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Down in the Underground

Chapter Text

The world was upside down.

In truth, the world had been upside down for a long damn while now, but this time, he meant it literally. Shit was upside-fucking-down for real, and he was swinging in a lazy arc, hanging by one ankle from a tree. He’d stepped in a rope snare, like a goddamn cartoon character, and now here he was, swinging upside down.

“Well,” he said out loud, “it sure as shit is interesting.” He remembered a guy he once knew, from Before, who swore by inversion therapy for everything from back pain to depression. Negan had never tried it himself, but now that he was undergoing it whether he liked it or not, he had to admit that pain in his lower back did feel a little better. ‘Course, that might just be because of all the blood rushing to his head, which made him feel a little bit drunk, but fuck it. Might as well enjoy the feeling while it lasted.

He’d get himself out of this. Of that, he had no doubt. He always did. And when he found out who’d put out the snare in the first damn place, there was going to be a barbed wire and solid ash wood reckoning, oh yes indeed there was.

“Ain’t that right, baby doll?” he called out to the faithful Lucille, who’d rolled down a small pile of dirt and leaves when he found himself unceremoniously yanked into the air by his boot. He could still see her handle. She’d be right there when he was back on his feet. She’d be back in his hand where she belonged.

“You’re awful big for a rabbit, but you don’t have shit on the buck that trap was set for.”

Negan’s head spun around, which caused the lazy arc he’d been swinging in to get a little more erratic. He saw worn boots, heavyweight but on the small side, attached to a pair of damn shapely calves that were wrapped in suede. The person those legs belonged to crouched. It was a woman. She had a gun, a couple of knives on her belt, and a completely unperturbed expression on her face.

“Well, hello, beautiful,” Negan said with a grin. Damn, how’d he miss this one? “This your handiwork? Nice job. Very nice. Where you been hiding?”

“No place you know,” she responded. “And I’ll be kind enough to cut you down if we keep it that way. Otherwise, I’m happy to leave you swinging. Your people will find you eventually, and I’ve got other traps to check.”

“My people?” he asked, still smiling. “I think that puts you one up on me. You know me, but I don’t know you.” He pointed from himself to her as he spoke. “And I definitely would like to know you.”

She stood and swiftly climbed the tree; Negan twisted himself around trying to watch what she was doing. Damn, she was quick. “You gonna give me a warning before you…”

“Ever do a somersault, when you were a kid?” she asked, interrupting him. “Put your hands toward the ground, palms flat and elbows and wrists loose. When you feel the rope start to give, reach for the ground and get ready to do a somersault. It won’t be graceful, but it should keep you from cracking your skull. I’m starting to cut now.”

Negan did the best he could, and he thought he did a pretty decent job of it, considering, but he still managed to slam most of his lower half on the hard ground. He let out a groan that quickly became laughter. “Goddamn,” he said. “Gymnastics was not my area of expertise.”

The sound of a gun cocking brought him quickly back to the matter at hand, and his laughter died abruptly when he saw what was in her hand, the one not holding the gun. He got to his feet slowly. “I’m gonna ask real nice, but I am only gonna ask once,” he said. “Give her to me. Right now. Please.”

“Move toward me and I will shoot you in the leg,” she said. “Give me your word that you will walk away from here without telling any of your people about me, and you get your girl back. I know enough about you to know what both things are worth.” She flipped Lucille in her gloved hand, catching the wire-wrapped end and holding the handle out to him.

He took Lucille and nodded his head. “All right.”

She nodded, but didn’t lower the gun. “Bye now.”

He started walking away, then turned back. “You know I’m gonna come back.” His grin had returned.

“You can try.”

Chapter Text

He certainly tried.

He was a tenacious son of a bitch, she’d give him that. He showed up at least twice a week, sometimes more. She always spotted him, but made sure he couldn’t say the same. The first few times, he just hung around by the tree where she’d accidentally snared him, playing with his baseball bat and whistling. When that didn’t work, he started wandering a little further afield; she’d found his boot tracks near a couple other traps, but never anywhere close to her home trails. Finally, he started leaving things behind, with notes. A roll of gauze--Just in case you snare something that fights harder than I do. A couple bottles of water--Not much rain lately. A box of venison jerky--In case you still haven’t caught that other buck.

She let it go on for a while, assuming he’d lose interest and get bored. But he didn’t. He always came alone. She never saw anyone else from his colony--they’d cleared the area months before, gutted all the dilapidated buildings of what little was left and considered the area empty, which was basically true. There was no reason for them to come back, which meant there was no reason for him to come back.

But he did. Time and again. It made her curious. A little agitated too, but mostly curious. One day she spotted him there again, just sitting by the tree and whistling. He had a basket of apples this time, ripe and red and shiny.

She liked apples. Fuck it. “What do you want?”

He looked up with a smile. “Well, hello to you too. Catch your buck yet?”

“I think he’s too smart for the snare.” She sat a few feet away from him. He had a gun on his hip and his bat on the ground next to him. She had two guns and three knives, one of which was in her hand. It was fair odds. She beckoned with her fingers for an apple; he tossed it and she caught it easily. She began peeling it with the knife. “Thanks for the apples,” she said. “What do you want?”

“A little company,” he said. “Maybe half that apple.”

“Way I hear it, you’ve got plenty of both.” She handed over a slice of apple. “And I’m not the marrying type.”

He held up the slice. “I believe I said half.” He put it in his mouth with a smile, chewing it with his perfect teeth. It was uncanny to have teeth that perfect at the end of the world.

“You said maybe half the apple,” she reminded him. “But I still don’t believe that’s all you want.”

He shrugged. “Okay, you got me. It’s all about the company. I’d like to get to know you, maybe figure out how the hell I missed knowing you existed. You hunt. You can shoot. You can use a knife. You’re a survivor. I could use a woman like you.” He held up a hand before she could speak. “In the Sanctuary. In the field. Outside of that, well…” That grin was back. “That’d be up to you.”

