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Devils and Dust

Chapter Text

"Hey. Wake up, sweetheart."

You groaned, pulling the blanket back over your head. Shane chuckled and yanked it ruthlessly off again.

"Come on, criminal. Got shit to do," he said, sitting on the edge of the bed and running a hand down your back.

You cracked one eye open and glared at him. "Bite me, Walsh."

He chuckled, tucking your hair behind your ear. "We ain't got time for that, Nameless," he said with a smirk.

You could feel your lips twitching even as you tried to glare. You rolled over and sat up with a sigh, leaning your forehead onto his shoulder as he wrapped an arm around you loosely.

"Come on, it can't be that bad," he whispered. You lifted one hand and flipped him off.

"What'd I say?" he said in that mock-serious voice. "We ain't got time for that."

You shoved him away with a groan and started getting dressed. Shane kept sitting there, and you hissed as you caught your eyebrow ring on the AC/DC shirt you pulled over your head, since you were paying more attention to him than to what you were doing. "What the hell are you staring at, Officer?" you asked him as he held out your jacket and vest.

He smiled at you. "You. I more than tolerate you, criminal."

You rolled your eyes and leaned in to kiss him. His fingers slid along your cheek as he made it softer and sweeter than you'd been expecting, and you leaned into his touch even as you broke the kiss.

"I more than tolerate you too. Come on, people are waiting," you said over your shoulder as you scooped up your hand gun, shoved it into your holster, headed for the door. You gestured impatiently at him even as your lips quirked.

"Shit. You're a damn pain, Nameless," he complained as you ducked out into the hallway.

 

 

You strode into C block, scowling as you pulled off the blood-soaked butcher's apron. "Sorry, everyone. Damn zombies are a pain in the ass, seriously."

Shane shoved a hand through his hair. "Yeah, we gotta figure out why the hell they keep building up. Waiting on Dixon still. Where the hell's your boyfriend now, criminal?"

"He left, idiot. Went out on a run with Glenn and Zach," you said with a shrug. "I think we're all assembled."

You settled at the table with the others, wondering just how in the world you got suckered into being on Rick's damn Council after all. It had happened sometime in the past month, after your misadventures in Atlanta led to you hanging up your wanderlust and settling into prison life. You would have rolled out with Daryl and Glenn, but you'd been informed that two members of the council leaving at once was enough, and you damn well didn't need to make it three.

Plus, you'd been knee-deep in walker guts with Tyreese and Karen. So there was that.

Gathered around the table with you were Sasha, Hershel, Shane, and Carol. With Daryl and Glenn out, that meant it was time to begin. Shane shoved a hand through his hair and you made a mental note to grab some scissors and make the man sit still for ten minutes. It was getting a little absurdly long.

"Alright, people. I guess we'll add Nameless' walkers to the agenda. What else we got to go over this morning?" he asked.

Carol leaned forward. "There's a bit of a housing issue going on right now-"

 

 

You pulled on half-gloves as you ducked into the sunlight, Shane at your back. You strode toward the waiting vehicles, accepting the rifle from hands that held it out to you.

"We ready to rock and roll, boys?" you yelled as you swung onto the bike.

"Yes, ma'am!" The chorus of replies sounded from the assembled vehicles. Shane leaned in and kissed you again, then jumped into the bed of the truck parked behind your bike, banging twice on the roof as you kicked the bike to life. You revved the engine twice as doors slammed behind you, then circled your hand in the air and pointed forward.

"Move out!" you called, and hit the gas.

 

 

Your caravan pulled up to the gates and you waited, crossing your arms over the bike's handlebars with your feet braced to keep it upright. There was a long, silent moment, and you sighed. You glanced back and caught Shane's shrug from his place in the bed of the truck.

You dropped the kick stand, swung off the bike, and strolled toward the gates with your thumbs hooked in your pockets. You banged on the gate, hearing the hollow thunk as you did.

Still nothing.

"Don't make me knock again!" you yelled, hand dropping to rest on the weapon you kept on a loop at your side, opposite the gun strapped to your thigh. You looked back again at Shane and shook your head with a chuckle as the gate didn't open. He smiled at you as you took two steps back from the gate and toward him.

"One!" you yelled, and Shane gestured to the others in the trucks. They were smirking as they lifted rifles to their shoulders and aimed.

"Two!"

You turned and crossed your arms across your chest, glaring at the gates with one hip cocked. You waited a beat, and opened your mouth to call three.

The gate creaked open.

"Wait!" A quavering voice called. "Just- wait!"

You held up a hand and flicked your fingers, and heard guns being lowered behind you.

"That's more like it," you muttered, and stalked toward the man stepping out to meet you with his hands up.

 

 

"What's up with Violet?" you called to Rick. Carl laughed as Rick sighed.

"I just got done telling him not to name them, YN," Rick said in a pained voice.

You winked at Carl and leaned on the fence beside the two of them. "She doesn't look great, does she?"

"She's food, not a piglet anymore," Rick muttered. "Why do I bother?"

"I mean, I'll call her Bacon if it'll make you feel better," you offered.

Rick groaned. "It really wouldn't."

"Well, at least he's honest," you told Carl blandly. "Seriously, though, what's up with the pig?"

"I don't know what's going on with her. Could be sick, could be nothing," Rick said with a long suffering sigh. "Feel better.... Violet."

Carl laughed and you high-fived with him. "What are you up to today, Nameless?" the kid asked as the three of you started walking again.

He and Rick were heading toward Rick's crops, where he'd been doing his farmer routine. He was getting pretty damn good at it, you thought as you looked over the growing plants.

You waved vaguely toward the fences. "This and that. Fences. Supplies. Investigating some super-secret Council shit."

Rick looked at the fences and sighed. "They're getting about as bad as last month."

"Yeah. Dozens more toward three. Thing is, they don't spread out anymore. Get enough of them on the fence, we've got a herd," you told him.

Rick patted your shoulder and you ground your teeth together. "Good thing we've got good people in charge," he said with smirk.

"Screw you, Deputy," you called cheerfully as you split off from them.

"No, thank you," he called back pleasantly, and you laughed as you picked up speed toward the gate.

You were almost there when the man in the guard tower whistled. You glanced up and grinned, running for the pulley when you saw the woman riding up like a warrior goddess on horseback. You pulled hard, swinging the beefed-up outer gates open. Carl and Rick reached your side and slid open the inner gate as Michonne charged in and you let go of the rope all at once so the outer gates clanged shut harshly.

"Well, look what the cat dragged in," you said, shading your eyes as she dismounted.

"What she means is, we're glad to see you," Rick counter with a smile that made you bite the inside of your lip.

Boy had a crush as deep as the damn ocean and he didn't even know it. Michonne smiled back at him, and the damn thing was definitely mutual. You and Shane had a bet going to see how long it would take them to get together.

"Somebody hit the jackpot," Michonne said to Carl, reaching into the saddle bag on the horse whose nose you were currently stroking.

You'd once informed Rick that the only horses you rode were the steel kind, and while that still held very true, you liked this particular one. He was a sweetheart.
Michonne handed over a handful of comics that had Carl's eyes lighting up. You groaned.

"No fair!" you protested. "You go out further than me!"

"Yeah," Carl said with a smirk at you. "That's why she's the queen now."

Your jaw dropped as Rick and Michonne both burst into laughter.

"You twerp," you muttered at Carl, who crossed his eyes at you.

"I found this too," Michonne said, and the teasing note in her voice had you looking up to see what else she might have uncovered. She was holding an electric razor out to Rick, and you cracked up this time. "Your face is loosing the war," she added.

"You gonna stay a little while?" Rick asked.

"Just a little while," she answered, glancing over at you. "Didn't find him."

You shrugged. "Figured as much. Daryl's out on a supply run with Glenn and Zach and some of the others. I'm on walker patrol, since you seem to have brought half the ones between here and Macon with you."

"Need a hand?" she offered.

You shook your head. "Nope. We got it covered. Hey, Rick, I almost forgot- you go out to check the snares, you take your gun, asshole."

He scowled at you. "It's just outside the fence. I have my knife. I get in trouble, six bullets isn't going to make the difference."

"That's why you get a better gun, Deputy," you shot back. "Michonne, convince the man not to leave the gates without a gun. I've got some zombie-slaying to do."

"My gun's better than yours!" Rick called after you as you started walking away.

You turned around, biting your lip as you smirked at him. "Oh, Deputy, that comeback was just sad, man!"

 

 

"Well, hello there, darlin'," you said to the nervous-looking man standing in the gate. "You need better manners. Not nice, leaving visitors standing at the door like that."

He swallowed hard, eyes darting all around, from you to bike to the men at your back. "S- so sorry. We, ah. We weren't expecting anyone today."

You shrugged carelessly, fingers of one hand drumming on the weapon at your side. "Always best to expect the unexpected, don't you think?"

"Of course," he said, bobbing his head. "Listen, I- I don't mean to be... rude. But-"

"I'm not your regular visitor, no," you cut him off with a wave of one hand. "He had a little something else to do today. But I assure you, he sends his love."

The man paled and you tried not to smirk. He gulped again as you waited, and you lifted one eyebrow at him. His eyes went wide and he licked his lips, and you sighed.

"Aren't you going to invite us in?" you prompted him.

"Oh! Of- of course! It's just that- Well, like I said, we weren't expecting- I mean, we weren't expecting Negan, and-"

You stepped up and grabbed the man by the shirt, hand clenching around the bat at your side. "Honey. Can't you tell?"

You widened your eyes and emphasized your drawl as you heard Shane say something in a low voice behind you. The man's eyes were glassy with panic, and you smoothed down his shirt and patted his cheek.

"I am Negan," you told him, clucking his chin. "Now. We're coming in. Is that all right with you?" You slid the bat from its loop and swung it up to one shoulder, hip cocked as you whistled once.

"You heard the lady!" Shane called, and truck engines started rumbling. You held the eyes of the man in front of you as your bike roared to life as well, Shane winking at you as he drove it past you and through the gates.

Chapter Text

You swung off the bike at the end of the day, nodding at the man who jumped out of one of the trucks to take it for you. "Thanks," you muttered, one eye on the unloading process as supplies were brought from the backs of the trucks.

Your hand came to rest on the bat at your side, and you drummed your fingers on it in absentminded habit as you watched. A hand pressed your fingers flat, and you you didn't turn to see who it was. You already knew.

"Clash again?" Shane asked, amused.

You jerked your head toward the trucks. "Aren't you supposed to be managing this shit?" you asked him with a slight smile. "Not checking up on my nervous ticks?"

He ran his thumb over the back of your hand as you met his eyes. "Naw. Dwight's on it. He's coming along well, too."

You grunted, eyes narrowed. "He tried to run. Sherry too."

"Sherry's your friend. You know what was going on there."

"Maybe," you muttered. "Still. Can he be trusted?"

"He's fine. You're fine. We're fine, criminal. Relax," he whispered gently. "Besides, you're too damn proud I identified the Clash to be stressed, aren't you?"

You felt yourself smiling against your will and started to fire off a retort when the door slammed open above you. You looked up and let out a whistle, dropping to a knee instantly with your head bowed. Around you, everything ground to a halt as anyone in view did the same. Shane had dropped beside you, his hand falling from yours, and you heard the man who was coming down chuckle.

"Everybody back to work. Where's my biker babe?"

You rose fluidly, not bothering to even glance at Shane. After six months, he was used to Negan's shit, and it rolled right off your shoulders. "Boss. I was heading your way just as soon as the unloading was finished," you said as you strode to meet the newcomer at the base of the stairs.

Negan smiled, Lucille balanced on his shoulder in the pose you'd been imitating earlier that day with your own bat. His brutal, barbed-wire bitch of a Slugger was iconic, and when you'd joined his Saviors, he'd had more than a few things to say about the bat at your side. You'd held your ground, though, and he'd taken a shine to you. After he witnessed you in action- you suppressed a shudder at that thought; it'd been a brutal and utterly unnecessary fight- he'd let you keep it.

Now he delighted in sending you to locations that needed a little more intimidation than others, like the community you'd visited today.

"What's the word, darlin'?" he asked now, eyes roving the men hauling boxes from the truck. Shane had gone to speak to Dwight, and everything seemed to be going smoothly.

"They weren't exactly happy to see us," you admitted with a smirk. "But, all things considered, they did ok. I thought for a bit that they weren't going to answer the door."

"How long?"

You waved him off. "I got to two, but they apologized nicely."

Negan grunted. "Anything of interest inside?"

"Not really. Picked up some decent booze though. Someone had half a bottle of Jack Daniels and a full bottle of Johnny Walker Blue."

Negan's laugh was loud and had nervous glances being shot your way. He put his free arm around your shoulders and leaned into your ear, eyes on Shane as he did. Shane didn't seem phased in the least, and you caught the pleased tone in Negan's voice. "You done good, girl. Want a reward?"

You'd played this game with him before and smirked at him. "Only if you think I've earned it."

He tipped you a wink. "Take the Daniels. I know you like the hard stuff, right?"

"A fair number of the defining moments of my life centered around a bottle of Jack and questionable decision making," you admitted with a shrug. "If you're sure. Just doing my job, though, boss."

Negan chuckled again, patting your back as he started to step away. "I'm sure, darlin'. Yo, Dwighty-boy! Find the bottle of Jack Daniels and deliver it to my girl over there. She's earned herself a goddamn reward. Shane!"

Shane turned to Negan and nodded. You couldn't hear their conversation as Negan set his free hand on Shane's shoulder, but evidently it went well. Negan's laugh rang out again before he reached into one of the boxes being unloaded and pulled out an apple. He tossed it up and caught it as it came down, then chucked it at you with blinding speed.

You snatched it from the air in front of your face and raised your pierced eyebrow at Negan. "Need this, boss?"

"Have it! You two- my power couple! Hot damn!"

 

 

You were in the showers when Daryl and his crew got back, washing off a shit day. You'd been on the fence for hours, watching three zombies come out of the woods for every damn one you skewered with the crowbar. Finally, you'd sent one of the second shift to be working with you up for Shane.

He'd come down, taken a look around, and ran his hand through his hair. "Yeah, this ain't gonna work, is it?"

You rolled your eyes at him as you stabbed another one. "No shit, Sherlock. You come up with that brilliant deduction all on your own? Dixon back with my damn bike?"

"Not yet." Shane blatantly ignored your commentary on his deductive skills.

You grunted again. "Fine. We need to draw some of these bastards away. Light the fire?"

He grimaced. "You sure, criminal?"

"Got any better ideas?"

He hadn't had any better ones, as it turned out, so you'd cranked the speakers way up on the Crown Vic and blasted Guns'N'Roses as you drove slowly up the hill. You'd found this cd and a bunch of others as well as a shit ton of records and a player in some music store you'd found on your way to Atlanta. You'd gone back and cleaned it out, just for kicks, and you spent many an evening driving your friends absolutely insane inside cell block C.

You'd lured a great deal of the zombies up the road to the bonfire your people had laid out ages ago, lit a match, and watched the thing blaze up. Then you'd cut the tunes and headed back to the prison fast as you could.

It was your last-ditch thin-the-herd plan, and you'd used it once before to mixed results. It'd gone off a little better this time, even though you knew the fire would be attracting even more of the dead assholes until it burned down. But you'd been able to get ahead of the fence buildup, so that was good.

Daryl was laying on the bed with an arm over his face and his boots getting mud and blood and who knew what else on your blanket when you came into your cell.

"Damn, babe, you raised in a barn?" you asked with a scowl as you dropped dirty clothes into the pile beside the door.

Daryl grunted without taking the arm off his face. You felt something sink like lead into your stomach, and you went over and sat on the edge of the mattress next to him.

"Hey. Babe. What's wrong?" you asked quietly, hand on his chest. He wrapped his arm around you and sighed before finally pulling the other one off his eyes.

"Zach's dead. Almost lost Bob, too."

"Shit," you whispered. "Beth know?"

You'd liked that kid, you thought grimly. He and his college buddies were some that you and Daryl had brought in a few months back. He'd earned your delight with a comment about his group heading toward a Lord of the Flies situation, and you'd enjoyed watching the sweet relationship he and Beth had developed. He'd also started a new trend a couple weeks ago, giving himself one guess a day about what Daryl had done before the apocalypse.

No one in your group who knew wanted to spoil it for him, and so far, he hadn't guessed mechanic-slash-sort-of-criminal.

Daryl sat up so he could wrap both arms around you and press his forehead to your shoulder. You ran a hand through his hair and kissed his temple.

"Yeah, I told her. She didn't shed a single fuckin' tear," he muttered. "Hate that. Shit. People die, you fuckin' mourn for 'em."

You sighed. "Well, we're all getting a little too accustomed to losing people now."

He snorted against your shoulder. "Shouldn't be."

"Yeah," you agreed quietly. "Shouldn't be."

There'd be another cross added to the graveyard by morning, you knew.

 

 

You stood beneath the shower spray, letting it soak into your hair while you held the half-empty bottle of Jack in one hand.

Drunk showers and Jack, you thought to yourself with a flash of pain so sharp it had you chugging from the bottle with your eyes squeezed tight shut against the tears. You'd cried enough, goddamn it. You didn't want to do it anymore.

"Hey," Shane's voice came seconds before his hands on your shoulders. "What I tell you about drinking alone, Nameless?"

You turned with his gently insistent hands, until he could take the bottle from you. You let him, eyes still closed, and he set the bottle down with a sigh as he pulled your cheek against his shoulder.

"Yeah, that's what I thought. Come here, sweetheart," he whispered. "I got you. Come on."

Your arms went around him, your lifeline in the tumultuous sea of pain, and held on tightly as he turned off the cooling water. He leaned around, still holding you against him, and you felt the warmth of a towel wrap around you.

"Shane," you managed to get out from your raw throat as he scooped you up and started moving. "Shane-"

"Yeah, I know. Shut up."

You sighed, finally opening your eyes as he deposited you in a damp lump on your bed. "Shane-"

"What'd I say?" he snapped, back to you as he pulled on sweats and grabbed a flannel shirt from his pile on top of the dresser. Man wouldn't put clothes away to save his damn life, you thought irrelevantly. Not like- You cut yourself off from that thought as a fresh wave threatened to sweep you under.

He tossed the flannel at you with a low growl as he stalked back into the bathroom, returning with the bottle and drinking from it deeply. He dropped it on the dresser and looked at you with a roll of his eyes. "Damn, girl, do I have to do every fuckin' thing for you?"

You scowled and shoved your arms through the sleeves of his shirt, hands shaking slightly as you tried to button it. "Why are you bullying me, Walsh?"

"Cause you're pissing me off," he retorted, knocking your hands out of the way and buttoning the shirt himself. "Still got no damn sense, do you? Shit." He laid back with a sigh, tugging your hand until you curled against him.

"Sorry, Shane," you whispered against his chest, laying your palm flat over his heart to feel his pulse pounding.

He sighed. "Shut up. I get it. I've taken a few drunk showers myself, Nameless. I ever tell you about the time I almost drowned myself I was so pissed?"

"Not sorry about that. I'm not drunk," you muttered, tipping your head up to look at the tight line of his jaw.

"You're gonna piss me off more if you apologize for being sad about him, sweetheart," Shane said after a pause.

You sighed and didn't say anything as he ran his fingers down your back. Eyes open, you stared at the blank beige wall across from you and the bottle on the dresser.

Negan's rewards were double-edged swords, and you were pretty sure the motherfucker knew what he was doing with this one. He'd managed to take a knife to both of you with one bottle. Bastard.

"You're a good man, Shane Walsh," you whispered finally, scooting up just enough to kiss his jaw.

"Shut the fuck up and go to sleep," he muttered, but his free hand covered yours where it lay on his chest.

Chapter Text

You answered the door with an irritated expression, still dressed only in Shane's shirt from the night before. "What?" you snapped at Arat.

Her eyes raked over you with a sneer, lingering on your exposed legs. You sighed, tired of this woman who'd been a thorn in your side since you got here. You opened the door a little wider, just enough so she could see beyond you into your room. Her gaze shot to where you knew Shane was still sprawled in bed, shirtless and asleep. You leaned against the door frame after a second, blocking her view and smirking at her.

She glared harder, but she was looking at your face. "Boss wants to see you."

You raised an eyebrow. "Just me or both of us?"

Arat tried to look behind you again, but you pulled the door back close to your body so she couldn't. She didn't stop the snarl that rose on her lips, and you let your other eyebrow join the first as you held her gaze.

"I asked you a question," you said in a low voice.

She jerked her shoulder and wrenched her eyes from yours to the floor. "Just you. Get a move on."

"Show some goddamn respect," you snapped, and she glared again. You smiled at her coldly. "Run along and find some smaller fish to take your frustrations out on, sweetie. I'm a bigger mouthful than you want to bite off today."

She glared a minute longer before looking away and muttering, "Boss's in his room. Said you're to come up."

"Thank you," you said coolly, and shut the door in her face. "Bitch," you muttered when it was closed.

Shane snorted from behind you. "Arat?"

You glanced over your shoulder to see him propped on his elbow, watching you. "You really need to handle her, Officer."

He shrugged. "Just a crush. She'll get over it."

"She keeps challenging me like that I'm going to have to put her down," you warned him as you tugged your pants over your hips. You reached for your gun belt next, before even going for a shirt, and snapped it into place along with your thigh holster.

"Whatever. If she needs it."

You scoffed. "You don't like it when I fight."

"I don't like it when you start fights," he corrected, moving past you toward the bathroom. "I love watching you finish them."

You laughed at that, finishing getting dressed and heading toward the door. "Thanks for that. Gotta get upstairs," you called to him. "Be back."

"Bring breakfast."

You scooped the bat from beside the door and snapped it into place as you headed out.

 

 

Daryl had an arm slung around you in the common area, both of you glancing over maps and supply lists strewn over one of the tables. Shots started echoing, and you the two of you were on your feet and moving as you snapped out the first curse.

You hit the doors as Rick came charging from outside and Glenn and Carol converged.

"Walkers in D!" Glenn yelled.

"What about C?" Rick answered, panic in his tone.

"Clear!" you yelled back.

"We locked the gates to the tombs; Hershel's on guard!" Sasha added from behind you.

"Ain't a breech," Daryl agreed, and Shane shoved a rifle in your direction as everyone streamed toward D.

 

 

You nodded to the Savior standing outside Negan's door as you strolled up and knocked. He nodded back, silent and watchful.

"It's open," Negan's voice came from inside, and you walked in.

"Morning, boss. You wanted to see me?" you said as you closed the door behind you and leaned against it.

Negan sat in his chair, and he didn't look up from the ledger in front of him. "Where's Arat?"

You snorted. He glanced up then, raising an eyebrow. You sighed and shrugged. "Sent her off. She decided to be a bitch, I gave her a warning."

Negan leaned back, crossing his hands behind his head and looking you over. "You going soft on me?"

You didn't change your expression, and he smiled.

"That's my girl. She's a problem again, handle her."

You nodded once. "Done."

He smirked. "She oogle your boy toy again?"

"He's not my boy toy," you snapped, glaring.

"Whatever." Negan flicked that away with a wave of his fingers. "Come in. Sit down. Got an assignment for you."

You pushed off the door and took a seat across from Negan, leaning forward as he slid the ledger across the coffee table toward you. You glanced over it, eyes narrowed.

"Hilltop? Really? They've been good so far."

"Mmhhmm." Negan sat forward as well, tapping the most recent delivery catalog with one finger. "Light last drop, though."

You raised an eyebrow at him. "One drop and you're sending me in? After what happened?"

He shook his head. "No. I'm sending Paula. I'm sending you to keep an eye on her."

You grimaced. Paula was harsh, bitter, and radical. You were two of those things, sure, but it was the combination of all three of them that made it so you didn't really get along with her. "Far be it from me to question you, boss, but-"

Negan chuckled, sitting back and running a finger along Lucille, propped on the couch beside him. "You're going to?" he asked, and you heard the warning in his tone.

You met his eyes squarely. "That doesn't scare me and you know it. Paula's solid, but a bit prone to excessive violence. You know what happened when you sent Donovan."

Negan nodded. "That's why you're going to keep an eye on her. Plus, you're the one blew the whistle on Donovan. Hilltop will respect you."

You shook your head. "They won't care. I was there; I was with them when they killed that kid. Even if I didn't order it and I didn't have anything to do with it, they didn't see Donovan get punished for it. All they saw was me standing there while he shot a sixteen year old boy down."

Negan shrugged. "How you handle them is up to you, darlin'. Just manage the situation," he said with a wink. "Run along now. You leave in two hours."

You rose fluidly and nodded. "Of course, boss."

 

 

"Patrick was fine yesterday, and he died overnight," Carol said. "Two people died that quick? We have to separate everyone that's been exposed."

"That's everyone in that cell block. All of us. Maybe more," Daryl said, sounding worried. You leaned against one of the bookshelves while the others gathered around a table, unable to sit because of the adrenaline still pumping through you.

D block had been a massacre, and it was caused by Patrick's death. He'd turned and started a chain reaction of eating people that led to fourteen dead in D. Fourteen of your fucking people.

"We know that this sickness can be lethal," Hershel said slowly. "We don't know how easily it spreads. Is anyone else showing symptoms that we know of?"

Shane ran a hand over his face. "Man, I don't even know. Not yet?"

"We can't just wait and see. There's children," Carol put in, and Shane's eyes widened. You knew he was thinking about Judith.

"Plus, it isn't just the illness," you said grimly, picking up a book and setting it right back down again as eyes turned to you. You lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "People die, they become a threat. Zombies loose in the prison is our nightmare; just look at this morning."

"We need a place for them to go," Hershel agreed. "They can't stay in D. We can't risk going in there to clean it up."

"There's cell block A?" Carol offered.

Glenn grimaced. "Death row? I'm not sure that's much of an upgrade."

Daryl snorted. "It's clean. That's an upgrade. Think that'll work for Dr. S?"

"I'll help Caleb get it set up," Hershel agreed.

Someone started coughing in the hall. Your eyes snapped to Shane's, and he ran his hand through his hair.

"Shit," he muttered.

 

 

"Walsh?" you called as you opened the door to your room, plate in hand from the factory floor. You'd hit the good stuff, skipping the line with a sneer and a raised eyebrow. Dwight had tossed you a loaf of fresh bread as you'd passed, and you'd given him a nod.

You wondered how he was dealing with the whole Sherry situation. You hadn't seen her in a few days, and you wondered how she was dealing with the whole Dwight situation.

"Hey. Got a visitor."

You caught the edge in Shane's tone and your back stiffened. You kicked the door closed and glanced at the other man in the room. "Simon."

"Hey, hey, lady. Heard you pulled Hilltop today with Paula," the other man's voice was as cheerful as his smile, but it didn't reach his eyes. You held back your grimace as Shane took the plate from you and set it on the tiny table in the corner.

"Yeah," you said with a shrug. "Why?"

"That Paula- she's a handful. Just dropped by to talk to Shane here. I want him to come with me today, since you'll be busy," Simon said, turning that smile on Shane.

"Where?" Shane asked. "Hey, come eat, criminal."

You dropped into one of your chairs, propping your foot up on the seat and reaching for the bread and honest-to-God cheese. There were some perks to being on top, that's for sure, you thought as you nibbled on it absently.

"Looking into who took out T and his boys some more. You were a cop, so you know how to investigate crime scenes and things, right? You in?" Simon asked.

"He's still a cop," you muttered, and Shane shook his head at you fondly even as Simon's eyebrows shot up.

"Why not. When we rolling out?" Shane asked blandly, not bothering to respond to your claim.

Simon clapped his hands together once. "De-lightful! Downstairs, an hour?"

Shane nodded, and Simon smiled your way again before ducking out the door.

You looked at Shane and grimaced, waving the cheese. "I hate that guy."

He snorted, leaned forward, and stole a bite before you could yank it away from him. "Me too."

Chapter Text

You hit the fences while the others got Karen and David, one of the more recent arrivals from a group you and Daryl had brought in together, settled in quarantine down in the tombs. Daryl put his foot down and refused to let you help bury the dead, and Shane had agreed with him. With both of them ganging up on you, you decided not to push it. Tensions ran high right now, and if it eased their minds, whatever.

You might have had a Council vote, but you were just a foot soldier at heart.

You were fully in the zone- stab, yank, shift, repeat, when you realized there were so many of them they were shaking the fence.

"Oh fucking hell," you whispered as more were coming, and started looking around wildly for something to brace the goddamn fence.

"Rick! Daryl!" Maggie's voice cut through the air behind you, but you had your hands a little full with the section of fence starting to cave the fuck in right beside you.

"Oh, you have to be kidding me," you half-yelled, jamming the crowbar through another eye before tossing it aside and pulling your gun. It was a trade off- gun kills faster; noise draws more. "Where are you fuckers coming from, and why won't you leave us alone?"

Before you could fire off a shot, you realized you had to brace the fence or you'd have a breech. You shoved the gun back into your holster and used the only thing you had available- you. You pulled your jacket up as high along your neck as you could and planted your back against the fence, arms spread and legs braced. Fingers grabbed at you all along it, but you gritted your teeth and reminded yourself that they couldn't bite through the chain link.

You'd be fine.

Of course, you had no plan beyond this, but someone in the tower was bound to notice the impending crisis, right?

Rick, Daryl, and Maggie came out of nowhere, stabbing at walkers with the brutal efficiency you expected from them. You grinned and blew hair from your eyes as Daryl ran his gaze over you and took out one right behind your ear.

"Fuck ya think ya doin'?" he asked you.

You rolled your eyes, feet sliding and scrabbling for purchase. "Oh, you know, babe- out for a stroll, thought this fence needed to be held up. Fancy meeting a fella like you in a place like this."

"Shut up, would ya? Shit," he muttered. "Rick, this ain't gonna work!"

"You noticed that, huh?" you said mildly. "Loosing ground here, boys!"

 

 

You set the kickstand and cut the engine outside the satellite compound, rolling your shoulders with a sigh.

For just a moment, you remembered your arms aching as you steered the Triumph, heart pounding as Shane fired over and over again into the herd you weaved through. You cut that thought off with a snarl as doors opened and footsteps sounded from the trucks behind you.

"Sorry he sent you along. Has to be a waste of your time," Paula said from your shoulder as you swung off the bike.

You shrugged at her. "Don't argue with the boss."

"Good rule. So. Going to set up inside, like usual. Have them unload into the pantry. Donnie's going to be point man for me," she continued, nodding to the man who currently shared her bed. "You do whatever as long as you stay out of my way."

You lifted an eyebrow at her wordlessly, surprised by her belligerent tone. She smirked back at you.

"Look, I get why you're here. He wants to make sure I'm not too harsh on them. I'm not mad about it. But you don't outrank me, and this is my operation. We aren't friends, but I don't give a shit about that. We good?"

You nodded slowly. "We're good. As long as everything goes fine, I'll be out of your hair in a few hours," you told her with a smile.

She smiled back, and hers looked about as real as yours felt. "Sounds great then. Where's your man? He's usually glued to your side."

You shrugged as both of you headed into the compound, your fingers drumming on the bat. This time it was Zepplin, you realized as you caught yourself and deliberately forced your fingers still. "He's with Simon today."

"Simon. Huh."

You glanced at Paula from the corner of your eye, hearing the distaste in her voice. You didn't let on that you'd caught it, though. Savior politics between lieutenants tended to get messy if you weren't careful.

That's how you'd gotten your job, after all. That whole messy business with Donovan and Hilltop had resulted in you standing toe to toe with Negan, Donovan dying, and you getting a promotion.

"Someone's been taking out Saviors left and right. He's investigating what happened to T," you said. "Damn cold case practically at this point, but Simon asked."

She grimaced. "Shame about those bikes."

That startled a laugh from you, and got a real smile from her in response.

 

 

"Rick, we need an exit!" you yelled as the fence bent more. Daryl grabbed your hand and yanked you forward, away from it.

You glanced at the worried faces all around you, then looked at Rick.

He ran a hand over his face and sighed. "YN, get the truck. I know what to do."

"I got it. Stay here," Daryl muttered, and he and Rick ran off.

You glanced at Maggie and whistled, and she tossed you another crow bar. "They aren't going to kill themselves. Keep at it, guys."

"Someone's been feeding them," Glenn said as he stepped up to the fence beside you. "What the hell?"

"Fuck if I know," you grunted.

 

 

You leaned against the wall, arms crossed, as the Hilltop's vehicle pulled up. Paula stayed by the door and Donnie ducked out met the nervous-looking Hilltop people. You followed him out, standing one hip cocked and watching him intimidate the men and hit on the women. Your teeth ground together in annoyance, wondering what the hell Paula thought she was doing leaving him in charge.

"What the fuck is she doing here?" snapped one of the men, glaring at you.

You smiled slightly. "You should be glad I'm here."

"Yeah? Why's that?"

"I'm the voice of reason," you told him coldly. "Your last drop was light. This one better not be. Donnie, do a careful count. If they're light, let me know."

You spun on your heel as their faces paled, ducking back through the doors and heading to find Paula. She was just inside the door and glared at you.

"I told you to let me handle this," she snapped.

You raised an eyebrow at her and looked deliberately from her to where the Hilltop people were starting to unload. "I don't see you handling it, do I?"

"Listen to me very carefully, sweetie," she ground out, stepping closer to you. Her eyes hard, she met yours square on. "I am in charge of this outpost. I am in charge of this drop. Whatever I say, is what will happen."

"Paula, honey, you seem to be under the impression I give a shit," you said mildly. "I'm just here to make sure the punishment fits the crime.... for them, of course."

You walked away to check out the rest of the outpost.

 

 

You were taking a good look at their armory when you heard the gunshots.

"What the fuck?" you muttered, already on your way to the door. You ran into Paula, who looked just as pissed as you did, and shot her a look.

If Donnie had fucked up, it was going to be on her goddamn head.

You hit the door two strides ahead of her and looked around. There were two Hilltop bodies on the ground, a man and a woman, and the other four stood with their hands in the air and Savior guns pointed at their heads.

"What the hell, Donnie?" Paula snapped as the man who'd asked why you were here earlier glared at you with tears in his eyes.

Donnie looked from the bodies to you, his eyes going wide as you grimly unsnapped your bat. "They're light. Again."

You swung the bat up to your shoulder and strolled over to him, holding up your hand to cut Paula off before she could speak. "So you killed two of them?"

Donnie swallowed hard as you stood in front of him. He shook his head rapidly. "The man charged me."

"Hmm. Primo!" You snapped your fingers at one of the Saviors holding the Hilltop people at gunpoint.

"Yeah?"

"That true?"

Primo glanced at you and nodded. "He did. They all came at us when he went down. Woman got clipped cause she got too close."

Your eyes cut back to Donnie. "Thank you, Primo. Donnie..." you patted his cheek. "You're safe. From me. Paula, clean this bullshit up. Give them a chance to make it right."

You walked over to her, eyes hard, and with your back to the Hilltop people's staring eyes, you offered her a tight smile. "Take one prisoner, send the rest back to Hilltop to get what they're missing. Offer an apology for taking out two of their own. If they pay up, give them their prisoner back. If not, give them his head. And Paula? Don't fuck this up. He's already going to be pissed when he hears you let this shit go down because you put that idiot in charge."

She had gone pale about the time you'd asked Primo to back up Donnie's story, and she nodded once to you now, her teeth clenched so hard you could see the tendons standing out in her neck.

You slid the bat back into place and headed for your bike. "No need for an escort, everyone. Make sure this shit gets handled. Radio in when it's done, Paula. We're better than this, people! At least try to act like goddamn professionals!"

Chapter Text

"You found them like this?" Rick asked, voice shocked.

You couldn't blame him. You were shaken, not really sure if this was real. Karen and David's bodies were still smoldering in front of you. The blood trail indicated they were killed in their quarantine cells and dragged through the halls to out here, where someone burned them.

The cans of gas near the bodies helped you figure that one out.

You turned what the fuck eyes to Carol and Daryl, who looked just as confused as you.

"Someone dragged them out here and set them on fire. They killed them and set 'em on fire!" Tyreese yelled.

Tyreese turned on Rick and you were at his side in one step. The man's eyes were crazed as he stared at the deputy, and you didn't blame him. You did want him to back the fuck off, though, and your hand hovered at the Governor's knife in your belt.

"You're a cop. You find out who did this and you bring them to me. You understand? You bring them to me!"

"We'll find out who did it," you told him calmly, stepping half in front of Rick and reaching for Tyreese's shoulder.

He jerked away and glared at you. "How the fuck do we know it wasn't you?"

Daryl was behind him in an instant, and you held up a hand to settle him down. He snarled but didn't move any closer to Tyreese.

"You don't," you told Tyreese flatly. "Except that you've been with us for months now. You've worked side by side with me."

"That's why I think you could do it!"

You nodded and shrugged, hooking your thumbs in your pockets. "Makes sense. Fair enough. I could do it. I didn't. Want me to prove it? The things are still smoking. I've been playing walker bait down on the fence since we saw you and Karen in the hall. I've got witnesses. Back off, man."

Tyreese's expression didn't change, but he looked back at Rick. "Find them!" he yelled again.

 

 

Shane was waiting for you in your room. "There you are, girl."

You sighed and unsnapped your bat, setting by the door. Your gun went on the ledge above it, and then you were shucking your jacket while he watched from the edge of the bed.

"Long day?"

"The longest," you agreed, dropping your belt onto a chair. He reached for your hand, pulling you toward him. "First the outpost, which was a shitshow. Then Negan, then he sent me down onto the factory floor to handle some internal shit. You guys learn anything?"

He scoffed. "I learned Simon's a crazy bastard."

"We didn't know that already?"

He flashed you a grin before leaning against your stomach. You sighed again, bending to kiss his head gently.

"Wanna talk about it, sweetheart?" he asked, running a hand down your hip.

"Nope," you told him firmly, sliding into his lap. "Just the opposite, actually," you whispered against his lips. You ran a hand along his head, much like he did, and smiled between kisses. His fingers grazed bare skin as he slipped them under your shirt, and you felt him smiling back.

"What?" he asked.

"Can't tug you around by the hair anymore with it shaved like this," you told him with a smirk.

He chuckled, pulling your tank up and over your head abruptly and tossing it away. Your head fell back as he drew his fingers down the palms of your hands, barely brushing your arms and your sides while his lips cruised over your throat. You hummed a little as his hands spanned your ribs, and he chuckled again as he pressed a firmer kiss against your pulse.

He locked his arm around you suddenly, pulling you in tightly against him as he tangled his other hand in your hair and kissed you hard. You fell into it, just as hungry for this as he was, grabbing the shirt he wore unbuttoned and starting to pull it down over his shoulders.

"Well, criminal, you tug me around by other things anyway," he teased against your lips as your hands slid down his neck to his chest.

"Yeah? Like what?" you asked, before you gasped as the hand in your hair yanked your head back and he set his teeth against your pulse again and bit down.

Your fingers clenched into a fist in his shirt and he loosened his grip on your hair.

"You know," he whispered in your ear, and the next kiss was soft and sweet and slow, until you melted into him with a sigh.

You shoved against him and he fell backward, but he pulled you with him as you both grinned at each other. "Yeah," you admitted as you leaned over him, your hair falling all around as his hand slid to your cheek. "I know."

He grinned and rolled you, pinning you down by your wrists as your breath caught in your throat. You resisted, squirming under him until his eyes went dark and dangerous and you shot him your best 'come and get me' look, and-

Someone pounded on your door.

"Go the fuck away!" you yelled, not breaking eye contact with Shane. "We're busy!"

The pounding grew louder. Shane muttered something under his breath that had you smothering a grin.

"I don't think that's physically possible, Walsh, but you can try if you want," you told him with a wink as he rolled off the bed and too his feet. You stayed where you were, flat on your back where he'd left you, and watched him stalk to the door.

He glanced over his shoulder and gave you a shut-the-fuck-up look as he wrenched the door open. "What?" he snapped, glaring out into the hallway.

Arat stood there, and her eyes raked over his unbuttoned and half-off shirt, then shot to where you were rising gracefully to your feet. You lifted an eyebrow at her, not at all worried about her seeing you with only your bra on. The only thing you might possibly have been self-conscious about were the scars, but you'd gotten over that sometime between the Governor's stab wound scarring and the gunshot scar on your shoulder healing all the way. You didn't give a shit, and it was pretty damn obvious what the two of you had been up to.

Especially since you probably had a nice set of teeth marks in your neck. Shane never cared about marking you up- the opposite, in fact. He enjoyed it, and you'd catch his eyes lingering and a smile on his lips whenever he saw a bite or scratch or bruise that he'd put there.

You didn't care either way, and he loved it, so you let him have his fun.

You walked up behind where Shane filled the doorway, wrapping one arm around him and hooked your fingers in his belt, right beside the buckle. You set your chin on his shoulder, met Arat's eyes, and bit lightly at Shane's ear.

"Stop that," he scolded you mildly, but he didn't push you away.

Arat sniffed, turning her attention back to Shane. You slid your other hand slowly over the arm he had braced on the wall beside the door, trailing your fingertips over the muscle he flexed obligingly for you, and Arat's eye twitched. You smirked into Shane's shoulder.

"Did you need something, or did you just want to watch?" you asked her dryly, and you felt the way Shane's stomach muscles clenched against the hand you had on his belt as he held in laughter.

Arat scowled. "Emergency meeting, bitch."

Ok, that was enough. You let go of Shane even as he sighed and shook his head, stepping out of the way.

"You shouldn't have said that, Arat. I tried to keep you out of trouble, but you just kept puttin' your foot in it," he told her, tone sounding faintly disapproving and generally annoyed.

You moved in a blur, snatching up your bat and shoving her backward into the hall.

"Holy-" someone cut themselves off as you followed her, slamming her into the wall and setting the bat against her neck and pinning it in place.

"Ok, Arat," you growled. "Let's have us a little chat, once and for all."

"Is she-?" someone whispered behind you, and you heard Shane snap at them to mind their goddamn own.

You focused on the eyes in front of you. "He told you he's not interested. I told you I don't share. You've been warned about your fucking disrespectful behavior. Now, I apparently have some sort of emergency meeting to get to-"

"Nameless! Arat!"

You looked over at Dwight, trying to tell him with your expression just how much he was going to regret interrupting you at that moment. And calling you Nameless. He held up his hands immediately, universal gesture of surrender.

"Boss sent me when he realized Arat had come to collect you. He says you can deal with her later, but he needs you right now. Shane too," Dwight added with a nod over your shoulder.

You scoffed, and looked at the woman you had pinned to the wall. "Guess it's your lucky night, honey. Run along now."

You held your bat out to Dwight and snatched the shirt Shane tossed you from the air. He wrapped your belt around your hips and buckled it for you as you pulled your shirt over your head. You met his eyes and smiled as you took the bat back from Dwight without looking.

"Pick up where we left off later?" you asked with a wink.

Shane laughed as he handed you your jacket. "You better."

Dwight cleared his throat, and the two of you fell into step behind him as you pulled it on. You glanced over at Shane as he scooped your hair from the jacket and you half-bent to snap your thigh sheath into place while still walking.

"Got some things to tug on still, huh?" you teased.

Dwight made a choking noise ahead of you as Shane rolled his eyes.

"Criminal, that is not what I meant by that," he hissed, glaring at you. You grinned, unrepentant.

"Works, though."

"Yeah, yeah. Only want me for the sex, don't you?"

Dwight looked anywhere but at the two of you as you walked past him into the conference room.

You grabbed Shane's hand as you sat, and he glanced over at you. "You know that's not true," you told him seriously, ignoring the three other people in the room now as well as Dwight.

Shane's eyes softened immediately, and he touched your cheek with his fingertips. "Yeah. I know."

"Well, our power couple is being goddamn sweet as sugar tonight, aren't they?"

Your eyes snapped to the doorway as Negan spoke, sounding pissed as holy hell. He looked it too, eyes hard as he stepped slowly into the room. His gaze swept the people seated around the table and he swung Lucille idly from his hand.

"I hope you were enjoying yourselves as much as I was enjoying my time with my wife this evening, darlin'," he said, raising an eyebrow at you.

You met his eyes cautiously. "Well, I was. I was also enjoying getting ready to put Arat in her place when Dwight told me we had bigger problems than her goddamn attitude."

Across the table, where Negan couldn't see, Gavin winced and gave you a wild look. You ignored him. You knew what you were doing with Negan, even if it seemed like the wrong idea to everyone else on his team.

"Dwighty-boy would be right," Negan said, continuing to pace around to his spot at the head of the table. "You see, I was in a very enjoyable moment with my lovely wife Sherry when I got so rudely interrupted by an Omega code on the goddamn radio."

Lucille slammed into the table and Negan leaned over it, bracing himself on his hands as he glared around the room.

"Someone want to tell me who the fuck is attacking my Saviors left and goddamn right?" he roared.

Silence reigned until Shane leaned forward. "Where was the Omega?"

Negan scoffed and bit his lip, looking at Shane and raising his eyebrows. "Funny you should ask that, Boy Toy. It was at my satellite outpost. It was Paula, who your lovely biker babe here was supposed to be keeping a fucking eye on!"

You sighed as Negan's eyes bore into yours. You shrugged. "Boss, I reported in when they screwed the damn pooch. I asked if you wanted me back out there to supervise the salvage operation and you said to stay here. I left her instructions on how to handle it. Hardly my fault she's incompetent."

Negan's eyes narrowed and for a split second you wondered if you'd gone too far. But finally he chuckled a little and straightened up, pointing at you and shaking his finger lightly. "You- you walk a very, very tight rope, my dear," he told you mildly.

You didn't back down and didn't twitch. "You like my attitude."

"That is for damn sure. Its almost a shame you're so damn good at your job, darlin'."

You felt Shane's tension beside you, and Negan's eyes flicked to him.

"Oh, settle down, Shane-o. I don't do my women unwilling, you know that. Besides, I need her out there in the field, not in here warming my bed. I have other wives for that. Equally hot wives, one of whom is waiting for me right now. So," he looked around the room again. "I need some solutions here, people."

"Do we have any idea what happened?" you asked bluntly, cutting Simon off as he leaned forward. He shot you a look as Negan settled into his chair and propped his feet up on the table next to Lucille, lacing his fingers together in front of his lips.

"As near as I have been able to determine, some rat bastards snuck into the satellite outpost and killed damn near everyone there. Paula was able to get out with a few of her people and captured some of theirs. She sent out the distress signal, and here... we... are." he said, spreading his hands. "Ideas? Simon? My right-hand man?"

Simon licked his lips and smiled his empty smile. "Well, boss, we didn't learn much out there today. I think we should send a message to each of our communities. No one kills Saviors and gets away with it."

"Don't you think we need to find out exactly what went down at the outpost first?" Shane asked, running a hand over his head as he shifted in his seat. "Look, boss- any community under us won't have the firepower to take out T's group. They used a fuckin' rocket launcher."

You glanced from Shane to Negan. "He's right. Plus, if it was one of the ones under us, they won't just share that information no matter what kind of message you send. If they're ready to kill us, they're ready to hide things from us at any cost. And if it was the group Dwight ran into, we need to go in with the upper hand, which means-" you shot a glare at Simon as he tried to cut you off. Negan lifted a lazy finger Simon's direction without looking away from you.

"-Which means we need all the information we can get," Shane finished for you.

Negan smiled. "My cop and my criminal," he said slowly. He glanced around the table. "They do make the perfect team. Alright!"

He shifted forward, tapping his fingers on the table. "Dwight!"

Dwight looked up from the end of the table. "Yeah, boss?"

"You still got that crossbow you took off that guy?"

You hoped you only flinched mentally, stomach clenching around the stab of pain at the mention of a crossbow. Shane's hand brushed your leg under the table, and since no one was looking at you, you let yourself grip his fingers tightly.

"I do," Dwight said slowly.

"You remember where the asshole was going to take you?"

Dwight shrugged. "I can get in the general vicinity and find it from there. Way he was talking, it was a pretty big place. Be hard to miss."

Negan nodded. "You're doing that. Take a team. Scout and watch only; do not engage. My biker and her cop are heading to the outpost to investigate with another team. Simon, Gavin, Regina- visit your communities. Do a little digging, but do not tip our hand and do not kill anyone unless they absolutely need killing. You leave tomorrow."

Murmurs of agreement ran around the room and Negan clapped his hands together and rose.

"Ok. Now, if you all will excuse me, I have to get back to screwing my wife."

Chapter Text

"It's spread. Everyone who survived the attack in cell block D. Sasha, Caleb, and now others," Hershel said quietly.

You closed your eyes and leaned back against the wall, crossing your arms as you listened to them make plans. A was isolation, and the sick were heading there.

"What the hell are we gonna do about Karen and David?" Daryl asked.

"Have Rick look into it," Shane answered immediately. "He knows how to investigate."

"What about you, Officer?" you said, cracking one eye and giving him an amused look. "Don't you know how to investigate?"

"Shut up, criminal. I'm a little damn busy running this joint, or haven't you noticed?" he shot back without even looking your way.

You shivered a little and hoped no one saw. You started to speak, but your lungs caught and you clamped your jaw to fight off the cough that wanted to rip from you. Shit. You knew. You needed to be in isolation as well. And you were going, really. Just as soon as you were sure the others had every angle covered.

"But what are we going to do to stop this?" Carol asked insistently.

"There is no stopping it. You get it, you have to go through it," Hershel declared.

Michonne, who was leaning in the doorway listening in despite not really being on the Council, spoke up as your eyes closed again. "But it just kills you?"

"Illness doesn't," you said shortly. "Symptoms do. We need antibiotics."

Daryl turned in his chair to look at you. "We've been though every pharmacy nearby."

"That veterinary college at West Peachtree Tech," Hershel said, and you shivered again as eyes turned to him.

You could feel yourself breaking out into a sweat, and another round of coughing wasn't far behind. Damn it, you thought, and ran a shaky hand over your face.

"Fifty miles," Shane said, looking at Daryl.

Daryl shrugged. "Too big a risk before. Ain't now. I'm gonna take a group out. Baby, you coming?"

You lost the battle with the coughing, and Shane lunged for Daryl when he rose and took a worried step toward you. Shane grabbed Daryl's arm, staring at you with hard eyes as you turned to cough into your elbow and tossed your other hand up in a stay-back gesture. If you hadn't known him- known both of them- you'd have read their expressions as pissed-off.

"Fuck. Fuck!" you heard Shane snarl.

"Baby?" Daryl asked, voice tight and soft.

You finally got some oxygen in and straightened up, turning back to the group. Daryl's eyes were wide and worried, and you offered him what you hoped was a reassuring smile. "I'm going to be ok, Dixon. Get the drugs. Be safe."

"I'll go with you," Michonne offered, and Daryl looked at her and nodded slightly.

You turned your attention to Shane. "You're not going. You need to be out here. I've got to get in quarantine. Get the kids separate, too, ok? And don't forget to investigate whoever's feeding the goddamn walkers."

Shane looked mutinous, and his hand on Daryl's shoulder clenched along with his jaw, but he nodded. "Get your ass into A block, Nameless. I'll bring your shit down once Daryl's on the move. Rest, criminal."

You smiled at them both. "Yeah, yeah. Do your damn jobs. I'm just going to take a few naps until you've handled everything. Michonne, watch Dixon's ass. But not too much," you added with a wink as you slid by her and jogged toward A.

 

 

You stood with Shane by your Harley, waiting for the crew to assemble in the morning sunlight. The Softail you rode now was one of Negan's double-edged rewards, and every time you saw it you wanted to punch him again.

But riding was a joy you couldn't turn down, no matter how much it hurt.

"You good, sweetheart?" Shane asked softly.

You shrugged at him. "Sure. It's not like we've got hard jobs this time. Not like the Garbage people or, shit, that one thing. You know the one."

He grimaced. "Yeah, I know the one. Shit, you've still got a scar from that, don't you?"

"Yeah, the one on my ass. Jesus, do you even look at me anymore?" you teased.

"Shut up," he muttered, wrapping his arm around you. "Might not be as bad as that thing, but still. Gonna be a lot of bodies."

"Officer, when in my life have there not been a lot of bodies?" you asked dryly. He cracked a grin in response.

"That's a fair point, criminal."

You leaned into his shoulder with a yawn. "Least I didn't drop these bodies. Shit. Kept me up all damn night."

"Sure. I kept you up," he muttered, hand tangling in your hair for a minute. "Whatever you say."

You straightened back up as Laura strolled up to you. She was the head of the crew you'd drawn today, and she nodded once.

"We're ready."

You nodded back and she went to jump in the driver's seat of the truck.

"You know," Shane said as he started walking away. "Just once, I'd like to drive a damn vehicle. Swear I ain't driven a car since we dumped my Jeep after the C.D.C."

You laughed as you swung onto the bike. "We've all got jobs to do, Officer. You shoot, I drive, remember?"

Shane's face paled at the same time the smile fell off yours. You lifted one shoulder in a twisted smile as he came back over, slid his hand along your cheek, and kissed you again as Laura hit the horn.

"I remember," he whispered. "Be careful."

"You too."

 

 

"Your turn," Sasha said hoarsely from the doorway of the cell.

You glanced up at her and grimaced. The woman looked rough, leaning on the door like she could barely hold herself up. She started coughing, that triggered your coughing, and when both of you could catch your breath you exchanged exhausted smiles.

"Go lay down," you told Sasha with a jerk of your head.

She shook hers in refusal. "Can't. Gotta help the doc and Hershel. Glenn's in here now too."

"Fuck," you said with a sigh as you pulled yourself to your feet. "Who is it? Wants to talk to me? Daryl back?"

"No," she said. "Shane's in there. Asked for you."

