’ve spent enough time with you that I have that little bit of you that I’ve managed to get a glimpse of worked out.”

Negan’s eyes narrowed and he stepped in close again, close enough that Rick could feel the heat radiating off of him. “And just what the fuck have you worked out, Rick?”

Rick bit his lip. He hadn’t meant to come in here and start attacking the way he had, and he honestly had no idea where it was going to get him, but he got the feeling that if he didn’t make himself at least a little vulnerable, Negan was just going to stay on defense the whole time.

“I figured out that you feel the same way about me that I do about you.”

And there it was, one of those rare moments of genuine surprise that backed up Rick’s belief that all of this wasn’t some huge ploy to get into his pants. And, for once, the look didn’t drop after a second. Negan was staring at him intently, his face confused and searching.

“How do you feel about me, Rick?”

Rick felt himself freeze, doubt flooding his mind once again, and internally swore. This wasn’t a good time for him to lose his words.

Negan noticed his hesitation and his eyes narrowed. “What the hell is all this, Rick?” he snapped. “I’ll admit it, I can’t fucking figure you out. You come in here telling me you miss me, and then you turn it around and act like I’m the one who’s pining after you. Is this some kind of fucking power play or some shit? Because if it is, shit, I gotta tell you, that’s a fucking weird-ass strategy.”

Rick found his voice for a second. “That’s not what this is.”

“Then what the fuck is it, Rick? Do you really expect me to believe that you’re in here to declare your fucking feelings for me? I admit it, I played along for a while there, but I seriously have no fucking clue what your endgame is right now. Seems like a whole lotta trouble just to get your ass pounded again. Not that I don’t get that, but shit. You know we don’t have to like each other to fuck. I can buy that you missed my dick, but don't stand here and fucking act like you missed me.”

Rick remained silent as Negan continued.

“I know exactly how you feel about me, so really, why even bother with all this? Seems like a real backwards way of gettin’ me back in your bed.”

Well, that was news to Rick. “How do I feel about you?” He asked, genuinely curious what Negan thought.

Negan stared at him like he was being an idiot. “You hate my fucking guts. Not that I can blame you, what with me killing your friends and keeping you here and shit. Hell, I’d hate me too if I’d spent the last few years strutting around, guns blazing, and then some fuckstick showed up and took all that away. And you’re real weepy and sentimental about your little group. Probably think you’re a big happy family or some sappy shit. And I fucked with that.”

Wait…did Negan actually think Rick still hated him? After all of this? The idea was laughable, but he seemed completely serious.

“I don’t…that’s not true.”

Negan raised his eyebrows, eyes wide. “I’m sorry, what? I’m pretty fucking sure that that’s exactly what I did-”

“No, I mean…I don’t hate you.”

Negan stared at him blankly, not comprehending.

“You seriously think I still hate you?” Rick asked incredulously.

Still no response. Rick started laughing, actually laughing at how ridiculous the situation was. Which was the wrong thing to do, because Negan reached out and grabbed the lapels of his jacket, looking pissed.

“Yeah, I fucking do think you hate me, Rick. You’ve spent the last few months telling me as much! If you don’t hate me, then what the fuck is going on here?”

Rick had no idea anymore if Negan actually liked him. It was laughable to think that he ever thought he could figure out someone as unpredictable as Negan, that he could say with any amount of certainty how he felt. He should have known that. If the last few months had taught him anything, it was that Negan was one big endless series of surprises and unexpected turns.

And damn if that didn’t make Rick like him even more.

Rick looked up at Negan, his blue eyes meeting intense, dark ones. He didn’t care if Negan thought every word out of his mouth was stupid, he wanted to see his face when he said them anyway.

“You’re a fucking idiot, you know that?” Rick grinned at the way Negan’s eyes narrowed but cut him off before he could say anything. “I like you, jackass. A lot, and completely in spite of myself. I came in here prepared to apologize and ask you to come back, because, for whatever reason, I really do miss you. I regret saying all the shit I said that morning. I think you and I both know none of it was true.” He couldn’t stop. If he did, he was terrified that he’d lose his nerve.