She handed him more of the apple. “I don’t work well with others.”

That cocky grin didn’t budge. “Just the two of us? I can get behind that.”

She rolled her eyes but half-smiled. “I prefer to be on my own. You gonna let me stay that way?”

He had the gall to look shocked. “I gave you my word,” he said, putting his hand to his chest. “Which is more than I can say for you.”

“Excuse me?”

“I said it before--you’ve got one up on me, at least one. You know who I am, where I live, that I got people. I don’t have shit on you.” He leaned back on his elbows. “I’d like to change that. But just between you and me.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “Why?”

“Why keep it between you and me? Why not expose you, tell my people you exist, have them come on out here to try and grab you so they can impress the boss man?” He shrugged. “Guess I’m just a mercurial son of a bitch that likes to keep people on their toes. Or maybe I like having a little break from the politics and the running things and all the other shit that comes with keeping people safe and fed during the goddamn apocalypse. A little conversation with a smoking-hot ninja woman seems like a hell of a way to relax.”

“Uh huh,” she said. She didn’t sound convinced. “And all these little presents. When am I expected to start paying you back?”

“You’re not.” He pushed the basket of apples closer to her. “No obligation. You are not beholden to me or to anybody at the Sanctuary. I am the boss, this is my shit, and I can choose to give it to whoever I damn well please. You could have left me swinging. You could have taken my girl. You didn’t. That’s worth more than a few apples and some gauze.”

She considered his words, then nodded. “Okay. Come back day after tomorrow. You got any batteries in that place?”


“I could use some batteries,” she said. “Got a couple flashlights on their last legs. Bring me some batteries.” She grabbed the apples and stood up; after only a brief hesitation, she put her knife away and extended a hand to him.

He took it and pulled himself upright. “Batteries. You gonna tell me your name?”

She smiled. “Not today.” She took a bite of another apple, winked, and walked away.

Chapter Text

He brought the batteries. Things continued on for a while, a little more than two months of random meetings by the tree--“My tree,” he had taken to calling it--when more pressing matters for either of them didn’t preclude a social call. If they missed each other, messages of a sort were left, such as small supplies or random items that one of them deemed useful or interesting. She told him her name after the first week; every time he said it, he’d smile.

She liked that. So did he. Neither one of them would ever admit it.

One night they got drunk on the dandelion wine she’d made that spring, and sang all the songs they could remember that had the name “Lucille” in them, which was exactly two. She danced with Lucille while singing Little Richard. He laughed and grabbed them both, his grip as tight on her waist as it was on the bat’s handle. He left shortly thereafter, neither of them knowing what to do when the laughter died off and a long, silent moment stretched tight between them.

She didn’t return to his tree for days. But when she did, there was a book waiting for her -- a worn paperback copy of Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine. It was in a ziplock bag and the pages were held together with rubber bands. On the cover was a post-it note telling her not to lose any of the damn pages because he’d sure as shit be wanting it back.

She showed him where she lived the next time he came. She took him on a two mile-long hike that included several wrong turns and winding, circular paths. She knew the way like the back of her hand--in truth, her place was barely a quarter mile from his tree--but she wasn’t ready for him to know the real way to her home. When they reached the mouth of the cave system, she led him along another circuitous route until they reached a large open cavern lit by a string of lights.

“Well, goddamn, Miss Emily.” He let out a long whistle, turning slowly to take in the great expanse of cavern. “This is impressive,” he said. “With electricity, even.”

“There’s a generator in what looks like a small office,” she explained. “This was a tourist attraction before the world ended. I don’t use much power, but I need light.”

“How in hell did you find this place?” he asked. He was wandering the cavern, taking in the rock formations, the reflecting pool, all of it.

“I tripped over it,” she said. “Literally. Almost broke my ass when I was running from a walker and tripped over a half-broken sign that said ‘caverns,’ with an arrow pointing east. I ducked in to hide, saw lights and started exploring. There are deeper caves, but I don’t trust my spelunking skills. I stick to the main rooms. It’s plenty. There are seven, including two with natural skylights. The lower ones are deep enough underground that the temperature stays constant. I scavenged furniture and made myself a little underground house, basically.”

“I can see that,” he said. “Do I get the grand tour?”

“No.” She smiled. “Not today. Maybe next time.”

He smiled back. “Is there a wine cellar?”

“Bet your ass there is.”

Chapter Text

It was more of a wine cavern, really.

He made sure it was stocked. That dandelion wine was good, but he had plenty to choose from at the Sanctuary. He made it a point to bring a bottle every time they met up. Sometimes they drank by his tree, sometimes back in the caverns. Sometimes not at all, and she’d take the bottle for safekeeping. For next time. There was always a next time.

He liked that. Having something--someone--to look forward to. Someone different. Someone who didn’t take his shit, who didn’t owe him anything. Emily didn’t spend time with him in exchange for anything--not for food, or protection, or shelter. She did it for the company. His company.

He liked that, too. He liked it a lot. He liked the way she seemed to trust him a little more with each meeting, and he honored that trust. Trust was important; a man’s word was important. It was how Negan ran the Sanctuary, it was what he expected from his Saviors and his people. Trust. The back-and-forth that kept shit going. People trusted him to keep them alive, and he trusted them to keep the place running.

Trust mattered. Which was why as much as he wanted to explore those caverns she lived in, as much as he was tempted to show up at her place some nights and find her where she slept and just see what might happen if she woke up and found him there, he wouldn’t. He absolutely would not do it.

But goddamn, he wanted to. Instead, he did his job. He did his wives, from time to time, the ones who were willing, when they were willing. Consent was part of trust. There were few things worse, in his mind, than a man who abused trust or a man who would dare to abuse the consent of a woman. It was for that reason that he didn’t explore her home or invade her privacy. If she wanted him, it was up to her to invite him. And in the meantime, there was a Sanctuary to run, including a shitload of lists and papers that he was apparently expected to do something with--inventories, repairs to prioritize, and people to assign to do all of it. He had five wives. What he needed was one goddamn secretary.