You nodded, touching her shoulder as you passed her slowly. So slowly. Everything fucking hurt. Breathing, sleeping, living- it all hurt like hell. "Go lay down."

"I will. I will," she waved you off.

You used the wall for support and made your way- slowly- into the observation room. You collapsed against the glass and offered Shane's worried form a weak smile.

"Hey, Officer."

He looked at you, his hand a fist against the glass and his forehead resting on his fist. "That what you got to say for yourself?"

You tried for your patented affronted expression, but dissolved into a coughing fit. "What am I in trouble for now?" you asked when you were breathing again.

Shane's jaw was so tight you were worried he'd break a tooth. "Nothing, criminal," he said finally, voice gentle. "How you doing in there?"

"Oh, I'm having a nice vacation. How about you?"

He scoffed. "Hershel's in there. Glenn got sick."

"I know," you said, feeling your eyelids start to close. A shiver ran through you and you swallowed hard against a bone dry throat. "Daryl will be back soon. Hang in there, Walsh."

"Why the hell you telling me that? Shit. I'm supposed to be saying that to you," he snapped.

You waved him off weakly. "I'm fine. I've got the easy job."

"Yeah, stayin' alive is so damn easy. Shit. Sorry, sweetheart. Shouldn't have asked you to come all the way down here. Go back and lay the fuck down before you fall over. You look like hell."

"Gee, thanks, Walsh," you muttered, cracking an eye open to glare at him. "Here I thought I was about to go win the prison beauty pageant."

He smiled at you softly. "Hell, Nameless. You still would. Go lay down."

"Stop flirting and tell me what's wrong, and I will," you fired back.

Shane shook his head. "Just worried about you, that's all. Worried about all of us. It's all under control up here. Maggie said to tell Glenn she loves him. Get out of here, girl."

You pushed yourself upright with effort, knowing damn well he was lying to you. Wasn't anything you could do about it though, not right now. Not from in here. "Fine, fine. I'm going. Officer?"

"Yeah?"

"I tolerate you," you told him with a smile. "Just thought you should know."

"Shut the fuck up, Nameless," he snapped, looking genuinely pissed off.

Maybe he caught the finality in your tone, because you were pretty sure everyone in here was going to die. And if you couldn't tell Daryl you loved him in person one more time, you were going to tell your best friend goodbye. You slapped your palm flat on the glass to get his attention.

"Walsh. Listen. We're going to be fine, ok? But I did the shit-goodbye thing with Merle. I'm not doing it again."

Shane glared harder. "I ain't telling you goodbye."

"Fine," you told him, slumping against the glass again because you were too damn weak to stand up and argue. It was a one or the other situation. "Then listen. I tolerate you, you asshole. You're my best friend. If something happens-"

"Shit, criminal," Shane muttered, shoving away and running his hand through his hair.

"Shane!" You made your voice as sharp as you could muster, then had to ride out a coughing jag. You spat blood into the floor when you were done and stood there gasping until you got your breath back. You looked back at his pale face through the glass. He had both hands flat against it, face strained like he was resisting busting through right then to get to you.

"You- you gonna listen to me now, asshole?" you panted. "If something happens, tell Daryl it's not his fault. Tell him I love the shit out of him, and I'll see him on the other side. And you- Shane. You do not let him put me down, you hear me? He did Merle. He doesn't need that shit."

Shane didn't look at you as he nodded. You patted the glass where his hand was.

"Thanks, Officer," you said quietly. "I gotta-"

"Go," he snapped. "Damn it. I tolerate you too, fuckin' crazy criminal. You'll be fine."

You pushed slowly upright again and offered him a tired grin. "I know. We've all got jobs to do. Go do yours."

 

 

You looked at Shane grimly as you stood in the outpost, bandannas over the lower half of both your faces. He was looking back with a matching expression. He jerked his head toward the door, and you nodded. He rose from crouched beside the body of one of your men, asleep in his bed when he was killed by a knife to the base of his skull.

"This look ridiculously professional to you, Officer?" you asked softly and Shane snorted, hand on your lower back.

"You think?"

"What the hell happened here?" You pulled the bandanna down as you and Shane emerged from the tomb that was formerly an outpost.

He copied your motion before running his hand over his short hair. "Damn if I know, criminal. From what I can tell, looks like a team came in- a bunch of 'em, not a small force- and went room to room. Took out the guards first, without sounding the alarm. They were moving quiet, so it was a stealth thing."

"They didn't know everything, but knew enough to find and clean out the armory," you agreed.

Shane nodded. You circled around to the back of the building with him, reading the disturbances in the grass like-

You broke the thought off and narrowed your eyes at the Savior standing near the entrance to the area they used as a garage. "How many people have tramped through here?" you asked her sharply.

"None, ma'am," she answered you with a shrug. "I've turned anyone coming through the building back toward the front entrance, and no one's circled around but you."

"Good," you said quietly, and started to follow what you could see, trying to put all the pieces together. "Shane?"

"Right with you, sweetheart," he answered. "Looks like they came out this way, thought they were done."

"RV's missing, as well as the Silverado," you said with a nod at the gaps between vehicles parked against the wall.

Shane snorted. "How did I miss that?"

You flashed him a smirk. "Who's the tracker in our little duo? Speaking of which, there was a bit of a dust-up here," you gestured toward the ground. "Then they headed out that way- I'd say a couple of them on foot, the rest in the Silverado. Must have been following Paula. They have a tracker, someone at least as good as I am."

"She headed for the break point. When she was radioing in, she said she had two prisoners and they had one. She was in contact with them on Alpha channel."

You shot him an amused glance. "Ok, Officer."

Shane rolled his eyes at you. "Codes and shit were set up before our time, Nameless."

"Guess we just improved on them, huh? Alright. Think we've seen all we can see. Let's find that break point."

Chapter Text

"Henry! I need you to calm down. We're trying to help," Hershel said steadily.

You leaned over the choking body of someone you'd led to the prison, Sasha and Glenn to either side of you, assisting in the process of holding him down. Your mind wandered, like it was prone to. Fever made you delirious, and you'd caught yourself having conversations with people who weren't there- Merle, Daryl, Shane. At one point you'd thought the Sarge had given you an order You tried to hop to and get busy and had eaten concrete on your cell floor instead. Right now, you looked at the exhausted, sweaty, pale faces of three other members of the Council and wondered just who the fuck was running things up there.

Oh yeah. Shane. No wonder he was a damn mess when he came down to talk to you.

"Pay attention, YN," Hershel chided you gently, and you shook yourself and grabbed the hand that had slipped from you. Hershel managed to intubate the man and attached the bag, and slowly Henry settled down and stopped fighting.

You sat back with the other three, leaning on Glenn's shoulder a little. He leaned on you as well, holding each other up somehow, and you both chuckled weakly.

You started coughing almost immediately, and like a chain reaction Glenn and Sasha followed suit.

"Drink some of that! All of you!" Hershel snapped, nodding at the thermos of tea he'd brought in with him. He'd told you what was in it, but you didn't remember. "Some Council meeting, huh?"

"We're three members short," Sasha muttered as you sipped.

"I think we should make some new rules before they get back," Hershel declared.

You laughed and coughed. "Good plan."

"I hereby declare we have spaghetti Tuesdays. Every Wednesday."

You leaned against the wall and waved your cup in his direction. "First we have to find some spaghetti. I'll hook you up, old man. Just as soon as I remember how to breathe without choking on blood."

 

 

The acrid smell of burning bodies filled your lungs before you even saw the place. You'd seen the smoke in the air awhile before, so you'd been anticipating a building up flames when you stopped the Softail.

You had not been expecting a slaughterhouse that was still standing, but wafting burnt long pig at the world.

Shane hopped from the bed of the truck as you set the kickstand and grimaced at the open door of the building in front of you.

"I so don't want to go in there," you told him dryly. "Even the bandannas aren't going to help with that smell. We're going to smell like burnt people for a fucking week."

Shane snorted as he pulled his bandanna back over his face and you followed suit. "When did our objection to torching people become solely how we'll smell afterward?"

"For me, it was sometime around eight years ago. Clean up number five that month."

You were inside the building now, and Shane stabbed out at a walker that rounded a corner at the sound of your voices. "Yeah?" he grunted, inviting you to tell him the story.

"Yeah," you agreed.

"Merle involved?"

You smiled. "Actually, no. I just happened to be in the bar that time. It was a complete accident, but what are you gonna do? A Nameless comes running in, full-panic mode, and starts yelling about stabbing a guy in an alley, you spring into action."

Shane grimaced as he glanced at you. "I should arrest you."

"Officer Walsh, haven't you tried that already? It didn't stick," you told him, batting your eyes.

He laughed as you came around another corner, both of you lowering your rifles as you stopped to stare.

Zombie traps- designs Negan's people had taken from you and Shane when they picked you up- littered the hallway, and walkers were embedded on them. One of them was slumped in second-death, sharing its pole with a still-munching bastard currently taking advantage of the convenient in-room buffet. The twice-dead one had red hair, and you had a sinking feeling you knew who it was.

 

 

You left Sasha in charge of keeping Henry breathing, and you and Glenn staggered to your feet to do rounds with Hershel. It seemed like three quarters of the prison was down here with you, you thought as you and Glenn kept each other upright.

When you saw the dead guy, you sighed and pulled your knife.

"No," Hershel hissed, grabbing your hand. You looked at him, brow furrowed.

"I know I've been hallucinating, but the zombies are real, right?" you whispered back, genuinely concerned for a moment that you were worse off than even you thought.

Hershel glanced around. "Not here," he insisted.

 

 

The radio on Shane's hip crackled and Simon's voice came through with all its fake-ass cheer. "Hello, hello, Biker. Come in for Second on Alpha channel."

You rolled your eyes at Shane. "Who the hell calls themselves 'Second'? Jesus, the damn ego. Here, hand it over."

Shane tossed you the radio and got back to work dropping the last of the trapped walkers as you wiped blood from your hand onto the back of the one you'd just stabbed. You clicked the radio on and forced your voice to be pleasant.

"Second, this is Biker. You're a go."

"Hello, Biker! You should have reported in ten minutes ago."

Your teeth ground together. "Been a little busy here, Second. At the break point now. Found Red."

There was a pause, then static. "Status of Red?"

"Red's Omega. Confirmed with a visual."

"Damn it. Rescue team?"

Shane lead the way down the hall, having finished up putting down the dead. You clicked the radio on again, really hoping Simon would leave you the fuck alone and let you do your damn job.

"Uncertain. Still exploring," you told Simon.

"Confirmed. Status report in thirty then, Biker. Will be hearing from Foreman and Wild Card within the hour. Second over and out."

"Roger. Biker over and out," you replied, and tossed Shane back the radio as you muttered profanity.

"Didn't tell him about the burning bodies?" Shane asked mildly.

You shrugged. "We don't know that they're ours yet. I don't like reporting suspicions. Just facts."

 

 

You helped Hershel and Glenn load the body on the gurney and wheel it out, and then Hershel took a long look at you and demanded you go rest.

You snorted and refused.

"What are you doing?" came a soft voice.

You looked over your shoulder at Lizzy, one of the sisters you'd brought in with Rick and Daryl on one of your very first runs. Hershel glanced at you and walked over to her.

"We're taking Mr. Jacobson to a quieter place," he told her softly, testing her for fever with the back of his hand. "Go get my copy of 'Tom Sawyer' from my room. I want you to have it read by tonight. We've all got jobs to do."

"I won't finish it," she declared.

Hershel pulled out the dad voice you'd only heard from him a few times as you slumped against the wall. "Why?"

"It's gonna get too dark," she answered, completely reasonably.

You laughed until you started coughing again, and Glenn started thumping you on the back. He didn't say anything when you grimaced at the blood on your sleeve when you were finished and wiped it off on your shirt, but his eyes lingered worriedly.

 

 

The smell came from the killing floor. You grimaced as you cracked the door and saw the burned and twisted bodies inside.

Shane glanced in and closed the door again. "Someone dumped gas all over them and light it up."

"Yeah," you agreed. "They were probably alive."

"Fuck," Shane muttered. "That's a crap way to go."

"Who are these bastards?" you asked as the two of you started walking away. "We're brutal, Shane. I mean you and me, even before the Saviors. But whoever these guys are? They scare the shit out of me. Burning people alive, killing them in their sleep. And that doesn't even touch on the grenade launcher or the search party who got decimated. These guys kill people more than we do."

Shane grunted. "Yeah. I don't think it's any of our communities."

"I don't either," you agreed softly. "This is something new. Probably involves whoever Dwight and Sherry ran into."

"Might be worse than Terminus," Shane said, nudging you.

"Oh, Lord. No, nothing is worse than Terminus," you disagreed, mock-gagging.

Chapter Text

Shane and Maggie came down to visit. You looked at Glenn and sighed.

"We can't-"

He nodded, coughing. "We can't let them see us. They'll break in here no matter what we say. Hershel-"

Hershel nodded. "I'll go."

 

 

You and Glenn listened from behind the door, and you reached over to grab Glenn's hand as Maggie's worried voice asked for him the instant Hershel appeared.

"He said he'd meet me."

"He's resting. So is she, Shane; I can see you trying not to ask. They're fine. I had them helping me with my rounds, and they got tired is all," Hershel said calmly.

"If you need help, I can help you," Maggie offered.

Hershel chuckled. "I don't. I've been keeping them occupied. YN in particular is a handful when she's not busy. Gets bored quick."

You heard Shane's half-laugh. "Yeah. She's a pistol. You sure she's alright?"

"She's no worse than she has been. Neither of them are. Don't worry."

"Daddy, I can come in there and help you-"

"No!" Hershel's refusal was firm, and you squeezed Glenn's hand as you heard Maggie's half-sob. "We need you and Shane up there. Everybody's got jobs to do. You two have to keep us safe."

You flinched as something hit the glass, guessing it was Shane's hand.

Hershel's voice was firm and controlled. "Shane. I know you care for her. Get it together and keep it together. She needs to know you've got it covered up there. Do you know how many times she's started talking about who killed Karen and David? Don't make it harder on her."

You closed your eyes and leaned your head on Glenn's shoulder, picturing Shane's pissed off, worried face as Hershel talked. "Damn it," you whispered.

"Yeah," Glenn whispered back. "I know."

"She better get through this, doc." Shane's voice was raw, enough to have you trying to stand up and go in there, but Glenn held you back and shook his head.

"She will. They could be back with the medicine any minute now. Keep it together for just a little while longer, both of you. It's hard in here, but we're holding it together. We're gonna make it. You have to too."

There was a low exchange you couldn't quite hear, and then Shane's voice. "Fine. Alright, old man, we're trusting you. Tell her I said she better get her criminal ass well, ok? Check in later."

 

 

The stairway was often used as a private smoking section, and you weren't at all surprised to run into Sherry there. You'd been friends with her, loosely, before they ran, despite her working for points and you and Shane moving rapidly from soldiers to upper management. You'd run into her back here a few times, and you'd gotten to talking about what it was like down on the factory floor, her sister's diabetes, your respective relationships.

You'd liked her. She was tough and competent and reminded you of Maggie. That's why it had pissed you off so badly when they ran. It was an idiotic thing to do, especially stealing the medicine her sister needed, and you knew they'd be killed for it. You hadn't wanted to lose another friend. After all, you pretty much didn't have any anymore.

You'd barely seen or spoken to her since they got back, more because of lack of opportunity than anything else. You hesitated when you saw her standing there with a cigarette between her lips and the slightly guilty expression of someone who knew she was doing something not necessarily wrong but definitely on the shady side of right. After a second you offered her a small smile.

"Hey," she said, blowing smoke.

"Hey," you echoed, leaning against the wall opposite her. "Bum one?"

She held out the box without a word, and you took one silently. Both of you stood there and smoked in silence. Finally you sighed.

"You look good," you told her. "Clean."

She snorted. "Don't be a bitch."

"Well, the dress suits you. He likes you," you said, lips twitching in small smile.

She grimaced. "I know. I stand up to him when he's being a dick."

"Yeah, he likes that. To a certain extent. Don't take it too far," you cautioned. "Open defiance isn't good."

"It's a thin line. You walk it well. Don't look too shabby yourself. Not too clean though."

You laughed. "Long day. Busy day."

"Smelly day?" she offered with a smirk.

"Yeah," you agreed. "I need a shower. Maybe a drink. Not together though, I get in trouble when I try that these days." You flicked ash from the end of the cigarette and took another puff. "Hate these things."

She snorted. "Me too."

Silence fell again. You glanced at her and she raised an eyebrow. You sighed and gestured. "Is it worth it?"

"Is it for you?" she asked archly.

"It's not the same," you whispered, but you weren't really sure it wasn't.

She shook her head and dropped her cigarette, grinding it out with the toe of her strappy shoe. "We're alive, aren't we? And hey- he wants a baby."

You winced. "That's a goddamn bad idea," you muttered, trying to shake the memory of Lori's blood spilling hot over your hands. Judith cooing from Beth's arms and reaching for you while you laughed.

"Yeah," Sherry agreed quietly. "Happy family. Well, I better get back. Say hi to Shane for me."

You nodded as she pushed off the wall. "Hey, Sherry."

She turned at the door and looked at you warily.

"He's doing ok. Out on assignment right now."

"I don't know who you mean," she said softly, but she mouthed a 'thank you' to you and you nodded.

 

 

Glenn took a turn on the bag. You'd offered, but he'd snapped at you that he wasn't coughing blood yet, and you needed to rest.

You didn't. You couldn't.

Shane's voice lingered, along with worry about Daryl. And then there was Merle standing in the corner of your cell, laughing his ass off like he was high and asking you what the hell you thought you were doing in here, laying down on the goddamn job.

You wanted to get away from him, so you staggered from cell to cell, checking on people. Hershel caught up to you as you tried to catch your breath outside Doc S's cell.

"What do you think you're doing, young lady?" he asked you dryly as he caught your arm when you tried to stand up too fast.

You smiled at him weakly. "Merle's being a dick in there. Had to get away from him."

"You do know he's not real?" Hershel's voice had taken a worried edge as he touched your forehead with the back of his hand. "Have some more tea."

"Doc," you said gently, and caught his arm. "Save your tea. I'm hallucinating pretty much constantly and I'm coughing blood. I don't make it out of here, do I?"

Hershel looked stricken, and you patted his arm in acceptance.

"It's ok. I'm good. I'll help for as long as I can. I already told Walsh this, but- don't let Daryl put me down. And if you can manage it, don't let Shane do it either. Come on. Let's check on Doc S."

 

 

"Not everyone gets to live. End stage is a point that no one comes back from, or they- or they can't."

You snorted. "That's bullshit, doc."

Doc S glared at you. "You know it as well as I do. I have ears."

Well, ok, you'd give him that one. Hershel sighed and reached for his forehead, and Doc S slapped his hand aside.

"No! You need to focus on the ones that can make it. I know. She knows. I made some more IVs," he said, gesturing weakly.

"Caleb..." Hershel started, but the doctor interrupted him.

"If you're not ready to lose one, you're going to lose them all."

 

 

You were so not in the mood to deal with this, you thought to yourself as you stood in the hallway and looked toward your room. Pacing right in front of your door was Arat.

You shoved a hand through your hair and contemplated how to deal with her once and for all. If you were going to do the thing, you were going to do it well. Negan might have told you to handle her, but you knew how he felt about unnecessary killing. Unless she disobeyed one of your orders in the field or ran or something, you didn't think you could justify actually putting her in the ground.

On the ground- repeatedly- was a completely different matter.

Woman had had the hots for Shane since the moment she set eyes on him, you thought as you leaned a shoulder against the wall and watched her knock on your door. You didn't blame her, but seriously. He was most definitely not available, and that had been made perfectly clear to her from the word go. Well, from the word 'bitch' anyway.

No one opened the door and she knocked again, then glanced around quickly and slid something into the lock. She fiddled a moment as your eyebrows rose, then opened your door and slipped inside.

For real? Bitch was breaking and entering your room? Oh, that was a mistake.

You unsnapped the loop that held your bat and gave the thing a few lazy warm-up swings as you headed silently toward your room. Fat Joey opened his door and stepped out. He froze when he saw you, sandwich halfway to his mouth.

"Oh, shit," he whispered.

You smiled at him, looking forward to the fight you were about get. You pushed your door open the rest of the way with the bat, leaning one shoulder against the frame. Arat had her back to you, going through one of your dresser drawers.

"Find anything interesting?" you asked casually, swinging the bat to your shoulder. Arat jumped. She held a knife that looked vaguely familiar in her hands, and you frowned.

"Hey, that's Jiro's knife," Fat Joey said over your shoulder. "Huh."

You raised an eyebrow at Arat. "What are you doing with Jiro's knife?"

"She's sleeping with him. Didn't you know that?" Fat Joey told you.

You felt yourself starting to smile again. "Really?" you asked, drawing out the word. "That's interesting. Better question- what the fuck do you think you're doing in my room with Jiro's knife, going through my dresser?" You frowned and snorted, shaking your head. "My underwear drawer, no less. Bitch, have you no shame?"

Arat scowled. "You can't prove anything."

"I can prove you were in my room without permission," you shot back.

Arat flipped the knife around and brought her hands into a ready position. You laughed as you shoved off the door frame and took a long step backward. Fat Joey muttered another 'oh shit' and beat a rapid retreat. He didn't go too far though, and you saw movement from the corner of your eye as others were trickling into the hallway.

"Bring it on then," you told Arat with a toss of your head.

 

 

The good doctor had brought in guns. You appreciated that foresight, as well as his suggestion to make sure everyone's doors were shut.

It finally happened, while you and Hershel were closing doors to cells and trying to reassure everyone. One of the men staggered out of his cell and died in a puddle of puked-up blood.

Hershel tried to control it, aware of all the watching eyes, but you pulled your knife anyway. Sasha came staggering with a gurney, and between the three of you you got him loaded.

"Go rest," Hershel commanded Sasha. "Can you make it to your cell?"

She nodded, and he turned to you.

"Don't bother, doc," you told him grimly. "I'm with you till I can't move anymore. Then I'll lock myself in."

Chapter Text

For a while, at the prison, you didn't fight anyone but the dead.

This wasn't the prison, you thought as Arat came at you low and fast, slashing with the knife in her hand.

She was good, but luckily for you, you were better. Arat had been fighting since the dead had risen. You'd been fighting for a damn sight longer than that. You sidestepped her first swing at the last possible second, bringing the butt end of the bat down on her shoulder in a firm rap as you did.

She yelped and whirled on a dime, showing her skill. You shrugged, and this time she approached more cautiously. You were vaguely aware, in the background, of a gathering crowd, but you didn't give a shit. You were already flying on the adrenaline rush of a good brawl.

Arat came in again, expecting you to side step like before. This time, you planted your feet, spun the bat in your hand, and swung it at her outstretched arm two seconds after she committed to the strike. Your bat and her wrist collided harshly, and the knife went flying from her hand as the bones in her wrist shattered. She screamed.

You stepped back and waited.

She picked herself up and circled cautiously this time, eyes narrowed as she searched for her moment. You smirked and winked at her.

Annoying people into coming at you unprepared was one of your specialties.

This time when she attacked in a flurry of kicks and punches, you used the bat and your forearm to block, then broke her nose with a kick of your own. Blood ran down her face, and you followed it up with a whistling swing of the bat that laid her out and cracked at a minimum at least one rib.

You stepped over her as she lay gasping against the pain, twirling the bat in your hand and swinging it toward your shoulder. You stalked toward the man currently looking at you with undisguised lust from the edge of the crowd. Shane winked at you and jerked his head in a 'come on then' move.

"Told you I like watching you finish them," he whispered when you reached him.

You rolled your eyes and looked down as Arat climbed to her feet, holding her arm tightly to her side. "We done now, Arat? Not that I don't enjoy wiping the floor with your ass- and I'm going to enjoy Shane's reaction to watching me wipe the floor with your ass- but I am so tired of you and the chip on your shoulder."

"Oh, she's done," Negan's voice declared.

Everyone hit their knees, including Arat, and you set your bat on the floor as Negan strolled through the Saviors in the hallway. He paused and glanced from you to Arat before letting out a low whistle.

"She didn't even get a shot in, did she?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at you and chuckling. "Boy Toy tried to blow his load watching this one, didn't he?"

You rolled your eyes at Negan. "You told me to handle it."

"Yes I did," Negan agreed, tapping Lucille against the ground. "Oh, get up. Not you, Arat. Stay there."

You rose and hooked your bat back on your belt. Negan stood looking at you, like he was waiting.

You frowned at him. "What?"

"Admit it," he said, leaning in close. "That felt good, didn't it? Fat Joey! Drop that goddamn sandwich and get Arat down to Dr. Carson. Everybody else- leave my biker bitch alone."

You waited until Negan swung Lucille back to his shoulder and strolled away whistling before you glanced at Shane. He had a smirk as he looked back that said he already knew what you were going to say. "He's right. That did feel good."

 

 

Another day, another emergency meeting.

Negan had given Dwight the order to approach when D radioed in that a party of three had left the place. You'd shaken your head and muttered to Shane that they should have waited for another team before attempting it, if what you suspected about this group was true.

Especially when Dwight had said the asshole he'd taken the crossbow off of had been one of the three.

You were outside working on your bike when the guards reported a group coming up hot. You rose, scrubbed the grease from your hands, and snatched up the bat leaning against the bike beside you, snapping it into place as you strode toward the gate to see what was up.

Dwight's caravan came roaring in, and he'd stepped out with a look you recognized all too well. You sighed and grabbed the arm of the nearest Savior.

"Get a message to the boss. Dwight's back, and from the looks of things, the goddamn pooch is having puppies."

Dwight had reported to you that they'd had a friend hidden. He'd killed one of them before they were driven off. It wasn't the one he was aiming for, apparently, and your teeth ground together.

"If you can't use the goddamn weapon, don't fucking carry it," you snarled at him. "Damage report?"

He glared. "I can use it. Just has a bitch of a kick on it."

"Obviously," you muttered. "Have to compensate for that with your stance, moron."

He eyed you. "You shoot, Nameless?"

"Stop calling me Nameless!" you snapped at him. "I used to. Now, what is the motherfucking damage? Big Guy is going to want a full report, D, and trust me- it'll go better for you if it comes through me first."

Dwight had lost five Saviors and the goddamn crossbow. He'd had his dick bitten by someone he'd taken prisoner, and you delivered an entire damn list of jokes, one after the other in rapid succession, to Shane on your way up to the meeting Negan called. Shane was damn near purple from holding in the laughter as you walked into the conference room, whispering the last of them in his ear as you did.

"Something amuse you about this situation, my dear?" Negan asked.

You looked at him. "Actually, yes, boss. Won't lie, Dwight getting his dick bitten by a prisoner is hysterical to me."

Negan's eyes narrowed and he rose slowly, fingertips resting on the table as he glared down the length of it at you. "Well, I am so glad you can find something to laugh at! I hope you laugh your way into a goddamn solution to how we're getting into that community."

You shrugged. "I sent out a scout with a long-range radio to keep an eye on the place and report any activity. I have some ideas already, but they're pretty rough considering I haven't even seen the place myself."

Negan stared wordlessly before his face cleared and he started to chuckle. He picked up Lucille and started pacing, waving you and Shane toward your seats as he walked. "Now, see- that is what we're looking for, people. Hasn't even seen the place, but she is Johnny on the ball!"

"Isn't it Johnny on the spot, sir?" Simon asked, not looking at you.

"It's Johnny where ever I motherfucking want him. It'll be Johnny on the goddamn table with his ass in the goddamn air if that's what I want, isn't it?" Negan roared, whirling and pointed Lucille at Simon in clear threat. "Now unless you have something useful to add, do us all a favor and shut. The fuck. Up!"

Silence dropped over the room.

 

 

You pushed the gurney with Hershel, and stopped him when he raised his knife to take care of the man.

"I'll do it," you told him softly.

"You don't have to. I will."

You shook your head at him and plunged the Governor's knife into the man's skull before he could argue. "We've all got jobs to do, right? This one's always been-"

You broke off in another coughing fit, ending up laying half-over the man's body as you tried to breath clearly. Hershel put a hand on your back and then slowly helped you stand when you were done.

"You need rest. And more tea."

You shook your head. "Hershel. Listen to Doc S. I'm in end stage, man. I know it."

"Damn it, YN!" Hershel yelled.

You jerked and stared at him, as Rick's voice called his name from the other side of the glass.

You slid from leaning on Hershel to leaning on the glass. "Hey, Deputy. Good to see you. We're burning them behind the block."

Rick looked from you to Hershel and back. "Are you two ok?"

You waved him off without responding. Hershel stepped closer.

"He's the third one we've lost. I talked to him yesterday about Steinbeck. He told me a quote. 'A sad soul will kill quicker than a germ.' That's why I didn't want them to see what happens. I know they know, but I didn't want them to see it right now," he said, sounding exhausted and frightened for the first time.

"They're seeing you, Hershel," Rick told him steadily. "They see you keep going. Even after all the choices keep getting taken away."

Hershel sighed and nodded, glancing at you. You offered him a smile as Rick looked at you as well.

"Are you ok?" he asked tightly. "Shane said you were resting when he came down last."

You tried to laugh, but your lungs didn't like that. "I'm fine, Rick. What's the situation up there?"

"When we get past this thing, it's not going to be like it was, is it?" Rick asked, ignoring your question.

Great, you thought to yourself as he and Hershel started back and forth about Rick catching a break and there being a plan. And you were the one with the fever.

Finally you banged on the glass sharply. "Hey!"

They both jumped and looked at you. You glared from one of them to the other. "Look here, boys. I'm seeing two of each of you; there's a ringing in my left ear that will not go away; and my dead big brother is laughing at me and doing a line of coke off the dead guy over there on the gurney," you told them, squinting as you tried to focus. "And yet somehow, I am holding to together better than you two. Can you- please- just-"

The coughing started again and you slid all the way to the floor this time, Hershel going to one knee beside you even while you waved him away. When you were done, you looked up and saw Rick kneeling on his side, hand braced on the glass as he looked down at you.

"Anyway," you said weakly. "Can you two please stop the philosophy debate and talk about what the fuck is happening topside?"

Rick held your eyes and sighed. "I need to talk to you about Carol."

 

 

You were still sitting around the table the next morning, only now everyone was out of their various jackets and other outer layers, Lucille was in her own chair, everyone looked exhausted, and Negan had lost anything resembling good humor as plans were debated, argued, refined, and eventually rejected because of too many goddamn variables.

"Why is it so hard to come up with a viable solution to the problem of one community?" Negan ground out through his clenched teeth. He was rubbing his eyes with one hand, the other flat on the table.

You drummed your fingers on the table as you thought, until Simon shot you a glare.

"Will you quit that?" he demanded, and you looked at him confused.

Shane leaned over and set his fingers on top of yours. "Sweetheart, you're even makin' me a little crazy. At the very least, pick a new song. It can even be a another goddamn Stones song if you want."

You stilled your fingers and shot him an apologetic look. "The reason we aren't getting anywhere, boss, is they have a rocket launcher. Or they did, and we don't know if that has changed. No matter what, against a rocket launcher, we lose."

"So find a way we win!" Negan yelled, slamming his hand on the table. "Find me a way!"

"Send a team out there," you said finally. "Get them in place. They'll send another small party out eventually, but this time instead of everyone going out at once, we use stealth. Lure them into a trap. Roadblock all the roads out from this Alexandria Safe Zone- and I mean all of them."

Shane grunted. "Didn't work so great for the Governor. We found a way to slip through."

"The Governor was an egotistical maniac who used untrained militia to do his dirty work. He didn't have the numbers or the training that we do. It can work," you snapped back. "When we have their people, we have their community. Kill one, dramatically, and they'll fall in line like everyone else."

You didn't want to think about the Governor. You didn't want to think about the prison and your life there and your people; about the way you'd failed to keep them safe or avenge Merle.

Your fingers started drumming again, and no one stopped you as you tapped out Def Leppard and tried to drown out the memories in your head with rock and roll.

Shane's words came back to you now, whispered in your ear on a cold night as the two of you huddled in a closet in an abandoned house and prayed the herd would move past you.

"Come on, sweetheart. Don't think about it. Here, give me your hand."

You had, and he'd set it against his chest. "Tap out a song, see how long it takes me to guess. Come on, it's a game. Take both our minds off it, criminal."

You'd tried to pull away, telling him it was dumb and you were fine. He'd held your hand in place, whispering in your ear until you gave up, bit your lip, and finally tapped out the rhythm to "Born to Run." Before you knew it, he'd distracted you with insane guesses until you fell asleep on his shoulder, his arm warm around you and your hand still on his chest.

"Tramps like us, sweetheart," he'd whispered in your ear to wake you up a few hours later.

Back in your current stressful reality, Negan was nodding slowly. "I like it. Why the fuck did it take all damn night to come up with?"

You shrugged. "I hadn't made it to Leppard yet. Shit, boss, I don't know. We've been up all fucking night. Who's got a goddamn map?"

"Better watch your fucking mouth, biker babe," Negan told you absently, but he snapped his fingers and pointed at Gavin. "Gavin, map!"

Chapter Text

The sunlight stabbed right into the center of your headache, and you grimaced at it. "Wish I had sunglasses."

Shane snorted. "Your own damn fault you don't. You keep breaking them, so everyone refuses to bring them back for you."

You made a face at him. "Yeah, yeah. Can't help it. I fight a lot."

"I've noticed," he said with a teasing smile. He ran a finger over your cheek, just under your eye. "Looking tired, sweetheart."

You rolled your eyes at him. "Come on, Walsh. We were both up all night. Of course I'm looking tired. Stop hovering. It's been months since I had so much as a cold and damn near a year since I was really sick."

He sighed. "You damn near died. I'm gonna worry. Eat a vegetable. Take a nap."

"I will do one of those things," you told him with a laugh. "When I have a chance."

The door behind you opened and Dwight, Simon, Gavin, and Regina stepped out. You nodded to them all. Negan had put you in charge of this shindig, and you were feeling the damn pressure. Simon's fake smile had a distinct maliciousness to it this morning, you noticed, and you had to work hard to keep from sneering at him.

"Here's the plan, people," you said firmly. "We've got the locations for roadblocks marked on everyone's maps. Crews are mobilizing as we speak. We hit the main roads first, get the big stuff set up, and then hit the side roads. Our crews are going to be split up for this, and we don't know if they still have one of our radios or radios of their own. We're going to assume they do. Keep chatter to a minimum, and stick to Theta or Gamma channels."

They all nodded, pulling radios from their belts and adjusting the channels. You looked at Regina.

"Regina, you're heading back to your outpost, right?"

She sighed, looking irritated. "Got a problem reported in late last night. Boss wants me to go on and handle it. He think there's enough people here. Shane's taking over my road blocks."

That one was news to you. You glanced over at him and raised an eyebrow. He shrugged. "Just hadn't made it there yet."

"Uh-oh, trouble in paradise," Simon said to Dwight.

You pinned him with an annoyed look. "Only if you make trouble for us, Simon. Ok, lets go over this one more time. Regina, catch you later."

She nodded again as she pushed past you. "Good luck, everyone."

"YN! We're ready down here," Laura yelled from the courtyard. You waved a hand at her, surveying the convoy. It stretched through the courtyard and back into the compound, and you suppressed another surge of worry.

If you fucked this one up, it was your head on the chopping block. Except, of course, that Negan was Negan. If you fucked this one up, it wasn't you who'd take the punishment.

It was Shane.

 

 

Sasha had collapsed half-in and half-out of her cell.

Hershel wanted you to lean on him as you made your way back, but you'd scoffed. "I am not leaning on the man with one leg, doc. Shit. I can- I can get there."

When you found Sasha, he crouched and checked her breathing and her pulse. You tried to help Hershel wrestle her into the bed, but he glared at you.

"YN. You are falling apart in front of my eyes. Go lay down and get some rest. Close your cell door."

You chuckled and patted what you hoped was the real Hershel's face. There were two of him, after all. "Aye, aye, sir," you whispered.

 

 

At the last minute, you changed your mind and went to check on Glenn.

Later, Hershel would ask you what the fuck you'd thought you were doing. Well, Hershel didn't say fuck, but it was implied in his tone. You weren't really sure why you did, but something said 'check Glenn', so off you went to check on Glenn.

He was doing CPR on Henry as you slowly climbed the steps, and you heard him give a strangled-off cry for Hershel. He started coughing and you- somehow- pulled yourself to a little more together and headed for him faster.

"Glenn?" you called as he collapsed. He lay on his back, wheezing and unable to breath like Henry had been, and you dissolved into coughing as you collapsed beside him.

When you got it under control, you saw Henry's hand move and his eyes pop open. "Oh, shit," you whispered hoarsely.

"YN?" Lizzy asked from the doorway, sounding scared.

You looked at her as you pushed frantically at Glenn, trying to get him into a position where his airway would clear. You were pretty sure the man's lungs were full of blood, though, and no amount of airway-clearing was going to help with that.

You needed the tube and bag currently down Henry's dead throat. Fuck.

"Call- Hershel!" you rasped to Lizzy, crawling along the floor toward the zombie starting to rise and looking at you and Glenn with hungry, hungry eyes. You pulled out the Governor's knife as Lizzy screamed Hershel's name.

 

 

The other lieutenants did a final check of their groups. You'd done yours and were looking over your bike now, making sure you had everything you needed in place. It was going to be a long damn day on the road for you, and you smiled when you saw, already packed and in the saddle bag, water, trail food, and an apple. You'd shot a fond glance toward where Shane berated some fool for something, and checked the ammo you had in the other side.

You slid a handgun into the holster you'd attached permanently to the body of the bike, just below the handlebars where you could reach it easily, and snapped it in.

"So, you want to yell at me now or later?" Shane asked from behind you.

You looked at him as you pulled your automatic rifle from your shoulder and popped the magazine. You checked it, cleared the barrel, and reloaded, all without saying a word.

"Look, sweetheart, what do you want me to do? Tell the big man no?" he asked with a shrug.

You sighed. "I'm not mad you're taking a group, asshole. I'm mad you wasted time telling me to eat a vegetable and didn't tell me you'd been reassigned. Every single one of those people, especially fucking Simon, are waiting on me to fail today, Walsh," you told him seriously.

He scoffed, crossing his arms. "You think I don't know that?"

"I know you do. I think you just don't know what the stakes are if I fuck up," you snapped.

"You'll get on the shit list. Criminal, the boss man likes you too damn much to really punish you. Besides, your record speaks for itself," Shane said, looking confused and not worried.

Your laugh was hard and bitter. "It's not me he'll punish, Shane. It's you."

Shane rolled his eyes. "Been punished before, sweetheart. Don't worry about me."

"You gotten the iron before?" you hissed at him, eyes narrowing. "The gauntlet might not bother you, a few days in the hole either of us can handle, no sweat. The iron could kill you. Or he'd do worse. He could put you on the line for a week. He could put you on the goddamn fence if I fuck up badly enough." You shoved a hand through your hair and looked away from him, swallowing hard.

Shane grabbed your clenched fist and smoothed your fingers flat with his before pulling gently until you came to his arms. "I won't end up on the fence. He's not going to do anything to me, sweetheart. You think I don't know his game? He says the same shit to me about you, if I fail. Criminal, he plays us against each other to keep us loyal like he does everyone."

You shivered, wrapping your arms around him and pressing your face against his shoulder as he ran a hand over your hair. "I can't risk it, Shane. I can't- I can't lose you."

"You won't. Sweetheart, come on," he said, pushing you back so he could look in your eyes. "I need your head in the game, girl. Get it together. We've all got jobs to do."

You scowled at him. "You really think that'll help me right now?"

"I do," he said with a smirk. "That, and this."

He leaned in and kissed you, and you sighed into it.

"I more than tolerate you, Nameless. Keep your head in the game and stay alive. I'll see you in a few hours."

You smiled at him slightly, annoyed to find that actually did make you feel better. "I more than tolerate you, too. Be careful."

"Hell, girl, I'm unkillable," Shane said with a smirk. "Remember that asshole, with the-?" he made a gesture toward his throat.

You grimaced. "Why would you bring that up? I thought you were trying to make me worry less!"

He laughed as he started to walk away. "We're alive. He ain't. That's about as good a story as it gets these days, sweetheart.”

“Fuck you, Walsh!” you yelled, swinging onto your bike.

“Save it for tonight, Nameless!”

Damn if he didn’t have you grinning as you rode out after all. He was too good at that, you thought as you hit the main road and pulled over to watch as the different groups started breaking off. Each of the lieutenants nodded, waved, or- in Shane’s case anyway- blew you a kiss as they headed to their own paths.

Bringing up that asshole had been a good move. You didn’t really know when waking up to find someone with a knife biting into Shane’s throat had become a good memory, but it was.

The man had been hungry and creepy as fuck, and he’d made one particularly idiotic mistake. He’d put the knife to Shane’s throat and not yours.

You’d dropped him in seconds, and while Shane had gotten sliced deep enough to give you a panic attack and give him a thin scar, he was fine. The asshole had died, the asshole’s friend who came out of nowhere screaming had been subdued, and you’d beaten the shit out of him until he gave up the location of a few more of their friends.

You’d patted the prisoner’s bloody cheek and plunged your knife into his skull just behind his ear as you thanked him for his cooperation. You and Shane slid through the dark and checked out their campsite, eventually deciding there were a few too many of them to take on by yourselves and instead fading back into the night.

Right after you'd shot the fucker who had Shane, you'd scrambled toward him in a blind panic at the blood on his shirt. You’d had your hand pressed to Shane’s throat to stop the bleeding, tears in your eyes as you babbled at him that he’d be fine, when he reached up and set his hand on your cheek.

“I love you too, sweetheart,” he’d said, amused, swiping tears from your cheek and leaving a blood smear in their place.

You hadn’t known you’d said it, but you’d known you felt it when pure terror set in the moment you'd opened your eyes and seen that damn knife at his throat.

Chapter Text

There was more growling coming from behind you, and you accepted the fact that you were going to die. Whether it was from whatever this goddamn plague was or if you were just going to get bitten here and now, trying to protect Lizzy and Glenn, it was going to happen.

You had a moment to be grateful you'd at least said goodbye to Shane before the walker came at you and you rolled. He fell, and you tried to sit up and stab him and instead spent a few agonizing moments checking to see if your insides could physically rise through your throat just from coughing.

After that, things got even more hazy.

You heard Lizzy's voice calling to Henry, and when you managed to do more than cough and cry- and you really hoped you were crying, not leaking blood from your eyes, because if that was happening, you really were dead- there was no walker by you or the slowly dying Glenn. That should have been a good thing, except you needed that particular walker's hardware, and there were gunshots and screams coming from down below.

Then Merle was standing over you, and the bastard was smirking. "Now what, baby girl? Ya gonna just lay there and die? Let the Asian kid die? Puddle of your own blood and fluid should have been my way to go, not yours."

"Oh, shut up, would you? You're not even here," you whispered to him with a scowl.

He chuckled. "Damn Darylina said the same thing once. How ya know I ain't here? Girl, get the fuck up and save ya damn self!"

 

 

“Does this look like a roadblock to you?” you snapped at the Savior in front of you. This was the fourth one you’d checked that hadn’t been done right, and your patience was running thin. Very, very, very thin.

The kind of thin that lead to people dying painful deaths thin.

“Uh,” the Savior said articulately. He swallowed hard and looked down at your side.

You realized your fingers were tapping furiously on your bat, playing the drum line of a Judas Priest song at an even faster tempo than the Priest themselves played it. You didn’t bother to stop yourself, since so far, you hadn’t killed anyone.

That meant the goddamn Priest was working. You narrowed your eyes the incompetent idiot in front of you and took a half-step closer.

“Do you know why Negan lets me carry around this baby?” you asked softly.

He shook his head, eyes going glassy and wide. You smiled.

“Once upon a time, there was a girl and a guy just trying to stay the fuck alive, though neither of them were really certain why they were doing so. They got picked up by a group of crazy motherfuckers, who took one look at the two of them and decided they were compatibly crazy motherfuckers as well. The girl mouthed off to their goddamn leader, because she’s just a bitch like that, and their leader did not take too kindly to a display of open defiance and to someone stealing his signature look. Leather jacket, baseball bat, bad attitude- it was kind of his thing. So he made her a deal: if she made it out, she could keep either the bat or the man.” You paused there, and watched as the Savior looked confused. All around you, activity had stopped and people were staring.

“The girl, of course, agreed, but added that by the time she was done, he’d be so damn impressed he’d let her have both,” you continued, smirking at him coldly. “She was right.”

“What-” Whoever had started to speak cut themselves off sharply as you shot an annoyed glance at the other Saviors.

“What did she have to do?” you asked softly. “Well. That’s the part of the story that changes every time, isn’t it? Ask your friends, see what they say. Take your pick of answers and fix this fucking roadblock!” You yelled the last bit, and everyone jumped. “I want that wall impenetrable, do you hear me? This one is important, you assholes. Let’s fucking move!”

 

 

You shook your head and sat up, ready to yell at Merle some more. Merle was gone.

"Ok," you whispered. "Ok. I'm insane, but hey, whatever- whatever works."

You started crawling because getting all the way to your feet just didn't seem like an option. In the hallway, you got a look down at the lower level, where chaos reigned as walkers roamed and munched. More seemed to be staggering from cells that hadn't yet been closed.

Guilt was going to tear you up later if the zombies didn't do it right now.

Down the hall from you, Lizzy was leading Henry away, keeping up a steady monologue to hold the walker's attention. Then she tripped and Henry fell on top of her, and she started screaming.

Yeah, ok, that was it. You didn't have any other choices at this point.

 

 

The radio crackled as you moved from one roadblock to another.

“Biker, copy?”

That was Negan’s voice. You stopped the bike instantly, bracing it upright and grabbing the radio hooked onto your shoulder.

“This is Biker.”

“Well, hello, darlin’. Your plan going well so far?”

You heard the edge in his voice and your eyes narrowed. “As far as I know. Ordered radio silence unless there was an emergency. So far, all primaries have been completed and secondaries are on schedule. I’m on my way to rendezvous with with Jiro right now.”

There was a pause while you ran through your mental list of things that could possibly have gone wrong badly enough to have Negan himself contacting you. There weren’t all that many, to be honest, but the ones that could go wrong were.... terrifying.

“Give me your location, Biker. I’m coming out myself, and believe me, babe- we need to talk.”

Motherfucking hell on a shit sandwich, you thought grimly.

 

 

You got to your feet somehow and kind of fell on top of the walker. You rolled with him, under the bars of the guard rail and onto the cage net that separated the upper and lower floors.

"Well, this wasn't the plan," you panted, laying on your back while the world swam above you. To be honest, you hadn't even known someone could roll under those things. Learn something new every day.

Henry tugged at your shoe as he tried to get to you.

Hershel was yelling, and you focused on that for a minute as he leaned over the railing with a terrified expression.

You waved a hand at him absently, shaking your foot to get Henry's scrabbling hand off your leg. You were safe enough with the tube in his throat and your heavy jeans keeping him from scratching you. "I'm-"

The coughing started, so you just waved Hershel off again, and pantomimed getting a gun. Then you were too busy with your malfunctioning lungs to pay attention to what he was doing.

 

 

You were leaning against the bike when Negan’s truck arrived. He stepped out and you went to your knees, figuring better safe than sorry, since you had absolutely no idea just how far up shit creek you happened to be right now.

He gestured to you impatiently. “Get the fuck up.”

“What’s happened, Boss?” you asked.

He chuckled and pointed in the direction you’d been headed, toward where Jiro’s group should have be set up. “Have you been up there yet, darlin’?”

You shook your head and he nodded, running his hand over the stubble on his face.

“I haven’t either. Now, I am out here because Jiro called in on the wrong goddamn channel and said he had a car approaching. Then the last thing we heard...” he paused and looked at you significantly, and your teeth ground together.

This so wasn’t going to be good, was it?

“The last thing to come over the radio was shooting and screaming. Now, imagine how I feel when my biker babe is in charge and things start going sideways. I get a little,” he rolled his shoulders and swung Lucille in a textbook batter’s swing.

You crossed your arms, shoving down the shiver of fear. Negan was like a shark with blood- show any hint of fear and you were done for. You shrugged at him with deliberate casualness, lifting one eyebrow with a fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence.

“Well, if he wasn’t using the right channel, how was I supposed to know? There’s bound to be a few glitches in the plan. That’s why I’m out here supervising personally.”

Negan chuckled and pointed at you, resting Lucille on the ground. “No, darlin’, that’s why I am out here supervising personally. Now, we are going to ride on down there to where Jiro is supposed to be. If we find what I am afraid we are going to find, we are going to have us one helluva lengthy conversation.”

You nodded, ignoring the rushing wave of fear and anger that threatened to swamp you.

 

 

You had severe gaps in your memory, you thought as you wrestled the walker. For example, you couldn't remember, for a moment, just what the absolute fucking hell you were doing playing Twister with this bastard.

It occurred to you that your hand was clamped tightly around something, and that was part of why you were having so much trouble with the zombie. You focused on the thing in your hand and it turned out to be a knife.

That was useful, you thought, and brought it up and into the base of the walker's neck.

He flopped down on top of you, no longer trying to burrow into your stomach, and you took a little rest then.

"Oh, fuck, Glenn," you said as someone started shooting somewhere rather close by.

Ok. Ok, you needed the bag and the tube. Luckily, they were currently inches from your face, and you-

You lost track of reality a little, but you had the bag clutched in one hand and the knife in the other and you were currently trying to get over the guard rail. Someone was calling your name, screaming it really, and it was a voice you liked and wanted to respond to.

You were a little busy with the whole concept of breathing, moving, and not passing out right now though.

Chapter Text

Someone's hands were tugging at you.

"Glenn," you croaked, holding up the bag. "Get- to Glenn-"

You felt a hand on your face as you started coughing again.

"I'll be back," Hershel said gently, and took the bag and tube from your hands.

You pulled yourself over the rail and started crawling toward where you were fairly certain you saw a shotgun. Actually, you saw about five shotguns, all of them spinning in circles, but you were getting pretty good at deciphering what was reality and what was-

Huh. Someone was coming up the stairs. You reached for what you thought was the real shotgun, but you missed. Or it wasn't there. Or maybe you weren't there. No, you were pretty sure you were there, you decided as you frowned and tried again.

Your fingers landed on something and you tried to get a good grip, but you started coughing again, and then you couldn't- you couldn't-

You're wheezing, a tiny, reasonable part of your brain informed you. There's fluid filling your lungs, probably blood, and you're drowning in it.

You snidely told that reasonable part to shut the fuck up and save drowning on dry land for a later party trick because whoever was coming up those stairs had blood pouring out of their eyes and there were kids and people you cared about up here, damn it.

 

 

You stared at the spiked-studded car and thought about walker traps outside prison gates. Your fingers twitched, and you started drumming AC/DC and let the lyrics fill your mind and drive those thoughts away.

“What the hell are you playing now? You a goddamn drummer in another life?” Negan asked as you crouched beside one of the bodies.

You scoffed and touched the man’s neck with one hand. “No, not a drummer. Eighties hard rock obsessed, but not musically inclined.”

“Then what the fuck is with the constant drumming? Been meaning to ask for months.”

You switched over to the Clash as you studied footprints and drag marks and other disturbances in the gravel. This didn’t make any sense, and you started to wonder if you’d forgotten some of Daryl’s lessons.

Thinking his name ripped through you and shattered your illusion of control. You drew in a deep breath and glared at Negan. “Why did you name your goddamn bat Lucille? We all have ways to cope, asshole.”

Negan chuckled, the Saviors he’d brought as an escort looking full on panicked behind him. “Shit, darlin’. Looks like I hit a goddamn nerve. Drum away, long as you can tell me just what in the actual fuck went down here.”

“Jiro was stupid,” you said succinctly. “Beyond that, this car with the spikes came up. He shot at it. The occupant or occupants shot back, and shot better than our boys did.”

Negan rubbed at his forehead.

“Then-” you hesitated, looking around again, not really sure what you were seeing.

“Then?” he prompted with a wave of Lucille in your direction.

You sighed and moved toward the edge of the road, squinting out over the field. “This is where I start guessing, boss, you understand? This isn’t like reading a fucking magic eight ball. From the looks of things, another car came up. Someone took a knife to our boys, put down one who’d turned and started in on the all-you-can-eat buffet. But there’s blood over by the car with spikes and no bodies we don’t recognize." You squinted and looked around at what you found yourself mentally referring to as the crime scene. Shane was rubbing off on you a little too much.

“Plus, Jiro’s crew is two bodies short,” you added. "Could have zombied, but-” you broke off and shook your head again. “I don’t know, boss. Whole thing is just weird.”

Negan strolled up and looked over the field like you did. “Well,” he said after a minute. “That’s a pretty damn clear analysis. Jiro was stupid.”

You laughed at that, a genuine laugh that Negan's asshole behavior did manage to get from you at times. You actually didn't mind the guy most of the time; even his show boating nonsense made sense to you. Negan glanced down at you from the corner of his eye and smirked, and you shook your head at him and rolled your eyes.

“Well, my biker babe. Get back to your intended schedule. I’m going to stay out here in the field, as it were. Not that goddamn field though. I'll hook up with Simon, keep a close and personal eye on this project.”

You nodded and grabbed your radio. “I’m going to send another crew to this road. We need to make sure this exit is covered more than ever.”

“That’s my girl,” Negan muttered, pointing Lucille your way for a minute as he sauntered back toward his truck.

 

 

Mind over matter wasn't really working for you anymore, and there was a zombie looking at you. This one didn't have anything to keep it from biting you, and you weren't even wearing your leather jacket to turn it teeth away, since you'd opted for comfort with one of Daryl's flannels instead.