“I really thought that you…felt something for me, too. I don’t know why I was so sure, because you make it a goddamn point to be as detached as possible, but I still hope that you do. If you don’t, I probably look like a real jackass right now.” He gave a wry smile. Negan’s expression hadn’t changed since Rick had started speaking.

Rick waited patiently for his reaction, keeping eye contact as he did. Negan tilted his head at Rick as if trying to figure out exactly what he was.

“Are you bullshitting me right now?” his voice was unreadable.

“Nope. Just thought I’d lay my cards on the table, see what happens. No use in sitting around thinking about it all the damn time if you never do anything about it.”

Rick hadn’t realized the Negan was still gripping the lapels of his jacket until the let them go. He rubbed one hand over his mouth, the sound of stubble scratching against his palm leaving Rick wanting as he remembered how it felt against his skin.

When he pulled his hand away, he was smiling, one of the rare genuine smiles that Rick had only been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a handful of times.

Still, it was a handful of times more than he’d seen him smile like that at anyone else.

“Goddamn, Rick, you are one big ol’ fuckin’ sap, you know that?” He said, cupping the side of Rick’s face. Rick’s breath caught in his throat, and he pressed into the touch when he felt Negan’s thumb brushing against the stubble on his jaw.

“Yeah, I can be.” Rick agreed. Negan tilted Rick’s face up to his, leaning in so that their lips were nearly touching.

“I can’t fucking believe I actually like for a weepy fuck like you.”

It was perhaps the most unnecessarily vulgar admission of affection Rick had ever heard in his life, but damn if it didn’t make him a little weak in the knees anyway.

Negan slid his hand around the back of Rick’s neck like he was going to pull him forward, but Rick had already closed the gap between them, pressing his mouth to Negan’s own in a kiss that was half elation and half relief.

Rick was vaguely aware of Negan pushing his jacket off his shoulders and tugging off his own, but it barely registered in comparison to the feeling of Negan’s lips on his, his tongue tracing the seam of Rick’s mouth and then slipping inside. It was dizzying and when Negan pulled back, Rick felt giddy and lightheaded.

“You’ve gotta let me fuck you.” Negan breathed into his ear.

There was no way in hell Rick was going to say no to that.

“God, yes.” He grinned and Negan’s mouth was on him again, kissing at whatever exposed skin he could get at as they shed their clothes, tossing them out of the way until they were both naked and Negan had Rick pinned down on the bed, wrists held down tight against the mattress.

“Fuck, I love having you under me.” Negan groaned, grinding himself down into Rick. “Never woulda thought that you’d like having your ass pounded so damn much, but- fuck!” Negan swore as Rick hooked one of his legs and flipped them over so that Rick was straddling his waist. He grinned up at him after the initial surprise passed, collecting himself. “Goddamn, Rick. You gonna try to fucking top me?”

The words sent a dirty thrill up Rick’s spine. That really hadn’t been what he was going for, and it still wasn’t, but he couldn’t say the thought didn’t tempt him. “Would you actually let me do that?” He asked, curious. While the image of Negan being the one spread out underneath him was, well, really fucking hot, he couldn’t picture the other man giving up control like that.

Negan’s tongue slid between his teeth as he grinned, drawing Rick’s eyes to his mouth. “Yeah, Rick, I think I would. And I don’t let just anybody do that shit.”

“Well, I am your husband.” Rick replied, letting his fingertips glide down Negan’s bare chest, tracing over the tattoo on the upper left side. Negan chuckled.

“You got me there. So, you gonna do it?”

Rick shook his head. “Not today. I want to feel you inside me again,” he purred, enjoying feeling like this, more in control now that everything was out in the open. Admittedly, Negan had done most of the work the last time, but now a rush of confidence overtook Rick. He wanted to do his damn part this time, wanted to see the look on Negan’s face when he did. He always seemed to love it when Rick pushed back against him, when he played the game and tossed Negan’s own energy back at him rather than letting it roll off his back. When Rick met him as an equal.