So work and patience were the order of the day, which was fine. Mostly fine. Truth be told, he was occasionally the tiniest bit concerned with how long it was taking for Emily to invite him past the cavern she treated like the living room. It was possible, he supposed, that he was reading things wrong. But he doubted it. There was a look in her eye sometimes, a color to her cheeks. She checked out his ass, too. A lot, probably a lot more than she realized. Not that he minded. In fact, he didn’t mind one fucking bit. Shit, it was only fair. He’d been checking hers out since day one. She had an ass a man wanted to hold in his hands.

He remembered the curve of her waist against his palm, that night they got drunk and sang those stupid fucking songs. He’d grabbed her without thinking and pulled her in, thighs and hips right up against each other. Her shirt had ridden up a little when she was dancing with Lucille, and when he put his hand on her waist, he’d felt her bare skin, smooth and warm and soft. He’d jacked off to that memory about a dozen times since then. He hoped she’d done the same, at least once. Maybe twice.

Damn, just thinking about that made him half hard again. With a groan and a chuckle, he pushed himself out of his desk chair, grabbed two schedules and an inventory list, and went in search of his right hand man. Who was going to be getting his ass kicked if Negan had to walk any further than about ten feet outside the door.

True to form, Simon was right outside the office door. Long months of working with Negan had taught the man that it wasn’t smart to be missing when there was paperwork on the big man’s desk. Negan wasn’t exactly subtle about his hatred of this particular part of being in charge, so he was pleased to see Simon at the ready.

“What do you need, boss?” Simon asked.

Negan handed over the sheaf of papers and began walking down the hallway. “Change up the wall guards. I want Arat to approve the roster and the weapons, and tell her she sure as shit better pick people who can aim because it’s her ass if ammo gets wasted. The new workers, the ones that came in last week? Send five of them to clean up the fence; it smells like dead assholes, which means somebody needs to pick up the bits of the dead assholes.”

Simon kept pace, nodding his head. “Wall guards, rot duty, got it. What about the pantry inventory?”

“Put Jared on it.”

A brief look of concern passed over Simon’s face. “Jared? I don’t like to question your decisions, boss…”

“Yeah?” Negan paused his walk. “Because it sounds like you’re about to.”

Simon grinned his smarmy grin. “I’m sure you have a good reason, but after what happened with the pantry and Jared last month, people might not be too happy about him being near it in an official capacity.”

“You’re right,” Negan said. “They won’t. Which is why I already had Fat Joey take the full inventory, and if Jared’s count isn’t an exact carbon fucking copy of the numbers I already have, the numbers you now have on that piece of paper right there, I’m gonna let Lucille knock that greasy hair right off his skull.”

Simon’s grin grew wider. “Right, boss. Shoulda known you were on top of it.”

“That I am,” Negan said, once again heading down the hallway. “That I certainly fucking am.”

Chapter Text

Negan spent the next few hours wandering the Sanctuary and the immediate grounds. He complimented a few people, threatened a few others, but overall, things were running smooth as silk. Food and water in good supply, weapons in working order and in the hands of the right people. The workers seemed happy--as happy as anyone can be in the goddamn apocalypse, anyway--and the Saviors had their orders. Good time to get away for a bit, he thought to himself, then smiled. “About damn time to get away for a bit,” he said aloud, then laughed. “Let’s just hope somebody else had the same idea.”

Lucky for him, it seemed someone did. She was sitting beneath his tree when he arrived and she waved when she saw him. “Good timing,” she said.

“Yeah?” He stopped in front of her. “And why is that? You got somewhere to be, lady?”

She got up, brushing dirt off her pants. “We both do. Come on.”

She led the way and he followed. He liked walking behind her, liked watching her walk. She always wore close-fitting pants that were easy to move in but didn’t have any spare cloth for dead hands to grab at. Those pants clung tight to her curves, which he considered to be a damn nice bonus. “Do I have any say in this destination?” he said. “Because I can think of a few places for us to be, if you’re looking for suggestions. Can think of a few things for us to do when we get there, too.”

She laughed. “Harem not doing it for you anymore?”

“Just keeping my eyes on the prize, little lady,” he said, then promptly stumbled on a tree root.

She laughed again, turning to give him a smile over her shoulder as she walked. “Might wanna try keeping those eyes on the path instead, slick. I don’t need to be hefting your ass back to the Sanctuary.”

“You’d do that for me?”

She shrugged. “Well, I’d try. Not sure how well a little lady would be able to manage a big strong man like you.”

“I bet you’d manage me just fine,” he said.

She turned, walking backwards for a moment so she could look at him. She cocked her head and licked her lips. “Bet you’re right. Now keep up.”

Emily led him through a small copse of young pine trees to an open field. There, she extended her arm to indicate what she’d brought him to see. “Special today in produce,” she said. “All you can pick.”

Before them was a haphazard line of low bushes, all laden with bunches of dark blue berries. There were a few baskets near the plants, some already partially filled. He grinned. “I’ll be goddamned,” he said. “When did you find these?”

“Couple of weeks ago,” she said. “I hadn’t been able to get back here for a while, though, and they’re just about overripe. You help me harvest, I’ll show you how to dry them, and you can take a shitload back to your place. If you’ve got the facilities and the people to can them, I’m partial to jam.”

“Shit, I’ll bake you a goddamn pie.” He grabbed a handful of berries and popped them in his mouth. They were sweet and juicy, so ripe they burst in his mouth. She was right. Another couple of days and they’d have been past use. It was a hell of a find.

She gave him a look. “You bake?”

“I’m a man of many talents.”

It took a few hours to harvest the blueberries and move them to her caverns. She took him past the main room he’d seen before and deeper into the cave system to a small area that was noticeably cooler in temperature. “Closest I get to cold storage,” she said. “It’s drier here too, so I can store things for when I need them. We can keep the berries all in here for now, and you can take what you need over the next few days.”