Fashion was going to get you killed, you thought absently. This was the last time you chose comfort over your aesthetic, that's for damn sure.

The zombie was coming at you in slow motion, and then suddenly it wasn't. It was falling over you, something wet was on your face, and your ears were ringing.

Ok. Yeah, you- you were just going to close your eyes and sleep now, you decided.

 

 

Hands were tugging at you, a frantic voice calling your name.

You groaned and opened your eyes, but that didn't clear matters up any, since you could have sworn you saw-

"Walsh?" you mumbled, and his terrified expression changed to instant relief.

"Hey, criminal. Ok. You’re ok. You’re gonna be fine. I got you, ok?" he whispered, one hand on your cheek and the other on your shoulder. He planted a kiss on your forehead while you tried to figure out what the hell to say, but you started hacking again before you could get anything out.

"Hershel!" Shane yelled over his shoulder. He shifted around until he was seated and pulled you into his lap, your cheek against his shoulder as you coughed.

You tried to push away from him, turning as you spat more blood. He didn't need to be in here. He didn't need to be this close, damn it; he was going to get sick too and-

"Stop fighting me, you damn idiot," he growled at you. "I'm already in here; might as well let me hold onto you so you don’t end up face first in the floor like I fucking found you."

"Don't- get-"

"Shut up, sweetheart. Just shut up. I'm not going anywhere."

 

 

You opened your eyes slowly, licking dry lips as you did.

"Hey, baby," Daryl said softly from beside you, and you turned to look at him.

You smiled, reaching up a hand and laying it on his cheek. "Hey, babe. You look like shit."

"Ya seen yourself recently?" he shot back, but there were tears in his eyes and circles under them. He grabbed your hand in his and brought it to his lips. "Shit, baby. Don't do that again."

"What'd I do?" you protested mildly. "I just took a nap until you got here."

He laughed weakly. "Yeah? Not what Shane says. Hershel either."

You tangled the fingers of your free hand in his hair and closed your eyes again. "Well, maybe I did a little work. We all had jobs to do, after all."

He sighed. "Scoot over."

When you were curled against him and he was holding on to you tightly, you finally asked. "Hey, Dixon?"

He grunted.

"What the hell happened?"

 

 

“Biker babe, come in.” Your radio crackled and you grabbed at in irritation.

You were staring at some red-haired asshole in an RV, slowly making a three point turn and heading back up the road in the direction he’d come.

“Biker here,” you snapped.

“Ooh, temper, temper, darlin’. Got a job for you. Get your sexy ass on that badass bike and head back to Sanctuary.”

Your eyebrows shot up and you stared at the radio in your hand like you could burn a hole through it and into Negan’s head on the other end of the line.

“Excuse me? Can you repeat those instructions?” you said, hearing the incredulous edge in your voice.

Negan’s chuckle came through the static. “I said, get your sexy ass on that badass bike and head back to Sanctuary.”

“Yeah, ok, that’s what I thought I heard,” you muttered at the road, watching the RV make tracks. You started drumming Petty on your bat to drown out thoughts of another RV and- more importantly- the people another RV brought to mind. You pressed down the button and spoke into the radio. “May I ask why? This is working. We just turned away some redheaded fucker in an RV without even moving a muscle.”

“Oh, it is working. It is working so goddamn well, that when my hot as shit wife Sherry broke radio silence to report a problem with some of my other hot as shit wives, I thought to myself- why don’t I send my left hand girl?”

You ground your teeth together, fingers moving from Petty to Zepplin as your irritation rose. You hated ‘left hand girl’ more than ‘biker babe’. He used biker babe to irritate Shane, though it didn't work; but he used left hand girl to irritate Simon. That tended to put Simon at your throat, and you really didn’t want to have to show that man which of you would come out on top.

You missed being a foot soldier enough as it was. You didn’t want even more goddamn leadership responsibility.

“Now, I can feel what you’re wondering. This is not a punishment, darlin’. You are still very much in my good graces, especially with how this day is working out, and your pretty boy toy is doing swimmingly as well. He sends his love. Now, get the fuck back to Sanctuary and figure out what my lovely wife was screeching about so damn hysterically.”

You heard the order in Negan’s tone and let out a vile string of profanity that had the Saviors nearest you edging away. You realized abruptly that you’d stopped drumming on the bat and had it gripped tightly in your hand now.

“As you wish, boss,” you growled into the radio, and hooked the bat back in the loop before clipping the radio onto your shoulder.

You jumped down from the bed of the truck you’d been standing on and headed for your bike, gesturing at Laura as you went.

“Stay here until you get the signal. It’ll probably be after dark. Good fucking work, boys and girls. Keep it up, we all go home happy tonight.”

Chapter Text

Turned out, you learned as you sat in the common area with a blanket around your shoulders, water in front of you, and an IV attached to your arm, what had happened was wilder than you could have imagined. And given your rather vivid hallucinations of Merle, you were able to imagine a lot.

Daryl sat beside you, arm around you. Shane leaned on the table with his arms crossed as they both filled you in on what had been going on and they picked at you mercilessly about what you'd missed. You were smiling and laughing, but you could read the hints of barely-passed fear in their faces and their voices.

Daryl's group had run into problem after problem, including several close calls that had you clutching his hand in anxiety. He smiled softly, kissed your fingers, and said it was nothing. His eyes had lingered on Bob hostilely as the medic hooked up your IV, and you glanced between them and wondered just what the hell that was all about.

Shane asked outright, and Daryl shrugged. "Had us a little dust up. Nothin' major. Bob knows what's up."

"Okay then," you muttered, exchanging confused and amused glances with Shane. "What about you, Officer? What's your end of the story look like?"

Shane ran a hand through his hair and grimaced. "Rick and Carol went out. Discovered Carol killed Karen and David, and Rick was going nuts over his decision not to bring her back."

"Yeah, we had a chat about that too," you muttered, grimacing. Frankly, you did not at all support that decision. This was the same man who'd considered turning Michonne over to the Governor, after all, and here he was pissed that Carol had tried to protect the community? Didn't make sense to you.

"I heard. He told me you yelled at him between your attempts at recreating a no-smoking infomercial," Shane said with a sly grin your way.

You rolled your eyes and flipped him off. "I don't smoke, asshole."

"Whatever," he shot back. "Fences were backed up. Rick, Maggie, and I had been workin' on bracing the damn things when we heard shots from A. Rick sent me and Maggie in to see what was going on, said he could handle the fence. I didn't know what to do, man," he said softly, looking at Daryl.

Daryl grunted and held out a hand to Shane. "Shit choice either way, brother," Daryl muttered. Shane clapped his hand into Daryl's as he continued. "Glad ya went. She needed ya."

Shane snorted when you sighed. "Yeah, she did. Dumbass was two seconds from walker bait, hacking up a lung on the stairs when Maggie and I got in there."

"Two lungs," you muttered, sipping water. "And an intestine. You saved my bacon, Walsh. Ooh, bacon."

Daryl started laughing. "Ain't got any more pigs, remember? Bacon'll have to wait."

You mock-pouted. "Come on, Dixon. I cheated death like seven times, can't you find me a damn pig?"

"I'll get right on that, baby, just as soon you're off this IV."

You rolled your eyes at him. "So when did the fence come down?" you asked Shane.

"While I was savin' your ass. Rick and Carl took out a whole damn herd on their own."

"We rolled up right in the aftermath," Daryl said quietly. "Hauled ass into A, saw the bodies. Hershel and Maggie were workin' on keepin' Glenn alive, Shane was doin' fuckin' CPR on ya, and Bob got busy right away. Ain't never been so scared." He lifted his hand and brushed your hair back from your face, staring at you intently.

Shane shook his head as you leaned a little harder into Daryl.

"You ain't kidding, man," he said grimly, exchanging a look over your head. "Couldn't believe it when Dixon ran in. What the hell were you doing out in that mess, anyway? You were so far gone, you were talking to Merle at one point. When you could get any words out between the coughing and the damn blood."

You shrugged. "I had a job to do."

An explosion rattled the whole prison.

 

 

You were positively fucking fuming as you pulled through the hastily opened Sanctuary gates, so much so that instead of slowing as you approached, you opened the throttle.

It was reckless, dangerous, and a waste of Negan’s precious fucking resources, but you didn’t care. You slid through the gap in the gate so fast you only caught the 'f' of the guard’s shouted ‘fuck’ before you were screaming to a halt as you turned the bike, one leg out and braced.

You dropped the kickstand and swung off, glancing with a bit of petty satisfaction at the half-moon of burned rubber on the ground where you’d fishtailed the rear tire. The door clanged open as you stalked toward the stairs, already drumming a beat on the bat and humming absently to yourself. You pointed to the Savior with a rifle, clearly one of the guards for the poor shits working the fence in their sweats, who looked at you with undisguised terror.

“You! Put that away and have the saddle bags emptied. Take everything up to my room, and yes, I do know precisely what’s in there. I will hold you responsible. Then get one of those bastards working for points to clean the rubber off the ground before Negan gets back.”

Sherry stood at the top of the stairs, arms crossed and eyes strained. She flashed you a smirk as you took them two at a time. “Working out some frustrations?” she asked in a low voice.

“Just tell me what’s so fucking wrong you had to radio Negan?” you snapped at her. “You know I’m supposed to be out there.”

“Shit. You really are a bitch sometimes. You know, I almost outrank you now,” she said as you wrenched open the door.

You scoffed. “Sure. Whatever. Just tell me what the fuck is wrong.”

She sighed. “Upstairs, in the wives’ quarters. It’s secured, but we had a death.”

“You had a what?” you whirled to face her, eyes wide. “Did you handle it?”

She lifted an eyebrow. “And get my manicure dirty? I think not. We aren’t allowed and you know it. Besides, YN, I’m pretty sure she killed herself. I’m not messing with that, even to put down a walker.”

“Who was it?” you asked, rubbing your head. “No, wait, more importantly- where is it and what do you mean by secured?”

“Upstairs, like I said. She’s locked in the bathroom where she died. And her name is Jami.”

You shot her a scornful look as you strode down the hall, fingers drumming again as you went. “It isn’t anyone anymore, Sherry. You’ve got to figure that shit out, you know. You’re too damn soft.”

“And you’re so hard you’re practically cruel,” she retorted pleasantly. “To each their own. I keep these girls as safe as I can. I want to know who helped her.”

“You think someone did?” you asked, ignoring the cruel comment. She wasn’t wrong.

She shrugged. “You tell me. You’re the one married to the cop. You know how to investigate.”

 

 

They tried to keep you inside, but you ripped the IV out of your arm and followed them a heartbeat after they slammed the door closed.

You slid out of the cell block and froze when you heard the voice.

"We need to talk."

Your hands started to shake as you ducked back inside the cell block and headed toward your cell. You grabbed your belt and strapped it on, snapped your thigh holster into place, and snatched up your rifle.

"What's happening?" Glenn asked as you hit the cell door.

"Stay here," you told him grimly, brushing past him as you headed back outside.

 

You came up behind Shane and Daryl, and both of them glared at you. You stared flatly for a minute, then eased around to see the situation.

The Governor had a mother fucking, honest to God tank. And he had Hershel and Michonne.

In the blink of an eye, you were standing in a barn, seeing Merle wrapped in chains, snarling and snapping at you. You stepped backward and Shane caught your arm as Rick yelled that he didn't make decisions anymore.

"Get your ass back inside. Go," Shane snapped.

You shoved his hand off with a sneer. "Are you kidding me? He's mine."

"Baby, ya look like death. Get the fuck back, now."

You glared at Daryl, too. "Don't order me around, Dixon. It doesn't work, and both of you know it."

 

 

Rick went down to talk to him. You took two steps toward him, and he turned and shook his head at you. "Not this time, YN."

"I'm supposed to watch your back, Deputy," you hissed in protest, even as Daryl grabbed your arm.

Rick smiled and shook his head. "You are. Stay up here. If it goes south, you know what to do."

 

 

Women in black dresses huddled together in one corner of their sitting room. Sherry went straight over to the bar and poured two drinks, leaning on the bar with one elbow and sipping from hers. She nodded in the direction of a closed door with a chair hooked under the handle.

You sighed, pulled your knife, and headed over to it. The women started muttering as you pulled the chair away and banged your fist on the door. Instantly, moaning and rattling filled the air.

You flung the door open and confronted a zombie in a black dress and slinky heels. It had long dark hair and gaping wounds on its wrists. Blood was everywhere in the bathroom, you noted as you stepped in, grabbed a handful of the hair, and brought your knife smoothly up and under the chin. You twisted and pulled it back out, holding the now-dead walker up with your grip on its hair.

“Sherry,” you said absently, holding out your knife.

Her heels clicked on the floor as she came over and took the knife from your hand. “You know, I’m not your lackey.”

“Sure,” you said absently, easing the walker down to the floor. “Someone get me one of your escorts in here. I need hands.”

“Tanya,” Sherry said. “And get me something to clean this off, please. Thank you.”

You took a closer look at the wounds on the walker’s wrists. They were deep, and you winced in sympathy. Shit like that hurt, damn it. She’d been all kinds of determined to get away from Negan.

Sherry leaned over your shoulder as you patted down the corpse. She maintained the calm composure that made her perfect for handling Negan’s nonsense as she asked what you were doing.

“Looking for a knife,” you answered. “Or something else sharp enough to do that.” You studied the blood-covered bathroom floor and grimaced. You were going to have to go in there, and you really, really didn’t want to.

Tanya handed you back your knife and stepped away as one of the Saviors who’d been watching the door came to your side. You gestured toward the body.

“I’m done with that. Get it downstairs until the boss gets back and can take a look. He’s probably going to want it on the fence, but I don’t know for sure. And then get someone up here with a mop or some shit. Negan won’t want his wives disturbed by this for too long.”

You stepped over the body and into the bathroom, trying to avoid getting blood on your shoes. If you were a knife or- as seemed more likely to you judging by the cuts on the palms of her hands- a piece of glass, where would you be hiding? You leaned into the tub, and there it was.

You’d been right about the glass, and Negan was not going to be happy. You fished it out and looked at it with distaste.

“Sherry, what does this look like to you?” you asked her, holding it up.

She was back to sipping from her drink, and held a second glass in her hands. She eyed the shard you held in two fingers as you stepped back over the body and into the sitting room. She sighed.

“It looks like part of Jami’s mirror,” she said finally. “She had a hand-held one. Antique thing.”

You nodded. “Yeah. Ok. Her room is off limits, do you hear me, ladies? Anyone goes in there, I’ll have to report it to Negan. He’ll think you helped her. I don’t want that, and neither do you. Trust me.”

You dropped the glass onto the body as the Savior you’d ordered to help came back in with a friend. “Make sure the glass stays with the corpse,” you told him in a low voice. “Then get someone guarding the door to her room. Anyone goes in, grab them and put them in the cell.”

You took the second glass from Sherry’s hand and drained it one swallow as they carried the body out.

 

 

"We can't take them on. Go through the admin building to the woods like we planned. We ain't got the numbers no more," Daryl muttered to you and Shane.

"When's the last time someone checked the stash on the bus?" you asked.

"Day before we hit the Big Spot," Sasha chimed in. "We were running low on rations then, we're running lower now."

"We'll manage," Daryl muttered. He and Shane looked at each other and nodded. "Things go south, everyone heads for that bus. Let everyone know," Daryl told Tyreese.

Tyreese nodded and peeled off.

"Get guns passed out," Shane told you. "Then do your job, ok?"

You hesitated, glancing down at the field where Rick stood alone, facing the Governor, a tank, and a ton of people with guns. On the one hand, you wanted, desperately, to avenge Merle. On the other hand-

You looked to the little graveyard, eyes lingering on the cross you knew was Merle's. Finally you sighed, met Shane's eyes, and nodded. You turned and grabbed Daryl's arm, and he leaned in and kissed you, hard.

"Love you," you whispered against his lips. "Be careful."

"You too, baby. Love ya too." He ran his fingers down your face gently, then gave you a shove in the direction of the rolling laundry bin full of guns.

“Catch you on the flip side, babe.”

Chapter Text

You moved slowly and quietly, passing out weapons to all your people along the fence. Pretty much everyone who could hold a gun had turned out when the explosion happened, and they lined the fences now, watching the stand off in the field.

You slid a shotgun into Shane's hands as he stared down at where Rick was gesturing vaguely and the Governor was posturing on the tank. He took it and didn't look at you.

"Get your ass going, girl. Get the kids moving," he whispered.

You touched the back of his hand. "Be careful. I'll get Judith safe, promise."

He glanced at you then, lifting the shotgun to his shoulder. "I know you will. Go on."

 

 

You slipped back toward the cell blocks, heading for the admin building. "Kids!" you yelled as you came in. "Mika! Lizzy!"

Mika came around the corner, so damn young and looking terrified. "Something exploded."

You dropped to your knee and put your hands on her shoulders. "Yes, honey, something did. Now, I know you practiced what to do with Carol. We need to go now, ok? Go get Judith's seat and head to the bus, alright?"

Her eyes widened even further, her mouth forming a little oh of surprise. "What?"

"It's an emergency, honey. Come on now, everyone has a job to do. You and the others get Judith strapped in and on the bus, ok?" You patted her cheek and rose. "I have to go do my job. This is yours. I'll be there to check on you in a little while."

She nodded, jaw firming and a look of determination coming into her eyes as she turned and headed away.

You moved on to your next stop.

 

The shooting started while you were carrying a bag for an elderly woman. You shoved the bag toward one of her companions, who nodded to you and waved you on.

"Make sure the kids are on the bus! Wait as long as you can, but if you have to go, leave! We'll meet where we planned," you snapped to the woman, turning and running for the front of the prison as explosions started booming all around.

 

 

Sherry waited on the stairs when you opened the door a few hours later. You snorted as she tossed you the pack of cigarettes and you snatched it from the air.

“How are the others?” you asked, tucking one between your lips and another behind your ear before you tossed the box back to her.

She shrugged. “Worried. Sad. Weak.”

You laughed humorlessly and lit up, coughing a little as you took the first drag. “Shane’d kill me if he caught me doing this,” you muttered, tipping your head back against the wall.

“Yeah. I think I’m pregnant,” Sherry answered in a deadpan, blowing smoke from her nose.

You coughed harder. “Shit. Congrats?” you offered, raising an eyebrow.

She shrugged. A few more moments of silence passed.

“Who gave her the glass?” you asked finally.

She eyed you warily. “She had a hand mirror.”

“I’m sure she did,” you agreed. “Who gave her the glass?”

Sherry sighed. “You going to pass it along?”

“Only if I have to.”

She shook her head. “I won’t get someone into trouble.”

“Ok.” You finished the first cigarette and dropped it to the ground, grinding it into the stairs with the toe of your boots. “It really that bad in there?”

“Sometimes. Mostly no. He’s- well, he’s Negan,” she said quietly, flicking ash from the end of hers. “As long as you follow the rules, it’s not that bad. Some of us did worse things, before. You know.”

You snorted. “Honey, I’ve never fucked a man I didn’t want to fuck.”

Sherry shrugged. “It’s not so bad once you get used to it.”

“Yeah,” you whispered, lighting up number two. “Neither is killing people.”

 

 

It was chaos. The tank had taken out buildings; people were running and screaming. Everyone was shooting.

You ran into Maggie. She grabbed your arm, clutching her gun in the other hand.

"Where's Glenn?" she screamed.

"I think he's still in C!" you answered. "Daryl? Shane?"

Maggie's eyes were panicked. She was already moving toward C, yelling over her shoulder. "Still at the fence!"

You ran on.

 

 

An explosion a little too close sent you flying through the air, right into a body that grunted when you hit. You rolled and scrambled to your feet in the billowing smoke, searching for the rifle you'd lost on impact.

The person you'd hit emerged from the cloud before you found it, leading with the barrel of a shotgun.

"Nameless?" Shane said, lowering the gun. "Goddamn it! Why the fuck aren't you on the bus?"

He hauled you to your feet as your fingers closed around the rifle. You got a better grip and fell in at his shoulder.

"Got the kids moving, got the others moving. Came back to find you. You really think I would leave you and Daryl in this shit?" you snarled at him. "Where is he, anyway?"

"He tried to get to Rick when the shooting started. Sweetheart, the Governor killed Hershel," Shane told you, voice tight and hard.

Pain shot through you at the loss of the steady old man you'd come to respect and love. "No," you whispered. "Michonne? Rick?"

Shane shook his head. "Didn't see. Rick started shooting when he hit Hershel and then ran for cover. Daryl and I got separated. Tried to stay on his ass, but they were firing on us already."

Another explosion sounded as the two of you made your way around the first corner and toward the fence.

"Fuck! I have to find him, and we've got to take that tank down," you told Shane grimly.

He snorted. "No shit. Got any grenades handy?"

You suddenly smiled, despite it all. "Actually...."

 

 

You lay in bed alone, staring up at the ceiling wide awake. You hadn’t slept in two days, and by rights you should have been passed the fuck out. Outside, someone was yelling in the hallway about someone else stealing their shit, and you didn’t even flinch at the sound of fists on flesh.

Here you lay, thinking about things you didn’t like thinking about and sipping from the bottle of Jack Negan had given you as a reward. You wondered who the dead wife upstairs married Negan to protect.

No one married him for any other reason, and he knew it. Hell, he almost delighted in it. Sometimes you hated him, for that alone. Negan had his own, somewhat perverse code, and it included a blanket ban on sexual assault of any kind, but his wives...

You respected that code. You’d gotten a few glimpses of what happened when Negan wasn’t god-emperor of this fucking place.

You’d gone to that one community with Negan, after all. You’d put down the zombies. Hell, you’d almost put down Simon for that particular bloodbath.

Negan justified the wives with a shrug and the very valid point that every single one of them had been given a choice, same as you. They'd taken a different option than you had, and you didn't judge them for it. They'd do anything to protect the ones they loved.

You wondered if there was a single thing you wouldn’t do to keep Shane alive, and you drank again and deeply when you realized there wasn’t. Hell, if it came down to it, you’d zip on a dress and put on some heels, too. Sherry was probably right. It couldn’t be that bad, once you got used to it.

 

 

There were three grenades in one of the rolling bins of weapons. You'd found them on your trip to Atlanta and brought them back with you. They'd ridden around in Merle's saddle bag on the Triumph for a long time, forgotten in all the hoopla you getting home late had caused.

"I just found them a few days ago," you told Shane conversationally as you advanced at him shoulder. Someone fired at you, popping around a water barrel to do so, and you took him out with a head shot.

Shane snorted. "Who fuckin' forgets about grenades, criminal?" he asked as he laid down fire for you to move to the next bit of cover, one of the metal picnic tables some bright soul had tipped on its side.

You slid to the edge and started shooting yourself as he ran to join you. You shrugged when he reached your side. "We've been busy. Anyway, I put them in that bin over there," you nodded toward the one in question as you reloaded and he did the same.

"Sounds good to me. Dixon'll be trying to get to the field, too."

You leaned over and kissed Shane's cheek. "Come on then, Officer. Let's blow some shit up."

Chapter Text

The grenades were gone, but you didn't have time to worry about why or what to do instead. The tank was entirely too close to you, and you got to see the glorious moment when Daryl came sprinting out from behind a filing cabinet that had been converted into a vertical planter. He sprinted toward the tank, jumped up, and dropped something down the barrel.

He danced backwards as the other threat you'd been worried about suddenly reared its ugly head.

Walkers came out of nowhere, even as the hatch on the tank burst open and some asshole launched himself out seconds before an explosion rocked the tank. You grinned as Daryl took the guy out with his crossbow, then whirled to face the walker threat.

They were pouring into the prison from around the tank and from between the buildings. A stream of them passed between where you and Shane had taken cover and Daryl. Shane grabbed your arm and hauled you backwards, but you shook off his hand and gestured.

"Daryl!" you said wildly.

Shane rolled his eyes. "I know! We need to get around them, though, Nameless. Not just walk right in!"

You thought about that and looked around you urgently, plotting the fastest route that didn’t include going straight through. Of course, someone started shooting and you and Shane ducked. Shane popped off a shot in the direction the fire had come from and someone cried out in pain.

You looked back over the walkers, who had finally noticed you and were heading your way, and all the blood drained from your face.

"No!" you screamed, and started running forward.

 

 

You swung open the door to your room the next morning, finally having gotten some sleep. The crackling radio had woken you up about twenty minutes before, Negan’s smug voice reporting success and that they were ten minutes out. You’d decided you could get a shower before reporting in, since the boss hadn’t requested your immediate presence.

The hallway filled with noise, Saviors coming back with dirty clothes and weapons slung over their shoulders talking and laughing as they headed to their rooms to crash. Some hailed the ones who’d stayed behind, now taking shifts as lookouts or scouts or departing for scavenging operations. You stepped into the mess, responding to people calling your name or lifting hands in waves, until you caught a flash of something you knew you’d never see again.

Someone was wearing Daryl's vest.

The world froze, narrowing down to one tiny pinprick of existence: dirty angel wings on a leather vest on someone's back.

"Hey!" you yelled, feet moving you forward in a blur, your hand whipping out to shove a body out of your path. The person wearing the wings turned, and it was Dwight. He stopped, looking confused as you closed on him.

"Hey, YN," he started, but you punched him and he doubled over, wheezing as the air left him when your fist connected with his solar plexus.

You grabbed him by the hair and hauled him back upright. You shoved him up against the wall as the blood pounded in your ears, hearing 'oh, fuck' from behind you.

"Shit, where's Walsh?" another voice yelled. A hand grabbed your shoulder as you drove your fist into Dwight’s side, aiming for the kidneys but knowing you’d probably miss. You followed your momentum, leaning toward the man you had pinned to the wall and driving a mule kick back at whoever owned the hand tugging on your shoulder. Someone yelped as you connected, and the hand let go.

You had your fingers clamped in a vise Dwight's throat. It wasn’t like with Arat. You weren’t playing or teaching a lesson here. You were going to kill him, friendship be damned and consequences with Negan too.

"Where did you get that?" you growled at him.

He looked confused. "Where did I get-?”

You grabbed a handful of the leather vest with your free hand, snarling ‘this’ to Dwight as he struggled for air. You shifted your grip on his throat slightly.

“The vest?" he croaked.

"Yes!"

He held up his hands, not fighting you at all, and that just wouldn’t do. You needed to kill him, for wearing that. And it needed to be brutal and bloody and goddamn satisfying, because he was making you feel again; making you feel everything you avoided with alcohol and sex and cigarettes and rock music and death.

How the fuck did he even get it?

"From the guy. From tonight," Dwight gasped out as you let go of the vest and set the thumb of your free hand against the bundle of nerves behind his ear. You pressed lightly, warning him without a word that you could knock him out in several different ways, and get creative with his unconscious body later. His face was turning red as he struggled for air, and you watched the change with interest.

Running feet came pounding up the hallway and Shane's hands pulled you off Dwight, turning you to look at him as you started to lash out. He caught your wrist as you threw a punch, and you froze when you saw him. You glared, breathing hard and trying to figure out what was going on here.

"Shane?" You swallowed and tried again, horrified by the crack in your voice and the tears you felt flowing down your cheeks. No. No, you needed the rage, the bloodlust, something. You searched your scattered mind desperately for a song, any song, and came up with nothing. “Shane-”

"Hey, hey. Nameless. Fuck, I was coming to find you," Shane whispered, his hands on your face as you looked at him in confusion. His eyes were hard and something lurked in them, something that scared you and stabbed at you all at once. There was a new bruise on his jaw, you thought absently, and blood all over his shirt and jacket. Focus on details, you told yourself, and the lyrics to- to anything.

Somehow, somehow, Dwight had-

"Shane, Dwight's wearing-" Your throat closed around the words and Shane just nodded.

"I know. I know, sweetheart. We gotta talk about some things, ok? Hey, criminal- no, no, no-"

He wasn’t surprised, and he didn’t deny that it was his. If it wasn’t his, Shane would have said that first, you thought clearly.

Shane's face blurred right before there were two of him, and darkness crashed down over your vision.

 

 

You were in the middle of the river of dead, hacking with one hand and shooting with the other. One came close to latching onto your arm as Shane yelled something in your ear, his back pressed to yours. You killed the zombie, but you didn't know what Shane was saying.

You were trying to get to where you'd seen Daryl go down, three walkers converging on him at once, but tears were blinding your eyes and the goddamn dead just wouldn't stop coming.

Then something else exploded and smoke billowed all around and the sky bridge collapsed, cutting you off from-

"No! No! No!" You screamed it, scrambling onto the rubble with your bare hands until Shane's arm came around your waist and he lifted you off.

You fought him, hitting wildly without any of your usual finesse or control, sobbing and trying to see through the tears and the smoke and the blood running into your eyes from somewhere. Shane dropped you on your feet and grabbed your shoulders with his hands.

"YN! Listen to me, goddamn it! YN!" He shook you until you stopped fighting and focused on him, tears still running down your face.

He was crying, too, you saw, and he lifted a shaking hand from your shoulder and put it on your cheek. "He's gone, sweetheart. He's- you saw it. I saw it. If he wasn't bit, there's rubble on top of him."

"No!" you screamed, knocking Shane's hand away. "No! I can get to him!"

Shane grabbed your arm when you tried to go past him, meeting your eyes. "Please, YN. Don't do this," he whispered. "You saw it too."

You closed your eyes and screamed, a wordless explosion of heartbreak and anger and helplessness and denial.

 

 

"Welcome back, YN," Dr. Carson's cool voice said as you blinked your eyes open with a groan.

"Shane?" you asked, trying to focus.

"I'm afraid Shane isn't available at the moment. Come now, let me take a look at you," Carson said, hand on your shoulder and waving a penlight into your eyes.

You blinked and waved him off, starting to sit up. "I'm fine, doc- what- where's Shane?"

"What's the last thing you remember?"

You thought for a moment, trying to put flashes together. "I was fighting- Shit."

"Ah. Good. Memory is intact, then."

You sat up, eyes wide. Suddenly the doctor's words hit you like a freight train and you swung out a hand to grab his arm. "Doc, what do you mean he isn't 'available' at the moment?" you snarled.

"I'm afraid he-"

"He forgot his place when you passed out." Negan's voice had Dr. Carson on his knees and you trying to slide from the bed to do the same. "Oh, stop that. Doc, make sure my biker babe doesn't hurt herself further."

You looked at Negan warily as the doc rose and went back to checking your vitals. "Is he dead?" you asked bluntly.

 

 

You'd seen it.

He'd shot the asshole in the tank, the river of walkers came between you, and through their shuffling forms you'd seen it happen.

Three of them, on him at once. He'd grabbed one by the throat, swung the crossbow at another, and the third-

The third had come at him from behind, and you'd seen its teeth close on his throat before another of the walkers blocked your view. You'd been moving already when the asshole staggered out of your path, and you watched as Daryl went down, all three of the walkers falling on him.

You knew.

 

 

Negan chuckled and strolled into the room closer to you. For once, he didn't have Lucille in his hand, and you weren't sure if that was a good thing or a very, very bad one. "Oh, Shane's alive. His face isn't all that pretty right now, though."

Your eyes widened. "Did you-?"

"No, no- not the iron. Shit, darlin', you're jumpin' to all the wrong conclusions today. He did some yelling at me- me!- so he earned himself a trip through the gauntlet. I gotta tell you, honey, that man takes a hit and just-" Negan made a clicking noise with his tongue as he gestured. "Keeps comin'."

You relaxed slightly. The gauntlet meant Shane would be all kinds of bruised, maybe some broken ribs, but he'd be fine. He'd been through it before, and hell, so had you. Your eyes snapped back to Negan as your brain showed you a clear and sharp image of Dwight in a vest that looked way too goddamn familiar.

You opened your mouth to ask him what the hell was going on, but Shane appeared in the doorway, leaning on Dwight's shoulder. One of Shane's eyes was swollen, already turning colors, and his jaw wasn't much better. From the way he was standing, you'd been right about the ribs.

"Jesus!" you whispered, sliding off the bed and to your feet.

Negan glanced over his shoulder and whistled. "Shit! I was right about your face, that's for damn sure!"

"Shane, are you ok?" you asked, ignoring your boss. Probably not your best idea in the world, but Shane looked like shit and his expression had your heart pounding and stomach churning.

He looked from you to Negan. "Did you tell her?"

Negan glanced at you and smirked. "No, we hadn't gotten there yet."

You looked between them and then at Dwight. "Take that off," you commanded him, tone harsh.

"Wrong!" Negan snapped. "Darlin', now I like the shit out of you, but you do not give orders to my boys. Not when they did not come from me first. And I very much want him to get back the bike and keep the vest and keep the crossbow and keep working on breaking my prisoner, thank you very much. Walsh, you may keep your goddamn mouth shut!" Negan added the last without looking away from you, his finger stabbing toward Shane's pained expression.

There was a roaring in your ears as you locked eyes with him. Motorcycle. Vest. Crossbow.

Prisoner.

"He's here," you declared flatly. Shane nodded once even as Negan laughed.

"Indeed he is."

You shifted your attention from Shane with effort and focused on Negan. He was watching you intently and you tried to pull yourself together. "Is he alive?"

Negan tsked. "You're slipping, darlin'. That does tend to be the meaning of 'prisoner'."

You let the insult roll off you as you stared at Negan. "Are you going to kill him?"

"Why would I do that?" Negan bit his lip and leaned toward you. "Not killing your boy toy because you asked me not to worked out damn good for me. Why on earth would I effectively cut off my left hand by killing Daryl?"

You jerked like you'd been slapped when Negan said his name, something deep inside breaking in half with a crack you were surprised no one seemed to hear but you.

 

 

"Shane," you whispered, opening your eyes.

"I know," he said softly. "I know. But we gotta move, sweetheart, unless you want to join him."

You stared at him blankly, and saw that he was serious. He gave you a twisted smile.

"You wanna die here, I'll be by your side, Nameless. Ain't getting out of this if my best friends are dead."

"You have a daughter," you whispered.

"I do," Shane agreed. "She's safe, though. You aren't, and I won't leave you alone in this. What's our play, criminal? We living or dying today?"

Chapter Text

"Who else?"

Negan looked confused. You took a step toward him, hands clenched as you fought your way through the storm and the rising tide of black, violent temper. You didn't look at Shane because you couldn't. If you looked at him, you'd break apart.

"I've known him since I was eight years old, and I've loved him just as long," you said slowly, meeting Negan's faintly amused expression with what you knew were blank eyes. You felt more than saw Shane’s flinch from the edge of your vision. "Knowing he's alive would be hell enough for me, but no. No, he's here, in the Sanctuary. That's a big risk for you, Negan, with me here."

Maybe it was pride on your part, maybe not. You'd done some shit out there, and you'd done some shit for the man currently smirking at you. You didn't get it. Something just wasn't adding up about the whole thing. "You're trying to break him. You had the shit beat out of Shane," you murmured, considering. "You know, you're one absolute bastard, Negan, but you're loyal to those who are loyal to you. I've always been very, very loyal to you, haven't I?"

You shook your head, baffled by the way he was acting. You gestured between yourself and Shane and Dwight. "This- this is cruel, and needlessly so. Not the kind of thing you do to someone you rely on, someone whose loyalty you want to keep.... Oh. Unless."

Suddenly it clicked, and you started to laugh. There was an edge of hysteria to it that you weren't exactly delighted by, but there was nothing you could do about it. Negan's eyes had gone to cool and blank, and the faintly amused expression had drained from his face.

"You think you'll lose me. That I'll run to the other side if you don't knock me down and show me just who the fuck in charge from the get go. It's Rick. It's at least Rick," you said softly. You bit your lip and half-laughed angrily. "He's the asshole who's been killing Saviors. Rick fucking Grimes and Daryl goddamn Dixon survived after all. No wonder they were so fucking good at it. Shit! Who else?" you asked, smiling now. It didn't feel right on your lips, but you couldn't help it.

Daryl was alive. He was alive and here.

Someone was going to die tonight, and you were looking forward to it.

"Shane. Who else that my biker babe here might know?" Negan asked, and you finally looked at Shane.

Shane looked wrecked, you thought absently. He knew something; he'd seen something last night.

Fuck, you thought abruptly. Someone you'd known before was dead, and you'd been with Negan long enough to know it'd have been brutal.

Shane met your eyes and held them as he answered. "Rick. Carl. Michonne. Sasha. Daryl. M- Maggie."

Your eyes narrowed at the hesitation in the way he said her name. "Glenn? Beth? Tyreese?"

Shane was shaking his head. "I didn't see Beth or Tyreese. Nameless-"

"Glenn," you said flatly, slamming a lid down on the gut punch that thought was. Shane swallowed and looked away.

You looked at Negan. "Why?"

Negan grinned and leaned toward you. "Because, darlin', your Daryl took a goddamn swing at me after I told him I would shut that shit down. No exceptions."

 

 

You emptied the remaining weapons from the bin, both of you slinging guns over your shoulders until you bristled with barrels like branches on goddamn trees. If you ran out of bullets in one, you dropped it to the ground and took up another.

You saw Judith's car seat and Shane took off running. You followed, holding on to the single, cold thought of survival- of Shane’s survival, because who gave a shit about yours?- and not letting the fear that little car seat instilled touch you. If you were afraid, if you let any emotion near you at all-

You’d be swept under, and that’d be it. You’d die, and Shane would too, and that would be a goddamn waste because there were people in this world who needed Shane Walsh.

Shane was on his knees in front of the car seat, head bowed and shoulders shaking. You stood at his back, not looking at the bloodstains inside it, not thinking about anything but the dead you picked off one by one as they approached. There were too many of them coming, though, and you knew it.

“Shane?” you asked finally, voice hard and emotionless. “We living or dying today?”

 

 

You nodded slowly. You'd heard that from him; heard the speech he'd given you when they found you as well as heard it delivered to others. You'd delivered that warning a few times as well, though yours tended to be less dramatically inclined than Negan's. "So you killed someone else, too. Who, Shane?"

Shane was eyeing you with concern, and you knew he could see how close to the edge you were. Since he'd pulled you back from it more than once, you figured he had a right to be terrified.

He shrugged. "Some red-haired soldier type. We didn't know him."

"Took a helluva hit, though," Negan said with a chuckle and a whistle. "Man didn't back down at all. You know what he said to me, after Lucille got her first taste?"
Negan leaned close to you and grinned. "He said 'suck my nuts'. He looked me in the goddamn eyes after taking a hit from my thirsty bitch and told me to suck his nuts. It's a damn shame. I liked him."

You ignored Negan completely, which probably wasn't your best strategy in the world. You fixed your eyes on Shane, who held your gaze with a 'please don't do anything stupid, criminal' expression. You gripped the bat at your side and considered taking Negan out right then and there, as he laughed at his own fucking joke.

Shane would take Dwight, if Dwight would even try to stop you, you thought. Negan didn't have Lucille. He was a fucking good fighter even without her, but you could take him.

"We living or dying today, Nameless?" Shane asked softly.

"Oh my goodness!" Negan declared dramatically, hand to his mouth as he glanced from Shane to you. "Oh ho-ly shit. That's an actual question? Fuck me sideways! Honey, that- that right there is not a road you want to go down," he cautioned, pointing to your hand clenched around your bat.

You didn't look away from Shane, but slowly your fingers uncurled. You shifted your eyes to Negan with effort and smirked at him.

"Don't worry, boss. You've made your goddamn point. I am Negan," you declared, and shoved past him into the hall without waiting for a response.

 

 

You made it to the prison's garage, somehow. You tried to talk about it later, with each other, and neither of you could figure out how you did. But you got there. You went for the bike and Shane followed at your back, your options limited.

“Bike’s maneuverable. We can weave through the walkers. I’ve done it before,” you said shortly.

You swung a leg over and kicked her to life as Shane picked off the zombies that followed you determinedly. You settled in the seat, lifted the kickstand, and motioned for Shane to hop on behind you. His arm slid around your waist and you glanced at him over your shoulder as you pulled the Governor’s knife from your belt.

“You shoot, I drive, ok?” you said with a crazed grin. “Clear us a hole.”

Shane aimed forward, over your shoulder, and fired until the rifle clicked. He tossed it away as you shoved the knife between your teeth so you could get to it easily in a pinch- because there would be a goddamn pinch- and hit the gas.

 

 

You knew where he'd be. You strode through the halls, Saviors glancing at your face and your fingers tapping out Guns'N'Roses with feverish speed and leaping out of your way.

You turned the corner to the cell and Fat Joey blocked the path.

"Move," you told him, fingers stilling.

He gulped. "I- I can't do that," he stammered out. "I've been ordered not to let you near him."

The god-awful pop song started up, in the middle, at a decibel that hurt your ears from down the hallway. Or maybe what hurt your ears was the nauseatingly upbeat tone of it. "What the fuck is that?" you snapped with a grimace.

Fat Joey grinned. "It's Dwight's idea. This is his project."

You stepped into his space, eyes narrowing and hand locked around the bat. "His name is Daryl fucking Dixon, and he is not a goddamn project. Now move, I need to talk to him."

Joey shook his head, gulping. "No. You're not allowed."

"On who's authority?" you snarled, figuring it was worth a fucking shot.

"On- On Negan's?"

You unsnapped the loop that held your bat, and Dwight grabbed your elbow.

"Come with me, Nameless. Joey, that's enough," Dwight said, hauling you toward the stairs.

You let him, your hands shaking slightly as you tried to decide if it was worth it to kill Dwight and Fat Joey to get to Daryl. You could do it. You could get him out, but you didn't know what kind of shape he was in, and then you'd have to get Shane out too, and-

"I know what you're thinking. Just stop. It's not worth it," Dwight hissed in your ear. "You think we didn't try? We did. And we ended up right back here. Trust me. There's always worse. Ask your man about that line up if you don't believe me."

You wrenched your arm from his grasp and glared at him silently. He sighed and shook his head at you.

"Go upstairs. Shane's in your room. Negan took it easy on him this time, YN. He won't do that again," Dwight warned.

 

 

“Go,” Shane said seriously. He sat on the edge of the bed, bandaged and stitched in a few places. Broken in more than just the ribs, you knew. You leaned against the wall, unable to find anything resembling emotion now that you could allow yourself feel it. Everything was blank and hard and you wondered if you'd broken something important, too.

“What?” you asked him dully.

“Go. Get him out, and you run.”

You scoffed and rolled your eyes, Dwight's words and Sherry's sardonic smile in your mind. “Like Dwight and Sherry ran? Sure. So which of us three gets to be fucking Tina?”

He shook his head, giving you that serious look. “You’re a damn sight better out there than Dwight and Sherry, criminal. I’m not going. I’ll make sure you get away clean, give you a decent head start. Take him and run.”

“Oh, for-” you cut yourself off, tossing your hands up and turning away to pace. “The fuck are you talking about, Shane? I’m not leaving you here, dumbass. Negan'd put your head on a spike and use it to decorate his goddamn dinner table.”

“Sweetheart,” he said softly, catching your wrist as you paced back toward him.

You looked at him, and he smiled at you, but there was a world of pain in his eyes. Your heart clenched, and you started to tug away so you wouldn’t have to hear whatever he was about to say. He shook his head and didn’t let go.

“YN, sweetheart, I know I’m not your first choice,” he said simply.

You closed your eyes, twisting your wrist to break his hold and grabbing his hand instead. There is was, you thought a bit hysterically. There's the emotion.

You opened your eyes and stepped closer, and he reached out automatically for you, hand sliding along your hip. It was familiar and comforting even as it made you hurt for you both. You feathered your fingers over the hard, clenched line of his jaw and felt him flinch at your touch.

“No,” you whispered. “No, you’re not my first choice. I’ve loved Daryl since that very first moment, in elementary school. It was like I didn't have a choice in the matter- there he was, and before I knew it, I was gone for him.”

Shane nodded, swallowing hard and looking away. “I know,” he said, voice raw.

“Shut up,” you muttered, then sighed. “Maybe you and I wouldn't be together if it weren’t for- for everything. But I can’t- I can’t play the maybe game. Too many things could have been different, and what's the point anyway? It doesn't change anything. We are together. And-”

You cupped his cheek with your hand, turning him to look at you again as your eyes filled and your voice hitched. “And Shane, I love you.”

He started to shake his head, to deny it, but you talked over him.

“Oh, stop it, Walsh. I’m not going to pretend I have any goddamn idea where we go from here, any of us. Hell, I don’t even know who all ‘us’ is, because- Rick. Carl. Michonne, Maggie, Sasha. Our people. But-” you waved a hand at the room around you. “These are our people, too. We don't even- we don't even know them anymore. I don't even know myself anymore. Hell, I don’t know anything, officer.”

He laughed softly, humorlessly, finally looking up at you. His eyes were still pained, but it was better. “Yeah, I get that,” he agreed, his fingers digging into your hip a little.

“Yeah. I do love you,” you repeated, and his eyes softened.

You leaned in and kissed him gently, and one kiss became two. Two turned into his arms around you and you on his lap, trying not to hurt him even as he disregarded the fact that he was beat all to hell and pulled you closer to him hungrily. Then it was needy, urgent hands and lips and thundering pulses, both of you chasing some kind of surety and comfort and connection, seeking the kind of solace you'd been offering each other since you'd stood in a blood-soaked haze and cried for everything you lost and everything you used to be. He whispered your name over and over, and you cried out his on a broken, sobbing breath, and then you were just crying. Both of you, together, wrapped around each other and sobbing as you held on to the only goddamn thing in the universe you were certain of- each other.

Chapter Text

Your arms were shaking with the effort of keeping them on the Triumph's handlebars. You'd lost the knife hours ago, leaving it in the eye of some dead fucker on the road outside the prison who'd managed to get too close while Shane was switching guns.

You'd found the bus, following along the same route you were supposed to take in an emergency. Shane had looked in the windows and come walking back to where you sat slumped in the seat, looking beaten and worn.

"Dead?" you asked harshly. He tossed a leg over the bike, ran his hand down your arm, and told you to keep driving.

You'd been looking for somewhere to hole up for the past few hours, but so far, there'd been nothing as you tried to stick close to the prison. It was getting dark, and you both wanted to look for your people when the sun came up.

Someone else had to have made it out of that mess alive, right?

"Hey. Nameless. Stop there," Shane said, pointing to one side and the shit shack you would have missed.

You scoffed at the sight of it. "No. We'll find something else."

"Sweetheart, you're barely hanging on. Stop the goddamn bike or I'm just gonna jump off," Shane snarled.

You stopped, tucking the bike by the back exit and regarding the trailer with distaste. It looked too damn much like the one you'd grown up in, and you had no desire to think about that nonsense along with everything else you were avoiding. You were only so good at mental gymnastics, after all. "I do not want to go in there."

"You're fucking going in. I can feel your whole goddamn body shaking, girl. You should still be hooked up to fucking IV, not-" He cut off abruptly, rubbed one hand over his face, and glared at you. "Come on. Probably gonna have a herd or two come through here tonight. We need to be set up for that shit."

 

 

Before he'd told you to run, Shane told you what happened. Your roadblocks had worked far too well, and your friends- your former family- had ended up in Negan's bloody fucking line up.

"I used up every single bit of leverage I had, sweetheart, just keeping Daryl alive and getting you out of there," he told you, misery in every word. "There wasn't a damn thing I could do to protect anyone else."

Your stomach churned and rolled as Shane described it in fits and starts, though you didn't actually feel any of the horror you knew your body was reacting to. It wasn't Negan's actions- they were pretty par for the course for Negan. Hell, you'd gone to enough communities on your own and at Negan's side that none of it really shocked you. It was that these were your people; the people you and Shane loved. And he'd had to watch it happen, no way to save anyone. You'd spent so much time searching; you'd given them up for dead; and that was how he found them again?

"Rick's eyes, YN, his eyes- bastard broke my friend, and I just stood there and held a goddamn gun. And the way they looked at me-" He'd broken off, covering his face with both hands. "I don't blame them. None of them will ever see me the same fuckin' way again. Shit. Doesn't matter that he wouldn't have hurt Carl. Rick didn't know that. Rick thinks I stood there and held a fucking gun to some crying woman's head so Rick would chop off Carl's arm. Carl's. I killed Otis to save that kid, I got him out of the shit show that was Atlanta before they bombed the place, I took care of him when Lori died and Rick lost his damn mind, and- and now Rick thinks I'd- Fucking hell!"

You'd tried to offer something, anything, to make it better, but there wasn't anything and you both knew it. He'd played his whole hand on keeping Daryl safe. Negan could have taken the bat to Rick himself and Shane wouldn't have been able to do anything but die with him.

And with you back at the Sanctuary, he couldn't have even done that.

The two of you had cried for a long time before falling into an exhausted sleep. You hadn't stayed that way long, clawing your way out of a bloody, smoke-filled nightmare where Merle screamed at you that you'd killed Daryl as you'd stood by a conveyor belt of people, using Negan's bat to take their heads off in one swing as they slid slowly by. Merle called you a murderer and a blood whore and worse, and you'd felt nothing. You'd taken swing after swing and sent head after head flying.

You slid from bed when your eyes popped open and got dressed, checking to make sure Shane was breathing alright. He had three broken ribs, it turned out. And a broken nose. Probably some other damage, but that's all Dr. Carson had been able to diagnose with certainty. He'd given Shane some Tylenol and suggested he sleep it off.

It had only been Shane's hand catching yours and his exhausted, pained smile that had kept you from storming right back down there and informing Carson that he was a fucking charlatan and a moron.

You touched Shane's face gently, and wondered if anyone- even Negan- knew the kind of strength Shane had, to be able to look something like that in the face and save not the person he loved, but the person you loved instead.

 

 

 

Three days later, you still weren't sleeping more than a few hours at a time. Negan had you practically glued to his side, and when he didn't have you at hand, he had Shane. You'd hardly seen your officer in days, and you knew it wasn't a coincidence. Negan was reminding you that neither of you were safe.

You were rewarded plenty for your work, though, you thought viciously. There was a nice row of bottles on the shelf in yours and Shane's room. Several of them were empty. You had your eye on a couple more you thought you could knock out tonight, if you worked at it hard enough.

You shoved open the door to the back stairs and found Sherry already there. It was the first you'd seen of her since- well, since.

"I didn't know," she said as soon as she saw you.

You stared at her. She didn't offer you a cigarette.

"I mean it," she said quietly. "I didn't know who he was to you. Didn't put it all together until...."

You shrugged and reached into your jacket pocket, pulling out a fresh, unopened box of your own as well as a silver-plated lighter. Both were rewards form Negan for what you'd done that day.

It'd been bloody. You had vague plans to chain smoke them all before you got wasted.

Shane probably wouldn't let you.

"I saw him," Sherry said quietly.

Your eyes shot to hers as you shoved the lighter back into your pocket. "What?" you growled.

"I saw him. Today," she said. "In Carson's office. He seems to be healing fine, from the gunshot."

The careful wall of composure you'd been holding tightly to cracked and threatened to shatter. "How-"

Your voice broke and you cleared your throat and licked your lips, then shook your head and slid down the wall to sit, clamping the cigarette in your mouth. "It doesn't matter," you said quietly.

There was blood on the toe of your boot, you noticed.

"He's strong," she said softly. So softly if anyone had come up or down the stairs, they wouldn't have heard a word. "D's trying to break him, you know? Get him to join the Saviors. Become Negan."

"Everyone's Negan," you muttered.

"He won't do it. I can tell," she whispered. "He looks rough, but he's alive. You need to get a message to him. Tell him to just do it. Say he's Negan. End it. Shit, you look worse than he does," she added with her snide sneer in place.

You scoffed as she dropped the butt of her cigarette. You watched her toes as she ground it out, saw the polish on them perfect and glistening. Who the fuck had toe nail polish in the zombie apocalypse?

"Shane told me to take him and run, like you and Dwight did. Said I was better out there than you."

She snorted. "You are. You still wouldn't make it."

You looked up at her, lips curving into your smile while your eyes stayed dead. "Why do you think we're still here?"

 

 

Negan chuckled as he stood with you in the hallway outside the cell, listening to that fucking pop song and Daryl trying to kick down the door.

"He is a wild one, isn't he? Mmm," Negan said. He clapped one hand on your shoulder as you stared blankly at the door.

You weren't even tapping out a song on your bat. Even that much would have broken the wall between you and your own head. This was the third time he'd brought you down here to the cell, to listen in. You'd seen Dwight walk by with a dog food sandwich on one trip, and he'd given you a look filled with so much pity you'd had the bat out and swinging before Negan had snatched it from you with a chuckle and an order to get a hold of your damn self.

You began to suspect Negan's plan was to break you as well as Daryl.

"Come on, biker babe," Negan said, sliding his arm over your shoulders as he turned you and walked you away. "Let's go visit Dwight. Talk to him about his progress."

Dwight leaned on the railing, looking over the factory floor and sipping from a beer.

"He is going ape shit!" Negan declared, swinging Lucille to his shoulder as Dwight looked up. Dwight's eyes went from him to you and back to him.

"Yep," he agreed cautiously.

"And you? You are hustling." Negan leaned against the railing beside Dwight, his back to his little kingdom. "It's working. It's workin' slow, but hey, man, some people are harder to break than others. Ain't that right, darlin'?"

"That's right, boss," you declared in a monotone, and Negan chuckled.

"She's a little pissed about my plans for him, I guess," he said in an aside to Dwight.

Dwight glanced at you and pushed up from the railing, turning to Negan. "He's close."

"Yeah he is," Negan agreed. You tensed at the look in Negan's eyes and wondered what the fuck he was about to say next. "Since you're doing such an awesome job, you want to have a little blast from the past with you-know-who?"