And judging by the flushed, lustful look on Negan’s face right now, he liked it when Rick acted like that in bed, too.

“Well fuck, I’m not gonna fucking say no to that.” Negan stretched out and arm to fumble in the drawer of the nightstand and withdrew a small bottle that he tossed to Rick. “Since you’re feeling all Alpha-Rick tonight, why don’t you do the honor of opening yourself up for me?”

Rick popped the lid on the bottle and slicked up his fingers, reaching behind himself as Negan watched, rapt. “What, you don’t wanna do it yourself? I’m surprised. You seemed to like it last time.” He taunted, voice uneven when he slid two fingers into himself, teeth biting into his kiss-swollen lower lip.

“Nope, I think watching you fuck yourself on your own fingers is doing it for me just fine, actually.” He groaned in unison with Rick when Rick’s fingers found the spot that made his hips buck, Negan’s hands wrapping around his hips, tight and possessive. “Fucking amazing.”

Rick’s face flushed. “You like watching me get myself off.” It wasn’t a question, but Negan answered him anyway.

“What the hell isn’t to like? You look so fucking gorgeous when you’re getting off, it’s ridiculous. All whimpering and biting your lip and face flushed and that pretty cock of yours dripping down your stomach…” He rocked his hips up into Rick, making him lose his breath for a moment.

“I did what you said I would.” Rick groaned out, working a third finger into his stretched hole.

“What?”

“Oh, now you don’t remember?” Rick teased, breathless. He leaned in closer to Negan, the hand that wasn’t currently fingering himself coming to rest on the mattress beside Negan’s head. “You told me I was gonna fuck myself on my fingers in our bed, thinking about you.”

“This isn’t our bed.”

“I’m not talking about right now.”

Negan’s eyes went wide, and he grinned up at Rick. “You fucking sexy bastard. When?”

“The first day I saw you again, after…after I told you to leave. The day you got up in my face about it.”

“So I put some ideas in your head, huh?” Negan smirked.

“I was half-hard the rest of the fucking day. I didn’t want to do it, thought it’d be proving that I wanted you and I didn’t want to admit that, but that night I had a dream about you sucking my cock, and I just…couldn’t help myself.”

Negan made an approving sound, looking Rick over hungrily as he continued to open himself up. “You look real fucking hot on top of me, you know that?” He rumbled, letting his hands skim over Rick’s sides.

A shiver ran through Rick and he withdrew his fingers, moving down to take Negan’s cock in his hand and stroke, adding more lube to slick him up. He bit his lip, loving the feeling of Negan’s cock throbbing in his fist. He hadn’t gotten around to getting his hands on him last time, and he really fucking liked it. “Maybe I’ll just stay here, then.”

Negan groaned, hips lifting off the bed at Rick’s touch. “Sounds like a fucking plan.”

Rick took that as his cue to keep going and settled back, lining himself up with Negan and starting to slowly lower himself down, keeping eye contact as he slid down onto Negan’s cock. His breath hitched in his throat at the stretch and at the unabashed look of desire written across Negan’s face.

“Shit, Rick,” Negan shook out, hands sliding up Rick’s thighs and gripping his hips, “You look goddamn motherfucking amazing on my cock, you know that? Fucking beautiful.”

Rick felt the blush from his face creeping down further, across his chest. He leaned forward as far as he could, in an awkward attempt to steal a kiss and shut Negan up, but found he couldn’t reach, and Negan laughed.

“You wanna kiss me, Rick?” His gaze flicked up and down Rick’s body, taking in the sight of Rick straddling him, and then the shifted their positions, too quick for Rick to protest. One second, Negan was on his back, and the next he was sitting up, arms wrapped possessively around Rick’s middle as he shifted Rick into his lap and encouraged him to wrap his legs around his waist, cock still buried deep.

Rick’s hands slid around the back of Negan’s neck and their mouths met, hot and wet and desperate against each other as they started moving together, Negan’s hips snapping up into Rick as Rick thrust down onto him. Negan's hands slid down to rest on Rick's ass, giving it a squeeze ever time he thrust in. They built up a quick pace, and Rick could feel himself getting close as Negan fucked him just right, hitting that spot inside him that made his whole body shudder and his thighs squeeze tighter around Negan’s waist.