“My people are going to appreciate the hell out of this,” he said, putting down the last basket. He stood and looked at her. “I’m grateful to you, Em.”

“You can make it up to me when winter comes and I’m short on supplies,” she said. “There were way more berries than I could have used. Would have been a shame for them to go to waste. You have kids there, families. I’m happy I could do something to help.”

“You help more than you realize,” he said. “Shit, keeping me sane is one hell of a favor to everybody in the Sanctuary.”

She smiled and reached up a hand to brush something off his face. “You’ve got blueberry stains in your beard. Come on. I’ll show you another surprise.”

“Shit, you got a secret grocery store down here?” he said.


She led him to a long passageway toward the back of the part of the cavern she’d let him see. They walked for a couple hundred feet, occasionally crouching before the way opened up and he saw where she had brought him. He whistled. “Holy shit.”

It was a natural spring. He could see wisps of steam rising off the clear pool of water, the whole space lit by daylight that streamed in through a series of small holes in the cavern ceiling. “Most of the skylights are man made,” she said. “This place was big with tourists, I guess; there were a bunch of old flyers when I first found it, advertising the healing waters, blah blah blah. I can’t speak to that, but it’s a hell of a place to relax. Like my own natural bathtub. So what do you say?” She smirked at him. “Ready to strip for me?”

He was already unzipping his jacket. “Don’t have to ask me twice.”

Chapter Text

Negan considered himself a gentleman, for all his swagger and wives. So he tried his best not to look as Emily undressed. He did take a couple quick glances, and he was pleased to see that she did the same. Things were looking up, though he’d leave it up to her to make the first move.

He immersed himself in the warm water with a deep, contented sigh. “Goddamn,” he groaned. “Fuck it, you can have the Sanctuary. I live here now.”

“I don’t want the Sanctuary,” she smiled. She was sitting across from him in the clear, warm pool. “But you can have an open invitation here, if you like.”

“I definitely like,” he said. “But that’s an awfully generous offer. Not sure if I can pay back such a level of kindness.”

She raised her hands from the water and ran them through her hair. “I’m sure you’ll come up with something.”

“I can come up with a few things,” he said with a grin. “But it’s going to be awfully hard to do a few of them when you’re sitting all the way over there.”

She cocked her head and looked at him. “How many wives do you have?”

“I suspect you already know the answer to that.”

“Say it.”

He half-sighed, still smiling. “Five. But that’s not what you’re asking.”

“What am I asking, then?” She had a half smile on her face.

He knew exactly what she wanted to know and he had no problem telling her. “You’re asking how many women I’m sleeping with. The answer is a few, and not all of them are my wives. Matter of fact, I’m not even having sex with most of my wives, because I know the difference between a woman who is willing because she actually wants to and a woman acts willing because she thinks she has to be to save her own ass. I don’t force anybody. And if they come to me thinking they have to do something with me or to me in order to survive, well, that ain’t exactly a turn on. And the fact is there are plenty who are willing. Some of them, I take up on the offer. Some--hell, most--I don’t. It was dangerous to stick your dick in the crazy before the world went to hell in a handbasket. It’s a shitload more dangerous now and I like order. I also like consent. You’re sitting here three feet away from me, naked, and don’t think I didn’t catch you taking a few sneak peeks when I was dropping my drawers. But if you tell me to leave, I will. Tell me to back off, and I will. Whatever you say, whatever you want, that is exactly what I will do.”

Now she smirked at him. “I bet you think that makes you so damn sexy.”

“I certainly fucking hope so.”

She shrugged. “It does.” She moved closer to him. “You like consent. You like willingness. But what else is it that you like? Is it acquiescence? Submission? Because if that’s the case, then I am afraid you picked the wrong woman.” She ran a finger down his cheek and along his jawline. “I don’t submit. And I like a man who listens.”

“You have got my full attention,” he said. “Shit, you’ve got part of me standing at firm attention. I’m not exactly sure what you’re doing, but goddamn, keep going because I am hard as a rock right now.”

She smiled. “I take it that means you’re willing.”

“Fuck yes, I am.” He swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. “And I promise you that I am very fucking able.”

“Good.” She stood up, her skin flushed from the warm water, her body firm and scarred and absolutely beautiful. She stepped out of the pool and crooked her finger. “Out of the water. Follow me.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Her bed was in an actual room, not a cavern. It was one of the large offices left from when this place had been host to tourists. “Extra locks on the door,” she explained. “No windows. I can sleep safe here.”

“Are we sleeping?” he asked. “I mean, I’m not opposed to the idea, but I was kinda hoping to do something that tired us out first.” They were both still naked, and though his erection had subsided when they were making their way back from the pool, it was rapidly returning.

She sat on the bed. “I hear you like making people kneel.”

He licked his lips. “Under the right circumstances.” He liked where this was going.

She leaned back on her elbows. “So do I.”

“Mind if I do that on the bed?” he asked. “Knees aren’t as young as they used to be and I don’t want anything distracting me from the task at hand.”

She shifted her position on the bed. “I like a man who shows dedication to his task.”

“I’m a man who enjoys his work. And you’re about to be a woman who enjoys my work.” He walked to the end of the mattress. He grinned at her. “Permission to begin?”


Negan ran his hands up her legs, slowly spreading them. He crawled up onto the bed, his shoulders beneath her thighs. He ran his tongue along her skin, tasting salt and the slight mineral tang of the spring water. Then he moved his mouth to her waiting sex, moaning aloud at his first taste of her. He licked up and down, exploring, listening to the sounds she made, paying careful attention to the way she moved her hips. He worked slowly, finding the places that made her gasp, speeding up when she moaned. He hummed against her, then used his thumbs to open her up so he could focus his attention on her clit.

“Yes,” she breathed. She was digging her heels into his back, the muscles in her legs growing tense. “More.”