It occurred to you, as Dwight stared at Negan without changing his expression, that you weren't the only one whose loyalty was being tested by this little assignment. You found yourself missing the days when all you worried about from Negan was him pitting you against Simon and you ending up as Negan's official second in command. Had that been less than a week ago?

Motherfucker.

"I'm kidding, man. Lighten up," Negan said, slapping Dwight on the shoulder. "Pick whoever you want, as long as she says yes."

Your teeth ground together as Dwight looked away for a brief moment.

"Oh, crap," Negan said with blatantly false concern. "Are you ok down there? Your penis? I mean, that guy, he ah, clomped on it. Or is it down for the count?" Negan winked over at you as Dwight shifted uncomfortably.

You gave Negan a look that you hoped conveyed to him just how much of a fucking asshole he was being right then. Negan smirked back at you.

"I'm fine," Dwight said. "But I'm gonna pass. Man, I'm cool."

Negan's head whipped back around to Dwight. "Huh. Are you cool, though, Dwight? I mean, I just said it was happy hour at the pussy bar, and Dwight eats for free-"

"Jesus, Negan," you muttered, and he point Lucille at you without taking his eyes off Dwight. You rolled your own again and lifted both hands in surrender.

"- and you're tellin' me no?" Negan continued as if you hadn't spoken. "Is that cool?"

"I haven't finished the job," Dwight said, sounding distinctly like he was coming up with some bullshit on the spot. Everyone in this conversation knew it was because the only woman he wanted was Sherry. His wife.

Or as Negan would say cheerfully, ex-wife.

"I haven't earned it yet," he continued more firmly.

"What the hell are you talking about? Biker, what's the rule?" Negan asked.

"You earn what you take," you said quietly.

"That is right-"

He was cut off by Arat's voice on the walkie talkies both you and Dwight had. "We have an orange situation."

You reached for yours, but Negan snatched Dwight's from him first. "Arat, what do you got? Grab-and-go?"

"Yeah, he could've only gone three ways-- the moth, the angel, or the herd way."

"Good." Negan tossed the radio back to Dwight.

"It's D. I'll meet you at the gate," he told her.

Negan shook his head at him. "I mean, I want my shit back, but that is grunt work. Why don't you have Fat Joey go do it? God knows, he needs the exercise. You don't have to do it, Dwight."

"I'd like to do it," Dwight answered with a smile as fake as Simon's.

Negan laughed, putting a hand on the back of Dwight's head and drawing him in. "Good boy. Take my biker with you."

Your eyebrows shot up. "Thought that was grunt work, boss."

He grinned at you. "Fat Joey needs the exercise, but, honey- you need to kill something," he declared, pointing a finger at down toward your side. "Been beatin' on that bat so hard, I'm thinking you're gonna break through it if you aren't careful."

You stilled your fingers, not even knowing you'd been doing it. Fuck.

"Head on out there, darlin'. Work out some of your frustrations. Apparently Boy Toy ain't doin' if for you right now. I wonder why that is," Negan asked softly, swinging Lucille to his shoulder and leaning close to your ear as Dwight called into the radio for them to bring your bike around as well. "Maybe there's some trouble in paradise? I don't know, but you need to find out."

He started to walk away, whistling, leaving you and Dwight standing there. Negan paused and turned, pointing at you. "Work your issues out, biker babe. I'm going to need my power couple powerfully in tact real soon."

 

 

There'd been walkers raining from the sky through a gap in the overpass, and Dwight managed to fuck up his bike and his side when they did.

You'd handled them with a few swings of your bat, pissed off to find that Negan had been right. You'd needed to kill something.

You pulled Dwight to his feet and glared from him to the bike. "How the fuck," you snapped, "did you managed this shit, man? Judas goddamn fucking Priest!"

"You hate me," Dwight said, apropos of absolutely nothing as you checked the bike.

He'd managed to fuck up the tire when he'd dropped it. Fixable, if it could be gotten back to the Sanctuary, or if you had forty minutes and some tools. Unfortunately, that was going to cost resources.

You rose and sighed. "Leave it here. We'll have to send someone after it. Come on, we'll double up on mine."

He didn't move as you started back for your Softail. You turned and tossed your hands up.

"What's the fucking problem, D?"

He shook his head, squinting at you. "You don't like me."

"Of course I don't like you, asshole. What of it?" you snapped.

"I couldn't figure out why. Now I think I do," he said as he finally started walking toward you. "I remind you of you."

You snorted and crossed your arms.

He shrugged. "I caved. So did you and you hate yourself for it, so you hate me too."

You laughed, long and loud and devoid of humor. "Nope. That's not why I hate you. I hate you because you ran. Not because you came back- everyone comes back, Dwight. Everyone becomes Negan."

You stepped toward him, fingers drumming absently on the bat again. He didn't back down or look away from you as you did. "You ran. You ran, and you made it worse for each other. At least down there, working the floor? You were together. You had something. Why do people not get it, D? There's always something else to lose."

Chapter Text

"Come on, come on," you muttered through clenched teeth, eye to the scope as you watched and waited. Your heart pounded in your ears, but your hands were rock-steady on the rifle.

Through the scope, you could see them. They had Shane at gunpoint, and he was talking earnestly to who appeared to be the leader of this community. They had about two more minutes before you starting taking people out.

Like he heard the thought, Shane flicked the fingers of the hand closest to you in a 'wait' motion, and you rolled your eyes. "I'm only waiting for so long, Walsh," you informed him, though he couldn't hear you.

He kept talking, but movement behind the gates caught your eye and you scanned the rifle to see if you could figure out what was going on. Behind the gates proclaiming 'Shirewilt Estates', a woman and two men were sneaking around looking for an angle, guns in hand. You sighed and panned back over to Shane, still talking.

"Oh, no you don't," you said, tone cold as ice, as the leader glance at the man to his right and nodded slightly.

You set the leader in your sights and pulled the trigger, taking down the right hand man before the first body fell.

When it was done, you climbed from the tree and joined Shane, who looked from the bodies to you with a concerned expression. "We could have just left," he said quietly.

You met his eyes as you snagged the gun from the leader's dead fingers. "He had three snipers coming in behind the walls. Don't worry; they're dead. Gonna have zombies soon, officer."

Shane's eyes went hard as he glanced at the wall. "We staying here?"

"Naw," you said with a shrug. "Scavenge and then move on." You flashed Shane a feral grin and gestured at the bodies. "I didn't take head shots, after all."

 

 

You saw the runner struggling with a zombie and sighed. "Why the fuck do you people keep running when you can't survive out here for shit? Fucking a," you muttered, unsnapping the bat as you set the kickstand on your bike and gestured D to set his. You'd been walking them since Dwight insisted on trying to get it back to Sanctuary on his own.

Now he was exhausted and you were in an even shittier mood, as well as feeling downright unstable. You needed to kill a few more things, maybe. Or have a drink. Both would be good.

You whistled as you jogged toward man and no-longer-man, and the live guy turned with terrified eyes when you approached. The walker's head barely offered any resistance as you punched the end of the bat through it.

"You know," you told the living asshole conversationally as Dwight held him at gunpoint. "There was a time when these things were smart and hard to kill. Some in Atlanta climbed a goddamn ladder trying to get to me, back at the beginning of all this. What the fuck do you think you're doing out here if you can't even handle one of them?"

Unsurprisingly, he didn't respond to that.

"Just kill me," he said instead. "Or just let me go."

You scoffed. "Yeah. Sure. Boss wants you back, we bring you back."

He looked at Dwight. "We used to be friendly. After everything he did to you. To your wife..."

"Don't talk about her," Dwight snapped. "She's not my wife."

"Not anymore," the man agreed. "I can't go back." He dropped to his knees as you shook blood off your bat and watched with mild interest as he stared at D.

"You will! That's the only way!" Dwight snarled.

"See, that's what he tells us. That there's no choice, no way but his way. Thug swoops in with a baseball bat and a smile, and we're all so scared that we gave up everything. But there's only one of him and all of us, so why are we living like this?"

You chuckled, resting your own bat on your shoulder. "Have you seen the world out here? How long have you lived in the Sanctuary? I built a home. A community that welcomed people with open arms, pretty much no questions asked. Some asshole burned it to the ground with a goddamn tank. Negan's not the nicest bastard on this god-forsaken hellscape of Romero's nightmares, but he's a damn sight better than a lot of them," you informed him. "You know Shane and I met people who were eating other people? Lured them in and barbecued them up for Sunday fucking dinner. You see anybody taking bites out of anybody else in Sanctuary, man?"

He stared at you. "You make me sad, you know that? You've survived out there. You and Shane could take him down and make everything better. Instead you follow his orders. You chose to just be his pet killer on a leash."

"Well," you muttered, tossing the bat in the air and giving it a suggestive swing as you caught it again. "Better a pet killer on a leash than a dead asshole on the fence."

"After me and Jami survived those first few months out on our own? When we got there, we thought it would be ok. We thought we knew how to fight the monsters. Then we fell behind in points, and Jami sold herself to him to keep me alive. You have any idea what that's like? Dwight does."

"You're Jami's?" you said softly. "Huh. That explains it. You know what, man? I don't give a shit what your sob story is. We've all lost people, asshole. You think you have nothing to lose now? You're wrong. D, go get my bike."

Dwight jerked and looked at you. "What? Why?"

"Go get my fucking bike, Dwight!" you snapped, glaring at him. He hesitated, but followed your order. As he walked away, you looked back at the asshole on his knees.

"Let me tell you, man. You always have something else to lose. Sometimes you don't even know what it is until it's gone, but trust me. There's always something," you told him grimly. "Is there anyone back there you care about? Anyone at all?"

He looked at you with hard, cold eyes. "No."

You nodded slowly. So the answer was yes. "Ok, then."

 

 

You and Shane cut through the houses rapidly, taking food and weapons and- in a case of petty vandalism that had Shane chuckling at you- one obviously historical confederate flag that you used as kindling to start your fire that night.

Oh, and a pair of obviously diamond earrings that Shane presented to you with a flourish in the master bedroom of one house. You accepted them with a laugh and Shane cracked a joke about them being the only kind of diamond you were getting from him any time soon. You'd played it off with a laugh, but both of you had sobered some after that.

You wore the earrings until a walker snagged one and ripped it from your earlobe a few weeks later. That shit hurt like hell, and Shane had apologized as he stitched your ear back together, until you'd waved him off with a laugh. It'd just been bad luck, after all. You'd made it this far with a stud in your eyebrow and no problems there.

After you picked the place as clean as you had time for, you looked at Shane and he nodded. The two of you set to work covering your tracks, cutting up the walkers now turning and spray painting 'Wolves Not Far' on a stack of bricks. You lit up a few Molotovs as Shane carved 'W's' into the foreheads of the dead, and torched some of the buildings.

 

 

 

Dwight was pissed when you killed the guy, but there was nothing he could do about it now. You took off the jaw and hacked off the hands, Dwight watching you with vaguely disgusted eyes. When it was done, and you had blood all over your hands and your shoes and the knees of your jeans, you tied the dead guy up and looked at your bike with distaste.

"Ok, well, you're in the bitch seat," you told Dwight firmly. "Help me get this asshole across my lap and the handlebars once I've got her started. Boss is going to want his shit back."

"You didn't have to kill him," Dwight said.

You laughed as you rose and tossed a leg over your bike. "Yes, I did. D, I did him a favor. Think it through, and get him up here. He'll turn eventually, and he might not be able to do anything, but I don't exactly want a 'zombie is my co-pilot' bumper sticker."

 

 

You lifted a lazy hand toward the figure in the tower as the outer gates swung open. You rested your chin on Daryl's shoulder as he pulled the bike through, pressing a kiss to his cheek and waving at Carl and Rick in the field. They waved back, eyes lingering on the vehicle following the bike.

Daryl pulled to a halt and you swung off, jogging toward the driver's door of the car as Daryl took off again, taking the bike around to the garage. You leaned in the driver's window and smiled at the dirty, exhausted faces inside. They were looking around at everything with wide eyes, cautious hope beginning to radiate from them.

"Welcome to the prison," you told them. "Hop on out and meet some people. Don't worry, you won't be overwhelmed all at once. Everyone here knows what it's like out there, and they know how hard the adjustment can be."

The man's white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel eased slightly as the woman in the passenger seat touched his hand. "It's ok, Bill," she whispered, tears in her eyes. "Look at the children."

You glanced over your own shoulder and smiled indulgently out into the field, where Beth stood patient watch with Judith in her arms. Lizzy, Mika, and the little boy whose name you couldn't remember right then chased each other around in circles and laughed brightly. There were knives in sheaths at their belts, but otherwise they could have been kids on any playground before the apocalypse happened.

You stepped back as Bill got out of the car and Patrick, a kid slightly older than Carl, followed suit from the backseat. Patrick's mom's name eluded you, but you smiled as she got out too and came around the car.

"That's Beth watching the kids, and Judith is Rick and Shane's baby," you said, pointing. "Rick's out there in the field with his son Carl, playing farmer."

"Rick and Shane are the couple in charge?" Bill asked, and you heard Shane groan from behind you.

"You spreadin' rumors about me already, Nameless?" he complained, setting a hand on your back as he stepped to your side.

You grinned at him. "Hey. Brought some new people in. Everyone, this is Shane. No, he and Rick aren't a couple. Judith is complicated," you said with a shrug. Bill looked confused and Patrick watched Carl with interest as he and Rick started up the path.

"Shane is on the Council that runs this place, same and Daryl and I. Shane, this is Bill, Patrick, and- I'm so sorry, I'm blanking on your name," you apologized, and the woman laughed.

"Susan," she told you.

"Nice to meet you all. Nameless and Dixon asked you our questions?" Shane asked, hooking his thumbs through his gun belt.

"Of course I asked them the questions, asshole," you said with a roll of your eyes. "And I did it with a straight face, too," you added under your breath and Shane shot you a look.

The new people didn't notice, too busy looking around in wonder. Shane stayed quiet for a moment, letting them take it all in. Then he offered to show them around, help them find a cell, get some food, and get a shower.

Three faces lighting up at the mention of showers made you grin in appreciative understanding, and you waved off them and their profound thanks as you hoped behind the wheel of their car to pull it around to the garage. Daryl was waiting for you, gear bag slung over his shoulder and he held his hand out for yours.

You slid under his arm easily as you headed toward C block. "Another successful outing, Mr. Dixon," you told him warmly.

He smiled down at you. "Yep. Ya almost delivered those questions without smirkin' too."

"I can't help it," you said with a groan. "I mean, he heard them in a phone call from the great beyond!"

"Yeah, Shane never shoulda told ya that," Daryl agreed, lips twitching. "Answers weren't bad, though."

"Let's be honest, babe, we don't actually care about the answers," you retorted. "Pretty much any answer flies. I mean, a serial killer isn't going to answer the why with 'because I just like offing people and the zombie apocalypse created the perfect opportunity'."

He laughed. "Guess that's fair enough, baby."

Shane and Carol were talking to the newbies at the outdoor kitchen as you made your way toward C, and Carol waved to you. You waved back and Shane made a face at you. He was holding Judith in his arms now, and the mom was cooing over her delightedly.

"Ya make Shane and Rick out to be a couple again?" Daryl asked, and you bit your lip and smirked up at him.

"He makes it too damn easy!" you said, laughing. "Besides, it's fun."

"Ya gonna get yourself into trouble one of these days, girl," Daryl warned, pulling you in for a kiss. "Aight, I know ya dyin' for a shower. Go on before those three make it there."

You pulled him in for a longer kiss, ignoring the wolf whistles from all around the prison yard. His ears were pink when you broke the kiss and grinned at him, but his hands on your hips held you firmly in place against him.

"Why don't we make them wait, and you come join me?" you offered, raising an eyebrow.

"Too late," Shane said cheerfully, walking by with Judith. "Saw you two start the making out and told them to go while they had a chance."

You groaned. "Damn it, Walsh!"

"That's what you get for tellin' people Rick and I are a couple, Nameless!" he called over his shoulder as he left.

"I don't tell; I imply!" you yelled after him, then grinned at Daryl. "It works better that way. Hey, we might have missed the shower opportunity, but I bet our cell is empty."

Chapter Text

Negan sent Arat to get you and Shane the next day. He'd rewarded you for your good work with Dwight with a night off, the offer of a deep-tissue massage from Tanya, and an entire watermelon, straight from the Kingdom that morning.

You didn't mention to him that you hated watermelon. He already knew. Shane made you eat some anyway, because "you're too damn pale and you need some fucking nutrients."

You retorted that you needed a fucking cigarette, and you and Shane fought for awhile about that instead of about what to do about Daryl and Negan and Rick.

You'd been effectively avoiding the fucking elephant in the room for days, mostly through lack of opportunity to do much more than collapse together in bed for a few hours' sleep. Then again, the two of you were really good at avoiding talking about things, you thought grimly when the fight was over. You lay curled against him, head on his shoulder and your hand over his heart, tapping Springsteen listlessly with one finger.

"Sweetheart. We can talk about it. It's ok," he whispered, covering your hand with his.

You shook your head against his chest. "We can't. I- I can't. We have nothing with Negan. Until we have something to bargain with, there's nothing we can do except hope Rick falls in line and we get a chance to talk to him."

You slid your fingers into Shane's and held on. He pulled you closer to his side, grunting a little since his ribs were still healing. Sometimes you wondered if Shane took beatings on purpose, since the man always seemed to have something bruised or cracked or broken.

His lips brushed your temple and you tipped your head back to look up at him. "Sorry," you whispered.

"Naw. We're gonna have to figure out our play here eventually, criminal," he said slowly. "But it don't have to be tonight."

"Good," you said, and slid your hand from his to grab a fistful of his shirt instead. "Did you have any other ideas about what to do tonight?"

He chuckled and slid his hand up your arm as he turned toward you. "Might think of something."

 

 

Arat's attitude was far more respectful than it had been before, you thought with grumpy satisfaction as your eyes lingered on her half-healed face. She was looking at the floor, not at Shane with no shirt and his unbuttoned pants or at you, holding the sheet around you as you sat up in bed. She told you Negan wanted you and she was there to bring you down, and Shane told her five minutes before he shut the door in her face.

He gave you a worried look, and you shrugged as you slid from the bed and started looking for clothes.

 

 

Negan was a goddamn bastard, you thought bitterly as he smirked at the two of you in silence from the chair. You leaned against the row of cabinets in the little kitchenette, staring him down with angry eyes and Shane beside you looking at the floor.

Then the door opened and your heart stopped beating, because-

Negan was a goddamn bastard.

He looked like hell. You kept your expression as blank as you could, kept your fingers from tapping on the bat by clenching your fists instead, nails biting into the palms of your hands to leave bloody marks. That was ok. But you couldn't, wouldn't, absolutely fucking refused to give Negan the satisfaction of seeing how fucked up you were right now.

Daryl was standing in front of you, hair long and in his eyes, dressed in the sweats of the poor bastards who worked the fence for points. He'd taken a beating recently, and you swore you'd find out and punish whoever had laid so much as a finger on him.

It was his eyes that had you ready to kill though. His eyes jerked around rapidly, not meeting anyone else's gaze or landing on any one thing for two long.

Oh, someone was getting murdered for this, you thought desperately, but you knew it was useless. No one who mattered would be under your fists any time soon.

"Ahhh," Negan declared, rising from the chair as Dwight closed the door.

Dwight, who wore the vest you'd given Daryl and carried what you knew now was his crossbow. Dwight, who couldn't shoot the goddamn thing to save his life and was looking at you and Shane with such obvious pity you added him to the top of your mental kill list. Fucking Dwight, you thought savagely.

It was only Shane's arm brushing yours as he shifted slightly that kept you from pulling your gun and shooting Dwight right between the eyes.

"Jesus," Negan said slowly, grabbing a glass of water from the table beside him. "You look awful," he informed Daryl. "But don't you worry. We'll have Carson fix you all up. He did Shane, and Shane's face was in even worse shape than yours not too long ago."

Shane's arm jerked slightly against yours and you focused grimly on things like burning bodies and the warmth of fresh blood and how it felt to slam your fist into flesh, until all the pain and fear fell away.

Rage was good for you, you told yourself. Rage kept you alive. It kept you hard and cold, and most importantly of all, empty.

He was alive. He was real and alive and in the same room as you, and yet- you might as well have been. It'd be easier, being dead.

Angry was the next best thing.

"You thirsty? Here. Aw hell, I forgot. Your mouth is all puffed up like a baboon's ass. You need a straw? D, get him a straw!" Negan demanded.

Daryl held the water as Dwight started toward you. You reached behind you, grabbed a straw from the canister of them sitting conveniently on the counter- fuck you three times with a goddamn saw blade, Negan- and tossed it to Dwight. Dwight plopped it in the cup as Daryl's eyes flashed from Negan's to the floor to anywhere but at you and Shane standing there.

"That guy there?" Negan said with a nod at Dwight. "He hustles. I like hustle. But believe it or not, things weren't always cool between us. Shit, things weren't always cool between me and my left hand girl over there, either. Aw, hell, Shane-o. Were things always cool with you and me?" Negan pointed at Shane and winked when Shane stayed silent. He turned back to Daryl and grinned, leaning on Lucille.

"I think they were. Shane's always been damn easy to please- my cop just needs my criminal alive and well to be happy. But D- D's the needy one here. See, he worked for points, him and his super hot wife and her super hot sister. But see, sis- she needed meds. And that shit is hard to scavenge, so it cost more. Sis fell behind on points. So I asked her to marry me!"

Daryl's expression didn't change, his eyes flitting up and away from Negan's the whole time. Dwight, on the other hand, was looking more and more pissed off as Negan talked. Not that you could blame the man, really. This was his wife and his sister in law Negan was talking about.

"Told her I would take care of her in sickness and in health, because I am a stand up guy. Ain't that right, Biker?" he asked, turning to you briefly.

"Sure," you said flatly, and he chuckled.

"She's a little pissed at me at the moment," he told Daryl. Daryl flinched away from him, still not looking at you. "Anyway, super hot sis tells me she's gonna think about it. Next thing you know, I'm dealing with an orange situation! Dwighty-boy here stole all the medication and took off with his super hot wife and my super hot maybe soon-to-be fiancee." Negan shot a glare at Dwight and tapped Lucille on the floor once, still pissed about the whole goddamn thing.

Dwight's shoulders jerked and he flinched, but otherwise held his ground.

"So I had to send my guys- and my girl- after him. Because I can't let something like that stand. There... are.... rules," Negan declared, waving Lucille at Daryl. "Cost me an arm and a leg going after him! And you know what? Dwighty-boy... he still got away. Even from my biker babe over there, and buddy, nobody ever gets away from her!"

Your jaw clenched, because that wasn't a memory you enjoyed thinking about. Negan had known you and Sherry were friends, and he'd enjoyed putting you just under Simon on the hunt for them. When it turned up empty and you hadn't been able to figure out where the fuck they went, and all those dead Saviors started turning up, you'd gotten a gauntlet trip of your own and two days in the same cell Daryl was being kept in now.

The gauntlet had been for show, since they'd barely gotten a hit in on you and Negan had known that would be the case. Getting thrown in the cell; that was your real punishment. Negan knew just how well you handled being locked in the dark and alone in your own head for too long. Bastard.

"But D- he saw the light. He manned up. He came back. He asked for my forgiveness. I like that. Made me take notice. But Lucille," Negan whispered, holding the bat up and leaning close to Daryl.

Daryl flinched away from Lucille and you thought about Glenn and whoever the other guy had been.

"Well... you know how she is. She is a stickler for the rules. Hey, do you know what it feels like to squash a man's head like an over-ripe piece of fruit? I do!" Negan declared cheerfully. "And my biker over there does. Oh, she and Lucille get along just fine."

Daryl jerked away from Negan then, and Shane grabbed your hand and squeezed as Negan laughed. You glared at Negan, heart pounding, as he laughed again and bit his lip.

"So Dwight," he continued, ignoring the outburst. "He begged me not to kill Sherry, which I thought was kinda cute, so I was just going to kill him. Actually, I was gonna have YN do it."

Negan gestured vaguely over his shoulder to you. "But then Sherry says that she will marry me if I let Dwight live, which, if you think about it, that's a pretty screwed up deal, 'cause I was gonna marry her sister until she wound up dead, but...."

Dwight looked ready to kill, and you finally cracked. "Boss, what's the point of all this?" you snapped.

"Shut the fuck up, darlin', I'm talking to Daryl right now. We'll get to your part of the story soon enough," Negan said mildly, not bothering to look at you.

"Not now, sweetheart," Shane murmured to you, his hand on your arm all that held you back.

"Yeah, sweetheart," Negan teased, finally glancing at you. "Listen to your boy toy over there."

Daryl flinched again, like he'd been slapped, as Negan laughed and swung Lucille to his shoulder.

"Anyway, Sherry is super hot. It was a start. But it wasn't enough. So Dwight- he got the iron. And then I married his super-hot wife. Ex-wife. And then after all that, he still got on board! And now look at him! Pow! One of my top guys! And we are totally cool. The point being, I think you can be that guy," he declared, gesturing broadly. "I mean, Dwighty-boy here did it, and he has a lot of reasons not to like me. Shane-o does it."

Negan came over and stood in front of you and Shane, biting his lower lip and smirking at you. You met his eyes and tried not to show that this was bothering you any at all. It was just another day. Just another asshole who needed terrifying, and you'd drawn the short straw.

"My girl here does it. Oh, Dwight should tell you what she did to earn her place here, yes sirree. I'll tell you, Daryl- it's a damn good story," Negan said, looking back over his shoulder to Daryl. He stepped to your side and tossed his arm around your shoulders, and you stared at the wall just behind Daryl's ear so you could watch him but wouldn't have to meet his eyes.

"Yeah," Negan said slowly. "It's a good one. She and Shane here are my power couple! My cop and my criminal," he laughed and clapped Shane on the back with the arm he had around you. "I don't know what I'd do without them."

He regarded Daryl quietly for a minute, arm still around you. Negan looked down at you. "I think he's ready to be that guy, like you and Shane and Dwight. What do you think, darlin'?"

You raised an eyebrow at him and shrugged, and Negan chuckled. "Careful, honey," he whispered. "You're walking that thin line a little unsteadily today."

He released you all at once, stepping back toward Daryl and spreading his arms to encompass the room. "Look around! This? Well, it can all be yours. Maybe even the girl, too, but that's up to you and her and Shane-o. All you got to do is answer one simple question. Who are you?"

 

 

"Who even are you?" you declared dramatically, staring open-mouthed at Daryl in fake shock.

He scowled and rolled his eyes. "Aww, shut up," he muttered.

"You- you-" You looked down at the paper in your hands and then back up to him, laughter bubbling up uncontrollably as he scowled hard and tried to snatch it from you. "You spent.... three hundred dollars.... at a tanning salon?"

"No, I fuckin' didn't!" he snapped, huffing out an annoyed breath. He reached for the credit card bill in your hands again and you danced it back out of reach, enjoying the whole damn thing way too much.

You'd caught the false charges as soon as the bill came in and had already cancelled the card and contacted the fraud department. Everything was handled; you just wanted to see him squirm.

He chased after you as you stayed just out of his reach, giggling like mad as he caught the humor in your eyes and realized you were baiting him on purpose. His annoyed grabs turned into a predatory stalk around your apartment, and you tossed the statement recklessly to the floor and took off running for your bedroom, yelling over your shoulder for him to catch you if he could.

Later, you stretched and patted his bare ass where he flopped face down in the bed beside you. "Yeah, I guess that tanning salon wasn't you after all. Nothin' fake about this body, that's for sure."

"You already handled it, didn't ya?" he muttered into the pillow.

"Card's cancelled, new one on the way. Account credited," you agreed lazily.

He lifted his head and glared at you. "Bitch."

"Asshole," you fired back, and kissed him as he rolled and pulled you against him.

 

 

Daryl said nothing, like you'd known he would, and you stared at the floor and thought about answering that question for the first time yourself, covered in blood and panting and staring at Shane with a gun to his head and a pissed-off expression.

"What, has the cat got your tongue? You're just overwhelmed by the awesomeness of this? Shane! Who are you?" Negan snapped.

Shane answered without hesitation. "I'm Negan."

"There. That's how it's done. I'm gonna ask you one more time," Negan said slowly. He stepped up and rested Lucille just under Daryl's chin. "Who are you?"

Daryl met his eyes and you could read the effort in that simple action. Everything hurt inside you, and you tapped one finger restlessly against Shane's hand still gripping yours.

Negan laughed. "Oh, I love that you don't scare easy. Maybe you need another example. Nameless!" He turned, and you didn't let him get the question out.

"I'm Negan," you said flatly, and Daryl finally looked at you.

The world stopped as his eyes met yours, and you tried to tell him everything in that one, suspended moment. Then his eyes slid away again, and you could have sworn the floor fell out from under your feet, and the only thing that felt real was Shane's hand on yours.

"Who. Are. You?" Negan repeated softly.

Daryl looked back at him, chin lifting slightly. "Daryl."

Chapter Text

You stood, breathing hard, and shook the blood off the bat. You smiled wildly at the asshole in the leather jacket, and he stared at you with a look somewhere between fear, awe, and arousal.

"What's next, asshole?" you asked him recklessly, riding the wave of adrenaline that had been coursing through you since the first gun was pointed at Shane's head.

He started to laugh, long and loud and very, very interested. "Oh, honey. I have got to get me one of you!"

You shrugged. "Sorry. Not available."

"Oh, you mean the pretty boy toy over there?" the asshole said, taking a step closer to you. He leaned in, biting his lip as he smirked at you. "I didn't mean it that way, but baby, you wanna go, I am so very there."

You lifted your eyebrow again and shrugged. "No, thanks."

"Your loss. Well, darlin' a bet was a bet, and I am- I am goddamn impressed. You can keep the man and the bat, as agreed," Negan said with a whistle. "Mmm! You are- Shit."

He turned and started to walk away, and the man with the wide, fake smile dropped the gun from the back of Shane's head. Then Negan turned, holding up one hand and looking chagrined. "There's just- one little thing I'm going to need from you, honey."

You shifted your grip on the bat, wishing like hell you still had a gun as your eyes narrowed on him. "And what might that be?"

"Oh, settle down, darlin'. I'm just going to need the answer to one- teeny- little question," he said, leaning toward you again and slinging the barbed-wire-wrapped Slugger he carried to his shoulder.

You didn't say a word, staring at him instead with both eyebrows raised. He chuckled, running a hand over his mouth and clicking his tongue at you.

"Oh, man, I like you. See, I think you? You will go damn far with me. You might even take Simon's place as my right hand man. But everyone who works for me has to understand something, and that is that I... am everywhere. I am everyone. And I- I am in charge."

You shrugged. "Ok. Understood."

He wrapped an arm around your shoulders, despite the blood and gore on you, and turned you to look at his people. "No, honey, you don't understand. Not yet. You! Who are you?"

He pointed the bat at a random asshole with a gun, who promptly replied, "I'm Negan."

"Annnddd.... you!" Negan said, picking out someone else.

"I'm Negan."

"I'm beginning to see a theme," you muttered.

Negan chuckled and pointed to another and another, and finally the man who'd held the gun to Shane. "And you, Simon?"

"Oh, boss- I am Negan," Simon said with that shiny-empty smile.

Negan chuckled again and glanced at you. "So, here's what I'm gonna need from you, darlin'. I'm gonna need you to kneel, and I'm gonna need you to tell me- who are you?"

You glanced at Shane's tired, strained face; the blood on his shirt seeping out from the bandage on his side. You dropped to one knee smoothly and swiftly. "I'm Negan."

 

 

You didn't recognize the guy at the gate. It was almost a relief, despite the urgent pounding of your heart at the prospect of seeing people you loved that you'd given up for dead. When he asked Negan casually who he was, the chuckle escaped before you could stop it.

Negan pointed back at you, where you leaned on the seat of your bike, in clear warning. You didn't bother to apologize. Here lately, you were playing a dangerous game of 'how far can I push Negan' and you were coming out on top. This was going to be a hard enough day for you, what with who you'd already seen, escorted roughly by Dwight and shoved into the back of the vehicle between him and Shane, and who you knew you were going to be seeing soon.

You'd take your fun where you could get it, and play the stone-cold, killing-machine bitch you were.

"Oh, you better be joking," Negan said to the guy. "Negan. Lucille. Now, I know I had to make an impression!"

And then Rick walked up, and God knew that wasn't the Rick you knew. It looked like him; it walked like him; but Shane had been right- the look in his eyes. Deputy Do-Good Grimes didn't exist anymore after all, you thought sadly, staring at a man who used to be your friend. Rick's eyes flicked over you once, hard and cool and without any of the friendly warmth you remembered from even your very first meeting, where you'd had guns drawn on each other in King County lockup.

"Well, hello, there," Negan said cheerfully, and then he wasn't cheerful. "Do not make me have to ask."

"You said a week. You're early," Rick said flatly as he moved to open the gate.

"I missed you," Negan teased. "Come on, Biker."

You rose and walked to his side, the touch of your bat on your leg with every step burning as Rick's eyes focused on it rather than your face. "Here, boss," you told Negan mildly as you reached his elbow. "Hi, Rick."

"Oh, that's right," Negan said softly, glancing from you to Rick with an asshole smirk. "I forgot you knew each other. Rick fucking Grimes, right? That's what you said? Rick, you met my right hand man the other night, but this-"

Negan laughed and shook his head fondly at you. "This is my left hand girl."

You sighed and glared at Negan. "You know how much I hate that goddamn expression, boss."

Negan swung Lucille up to his shoulder, tipped his head back, and laughed again. "She is so goddamn ballsy, Ricky! Oooh, I love it! Honey, give old Rick here a demonstration of our services, would you?"

You glanced where he did, at the zombie stumbling up from around the trucks, and sighed. You unsnapped your bat, took two steps, and swung once. Blood and brains sprayed as the walker went down, and you shook them off the bat with distaste as you sauntered back.

Rick stared, but he still hadn't spoken a word to you.

"Easy peasy, lemon squeezy!" Negan declared. "All right, everybody. Let's get started. Big day!"

Rick's eyes moved from yours to the Saviors lined up against the wall, out of sight from inside the gates, and lingered on where you knew Shane stood next to Daryl and Dwight.

Negan was blathering on the way Negan did, ending with a mock bow, a falsely bright smile, and instructions to Rick to hold Lucille as he strolled forward into Alexandria. You followed at his gesture, holding Rick's pissed off eyes with your own. You didn't dare to more than offer him the slightest uptick of your lips, hoping he could read the sorrow and the apology in your eyes.

His expression didn't change, so you didn't know if it worked or not.

 

 

"Daryl. Hey-" Rick said, brushing past you and ignoring Shane as he walked toward Daryl.

"No!" Negan snapped, and you stepped between Rick and Daryl. Rick glared at you again, and you tried not to feel anything.

"Nope," Negan repeated, reaching your side. "He's the help. You don't look at him, you don't talk to him, and I don't make you chop anything off of him."

You flinched at that, remembering Shane's story about Carl, and Rick's eyes grew red-rimmed and even harder than they had been before. Your fingers beat a restless Clash song on your bat as Negan gave a singsong 'same goes for everyone' to the woman and the man you didn't recognize.

Shane's hand brushed your back as Negan gave the order to move out, and Saviors poured into your friends' home.

"Keep it together, sweetheart," he muttered, loud enough for Daryl to hear him.

 

Negan was showboating, and he was dragging you and Shane along for the ride because he could. You knew it, Shane knew it- from the look on Rick's face, he knew it. Wasn't a damn thing any of you could do about, though.

"Negan! You're gonna want to see this," Jack called, walking up with a video camera. Negan nodded at you, and you held out a hand for it.

"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" Negan said as you opened it and looked at Rick with a wild beard and dead eyes on the small screen. "Got my fingers crossed for a little freaky-deaky!"

"No, boss," you told him mildly. "Check it out."

Negan wrapped an arm around your shoulders and leaned in as you lifted the video camera and pressed play.

"... know me. I've killed people. I don't even know how many by now," Rick said on screen, looking down.

Negan whistled lowly even as your heart started to pound.

How many walkers have you killed? you heard a ghost of your own voice whisper in your ear. How many people have you killed? Why?

"Jee-hee-sus!" Negan said. "Is that you, Rick, underneath all that man bush? Shee-ut. I would not have fucked with that guy! Would you?" he asked, glancing at you as he took the camera from your suddenly numb fingers.

You met Rick's eyes sadly and gave him a twisted grin as Negan wandered over to him. "Boss, I never would have messed with Rick. He's always been one tough, lucky bastard."

Negan chuckled, starting the camera and panning it over Rick. "Well, that's not him anymore, is it? Nope!" he said into the camera. He handed the camera off to Shane as Rick met your eyes again.

"I really gotta shave this shit," Negan declared, touching his beard as he walked away from Rick. "Biker! Shane-o!"

You sighed as Shane grabbed Daryl's elbow and moved him forward, and you stepped closer to Rick. "I'm sorry," you whispered.

Rick looked away from you, and you stepped toward Negan as he called you again.

 

 

"I need five minutes to talk to Rick," you whispered to Shane. Shane was staring, face pale and jaw tight, at the three fresh graves the creepy-ass priest had led you too.

Glenn's, Maggie's, the red haired dude's, according to the priest and Rick.

You weren't looking at the graves; you were looking at the priest, as he dusted dirt from the side of his pants. These weren't graves at all, you thought. And maybe- just maybe- Maggie wasn't dead. Shane had left out the part of the story where she'd been sick, though, and you wondered what other parts he might have left out.

"That ain't gonna be possible," he whispered back. "We're under watch."

"My cop and my criminal aren't getting any bright ideas over here, are they?" Negan asked suddenly.

You met his eyes. "Maggie was our friend, same as Glenn."

Daryl snorted scornfully from Shane's other side, and Rick looked pissed. Negan glanced at Daryl and smiled, laughing a little as he looked back at you.

"They don't seem to agree with that, darlin'," he told you.

You shrugged, letting a smirk play around your own lips. "That doesn't make it any less true," you told Negan defiantly.

Negan backhanded you across the face, sending you stumbling into Shane with the force of it. You laughed as he steadied you, not moving muscle otherwise or looking at Negan. You grinned at Negan as you raised a hand and dabbed at the blood pooling on your lip.

"Thank you, boss," you told him casually. You met Rick's eyes behind Negan's head and saw cool consideration along with the anger that had been there so far. He had taken a step your way as well, and so, you realized, had Daryl.

Maybe they still cared a little after all.

Negan followed your look from Rick to Daryl and stabbed a finger your way. "Honey, you and I are gonna have a serious talk when we get home," he snarled.

And shots rang out from somewhere in the community. Negan whirled, glared at Rick, and laughed cruelly. He grabbed your arm and started hustling you with him in the direction they came.

"Was it worth it, Biker?" Negan hissed. "Did you get your little message across? Because someone is going to pay for that, darlin', and I think you know who it'll be."

You winced, wondering just how badly you'd gotten Shane hurt.

Negan's chuckle filled your ears as he let go of your arm.

Chapter Text

Your hands shook. The darkness was absolutely suffocating, and it took everything you had in you not to start screaming.

You were afraid if you started, you wouldn't stop.

You pressed your shaking hands to your face and took deep, careful breaths. Distract yourself, you thought wildly. Distract yourself from how small and dark and very, very locked the damn cell was.

You were locked in a goddamn closet. How the fuck were you supposed to not think about it?

"Jesus fucking tap dancing Christ on a moth-eaten cracker," you half-yelled, then slapped a hand over your mouth to hold in the hysterical screeching that wanted to start up because you broke the vocalization barrier.

You rose clumsily to your feet and started pacing instead, but that just served to remind you of how goddamn small the cell was.

Small like-

Nope. You wrenched your brain away from that thought and punched the wall instead.

"Oh, motherfucker!" you yelled, immediately regretting that decision. Yeah, you pretty sure you'd broken your hand doing that. "Shit balls. Judas goddamn Priest. Shit damn motherfucking bitch. Ok, yeah, gotta- gotta do- something-" you got out through lungs slowly tightening. You slid down the wall, set your forehead against your knees, and started singing Springsteen softly in between gasping breaths.

Shane's voice echoed in your ear, reminding you not to think about it. To play the game, distract both of you.

Play the game.

It didn't work. You grabbed fistfuls of your hair and pulled, hard, trying to stop the memory that wouldn't fade back, wouldn't let go. It was too late, and you were listening to laughter and someone banging discordantly on piano keys and wood breaking. You were smelling decaying flesh and feeling bones poking into you and the air was getting thin and- you were going to die locked in this goddamn coffin and Shane would be killed and you'd turn and leave you trapped and rotting away in here for the rest of eternity and-

Tears were running down your cheeks and you were curled in the corner hyperventilating when the door opened.

"Shit, sweetheart. Come on, let's get you up." Shane's voice had you cracking open your eyes, breathing slowing even as you squinted against the harshness of the light. "Hey, criminal. You're fine, alright? Come on."

He was bruised and bloody and had a line of stitches across his forehead, but he pulled you to a sitting position with a grunt and wrapped his arm around you as you buried your face in his chest with a gasp. You clung to him as he chuckled, trying to banish the coffin back to the locked corner of your mind you left it.

"You're ok, Nameless. You're ok. Didn't think I'd let you stay in here alone for long, did you? Naw, I've got my girl," he whispered as you shivered violently. "I got you out of there, didn't I? Getting you out of here is a hell of a lot easier than that."

After a few minutes, you pushed away from him, scrubbing a still-shaking hand over your face and glaring at him. "What did- damn it, Shane! Why'd you do this? I can handle it!"

He stroked a hand over your cheek as you pressed a light kiss to the stitches on his forehead and glared at him. "Sweetheart, you were only halfway through. He kept you in there much longer, I don't know how far gone you'd have been. It's just pain, Nameless. Been beat up before; I'll get beat up again."

"Yeah, you will if you keep paying for my goddamn mistakes," you muttered, grabbing his hand and kissing his palm. Man couldn't let you pay for your own mistakes. He'd gone through hell getting you out of the damn coffin, now he'd taken a fucking beating to get you out of the cell. Fucking hell.

"Learn how to watch that mouth and I won't have to," he teased as you climbed slowly to your feet and helped him up.

 

 

 

"He's taking all of our medicine! They said only half our stuff!"

Negan shoved you in the room ahead of him, and there was a lanky kid with long dark hair, a fearless stance, and a thigh holster you recognized holding a gun on Davey.

"Carl," you breathed, gut punched for the third time so far at the sight of him.

"Oh-ho! Of course!" Negan said, sounding delighted. "Really kid?"

Carl glared over at Negan, and your eyes went wide at the bandage around his face.

"What the hell, Negan? You do that to him?" you snapped, forgetting everything in your irritation. For a man who had a 'don't fuck with kids' rule, Negan sure had been bending it a lot lately.

Carl stared at you for a second, the gun trained on Davey never wavering. Then he fixed his glare on Negan. "You should go, and take her with you. Fucking Shane too. Before you find out how dangerous we all are."

"Well, pardon me young man, excuse the shit outta my goddamn French, but... did you just threaten me? Look, I get threatening Davey here, and I get your unhappiness with my biker and her cop, but I can't have it," Negan said, and you read his genuine approval of Carl in his stance. "Not him, not me."

"Carl, just put it down," Rick started, leaning around you.

"Don't be rude, Rick, we are having a conversation here," Negan snapped. "Don't make me have her take you outside for this. Now, boy, where were we? Oh yeah- your giant man-size balls. No threatening us."

You shifted behind him, crossing your arms and tossing your hair to cover the 'wait' gesture you made to Rick as Negan stepped toward Carl, his tone dipping from amused to cold.

"Listen, I like you, so I don't wanna go hard on proving a point here. You don't want that, either. I said half your shit, and half is what, Biker?" he shot his hand out toward you and you ground your teeth together again as Carl's hostile gaze shot your way.

No one had answered your goddamn question about what had happened to Carl's eye, you thought grimly. You didn't answer Negan's question either. He turned to look at you slowly, eyebrows climbing at your open display of defiance.

"Hold that thought, future serial killer," he said to Carl, stepping toward you instead. "Honey, do I need to remind you who is outside that door?" he whispered to you, smile on his lips not coming anywhere close to meeting his eyes.

"Half is what you say it is," you said slowly. "Boss." You popped your lips sarcastically on the boss, holding Negan's gaze and trying to tell him that the more he threatened, the more you'd push back. Fuck this noise.

Carl's eyes went from Negan to you to the door where he could see Shane standing, holding Daryl by the arm. Your eyes followed him as Negan chuckled, and you saw Shane watching you, his lips barely moving as he spoke to Daryl.

Don't get yourself in trouble, officer, you thought at him desperately. I'm getting you in enough trouble as it is. Shit.

"That's right!" Negan declared. "Half is what I say it is. I am serious. Do you want me to prove how serious? Again?"

Carl dropped the gun reluctantly, and Negan gestured you forward to take it. You did, Carl not looking you in the eyes.

You'd left a man to die to save this kid's life once. He had your holster strapped to his leg and he was standing right in front of you and he thought you were the enemy. Because you were. Because you were with assholes like Davey and Negan and fucking Arat.

"You know, Rick, this whole thing reminds me that you have a lot of guns. There's all the guns you took from my outpost when you wasted all of my people with a shit-ton of your own guns, and I'm bettin' there's even more. Which adds up to an absolute ass-load of guns, and as this little emotional outburst has just made crystal clear.... I can't allow that," Negan said softly. He grinned at Rick, who glanced at Carl with a broken look you'd only ever seen when Rick sat in a farmhouse with blood on his uniform and repeated that you searched for a little girl when she goes missing.

"They're mine now! So tell me, Rick. Where are my guns?" Negan asked.

 

 

 

You'd seen this coming, of course. Negan took guns and ammo from communities that proved.... troublesome.

You'd had a hand in taking some of the last of the ammunition from Hilltop when the kid was killed there. You'd told Negan- rightfully, you suspected- that leaving them with the ability to take out your Saviors from a distance was a good way to encourage them to do just that. You'd watched the anger in the eyes of a long-haired dude in a leather duster who looked bizarrely like every painting you'd ever seen of Jesus and wondered if you were doing the right thing then.

Then you remembered all the shit you'd seen on the road, from people with guns and without options, and oh yeah. You were doing the right thing.

Negan worked, you reminded yourself. Negan's methods were brutal and harsh, but they worked. Communities thrived- the Sanctuary, the Kingdom, the Hilltop, Negan's outposts, a few smaller places. Negan's rules kept atrocities like the things you'd seen out there down.

There were no Terminuses here. There were no roving bands of men who harassed women and tried to claim your shit as their own until you bluffed them down and sent them on their way. There were no Wolves carving W's into women and men and leaving them with no goddamn arms to die of blood loss and exposure. There were no people ripping the fucking throats out of other people with their teeth or stealing people's shit in the middle of the night or holding knives to Shane's throat or guns to your head or chaining up people you love and leaving them to turn or locking you in a coffin and sitting around drinking and laughing as your oxygen supply ran out and-

"Hey. Hey, sweetheart, look at me. Come on, criminal, let go. Let go of the bat and look at me," Shane's voice cut through the roaring edge of terror that had slipped past your defenses somehow as you watched Negan torment Rick.

You had a death grip on your bat and the Saviors nearby eyed you with blatant fear. Shane had one hand on your cheek and one hand over yours on the bat, and he slid around so he came between you and everyone else.

"Hey. You with me, Nameless? Come on, sweetheart, you gotta keep it together for me," he told you in a low plea. "Or at least give me a signal if we're dying today, huh?"

You drew in a harsh breath, closing your eyes. "Shane," you said simply, and he took the bat from your hand and snapped it back into place.

"I know," he whispered into your ear. "Look, we're gonna figure this shit out, ok? We're gonna help them and we're gonna make it all square somehow, but you have got to keep it together for me. There's too many guns. One crazy criminal with a bat can't win here, alright? It's not like the Wolves or like the funeral home, ok? Can't just go ape in the middle of it and come out alive. We gotta have a plan, sweetheart."

"Shane-o! Biker!" Negan's voice cut through the bubble Shane had made around you, and he whispered one last 'keep it together' in your ear.

"Yeah, boss?" he called, keeping his eyes on you as you sucked in another hard breath and started drumming out Paradise City lightly, driving all your shit back into the corner where you kept it locked.

"Much as I love watching my power couple be all... power couple-y, I'm in need of my criminal's particular skill set right now," Negan declared, and you licked your lips, tossed your head, and painted on your smirk.

"Which skill set might that be?" you asked, running a hand across Shane's chest and squeezing his shoulder as you stepped around him.

You froze, the smirk going hard and brittle, at the sight of Negan pointing a gun at Daryl, who looked utterly unconcerned.

"I need to see if Rick's been taking care of my guns," Negan declared, and tossed the gun at you. "Pick a target."

"Excuse me?" you asked pleasantly, snatching the gun from the air.

"Pick a target," Negan repeated, opening his hands expansively. "Any target."

For a second, you considered him. You could have done it. Quick swing and a squeeze and he'd be dead.

So would you, and so would Shane, and so would a whole fucking lot of other people you cared about, including Daryl and Rick and Carl and anyone else you loved. Negan's people would see to it.

Negan held your eyes with a look that said he knew what he was fucking doing and knew what you were thinking, and Arat was standing behind him with her finger on the trigger already. Fucking hell, you thought, and brought the gun up and fired at the window of the building above everyone's heads.

"Feels good, boss," you said flatly.

"Sounds good too! Mmm. Honey, hand that off to my pack mule there," he ordered you, and you laid the pistol on top of the load of guns Daryl carried by you.

"Holy shit!" Negan exclaimed as you tried to catch Daryl's eye. "It was you who took out little Timmy and the dick brigade? Good on you! Getting in your last licks!"

You eyed the rocket launcher as Shane's hand touched your back. You leaned into him a little as Arat disappeared down the stairs and came back hauling up a protesting woman by her arm.

"Arat!" Negan said, tone chiding. "We do not do that... unless they do somethin' to deserve it."

"We went through the inventory," Arat said. "Guns in the armory, guns they had around the walls- they're short. Glock 9 and a .22 Bobcat."

Rick's face paled as Negan's hard eyes turned his way.

 

 

 

You were going to die here, in this coffin with this dead bastard and his baseball bat, you thought wildly. You wouldn't be able to save Shane. He'd die too, and all of the bullshit you'd gone through, trying to find anyone you cared about, would be for absolutely nothing.

You closed your eyes and drew in a shallow, gasping breath. The air was almost out, you thought dully. Panic was fading into acceptance, and maybe dying wasn't such a bad thing.

After all, if you went on and died, you'd see Daryl and Merle again.

God, you missed your Dixon boys, you thought. Days in the woods, nights in Daryl's bed. Fixing Merle's bike and blasting Motorhead. Life was so simple then and you hadn't even known it. What was one creepy foster dad or abusive alcoholic asshole when you had both of them by your side? How could you have known things would get so much worse and you'd one day be longing for a time when you lived in what you thought was constant fear? You hadn't known what fear was, then.

You smiled softly and closed your eyes, blocking out the sounds outside of the coffin. You hummed a Zepplin song quietly to yourself, using up the oxygen faster, you supposed. You didn't much care.

"I'll see you soon, boys," you whispered.

Something slammed into the coffin and sent it crashing to the floor. You screamed once, startled by the motion, and-

The lid broke open as it hit the ground and the voices from outside it started yelling hard, vicious threats. You scrambled for the dead asshole's bat as the sounds of a beating being delivered rose and you heard Shane give a pained cry. One hand closed on the bat, the other on a bone, and you exploded to your feet as Shane cried out again.

They stared as you rose from the coffin like the angel of goddamn death, and you chucked the bone in your hand broken end forward like playing darts. It slammed through the eye of one of the assholes who had Shane bound and bleeding on the ground, and he fell backward screaming. The rest of them looked at you, eyes widening, and you felt something in your soul snap in two.

You were so done with people who thought they could hurt and break and take and kill. You spun the bat in your hand and charged toward them swinging.

When it was over, you were a crying, bloody mess. You stood, shaking and weeping, and Shane staggered to his feet and came to where you stood. His hands were still tied behind his back, but he leaned into you, kissing your face over and over until the bloody bat fell from your hand and you grabbed onto him and held on tight.

"We're alive. We're alive," he whispered in your ear over and over. "It's ok, criminal. We're alive."

"Are we, Shane?" you asked dully, pulling back from him and not meeting his eyes. You looked around, saw a knife sticking out of the head of one of the bastards, and pulled it out with a jerk. You cut the rope from Shane's hands, and he turned to you immediately.

He ran his fingers down your cheek and grabbed your arms. "Look at me," he said firmly, and you reluctantly looked away from the carnage around what had once been a pretty, peaceful room where people came to celebrate the dead.

Now it was a full of broken chairs and broken bodies and blood and brains.

It took effort to raise your eyes to Shane's, but you did. He smiled at you slightly.

"There you are. We're alive, Nameless. You and me. Right here and right now, ok? And we're going to stay that way."

"What's the point?" you whispered, eyes filling. "If it's all just... this." You waved one hand at the nightmare before you. "All the people who write thank you notes for food and sweep floors are dead, Shane. All that's left are the killers and the takers, like us."

Shane shook his head. "We don't know whoever wrote that note is-"

"It was half-finished and covered in bloodstains," you said harshly. "This place was full of zombies. We know."

He fell silent for a minute, studying your face. "All right. I'll give you that one, criminal. You want to know the point? This is. You and me, right here. I know it ain't the same as- as someone else. But we're alive and we've got each other. That's a good enough reason for me, sweetheart," he said gently, smiling at you crookedly and laying his hand on your cheek again.