Negan dragged his mouth away from Rick’s to kiss his neck and lick the length of his throat, panting hard and hot into the sweaty skin. “So fucking glad you came here, so fucking glad I get to sink my cock into your tight ass again, Rick,” He moaned, mouthing at his neck as he did.

It was a testament to how much Negan loved hearing himself talk that he managed to string together sentences when he was so far gone, Rick thought. And Negan was very far gone, as far as he could tell. His fingers dug into Rick’s back and his face was buried in the curve of Rick’s neck, pressing wet, sloppy kisses there. Not that Rick was much better off. He felt wrecked and laid bare in the best way.

Rick pulled Negan’s head back up and kissed him again, lips swollen and pink. When Rick experimentally clenched his muscles around Negan, the other man let out a loud, throaty groan right into Rick’s mouth, and then Rick felt a flood of wet heat inside of him as Negan’s thrusts became quicker and more desperate. He pulled back just enough to see Negan’s face as he came, and that sent Rick tumbling straight over the edge with him, shaking apart in Negan’s arms as his cock pulsed between them and coated their stomachs.

Afterwards, when they’d both cleaned up and were laying tangled together under the sheets, Rick found the words to ask Negan about what he’d said before.

“So. You like me, huh?” His fingers traced lines across Negan’s torso, running over taught muscle and through the dark hair on his chest. He could feel Negan’s tired, breathy laugh reverberate through his chest before he heard it.

“I may have a little crush on you, Rick. Don’t let it go to your head.” As if to emphasize his point, he threaded his fingers into Rick’s hair and tugged it lightly. Rick dug his fingertips into Negan’s side and scratched red marks into the skin in response.

“I bet you were that kid in grade school that bullied the poor sucker he had a crush on,” Rick teased, “Bet you pulled a lot of traumatized little girls’ pigtails and didn’t get why they didn’t like you back.”

“Fuck you, Rick. I’m a goddamn gentleman. I’m a fucking portrait of good manners and chivalry.”

Rick snorted in derision. “Sure you are.” He yawned and settled in closer against Negan.

“You gonna go to sleep already, Rick? Not staying up for round two? What, did I wear you out?”

“Round two? Are you joking? I don’t get how you have that kind of stamina, I’m pretty sure I’m younger than you and I’m wiped out.” Rick shook his head.

“It’s my dick. It’s fucking magic. Drains the energy right outta you. It’s how I keep my fucking youthful glow.”

Rick suppressed a laugh against Negan’s skin. God, he said some ridiculous things. And damn if Rick didn’t think they were funny, stupid as they were. “Yeah, alright. You can ask me about round two in the morning, though. If I try to go again right now I’ll fall asleep.”

“Oh, I would not let that happen, Rick.” Negan murmured, eyeing the way Rick settled into the bed. “You, uh- you planning on staying here tonight?”

Rick stiffened against him. “I was. Is that not allowed?”

“Not usually, no.” Negan answered, his voice unreadable.

Rick felt his stomach drop uncomfortably and moved to get out of the bed, only to be caught by the elbow and pulled down so that he was laying on top of Negan, who was frowning. “I didn’t mean you had to go, Rick. I’m just…I’m just letting you know. That this isn’t something I normally do.” His voice sounded heavy with the weight of what was being implied.

And Rick heard it, heard it and knew what he meant: that he didn’t do this. He didn’t get close to people or make declarations of affection or take back people who rejected him or let people stay the night in his bed. But he was willing to do all that, willing to try, with Rick. And he didn’t know what it meant, and Rick didn’t know what to make of it. Didn’t know what they would do in the long run.

But Rick was also willing to try.

“So…I can stay?” Rick asked, wanting to hear him say it.

Negan smiled, soft and genuine in a way Rick only ever saw directed at him.

“Yeah, Rick. You can fucking stay.”