“All you want,” he said. He sucked on her clit and flicked his tongue over it, around it. “Christ, you taste good. Tell me what you want.”

“Keep your mouth on me.” She was breathing faster now. “And use your fingers.”

He was happy to oblige. He slid two fingers into her, crooking them as he stroked in and out, and went back to work on her sensitive nub. If it were up to him, he’d drag this out, tease her, make her wait, make her desperate. But he knew it wasn’t up to him, and frankly, he wanted to show her exactly how good he was. She liked a man who listened? He heard every single sound she was making and he responded with fingers and tongue, driving her to the edge, sending her over it. Her back arched and her legs shook, and she came with a scream that was music to his ears.

He looked up from between her legs. “Told you I was able,” he grinned.

“Glad you can do something with that mouth other than be a wise ass,” she said, but she was looking at him and smiling.

“I can do a lot more,” he offered. “If you let me.” He moved his way slowly up her body until he was lying next to her. He smoothed her hair, damp now with sweat as well as water, then rested his hand on her hip, waiting.

She pushed him onto his back and straddled his hips. “Show me what you got.”

Negan reached up and put his hand on the back of her head, pulling her mouth down to his. At the same time, she pulled him up, so they were both sitting up. He smiled against her lips, chuckling. “Damn, you do like being in charge, don’t you?”

She bit his bottom lip. “You like it.”

“I do.” He kissed her again. Christ, he’d been waiting long enough to do it, so he planned to do it a lot. “I like you on top of me. So much more of you to reach.” To demonstrate, he moved his hands to her breasts.

She pushed his hands away, pushed him back down, her right hand flat on his chest. “No,” she said. “Not until I say so.”

He bit his lip and smiled again. “Well, shit, yes, ma’am.”

She ground herself against him until he gasped, then smiled herself. “Damn right.” She reached down for him, shifted her hips, and guided him inside of her.

Negan closed his eyes and groaned in pleasure. “Goddamn. Goddamn, that feels good. Please tell me that I am allowed to move.”

“Not yet.” She was moving her hips and it was fucking spectacular, and he watched her face, watched her bite her lip and smile, heard her quick intakes of breath and soft moans as she found her rhythm on his cock. He gripped the sheets of her bed tight in his fists, dying to touch her.

She looked down at him, clearly enjoying herself. Her cheeks were flushed, her pupils blown. “Do you want to touch me?”

“Yes. Fuck, yes.”

She leaned down, her breasts just brushing against the hair on his chest. “Do you want to put you hands on me?”

“My hands, my mouth, whatever you say.” He was trying not to move. It wasn’t easy. He wanted nothing more than to thrust up into her, hold her by the hips and go as deep as he could. But he knew a good thing when it was happening, so he did nothing but grip the sheets a little tighter and let out another deep groan.

She ran her tongue along his jawline, up to his ear. She bit his earlobe, sucked it into her mouth, then licked along the ridge of his ear before she whispered, “Ask me nicely.”

“Let me touch you,” he said, his voice low and deep. “Please. Please let me put my hands all over that beautiful fucking body, please let me put my mouth on your skin, and for christ’s sake, please let me make you feel even half as good as you’re doing to me.”

She brought herself back upright, now moving herself slowly up and down his length. She took one of his hands, placed it on her breast, and said, “Yes.”

He sat up immediately, putting his hands on her hips and his mouth to a nipple. He moved his hips to match her, falling easily into the rhythm she’d set. He was loving the sounds she was making, the gasps, the hissing intake of breath when he used his teeth just a little, just enough. He moved his mouth up her chest, her neck, licking and nibbling until he reached her mouth again. “Emily,” he said against her lips. “You are rocking my fucking world, lady.”

“Good,” she said. “Now move faster.”

“Thought you’d never ask.”

Chapter Text

They slept afterward, both exhausted. Emily wasn’t sure what to expect, when she was falling asleep and he was still there. The natural assumption, she felt, was that he would be gone when she awoke, back to the Sanctuary and his responsibilities there. So it was something of a surprise to wake up and feel the weight of another person in her bed and the warmth of skin against her back, arms around her body. When she shifted, those arms tightened and a soft, deep voice said, “Don’t you dare move.”

“Have to get up,” she said. “Things to do before dark”

“Definitely things to do,” he said. “And fuck dark. Plenty of light in here.” As if to prove his point, he turned her onto her back and moved on top of her, leaning his weight on his forearms. He kissed her, and she could feel him hard against her thigh.

“You’re insatiable,” she said, threading her fingers through his hair. “I should have known.”

“What do you expect?” he asked. “Waking up and feeling that beautiful ass against my prick? I am only human. And you are fucking hot as hell.” He began kissing her neck.

For a few moments, she went with it, enjoying the feel of his skin, his hot mouth on her neck and his hands roaming her body. But the coming dark mattered and--with some effort--she pushed him away. “Later,” she promised, giving him a lingering kiss. “I have to prep for dark. And you need to go home. You have a community to run.”

He groaned, rolling over onto his back. “Hot as fuck and responsible. Who knew the total package would be such a pain in the balls?”

She smirked at him. “Would you like me to go retrieve your clothes while you calm down? You left your girl behind, too.”

He blinked. “Goddamn, I did, didn’t I? She’s gonna be jealous. I better come with.”

She gave him a look. “I have been doing this by myself for a long time.”

“No doubt,” he said, sitting up. “Now ask me how much I give a shit about that.”

Emily rolled her eyes and got out of bed. “If fucking you means you’re going to be a pain in my ass, I’m going to start regretting this.”

He got out of bed, grinned, and pulled her close. “No, you won’t.” Another long kiss, and then he grabbed her ass. “Let’s find those clothes before I change my mind, and start working real hard on changing yours.”

After they dressed and he had Lucille back in hand, she said, “I can dry the berries for you and you can get them later. In the meantime, I was thinking we could dig up a few of the smaller plants and you can take them back with you. They do well in the soil here, and they take quickly. You’ll have berries of your own next year.”