You stared at him for a long moment as his thumb swept the line of your cheekbone, and then you kissed him hard.

Chapter Text

"I don't enjoy killing women," Negan declared to the frightened woman. You braced yourself, having a disturbing feeling you knew what was coming. "Men- I can waste them all the live long. But at the end of the day, Olivia my dear, this was your responsibility-"

"We can work this out," Rick interrupted.

"Oh, yes we can! And I'm going to- right now," Negan snapped at Rick. He turned back to Olivia, who was starting to cry. "This was your job, and you screwed up. Keeping track of guns? That shit is life and death. Nameless!"

You flinched, and you saw Rick and Daryl flinch as well, but you stepped toward him with your spine straight. "Yeah, boss?"

"I seem to be sort a goddamn bat right now, don't I?" he said, tipping his head toward where Rick clutched the barbed-wire wrapped nightmare. You raised an eyebrow at Negan, asking silently what he wanted you to do about that. Negan turned to Rick with a smirk.

"Rick, do you have any idea what it's like to smash a man's dome like a melon?" Negan asked, running a hand over his mouth and chin. "It's hard fuckin' work when they're alive. And since my thirsty bitch is busy right now, I think I'll take me a little break. Luckily for me, I've got my biker over there, and she has one helluva swing."

You closed your eyes and drew in a deep breath. No. He wasn't doing this to you. Not here, not now-

"Biker! Show Rick here what a fuckin' good arm you have."

You opened your eyes and looked at Negan, refusal on your lips. He raised his eyebrows and looked over your shoulder, and you turned to find Shane standing carefully still, arms crossed, with Saviors around him.

He shook his head at you, telling you not to do it, but you were already reaching for the loop at your side. Negan's eyes laughed at you as you spun the bat in your hand and lifted it to your shoulder.

"You want it clean or messy, boss?" you asked after a beat. You had no desire to kill this woman, certainly not in front of Rick and Daryl and Shane, but you'd be damned if she got live and Shane didn't.

Negan did that thing where he looked fake-surprised, the one that didn't fool anyone, before giving you a self-satisfied smirk. "Oh, you thought I meant Olivia here? No, no, honey, settle down. We don't kill them unless we have to. People are a resource," he scolded you as you glared.

Fuck you, Negan, you thought grimly. Fuck you. It was starting to not matter to you that his way worked. You and Shane had been broken and beaten and desperate when he'd found you. You'd had nothing else to live for but staying alive for each other.

Now, you were beginning to wonder if that was still true. Maybe there was something else out there after all.

 

 

Negan let Rick call a meeting in their church. Alexandrians streamed past you, where you leaned against the doors on Negan's orders, bat at your side. You listened to some of it, as Rick's voice rose and fell in that compelling way he'd had for years.

"Most of you weren't there. You didn't have to watch. You can look away now when someone else dies, or you can help solve this. We give them what they want and we live in peace."

You closed your eyes, pressed your palms to the brick of their church, and drug your hands down, feeling the brick bite into palms already scored from your nails.

You can look away now when someone else dies, or you can help solve this.

You wanted to look away. As long as it wasn't one of your own, you'd been looking away for months- and your own had narrowed down to one person.

One person whose life meant more to you than anyone else's. One person whose life was worth blood on your hands and bodies stacking up on the road behind you. His life was worth sleepless nights and hearing dead people's voices and drinking in the shower and chain-smoking packs of cigarettes and walking a careful line with someone you tried not to see was more monster than man.

If you made a move to help these guys- your friends and family- it was that one life that you were risking.

"There is no way out of this. Let me put this to all of you as clearly as I can: I'm not in charge anymore. Negan is. Now, who has the guns?"

 

 

You knew he was setting you up, but Negan pointed from you to Rick and gestured you to follow him. You hesitated, and Negan called Shane over and brought Daryl as well, both of them sitting with him and the terrified Olivia.

You sighed and followed Rick into the house. It apparently belonged to someone who wasn't there; the guy who'd answered the gate and gone off with the feisty Hispanic woman on an errand for Dwight. Inside, Rick looked around and didn't speak to you, Lucille falling from his hand to hit the floor.

You leaned on the door and watched him as he started looking under chairs and pulling books from shelves.

"Rick," you said softly after a moment.

He paused, freezing for a moment mid-motion before finishing the action. He didn't bother to respond.

"Ok, Deputy. I get that. But we were friends once, right? Hell, it wasn't even that long ago," you whispered, looking down at your scraped-up hands.

Rick stopped moving, back to you and head bowed, and you held your breath. "We aren't friends anymore," he said harshly. "It's been long enough."

You nodded slowly. "I'll give you that. Nearly a year. Fuck, at this point it might be a year."

His shoulders jerked and he started his search again.

"We don't have long, and I'm probably getting the shit beat out of Shane even taking the bait, Rick; I hope you get that," you said quietly. "Negan knows what he's doing. He probably has someone listening in. Shane'll pay the price. There's nothing he could do. He used every goddamn card we held between us keeping Daryl alive and sending me away from that line-up. It was my work, Rick. My plan," you said bitterly. You sighed and shook your head as he moved from the bookshelf to look into the fireplace.

"We looked for you. We looked for all of you, any of you. For days before we were driven away from the prison. We both-" your voice cracked and broke and you picked at one of the scrapes on your hands, but you'd meant it. You didn't know how long Negan would give you.

You had to make it count.

"We saw Daryl go down. I saw him get bit, Rick, and then the fucking sky walk came down on his head. He was dead and we both knew it, and I was gonna die there too, but Shane said- he said if I was dying, he was too. What was I supposed to do, let him go out with me? No. No, the world needed him, Deputy. You needed him, Carl needed him, Ju-" you broke off again, shaking your head. You wouldn't bring up Judith. You didn't bring up Judith.

That was the rule. Shane's one rule, the only thing he'd ever really asked of you, and you respected it. You wiped that sweet baby girl out like she'd never existed, because what else could you have done in the face of tears falling from Shane's eyes and his raw, broken voice begging you never to mention her again?

"We looked. We never found anything. No sign. How did-" you shook your head. "Doesn't matter. We saw shit out there, Deputy. Shit that made the Governor look like a walk in the goddamn park. These guys that picked us up? Negan was going to kill us both, because I mouthed off to him and told him he could go let a zombie suck his dick for all I cared about him and his Savior shit. But Shane was- Shane was in trouble. Negan told me he'd kill us both, or he'd give me a chance. I took the chance, raised the stakes, and came out swinging. I got to keep the bat and the man."

Rick had stopped looking again, his hands braced on the wall beside the fireplace. "I'm glad you're alive. But I don't care what happened to you out there. Things happened to us, too. You work for him now. Shane held a gun to Rosita's head while Negan told me to cut off Carl's arm," he snarled, turning to look at you. "Carl's. Arm!"

You didn't flinch, but you wanted to. "Negan doesn't hurt children, Rick. It was an empty threat and Shane knew it. Negan knows how to break people."

"Negan shot a kid in Hilltop."

"Actually, that was Donovan," you said mildly, and your lips curled in a sharp not-smile. "And I got to kill Donovan for it. He bled. A lot."

"I don't give a shit. He killed Abraham and Glenn. Glenn saved our lives. My life. Your life," Rick hissed, inches from your face now.

You closed your eyes again, swallowing against the fresh wave of hurt. "Is Maggie really dead? Your creepy preacher faked those graves. I saw him brush dirt off his pants."

Rick hesitated, looking at you with the first sign of anything other than hostility. "Maybe."

"Deputy, come on," you snarled. "Look out that window. You see your people out there? Well, let me be clear. I don't give a rat's fucking ass what happens to your Olivia. But just as under fucking threat right now are the two people in the world I do give a damn about. I've known Daryl since I was eight years old, Rick. Eight goddamn years old! If you think I would let any of this situation stand if I had any other fucking choice in the matter, then you don't know me at all."

"I don't know you!" Rick yelled back. "Not anymore."

You glanced at the door anxiously. "Time's up now, Rick. Better get back to your search. Try the floorboards and the vents. They're good hidey-holes for criminals like me," you told him sadly.

Rick stared at you, but the door opened and Arat stuck her head in. You raised an eyebrow at her as Rick jerked away from you and headed toward a window.

"Heard yelling. Everything ok in here?" she asked smugly.

"We're fine, bitch," you muttered, and she glared and stepped closer.

Your arms uncrossed and you stared her in the eyes as she got into your space, gripping a rifle in her hands tightly.

"Got a problem?" you asked mildly, dropping a hand to the bat at your side. Her eyes followed the motion, but she scoffed and leaned even closer.

"You know, you're going to fuck up eventually," Arat hissed at you. "When you do, and Negan doesn't think you're amusing anymore- I'll still be here. A good soldier."

"That what you want? To be Negan's top bitch? Put on a little black dress and some strappy heels and offer yourself up, honey," you sneered at her.

Rick was kneeling by one of the vents now, but he was watching the exchange with interest. Arat smiled at you and shrugged.

"I don't want Negan. Negan likes to have too many women and doesn't want to share them with anyone else. No, when you fuck up and get yourself killed or worse, I'll get Shane," she said.

You tossed your head back and laughed. "Oh, little girl. You'll try," you told her, still laughing, and patted her cheek- the one still healing from the beat-down you'd given her. "Run along and play with the other good little soldiers now. Let the grown-ups handle things."

Arat scowled. "He might not have any say in it, you know."

"Did you just- threaten a Savior? With that?" you asked her, voice no longer amused. "What game do you think you're playing? Whose crew do you think this is?"

Her face suddenly paled. "I didn't mean it like that," she backpedaled, and you flicked her away with a sneer.

"Of course not. Better get the fuck out of here before I decided to buy my way back onto Negan's good side with that little threat you just dropped. Fucking hell. What do you think he cares about more, honey- his rules being followed or the attitude he likes me for having being taken just a little too far?"

She gulped and started to leave as Rick pulled a bag from the vent. He rose and strode past you, scooping up Lucille on the way.

"Got them," he snapped.

 

 

"Now, Rick, you need to get everyone on board. Everyone. That's how it works. Or we just go right back to square one," Negan told Rick, dropping the bag into the truck. "Like my biker and my cop. They're on board. Isn't that right?"

You met Negan's amused eyes and didn't speak.

"We're on board," Shane said quietly. "We're always on board, boss."

"Oh, I know you are, Shane-o. Now- Nameless. Who are you?" Negan asked with a wink your way.

Carl was watching, looking pissed as hell. Rick was watching, still holding Lucille. Daryl was watching, staring blatantly from where he stood at Dwight's side. Dwight was watching, and you could feel Shane's eyes on you as well.

You lifted your chin, met Negan's eyes, and declared. "I'm Negan."

"Yes. You. Are," Negan said softly. "And do not forget it."

That wasn't fucking likely, you thought grimly. Not while people you loved looked at you like they were right now.

 

 

You'd never been so fucking grateful to be sent away from a place as you were when Negan ordered you to lead the convoy back to Sanctuary. Your eyes had lingered on Shane, and Negan had watched, smiling, as you'd swung onto your bike. Shane nodded to you once, and you pulled away from Alexandria with the certain knowledge that everyone there hated you but him.

And he'd probably come back to you broken for your own fucking sins.

You cried the whole ride back to the Sanctuary. Once you were there, you laid in bed wearing one of Shane's shirts with your gun, a cigarette, and a bottle. You stared at the gun and drank from the bottle until it was empty and you passed out, and you still couldn't quite forget.

Shane wasn't there when the bottle was empty.

Chapter Text

"Hand to God!" you declared, laughing at the astonished faces staring at you. Rick, Shane, and Glenn looked at you like you were fucking insane. Daryl sat beside you, shaking his head with that tiny, amused smile, and Maggie's eyes were narrowed like she suspected she was currently being set up for some elaborate joke.

You held both hands up. "Honest! I mean it! It's one hundred percent true!"

"There is no way you found the mayor of Atlanta in the back room of one of your strip clubs," Shane said flatly.

Daryl snorted. "Shit, man. I worked the door at Delirium a few times. They got all kinds comin' and goin' in there. Deviant was worse. Freaks headed up there."

"Yeah, Apex was the classy joint," you admitted with a shrug. "Deviant was the kinky one. Delirium had its ups and downs, but I am not kidding. I swear, I can't remember who he was in the room with that time, but holy shit did he piss her off good!"

Rick was shaking his head, cheeks red in embarrassment. "I'm so not hearing this."

"I can't believe I'm sitting here listening to it with my husband," Maggie muttered, eye Glenn's laughing face.

"What? It's a funny story!" he protested, and Maggie cracked a grin at him. The whole table erupted with laughter again.

"So- you're telling me you were bouncing that night-"

"Day," you corrected. "Middle of the fucking morning, Rick."

"Jesus," Rick muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. "You were bouncing that day and you hear what? Screaming?"

You shook your head, leaning forward over the table. "Nope. I hear one of my dancers cussing a fucking blue streak. You think I've got a bad mouth? Shit. Some of my more creative stuff, I heard that morning. And someone was crying. I go swinging in there, all set to kick some righteous ass because you do not fuck with my girls, and I see her- Oh! Dixon, it was Angel!" You turned to Daryl, and he snorted.

"'Course it was," he muttered, shaking his head.

Shane leaned over and stage whispered to Rick, "He knows which stripper she's talkin' about, man."

"He ought to, he dated her for awhile," you said cheerfully, and watched as Shane and Rick both did a slow head turn toward Daryl. Maggie and Glenn started laughing so hard they were leaning against each other to stay upright. Daryl sighed and glared at you.

"The fuck I do to ya today, girl?" he complained.

You grinned. "Nothing. I just like seeing if I can make your ears turn red. Anyway, so I go busting back there and Angel's standing over the mayor of fucking Atlanta, in his goddamn tidy-whities, and she's got one hand on her hip, the other holding a fistful of his hair, and she is just blasting him. The man was weeping. Weeping, I tell you."

You sat back, waving your glass around the table. Daryl and Michonne had found some old shack with a distillery and brought back some good old-fashioned moonshine, which accounted for the current adults-only party you were having tonight. You took a sip as chuckles ran around the table.

You eyed Shane and Rick, waiting until the two of them had picked up their own glasses and taken sips before sighing dramatically. "I'm not sure why I was surprised. The one time he ordered a lap dance from me, he tried to cop a feel and I almost broke his fingers," you said.

"There it is," Daryl muttered as Rick and Shane both choked. Rick practically spat moonshine across the room, and Shane started thumping him on the back as he coughed.

"Ok, now I know you're shittin' me," Maggie declared, pointing at you.

"Oh, I doubt it," Glenn said, eyeing you. "She once offered to teach me how to dance in stripper heels."

Maggie stared from him to you, then dissolved into laughter. "Why- the fuck- would-?" she managed to get out, and you smiled at Glenn as everyone else laughed too.

"He made the almighty mistake of asking me for romantic advice. He said something along the lines of 'you're a girl, what do women want'? I had to tell him I didn't know. I told him I could give him sex advice, teach him to dance in stripper heels, or- what was the other thing, Glenn?" you asked.

"Teach me to identify good drugs without having to try them," he said, shaking his head at you.

"Ah! That's it," you pointed at him. "Though I'm not convinced you'd even need that lesson. I still think you did more than just 'deliver pizzas'. Anyway, Mags, you should be happy to know, he was asking what to do about the fact that you'd told him you loved him and he- like a moron- said absolutely nothing in return."

"Like ya should talk," Daryl muttered.

You whipped around to glare at him amid a chorus of 'oooh!' from the table. "What the hell's that supposed to mean, Dixon?"

"Pretty sure he told you he still loved you and you turned into a damn bitch for like three days," Shane pointed out, and narrowed your eyes at him.

"Oh, shut up, Walsh," you muttered, and then everyone was cracking up again.

Daryl leaned over and whispered in your ear. "I don't mind ya bein' a bitch. What would ya say if I found ya some of them stripper heels?"

You snorted and leaned into him as he tossed his arm around you. "I'd ask if you got them in your size and if you needed a dancing lesson, asshole," you teased, looking up at him.

He grinned down at you and leaned in for a kiss, both of you flipping off Shane and Rick's protests that the couples were ruining a perfectly good party.

 

 

You leaned over the edge of the bed and puked into the bucket you'd left there for literally just that purpose.

"You know, sweetheart, we joke a lot about you makin' shit decisions when you drink alone, but I think I'd rather find another man in bed with you next time."

The words were sharp and biting, and you were legitimately confused and insulted as you finished hurling up what you hoped was all of the bottle from the night before and swiped a hand across your mouth. You came away with blood, having cracked open the cut on your lip from Negan's backhand in Alexandria.

Shane's bare feet came into view and you stared at the hem of his jeans while you contemplated what he'd just said and if you were planning on doing more puking.

"What the fuck are you talking about, Walsh?" you asked finally, wishing you had eggs. And coffee. And sausage, and bread and butter pickles, and Colby Jack cheese. Preferably wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla and toasted.

Except the coffee. That you wanted in a mug, steaming, and black as your soul.

"Will you sit the fuck up so I can yell at you to your face?" Shane snarled, sitting down beside you on the side of the bed.

You groaned as that shifted the mattress and stabbed into the center of the headache. "I don't know that I can. I'm thinking about barfing again. Maybe for the rest of eternity."

Shane sighed, but it wasn't his amused sigh. Oh, fuck, he was really pissed about something. What the hell had you done last night that had him all irritated?

You flung yourself onto your back in one motion, knowing you had exactly one shot because where ever you landed was where you were staying until the hatchet was removed from your skull. Luckily, you ended up flat on your back with your head somehow square on your pillow, looking into-

Shane's face.

"That bastard," you said grimly.

He had more bruises- because the ones he'd already had weren't enough- stitches in his cheek that were going to leave a scar, and his arm was in a sling.

You sat up, headache and hangover not gone but definitely forgotten in the black rage the sight of him instilled in you. He skewered you with a glare.

"I'm fine, Nameless," he snapped. "What the fuck do you have to say for yourself?"

"You're fine?" you shot back incredulously. "You have your goddamn arm in a motherfucking sling! You're not fine, for starters, and also I have no idea what the fuck you're talking about!"

"I've had a broken arm before. It ain't the first time. Negan's toying with us. I can handle this shit, but I cannot handle coming home and finding you passed out drunk with a loaded goddamn gun in your hand!"

Shane wasn't mad, you realized abruptly. Shane was scared.

"Oh, shit," you breathed, and scrambled toward him. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I- I didn't-" You broke off, because there was nothing in the world you could say. You'd been fucked up and alone and drunk, and you had no idea what you'd been thinking. You touched his cheek carefully, and he leaned into your hand and closed his eyes.

"I'm sorry, Walsh," you whispered again.

He nodded, not opening his eyes. You slid so you were pressed against his back, wrapping your arms around him from behind and pressing a kiss to his shoulder. He sighed, twining his fingers with yours.

"Look, I get it. I get why you're all kinds of fucked up right now, sweetheart, but I can't- I can take the punishment from Negan. I can't watch you destroy yourself, YN. I can't," he said quietly.

"I know. I know," you whispered against his shoulder, eyes filling. "I don't think I can do this. He- Negan- and Rick and Carl and Michonne and Maggie and-"

"And Daryl. I know. We'll figure out a way keep them alive." He turned, tugging you around so he could wrap his good arm around you and kiss you. "Go."

You looked at him, confused. "Go where?"

He jerked his head toward the door, then tipped his forehead to yours. "Take Dixon and run. Please, sweetheart. This is killing you, and watching it kill you is killing me."

You shook your head, sliding from his arms to rise and pace. The abrupt movement had your stomach heaving again, and you paused, making a face. Then you glared at him.

"We've talked about this, officer. I'm not leaving you here to get killed!" you snapped at him.

He glared and ran a hand over his head. His hair needed to be cut again if he was keeping shaved, you thought absently. He sighed and looked away from you.

"You ain't gonna go, are you?" he asked.

You snorted, but didn't dignify that with any more of an answer. "We're in this together, Walsh," you said softly instead. "I more than tolerate you."

He chuckled, shaking his head and looking up at you with a faint smile. "You're gonna be the death of me, criminal. I more than tolerate you, too."

You grinned and shot off some kind of retort, but all you could think was- oh, god help me, I hope not.

 

 

You sat in the darkness of the shit trailer, eyes adjusted to the gloom enough to make out the broken TV, the dumpster lounge chair, the brown curtains that hadn't started out life brown, but had been aged by years of cigarette smoke long before the apocalypse ever reared its rotting head.

Shane had nailed boards over the windows and you'd shoved the coffee table against the door, and that was that. You'd set up shop for the night.

He sat on the floor, leaning against the couch both of you had eyed with mutual distrust. Neither of you had wanted to risk the fleas, bedbugs, or lice probably inside.
Shane tried to insist you drag in a mattress or something from one of the bedrooms, but you'd dropped like a stone to the floor and that was that. He sat beside you, and held up his arm. You lay your head on his leg, like you'd done on many, many nights over the winter before you'd found-

You physically jerked with the effort of stopping that thought in its tracks.

"This place looks just like my childhood," you said quietly.

Shane's hand on your shoulder twitched. It'd been silent for so long, both of you lost in your own thoughts. He might have been asleep.

"Yeah?" he said after a slight pause, voice thick.

You nodded against his leg. "Grew up in a place like this. Dar- They did too, right next door. I'd sneak over into their place every night."

Shane grunted. "Yeah. Sorry."

You shrugged. "Whatever. It's past. Point it, this place? Looks fucking familiar. Only missing the boob ashtray."

"The what?" Shane said, his voice sounding more like himself that it had so far.

You shifted onto your back and looked up at him. It just light enough inside still for you to make out the shape of his face looking down at you. You couldn't read his expression, so you pictured it instead- eyebrows up, eyes slightly wide, a tinge of what-the-fuck in the way he tilted his head. "The boob ashtray. Bucket-like thing, shaped like tits in a bra. The straps are handles. You fill that bitch up with cigarette butts."

"Why the fuck-?"

You actually laughed. It sounded rusty and you didn't think it was possible, but you did. "Oh, man, officer, I could not tell you why. Just that every trailer on the lot had one. Will put his on the goddamn TV and would take shots at it when he was high. He always missed. One time he came damn close to hitting-"

You stopped talking and squeezed your eyes shut, and Shane's hand found yours as you choked on the tears.

Neither of you said anything else that night.

 

 

You didn't speak to each other for several days. Neither of you could. You slept in shifts when you slept, though you didn't do much of that either, and kept one of you on watch. Walkers drove you out of most every place after only a few hours. You rode by day, heading nowhere.

Just riding.

There'd been no sign of life at the prison. You'd gone back the next day and searched for survivors. You'd looked for signs, tracking like- like you'd been taught. It'd been useless. There'd been nothing.

You'd sat on the bike, Shane's hand on your shoulder, and watched the dead wandering around what had been your home. Neither of you had to tell the other you were looking for walkers wearing faces you knew.

Eventually, he'd squeezed your shoulder and pointed to where more zombies were shuffling in from the trees, perilously close to the two of you.

You'd left, and you didn't go back. But you stayed close, circling the prison and looking for anyone you loved. Days passed, and there was nothing.

 

 

You headed out to the stairs for a cigarette, hoping it would chase the last of the hangover away. Negan hadn't summoned either you or Shane yet today, and you hoped against hope he would leave you the fuck alone for a bit and let you recover from the day before.

You rather doubted it.

Sherry was on the stairs, and you snorted when you saw her, cigarette already between your lips.

"You always here?" you asked her as you fished out the lighter.

She shrugged and blew smoke. "Nothing else to do."

Silence fell. She shifted, scuffing the toe of her shoe against the floor. "Are we friends?" she asked abruptly, and flicked ash.

"Guess that depends," you told her, leaning your head against the wall. "Why?"

"I- I want to run. Get out of here," she admitted, lips twisting into a harsh look you'd never seen from her before.

"You tried that once," you reminded her.

She nodded. "I know. I'd go alone. That way, D wouldn't- wouldn't have to protect me. I can't do it. Can't watch what Negan's doing to him. I know you can understand," she said urgently.

You stared at her for a long moment in silence. "Ok," you said finally. "I understand. What I don't understand is why you're telling me. Shit, I'm the one who'd probably be sent after you."

She smiled slightly. "Exactly."

"Ok, Sherry," you said, eyes narrowing. "Just what the fuck is going on inside that head of yours?"

Chapter Text

Literally the last thing you wanted was to be paired with Simon and sent to the fucking Hilltop to terrorize them. But Simon had set some dumbass shit up where he opened their gates, set a bunch of fires, and let walkers overrun the place.

He'd reported that over the radio to Negan with his usual good cheer, and Negan had rubbed a hand over his eyes and sighed before slamming Lucille down on the table and bitching Simon out for risking the whole goddamn community. Then he'd pointed at you with his gloved hand and ordered you to go keep a lid on Simon.

Just like nothing had changed, you thought as you rode. Negan gave orders and expected you to carry them out, and here you were doing so. A good little foot soldier.

Simon was about as happy to see you as you were to see him, but he smiled that fake smile and invited you into his truck. You took the bike.

When you rolled up to Hilltop, the gates were still open, but the place sure as shit wasn't overrun by zombies. People were actually tending to body bonfires instead, and the hostile glares that came your way had you smirking at Simon and shaking your head.

"Idiot," you muttered at him as he strode toward Barrington House. "Always with the showboating. No one can ever just do the thing. We've all got to be dramatic little shits about it."

You were the last one through the door of Barrington, casting a critical glance around the rest of the community as Saviors filed silently past the older man holding it open for them.

Gregory, you thought with a mental nose wrinkle. You really hated this guy. From the way he saw you and his jaw tightened, the feeling was downright mutual.

You leaned against the wall and closed your eyes as Simon started to do this thing, prancing around and generally being an asshole. Gregory responded by being a pompous asshole in response, and you didn't give a shit about any of it.

Simon tossed an arm around Gregory and manhandled him into the study, and you followed along with a sigh.

 

 

 

The boys were staring at some giant oil painting of a dude on a horse, and you rolled your eyes and wandered the study looking for anything that was actually useful. You sat behind Gregory's desk and shuffled papers while Gregory tried to determine who he needed to pay attention to- Simon or you.

It was probably you, you thought absently, leaning back in the chair and propping your feet up to watch. Simon was a goddamn dick, but he was the perfect match for brown-nosing Gregory, you realized. Both of them fake as the day is long.

"Well, the other people that you used to work with? I think they got spoiled working with a guy like you. Think they got a little soft," Simon said, perched on the edge of the desk. "That's what got them butchered, I imagine."

Gregory's eyes widened, in what you figured was supposed to be surprise. It sure didn't look it. "They're dead?"

You snorted as Simon nodded slowly. "Very, very dead," you muttered, and Simon agreed.

"Extremely dead," he said, looking over his shoulder at you. He turned back to Gregory, slapped his hands on his legs, and rose. "But, you know, it all worked out. Because the people that killed them, they work for us now. And they are real go-getters, you know?"

"It's a shame when things like that have to happen, you know?" Gregory muttered. He tried to get Simon to tell Negan he was loyal, and Simon offered that blank-eyed smile and declared that he was Gregory's Negan. Simon carried on with veiled threats coached as compliments, and you had to admire the man's style. He was fucking terrifying with those eyes.

Then he eyed Gregory and asked if there was anything else he needed to know, and Gregory's eyes went hard.

"Actually..." he said slowly, and you swung your feet off the desk and rose silently.

 

 

Gregory headed for a closet in the hallway, and the guy who looked like white person Jesus stared after him with hate-filled eyes. You braced yourself, wondering what these guys could possibly be-

Oh, shit, you thought suddenly. Maggie. She wasn't dead, that much you knew for certain after the way Rick had looked at you and the fake graves. And she hadn't been in Alexandria, either, or she'd have been found.

You glanced around at the number of Saviors in the room and wondered desperately if you were good enough to take them all down, or if there was any kind of threat or authority you could use to save-

Gregory opened the closet and clearly didn't find what he was looking for. Simon stared, open mouthed, and Gregory produced a bottle of Scotch.

You eyed Jesus- you were calling him Jesus until further notice, damn it- and caught the faintest of smirks on his lips before he glanced at you and his expression hardened. You held his eyes and decided what the fuck. Take a risk, Nameless. See what happens.

You nodded, just barely. Anyone not staring at you as hard as he was would have missed it.

He didn't, and his eyes went from hard and pissed to confused and thoughtful. You promptly strolled over, took the scotch from Simon's hand, and inspected the label.

"Not bad," you said simply. "Negan will be happy."

"I hate the stuff," Simon observed. "Tastes like ashtrays and window cleaner. I'm a gin man."

You snorted. "Sure. Booze is booze, and decent booze is always a treat. You get drunk either way, right? Add it to Negan's truck. Once it's loaded, I'll escort it back."

 

 

"Hey, Dixon. We got invited to this thing," you said, staring at the invitation in your hand as Daryl closed the apartment door behind him.

"What thing?" he asked, voice tired.

You looked up and grimaced. "Shit, babe. An engine explode on you or something?"

"Idiot newcomer tripped and dropped a pan of old oil."

"Oh, fuck. Gross." You wrinkled your nose and opened the fridge, tossing him a beer.

He snatched it from the air, cracked it open, and chugged it steadily. "Thanks," he said after a minute. "What'd we get invited to?"

He leaned on the counter and you slid the invitation toward him. He picked it up and you waited, watching his face for his reaction. He scanned the invite and looked up at you, both eyebrows shooting up.

"What the hell are we doin' gettin' invited to a fuckin' art gallery?" he asked incredulously.

You started laughing. "We're not. It was for the neighbors."

He tossed the thing back down with a snort and drank some more. "So, why ya got that damn look in ya eyes, baby? We're outta bail money until the bank opens Monday."

You slid closer to him, your smile growing into a wicked grin. "Wanna crash it?"

He sighed, shaking his head as he looked down at you with faintly exasperated indulgence. "Do we have to dress up?"

You shrugged. "We could get all fancy. Or we can go as we are, use fake accents, and watch the snooty people's eyebrows go up all night."

He started laughing, wrapping an arm around you and pulling you into him, dirt and grease and all. "Or I can just draw ya some stick figures or swipe some engine grease on the wall for ya to tilt your head at and we can use the fake accents in the shower together."

"Hmmm," you teased, arms going around him in return. "But what about the free bad wine and canapes advertised?"

He smirked, lips hovering over yours. "How about beer and cold pizza?"

You jumped up, wrapping your legs around his hips and pressing your lips to his. "Deal."

 

 

 

The old-school Southern plantation house, somewhere in what you guessed was North Carolina, was deserted and surprisingly zombie-free. You and Shane boarded the windows, barricaded the doors, and headed up to the third floor for added protection against wandering assholes- living or dead.

You lay on the balcony, on a pile of couch cushions and pillows Shane had dumped there while you were searching the kitchen, and stared at the stars as you passed the bottle of wine back and forth. He leaned against the railing, shotgun in easy reach but both of you relaxed and feeling safe for the first time in longer than you really wanted to think about. You had your head on his lap, and he was playing with the hem of your dirty tank, fingers brushing the skin of your stomach every so often.

You pointed up at the sky. "See that? That's Orion. Just above him is Gemini."

"The twins," Shane said.

"Yeah."

He chuckled. "Twins are a bad idea."

You looked up at him and lifted an eyebrow. "What the hell's that supposed to mean, Officer Walsh?"

He winked at you, and you rolled your eyes.

"Don't tell me," you said dryly. "Dated them at the same time?"

Shane laughed. "Naw. Dated them one after another. I'm a one-woman-at-a-time kind, sweetheart."

You snorted. "One woman at a time, maybe. Seem to remember something about a devil's threesome."

"Aww, shit. I told you that story?" His hand went flat against your stomach as he took a long drink, and you laughed.

"Not really. Just took a swig in a game of Never Have I Ever, and refused to give me the details. It was Rick, wasn't it?" you teased, the words leaving your mouth before you'd really processed them.

Both of you went quiet, your eyes closing and Shane's hand on your stomach clenching around your shirt. After a long silence, Shane's hand twitched and his fingers started moving again.

"You know you play Never Have I Ever wrong?" he said, and your eyes shot open. He was looking down at you, eyes dancing, and you scowled at him.

"What the fuck are you talking about, Walsh?" you demanded.

He handed you the bottle and you took a drink absently. "You're supposed to say something you haven't done that you think the other person has," he said easily. "First thing you said was you didn't have any tattoos. Could see clear as day you did. So either you're a shit liar or you didn't know how to play the damn game."

You stared at him and drank again. "Jesus. Why didn't you say something at the time? God, officer!"

He laughed and slid his hand up to rest over the rose tattoo on your ribs. "I thought it was cute," he answered with a shrug. "Big tough biker babe. Half-lit and didn't want to admit it, playing Never Have I Ever wrong. Shit, I was falling for you already, Nameless."

You froze, eyes going wide. He sighed.

"Shouldn't have said that, huh? Well, whatever. Isn't like you didn't know I've had a thing for you for awhile."

You sat up slowly, and he pulled his hand from your ribs and reached for the bottle. You grabbed his hand instead, setting the bottle down out of the way. "I didn't know how long," you told him quietly.

He shrugged, not meeting your eyes. "No big deal, criminal."

You didn't say anything at first, letting it process. "It is to me. That's a long damn time, Walsh."

He tipped his head back to the railing and shot you a look from the corner of his eyes. "Ain't gonna let this one go, are you?"

You shook your head, smile playing on your lips. "So, you had a thing for me that long, what was with all the 'I tolerate you's?"

He ran the fingers of his free hand down your cheek. "What do you think? Closest I could get to 'I love you'."

"Tolerance means love to you? That's a pretty low bar there," you teased, smile blooming into a smirk.

"God, you're difficult," he complained, tossing his hand up before running it over his head.

You laughed and slid closer, leaning toward him. "Well, Officer Walsh," you said, biting your lip for a minute. "I'll see your tolerance and raise you. I more than tolerate you."

"Oh yeah?" he growled. He brushed your hair back, tucking it behind your ear as you leaned in closer. "More than tolerate, huh? Well, I can handle that. Come here, criminal," he ordered, and pulled you into him.

Chapter Text

You swung off your bike with a sigh, handing it over to one of the men who jogged forward to help unload the truck. You stood for a minute, staring down at your hands, before hearing Negan's voice.

"Ok, boys, let's get this haul unloaded and inside. Where's my biker?"

You shoved a hand through your hair, rolled your shoulders back, and painted on a smirk. "Here, boss," you called, swinging around the back of the truck.

"We need to talk to you about redirect," Fat Joey called as you reached Negan's side. His eyes narrowed and so did yours.

"What about the redirect?" you snapped. There was a joint operation going on out there now to keep a big ass herd away from the Sanctuary. You'd originally had charge of it- the entire herd way was yours and Shane's biggest improvement around here, an expansion on measures Negan had already had in play- but you'd been pulled when Simon fucked it up at Hilltop. Things should have run smoothly, no matter who was put in charge. Fucking up the herd way could have fairly spectacularly catastrophic results.

"It got screwed up. We're on it now, but it's a damn mess out there," Joey said, shaking his head.

Negan swung Lucille to his shoulder. "And who's job was that?" he asked dangerously.

Joey looked terrified. Negan glanced from Joey to you and lifted his eyebrows at you. "I mean, can you believe this? If you want something done right around here, you apparently have to send my criminal or do it yourself!"

You shrugged, glancing back toward the truck when a box crashed. "Goddamn-" you started, tossing your hands up.

You'd made it two steps in the truck's direction when the shooting started. The Savior nearest you stepped in front of you, and Joey stepped in front of Negan as shots echoed from the truck.

"The fuck?" you declared. "What the actual- Carl?"

"Stay back! Drop your weapons!" Carl came bounding out of the supply truck, waving an automatic rifle and looking, you'd admit it, badass as hell.

But seriously. It was like the farm all over again. Who the fuck was supposed to be watching Carl?

"Carl, what the hell?" you repeated, shoving the Savior in front of you out of the way and striding toward him.

He barely even looked at you. "I only want Negan. He killed my friends."

"Yeah, and he's killed a lot of other people too. Carl, seriously," you snapped.

Negan started whistling. You sighed, pinching the bridge of your nose between your eyes. This was a fucking nightmare of a situation, you thought as Negan strolled up and looked at Carl. Sure, Negan was giving Carl almost the same predatory I-want-one look he'd given you when you first met- minus the lust, of course- but still-

Every thought in your head flew out when movement on the fence caught your eye and you saw Daryl standing there, fingers gripping the chain link, and staring at Carl.

 

 

"Hey! You forgot something, Dixon!" You yelled it through the fence at Daryl's back, and he whipped around and glared at you.

There weren't many walkers around, but the ones that were definitely heard you and got interested. Daryl scowled as he stalked back to where you waited.

"Ya tryin' to get me killed, girl? I piss ya off that bad?" he snapped.

You'd been up fighting half the night, and he hadn't been there when you fell asleep or when you woke up. You'd come down looking for him, and Carol had pointed you toward the gate. You'd just barely missed him heading out, and going out there yourself would have taken too long.

Hence, yelling through the fence.

You rolled your eyes at him and crossed your arms. He grabbed the fence and sighed.

"What?" he asked finally.

You shrugged. "Just going to leave without saying goodbye?"

He jerked his head, irritated, and stabbed a walker that got too close. "What ya want me to say? Thought ya wanted me to go."

"Last night, you asshole. I wanted you to go and cool off so we could talk. Not be gone all damn night and then leave the fucking prison without speaking to me! God!" You tossed your hands up and groaned.

He shifted, looking vaguely guilty. "Yeah?"

You stared at him. "Dude. We were arguing about Shane. Yeah, I wanted to finish the fucking conversation."

He nodded, hitching up the crossbow. "Aight. Look, I gotta- hang on."

He turned and took out the other two zombies that wandered too close, and came back over. He hooked his fingers through the fence again and looked at you. "I'm sorry, aight? I just- get jealous sometimes."

You stepped closer and looped your fingers over his through the fence, smiling at him slightly. "I know. It happens, babe, and I don't want you to be. Shane's my friend, and that's it. Promise."

"I know," he said softly. "Trust me, I know. I love ya."

You flashed him a smirk. "Want to come back in here and say that?"

 

 

Dwight took Carl down and you had your bat around Dwight's throat from behind before you even knew you were moving.

"YN!" Dwight hissed, and Negan laughed.

"Oh, Biker. Let the man go. The kid's fine, you know that."

You looked over your shoulder, narrowing your eyes at Negan. "Do I, boss? Shit happens."

Negan's eyes went hard and he swung Lucille from his shoulder and leaned on her. "Someone's forgetting her place, isn't she, boys?"

Saviors all around rustled, shifting nervously from foot to foot and glancing between you and Negan. You smirked at him, both of you knowing full well exactly zero of these guys wanted to take you on. Either way, you released Dwight, tossed the bat in the air as you rose, and caught it on the way back down. You twirled it and hooked it to your belt.

"Do I need a reminder, boss?" you asked softly.

Negan chuckled again, but it lacked his usual amusement. His eyes left yours to glance down at Carl. "I like her. She has balls- like you. Come on, kid. I'll show you around."

Carl glared at Negan's extended hand and you cut a look around the gathered Saviors, doing a quick head count. You winced as Negan baited Carl. There were enough of them that if the boss gave the order you were expecting him to, you were going to take a hit or two this time.

Fuck it, maybe more than one or two.

"Seriously? You not gonna take my hand? 'Cause you're lucky you even still have a hand!" Negan declared, and you rolled your eyes.

"Come on, boss," you said dryly, and Negan whipped around to stare at you. You shrugged. "You don't fuck with kids. Hell, that's why he's still alive right now."

"Biker, are you trying to get someone killed?" he asked bluntly. ""Cause I now have three- count 'em, three-" he wiggled three gloved fingers at you "- damn good options to chose from that are not you, but are gonna make you wish it was."

You said nothing to that, and he smirked at you after a beat. "That's what I thought. Now for you," he said, turning back to Carl.

Carl glanced from Negan to you to Daryl, glued to the fence, and grabbed Negan's hand.

"Smart boy," Negan declared as he hauled Carl to his feet. "Dwighty-boy! Why don't you grab Daryl, take him to the kitchen, do a little grub prep. New plan, boys. Let's burn the dead, unload the truck later. Man, I am not gonna have time to screw any of my wives today!"

You stayed put as Dwight hauled Daryl by you and Negan headed toward the steps with a confused looking Carl on his heels. Carl stopped and asked him something, and Negan turned, pointing a finger at the kid.

"Number one, do not shatter my image of you. You're a badass. You're not scared of shit, don't be scared of me. It's a disappointment. Number two, do you really want me to ruin the surprise? And finally- thank you for reminding me. Boys!" He lifted his voice and you dropped your arms and shifted your feet.

Negan met your eyes over Carl's shoulder, licked his lower lip, and smirked at you. "Make sure at least one of you gets a good hit in. Then take her down to the furnace."

Carl turned to look back at you, and Negan draped an arm over his shoulders and pointed to you. Saviors started unslinging rifles and dropping them to the ground, and you met Carl's worried look and winked at him.

Negan chuckled and whispered something in Carl's ear, turning the kid and heading up the steps as the circle formed around you. You saw Carl trying to keep his worried eye on you, and you smiled softly at him to show you'd be fine. Then you focused on the reluctant faces gathering and the smile changed to a smirk.

"Ok, boys. You heard the boss. Who thinks they're scoring a hit on me today?"

 

 

"What bullshit have you gotten me into now, Merle?" you asked dryly as you stood back to back with him and looked around at the circle of guys holding pool sticks.

Merle laughed. "Come on, baby girl. There's only a few of 'em, and it ain't like they all that smart."

You eyed the assholes and privately had to agree with Merle there. "They do appear to be walking stereotypes, don't they?"

"Hell, yeah, baby girl. Ya ready for this shit?"

You shrugged. "Might as well be. Gentlemen, are you going first or shall I?" you asked them politely. The man in front of you looked confused, and you grinned.

"So, me then," you muttered. Merle laughed and both of you charged in swinging.

 

 

It was going pretty well, all things considered. You took one of them out completely, dropping him with one punch. You fended the rest off, since there was only one of you and therefore only so many of them could come at you at the same time. But, of course, something like twelve against one wasn't odds you could conceivably maintain without killing a few to thin the herd.

Negan would probably have a problem with it if you started killing people.

One of them slipped a good kick past your guard, and hell- you weren't surprised. It'd been bound to happen eventually. You staggered back with it, and made your mistake. You hadn't kept track of your footing, and you hit one of the casings from Carl's shooting spree. Your foot rolled- not a lot, but enough.

Fuck, you thought clearly, and got ready for the pain.

 

 

They went fairly easy on you, all things considered. Your face hurt and your side hurt, but nothing was broken. Your shoulder had popped out of place, but you'd waved off the offer of help from Fat Joey and used the truck to pop it back in yourself. It was the one you'd been having trouble with for years now, and you'd popped it back in more times than you cared to remember. It was easier to do it on your own.

You rotated it now, as Saviors picked themselves up off the ground where they could and helped up the three of their buddies who couldn't. Fat Joey gave you a nod, and you gestured toward the truck.

"Back to work, boys," you got out in a strained voice. "Pretty fun little brawl, huh?"

A chuckle ran through the group, and the ones who needed help to get off the ground were taken in to go see Dr. Carson. Fat Joey looked at you as others started unloading the truck again.

"Need anything?" he asked quietly.

You patted him on the shoulder as you walked by, brushing blood from the cut on your forehead before it could drip into your eye, and grinned at him. "I'm good, man. We're cool. I'll tell the boss you did well. You almost got me pretty early on, dude."

Fat Joey grinned at you, looking pleased, and you laughed. "I said almost, man," you told him with a wink.

He shrugged. "Almost on you is a knockout on anyone else."

You laughed again and headed for the steps, picking a bit of gravel from your knuckles. "Get the dead taken care of and the truck unloaded. See you at the furnace," you called with a lazy peace sign as you headed toward the doors.

Chapter Text

You walked in, limping a little by the time you got down to the furnace. Your hip throbbed badly enough that you knew someone had scored a direct hit, and you were probably lucky it hadn't been popped out of place as well.

You'd grabbed a bandanna from one of the factory workers on the way, and had it pressed to the cut above your eye as you came in and took a look around.

Mark looked stressed the fuck out tied to the chair, and you didn't blame him. Amber was one of Negan's newest wives, and the two of them, you'd heard from Sherry, had been having a little trouble adjusting to the rules. Mark had been assigned to the herd way redirect. He must have been the reason it got all fucked up.

Dwight stared into the furnace with a look you didn't want to fucking see, and your steps slowed as you caught sight of Daryl standing there nearby with a mop. Daryl glanced up at you as you came in, and your hand clenched around the bat at your side. You met his eyes when he looked at you and tried not to let yours fill.

Factory workers, Saviors, and Negan's wives were gathered. Sherry had an arm around the sobbing Amber, and your eyes narrowed as you realized you didn't see Shane. You made your way over toward Dwight, knowing Negan would want you front and center for this with Carl there.

Sherry's eyes met yours as you leaned back against the furnace and crossed your arms. You held her gaze and gave a barely there nod before closing your eyes and tapping out Motley Crue on the sleeve of your jacket.

Then you waited.

 

 

Negan banged Lucille against the wall as he approached, and you hit your knees along with everyone else. He had Carl and Shane with him, and you stole a look at Shane as they trailed Negan.

He looked the same as he had- arm in the sling, covered in bruises, stitched above his eye. You huffed a laugh mentally, wondering if the same person had hit him who'd hit you, since the cut that was still bleeding a trickle on your forehead was in almost the same location. He didn't have any new-looking injuries, though, so apparently you'd actually taken the punishment for yourself for once. Negan was mixing things up a little.

Negan passed Lucille off to Carl, who looked like he genuinely considered taking a swing at Negan himself. You saw him glance up at Shane as Negan struck a pose on the railing, and Shane shook his head ever so slightly. Carl set Lucille against the floor and touched the handle as little as possible.

"You know the deal," Negan began the inevitable speech. "What's about to happen is going to be hard to watch. I don't want to do it. I wish I could just ignore the rules and let it slide, but I can't! Why?"

In your act of petty rebellion, your lips moved, but you didn't actually say the words as everyone chanted, "the rules keep us alive."

You tuned out the rest of his speech, because shit. You'd heard it before. You glanced at Shane, standing just behind Carl, and his eyes narrowed as he looked at your face. You wrinkled your nose and rolled your eyes to show him you were fine, and rose with everyone else when Negan said to.

He strolled up and patted Mark on the cheek as he passed him, heading toward Dwight. He paused and looked at you, and winked.

"I see they did get a few good licks in. Who do I need to reward?" he asked.

You shrugged. "Honestly couldn't tell you. Fat Joey did ok."

"Fat Joey did not do that damage," Negan declared as he pulled on heavy gloves that went up to his elbows.

"Of course not. He got close, though, before everyone else." You were nothing if not loyal to your word, and you'd told Joey you'd tell the boss.

Negan chuckled. "Well, then. I'll send something his way. Maybe a sandwich." Then he turned to Dwight. "D?"

Dwight pulled the iron out of the fire.

 

 

 

The handcuffs dug into your wrists as you tried to get out of them. Metal didn't move and twist and flex like rope did, you thought grimly, thinking about the faint scars on your wrists from working your way out of ropes in the Governor's lockup. The handcuffs weren't going anywhere.

You were gagged like you'd been then, too; and just like back then, it tasted like shit.

This time, however, you weren't alone. It should have been reassuring, all things considered. But it wasn't. You glared at these assholes as they searched through your bags, but your eyes were drawn continuously over to Shane. They had him handcuffed and gagged as well, and he was watching you just as much as you watched him.

You'd run into some of these guys before, when they had someone tied to a goddamn tree and were watching them bleed to death from having their arms hacked off. You and Shane had slipped through the trees and watched, horrified, as they taunted the man, carving a W in his forehead as he died. You'd been too late to save him, not that you thought anyone could have.

There'd been three of them that time, and you and Shane had dropped two from the trees and grabbed the third to ask some questions. Those questions had given both of you nightmares, and you'd adopted the Wolves' methods to cover your movements in the area and keep out of their sight.

Your luck had run out, you thought now, as some asshole with a W scar walked over to Shane. You froze, lungs tightening as he threatened and laughed and Shane stared him down with a bored expression.

That was your officer, damn it. But you had a bad feeling-

The asshole pulled a knife and you yelled profanity through the gag and fought against hands that grabbed and pinned you down. Shane shook his head at you, but you fought harder, and the long-haired bastard looked over his shoulder at you and smirked.

He cut a long, shallow slice down Shane's chest, and you started screaming.

 

 

You couldn't get out of the cuffs, you thought grimly as Shane's eyes closed in exhaustion and pain, but that didn't mean you couldn't fight.

You'd taken out all those fuckers fresh from a goddamn coffin, hadn't you? You fought assholes like this for a goddamn living before the dead started walking. You could take these motherfuckers on.

Of course, you hadn't tried to do that while they were fucking torturing the only person you gave a shit about in the world. And they had guns, and their guns were out and aimed, and one of them was perilously close to Shane.

Shane's eyes opened and met yours, and he shook his head in refusal. He wasn't saying no to the bastard you were going to kill slowly and painfully, not like the guy thought as he held up a knife with Shane's blood on it and laughed. Shane was telling you not to do anything.

Yeah, fuck that noise, you thought grimly, and gathered yourself to start fighting. There was no goddamn way you were going to let them hurt him again.

You launched yourself at the nearest W asshole as the screaming and the running started. You had the bastard in a leg lock Merle had shown you once on a whim, and you weren't entirely sure you were doing it right. The asshole hadn't gotten out yet, though, so it was probably working.

New voices started yelling, and you looked up wildly to find a gun in your face and another in Shane's. You kicked almost straight up at the gun, which didn't give you a lot of power, but you knocked it from the person's hands. That gave you enough time to roll and spring to your feet, but you were surrounded.

You turned rapidly, eyeing all the guns and all the new, threatening assholes. You promptly dismissed them as unimportant when you saw one of them standing in front of Shane, and your eyes narrowed as you headed his way. Hands grabbed you and you thrashed against them, but you were forced down to your knees.

"Come on, you rabid bitch, just get down, goddam-"

"Whoa, Nelly! What do we have here, boys?" The new voice belonged to some dick in a leather jacket with a baseball bat over his shoulder, and you scoffed and paid more attention to the one unlocking the cuffs around Shane's wrists.

"This guy's been all carved up, boss. Not too deep, but Carson should probably check him out," he reported, easing Shane down with an arm around his shoulders. He scrambled through a bag as you watched anxiously and produced bandages.

You started to relax, but tensed up again when the tip of the barbed-wire-wrapped bat appeared just under your chin. You shot a glare at the asshole standing in front of you, and he chuckled.

"Come on, people," he chided. "Get the gag out of this one's mouth and those goddamn cuffs off her. I wanna have me a little chat."

"Boss, you sure? She was fighting pretty-"

"What did I say?" Bat asshole roared, and the other guy's face paled a little.

 

 

Mark screamed until he passed out, Negan was an asshole, and Daryl was ordered to clean up while Negan made another speech and dismissed the assembly.

"Biker! Come with me and the kid," Negan said, slinging an arm over Carl's shoulder. "We need to go figure out just what to do with him. Shane-o, you can go."

You fell into step behind Carl and Negan, grabbing Shane's hand as you passed him. He squeezed your fingers and held on until he couldn't anymore, and your hands had to drop as you moved too far away from him to hold on.

Sherry didn't look your way again as you walked out.

 

 

"So that's who we are, darlin'. Now we've patched your boy toy over there up, and we saved your sweet, sweet hides from these Wolves pricks. That uses resources, honey. That shit ain't free." Bat asshole- Negan- spread his hands in an aw-shucks gesture that had you sneering at him.

"And that's my business why?" you asked with a shrug. "We didn't ask for your fucking help."

Negan tilted his head and licked his lips. "So, you're a badass then," he whispered. "You could have gotten out of this mess all on your own. You and what weapon, honey?"

You grinned and nodded at your bat in the pile of gear these so-called Saviors had assembled. "I've got one like yours, asshole. Mine's missing the nifty barbed wire, but points on creativity, man. That's actually a damn good idea."

"Oh, there isn't anything like my Lucille," Negan shot back, eyes hard. "I am the leather-jacket-wearing, baseball-bat toting badass in these parts."

You shrugged again. "Cool, man. You can be that if you want. Or a zombie can go suck your goddamn dick. I don't give a shit about you and your Saviors. Thanks for the rescue; peace out, jackass."

Negan's eyes narrowed and you felt a chill run down your spine. "Oh honey. You... you should not have said that. After what we did for you? Alright. Alright," he ran his hand over the stubble on his chin and pointed the bat at you as he paced.

He stopped and crouched in front of you, where you were on you knees with a gun at your head. Shane, bandaged up now, was the same way, and the asshole with the huge grin and dead eyes had a gun to his head. You looked past this Negan dick to Shane and smiled slightly at him.

Negan chuckled. "Yeah," he said softly, and bit his lip. "I do like you. Alright, darlin'! I'm going to give you a one-time deal, because I am just that kind of a guy. You care about the pretty boy toy over there, don't you? Here's the thing- you don't want to join my Saviors? Normally, that would be fine. I mean, we did save you. But we can't save you from yourselves, if you know what I mean. But you used our supplies. And you got a damn attitude. And I can't have anyone running around out there stealing my style."