“Trying to get rid of me already,” he said with an exaggerated sigh. “Wham, bam, thank you Negan.”

Again, she rolled her eyes. “You found me out. Come on, wise ass. There’s probably only a couple hours of daylight left and I prefer to be inside when night falls.”

They walked out of the caverns and back to the line of blueberry bushes. She’d brought two smaller baskets, one of which she handed to him, saying, “The soil is pretty loose here, so just find a few smaller plants and pull them up. They should come out clean. Keep them damp overnight and have your people plant them in the morning.”

He nodded. “This is a big thing, Em,” he said. “You know that?”

She shrugged. “Frankly, I’m a little disappointed somebody didn’t already come up with this idea. The berries grow wild all over the place here. Raspberries and blackberries too, and they’re easy as hell to cultivate.”

“Guess I’d better have words with people,” he smiled. “Me and Lucille.”

“Try not to kill anyone on my account,” she said dryly. “I’ll take this end, you take the other, Six or seven young plants should be more than enough.”

They dug in silence for a time, him at one end and she at the other. She’d pulled up three good plants, and saw another that was already producing buds. She tried to pull it, but its roots were tangled in stones. “You got a solid stick down there for digging?” she called to him. She shifted position and was trying to use her heel to dislodge some stones. “I’ve got a good one here but the rocks…”

There was quick movement she barely caught, then a sharp pain in her leg. She screamed and scrambled backwards.

Negan was there in seconds, bat in hand. His eyes widened and he was scanning the area. It took her seconds to realize what he must be thinking, then she said, “Rattlesnake. By your left foot!”

Negan looked down and Lucille took action, smashing the snake to a pulp in seconds. He dropped to his knees beside Emily. The bite was on her calf, just above the safety of her thick boot. The blood was seeping through her jeans. He didn’t hesitate. Dropping Lucille to the ground and grabbing a knife from his belt, he slit the leg of her jeans to expose the bite. “You have a car?” he asked. “Or am I fucking carrying you to the Sanctuary?”

She wanted to argue. The Sanctuary was the last place she wanted to go. “You have antivenin?”

“And a doc.”

“Two hundred feet to the left of where we came out, behind the pines. The keys are in the hollow of the oak tree, 12 feet up from the ground. You’re sure you have antivenin?”

“Lost two good men to a copperhead a year ago,” he said. “First thing I had my guys scavenge for after that. Stay here. Stay still.”

She nodded. Her leg was already in agony. “Go.”

He couldn’t have been gone more than 10, maybe 15 minutes. But by the time she heard the sound of the car engine, her breathing was labored and she was starting to lose feeling in the leg. “Thirty minutes,” she said; her voice was slurred and she felt drunk. “Thirty minutes for the antivenin before organ failure can start. Take a left at the driveway; the Sanctuary is..”

“A quarter mile away,” he said, lifting her easily and putting her in the backseat of the car. “You’re clever as shit but I figured the real route here about a week after you took my ass hiking through the wilderness.”

She managed a smile, her eyelids drooping. “Smart son of a bitch.”

“Good thing for you.”

By the time they reached the gates, she was barely conscious, only slightly aware of what was happening around her. She heard the sound of the car horn and his voice yelling to open the goddamn gates right fucking now, then his arms beneath her again. She was being carried; there were voices all around her, all calling the same thing - Carson, Carson. Who the hell was Carson? She started to laugh, inexplicably.

“I’m glad you think this is funny,” came Negan’s voice, and she felt something soft and flat beneath her. “It’s a real fucking riot.”

An acrid smell hit her senses and her eyes snapped open. She blinked against harsh light and a face she didn’t recognize. “What the fuck…”

“Smelling salts. And I’m Doctor Carson,” the face said. “Who are you? What happened?”

“She was bit…” Negan began.

The doctor held up his hand. “She was going into shock. I need her to answer me.”

Emily blinked again. The pain in her leg was excruciating and everything felt fuzzy. “Emily,” she managed. “Rattlesnake. One bite. Careless. Need antivenin.”

Carson nodded. “Lie back. Somebody, help me with her pants and boots.”

“First one of you who touches her other than the doc is losing his goddamn hand,” Negan said. “I’ve got it.” He made quick work of it, too, tearing her jeans to the thigh and throwing her boot to the side.

“I liked those jeans,” she said, that drunk feeling returning.

“Yeah, well, I like your leg,” he shot back. “Doc, what the fuck is taking so long?”

She felt her arm being raised and something being tied tight around it. “I’ve got a vein,” the doctor’s voice said. Emily felt a prick, then her head lolled to the side and everything went dark.

Chapter Text

She awoke in the most opulent room she’d seen since the world ended. She was in a bed--an actual four-poster king size bed--against soft pillows and under blankets and sheets that smelled of clean laundry. She blinked, trying to focus through a haze that felt medicinal, and realized someone was sitting in a chair near the foot of the bed, watching her. She sat up quickly--a mistake, she realized immediately as the room began to spin--but swallowed against the nausea and snapped, “Who the fuck are you?”

Before he answered her, the man lifted a radio and spoke into it. “She’s awake, boss.”

She recognized the responding voice. “Five minutes.”

“10-4.” The man put down the radio and said, “I’m Joey. The boss said when you woke up I’m supposed to ask if you know where you are.”

“The Waldorf Astoria,” she said, leaning back against the pillows. “You must be room service.”

Joey’s brow furrowed in confusion. “No, you’re in the Sanctuary.” He spoke slowly, as if he didn’t think she would understand. “You got hurt and the boss--his name is Negan--brought you here to see the doc.”

Clearly, this wasn’t one of the smartest of Negan’s crew. “Snakebite,” she said. “I know. Now let’s be more specific -- where the fuck, in the Sanctuary, am I, because this is the most lush damn infirmary I have ever seen.”