He rose and walked over, picking up your bat and handing his own off to one of his gun-toting maniacs. He swung the bat a few times and walked over to where Shane was on his knees. You were halfway up when a hand shoved you back down.

"Uh-huh, honey. Stay down and listen," Negan snapped, eyes hard. "I was right- you give a shit about the boy toy. I'll tell you what. You think you can survive without Savior protection? I'll give you a chance to prove it. We didn't kill those damn Wolves, you know why? Because I believe people are a resource. Right now, they're going to be a resource for determining if you get to walk out of here. If you can take all of them on with just this damn bat, you not only get to live and join my Saviors, you will get to keep one of these two things- the bat or the boy toy."

You tossed your head with a sneer and he laughed.

"You think I'm joking. I'm not. If you chose not to undergo my little test, I will take you back to Sanctuary with me and you will work off the debt you owe me and my Saviors in the hardest possible way, and I will still kill the boy toy and burn the bat anyway. So. You choose, darlin'. Which is it going to be?"

You stared at him for a minute and smiled slowly. "Give me the bat and get out of my way, asshole," you said with a wink. "You're about to be so damn impressed, you'll let me keep both."

Chapter Text

Negan left you in the hallway, holding Lucille for him, and took Carl into his bedroom for awhile. You leaned on the wall with your eyes closed, wishing for a cigarette. Booze. Two minutes to lean into Shane's arms and take a deep breath.

Shit, this was turning into a day.

Carl's voice rose from behind the door, and you opened your eyes.

"If you knew anything, you would kill us! But you can't!"

You strained your ears listening for a response from Negan, but heard nothing. The door crashed open a few seconds later, and Negan strolled out with Carl following at his heels. The kid's eye was missing beneath the hair, you noticed as you studied him for signs of harm.

Negan's no-hurting-kids policy was firm. That's why Donovan had landed himself in a Fight Club- style match with you, just a week after you'd arrived with Shane. It was one of the things that had made you think maybe this lunatic with the bat wasn't the worst choice in the world- he was something close to club rules, after all. Don't fuck with kids. Don't rape anyone. Take care of your own.

Those basic tenants of club life had been in question with the rest of supposedly civilized society in your travels since the world went to shit, much to your confusion. Here was someone who followed them; and ok, he did some killing and he did some gruesome torture, but still.

Now, you checked Carl over carefully, just in case. You didn't know exactly when you'd lost faith in Negan, but you knew it had started sometime around the moment he'd told you Dwight was going to break Daryl.

Negan took Lucille from you when you held her out and flashed you a grin. "Come on, my criminal. We're going for a ride."

 

 

You leaned against the van and waited, eyes closed. Shane stood beside you, and Gavin paced.

"I don't understand. Why'd he send you two along? Kingdom's always been on time and never short," Gavin said in a huff.

"Relax, dude. He's not worried about you. He wants us to see how you do things," you told the other man, opening one eye to look at him.

Gavin stopped pacing and considered you. "Really?"

You shrugged. "I mean, he didn't say so in so many words. But since that disaster with Donovan, he's sent us out with Simon, with Regina, and now with you. I'd say it's a fairly safe bet to say we're in training."

"Oh," Gavin said softly. "Ok."

You snorted and closed your eye again against the bright sunlight. "So you don't go into this Kingdom?"

"No. We have an arrangement with Ezekiel. He does well, and we haven't had any issues with the Kingdom."

You nodded. "They ever late?"

"No," Gavin said shortly. "And here they are."

You opened your eyes and shoved upright off the van, squinting at the approaching truck. "They have body armor."

"Yes," Gavin said slowly. "They're... interesting. Ezekiel is- well, you'll see."

You glanced at Shane, who shook his head. "That's not ominous at all," he muttered to you, and you laughed.

Gavin's crew eyed the two of you as Shane slid an arm around your waist loosely and you leaned back into him. The truck pulled to a stop and a man with impressive dreads, a staff, and a haughty expression vaulted from the back. A tall, skinny dude in body armor followed, as well as a woman with a longbow and a teenager.

Your eyes lingered on the teenager you wondered, briefly and painfully, what Carl would have looked like now. You shut that thought down as Gavin nodded.

"Ezekiel."

"Gavin. We bring you the full measure, as our agreement declares," the man with the dreads said.

You blinked at him and turned to Shane. "Ok, that I was not expecting," you muttered, and walked toward him. "Hi. You're interesting. I'm YN."

Ezekiel looked you over and his people shifted. "I am King Ezekiel. Gavin, you bring faces not yet seen by those of us in the Kingdom."

Gavin sighed. "Yeah, they're new. YN and Shane, meet Ezekiel. He's the king."

"Of the Kingdom," you agreed pleasantly, trying not to smirk. The man was straight out of a Shakespearean tragedy.

"What is the meaning of her presence? She carries a weapon very much alike to Negan's. Has the Kingdom done something to break our agreement, that she has been sent to enact Negan's justice?" Ezekiel asked, mostly ignoring you to talk to Gavin.

Shane's hand rested against your back as you bit your lip and tried not to laugh. Gavin's eyes flicked down to the bat at your side and back to Ezekiel as he shook his head.

"No, no. They're just here to observe. As for the bat, she's, ah- she's a bit of a special case," he said flatly.

Ezekiel eyed you and Shane again before gesturing grandly toward where Saviors had been unloading their truck. "And is all accounted for?"

Gavin turned to Jared, who nodded and flashed a thumbs up. "We're in order. Thank you very much, Ezekiel. We'll see you next time. Melons next week."

Ezekiel nodded once. "Indeed."

 

 

Negan's truck paused at the gate so Negan could exchange unpleasantries with Daryl. You watched from your bike, smiling as Daryl stood straight and looked Negan dead in the eyes for the first time you'd seen yet.

It was the first glimpse you'd gotten of the Daryl Dixon you knew, and you drank it up like water in the desert. You'd been afraid Dwight was succeeding in breaking Daryl, and you didn't know how you'd have survived seeing him alive only to have him be destroyed.

Negan's driver honked the horn at you, and you turned reluctantly and gunned the engine.

 

 

He left you on the porch, guarding the door while he and Carl went inside with the woman you'd been fairly certain you were going to have to kill the last time you were here. Her eyes had been wide and terrified, and you sighed as you dropped down into one of the chairs on the porch and watched the Alexandrians trickle by.
She came rushing out and down the stairs a few minutes later, clearly having been crying, and you glanced at the door.

"He's being an asshole again, then," you muttered, and propped a foot on the railing.

When the door opened again, you didn't bother to look, until Negan's laughing voice called your name.

"YN! You should see what I found inside here," he said, and something in his tone had you tense and wary. You rose and turned, and froze.

In his arms, looking at him with a 'bitch please' expression clearly visible even on her little face, was Judith.

"Oh my god," you whispered, tears already flowing. "Oh my god."

 

 

You scanned the night with the binoculars, one foot resting on the lower rung of the railing. Honestly, there was no real reason for you to be up here, except that the walker population had gotten intense a few nights ago. Everyone from C block had been drawn out en masse to take out a herd in the middle of the night when Maggie and Glenn had noticed it.

So here you were, but you weren't really worried. Your rifle was leaned on the wall behind you, and everything was silent. The night air was cool on your face still, but summer was on its way and you could feel it. Georgia would be hotter than hell again in a few weeks, you mused.

Footsteps sounded behind you, and you glanced over your shoulder. Your smile widened as Shane came walking out, Judith laying against his shoulder with teary eyes.

"Awww, hey, baby. What's wrong?" you asked sympathetically.

Shane's lips twitched as he answered. "Nothing much, sugar. Judith's a little fussy, though."

"Oh, hardy-har-har," you told him, rolling your eyes. "You're an asshole."

"You started it," he said with a shrug and a grin. "How's it looking out there?"

You gestured vaguely toward the outside. "There's nothing. A few stragglers, but for the most part everything's quiet. Seriously, though, Judith ok? This isn't when she's normally up."

"Yeah," Shane said as she let out a pitiful cry and he started the bounce-and-sway motion you thought was genetically activated in parents when they held their babies.

You didn't bother to hide your smile at the sight of them, instead reaching out to rub a soothing hand over the little girl's back. Shane sighed as she cried out again and turned her face away from the two of you.

"She's pitiful," you said with a sympathetic chuckle.

He rolled his eyes. "No, she's not. She's been screaming her head off all damn night. Thought the fresh air might help. Saw you up here, figured company would help my sanity."

You laughed outright. "So you came to talk to me?"

He laughed as well. "Fair enough, criminal. Fair enough."

Judith started crying again, and Shane reached back with a mumbled oath and pulled a bottle from his back pocket. He shifted her down into his arms and gave her the bottle, and she drank it while scowling up at him.

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Your mouth hurts. I know, little girl, but do you have to yell at me about it all damn night?" he asked her, sounding annoyed. His eyes, however, looked worried.

You leaned against the wall beside him and watched him watch Judith. "I've said it before, Officer, but I'll say it again- it looks good on you."

He lifted an eyebrow at you in silent question, and you nodded at the little girl who held his pinkie in death grip as she drank.

"Parenthood," you said.

He sighed, and shifted like he wanted to run a hand over his hair and frowned when he couldn't. "Thanks. Don't know what I'm doing half the time, and the other half I'm pretty sure I'm doing the wrong damn thing."

You shrugged. "I think that's fairly normal, Walsh. Hey, if you really think she's teething or whatever, I can make a run tomorrow. See if we can turn up some baby meds somewhere."

"We've picked every damn pharmacy nearby clean. Hershel said he knows of some plant that has some numbing properties or whatever, and he'd go pick some. I don't know, though. Some plant? That safe?" he looked at you worriedly, and you reached over and ran your hand through his hair with a grin.

He blinked at you. "The fuck you do that for, criminal?"

You shrugged. "Twice now you've looked like you wanted to and couldn't. Thought I'd help you out there."

He stared at you a minute longer and then burst into laughter. Judith started crying, and you held out your arms.

"Come on. Hand her over. You need a break, Daddy," you told him with a grin at his pained expression.

His nose wrinkled. "Shit, Nameless. Don't say that. That word has some weird-ass connotations."

"Kinky, Walsh," you told him with a wink, but you lifted Judith from his arms and smiled at her. "Hi there, sweetie. Gonna give your dads some serious trouble, aren't you? Don't worry, auntie Nameless will teach you all the good stuff and let you do whatever they won't. You'll be picking locks and riding motorcycles in no time, Hot Stuff."

"Shit. Give me back the baby. You're a damn bad influence," Shane muttered, making no move to take her back.

Judith laid her head on your shoulder, grabbed a handful of your vest in her iron grip, and closed her eyes. In two breaths, you felt her entire body relax as she fell asleep.

"Ha! Suck it, Officer," you whispered fiercely, grinning at Shane, and tried not to see the softness in the way he was looking at you.

Chapter Text

Carl eyed you warily in the kitchen as he rolled out dough for biscuits. Negan was cooking goddamn spaghetti with his freshly shaved face and you couldn't help but question just what in the actual fuck was happening here.

You genuinely weren't sure why you were here.

But Judith- Judith with her pretty blonde curls and big smile and perfect tiny imitation of her older brother's expressions- was alive.

Negan had looked at the tears on your cheeks and smiled slowly. "So you know this little beauty, huh?"

You'd gulped and nodded and met Carl's eyes. And lied your ass off to Negan, because the last fucking thing you and Shane needed was Negan knowing Judith was his little girl. You'd prayed like hell that Carl's hatred for the two of you didn't run deep enough for him to give the game away, and the kid had met your wild look behind Negan's back and nodded once.

Thank God.

So many of your people, you thought tiredly. So damn many of them had made it out after all, and you had no idea how.

 

 

You and Shane stared at the sign with skeptical expressions.

"Sanctuary for all, community for all," you muttered. "Yeah, that's bullshit. Nowhere's safe anymore."

Shane snorted. "Hey, look at that rain cloud behind that fucking silver lining."

You flipped him off wordlessly, and he didn't bother to look. You kept staring at the map in silence.

"I mean, we ain't seen sign of anything, criminal," he said finally.

You looked at him, eyebrow raised. "'Terminus'? Really?"

"Why the fuck not? We go, we take a look, we see what there is to see. Place looks too fucked up, we leave." He shrugged.

You grunted. "Have to go on foot."

"Sweetheart, we're already on foot. Damn bike ain't going anywhere anymore," he said gently.

You scowled. You'd left the bike behind after wrecking on it fairly spectacularly because you'd fallen asleep while riding. Shane had bitched you out for being a possessive idiot who wouldn't let anyone else drive, and when you'd burst into tears over the damage- which was a lot- he'd held you and whispered that it was ok, you could fix it.

You knew you couldn't fix it.

You sighed and nodded, leaning into the arm he wrapped around you in sympathy. "I know. It's just-"

"I know. So. We following these damn tracks?" he asked, kissing your forehead and letting you go.

You sighed. "I guess. I still say this is bullshit, officer."

"Never know till we try."

You scowled down at the tracks as you started walking. There was a candy wrapper half-buried, trapped under one rail. Looked like a Big Kat wrapper, and you deliberately didn't think about who you knew who loved Big Kats. You scanned the woods and hitched the backpack up a little higher on your back.

"That's too damn reasonable an attitude. And I'm fucking hungry," you complained.

Shane snorted. "You bitch a lot."

"Yeah, yeah. Ok, least favorite meal you've ever had, and go."

"Easy. Goddamn owl," he answered, and you laughed.

"Possum's worse."

"Fucking hell, criminal. That's disgusting."

 

 

"I'm not waiting for your dad anymore," Negan declared after awhile. "I don't know where the hell he is, but Lucille is hungry."

He set the bat in the place he'd had Carl lay out for Rick and your rolled your eyes from the far end of the table.

"Come on, boss. Olivia told you he might not be back until tomorrow," you said, gesturing lazily. You propped your elbow up on the back of the chair, and met his eyes.

His jaw tightened, but he said nothing. He tucked a napkin into his neck like a bib and demanded Carl pass the rolls.

Well, ok then, you thought, and didn't eat. You had a feeling anything that went in would just become a liability later.

 

 

When the preppy asshole with the American Hero jawline came up holding a bottle of scotch, though- that you participated in, pouring three glasses before Negan could say a word. You handed one to each of them and scooped up the third under his irritated eyes, taking a sip and wandering over to lean one hip on the railing.

Yeah, you were going to be in trouble with the boss man when you got back. It didn't matter though.

Spencer was the same guy who'd answered the gate on your first visit, but for the life of you there wasn't anything the same about him now. He'd shown spark that first meeting. Now he was brown nosing it as much as Gregory had with Simon, to the point of announcing that there was a pool table in the house across the street.
Negan's eyes lit up, and the next thing you knew, you were leaning on the porch railing watching a game of pool in the middle of the street. Negan pointed up at you about halfway through the game and ordered you to come down with them.

You swung down with a sigh, bringing your glass and the rest of the bottle. "What can I do for you, boss?"

"You're pretty good at this shit, aren't you?" he said. "She used to be in an honest to God goddamn biker gang down in Atlanta."

Spencer looked at you from the corner of his eye as Negan lined up his next shot. "I've heard of her."

You grinned and took a sip. "Probably don't want to know what they say about me these days."

A crowd had gathered, Alexandrians watching anxiously and Saviors with interest. Negan chuckled and glanced at you.

"You probably don't. Spencer here was just informing me that your Rick fucking Grimes does not have a history of playing well with others," he told you.

You raised an eyebrow, thinking about the Rickocracy with amusement. "Deputy Do Good? Really? He was always a big softy when I was with them." You took another sip and looked at Spencer. He was dropping very far in your estimation if he was going behind Rick's back and bad-mouthing him to Negan. "Easiest man in the world to get along with."

"Well, he must have changed," Spencer murmured. "My mother, Deanna, ran this place when Rick and his group arrived. She was a Congresswoman, and she was doing a really good job of it."

Negan missed his shot and Spencer moved to line up one of his. You squinted at the game, only half-listening to Spencer's story. You wanted to know what had happened to your people on the road, sure, but this entire thing smacked of a power play. Which meant every word was suspect.

"Then she died, not long after Rick showed up. Same as my brother, same as my dad."

You glanced at Carl, who glared at Spencer from the railing, and snorted as Negan taunted the idiot trying to get Rick ousted. They both looked at you. You held your hands up in a gesture of surrender.

"Got something to say, Biker? About your trouble-making pal Rick?" Negan asked, popping Rick's name sharply.

You smirked at him. "I mean, this douchebag's right; Rick will find a way to do things his way. He's fucking good at that. But Spencer here is about as subtle as he is good at pool- and he's shit at pool," you added as he missed an easy shot.

Negan laughed as Spencer turned to you seriously. "I am shit at pool. And I'm not trying to be subtle. I am my mother's son. I can be the leader she was."

"Oh, Judas Priest," you muttered, and snatched the pool stick from his hands. "You're a dumbass. There's nothing I can do to save you now, I hope you know that."

You stalked around to the other side of the table as Negan wandered over close to the confused-looking Spencer. You called a shot as they stared at each other, lined it up, and sunk it. You called another, muttering, and Negan set down his glass.

"So I should put you in charge- that's what your saying?" Negan asked.

"I think you'd be much better off," Spencer agreed.

You took another shot and hoped no one in this town liked this asshole too much. Sure enough, Negan turned to you and held out his pool stick as well. You took it without looking in his eyes, gripping both of them tightly leaning against the pool table.

"You know, Spencer, I'm thinking- I'm thinking how Rick hates my guts. But he is out there right now, gathering shit for me to make sure I don't hurt any of the fine people who live here. He is swallowing his hate and getting shit done. That takes guts. And then there's you," he said, walking toward Spencer.

You closed your eyes and waited for it to be over.

 

 

From the shocked cries and the wet gurgles, Negan had done exactly what you'd thought Negan would do.

You opened your eyes reluctantly, setting down the pool cues. Sure enough, Spencer had his innards spilling all over the road. Negan looked at you and winked.

"Well, look at that, Nameless. Turns out he has guts after all. They were inside him the whole time. I've never been so wrong in my whole life!" He surveyed the freaked out faces of the crowd and held out his hand to you.

You shoved off the pool table and snatched up Lucille, dropping her into his outstretched hand. You stood with your arms crossed and looked down at the dying man as Negan continued to terrorize the crowd.

"Boss, at least let me handle the guy so he doesn't turn," you said into a pause.

Negan pointed Lucille at you. "No! He'll be fine." He swung Lucille out toward the gathered Alexandrians. "Anyone want to finish the game?"

Chapter Text

"Just take ya damn turn already, man," Daryl complained, scowling as he emptied his beer.

"I'm linin' up my shot, little brother. Just relax," Merle said, winking at you.

You rolled your eyes at them both, and gestured with your glass. "Come on, Merle. You're going corner pocket, number four ball. You're going to miss because you snorted a line in the bathroom and you're too fucked up to make that one. Just take it already so Daryl can win and I can play!"

Daryl laughed as Merle scowled. "I ain't too fucked up to play, girlie!" he protested, and you rolled your eyes.

Merle took the shot, and as predicted, missed. He flipped both you and Daryl off as the two of you laughed. "Suck a dick, both of ya! I ain't too fucked up."

The table next to you held a couple of college-age kids in polos and plaid shorts, gel in their hair and haughty sneers on their lips. They weren't half bad, you'd noticed as they played, but they were dicks. Rude to Amy, the overworked waitress, and Billy. They were disrespectful to the admittedly god-awful country rock trio filling the air with noise, and they'd both found ways to grab your ass that they could pass off as accidents.

You looked at Daryl and winked even as Merle stood back from the pool table and railed at you that he was fine to play. You sighed and took the cue from his hands.

"I don't think so, man. I'd better take over for you before you lose all our money to Dixon," you told him with a flirtatious grin.

Daryl shrugged. "Whatever. I'll beat ya too, baby."

"You guys playing for cash?" the blonde preppy asshole asked. "And you're going to let the girl play?"

"The girl has a name," you said mildly.

"Oh? And what might it be, darling?" the other one asked.

You shot him a look and raised your glass to your lips. "None of your business."

The two of them exchanged looks when you set the glass down, called your shot, and missed. Spectacularly.

"I see why you're fine with her playing, man," blonde dick said to Daryl.

"Ya know, I whip the asses of dicks like you two every damn day," Merle slurred at them as he knocked back a shot and waved his glass at Billy.

"Oh yeah? Want to wager, old man?" asshole number two asked.

You raised your glass to your lips to hide your smirk as Daryl told Merle not to be an idiot. Merle raised the assholes' bet up from twenty bucks to two hundred, and slapped down the cash to match it. "Aight, dicks. Let's do this," he slurred.

Daryl walked away in a huff when it was clear Merle was going to lose. "I told ya not to do that, ya asshole! Figure out how to pay ya own damn tab, I'm outta here."

You leaned anxiously over Merle's shoulder and peered at the table. "Can you make that, baby? How are we going to-"

"Shut up, woman, and let me concentrate!" he yelled, and you backed up, lip trembling.

Merle missed the shot and the assholes won. One of them wrapped his arm around your shoulders and made a pass at you, saying he'd take you home and show you a good time with his new winnings. Merle started blustering until the guy threatened to give Merle a beat down if he didn't shut up and back off.

You batted your lashed, grabbed the asshole's arm, and begged for a chance to keep Merle safe and get your money back. "One shot. Eight ball, you call it after the break. I win, you add another hundred to the pot. We take the money and leave. I miss, you get the cash and I go home with you," you said, giving him a suggestive look.

"Deal," he said with a grin at his buddy. "Break 'em."

His buddy broke them, and the asshole called the shot. It wasn't the most difficult one to make, so you gave the asshole a few points for not being a complete dick. But it wasn't an easy one either.

You bit your lip and widened your eyes, then looked at the gathered crowd- including a suddenly smug-looking Amy, and held out your hand for the stick.

"You can give that extra hundred straight over to Amy, boys," you told them coolly as you bent over the table, lined the shot, and sank it. You leaned on the stick as they stared, open-mouthed, and Merle silently scooped up your winnings and shoved the cash in his pocket. "And boys? Don't come back here. You're assholes to the staff and the band, and we frown on shit like that. Amy, Billy, see you tomorrow," you called, tossing the pool sticks to the next group and heading toward the door.

 

 

"Don't be a dick, boss," you snapped as he kept at it, taunting the scared and angry faces of the crowd. Negan started to turn toward you, and something happened that you found to be extremely unexpected.

Rosita pulled a gun and fired once and all fucking hell broke loose.

"Shit! What the shit!" Negan yelled it, and you saw a look on his face you'd only seen once before.

You were moving even as he did, but you weren't going to beat him there. Arat had Rosita on the ground, and you hesitated as Negan went off on her. You eyed the crowd and the Saviors, looking up at Carl on the porch.

Carl was here. Judith was here.

Negan had a no-kids rule, but Rosita had shot Lucille. In half a year working with these bastards, no one had ever damaged that goddamn bat, and you didn't know what was going to happen next.

The bullet was homemade, and Negan was now both pissed and impressed.

"Lucille's beautiful, smooth surface is never going to look the same. So why should yours?" Negan yelled it at the girl on the ground, and Arat set her knife on Rosita's cheek, just under her eye. "Unless... Unless you tell me who made this."

"It was me," Rosita declared. Even when Negan called her on lying, she stuck to that, pressing up into the knife so that it sliced open her cheek herself.

You whistled, impressed. Negan glared at you, breathing hard even as he chuckled.

"She is such a badass! Fine," he added quietly. "Have it your way. Biker!"

"Yeah, boss?" you asked, bracing yourself.

Negan looked at you and pointed with Lucille. "Pull out your own thirsty bitch and kill somebody."

 

 

"Shane?" you whispered, sitting up in the darkness with your heart pounding and lungs tight. "Shane?"

"Hey," his voice came from the thick blackness all around you, and you turned in the direction it came from. "I'm right here. What's wrong, sweetheart?"

"I- I can't- where are you?" you asked, hating the note of panicked pleading in your voice.

You couldn't help it. You'd been dreaming, and you woke up and it was black and you couldn't breathe and you couldn't see. For one terrifying, heart-stopping moment, you hadn't been able to move either.

There was a rustling sound, and then his hand closed over yours. "I'm right here, sweetheart. We came downstairs, remember? Into the basement? We tried to leave, but that damn herd blocked us in. They'll move on by morning, though."

Your heart finally started to slow as Shane wrapped his arm around you and your eyes adjusted. The darkness became a little less absolute, and your sense of space started to expand as you pictured the basement in your mind.

You left out all the walker bodies you'd found when you first came down here, including the ones laid out and dressed for their own funerals. You didn't want to think about death or funerals or bodies. You definitely didn't want to think about coffins.

You wrenched your mind back from the darkness closing in again and the feeling of a bat slamming into someone's head at high speeds.

"Shane?" you whispered as you shuddered.

"Yeah?"

You curled tighter against him. "I killed- all of them."

He snorted and ran a hand over your back. "Yeah, you did. Saved my ass. Don't you feel bad about that, criminal. They locked you in that goddamn thing. I know what they were planning. They needed killing."

You shuddered again and he pressed a kiss to your forehead. You tipped your head back and found his lips with yours, and kissed him until he pulled back from you with a sigh.

"Sweetheart, not that I don't want to be kissing you, because- fuck. I definitely do. I just... I don't think you should be making that kind of decision tonight, Nameless. You're a little messed up right now," he said softly.

You shook your head, remembered he couldn't see that, and swallowed hard. "I know. I'm not- Shane, I just- I can't- Please don't let go of me," you finished in a whisper that sounded broken even to your own ears.

"Oh, sweetheart," he sighed, and drew you down along with him, until you lay stretched out with his arms around you and your head on his chest. His heartbeat throbbed under your ear and he ran a hand over your hair in slow, easy strokes. "You don't ever have to worry about that. I'm not going anywhere, criminal. Just close your eyes. I've got you."

 

 

Your hand dropped to the bat and you unsnapped it, twirling it up into your hand. Saviors shifted warily, eyeing you and the crowd, as you stepped forward. You locked eyes with Negan and let a smile play on your lips.

Then you tossed the bat on the ground at his feet and crossed your arms. "No," you declared flatly.

Negan looked at you, his face shutting down completely. "Excuse me?"

You shrugged. "No. I'm not going to kill anyone here."

The entire crowd was shifting and muttering, and you didn't look away from Negan. Your heart pounded in your ears, but here you were. Line in the sand. Open defiance.

Oh, God, let this be the right move.

Negan picked up your bat and stalked toward you. He held the bat up by the handle, eyes hard. "Do you really want to do this, Biker? You know what's going to happen. Someone here is going to die. Now you can take this goddamn bat and follow orders, or I'll get Arat to do it. And then when we get back, I'll drag someone who matters to you out and chain him on the fence and watch him die slowly."

You didn't move.

He shook his head, eyes still on yours. "Fine. This is a damn shame, but- Arat.... kill somebody."

Arat whipped out a gun, pointed it at the porch, and fired. Your eyes never left Negan's.

 

 

"We had an agreement!" Rick yelled, and Negan finally turned away from you.

"Rick!" he said, voice hoarse and delighted. You stayed where you were as Negan dropped your bat on the pool table and pointed at some of the Saviors nearby. "You two- get my criminal on her knees. Look everybody, it's Rick! Ah, your people are making me lose my voice doing all this yelling. Now, Rick- how about a thank you?"

You dropped to your knees willingly as the Saviors approached you. They were looking between you and Negan warily, and you smiled slightly at them and rested your hands on your knees. You heard one of them rack a bullet into the chamber and wanted to roll your eyes.

It wasn't like you were doing anything but waiting.

Rick looked around frantically, like he was trying to figure out just what the hell had happened here.

"I mean, look, I know we started this relationship with me beating the holy shit out of your friends, and because of that we're never going to sit around and braid each other's hair or share our deepest, darkest secrets, but how about a little credit? I just bent over backwards to show you how reasonable I am. Your kid? He hid in one of my trucks and machine-gunned a bunch of my men down, and I brought him home safe and sound, and I fed him spaghetti!" Negan declared, and Rick turned a look on Carl that actually made you laugh.

Negan whipped to glare at you, and Rick's eyes shot to yours. You held up a hand as you tried to get control of yourself.

"Oh, God, I'm sorry. I'm sorry," you gasped. "Actually, no. No, I'm not. Rick, some things don't ever change, do they? God, that look you just gave Carl. I've seen that before. I missed you guys so damn much!"

"Get her the fuck out of here, now!" Negan snapped. "Load her ass in my truck and people- do not be gentle about it! Oh, my biker babe and I are going to have some fun when we get home, isn't that right?"

You laughed, not resisting as they led you away, smiling as Rick's worried eyes followed you.

Chapter Text

You lay on the cold floor, cheek pressed against the stone, and breathed slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. You were doing your level best to hold it together, but the blackness of the cell was collapsing in on you slowly but surely.

You didn't know how long you'd been in here. You counted yourself lucky Negan had taken off the blindfold so you could see where you were being put. He wanted you to see the stain from where Daryl had puked and the photo of Glenn's body taped to the wall. He wanted you to understand that you were never getting out of here. He'd wanted maximum terror from you, being locked in a hole in the dark.

You'd taken it all in and laughed, because what it told you was that Sherry's plan had worked.

Oh, how Negan had raged when he'd pulled you from the back of the truck, bound and blindfolded, and gotten the nervous report from Laura that Fat Joey was dead and the prisoner had escaped, taking his motorcycle with him.

You'd laughed and laughed, relieved that all the risks you'd taken hadn't been mistakes after all. You'd won. You'd won already and he didn't even know it.

Finally, Negan had ripped the blindfold off your eyes and punched you across the jaw. You'd fallen as Laura and Dwight stared with wide eyes. Negan stood over you, holding Lucille and panting.

"Get our new guest out of the goddamn truck, Laura. Dwight! Get her up and take her to the hole," he growled. "Then find me my cop. He and I have a little something we need to do."

Dwight and Laura looked at each other, and Negan stared at them. Then he kicked you once in the stomach, and you decided you'd been smart to skip the spaghetti.

 

 

"This ain't smart, criminal," Shane grunted as you pulled him into the dark room and closed the door. His hands went to your hips immediately, though, and he drew you closer to him as you grinned.

"Why not?" you asked, challenge lighting your voice as you slid your hands up under his shirt and ran your nails lightly down his stomach.

He groaned a little and kissed you, hot and needy and reckless, as he shoved your jacket off your shoulders to hit the ground.

"Walkers, for one," he gasped out. You laughed a little, biting down on his neck as you hooked your fingers in his jeans and tugged. He grabbed a fistful of your shirt and muttered an oath when you ran your tongue over his ear.

"We're behind three closed doors, and the road out front is a barricade on its own. We'll have plenty of notice if walkers are coming. Besides, I don't think you really want me to stop right now, do you Officer Walsh?" you said with a smirk.

He grunted, spinning you around so your back hit the door with a thunk. You gasped a little as he grabbed the hem of your threadbare tee and gave it one hard yank. It ripped up the front and you stopped breathing for a second.

Shane started to laugh, but you slapped a hand over his mouth as you stared, wild-eyed, and felt his slow smile against your palm. He grabbed your wrist, pinned your hand to the wall, and leaned in close.

"You liked that, huh, criminal? Alright then," he whispered, voice a dangerous growl.

 

 

The dark seemed to settle on your chest like an elephant might have, and you fixed your eyes on the tiny sliver of light from under the crack in the door.

Your hands were still tied behind you, but you rolled until you were sitting up again, back to the wall. You closed your eyes and started working your way through every rock song you could think of, starting with Zepplin and going through Springsteen.

 

 

"Hey! You two! Come on, you better not be banging again," Shane called from outside the curtain.

"Go away, Walsh!" you yelled back, arm over your eyes. "I'm sleeping, asshole!"

"Yeah, well, both of you are needed. We were supposed to be starting a Council meeting twenty minutes ago. Come on, or I'm coming in there to get your ass out of bed."

"Come in here an' die, dickwad," Daryl yelled, face down in a pillow.

"Don't make me then!"

You groaned and muttered a suggestion for what he and his Council meeting could go do. There was a pause, and you decided that meant he'd gone the fuck away.

"Well, young lady, if that's what you and Mr. Dixon have been doing in there, then I believe we'll need to change this from a Council meeting to a prayer meeting," Hershel's voice called, sounding amused.

You sat straight up, holding the blanket to your chest, and looked down at Daryl with wide eyes. He was grinning at you and shrugged.

"Ya gonna say shit like that, ya gotta be ready for people to hear, baby," he said, and swung out of bed.

 

 

"- waste your summers prayin' in vain for a savior to rise from these streets. Well, I'm no hero, that's understood. All the redemption I can offer, girl, is-"

The door burst open and you opened your eyes. You'd broken out in a cold sweat about three songs before, and you'd been crying for a lot longer than that. You were probably a goddamn mess, but you were sane.

Barely.

You smiled up at Negan's furious face. "Hey, boss," you said quietly. "Fancy meeting you here."

He crouched and ran a hand over his freshly shaven chin. "My criminal-" he started.

You shook your head and chuckled. "Nope."

"Excuse me?" he asked, dangerously. "Did you just- interrupt me?"

You shrugged. "Yep. You're wrong. I'm not your criminal."

Negan bit his lip and chuckled cruelly. "Are you- are you shitting me? Look, darlin', I know you got balls of steel. But seriously! Do you remember who the fuck I am? Do I need to remind you in a far more violent way?"

You leaned forward, your face practically touching his, and smiled. "Do. Your. Worst."

You settled back as his expression contorted in anger and closed your eyes again.

He shoved to his feet without another word and slammed the door as you laughed and started singing at the top of your lungs, picking up Springsteen where you'd left off.

"All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood! With a chance to make it through somehow, hey what else can we do now? Except roll down-"

That goddamn pop song started blasting, so loud you actually whimpered. Well, fuck.

 

 

Your nose wrinkled at the noise coming from the speakers. "Billy, what the actual fuck?" you yelled over it.

Billy sighed, rolling his eyes as he plopped a glass in front of you and poured Jack without you asking. Then he added a shot glass and grabbed the tequila, and your eyebrows went up as you looked at him. He slid both to you and nodded at the shot.

"On the house, honey. Trust me, you're gonna need it. The owner came for a visit. Decided he didn't like the vibe we were putting out and wanted to attract the college crowd. That, my Nameless friend, is the sound of college student karaoke."

You stared him dead in the eyes as you grabbed the shot and downed it. "Yeah, ok, keep them coming. Mind if I heckle?"

He grimaced and poured another shot into the glass. "Do your worst. Maybe it'll drive some of these little shits out of here. You know how many times I've been winked at and had tits waved in my face to try to distract me from a fucking fake id? Shit."

"To be fair, Billy, you're pretty well shit at spotting fakes. Daryl and I were in here drinking at sixteen, remember?" you told him with a grin.

"Don't spread that shit around! Trust me- I knew. Merle paid me off to leave you two alone. Club does good business for us, so I looked the other way," he told you with a smirk.

"Aww, Billy! I'm heartbroken! Here I thought our fakes were just that good!" you laughed as you downed the next shot.

The first- painful- notes of Cyndi Lauper started and a laughing blonde in skintight shorts and a striped crop top came giggling to the mic.

"Oh Jesus," you groaned, grabbing the Jack.

 

 

Dwight opened the door when you'd dry heaved for two full trips through that fucking song and one start-up-in-the-middle rendition.

You were barely hanging on now, you knew. The room smelled like death and zombie, and you kept hearing laughter. You struggled to get a breath in, convinced of the lack of oxygen as your body decided the air was running out, despite the tiny rational part of your brain that said no, you were in a closet, not a coffin.

You couldn't think of a single fucking song because of that pop absurdity screaming at you. You could, unfortunately, think of every single goddamn horrifying thing that had happened in your life, and wonder why the fuck you'd gotten yourself into this mess.

Shit, you hoped he just killed you soon. It had to be soon, right? How long had you even been in here? Was he going to leave you here until you died from starvation? Lack of water?

Judas fucking Priest, that could take days. Weeks, you thought. You'd never really given a shit how long it took a human to die without water, and you'd already thrown up and sobbed a lot of your water away. Did that factor in?

Oh, yeah, you were fucking losing it.

"Hey. Nameless," Dwight hissed, his foot hitting yours until you uncurled from the fetal position you'd been in. The song was still blasting, and Dwight looked around urgently. He dropped down beside you and unlocked the cuffs holding your hands. "Come on. You don't have a lot of time. You need to get your shit together and do it real fast if you want to get out of here."

You stared at him wordlessly as a shiver wracked through you.

Chapter Text

"What?" you mumbled, staring at Dwight.

He sighed, looked around, and grabbed your arm, hauling you to your feet. "You're a fuckin' mess. Shit. Look, I don't have time to work you through your shit, so..."

He hauled off and slapped you open-handed across the face. Your head snapped to the side, and you burst into motion. You slammed him into the wall with your arm across his throat, eyes narrowed on his scarred face.

"That's more like it," he whispered. "Welcome back."

"Fuck you, D," you snarled, but you stepped away from him and rubbed a hand over your face. "What's going on?"

"You need to get moving," he said simply, and he pulled a gun from his waistband and handed it to you grip extended. "Take this. The magazine's full. I couldn't get your bat without making it too damn suspicious. Key's in your bike, and your bike's pulled around. Nobody's watching the herd way exit right now. I got it all arranged."

You took the gun and slid it into the empty holster on your thigh. "Why?" you asked him bluntly.

He shook his head. "I know you helped Sherry get away. I'm doin' this for her. Now, punch me. Make it look good. I've got a shit sandwich on a plate to throw in the cell, and you need to knock me out."

Your eyes narrowed on him again, and you nodded. He tossed the plate and sandwich in the cell, studied the results for a minute, and turned toward you.

You punched him clean in the jaw as he turned, and caught him as he dropped like a stone. You laid him out, half-in the doorway, and stood trying to let your brain catch up with the sudden change in your prospects.

"Ok then. Thanks, D," you whispered, and headed down the hall.

 

 

"You think you can knock me out, little girl?"

You took another sip and looked the man up and down slowly. You were leaning on the bar, and Billy refilled the glass you slid to him without looking.

"Your funeral, man," Billy informed him, and slid the glass back to you.

The guy in the suit scoffed. He wasn't small, but he wasn't huge either, and a glance at his hands showed he wasn't a secret brawler. You considered him for another minute before you snorted.

"Look, asshole, I've had a long day. My big brother needed some assistance in the middle of the night, so I've been up for something like eighteen hours already, and frankly, I am tired. Just leave it be, man," you advised him, and turned back toward the bar.

He grabbed your arm as you turned.

Billy met your eyes and sighed. "Don't make a mess, ok? I have to report any more broken furniture because of you, college student night will come back."

You grimaced, ignoring the man's hold on your arm and his blustering behind you. "How about we take it outside then? The last thing I want is dumb bitch karaoke."

Billy snorted.

"Hey! I'm talking to you, honey!"

You rolled your eyes and downed the Jack, slamming the glass on the table. You turned to the businessman and looked down your nose at him. "Yes, and very rudely."

He glowered. "I think you're the one being rude. I offered you a wager. One free shot, and if you can't knock me out, I get your number."

"You know, if this is the way you treat women you're interested in, it's no wonder you have to do shit like this to get digits. Ok, fine. One shot. What happens when I win?" you asked snidely.

He laughed. "You can have whatever you want."

"Not really, since what I want is the past thirty minutes of my life back," you muttered.

He frowned. "What's that supposed to-"

Your fist slammed into his jaw and he dropped like a stone. You winced, but he didn't hit any chairs on the way down. You turned back to Billy with a guilty expression. "Sorry, man. He annoyed me."

 

 

The herd way was not the direction you'd have chosen with one gun and no knife, but hey. You were nothing if not inventive.

You walked the bike until you'd gotten far enough away the engine wouldn't fuck up a fairly well executed escape plan, and then swung on and kicked it to life. In a few miles, you'd stop and figure out just where the fuck you were going to go.

It couldn't be Alexandria. That's the first place Negan would look. Even if that's where Daryl tried to go, Shane wouldn't let him.

You couldn't believe it had worked, but one look at Negan's face when he'd opened the cell door told you it damn well had.

They'd both made it out.

You said a silent prayer of thanks for Sherry and her goddamn wonderful brain, and resolved to smoke a cigarette in the woman's honor just as soon as you got your hands on one.

Then you came around a corner and shit began to hit the fan.

 

 

"Ok, Carl. What the fuck are you reading these days?" you asked the kid, squinting at the cover of his latest comic. "Who the hell is this even? What happened to Batman and Superman?"

Carl rolled his eyes and snatched it from your hand. "This is Deadpool. He's a sarcastic little shit who breaks the fourth wall all the time." He shot you a sly look. "He reminds me of you, actually."

You raised an eyebrow. "What walls have I been breaking?"

"Not that. The sarcastic little shit part."

"Oh, ha ha," you muttered, and he grinned.

"See? Exactly my point," he said.

You considered the red-and-black suited dude on the cover for a minute. "So what's his super power? Can he fly? Does he fight crime? Have laser eyes?"

Carl grinned. "Mostly he gets into trouble. He's not really a good guy, but he's not really a bad guy either."

Your lips twitched. "That doesn't sound like me at all."

Carl grinned as Rick wandered up.

"What are you two up to?" Rick asked suspiciously.

You turned wide, innocent eyes toward Rick. "Oh, you know. Stealing shit and blowing things up."

Rick sighed as Carl laughed. "Can you try not to corrupt him too much, please?"

"Too late," Carl said. "She's already promised to teach me how to drive the Triumph."

You looked blandly innocent as Rick glared at you. "Absolutely not," he said flatly.

"But Dad! Come on! I need to know how to drive, in case there's an emergency. What if we're outside the gates and we need to get away?"

"Then I'll drive," Rick said firmly.

"And the only vehicle available is the bike?" Carl pressed.

"Then she'll drive."

"And what if she's knocked out or bleeding out-"

"Thanks?" you muttered, and Carl grinned at you.

"If that's the case, then Daryl will drive," Rick said firmly, shifting into the intense-friendly look.

Carl's lips twitched as he looked up into Rick's eyes. "What if Daryl's not there?"

"Well, in that case-" Rick started, gesturing, and Carl's face lit up. Then Rick leveled him with a glare. "You're not driving the motorcycle!" he snapped.

You and Carl glanced at each other and cracked up laughing. Rick stared for a minute, then pressed his fingers to his lightly to his eyes and shook his head slowly.

"You two are both grounded," he muttered.

You and Carl high-fived as he walked away.

 

 

"Ok, this escape fucking sucks!" you yelled over the sound of the engine as you veered off the herd way at an exit.

Thank you Jesus for exits. You'd been outrunning and outmaneuvering the herd so far, but damn. You were bound to run out of luck eventually, right? This particular exit was almost entirely blocked with cars, but you'd eyeballed the space between them and decided the Softail would fit.

You'd been right, but only barely. Hey, right was right.

Adrenaline was doing wonderful things for you so far, you thought tiredly, but you needed a plan and you needed it yesterday. Where the fuck could you go? Literally every community hated you.

You hadn't worried about this. Shane got out with Daryl. He would- hopefully- be given asylum because he was with Daryl. Duh, right?

You hadn't been planning on getting out at all.

Chapter Text

Night had turned into day, you'd crashed the fucking bike, and you were exhausted. When you crashed, you finally bothered to check the goddamn saddle bags, and then you started cursing yourself for the fucking idiot you were.

You blamed being locked in the hole. Being locked up in places like that fucked with your mind a little. Ok, it fucked with your mind a whole goddamn lot.

Inside the saddle bag you found a selection of helpful items, including a knife, a bottle of water, a long-range radio, and a fucking map. Scrawled on the map in Dwight's handwriting were the words 'go to the Kingdom', which would have been better delivered in person, in your considered opinion.

You went to the Kingdom. The Kingdom was less than happy to see you, but the fact that you came with bruises, no bat, and your hands in the air- and they'd had exactly one harmonious encounter with you and zero bat swinging ones- worked in your favor, and you didn't die right off the bat. Pun intended.

Instead, you went straight in front of King Ezekiel and had two major shocks right after another.

 

 

The first was the tiger.

The tall guy and the archer who had seen you when you accompanied Gavin on the drop months before were on either side of you, and when you ducked into the theater and saw the tiger on stage with the king on his throne, your first instinct was to stop, stare, and utter 'what the fuck?'

The archer had laughed. The tall guy had grabbed your arm and hustled you to the stage.

You'd taken a knee instantly. "Your Majesty, I-"

"Get up! I am not Negan, to have a supplicant kneel before me," the man snapped.

You got up. "Ok then. I like you already. Hi, Your Majesty. That's a fucking tiger and I love it, but it's been a long damn day for me. I'm here seeking help."

"YN?"
The king turned and looked at the left wing of the stage, and you looked too. Stepping out and staring at you was shock number two.

"Holy fucking shit," you whispered, staring at the man who stared at you. "Morgan?"

 

 

"Wait, wait," you said, stopping in the middle of the train track to stare at Shane. "You arrested a person doing what now?"

Shane grinned at you. "Streaking at the high school football game. Wearing the mascot's helmet and nothing else. And let me just tell you- it wasn't a kid, either."

"So some adult, fully grown human being, put on a mascot's head, took off everything else, and ran bare-ass naked through a football game filled with kids? In- in King County?" you declared incredulously.

"Swear," Shane said solemnly.

You crossed your arms. "No," you said flatly. "Can't be."

He shook his head and laughed. "I promise, I did. King County had it's share of weird shit happen, criminal."

"What else?" you demanded, grinning. "You bust a few underage drinkers, sure, I buy that. I maybe buy a grown-ass adult streaker. Maybe a few weed calls and a shit ton of traffic stops, but that's gotta be it, right?"

Shane shook his head and the two of you started walking again. "Aw man. Craziest shit I ever got into? With Rick, right, and we're just cruising around. This was only a few months before everything went down, too. So we're out, and we're just kind of fucking around because it's dead out there."

"Because it's goddamn King County," you interjected, and Shane flipped you off.

"Anyway, we're out in the middle of the back roads, and we see- I shit you not, ok?- we see some dude in a ballgown trying to tip a cow. Now, the cow tipping ain't no big surprise; it's happened before. Rick and I, we get out of the car, head into the field, and this heifer is getting pissed," Shane said, gesturing wildly.

You eyed him with a grin. "I assume you're referring to the cow, yes?"

Shane rolled his eyes at you. "Yes, the damn cow. She's mooing up a storm and this asshole will not let up. Rick goes to talk to him, got that friendly, reasonable tone he does-"

Your smile turned sad, but didn't fall completely away. "The intense-friendly, yeah."

"Yeah, that one," Shane agreed, and reached for your hand. You slid your fingers into his and tipped your head to his shoulder for a minute as you walked. "Anyway, Rick's trying to ask the man what the hell he's doing to this damn cow, and I'm just trying to figure out what's up with the dress, man."

"What, a man can't rock a dress if he wants to?" you demanded, and Shane rolled his eyes.

"I don't give a shit, criminal. What I'm trying to figure out is why anyone is wearing a ball gown and standing in a field full of cow patties pissing off said cow."

Your lips twitched as you considered the image. "Fair point. Drugs? Hefty dose of the crazy?"

"Nope," Shane said with a grin. "Rick asks the guy what he's doing, and he says- true story here, criminal- he says 'I lost a bet with my buddy who works on this farm'."

You cracked up and Shane laughed with you. "So, me being me-"

"-you asked him what the bet was," you finished.

"You bet your sweet ass I did, Nameless! And he sighs, brushes some dirt off his skirt, and says 'I said he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a shotgun, and if he nailed the target, I'd tip a cow. My buddy said maybe he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, but at least he could hit on a broad.'"

"Oh, Judas Priest," you muttered.

Shane paused as you saw a bunch of walkers up ahead, and lifted the rifle to peer through the scope. "Too many of them, Nameless. Let's go around."

In the trees, you glanced at him. "Come on, man, finish the story. Why was he in the dress?"

Shane grinned and held a branch out of the way for you. "Alright, so this guy, he tells me and Rick, 'so I changed the bet. My friend had to try to get a date while wearing a dress. If it succeeded, I had to tip the cow in the same dress.'"

You stopped and stared at him. "That's the lamest conclusion to a story I've ever heard."

"Oh, it ain't over yet, criminal. So Rick and I are standing in the field trying not to laugh at this miserable asshole, when the cow suddenly lets out this pained moo, turns, and projectile-shoots shit all over this dumbass in his dress. I mean, it is- Nameless, it was foul. I haven't smelled anything like that since."

You gagged. "That's disgusting, Shane."

"Hell yeah, it was. So Rick and I are looking at each other and at this guy, and Rick turns to the cow and says, deadpan- 'excuse me, ma'am, should I take that to mean you'd like to press charges?' And I told him if he put that shit-covered man in our car, I wasn't getting in it. So Rick, he arrests the guy, because cow tipping's still illegal, bet or no bet, and starts marching him toward our car, and I am like fuck no. This ain't happening. At the last minute, our radios go off, and it's dispatch, right?"

You eyed him, wondering where the fuck this could possibly be going.

"Dispatch asks us if we've seen anyone with this guy's exact description, and I'm like 'as a matter of fact...' and dispatch gets back on and says, 'better let him go. That's the mayor's kid and the mayor doesn't want any drama.' Rick radios back and says 'well, tell the mayor we'll bring him home because he's in deep shit'. Criminal, I about died laughing so hard." Shane grinned at you and you grinned back, hanging on his every word at this point just for the way his face was lit up talking about it.

You hadn't seen him smile like this since the prison went down, and you'd forgotten what it was like.

"So dispatch says not to take him home, that the mayor will come and get him. And let me tell you, every damn minute of standing in that mid-summer heat with this shit-covered dumbass kid was worth it for the look on that man's face. I swear, he almost had us arrest him just so the kid didn't have to get into his own car!"

 

 

Ezekiel agreed to give you sanctuary. You got a shower, a meal, and a nap, in that order.

You were mid-nap when someone tapped at the door and you stumbled to your feet. You opened the door, bleary-eyed, to find Morgan there.

"YN. The King wishes you to come with me. Quickly," he said, and you snatched up your jacket from the foot of the bed and pulled it on rapidly.

"What is it?" you asked, fearing the worst. Picturing Dwight selling you out, Saviors coming and raiding this beautiful, peaceful place.

You couldn't imagine the hard, brutal Saviors here. Couldn't stand to think of your violent crowd sweeping in and destroying gardens, burning mattresses just for the hell of it, leaving things broken and people scared behind you.

A weight settled on your back, heavy and guilty and smelling like blood and death.

"I can see the look on your face," Morgan said softly. "You've had a rough go of it, haven't you? I heard from Rick some of what happened. Up until you got separated. He thought you were dead."

You laughed, and it sounded brittle. "Morgan, I'm not sure I wasn't," you whispered. "Where are we going? I'm grateful to the king for giving me a place to rest, but I'm going to need to find Shane soon. Help Rick and the others in any way I can. Negan is- Negan needs to be stopped."

Morgan smiled at you and held open a door to the theater, then lead the way to the stage. "Wait here. This is Jerry. You'll see."

You gulped as you eyed the tiger and Morgan disappeared. Then you eyed the big man with the battle ax. "That thing sharp?" you asked.

He grinned. "Dude. So sharp."

"Sweet," you muttered. "So, Jerry. What the fuck is going on?"

"Shhh," he said. "You'll see. Stay here a minute, I've got to go out there. Guard the king."

You shrugged, leaned one shoulder against the wall, and crossed your ankles. "Sure, sure. Whatever."

 

 

"Jesus! It pleases me to see you, old friend!" the king declared.

OK, you thought, standing up straight and trying to peek through the curtain. What the fuck was going on? You were ninety percent sure you were an atheist, but there were zombies walking around. The Second Coming wasn't something you were totally willing to discount these day.

"It pleases him indeed!" Jerry exclaimed, and you smirked as Ezekiel muttered what sounded like 'Jerry, please.'

"Tell me. What news do you bring good King Ezekiel? Are these new allies you've brought me?" the King continued, and once again you wondered just when this drama dork had decided the apocalypse meant he could live out his Shakespearean dream. You weren't complaining, because hey- to each their own. You were just curious.

And you wanted to see these 'new allies', damn it. Jerry flashed you a slight shake of his head, clearly telling you to stay put, and your eyes narrowed.

It was like these guys didn't know you at all. You clearly weren't the best at following orders.

"Indeed they are, Your Majesty," a new voice answered, one that seemed vaguely familiar. "This is...."

Silence for a beat.

"This is Rick Grimes, leader of Alexandria, and these are some of his people."

That was it. No more waiting.

"Rick?" you called, ducking out from behind the curtain and striding onto the stage.

Everyone, including the tiger, looked at you.

Jerry sighed. "You were supposed to wait for my signal, dude," he protested sadly.

You weren't paying any attention to him, instead staring wide-eyed out at the theater. Rick was there, sure enough. And Sasha and Michonne and Carl and Rosita, the woman who'd shot at Negan, and the guy who you'd dubbed Jesus and you were now suspecting actually went by that name. Which was an important point you were going to come back to later.

But most importantly, what had you grinning and laughing and running for the edge of the stage, right past the goddamn tiger and the faintly amused eyes of Ezekiel, were the two people you most wanted to see.

Chapter Text

"Nameless!" Shane's voice sounded pissed, but you caught the relief under it. He shoved his way forward, from where he'd been sort of hovering at the back of the group.