“It’s not the infirmary,” Joey said in that same careful tone. “Doc wanted to keep you there but the boss said no, said he wanted you somewhere nobody could bother you without his say-so.”

She nodded, trying not to be annoyed at this poor guy who was just doing his job. “And so he put me….” she prompted.

“This is the boss’ room,” Joey said. “Nobody comes in here without permission. Ever. He said he wants you in here, and he told me to stay in here and tell him when you were awake, because he had to go do something important.”

“Which was…?”

Joey blinked in surprise. “I didn’t ask. You never ask the boss things like that.”

“Right, of course not,” she said, knowing damn well she was going to be asking that and a whole lot more, including when he was taking her back to her own damn place. But there was no reason to take that out on Joey, who looked nervous enough. She looked around the room, taking in the furnishings, the fucking window treatments, of all things, the books and more. There was a television and a DVD player, a stereo with CDs. It was surreal. “Does all this stuff work?” she asked.

“I guess so,” he said. “I’ve never been in here before. We have electricity, if that’s what you mean.” His radio crackled again, a new voice announcing, “Chow time. All day shift workers, take your lunch.”

Now it was her turn to be surprised. “Lunch? How long have I been out?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “You were asleep when the boss put me in here around 8, and he was here before then, I guess…”

The door of the bedroom opened, revealing Negan, carrying a tray with some covered dishes. “Well, hello, sleeping beauty. Joey, everything ok while I was gone?”

“Yes, boss,” the man said. “All she did was sleep.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” Negan said, putting the tray down on a nearby table. “You are dismissed. Go get some chow.”

“Yes, boss.”

Joey left the room and closed the door behind him. Negan walked over to the bed and smirked a bit. “Gotta admit, I was hoping for a smile upon my return.”

“How long was I out?” she asked.

“About eight hours, then you woke up for long enough to take a painkiller and fell back asleep.” He put his hand on her forehead. “No fever. That’s good. Hungry?”

“Maybe,” she said. “What am I doing here?”

He got a bowl from the tray and brought it to her, making himself comfortable on the bed. “Easy,” he said as he handed her the bowl. “Small sips.”

“I know,” she snapped. “Answer my damn question.”

“You are recuperating,” he said. “And drinking soup. You can’t put any weight on the leg.”

“The hell I can’t,” she said.

“Yeah?” Negan said, taking back the bowl. “Go ahead.”

Stubbornly, knowing it was a bad idea, she tried getting out of bed and promptly fell on her ass. “Goddamnit.”

Negan got up with a sigh and helped her back into the bed. “You feel good, giving that a shot?”

“Fuck you.” She sipped the soup. It was rich but easy on her stomach, and she felt the nausea abate. “How long am I stuck here?”

Negan, comfortably back in bed beside her, put his hand over his heart. “I am offended,” he said. “Saved your ass and this is the thanks I get.”

She shot him a look, then purposely turned to the corner of the room, where the baseball bat rested against the wall. “Thank you, Lucille, for killing that rattlesnake.”

When she turned back to Negan, he was smiling. “Thanking my girl is hot.”

She rolled her eyes, but drank more broth. “Fine. Thank you for saving my ass. Now tell me what the doc said and when I can go home.”

“Doc said you can’t put any weight on the leg, which you have now--I hope--proven to your own satisfaction. Bite’s on the tendon, so that’s gonna be a problem for a little while. Antivenin worked fine, which is why you are still breathing, but it’s the apocalypse and none of us are as healthy as we could be. He’s worried about something called serum sickness. You know what that is?”

“Side effect of the antivenin,” she said. “Rash, fever, joint problems.”

“Exactly,” Negan said. He took the now empty bowl from her. “Trouble is, that shit can take days, even weeks to show up.”

“If you think I am staying…” she began.

“I certainly do,” he interrupted. “And this shit is inarguable. You go home, all by yourself in your little cave system, and that shit comes on, you’re dead. You’re out and about and that shit comes on and the dead show up, you’re dead or worse. There are meds here. There is a doc here. There is food here. And, not to toot my own sizeable horn, there is me here. Therefore, there is you here. When you’re better, when I don’t have to worry about you surviving on your own, you can go. But until then, I am making you my responsibility because I like you and I do not want to see you dead or worse. You can be pissed off about it all you want, but I know you are a smart woman, and you know I’m right.”

“Again, fuck you.”

He smiled. “As long as we’re agreed. How’s the leg?”

She shrugged. “Starting to throb. What’s he got me on?”

“Oxy and Advil,” he said. “You need rest, so he’s giving you a week or so of the hard stuff because I told him you were stubborn as shit. Keep the wound clean and there’s no worry about infection since you’re not going anywhere.” He grinned at her. “Sponge baths, baby doll. Courtesy of Nurse Negan.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t call me that. When can I try walking on it?”

“Not for a while,” he said. “Not without help, anyway. I’ve got my people looking for crutches or a cane. If they can’t find something, they can build something. Couple days, maybe a week, we can give it a shot, if the serum sickness doesn’t come on.”

She sighed. She knew he was right. She knew she should be thankful, but she’d been on her own a long time, and it wasn’t easy to change. Still, she trusted him, even if she didn’t entirely trust her surroundings. “Fine,” she said after a time. “Now where do you plan to keep me?”

He looked around the room. “Right here.”

“What, me and the five wives?” she asked.

“My wives don’t come in here,” he said. “They have their own place, where I visit when the need arises. Nobody comes in here without my express permission. This room is as locked down as it gets and it is one thousand percent mine. Nobody in or out without my knowledge.”

“And your people,” she said. “They’re all just hunky-dory with the strange woman in the boss’ bedroom?”

It was his turn to shrug. “I’m sure there are some questions. But while you were out, I was smart enough to go get the plants and the berries, so as far as anyone needs to concern themselves, you’re already paying your imaginary debt. Some of the Saviors--my top people--knew I’d been meeting with someone for a while. They didn’t know it was a smoking hot ninja woman, but then they didn’t need to.”