You flung yourself off the stage with a grin and a whoop, disregarding the fact that every part of your body hurt from the beating, the punch from Negan, a night in a cell, a mental breakdown, and one gnarly motorcycle crash, all in the last thirty-six hours.

You hit the ground and rolled, launching yourself straight into Shane when you got to your feet. He staggered backward when you hit, but he caught you, and you pressed your face into his neck and fought back the tears that wanted to escape.

"Shit, sweetheart. I'm going to kill you," he whispered into your hair. One arm was still in a sling, but he had the other wrapped around you, clutching you close by a fistful of your jacket and Merle's vest.

"Well, now our surprise has been delivered," Ezekiel said dryly. "It should have been expected, should it not, Jerry? Negan's right hand is known to be.... unpredictable."

You let go of Shane reluctantly and turned. "No disrespect, Your Majesty, but I'm not Negan's right hand."

Daryl's scoff speared through you harder than any hit you'd taken. The level of scorn that man could put into that single noise, you thought as your eyes closed against pain. He'd always been too goddamn good at that.

You turned slowly and looked at him. Shane shifted so you couldn't see his face, running a hand through his hair and looking at the ground. Your lungs tightened and the tears that burned on the edges of your eyes threatened to start again. "Got something to say, Dixon?" you asked quietly.

"To you? Naw," he said shortly. "I ain't got nothin' to say to Negan's pet. I'm here to talk to the king."

"And the King is interested indeed in what brings all this fine assemblage before him," Ezekiel declared grandly, even as you flinched away from the look in Daryl's eyes. His never left you, and finally you were the one who dropped your eyes, guilt and shame and grief and a thousand other emotions running through you.

You turned away and tried to listen to Rick and Ezekiel argue, but you couldn't. Not with the weight of Daryl's eyes staring at you, and Shane's stiff shoulders, and Rick and the others carefully ignoring you. Not with the lingering feeling of blood on your hands.

Negan's left-hand girl, you thought mockingly. Thinks she can come back to her friends, her family, and everything will be ok. No. You were a killer. You were their enemy, and you would be forever. You studied the ground, the stained and frayed hem of your jeans and the battered toes of combat boots, and privately decided everything would have been better if you'd quietly lost your mind in the cell.

That had you shoving your way past Rick and Jesus and heading straight out the door.

"YN?"

It sounded like Daryl's voice calling after you, but there was no way that was the case. You ignored whoever it was, bursting out into the sunlight and staring at the bright, thriving happiness of the Kingdom.

 

 

You bolted, not knowing what else to do, and ended up at the wall. You stared up at it, made from odd and mismatched parts, and wondered if the people in here had ever seen some shit. You climbed to the top of one of the cargo containers and sat, letting your legs dangle down the other side as you stared out into the world.

This place, you thought. It was strong in numbers and thriving. Men and women trained and kept themselves at the ready. They grew their own food, tended to children and the elderly.

It was weak.

The people inside stayed fit for the dead, not the living. They let their guard down, walked around without a weapon at the ready, didn't look over their shoulders for the next threat. How long had it been since you'd walked around in the world like that?

Before Negan. Before the Wolves. Before the coffin, certainly. Before the prison fell?

Shit. Maybe before the world ended. Maybe not even then.

Pet killer on a leash, you thought, and stared down at your hands. You'd never minded the world seeing you as a bad guy, since the only people who'd mattered to you never had. Daryl and Merle had never looked at you with fear or distrust or judgement. And after the world ended, and that tiny family of people who mattered expanded to include Maggie and Glenn, Shane and Rick and Carl, Beth and Lori and Michonne and Carol and Hershel, it was the same.

Condemnation from anyone outside your circle rolled off you. The hatred and judgement in their eyes? No. That mattered.

Something clanked against the container and you snorted at the string of irritated profanity. You didn't bother to look up from your hands as Shane stomped across the top of the container and dropped down beside you.

"Getting up here with a broken arm sucked ass," he informed you.

You huffed, but didn't look up. "What am I doing here, Shane?"

"The fuck's that supposed to mean?"

You shook your head, looking up from your hands and out into the street ahead of you. "I mean... What am I doing here? In the Kingdom? I'm Negan's left-hand girl. I've killed-" You broke off with a scoff. "I've killed a lot of damn people. I have no business trying to come back to Rick and pretend to be a hero."

Shane reached over and grabbed your hand as you gestured wildly. "Look at me, sweetheart," he asked.

You sighed, shaking your head again as the first of the tears slid silently down your cheek. After a deep breath, you finally looked at him.

"Hey," he whispered, and smiled at you. "There you are. I missed you, criminal."

You felt yourself smile against your will, and Shane leaned forward until your foreheads touched.

"I mean it. And, honey, we're gonna fight later, so just- get ready for it," he told you, cracking a grin, and you actually laughed a little and rolled your eyes.

He sobered then, pulling back and sliding his hand from yours to brush the tears from your cheeks. "Sweetheart, listen to me now. Yeah, you've done some shit. Some shit that isn't all good, that's for sure. But it was like that before, wasn't it? When we all first found each other?"

You shook your head. "That's different."

"Why?"

"Because I wasn't a killer, Shane!" you exploded at him, climbing to your feet to pace the container wildly. "I hadn't taken a goddamn baseball bat to someone's head because an asshole with a bigger bat ordered me to! I hadn't picked a random person out of a group and said 'kill that one, boss'. I hadn't slaughtered entire groups of people, no questions and no remorse, because they dared to threaten you!"

Shane rose and caught your hand. "YN, come on. You think Rick's people ain't done shit out there too?"

"Deputy Do Good? Asks three questions of people and lets them in no matter what the answers are; questions he heard in phone call from the great beyond? No, I don't think they've done the kind of shit I have!"

Shane started laughing. "Rick's the asshole who ripped Joe's throat out with his teeth."

You blinked and stared at Shane. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Got part of the story from Daryl and Sasha and Maggie- Maggie's fine, by the way. She's pregnant."

You dropped like a stone to sit on the container, not able to stay upright any more. "Oh my God."

Shane sat in front of you and grabbed your hand again. "They ran into those Claimer assholes same as us, only it didn't go so hot for them. Rick, Carl, and Michonne, I mean. We were so close, Nameless. We were one step behind or one step in front of them over and over again. Anyway, Rick killed two of their assholes, then the Claimers caught up to them and Daryl was with them, but he didn't know it was Rick they were after. That asshole Joe says they're gonna kill Rick and Daryl, rape Michonne and Carl, and Rick went ape. Ripped his throat out with his goddamn teeth."

"What? What?" you repeated blankly. "So Tony lied to us?"

Shane snorted. "That's what you got out of that story? Yeah, Tony lied to us. Point is, criminal, Rick and company did just as much fucked up shit as we did. They just found Alexandria instead of Sanctuary."

"So, what? They're going to just welcome me with open arms?" You sneered down at your fingers in disbelief, tapping out Springsteen again on your leg.

"Us, sweetheart. Us. It's not just you. And- maybe not open arms, no. But Carl just bitched out Dixon for talking to you like that."

Your head whipped up and you stared at Shane. He was smirking at you, and the smirk grew into a grin. "What?" you asked intelligently. "Carl?"

Shane nodded. "Carl. That kid's got one damn good eye still, sweetheart, and he was in the Sanctuary. Plus, he saw whatever went down with you and Negan in Alexandria. Speaking of-" his eyes hardened into a glare. "You ready to fight now, or you want to put it off for a bit, let it fester?"

You leaned in abruptly and kissed him. His hand tightened on yours, and your free hand came to his cheek as he returned the kiss fiercely. When you broke away, both of you were breathing hard.

"That don't change anything, criminal. We're still going to fight," Shane said, but he had that smug, lazy tone to his voice that let you know you'd done something right.

"Ok, then, Officer Walsh," you said with a grin. "Let's fight."

 

 

You and Shane fought like you'd fought with Merle, but it was different. Sure, there was the standard screaming at each other, but your fights with Shane never wound their way back to childhood grievances.

You didn't get all up in each other's faces, either; though there was plenty of pacing and wild gestures. There was something different about fighting with your lover than fighting with your sibling, and no matter how explosive and loud your fights got, the two of you always seemed to know when you tread to close to that line.

"I told you to take him and run, and you wouldn't!" Shane yelled, stabbing one finger at you as he glared.

You rolled your eyes, flinging both hands up in exasperation. "Of course I wouldn't, asshole! Negan would have fucking killed you!"

"What do you think he would have done to you? Huh? You ever stop to think I felt the same damn way about leaving you behind?" Shane's eyes flashed, his jaw tight as he glared.

You crossed your arms and scoffed, firmly stamping on the annoying well guilt and telling it to go away. He was right and you knew it, but you stood by your decision, damn it. "Yes, I know. That's why you had to think I'd be getting out too!"

Shane went from glaring out at the road to staring at you with more fury in his eyes than you'd ever seen. He came stalking toward you and you held your ground, not changing your expression. Inwardly, you were kicking a wall and cussing yourself a blue streak for letting that slip out.

"What the fuck did you just say?" he asked, voice soft and hard. "Nameless. What the fuck did you just say? I had to think you'd be getting out too?" He emphasized 'think' in a way that left little doubt he knew exactly what you said and what you meant, and was only asking to give you a chance to defend yourself before he crucified you.

You swallowed hard and bit your lip, looking down at the crowd gathered below the container you two still stood on. "We've got an audience," you whispered.

Shane never looked away from you. "Never stopped us before. Don't change the subject."

"I wasn't leaving," you whispered finally. "I didn't have an exit strategy."

Shane swore viciously, turning and taking two long strides away from you as he shoved his hand into his hair. "Son of a- Why? Why?" he yelled it, and your shoulders hunched as you stared at your feet instead of looking at him.

"What the fuck did you think would happen? I'd sit by and let you stay there? Why, damn it?"

You heard the pain in his voice, and you had to answer it honestly.

"Because I don't deserve to be out. I should be in that hole or at his side, his pet killer on a leash. That's all I am anymore, Shane," you told him, and your voice cracked on his name.

"Fuck," he muttered, his back to you and his head bowed. "Fuck that, YN. You're more than that, and you fucking know it."

"Am I? Am I really? I'm just like him!" You screamed the last bit, not caring who heard. Not caring that you recognized some of the faces down there; faces staring up blatantly listening and not even pretending like they weren't.

You took a step toward Shane, gesturing to yourself as he turned and glared at you again. "Look at me! Leather jacket, bad attitude, baseball bat! More importantly, there is nothing- nothing!- I wouldn't do to keep you alive." You stabbed a finger of your own at him, needing him to understand.

"To keep Rick or Carl or Judith or Maggie or Sasha or Michonne or alive? Name the person, they're dead. No questions asked. There is nothing I wouldn't have done to keep Beth or Tyreese or Carol or Hershel or- or- or Glenn.... I would kill anyone for any of them! And for you-" You broke off, shaking your head at him.

"Shane, to keep you safe? To keep Daryl alive? Fuck just alive; to keep you from ever being hurt? Hell, I'd walk right back into the Sanctuary now, put myself back in that cell for eternity. I'd take that damn bat to just about anyone, alive or dead. I'd zip on a little black dress and stuff my feet in some heels and spread my legs for whoever Negan wanted me to, every damn night. I'd chain myself to the fence and become walker bait. There is no line in the sand, Shane. Not where you're concerned. Not where Daryl's concerned. That's why you had to go and I had to stay. Because as long as either of you were at risk, there was nothing I wouldn't do for him. Nothing! And I can't- I can't live with- I can't live with what that makes me..."

Shane's arm wrapped around you as your voice rose hysterically, and you leaned into him and wept.

Chapter Text

You glanced around the room and grunted, slamming the door in the face of the bitch blatantly eyeing Shane.

"Well, then," you muttered, leaning against it and crossing your arms. "Its a damn sight nicer than some of the places we've crashed. Also she wants to eat you for breakfast, officer."

Shane laughed, wandering into the room and not bothering to respond. He opened the door on the far side of the room curiously and grinned over his shoulder at you. "There's a shower, criminal. Bet that means hot water."

You closed your eyes and moaned at just the idea. "How long has it been since I've had a shower, Shane?"

The sound of water running filled the air and your eyes shot open. The door stood open, the light was on, and Shane had disappeared. Your eyes narrowed and you locked the door you leaned against, then pulled a chair up under the handle as added security. You'd been on the road a long fucking time, after all.

You stripped out of your jacket and vest and toed off your boots, leaving them carelessly in the floor as you started unhooking your gun belt. You hung it carefully and silently over the handle of the bathroom door, glancing over the small room swiftly. It wasn't impressive, but hey- any place you didn't have to keep an eye out for zombies while you took a piss was a massive improvement over the last six months.

You slid in behind Shane, who stood facing the spray with his eyes closed. Without saying anything, he held a bottle of shampoo over his shoulder to you.

"Aww, really? How the hell did you-" you started, annoyed.

"Change in temperature," he said, glancing over his shoulder and grinning at you. "And I ain't ever known you to wait long when there's a hot shower available."

You grinned back. "Fair enough. Oh my god, this is glorious. Share, asshole."

He laughed and shuffled around until you stood where he had, face in the spray and watching dirt and old blood run down the drain. He took the bottle of shampoo from your hands and plopped some on your head.

"God, Officer, that is not how you do that," you muttered, and turned to stick your hair under the spray and lather it up. "On the other hand, this feels so damn good I don't give a shit."

Shane laughed, and you opened your eyes and really looked at him. He was working on his own hair and watching you, and you felt yourself starting to blush under his gaze.

"What?" you muttered, and he shook his head and reached for you.

"You're beautiful," he whispered. "And you're a goddamn idiot."

You'd started to grin like a fool at the compliment, but it turned to a scowl at the second half. "Excuse the fuck out of you, Walsh, but I saved your ass today," you snapped, eyes dropping anxiously to the bandages on his chest now getting soaked. "Oh, shit, should you even be in here right now? You've got-"

Shane grabbed your reaching hands and chuckled, sliding his fingers into yours. "It's fine. Just stitches. They're not deep."

You shook your head, lips pressed together. "Shane, if these guys hadn't-"

"Shut up, Nameless. We'd have been fine. You shouldn't have taken all of them on when that prick said to."

You lifted an eyebrow at him and didn't say a word in response to that. After a long moment of glaring, he sighed.

"It was a big risk, criminal. I mean, you're good, but there were too damn many of them," he said softly, lifting one of your joined hands to his lips. "I could have lost you."

You snorted. "And I was going to lose you if I didn't do it. What choice did I have?" You smiled and pulled one of your hands from his lay it against his cheek. "I'm fine. I had something important to fight for."

His eyes closed and he tugged you closer.

"Shane, I don't want to hurt-" you protested, resisting.

"Shut up and let me hold you. What do we think about this Negan fucker?" he asked, and you leaned your head on his shoulder and tried not to put any pressure on his chest. His hands roamed your back and sides and over your hair, soothing reassuring touches you found yourself absently echoing as you thought about his question.

"His rules are simple and clear enough. A lot like club rules, honestly. Leave kids alone, don't rape anybody, take care of your own. I mean, we follow those rules already," you said with a shrug. "I say we stick with it unless he does something we can't live with. There's a goddamn bed and hot water. Or there was hot water until we wasted it all talking," you added as you felt the water temperature drop noticeably.

Shane laughed and tipped your head back to rinse the shampoo from your hair. "Guess we better hurry up then. I agree, by the way. Wait and watch for now. Enjoy the little luxuries."

"Mmhhmm," you agreed as he handed you soap and shifted you so he could get under the spray. "Let you heal up."

"I told you, criminal, I am fine!"

 

 

"We don't go down there soon, Rick's going to climb up here himself," Shane whispered to you. You'd stopped crying and were just standing there in his arms, leaning against him with your eyes closed.

You sighed. "Yeah, we put on quite a show, didn't we? Guess we have to face the music."

You didn't move. After another pause, Shane laughed.

"How's your dancing skills, Nameless? We're too late; Rick's on his way up."

You groaned and opened your eyes, pushing upright and scrubbing a hand over your face. You turned when you heard the steps on the container and met Rick's cautious look.

"Hey again, Deputy," you said softly. "Nice to see you. Sorry Negan left your kitchen such a fucking mess. He's an asshole."

Rick stared at you without saying anything.

You looked down and sighed.

"Rick," Shane snapped. "Come on."

"Shane, it's fine," you whispered. "I've earned it."

"No, it isn't," Shane shot back. "You earned it? What the fuck did you do? Rick, you wanna be pissed at someone, make someone feel like shit, be pissed at me. I was the one holding a goddamn gun to Rosita's head. I was the one at that fucking nightmare, man. I was the one who stood by and let it happen. She didn't even know!"

"Shane-"

"Shut up, Nameless!" Shane stepped half in front of you and met Rick's silent glare. "No. You people don't get to do this anymore. We looked for you, man. We looked for days. We stayed in the area for weeks and found no sign of anyone. Did you look for us? Huh?"

Shane scoffed, ran his hand over his head again, and half-turned away from Rick, muttering under his breath.

You were hit with sudden and violent nostalgia. Shane and Rick fighting with you standing by and watching- it was the goddamn farm all over again.

Shane turned before you could crack a joke and launched back into it.

"And don't you dare sit there on your goddamn high horse and fucking judge either of us. You ripped a dude's throat out with your teeth! You went full scorched earth on goddamn Terminus. Ain't saying it didn't need doing, but what the fuck, Rick? I haven't heard all the stories yet, I'm sure, but I heard some shit about how you ended up in charge over there at Alexandria, too. Maggie and Sasha filled me the fuck in on some things, brother. So don't you fucking act like you didn't do anything necessary to protect your own. Think we did any less?" Shane paused, eyebrows up, and Rick looked from him to you.

You shrugged and waved at Shane. "This is his fight, Deputy. I'm a monster and I know it."

Shane swung around to point at you. "You are not a monster, sweetheart. Stop that shit right now."

He turned back to Rick and took a step toward him. "You wanna know some shit about us? Huh? So you can judge with all the facts? Ok. How about this- you know how we got hooked up with Negan in the first damn place? These fuckers with W's carved on their foreheads- we found a group of 'em weeks before, and they'd chopped the arms off some poor bastard and were watching him die. We asked a few goddamn questions, because what the fuck, right? Turns out these bastards call themselves Wolves and they did that shit for fun, Rick. For fun."

Shane shook his head again. "We called that psychopaths, back when we were cops. So Nameless and I, we took those three out, started using their W's and tagging to cover our tracks. Keep the heat off us. Course that didn't work too well, and one night we find ourselves surrounded."

You shivered even in the heat, closing your eyes against the flash of Shane's face, white and strained, and the blood on his chest.

"They handcuffed us both, started going through what gear we had left by then. Wasn't much, and who gave a shit- we could find more. But then one of those bastards decided it'd be great fucking fun to slice me up awhile. Again, I can take it. No big deal, long as they keep their damn hands off Nameless."

"Shane," you muttered, annoyed.

Shane ignored you and kept talking. "Of course, she doesn't feel the same way about it. Handcuffed and gagged, they've got guns and we don't, and that girl right there throws herself at one. We were dead. Both of us. And then these other assholes come busting in. They bandage me up and some jackass with a bat starts making a recruitment pitch to my girl. She doesn't bite, because we don't know this bastard from Adam, and he starts threatening. Says we owe him for the use of resources." Shane scoffed and gestured at nothing.

"She smarts off because she can't help her damn mouth-"

"It's true; I can't," you muttered, looking down at your shoes again. "Shane, please." You didn't want Shane to tell Rick what you did.

"- and Negan tells her he'll give her a choice. And what a goddamn choice this was, Rick. Listen to this choice," he said, running his hand through his hair again as he glared at Rick like Rick was personally responsible for the situation."She can either go with them and work off her supposed debt after they kill me, or she could go face the ten still living W bastards at once with just the damn bat. If she made it out, she'd still join the Saviors, but she'd be one of them, not a worker, and she could keep either the bat or me."

Shane stopped talking, but you didn't look up. Well, that was it. Rick's opinion- and the opinions of everyone listening- were bound to be cemented against you now.

"Well, from the looks of things, I'd say she won."

You whipped your eyes up to meet Rick's at the sound of his voice. He was giving you a wary look still, but it was different than the ones you'd been getting from him so far. There was something maybe like.... pride? No, that couldn't be right.

You nodded once, biting your lip. Then you shrugged. "I told him he was about to be so damn impressed he'd let me keep both. I was right. Rick, look. Shane's- Shane's being Shane, trying to make it seem like I didn't have a choice. That time, he's right. I didn't."

You took Shane's hand and squeezed when he would have interrupted you. "But some of the other stuff, I did. You can hate me if you want. I get it. I- I didn't want to see what he was. He had a couple of hard rules that made sense to me. It was like club rules, you know? Don't fuck with kids; don't rape; protect your own. I overlooked a lot because he stuck to those rules, and we were safer than we'd been since the prison fell. I can't overlook it anymore. You don't have to trust me, and I get why you wouldn't."

"Who says I don't trust you?" Rick asked, and you frowned at him.

"I don't know, Rick. Your face every time I look at you?"

Rick sighed, rested his hands on his gun belt, and squinted out into the road. "I don't know you anymore. And I'm- I'm angry. But I get it. I get what happened. Hell, we went through shit, too. We did some things that I'm not proud of, to survive. Because we're the ones who survive. You want to bring Negan down? I guess that makes us allies."

Your lips twitched when he met your eyes. "Friends, Deputy?" you asked him.

He smiled at you. "Allies," he told you, holding up a hand in a slow-down gesture as your smile grew. "On the way to being friends."

You burst into tears for what felt like the forty-seventh time that day.

 

 

"Yo, Dixon, get your damn ass out here! Your better half is home," you yelled into C block. You were tired and dirty and pleased with yourself, because you had scored big on this run. "Guess who found another record store?"

Carl's heartfelt groan came from the second level, and his head popped out of Shane's cell with a pleading expression. "Please tell me you got good music this time, Nameless!"

You pointed up at him with a mock scowl. "Kid, please. All my music is good music. Stop listening to your Uncle Shane!"

"Whatever! Hey, Daryl. You'll tell me if she actually got anything worth listening to, right?" Carl asked, leaning over the railing to look down at Daryl.

You grinned at them both as Daryl glanced up at the kid. "Hey man, anything's better than her'n'Shane goin' from Guns'N'Roses to Springsteen and back every damn time. Different is automatically better."

Carl made a face. "I guess that's fair. You guys want to wait to start making out until Judith and I get out of here? We're impressionable children, we shouldn't have to see that."

You laughed. "I'll give you a count of ten, kid. One!"

"Aw, shit," Carl muttered, and ducked rapidly into Shane's cell.

You leaned against the wall with your arms crossed and met Daryl's eyes. "Two! Three!"

"No fair speeding up!"

"Better hurry it up, kid!" you called with a laugh. "I haven't seen him in two days! Four! Five! Six!"

"You could just go in your own damn cell like civilized people," Carl complained as he ducked back out again, carrying Judith with his eyes covered. Daryl's lips twitched as he continued to stare at you while Carl's steps sounded on the stairs.

"Seven. Eight. Nine," he called, and Carl groaned.

You laughed and ruffled the kid's hair as he went past. "Ten. See you later, kid."

Chapter Text

Rick lead the way down, and you brought up the rear, hovering and fussing over Shane until he told you to stop being a mother fucking hen. You'd flipped him off cheerfully and Rick had rolled his eyes, a small almost-smile on his lips.

Like maybe he'd missed you and your antics or something.

You'd gone back to studying your toes as Rick brought the group into a huddle. Ezekiel had listened and refused to give a verdict until the next day, and you paused as you considered just how long Negan would wait before setting out to search for Daryl and Shane, at the very least.

"Can you guys afford to wait overnight?" you asked abruptly as the group collapsed around Rick's room to discuss plans.

"What do you mean?" Michonne asked, unstrapping her sword and propping it up by the head of the bed. When she sat down at Rick's side and started unlacing her boots, your eyes narrowed slightly.

You gestured toward them. "Don't you need to be back in Alexandria? Listen, I've-"

"Jesus grabbed a long range radio when he busted us outta there," Daryl snapped, interrupting you.

You glanced at him, then back at white Jesus, and you couldn't help the smirk. "Hey. We haven't been introduced yet, but I just want you to know, I've been mentally calling you white Jesus since I saw you at Hilltop."

He chuckled, walked over to you, and extended a hand. "My name's Paul Rovia. But my friends call me Jesus."

"Thanks for saving Maggie, Paul," you told him quietly. "I caught the closet thing."

"Yes, Gregory's an ass. And I thought maybe you did. Call me Jesus," he said, looking you in the eye until you finally nodded.

You were not going to cry again. No. You swallowed hard as Jesus started to turn away, and then cleared your throat. "Got the radio on you?"

He reached behind him and handed it over curiously. You glanced at Shane. "What do you think? Would he change to one of the others, or is he enough of a smug bastard to not bother?"

Shane shrugged. "Just Dixon and I gone, probably not. You gone too? I don't know."

"Yeah, and D scored me a radio too," you muttered, and toggled over to Theta. "Probably switched."

The radio in your hand crackled and you heard Arat's voice passing a code to one of the outposts. Nothing major, just a shipment notice. You grinned up at the room and tossed the radio back to Jesus. He caught it with a smile your way.

Rick laughed faintly. "Alright then. Now we're golden. So, Ezekiel wants to wait until morning to answer. Richard wants to fight. Morgan doesn't."

"Yeah, look, guys. You all know what's been going down with you, but I don't. Number one, and forgive the bluntness of this delivery, but who's alive? Number two, how are any of you alive? Number three, and honestly pretty high up on my priority list, when did these two start shacking up, because I called that one and would like to know if I won the bet, please," you said, leaning forward from your spot on the floor and pointing at Rick and Michonne.

Carl and Michonne cracked up first, followed by a chuckle from Shane, Sasha, and Rick. Jesus looked faintly amused, Rosita looked irritated, the woman you still hadn't been introduced to looked confused, and Daryl-

You weren't looking at Daryl.

"I guess you do have a lot to catch up on," Carl said. He crossed between the beds in the room, and Rick smacked absently at Carl's head. Carl ducked it and flopped to the floor at Rick and Michonne's feet with a bottle of water. "Ok. So, where do we begin?"

You shrugged. "At the beginning, man. What happened when the Governor started shooting?"

 

 

It took awhile, with many side stories and twisting conversations as you and Shane interjected some of your own adventures, freaked out over how closed you'd come to each other, and cried over those alive and those lost, but you got the story out of them.

Rick and the Governor tried to kill each other in glorious hand to hand combat. You called Rick an idiot and told him you only fought hand to hand when there was no other way. Always be the asshole with a gun at a knife fight. Michonne ran the Governor through with her sword, then she and Rick got separated in the hoopla.

Rick found Carl, they both saw Judith's car seat, and they got out together. Sasha, Bob, and Maggie ran into each other after Maggie had run into you. They made it out, found the bus like you and Shane had, and checked it. Maggie had put Glenn on the bus and gone back for Beth, who had left the bus to look for the kids.

You'd paused for a minute and muttered something vile, and you'd reached for Shane's hand automatically when the kids came up. It didn't matter that she was alive, the 'don't mention Judith' rule was so ingrained, you didn't say her name even while asking questions. Shane held on tight enough you knew he was struggling with everything just like you were.

Maggie, Bob, and Sasha had started wandering around looking for Glenn, and saw signs for Terminus.

Michonne had gone a little crazy, she admitted with a frown, and started to just leave. Then she'd killed a ton of walkers and hauled ass back to where she'd seen Rick and Carl's tracks, and found them because of a massive can of pudding.

Rosita spoke up in an angry voice about meeting Glenn and the other woman you didn't recognize, Tara, on the road. Tara, it turned out, had been with the Governor. She'd freaked over the shooting, not having been prepared for it, and hidden until it was all over. Then Glenn had found her and had insisted she come with him.

Glenn was still sick, so down the road a bit, they found Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita, and Glenn had promptly passed out. Tara'd negotiated a ride.

Rick and Michonne and Carl had run into the Claimers; Rick had ripped Joe's throat out; and they'd headed toward Terminus, now with Daryl. Daryl sat in the corner and refused to talk, preferring to glower at you or the floor instead as Rick told you Daryl had gotten out with Beth and then Beth had been kidnapped by people.

Fast-forward to Terminus- you and Shane had exchanged glances- and everyone joined up together to get put in storage until they could be eaten. Rick and company had been mid-breakout attempt when Carol started blowing the place up.

You'd jumped all over that, eyes wide, because Carol? Carol was alive? And yeah, Carol was alive and kicking ass in a major way.

Carol got them out and they met up with Tyreese and Judith. Shane's hand had clenched on yours, and you'd looked over at him and smiled.

"I've seen her. She's beautiful. Curls and big eyes and holy shit does she give some good expressions. She and Carl gave Negan these identical looks, pure 'bitch, please,' and I wanted to laugh," you told Shane.

He ran a hand over his hair and closed his eyes, shaking his head silently.

"I talk to her about you," Carl offered suddenly. "I wanted her to- to know things. To know your name. And Mom's."

Shane had started crying then, head tipped back against the wall and eyes closed. You wrapped both hands around his as everyone politely ignored his tears and carried on with the story.

After meeting Tyreese and Carol and Judith, they found Father Gabriel- the creepy priest- decided to roll with Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene's mission to get Eugene to Washington and stop the apocalypse, which turned out to be a lie but they didn't know that, and then lost Bob to a combination of zombie bite and cannibalism from remaining Terminus people.

They found and then lost Beth for good, going all the way back to Grady Memorial in Atlanta for that. You'd cried over that loss, and Daryl had scoffed and muttered and continued staring at the wall. Rescuing Beth had picked up a kid named Noah, and they agreed to get him home. To Shirewilt Estates, which had been overrun by the Wolves.

Except that it hadn't, and you'd shifted and glanced at Shane, and admitted that it had been you two who killed everyone. You'd tried to come to a peaceful arrangement, Shane told them, but they'd sprung a trap on you. You'd had a bigger trap.

They'd lost Tyreese there. To a walker bite.

You'd felt another heaping pile of guilt drop on your shoulders.

Then they'd found Alexandria, Rick had fallen in love with a married woman, Rick took over the place completely, and they'd had a massive herd of walkers get let loose from a quarry the Wolves had rigged.

"Wait, no- we saw that," you said, turning to Shane. "With the trucks?"

Shane nodded. "Yeah, that's where the damn Wolves caught our trail. Weren't all that many walkers there when we saw it, though."

"Well, we were ahead of them by then. They detoured to Atlanta and spent awhile in Terminus," you said with a shrug.

Rick took up the story then. "So the thing breaks open while we were doing our dry run for it, and we have to lead them away right then. The Wolves attacked home at the same time, and we lose the back half of the herd to Alexandria. Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham led the rest of them away, then got ambushed-"

"By Negan's men, out looking for Dwight, Sherry, and Tina," you said grimly, and ran a hand over your eyes. "Yeah, I think we know that part pretty well. At least from our side. How did Carl lose the fucking eye? Do I need to kill someone?"

"No, I did," Michonne said bluntly.

You looked up at her, eyebrows raised in invitation.

She shrugged. "It was in the middle of the herd overrunning Alexandria. It was a mess. I'll tell you later."

"Right," you nodded. "Ok, so, last question before we get to new business. When did you and Rick hook up?"

"Oh, that was when they met me," Jesus said with a smirk.

"You say that like you had somethin' to do with it," Rick muttered.

Michonne and Carl were grinning, Sasha, Tara, and Rosita looked annoyed but fond, and Jesus looked pleased with himself.

"I'd like to think it was my arrival in your lives that served as the catalyst," he said blandly.

"So, this would have been, what? Right before the satellite outpost?" you asked, and did some rapid calculations. "Damn it!"

Rick eyed you, but you ignored him and looked at Shane mournfully. "I lost. By like six months. That fucking sucks."

Shane shook his head at you. "You're ridiculous, sweetheart, you know that?"

"Yeah, well, you love me anyway," you declared cheerfully, and turned back, grinning, to six uncomfortable faces and Daryl staring at the floor.

 

 

The group broke up shortly after, following a quick planning session and a brief rundown from you and Shane of what Negan had available. You promised to get into more details when possible, and people started trickling out to their own rooms.

You were exhausted, and all you wanted was to sleep for approximately a thousand years and forget everything.

What you got was Shane kissing you gently at your door, turning you around, and directing you firmly to 'go talk to Dixon, damn it. Do it now, before it gets much worse.'

He was right, but that didn't mean you wanted to do it, damn it.

 

 

You found him sitting on the steps outside the building in the darkness, smoking a cigarette.

"Bum one?" you asked quietly, sitting beside him.

He snorted. "Ya don't smoke. Take it up the same time ya started fuckin' Shane?"

You leaned over and snatched the box from his hands, lighting one up and tucking a second behind your ear. "You take up being a jackass then too?"

He scowled as you blew smoke in silence, both of you staring at the ground.

"I saw you die," you said finally, in a whisper. "I saw it, Daryl."

He scoffed.

"Oh, fuck you, Dixon!" you exploded, finally pissed with his attitude. "Three walkers converged on you. I saw you get bit right in the goddamn neck, and then the fucking sky way dropped on you! I tried to get to you, damn it!"

He laughed harshly. "Sure ya did."

"Don't do this, Daryl. Don't- God! Ever since we were teenagers, you've done this shit. Don't make this about Shane, asshole," you said wearily. "You know there was nothing there, before you- before."

"Do I?" He didn't look at you, but the embers on the end of his cigarette glowed as he drew in a hard breath. "Do I know that?"

"Fuck you twice," you muttered. You'd reached the end of yours, and you used the butt to light the second.

"Naw, you're fuckin' Shane now. Think I'll pass," he shot back, and you slapped him before you thought it through.

He snorted and dropped his cigarette, stamping on it viciously. You stared at him as he stood up, saying nothing, and turned to go inside.

"Oh, don't you fucking walk away from me right now, Daryl Dixon," you snarled, coming to your own feet as well. "I saw you die! I grieved for you! I sat on Merle's bike outside the damn prison and watched the faces of zombies, and I didn't know if I hoped I saw yours or not. At least if I saw you, I'd know it was over. I'd know you were at rest, with Merle. Then I got locked in a fucking coffin, and I was ready to die, to come back to you two! You think I wanted this? You think I wanted to be the stone cold fucking killer; the bad guy's bitch? The fucked-up mess in love with two men? Fuck you!"

He'd frozen when you started yelling, his hand on the door handle. As your voice broke on the last 'fuck you' and the tears started to fall, he turned back toward you. He got right up in your face and glared as he fired words like bullets.

"I don't give a shit who ya in love with. Don't worry about me; I don't fuckin' want ya back. Shane can have ya. We ain't together no more, baby. Case ya ain't noticed, we don't even fuckin' know each other anymore."

You shook your head sadly and dashed tears from your eyes. "That's bullshit, Daryl. I've known you my whole damn life. I know you're burning yourself with goddamn cigarettes when you think no one's looking. I know you're about two seconds away from losing it on the next person who says something you don't like, and you're trying your damn hardest not to because that's the Will in you. It's not you. I know you're in a shit ton of pain from that beating you took in the cell what- two days ago? Three? And you're doing your best to hide it. I know you, Daryl."

"Yeah? Well, I don't know you," he shot back. "Ya shackin' up with Shane. Ya kneelin' to fucking Negan. Ya workin' for the man who killed Glenn and Abraham!"

"Not anymore."

"Big fuckin' deal! And ya didn't see me die. Ya saw me almost die. Fucker hit my damn vest and his teeth slid, so I blew the goddamn sky bridge myself! I was alive, and I was lookin' for ya!"

"I was looking for you, too! What the fuck, Daryl? You think I didn't look hard enough or something? I stayed in the area for weeks! Shane and I, we found this fucking shack, just like our trailers at home. Stayed there the first night and the second. Then it got overrun. So we found another place, and another, and another, until we couldn't stay close anymore. How long did you stick around, Daryl? Huh?"

"I had Beth to protect!" he yelled back. "I had to keep her safe!"

You nodded, crossing your arms. "Yes, you did. And I don't blame you one bit. So why are you blaming me?"

"Because ya got out with goddamn Shane and I find ya again and you're fuckin' with him!"

You sighed, staring down at your shoes. "Yeah. Yeah, I am. Shit happens, Dixon. You trying to tell me you haven't looked twice at anyone else since? It's been a year. Emotions are high. You thought I was dead."

"Naw, I ain't-" he broke off, not finishing the thought, and you raised an eyebrow at him.

You gave him a twisted smile when his eyes slid from yours. "Yeah, that's what I thought, babe. Shit happens. It makes things sticky and complicated and it fucking sucks. I don't know what the hell to do, Dixon, because God knows I never stopped loving you. I never have, and I don't think I ever will. You and me? We have unfinished bushiness."

He scoffed and scuffed at the dirt, not meeting your eyes, and you continued.

"But me and Shane? We're something, too. Something good and something strong and something real," you whispered. You would not cry again, you told yourself stubbornly. You would not cry. "I love him, too."

"Well, don't worry about it none," Daryl muttered. "Told ya, we ain't nothin' anymore."

"And I told you that's bullshit."

He glared at you. "It ain't if I say it ain't. Ya still worked for fuckin' Negan."

"Oh, fuck off with that," you muttered. "Are you for real? What the hell would you have done in my place?"

"Told him to go to hell!"

"I did!" You screamed it at him. "I told him to let a zombie suck his dick, asshole! And he told me that I could kill a shit load of people and come work for him, or I could work off my debt to them in points after they killed Shane! Still think I should have told him to fuck off?"

"Yeah," he growled. "I do."

"And what if it was Beth?" you whispered. "What then?"

He stared at you for a moment in silence, then shoved a finger right into your face. "Fuck you, bitch," he snarled, and turned and stalked into the night.

Chapter Text

Shane was asleep when you slipped into your room, or at least he was pretending to be. You didn't know which it was, but either way, you were grateful.

You curled up at his side and listened to him breathing steadily, thanking every god you could think of- including Jimmy Page and Axl Rose and Nikki Sixx- that he was alive and well enough and Sherry had gotten him out of there.

Then you closed your eyes and cried yourself to an exhausted sleep.

 

 

"So, what's up with you'n my little brother?" Merle demanded about thirty minutes after you'd dropped down in a huff and started handing him tools.

You scowled and picked up a socket wrench, spinning it around in your hand until he snatched it from you and put it back. You crossed your arms and pouted, knowing you were and not giving much of a shit.

"C'mon, baby girl. Tell ol' Merle what the problem is," he said after a minute, flashing you a grin.

You rolled your eyes at him. "You're four years older than me, Merle. That's hardly old."

"It is when ya age me ten years every time you'n' Darylina get yourselves into a snit. Now, what's the damn problem?"

"He's being an asshole," you said flatly.

Merle snorted. "Gonna need more than that, girlie."

"He's being a stubborn asshole?"

Merle laughed. "You're one to talk," he said with a wink your direction.

You picked at the mud in the grooves of your boots and sighed loudly. On the radio, the Crue were shouting at the devil, and Merle hummed along absently. Finally you groaned and flopped backward to stare up at the clouds.

"We got in a fight."

"I figured out that much, since he's been mopin' around playin' goddamn REO Speedwagon in his room for three days and I ain't seen ya over here in all that damn time."

Your nose wrinkled. "Jesus, fuckin' Speedwagon? So he's a stubborn asshole whose taste in music has dropped noticeably."

"Hey. Don't piss on Speedwagon. Cronin's aight, ok? The hair, girlie, that's the key."

You waved that away and dug in your pocket for gum. "You know he's taken up smoking?"

"Cronin?"

"No, you dick," you laughed. "Daryl."

"I ain't surprised, baby girl," Merle admitted with a grunt.

"He's thirteen!"

"And? I started at ten. Surprised he held out this long. We gotta relax any way we fuckin' can, huh? Don't tell me that's what ya been fightin' about for three damn days. Ya don't like it, make him chew some gum or brush his teeth before ya start makin' out."

You tossed your hands in the air and groaned. "We're not dating," you snarled.

Merle muttered under his breath, and it sounded like "maybe you should be." "Then what's the fuckin' problem, girlie?"

You sighed. "Josh Erikson asked me to the party Friday night. I said yes. Daryl was being a dick and I told him to back the fuck off and he said if I wanted a reputation as the class slut then I should definitely go with him. I called him an asshole, punched him in the nose, and reminded him I already have a reputation as the class slut because I hang out with you two. He hasn't talked to me since then," you admitted in a rush.

"Oh, for shit's sake," Merle muttered. "Ya both idiots, ya know that? Both of ya are goddamn idiots."

 

 

In the morning, Shane's arm was wrapped around you, warm and reassuring and so fucking normal, like the steady rhythm of him breathing. Morgan knocked on the door and called in to you that the king was ready to deliver his verdict.

Shane didn't ask you anything about your talk with Daryl the night before.

He handed you a clean shirt someone must have dropped off last night, shoved his feet into his boots and grumbled when he had to bend over to lace them up, and bitched at you when you tried to help. When you reached for the door, he stopped you with a hand on your arm.

"Hey," he said softly, tucking your hair behind your ear when you turned to look at him in question. He leaned in and kissed you, slow and sweet and easy; and fuck, you'd needed that.

You lay your head on his shoulder with a sigh, and he wrapped his good arm around you.

"Sweetheart, we still need to talk about that cell and that asinine idea of yours to not get out," he whispered in your ear. You groaned, and he chuckled. "Don't worry. It'll wait till after we see the king. Give you some time to work up your arguments, hmm?"

"Don't need time for that; I'm right," you shot back, flinging open the door with a scowl.

"Yeah, we'll see about that."

 

 

Richard lead your group to the king, who stood watching a troop of his soldiers run laps in their armor and an archery class being taught to children by men and women with missing limbs. You stared around you and marveled that activities grounded in war could extrude such an air of peace.

Apparently this place made you wax fucking poetic, you thought with an eye roll, and decided to criticize the runner's stances instead.

Ezekiel was monologuing, and you listened with half an ear, filtering out the Shakespeare in the Park jargon to find the point. The man's voice was soothing, you'd give him that.

"He's a born orator," you told Shane in an aside from your place at the back of the group. "But goddamn does he bury the point."

Shane smothered a laugh with a cough and shot you a look.

Ezekiel had tried to expand the Kingdom, and his people had lost lives and limbs to what he called the 'wasted'.

What the hell was wrong with good old-fashioned zombie? you wondered. Wasted, geeks, walkers, biters- just call the fuckers the undead and be done with it.

Rick argued that it was different, because 'the dead don't rule us'. You agreed, but you could tell what the decision was already.

"Ya call yourself a damn king. You sure as hell don't act like one," Daryl snapped.

"All of this came at a cost. It was lives, arms, legs. The peace we have with the Saviors is uneasy, but it is peace. I have to hold on to it. I have to try. Although the Kingdom cannot grant you the aid you desire, the King is sympathetic to your plight. I offer our friends Daryl, Shane, YN asylum for as long as they require it. They will be safe here. The Saviors do not set foot in these walls."

"How long ya think that's gonna last?" Daryl muttered before stalking off.

 

 

At the gate, Rick told Daryl he had to stay. You glanced at Shane, then called Rick and Jesus over.

"Ok, here's the thing, Rick. You only use this for emergencies only, and I mean you've tried everything else first- smoke signals, carrier pigeons, Morse code, everything. Shane and I spent weeks figuring out which channels Negan monitored all the time or part time or not at all, and there's one we've never heard Saviors use. But if Negan knows we have two radios- and you'd better believe he counts his shit on the regular, so he knows- he'll set someone to roaming the airwaves. He'll be expecting at least Shane and I to be trying to talk to each other," you met Rick's serious eyes as you reached over, grabbed a pen from Richard's pocket, and scribbled the channel on Rick's hand.

"Do not let him hear your voice over the air if you can avoid it, Rick. He's going to come to Alexandria. He'll probably bring fucking everyone. Be ready; don't resist. I know you want to. I saw you about bash his damn brains in with Lucille a few times. Don't. Keep everyone alive, and we'll make some damn plans. Oh, and don't forget about that mess on the herd way. I'm not an explosives expert, but if they did it right, you can undo it fairly easily." You thought hard, trying to figure out if there was anything else that needed to be said now, while you had the opportunity.

All you could think of was to tell all of them you loved them, you were glad they were alive, and you were sorry, but you'd said all that already.

Rick scuffed the ground with his boot, looking down and then back up at you. He set a hand on your shoulder and squeezed. "I'm glad to have you back, YN," he said finally.

Your eyes watered up and you nodded. "I'm sorry I worked for Negan."

"Shit happens," Carl put in bluntly at your elbow, his tone impatient. "You're not anymore. We missed you. Don't take their shit or let them make you believe otherwise. See you soon, Nameless. Uncle Shane." He tossed his arms around you in a hug, and you held on tighter than you wanted to admit, touched beyond all measure.

Funny how Carl calling you Nameless didn't make you want to drive your fist through a wall like when Dwight or Negan did it, you realized, and couldn't see through the tears blinding you again. Fuck, you'd never been this much of a crier before.

And then they were gone, the gates of the Kingdom closing slowly as you stood with Daryl and Shane and watched them leave. Shane rested his hand against your back and told you they'd be ok.

Daryl scoffed and stalked away.

Chapter Text

"Do you disagree with the King's decision?"

Ezekiel's voice called you out of your own thoughts, and you blinked rapidly. You sat on the wall, staring at nothing and apparently lulled into complacency by the tranquility of this place.

Yeah, you couldn't be here long or you'd lose your edge, you thought in irritation.

You rose and dipped your head in a nod to Ezekiel. "Respectfully, Your Majesty, yes. Yes, I do disagree with it."

Ezekiel nodded, leaning on his staff and looking out beyond the wall with you. "We suspected as much. It is not every day that we find on our doorstep fugitives from Negan. Especially not Negan's right hand, the harbinger of his cruel and swift justice."

You winced, but said nothing. That was fair. You'd been a harbinger a few times, though never here.

"It interests the king indeed, that one of Negan's should come here for asylum, so clearly in need of peace. And yet, you seek the opposite. You seek to go to war," Ezekiel continued after a moment.

You glanced behind him at Jerry, asking a question with a quirk of your eyebrows. Jerry shrugged and gestured vaguely at Ezekiel. You looked back to find him watching you, faint amusement on his face.

"You find being sought out surprising," he said.

Oh, what the hell. Apparently you had an audience with the king. You shrugged. "Yes, I find it surprising. I've always been a foot soldier, so I have no idea why the fucking apocalypse led to me being everyone's sounding board for ideas."

Ezekiel chuckled. "Perhaps it is that you do not hesitate to say what you think. You speak your mind, and for a leader either revered or feared, that is an unusual and most welcome thing."

You snorted. "Oh, yeah, I do speak my mind," you muttered. "And get other people hurt for it."

"One of the risks of being willing to do that which is hard when others dare not- and the reason for our refusal of your friends' request for aid. You know of Negan's strength better than any other, for your hand was great in the forging of it. You know why we chose not to risk our hard-won peace. All that lies behind you, behind these walls, would be at peril."

You turned and looked over the Kingdom, wrapping your arms around yourself tightly. "It is peaceful here. Your people prosper, Your Majesty. I'm not going to pretend like this whole Shakespearean drama you've created makes any damn sense to me at all, but it seems to work. I don't know if you're crazy or were just a major theater geek, and man- don't ruin the illusion for me," you added with a wink at his laugh. "But yes. I know Negan's strength better than anyone. But I know Rick's strength as well. More importantly, I suppose, I know his heart. Negan rules through fear and threat. Rick's not like that. No matter what happened out there while Shane and I were gone, deep down Rick is still Deputy Do-Good Rick Grimes from King County, Georgia. The kind who helps a crazy motorcycle gang member find her way back to her own people because he's looking for his family too and he knows how it feels. Rick just wants the world to be a safe place. He fights to make the world a safe place."

You glanced over and found Ezekiel watching you closely. "Your Majesty, the Saviors will come. It might not happen this week, maybe not this year. But Negan doesn't leave prosperous places unemptied. He will ask for more, and more, and more, and when you can't give it- or when they find the right excuse- they will pillage and burn and destroy this place, whether you throw your soldiers in with Rick or not. Sitting out of this fight isn't an option. Not for long."

Ezekiel held out a hand and gripped your forearm like warriors in medieval courts. "The King thanks you for your sage council, Nameless One."

"Oh Lord," you muttered, shaking your head at him as his eyes danced.

"And we will leave you with this: just as you do not believe your Rick to have changed at heart, so we do not believe you to have become the monster you fear. Monsters do not worry so for others. A man- or woman- who does ill for the sake of their loved ones does ill not from a place of malice, but a place overfull of love. Consider that, and we hope you find some peace within our walls, for however long you may." He dipped his head at you once and released your arm while you were staring at him blankly.

"Peace, dude," Jerry muttered at you.

"Jerry!"

 

 

After Ezekiel dropped that little truth bomb on you, you wanted a fight. You wanted to wake up and limber up muscles still sore from the last few days, and you wanted to clear your head from all the chaos.

Your world had made sense, you bitched mentally, searching for someone with both the enthusiasm and the skill to offer you a sparring partner. It was small and dark and hard, with only tiny pockets of light and warmth to make it worth it, but it made goddamn sense. Now, you had what you'd told yourself for so long you wanted. You had your dead, back alive. Maybe not all of them, but a damn sight more of them than you had before.

And you didn't have one fucking clue what to do with them. Nothing made sense anymore. You weren't you. Rick might have extended the olive branch, but it wasn't the same as before. It couldn't be, not after everything.

And that wasn't even touching on the biggest source of what-the-fuckery in your world, who low and behold was currently leaning against a tree glaring at you as he smoked. Your eyes narrowed as you raked them over your lifelong best friend, ex-lover, dead significant other come back to life, and current thorn in your side. You noticed the way he moved when he shifted under your scrutiny and figured he'd busted a rib. It wasn't too bad, but his shoulders had that tightness he got when he was in pain and he favored one side.

He'd been at it with the damn cigarettes again last night. You weren't close enough to see, specifically, but when he lifted the cigarette to his lips, he held his hand more still than normal, moved just slightly off. When you knew a person as goddamn well as you knew Daryl Dixon, it was awful hard to hide shit like that. You muttered a suggestion for what to do to Will fucking Dixon's rotted corpse that would have had earned even Shane's disapproval.

But it was the sneer that had you setting your shoulders and stalking over his way. You'd been looking for a fight. This wasn't the kind you'd had in mind, but hey. You were pretty goddamn flexible.

He shoved off the tree as you approached, his glare intensifying. There were a few people wandering around, citizens of the Kingdom who glanced from one thundercloud face to the other and started hauling ass out of your way.

You pulled the cigarette from his hand and stuck it between your own lips as your other hand shot out and grabbed his wrist, pulling his arm toward you. He scowled harder and tried to yank his arm back, but you pulled his sleeve up to reveal the trail of burns along his arm.

You looked up at him and raised your eyebrows, tossing his arm down when he pulled against your grip. You held his eyes as you took a long drag and took the cigarette from your lips, stabbing it out at him and finally breaking the silence.

"I'm going to kick your ass if you keep that up, you hear me?"

He tossed his head so his hair- which was way too goddamn long and you were already planning how to take scissors to it when he was asleep- fell into his eyes even worse than before. "The fuck ya think ya doin'?"

You rolled your eyes. "You know what? I'm not doing this. See, no matter what else needs to be worked out between us, I'm your motherfucking friend and I always have been. And that shit?" You stabbed a finger at his arm as you caught his eye. "That is one Will Dixon manipulating you from the damn grave. I'm not having it, Daryl. If I have to haul my ass all the way back to Georgia and dig him up so I can kill him again, I will."

He stared, thrown completely off stride. Which had been the point. You took another drag and started coughing.

Daryl's eyes darkened and he took half a step toward you.

You waved him off. "Judas Priest. I'm fine. It's been a damn year. I'm healthy. You're the problem here."

"Last time I saw ya, ya were still pale and should have been hooked up to a fuckin' IV, girl," Daryl muttered. "Ya shouldn't be smokin'. It'll fuck with ya lungs, and after all that shit-"

You rolled your eyes and dropped what was left of the cigarette. "Cluck, cluck, cluck."

His wary scowl snapped right back into place, but you grinned at him until he rolled his eyes and the smallest smile appeared on his lips.

"That's better," you muttered. "You're pissed at me. That's fine. You have every right to be. You don't get to treat me like shit because of it."

"I ain't been treatin' ya like nothin'," he muttered, leaning back against the tree and jerking his chin in your direction. "Ya the one keeps comin' and talkin' to me."

"That's kind of my point, asshole," you told him. "Daryl, we have this problem, see-"

"Just one?"

"Shut the fuck up," you said mildly. "Our problem is we've known each other too damn long. Don't get me wrong, it's also one of our biggest strengths," you continued as he stared at you, completely confused. "But we don't have anything resembling boundaries. We don't fight well, Dixon, because we've never had to fight well. We both knew no matter what we said or what we did, we'd come back to each other, because we didn't have anything else. And that was all well and good; it didn't matter when we were kids. But we're not kids anymore, Daryl."

"What the fuck ya goin' on about?" he asked, crossing his arms as he stared at you.

"I'm talking about fighting like grown ups, Dixon. Like adults, like exes, not like siblings or kids. We can't just- we can't just scream whatever insults pass through our brains at each other anymore and expect it to resolve itself like it did when we were kids. We can't just walk away and give each other the cold shoulder and cuss each other out and throw punches. We have to actually fight like we give a shit about each other," you insisted, waving one hand wildly. "Not like a couple of ten-year-olds scrapping over the last ice cream."