“And they don’t have a problem with that.”

His expression darkened, just a little. “It’s not up to them.”

Emily was silent for a moment, considering all he’d said and a few things he hadn’t. After a time, she said, “There’s more food in the cavern I use for cold storage. If I am stuck here for the indefinite, go back and get it. It won’t help anybody to have it go to waste. There’s venison jerky, dried fruits, chicory roots, medicinal herbs. Leave the canned stuff, for now. Parse the rest out while I’m here. I won’t have it said I’m not contributing.”

“You don’t have to…”

“It’s not up to you. There’s also two bags in the trunk of my car. I need those--they’re my go bags. Clothes, some non-perishables, some water.” She looked down at herself; she was wearing a grey tshirt she didn’t recognize. “Whose is this?” Then her eyes got wide as she realized something else. “And where the fuck are my weapons?”

Negan reached over her to open a drawer in the bedside nightstand; it contained her handgun and the two knives she’d had on her belt. “Safe,” he said. “And it’s my shirt. I’ll have your bags brought up.” He put his hand on hers. “We good?”

“I can’t use my leg and I am stuck at the Waldorf Apocalypse with the most stubborn, arrogant son of a bitch I have ever met,” she said. “Seems fine to me.”

He smiled. “Good. Now let me check that leg.”

Chapter Text

Things went fine for several days. The opiates kept her comfortable and helped her sleep when she needed them, and the bite wound was healing fine. There was a small commotion when she accidentally broke a savior’s wrist when the man got too close to her and she woke suddenly. His screaming brought several other saviors and Negan, who promptly told the fallen man that he got what he deserved and that he was lucky she hadn’t done worse. The list of people who were to check on her grew significantly shorter after that.

The short list included himself, Simon, Arat, and Carson, and occasionally Fat Joey. The doc seemed pleased with her progress, though he stressed that serum sickness was still on the table and reminded both her and Negan to be on the lookout for symptoms. He suggested she try to start walking a bit provided she used the crutches that had been found for her, and to experiment with putting some weight on the injured leg. “But only for short periods of time and just around this room,” he said. “If that goes well, in another few days you can try longer walks. If the leg swells at all, it’s back to no weight for a day or two.”

She made a frustrated sound but nodded. “Small walks, around the room. Right, got it, doc.”

“Try not to do too much,” the doctor added.

“She won’t,” Negan said. He was standing at the foot of the bed, his arms crossed on his chest. She glared at him but he didn’t react to it. “I’ll keep an eye out for any problems.”

“I’m sure you will,” Carson said. He picked up the small jar of pain medication and looked inside. “You’ve been taking these?”

“I took a few,” she said. “I haven’t really needed them. The pain’s not bad and I sleep just fine.”

Carson looked confused for a second, then quickly closed the bottle and put it back on the nightstand. “Of course,” he said. “If you don’t need anything else…”

“Yeah, get on out of here, doc,” Negan said. “Check on the rest of the patients. I’ve got this one.” Carson nodded at them both, then left.

As soon as he was gone, Emily looked at Negan. “What did I already say about you being a pain in my ass?”

“What did I already say about how much I gave a shit about that?” He walked over to sit on the bed beside her, and gave her a smirk. “You can act like you don’t like it but I know better.”

“You have things to do around here and…”

“And they have been getting done just fine,” he interrupted. “But since you brought it up, I’m gonna be out of your hair for the rest of the day. Gotta go out on a run.”

She felt a tiny flutter of concern in her chest, which she steadfastly ignored. “What for?”

“Supplies,” he said. “Machine parts, car parts, shit like that. Gasoline if we can find it. Only a few people know what to look for and I’m one of them.”

She nodded. “When do you head out?”

He smiled. “Why? Seeing if you have enough time to convince me to stay?”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re an idiot. Who’s babysitting while you’re gone?”

“Fat Joey,” he said. “I need Arat and Simon with me. He’ll come by with your meals and you can get him on the radio if you need anything. I’ll check in on the radio too.”

“You don’t need to do that.”

“I know.” He put his arm around her shoulders. “But I bet you’re gonna appreciate it when I do. It’s all right. You don’t have to admit it.”

She rolled her eyes again, but that didn’t keep her from nestling in close. “Fine. How long will you be gone?”

“Missing me already,” he teased. “I knew it.”

“Sometimes I think it might actually kill you to answer a direct question.”

“Tonight, probably late. Which means I’d better find you sleeping when I get back.”

“Probably more deeply than I have for days,” she responded. “You snore.”

He leaned back against the pillow to lay down next to her. “Yeah and you steal the damn blankets.”

“I could sleep somewhere else,” she suggested.

“You sure could,” he agreed. “But you’re not gonna.”

“You have enough ammo?” she asked. “I told you where I keep mine, if you need it.”

He shifted position so he could look at her. He smiled again. “You worried about me, darlin’?”

“Well, I kinda need you alive if I want to keep living in the lap of luxury here at the Waldorf Apocalypse.” She reached for his hand, entwining her fingers with his. “So stay alive.”

“Ain’t nobody killing me until I am damn good and ready to be killed,” he said. His tone was his usual one--arrogant and light--but his voice was soft. “And I am far from done with you yet. So I will be back to keep being a pain in your fine ass.”

Emily mock-sighed. “I suppose I can tolerate that.”

“Oh yeah?” He moved in a little closer. “I can think of a few other things you seem to enjoy tolerating.”

She quirked an eyebrow at him. “I thought you had to go on a run.”

He snaked an arm around her waist, pulling her close. “Gonna take them at least an hour to get the trucks ready.” He began kissing her neck.

She wrapped her arms around him. “I don’t think this is how you treat someone who is recuperating.”

“Physical therapy.” He moved his mouth to her ear, his voice low and deep. “You just lie back and relax. Don’t strain yourself. I will take care of everything.”

“Everything?” she asked, wrapping her good leg around his hips.