"We ain't never scrapped over ice cream, baby. Ain't had any of that shit around," he scoffed again, pulling a half-crushed pack of cigarettes out of his back pocket and lighting one up.

You rolled your eyes at him, annoyed that he was being so goddamn literal. You took the box and the lighter from him and took another for yourself. "You're being too literal. You know what I mean."

"Naw, I don't. Ya ain't makin' sense," he shot back.

You groaned. "I mean, we're fucking mature adults. You don't get to take cheap shots at me and imply I'm a whore and ignore me, and I don't get to punch you in the damn face like I want to and scream at you to go fuck yourself. That's not how adults work out their differences, Dixon."

"Ya could if ya want. I ain't gonna stop ya."

"That's exactly my point," you told him, starting to get annoyed as you flicked ash and held on to your fraying temper fiercely. No one else on the damn planet, you thought irritably, could annoy you like this man.

"Look, everything's not just going to resolve itself because we're young and scared and alone without each other. Things don't just roll off our backs anymore, do they? Last night," you said, shoving your hand through your hair in a gesture you'd picked up from Shane. "Last night, just for example. The way you talk about me and Shane pisses me off and hurts. Everything with you is I'm 'shacking up' with Shane this, 'when you started fucking Shane' that. Like that's all there is to it, and I'm just spreading it for whoever asks. That's not ok, Daryl."

He was looking at the ground now instead of at you, but he was listening. And he didn't have that goddamn sneer that made you want to punch it off him on his lips, so that was something.

You gestured at nothing with your free hand. "I get that you're mad, and we have to talk about this shit, babe. But- we can't just- we have to be adults about it."

He nodded, once, and blew smoke out of his nose, still staring at the ground.

Your lips twitched despite yourself. "You look like a hairy dragon when you do that. Jesus, have you had a haircut since the fucking prison? Damn. I've got a knife, you know."

"Shut up," he muttered, eyeing you with a barely-there edge of humor in his eyes. He was quiet for a minute, then tipped his head back with a sigh. "We ain't ok."

Your snort was, in your opinion, eloquent.

"Bitch," he muttered. "We ain't ok, but I hear what ya sayin'. Ya right. I always- shit, baby. I always act like ya gonna be slippin' in through my window no matter what. Ain't ever had to watch what I say, cause it didn't matter. We had each other and that was it. You'd get mad, I'd get mad, we'd ignore each other awhile. But sometime, you'd be back. I'd be back. Even when we didn't talk for like five fuckin' years, ya were still there. Just was taking us longer, you know? But we aren't kids anymore, to pull shit like that. Don't mean half of what I say anyway. Just ain't exactly had a lot of healthy argument strategies demonstrated in my life."

You laughed. "No shit, Daryl. Think I don't know that? You can say a lot of shit to me and it won't matter. But some things? Fuck, man. Some things do."

"Yeah. I'm startin' to get that," he muttered.

You looked away and sighed. "Cut it out with the burns, asshole."

"Make me, bitch."

You smirked at him. "I've got your cigarettes, dumbass," you said, and strolled away while you weren't trying to kill each other.

 

 

"Gonna run out of those things if you chain smoke them, criminal," Shane informed you.

You glanced at him and raised an eyebrow. "We're still in the South. Bet I can find a tobacco crop if I look hard enough. Where have you been, officer?"

Shane nodded in the general direction of the entire fucking Kingdom. "Looking for exits. Boltholes. Just in case."

You laughed. "Could have invited me along. You find any?"

"Not any you're gonna enjoying using," he muttered with a grimace, and you shivered.

So that meant tiny spaces and nice dark areas, probably. "Guess this gated community is breaking a few safety regulations, Officer Walsh. Going to arrest anyone?"

He rolled his eyes at you while you smirked. He looked pointedly at the cigarette in your hand. "Going to finish that any time soon?"

You took a slow pull from it. "Depends on why you're asking, I guess."

He muttered something under his breath that you didn't quite catch and took it from you. He stubbed it out on the brick wall and handed it back to you with a hard look. "Get the fuck moving, Nameless. We got some shit to discuss, and I'd rather not have an audience for this one, sweetheart."

You shoved the cigarette into the carton you'd stolen from Daryl and tucked it back into your pocket, then leaned in close to Shane's ear, hand on his chest. His hand rested on your hip automatically, and you grinned.

"You never mind an audience, Walsh, and you know it," you whispered in his ear, and ducked out of his reach as he groaned.

"Don't try and put off the damn fight, criminal!" he called after you.

You looked over your shoulder and winked. "Who said anything about avoiding it? We're fun when we're angry!"

Chapter Text

Inside the room you'd been given, all that brash confidence faded away as you sat down on the bed, crossed your legs, and looked at Shane. He leaned against the closed door and looked back at you in silence, until you started to fidget with the hem of your jeans and hum under your breath.

He snorted. "Should have known you'd be back on Guns'n'Roses with Daryl back."

You stopped humming and frowned at him. "What the hell?"

Shane lifted his shoulder in a jerky shrug. "You've been off the Axl Rose for awhile, criminal. Daryl's back, so it is too."

You blinked at him, baffled. "I don't even... what?"

Shane's lips twitched in a smile, and he came over and lay down beside you. "Don't worry about it, sweetheart. Not what I wanted to talk to you about."

You were still confused, but you shook your head and stretched out beside him. "Ok. Fire away, Walsh."

He stared up at the ceiling and ran a hand over his hair. You stared at his profile and waited. Finally he sighed.

"Want to tell me about the cell?"

You jerked in immediate denial. "Not even remotely."

He started to nod, but you kept talking.

"I did ok for a bit. Went through every freaking song I could think of. It helped, knowing you were out of his reach. Made it not matter so much, what happened to me. I think I was about halfway through some Springsteen something- one of those ones you kept trying to tell me beat Petty, I mean, really- when that fucking- They started blasting that goddamn pop song. The one they were blaring for Daryl. I started losing it around then. Had it so fucking loud I couldn't- it was like it fried my brain. God." You shivered, and Shane's fingers found yours. You were staring at the ceiling now, too, and you wound your fingers into his and shifted closer to his side.

You fell silent, thinking about it- the darkness pressing in, lungs burning for air even though your brain knew better, hearing laughter and smelling death that wasn't there. You wanted to close your eyes, but didn't dare, and you shivered again.

"Which song?" Shane asked abruptly into the silence.

"What?" you asked, looking over to find him watching you.

"Which Springsteen song?" he asked, smiling at you. "And the Boss is better than Petty, sweetheart."

You rolled your eyes at him, but you felt your own reluctant smile forming as well. "I don't remember the name of it. That one- 'I'm no hero that's-'"

"-'understood. All the redemption I can offer, girl, is beneath this dirty hood'," Shane sang it with you softly. "'Thunder Road'. Yeah, definitely better than Petty."

"That's bullshit and you know it, officer," you informed him, but you were smiling. God, you loved it when you argued music. It was nice to have someone who challenged your opinions.

You would never, ever, under threat of any kind of torture in the world, admit it to him, but you'd grown awful fucking fond of Springsteen because of Shane Walsh. So much so you privately thought maybe he was better than Petty. But it damn well wouldn't do to tell Shane that.

He kissed your forehead. "Got you smiling, didn't it?" he whispered, and let go of your hand to pull you closer.

You settled against him with a sigh, listening to his heart beat thud against your ear. "So, what did you want to fight about, Shane?" you asked after a minute.

He snorted. "Who says I wanted to fight? Maybe I just wanted you to myself for a bit."

"Mmm, that's a nice idea and all, but we're going to fight. I can feel it," you said, tapping the tight muscles of his stomach. "You hold your tension here when you're pissed.... And you told me we were going to when we came in here. So." You gestured vaguely and he chuckled.

"Fair enough, criminal. Fair enough. Less fighting than just- you were going to stay there. Let him, what? Do whatever he wanted with you?"

You sighed and sat up, looking down at Shane's tight jaw and worried eyes. "Yes," you told him simply.

"Why? Don't give me any of that bullshit about being a monster, either," he snapped, sitting up as well. "I want to know what's going on in your head, Nameless."

You shrugged. "I didn't think we could all three get out. I had to stay, because if he had either of you, it was over. I would still be his and nothing would change because if he has a hold over me everyone dies. If you're safe, there's a chance. He can do whatever to me. Honestly, Shane, the worst he can do if you and Daryl are out of his reach is kill me."

"Fucking hell. You want to die or something? I've told you, it's fine with me, criminal. I just need to know ahead of time," he shot at you with a glare.

You reached for his hand again, easily reading the fear in his eyes. "Shane. I don't want to die. I'm just- I'm just prepared for it, that's all."

"Well unprepare, sweetheart. You go thinking like that, like you don't matter, you won't fight with everything you've got to live."

"Why should I?" you whispered. "Shane, you looked around recently? Our lives are fucked up, honey."

"You talking about Negan or Dixon?" he asked sharply.

You looked away. Well, there it was, you thought. There's the bell for round two of 'Nameless hurts everyone she cares about'.

"Both," you admitted. "Shane, I'm not going to lie to you. I'm still in love with Daryl."

"I know," he said dryly. "Sweetheart, I know."

You looked down at your feet. "You going to yell at me now?"

"Why would I do that?"

Your eyes shot back up to his. "I just told you I'm still in love with Daryl."

He shrugged as you looked at him, baffled. "And I said I know. The fuck would I yell at you about it for? Sweetheart, you never stopped being in love with him. I'm not blind."

"You're not.... mad?" you said, forehead wrinkling in confusion.

"Am I- No, I'm not mad," Shane said, pulling his hand from yours to shove it though his hair. "I'm-" he shook his head. "I don't know what I am, but I'm not mad, YN. Why the fuck would I be mad? He died. At least, to you. He died, and that's the only reason you looked at me. But he's back, and you're in here with me, sweetheart. So until that changes, and you tell me you're not mine anymore, then it don't change anything," he told you with a twisted smile and a shake of his head.

"You need some space to figure it out, just let me know. You need me to back the hell off so you can go back to him? Just tell me. I mean, I'm not giving you up without a fight, but I'm not- I don't own you. I'll give you anything you need. Shit, criminal. Am I mad." He looked away with another shake of his head, lips moving as he mumbled something under his breath and you stared at him blankly. Finally you pressed the heels of your hands to your eyes and started laughing hysterically.

"Oh my God, Shane, what the hell is happening to my life? To our lives? Shit! Our people being alive and well and us finding them again was all we wanted! And now-" you broke off and half-screamed. "What the hell?"

He chuckled, and it sounded about as amused as your own had. "I know. And here we are, sitting around waiting for the other shoe to-"

The radio on the table crackled and Negan's voice filled the air. Your head shot up and you met Shane's wide eyes with your own.

"For anyone out there who loved the obese bastard as much as I did, I just want to say a few words. Fat Joey was not the most badass son of a bitch, but he was loyal. He had a great sense of humor. In fact, we were just joking about oral sex with Lucille the other day."

You didn't know what your face was doing right then, but you had a feeling it looked something like Shane's disgusted expression.

To be fair, you were a little sad about Fat Joey. He was a dick, but not as much of one as some of the others. Arat, for instance. Her you'd not have missed a beat over someone killing. Speaking of which, you were real damn curious just what had happened to Fat Joey.

"Hey, Walsh. You're going to have to catch me up on what you've been up to since I left for Alexandria," you whispered.

Whispered, like Negan could hear you through the radio. Shit, some habits died hard. Hiding private conversations with Shane from Negan was apparently going to be one of them.

"Things will not be the same now that he's dead. Without Fat Joey, Skinny Joey is just... Joey. So it's a goddamn tragedy. So, let's have a moment of silence."

"Yeah, I'll catch you up," Shane said, hand going through his hair. "How much longer you think Dwight can hide your absence?"

You shook your head. "It's been over 24 hours. I'm amazed nothing's been said so far."

"We've got ourselves a red situation! It seems that not only has Daryl run off with my cop, but now my criminal has set out to join them. And she has taken some of my shit. Now, I know you bastards seem to be afraid of her because she is a goddamn badass, but I think you know who the scarier fucker is here. Now we're going to get over to Alexandria and see if they ran home to Rick like the dumb animals they are."

"On it!" Simon's voice, far more cheerful than it should have been, crackled through next. "Be there in time for lunch."

You sighed and flopped backward with a groan. "Hope Rick has that fucking thing on, and didn't take too damn long with those explosives on the herd way. I hate this. We should be out there."

"Yeah," Shane agreed. "Yeah, we should. We can't."

You made a face. "I know that. Can't wait for long, though. Besides, Simon's going to tear that place apart. I hate that bastard."

Shane snorted. "Believe me, sweetheart, the feeling is mutual."

You got to your feet with a frustrated growl and started pacing. "I can't just sit around here and wait, Shane."

Shane sighed, rose as well, and stepped into your path. "Come here," he said fondly, and you did.

Your head on his shoulder, your arms around him loosely, you sighed. "Yeah, I can't do this. I can't sit around and wait. Ezekiel's wrong not to fight, but if he's not going to, we need to figure something else out. Find the survivors that ran, maybe. After Simon's bullshit. Or that little group at that library."

"Naw, they're dead," Shane muttered.

"Who?" you asked.

"The Library. Happened that night. Simon. It was his idea. They tried to fight."

You closed your eyes and held on tighter. "Fuck. Regina's got people out near her. Maybe they can-"

"Too far away, sweetheart. Besides, we need you close to home."

"Well, I can't just sit around!" you snapped.

"Didn't say that," Shane said reasonably. "Want to do something crazy with me, criminal?"

You pushed back and looked at him, a slow smile growing on your lips. "Oh, God, yes," you said, and his smirk changed into a full on grin.

Chapter Text

You hesitated at the base of the stairs, knowing that goddamn tone. What the fuck?

Some people might have had a problem eavesdropping on other people's conversations. You didn't. If they were willing to say it where it could be overheard, it was their loss if someone did overhear it. Besides, as you'd pointed out to Rick on more than one occasion and to Shane a few thousand times in the past year or so- you were a bad person. Bad people did shit like listen in on the two men they were sort of involved with at the same time arguing about them.

Holy shit, your life was weird.

"- give a fuck, Shane. I know ya been through shit. So did we. Just back the fuck off, man."

"No. Look, Dixon, we got to be friendly at one point, even if we were never friends, right?" Shane's tone had you leaning against the wall and settling in for a good listen, because he sounded odd and Daryl sounded pissed, and hell. Why the fuck not?

"Course we ain't friends, jackass. Ya been in love with my girl since the goddamn start," Daryl snarled.

"Not your girl. Nameless. I've been in love with Nameless since the goddamn start. She's her own fucking person. That's half my damn point. You got your shit and so does she. She's in love with you still."

You winced. Shane covered well, but you caught the hurt in his voice then. You were almost as good at reading Shane these days as you were at reading Daryl, and this twisted, fucked-up mess of a situation was going to bring you all down if you couldn't figure it out.

You had no idea what to do. It was Daryl. You'd been in love with Daryl your entire fucking life. He was it for you for so long- home, comfort, peace, love, everything. In many ways, he still was. You'd been searching for that feeling since you'd lost him; looking for that sense of home and security. Losing him had-

Well, losing him made you a person you didn't like, both times it'd happened. Before, when you'd broken up, it'd driven you into club shit that fucked with your head and hardened your heart. You'd done things you weren't proud of- some of them for money, some of them for love, some of them just for fucking kicks- and sneered at the whole damn world while you did it. This time, when you thought he was dead?

Fuck. There were skeletons in your closet, that's for sure. Made you wonder if he'd ever be your friend again, much less love you, if he knew half of it.

"Think I give a shit?" Daryl snarled. You grimaced, leaning your head back against the wall. No, you really didn't think he did.

Shane scoffed. "I think you give all the shits in the fucking world, just like she does. Man, I don't like you. But she needs you. She's been broken for awhile, and I'm doing my best here, but there's a part of her that I can't reach. Maybe it's cause I'm just as fucking broken as she is and she needs someone who isn't to help her deal, but there we are. You give a shit about her? Set aside all the who's fucking her bullshit- cause that's what it is, asshole, it's just extra bullshit she's gotta make a decision on- and be her goddamn friend first."

Shane. You pressed your lips together to hold in the frustrated sigh. Shane had been there. He'd been a shoulder to cry on, given you a reason to keep fucking breathing. He helped keep you sane when you'd have snapped and gone full-on serial killer after that fucking coffin and more than a few times since. He challenged you and he got you, in ways you found surprising.

You meant it. You loved him too.

What the ever-loving fuck happened now? you wondered frantically. You were thoroughly and completely fucked in this whole damn situation, and if you didn't do something about it-

"Yeah? Ya her friend first, Walsh?" Daryl's voice dripped venom and irritation.

There was a pause and you winced, not sure who you were more concerned for in that moment. A fight between the two of them would not be good, and you were about to stomp down the last few stairs again and break shit up when Shane laughed.

"You know what, Dixon? She's better at the withering scorn than you are. I am her friend first. Always have been."

"Then back the hell off her, why don't ya?"

"No. Sorry," Shane said flatly. "I did last time. She wanted you; you made her happy. I want her happy more than I fucking want her, and man- I want that woman with everything I have. She tells me we're done, then she's all yours. Until then, I'm with her. Deal with it. You want a shot? Be her fucking friend."

"Fuck off, Walsh. Ya don't know her as well as you think ya do."

And that was enough of the caveman bullshit, you decided, and slid back up a few steps to come clomping down and swing into the room. Daryl was already on his way out when you came in, and you frowned after him.

"Ready, criminal?"

 

 

"Oh, this fucking sucks," you whispered, ducking a tree branch and slowing to scan the woods around you. "Where the fuck am I? Shit, shit, shit."

This is what you get for going out on your own and not telling anyone, you thought sharply as the dead started closing in from three sides and you took off running again. You run right smack into the middle of a goddamn herd because you're not paying attention. Too busy brooding over absolutely nothing and running from your problems.

Literally running from them. They were chasing you.

You and Daryl had been in a snit for the past few days and the entire prison was feeling it. Rick had asked if you were ok three times. Shane had offered an ear somewhere around five times, and finally told you with a toss of his hands that you could brood all you wanted but to stop being a bitch to everyone. Maggie'd offered you a glass of bad wine and a night in the guard tower with zero men allowed.

You'd taken no one up on any of those things and instead had slid out the gates in the wee hours of the morning- while it was still dark- with Daryl's crossbow and the flat out lie that you were hunting. Tyreese looked like he knew you were lying, but he let you out anyway.

You came to the conclusion, as you wandered the woods in search of absolutely nothing, that Daryl was a dick. To be fair, you'd been a dick first. But still, man.

Yes, ok, you took risks. But they weren't unnecessary ones. They were absolutely one hundred percent necessary.

Except, if you were being honest, you hadn't needed to go out on that run. And you hadn't needed to climb up that fire escape just to get into that apartment above the store. You didn't, you supposed, really need to break the window and go inside and search that place.

In your defense, there'd been a 'peace love rock and roll' flag in the window. You wanted to see if whoever had lived there had had any good band shirts or music or something. You'd scored an AC/DC record, the flag, and three new shirts, not to mention the cache of food and one very frightened couple who had most definitely not been expecting to see a live person, much less you with a bandanna tied across your face and a leather jacket, yelling down to Glenn and Maggie about your score.

You could almost count it as a win, because hello- good stuff and lives saved and all that. Almost.

It wasn't like you meant to cut your hand and your arm open trying to get back down. You were helping the woman out the window, giving the man directions on the fire escape, and lowering your finds down to Maggie. You were distracted.

And you hadn't meant to pass out on the way back, either. It was just easier to bandage yourself temporarily and not say anything until you got back.

Daryl had no right to yell at you about being a reckless idiot with a death wish. He had no right to look at you with absolutely terrified eyes and tell you he needed you to stop doing stupid shit just because you were bored. He had no right to-

Oh fuck, you thought as the lead walker caught up to you and you jammed your knife through its mouth and into its brain. Maybe you did take unnecessary risks.

You owed Daryl an apology.

 

 

"So, where are we going?" you asked as Shane led a twisty path through abandoned buildings.

He nodded forward. "Up there."

You waited a beat, but not further information was forthcoming. "Okay..." you said slowly. "That was helpful, Officer Walsh."

He snorted and ran a hand over his head. "Yeah. Sorry, criminal. Just had a-"

"You had a conversation with Daryl that ended in him telling you to fuck off. Yes, I heard. Want to talk about it?" you asked, shooting him a look. You figured putting it out there was for the best.

The last thing you wanted, despite the way it seemed to be happening just by your very existence, was to hurt either of them.

He had a long bow in his hands with an arrow on the string already, and you'd already questioned what the fuck he thought he was doing with it more than once. He'd said ok, he wasn't a crack shot with a bow, but maybe now was time to learn. You'd snorted and patted the gun Dwight had slipped you and said that was good enough for you.

He scanned the area around you now, and you thought about an abandoned gas station something around ten lifetimes ago. It made you smile a little, thinking about the first time you'd gone beyond a vague mutual dislike and actually talked.

That was the thing, you supposed. Shane was right- you were friends first.

Goddamn it, how the hell were you supposed to do this? It was Daryl, but it was also Shane. You needed a drink, a cigarette, a loaded gun. God.

Maybe you were better off with Negan. At least quietly losing your mind in a cell would mean you didn't have to try to figure out what the hell to do with your love life.

"Naw, it's all good," he muttered finally. "We got other shit to talk about. We're heading up that way. There's a drop going down soon. Overheard Richard talking about it with Morgan."

"And we're crashing? Shit, Walsh, that is something crazy. We living or dying today, man?"

He threw you a look and you smirked at him. "We're going to hide and watch and listen. We need information, Nameless."

"We have a radio, you know," you said dryly, then detoured slightly, knife in hand, to put down a zombie trapped by a rock.

Shane waited until you rejoined him and gestured you on ahead. "And we know they don't use it constantly. We can't either, in case Rick needs something. So, we spy."

"Do we get to use funny accents and wear all black?" you asked, widening your eyes deliberately until he laughed. Fuck it, you decided. You weren't deciding anything. You were just going to- to- to live and see what happened.

"You already wear all black. Come on, criminal. We need some ideas. If it's bodies Rick needs, there's always..."

You groaned. "Don't. Don't say it."

He scowled at you. Your voices dropped to a whisper as you moved through a building and he gestured your voice down. "They're there. They're bodies. They're weird as shit, but anyone who can fight is good. You've seen them, they're damn near invisible when they want to be."

"They live in a garbage dump, Shane," you hissed, and darted out to clear the room with him. He shot his bow and missed wildly, then used it to pin a walker to the wall while he fumbled out his knife.

You threw yours, sending it straight through the eye of a zombie creeping up on him, and ducked the reaching arms of a second. You scooped up a rock and bashed it into the zombie's head, and kicked a third backward and down before curb stomping it's skull to soup.

Shane handed you your knife with a scowl, and you grinned at him.

"That was some shitty shooting there, officer," you told him.

"Oh, bite me, criminal," he muttered. "I know they live in a garbage dump."

"We can't trust them. I mean, you remember what happened, don't you? Winslow, Shane? Winslow?"

Shane rolled his eyes. "Yes, sweetheart, I remember how you got the scar on your ass. You lived, didn't you? It was just a suggestion. Now shut up, ok? We're going through that door and out to the fence. There's a sheet or some shit over it so we'll be hidden, but we gotta stay low and stay quiet."

You shrugged. "Whatever. Just don't try using that bow again, Robin Hood. You suck at it."

 

 

They came out of nowhere, and you and your team were surrounded. You blinked and glanced at Shane.

"Well, that's impressive," you muttered. "Hi. Who are you?"

A woman separated from the pack and came forward, a calculating look in her eyes. "Jadis," she said.

"Cool. YN. Shane. What can we do for you?" you asked, matching her aloof attitude.

She smiled. "Things. You collect. We take."

"Yeah, I don't think so," you said slowly, smirking. "That's sort of our motto. You collect, we take. We don't kill you and we keep the walkers at bay."

Her smile never wavered. "We take. Don't bother."

"Oh, we bother," you informed her, smile fading as irritation grew. "Look, you seem pretty goddamn talented. You've got a lot of people, and let me just tell you, it is damn hard to get the drop on me and Shane. But however good you are, Negan is better. Guaranteed. So get these guns out of our faces before I have to prove a fucking point that you won't like."

Jadis met your eyes and held them, both of you staring each other down. Neither of you blinked. Finally, her shoulder jerked.

"Tamiel. Bring woman," she said, and walked away.

Someone who apparently went by Tamiel appeared, held a gun on you, and gestured you forward. Shane's gun, snapped up and trained on her.

"I don't think so. She's not going anywhere," he snapped.

Jadis turned and looked at him. "Woman comes. Or we kill all."

Guns cocked all around, and your team shifted uneasily. You felt the smirk playing around your lips again, and held up a hand to Shane.

"It's cool, Officer. I'm curious," you told him. You met his eyes and smiled. "I'll be back."

"Don't be a dumbass," he said quietly, and dropped his gun.

You followed Jadis without Tamiel's urging, genuinely curious where this was going. She led you into the middle of the landfill you and the Saviors had actually been coming to check out. Not the most glamorous of assignments, but you and Shane were still new. You didn't mind some shit work.

You looked around, eyes narrowing as you realized the garbage was heaped and piled on purpose, to form paths and hillocks that looked natural but definitely weren't. "What is this place?" you asked Jadis.

She didn't turn. "Home." Finally she stopped and gestured you through an opening. "You go. Talk to Winslow."

You raised an eyebrow at her. "Who's Winslow?"

She smiled. "Talk. To Winslow. Then we talk."

You shrugged and ducked through the opening into a shipping container. The door clanged shut behind you and darkness closed in all around, and you reached for your bat as you backed up slowly.

"Well, this isn't going to be good, is it?" you said out loud.

Then the moan filled the air and something started moving.

"Oh, fuck," you muttered, and grabbed for your knife as well.

Chapter Text

"Diane," Ezekiel called.

You eased an eye around the barrier to watch Diane draw and release, and the lone walker went down beautifully. You turned and raised your eyebrows at Shane, and he rolled his eyes at you.

"My sister had that dress," Diane said sadly.

Gavin and his crew rolled up then, in two trucks. You grimaced when you saw Jared. That asshole was bad news.

Most of the Saviors were just people. Just survivors trying to survive, following orders to stay alive. Jared? That little shit was a class A asshole who got off on tormenting people. You'd asked Negan privately, more than once, if you could kill him. Negan had always laughed you off and said not yet, but if you were looking for blood he had some suggestions.

Negan always had suggestions.

"Nice. It's getting to be like clockwork," Gavin said, and then there was a stare down.

You had serious concerns about why the teenager was there. Yes, there were rules, but still. Ezekiel and Gavin's deal involved meeting outside of the Kingdom. The kid didn't have to be there.

"Now, boss?" Jerry asked cheerfully as the stare down continued.

"Yes, Jerry," Ezekiel said, exasperation evident. Jerry let it roll off his back easily and opened the trunk of their vehicle.

"It looks light," Gavin said after a glance.

Ezekiel didn't back down or change expressions. He was a crazy drama dork, but you had a feeling he was a tough bastard, too. The man had a pet tiger, after all.

Gavin blinked first, and for a second you thought everything would be fine. You liked Gavin. He was reasonable and often provided a voice of moderation on Negan's council. He gave off an air of being one hundred percent done with life on a regular basis, but his outpost was one of the most productive and least problematical of them all. Gavin was, in your opinion, the reason why Ezekiel's relationship with the Saviors had been so peaceful all along.

But someone had ditched Jared on Gavin, and Jared opened his mouth.

"I want his gun," he declared, staring at Richard with a smirk. "In fact, I don't think this asshole should have a gun ever. No guns for bad boys."

You couldn't hear exactly what Richard said, but the next thing you knew Shane was grabbing your arm and holding you in place as Richard and Jared drew on each other and so did everyone else. You looked at Shane urgently, gesturing wildly, and he shook his head. He pointed at his eyes and then out at the Saviors, then held up a flat palm.

You scowled, but settled. Yeah, yeah. Watch and wait. You weren't supposed to fucking be here; you knew.

"Ok. Where do we go from here?" Gavin's voice was filled with exhausted annoyance as he set his hands on his hips and surveyed the situation.

"That's right, Your Majesty. Where do we go from here?" Richard shot out.

Oh for shit's sake, you thought. Did he plan this? Was he trying to get someone killed just to goad Ezekiel into joining the war? Not that you didn't think they needed to be involved, but that was a shitty way to go about it. He was putting everyone in that party at risk, including his king.

Once again, you thought it was going to be resolved. Richard handed over his gun at Ezekiel's order; Gavin called Jared down. Then the next thing you knew, Jared came at Richard and Morgan swung that staff he carried and knocked the gun from Jared's hand. Jared snatched the staff, hit out at Morgan and Richard, and the teenager swooped in with his own staff and had Jared on the ground in one hit.

It was beautiful, and your heart pounded with fear for the kid.

"Stand down!" Gavin called. "Ezekiel, you know I can't have this," he added wearily.

"We can't have this," Ezekiel agreed firmly. "Richard will refrain from attending our future exchanges."

"No, no- Ezekiel, you're gonna keep bringing him. Cause if this doesn't stop, if this starts becoming a real problem- remember what I said. He is still batting first in the line-up. Almost did it myself just now. Now, I know it's not his fault," Gavin added with a look at Jared. "But this has got to stop. So things might get a little.... visceral."

You were halfway to your feet again when Shane grabbed your arm and started hauling you back the way you'd come. You resisted, straining to hear the raised voices still coming from the parking lot, but he gave you a look and you made a face at him.

The trucks started up again as you moved back through the building and set out for the Kingdom at a jog.

"Well, that was interesting," you said mildly.

He grunted. "Gavin's doing his best not to let things escalate, but that shit head's going to get someone killed."

"Who? Jared or Richard?"

"Both."

 

 

"Ok, so hear me out," you said slowly, after a pause.

Shane looked at you and raised both eyebrows. "That sounds ominous, criminal."

You flipped him off with a roll of your eyes. "What if we approach Gavin? Get him on our side? He's the most... well, honestly, Walsh, he's the most stable of all of us there. Including you and me."

Shane thought about it. Finally, he shook his head. "It might work. And it might blow the fuck up in our faces. I think that's a last resort, sweetheart. Someone on the inside would be helpful and all, but it's not worth the risk."

"Yeah," you muttered, scrubbing a hand over your face. "Shane?"

"Yeah?"

You hesitated as the two of you paused in front of one of Shane's back ways in and out of the Kingdom. He'd been right; you really didn't like it. You'd sucked it up and went out anyway.

Finally you looked at him, eyes serious. You needed him to know you weren't- you weren't toying with him or anything. You didn't know what to do.

"I'm sorry," you whispered. "I'm so sorry."

He shifted, running a hand through his hair. "Stop it. I knew from the start, sweetheart. It is what it is. You want- you want me to back off?"

"No! I mean- I don't- Shane, what the fuck do I do here? I- you know I still love him. He and I are- there's so much there, Shane. But you and I- we're something, too," you whispered, tears already starting. "I don't know what to- But he hates me anyway, so does it even matter?"

Shane wasn't looking at you, and his knuckles were white where he gripped the bow. "YN, of course it matters. And he doesn't hate you. Trust me."

"Yes he does," you whispered.

Shane scoffed. "Honey, that man's as in love with you now as he's ever been. He's just seen some shit, sweetheart, just like you have. Look, you need to talk to him. Not me. You know how I feel about you, criminal. You know I'll be here no matter what."

You swallowed hard, dashing the tears from your eyes and face. "I know. Shane, nothing's-"

"Don't," he said harshly. "Don't say nothing's changed. We both know that's not true. I love you, Nameless, and I'm not mad. I'm not- I'm not going anywhere, either, but I am gonna give you some space. Sort some things out, sweetheart, and let me know what you decide, ok?"

He leaned in as you closed your eyes against the pain in his voice and kissed you gently. With a touch on your cheek, he slid into the tight space between buildings that was the first part of his twisty path.

"Fuck," you whispered miserably. "Fucking hell!"

 

 

You looked for Daryl. If you were going to be hurting everyone you cared about until you figured your shit out, maybe you should at least try to figure your shit out.

You didn't want to hear Shane's voice sound like that ever again. He deserved better than this from you, damn it. So you'd figure it out, no matter what.

You weren't done with either of them yet.

After searching for awhile, you finally caught sight of him and Richard, walking out the gates together.

"Well, isn't that interesting," you muttered, eyes narrowing. Your hand dropped to your gun, making sure it was still there, and you jogged out behind them. You were curious just where the hell they were headed.

 

 

You got even more curious when you lost them somewhere along the way- damn Dixon had gotten even more slippery in the woods while you were apart, apparently, and found where someone had set tripwires and other walker traps. You were crouched, staring at one of them and wondering just who might have done this so close to the Kingdom instead of just living inside the Kingdom.

"You should go back to where ever you came from and leave that wire alone," a hard voice informed you.

Your eyes went wide. You turned slowly, looking past the rifle aimed at you with ease to stare at the woman manning it instead.

"Carol?" you whispered.

She dropped the gun, eyes wide. "YN?"

"Hey, Carol. Long time no see."

 

 

Carol wasn't ok. Three seconds in her presence and you figured that out. She didn't know about Negan killing Glenn and Abraham, and you wondered what was up with that while you skirted the topic nervously.

She chattered aimlessly about things from before, asking how you survived, how you'd ended up here. You answered fairly well, skipping over some of the worst stuff.
You got a few details in snatches and flashes, particularly about her and Maggie taking down Paula and her friends and burning the rescue team that you'd sent in. You'd winced, having seen that for yourself. It'd been brutal. No wonder she was messed up.

When the knock came at the door and Ezekiel stood there with a group of his guards, he was taken aback to see you hovering in the doorway behind her.

You, however, enjoyed the obvious attraction between them and proceeded to tease Carol mercilessly after he left. She turned red and tried to brush you off, waving a forkful of Jerry's cobbler at you in annoyance.

"I don't know, Carol," you said softly. "Love's damn hard. If you like him, don't waste time. Things can change at the drop of a hat, you know."

She eyed you as you pulled the pack of cigarettes you'd taken from Daryl from your pocket, frowned at them, and started to put them back. "Share and you can light up," she said, and you flashed her a grin and passed them over.

"So," she said finally. "Talk to me about Daryl and Shane."

You grimaced. "What about them? I don't-"

"You love them both." It wasn't a question.

You shrugged. "Yes."

"And you don't know what to do," she continued.

"Do you?" you snapped, blowing smoke and waving your cigarette as you gestured. "I mean, I thought he was dead. Dead! And then.... Shane happened."

She shook her head with a sigh. "Honey, I am the wrong woman to ask. No, I don't know what to do. But I watched Lori almost ruin Shane and Rick by not making things clear, so whatever you do- do it fast."

You groaned and dropped your head to the table. A knock on the door had Carol muttering about too damn many people and you shooting to your feet and reaching for your gun. Carol tossed open the door and-

There stood Daryl.

You smirked at his look of surprise and handed him the cigarette. "Took you long enough, Dixon. Done playing with Richard now?"

Chapter Text

You left after Daryl got there, not ready to try to talk to him after all. You wandered the Kingdom for awhile, searching for something. Anything.

Of course you didn't find it, since you didn't know what the fuck it was. The sun sank down while you watched it from the wall, and you turned away with a frustrated sigh.

Your room was empty when you got there, and it stayed empty and cold and lonely as you cried yourself to sleep. Again.

 

 

Your eyes popped open when you heard footsteps behind your door, and the darkness all around and the sound of someone out there had you reaching for your gun as you rose with your heart pounding in your ears.

You wrenched the door open, gun up and aimed at-

"What the fuck do you think you're doing, Daryl Dixon? Are you trying to get yourself fucking killed?" you snarled at him.

He scoffed, but you saw the sudden contrition as he looked away. "Sorry. Didn't think- didn't think after everything, shit like that would bug ya any more."

"Yeah, 'cause lifelong trauma is that easy to get rid of," you muttered. "Jesus. Come the fuck in if we're going to talk."

You left the door open and dropped back onto the bed, gun still in your hand. "Don't worry, Shane's not here," you added over your shoulder.

Daryl followed you in slowly, leaning on the wall after closing the door. You reached over and turned on the lantern they'd left in your room, and warm yellow light filled the place. You dropped the gun back on the table and ran out of things to fidget with, so you looked at Daryl.

He was looking at the floor. After another pause, you sighed.

"So what's up with Carol?" you asked. Seemed you'd always be the one to break the ice.

Daryl grunted and bit at a ragged nail on this thumb. "Fuck if I know. She says she's killed something like thirty people and it's messed her up. Didn't tell her about Abraham and Glenn 'cause she started cryin' and asked me not to. Said if they hurt anyone else she'd have to fight 'em and she's afraid of what she'll become if she does."

"She's right to be," you whispered. "Being a killer's no good for anyone."

Daryl snorted. "Don't start, baby."

Your eyes went wide and you throat dry as your eyes whipped to his. "That's the first time you've called me baby and it didn't sound like it was supposed to hurt."

His eyes slid away from yours and his face twisted. You sighed and looked back down, absently drumming out Guns'n'Roses on your thigh.

"Sorry I'm an asshole," Daryl said quietly. "Losin' ya- the whole fuckin' prison; Hershel; you; all at once- Weren't easy. Then I lost Beth and we lost Tyreese right after and Noah not long after we got to Alexandria- been hit after hit and I cain't-" he broke off, dropping his head and hunching his shoulders. "Just wanna keep everyone safe and I cain't do shit."

You almost went to him. Almost. "Not your job to keep everyone alive, Dixon," you said instead. "But trust me, I know the feeling."

"Yeah," he grunted. Silence filled the room again, and he glanced around. "So where's Shane?"

You shook your head, not looking up as you switched to Springsteen. "Fuck. I- Daryl, really? You're asking me about Shane?"

"Just tryin' to be ya damn friend again."

"Why?" you snapped, looking up. "Because Shane said it was the only shot? Fuck both of you. I'm not a goddamn piece of meat. Don't be nice to me just try to get back in my goddamn pants. Shane's gone. Not gone-gone, just 'giving me some space' gone," you said bitterly. "So I don't know what that means. I don't know anything except I've got to get out of this fucking Kingdom and back into the action."

Daryl looked away before you did, and you stared at the wall for a bit.

"That's why I'm here. Told Morgan, I'm leavin' for Hilltop in the mornin'. Ezekiel won't fight. Fuckin' coward."

"He's a king, Daryl. He's trying to keep his people safe," you countered.

"He's fuckin' playing a king," Daryl snapped. "C'mon, girl, don't tell me ya buy all that Shakespeare bullshit."

You laughed. "No, I've already told him I don't know if he's just a major theater geek or full-on crazy and asked him not to spoil it. It's working, though. This place is pretty fucking self-sufficient. None of the other communities I've seen so far are. Not really."

He grunted. "Whatever. Still leavin' in the mornin'. Want you'n'Shane to come with me."

You blinked at him. "You do?"

"Yeah. I do. Look, baby- our whole goddamn situation is seriously fucked up. Ya were right; there was someone else, for a little bit. Didn't go nowhere, but don't make it less real. I cain't be- well, I can and I was an asshole about it, but I shouldn't be. Just- don't matter. Details don't fuckin' matter, YN. Ya alive. So am I. That matters," he said, and shoved off the wall. He walked over and dropped down in front of you, meeting your eyes before sliding away like it hurt to maintain the eye contact. It'd been like that for him, with everyone, since you'd seen him in the room outside the cell.

You swore again that you were going to fucking kill Negan and Dwight and anyone else you knew had a hand in what they'd done to him.

He reached out and touched one of your hands, now clenched around each other as you stared at him.

"I missed the shit outta ya, girl. Didn't know what to do with- hell, baby, I almost didn't make it outta there, lookin' for ya. Didn't want to," he whispered. "Wouldn't have, if it weren't for Beth."

You swallowed against the sudden lump in your throat, your hand jerking under his as your eyes filled. You didn't try to hold on to him, though you wanted to. "I wasn't getting out of there. I knew I'd seen you die, Daryl. I knew it. If Shane hadn't- he didn't drag me away, not like with Merle. He just asked. 'Are we living or dying today, criminal?'" You looked down, shaking your head as the tears started to fall.

"What was I supposed to do, Dixon? He was going to die right there with me, and I just knew some of you were alive. I knew it, and I knew if it were true, they needed him. Rick, Carl, Ju- Judith-" you stuttered on her name, falling silent as you broke Shane's one rule for the first time in months.

Daryl's voice was curious and hesitant. "Ya don't say her name. Judith. Ya thought-"

"We found her car seat. I'd gotten the kids moving, like we always planned, taking her to the bus. We thought she was safe on it. Then we found her car seat, just like Rick and Carl. They must have been there right before us, or maybe right after. I don't know. Covered in blood, babe, and empty. Shane- " you stopped and looked at Daryl. "You know he loves that little girl. He- he never asks for anything. I'm a fucked up, twisted, vaguely homicidal and occasionally suicidal mess, Daryl. Shane? He manages all my shit and makes me a better person for it. And he never asks me for anything. Except one thing, just one- we never mention her. Never. What am I going to do, tell him no? Talk about the daughter he lost when he stood there begging me not to? Fuck."

Daryl was watching you, his hand still lingering on yours. "Ya love him."

"Oh for fuck's sake," you muttered, eyes rolling so damn hard you thought you might see the back of your head for a minute. "Yes. I've told you that."

"He loves ya. Has from day one."

You looked away, feeling the tiny smile start as you remembered looking at the stars with him on the plantation house balcony. "Not quite from day one, no."

Daryl snorted at that. "Close enough. What about you, baby?"

"For the last time, Daryl-" you started, annoyance flaring, but he cut you off with his fingertips on your cheek.

"I ain't accusin' ya of nothin', baby. I just wanna know where we stand, ok? I know where he does, cause he fuckin' told me. And cause I ain't fuckin' blind. Knew he was hung up on ya the whole fucking time, but he weren't an asshole or pushy about it, so it didn't matter. It's you I don't know anymore, ok?"

You looked down and away, but you were leaning into his fingers on your cheek. Jesus, you'd missed him. Missed his touch and his voice and the scent of him all around you. He was home, and you craved home like you craved goddamn cigarettes these days. You sighed as you tried to figure out how to answer him.

"I've cared about Shane for a long time, Daryl. He's- he's my friend. One of the first real friends I've had besides you and Merle. Fuck me, I miss your brother," you muttered, tears welling up again.

Merle was another person you'd lost- again- when the prison fell. Thinking about Merle lead to thinking about Daryl, and thinking about Daryl led to you crying, going vaguely catatonic, or killing people. It was better to just- not think about the Dixons.

Not easier. Better. For the continued health of everyone still living.

"Yeah, I miss that bastard too," Daryl agreed. His fingers fell from your face, but he didn't let go of your other hand. You realized you'd taken up Leppard now, and considered stopping. But hey, it helped.

"I don't play the what-if game, Dixon," you said slowly. "I don't. There's no point. The past is done and we have to play the hand we're dealt. Where we stand? I love both of you so much it hurts. And I'm hurting both of you because of it. So basically, we're all fucked. I'll find Shane in the morning, tell him we're leaving. Meet you at the gate?" you said abruptly, ending the conversation.

Daryl nodded, letting go of your hand as he rose. He leaned down and brushed a kiss across your forehead, and you froze. "Don't worry about tellin' Shane; I'll find him," Daryl said gently. "Go back to sleep, baby. Ya need it."

He turned off the lantern and left the room while you were still trying to figure out what breathing was and how it worked.

 

 

 

You saw Ezekiel in the morning, before you left. Jerry waved you on in with a grin you couldn't help but return, and you found the king standing in front of the tiger in her cage. You had the feeling the cage was more to keep people from messing with her than anything else.

She was beautiful; all sinew and muscle rippling as she paced her cage and eyed you. Ezekiel didn't move as you walked up and stood beside him, and after she studied you for a moment, the tiger yawned wide enough for you to get an impressive view of those fucking teeth and laid down easily.

"Shiva likes you," Ezekiel said warmly. "I have been told she's taken with Daryl and Shane as well. It seems my guests are all worthy men and women."

You were a little surprised by the lack of his royal 'we' from the last time you'd talked, but it made it a little less like talking to Macbeth, so whatever. "I'm glad she doesn't want to have me for breakfast," you said with a smile.

As if in response, her tongue lashed over her muzzle.

"Oh, you're feisty," you muttered to her, grinning now. "I approve."

Ezekiel chuckled. "She is indeed. Much like you, Nameless One."

"Oh Judas Priest," you muttered, rubbing a hand over your eyes. "Don't let that stick. Shit, if Carl hears that, it's all downhill from there."

Ezekiel laughed full out, and the sound made you smile. "Indeed. You have come to tell me you are leaving us. I assume your friends go as well?"

"Yes," you told him, raising an eyebrow as you glanced at him. "You're tricky. You good at guessing people's motives, or do you have spies in your Kingdom?"

"I have Jerry, who saw your Shane and Daryl packing supplies for the road early this morning, and reported it to me when we came to see Shiva."

You laughed now. "Excellent, Your Majesty. Excellent." You turned to face him as Shiva opened one eye to glare at you. "I wish you'd change your mind. I know you're trying to protect your people, and I respect the hell out of you for that. I've seen a lot of communities, Your Majesty, and yours is the only one I would consider truly self-sufficient. But we can't stand alone. We need each other."

Ezekiel smiled softly at you. "Indeed, no man can stand alone. And while I cannot commit my people to your war, you do not leave here entirely unaided. If the Kingdom can assist you in ways that does not put her people in jeopardy, rest assured that she will."

"I suppose that will have to be good enough. Thank you for your hospitality, King Ezekiel. You didn't have to take in Negan's pet killer, but you did."

"Ah, there you are wrong, my dear," he said, gripping your shoulder. "I did not take in Negan's pet killer. I took in a woman in need of aid and peace. A woman- not a monster. Remember that, Nameless One. You and yours are welcome here any time you are in need of solace or sanctuary."

You smiled at the king and gripped his offered hand. "Thank you, Your Majesty. No, I'm not a monster. But as I keep reminding my friends, I am a bad guy. That's ok, though. It's what we need to kick Negan's ass."

Chapter Text

Something like a mile out of the Kingdom the bitching started. This time, it wasn't from you.

The three of you were going on foot, and you were pissed about leaving your bike at the Kingdom, but while you figured people could be hidden, the damn bike couldn't. It was hot, you were all sweating, and it was going to be a long walk. It should have been you complaining, based on past precedent.

It wasn't.

"I mean, the fuck ya sayin', Walsh? Ain't no goddamn way-"

"I'm right, Dixon! You can snarl about it all you want, but you know-"

"I don't know any such thing, fuck it-"

You groaned, loudly, and stalked further ahead of them. There was a pause in the bickering, and then they started right back up again where they left off.

"Judas fucking Priest," you muttered, slapping branches out of your way and trying to ignore them. This was going to be worse than trying to do anything with Daryl and Merle, wasn't it? Goddamn it all.

 

 

A mile and a half in, the argument turned from who was a better shot- Annie Oakley or Wyatt Earp; and oh boy did you have questions for both of them about this- to who played better bass, John Paul Jones, Steve Harris, or Lemmy Kilmister. On this one, you had opinions.

Loud ones, supporting each of them. Damn it.

"No. I'm sorry, but no. John Paul Jones. Led Zepplin. They revolutionized rock'n'roll, you assholes!" you declared with a scowl.

"Yeah, but fuckin' Lemmy, baby. Motorhead!" Daryl countered.

Shane shook his head. "I'm with Nameless on this one, actually. Zepplin did some goddamn amazing things."

You sighed. "I mean, ruling out Harris is a crime, though. Iron Maiden singlehandedly developed the power-metal subgenre in British new wave. I mean, he was a songwriter too...."

Daryl and Shane glanced at each other and both of them cracked up. You scowled.

"What?" you snapped.

Shane shook his head at you fondly. "Music gets you every time, doesn't it, sweetheart?"

You rolled your eyes at him even as Daryl's smile turned to a frown. "You should talk, Officer. Get you going on Fleetwood verses the Eagles and you'll be arguing yourself all goddamn day!"

"They're not even comparable, criminal!"

 

 

 

Three miles in, all forward progress had been lost and you and Daryl were nose to nose, screaming at each other while Shane watched the trees around you.

"No, goddamn it! I did not steal your fucking history paper in Mr. Clarke's 10th grade World History class! We are just practically the same damn person and wrote on the same fucking thing!" you yelled, exasperated.

"We both chose the development of the crossbow in Medieval European warfare?" he snarled, incredulous. "And ya turned yours in the same damn mornin' mine went missin' from my backpack?"

Your lips twitched as your eyes narrowed. "Yes. Yes I did. What exactly are you accusing me off, Daryl?"

"Think it's pretty damn clear he's accusing you of stealing his paper and turning it in as your own, criminal," Shane put in, tone dry. "And from the way you're trying not to laugh, I think you did it too."

"I did not!" you fired back hotly, eyes wide with innocence. "How dare you come in on his side!"

Daryl's eyes narrowed at you and he jabbed a finger in your face. "Name one goddamn thing about how the fuckin' crossbow was developed."

"Daryl. For shit's sake. That was tenth grade! It's been...... Shit. A lot of years. Are you kidding me?"

"What country produced the famous mercenary crossbowmen of the twelfth century, Germany or Norway?" he snapped.

You blinked at him. "Jesus, Dixon. What the fuck part of tenth grade is hard for you to grasp? I think... I think it was Norway."

"Fuckin' a! Ya totally stole my goddamn paper! Neither, it was fuckin' Republic of Genoa! Ya know how hard I worked on that fucker? I took me weeks to fuckin' research that shit!"

You finally lost the battle and started laughing. "I know. I'm so sorry. I got a A plus, if that helps any," you gasped out.

Daryl dove for you, his eyes blazing with fury.

"Whoa, whoa- think that's enough," Shane said, also laughing, and hauled Daryl back and away.

"Ya crazy fuckin' bitch, I cain't believe ya stole my goddamn paper!"

 

 

 

"Ya serious right now, man? What the fuck ya think is gonna happen here?" Daryl's voice rose, harsh and angry, and you moved faster down the path toward the river.

"Course I'm serious. And I think ya gonna fuckin' lose, that's what!" Merle shot back, that lazy, condescending amusement that usually meant he was just as fucking pissed as Daryl filling his own tone.

What the fuck was going on? you wondered, and when you swung into camp you didn't see either of them. Then you heard the scuffling sounds, a muffled yelp, and a steady stream of Daryl's cussing.

You came around the side of the tent and found Merle holding Daryl in a leg-lock while Daryl tried to break it and filled the air with a blue streak that had your eyebrows rising even more than the sight of fifteen year old Merle casually choking his eleven year old brother. Your eyes narrowed.

"Hey."

"Hey, girlie! Whatcha doin' here?" Merle said conversationally. Daryl scowled and fought harder, and Merle laughed.

"Nothing," you said with a shrug. "What's going on?"

"Aw, baby brother here just though he could beat ol' Merle mano-a-mano," Merle answered. "I had to prove his ass wrong."

"Fuck you, Merle," Daryl snarled. "Fine! I give!"

Merle laughed again and let Daryl up.

You looked between them as Merle hooked an arm around a scowling Daryl's shoulders and ruffled his hair. "Teach me that," you said firmly.

Merle glanced at you. "What? The leg lock?"

You grinned at him. "Oh yeah."

 

 

You almost made it before the petty bickering turned goddamn bitchy. It started in tiny ways, as all of you got hot and tired and worried, you supposed. Small barbs jabbed each other's way, and you certainly weren't immune.

God knew you could bitch with the best of them.

Daryl said something about how you'd lost your ability to move in the woods again, what with relying on terrorizing people instead of stealth. Shane made a caustic comment about making up your fucking mind when you and Daryl started arguing about which way to go. You muttered about Daryl giving up searches too goddamn fast when he didn't want to keep looking for water. Shane gloated a little too much when he was the one who got you all moving again, and let his hand linger on your lower back just a little too long.

You called both of them cave men under your breath when they went after one goddamn zombie like it was a horde of them. Then when you stumbled over a group of three of them, you ran right into the center of the pack, scooping up a hefty branch from the ground and swinging it like your bat.

Zombie brains went everywhere with several satisfying crunches, and you grinned at the branch before heaving it away and turning back to the boys.

Shane looked impressed and slightly turned on, which wasn't unusual for when you'd been fighting something. Daryl looked pissed as hell and also slightly turned on. You smirked at both of them.

"So, shall we?" you said, gesturing on ahead.

You didn't catch what started the fight a few minutes later, but God knew you caught enough of it. Daryl and Shane were toe to toe, and you ground your teeth together, arms crossed, as you watched and listened with increasing disbelief.

"Naw, ya ain't done shit but drag my girl into trouble since day one, Shane!"

"Oh fuck you, Dixon! I've saved her goddamn ass more times than I can fucking count! And she's not your fucking girl! I got her out of the prison! I did that!"

"Just like fuckin' Lori all over again, man-"

"Don't you fucking talk about Lori-"

"Say what I want about her, jackass!" Daryl snarled.

Shane went silent, then punched him in the jaw.

"Shane!" you yelled, starting forward.

Daryl tossed a hand your direction before launching at Shane. "Stay outta this, baby!" he snapped.

"Oh, you have got to be shitting me," you muttered, watching them for a minute as they tossed punches and neither of them scored any good hits. "Are you serious right now? Both of you? Oh for fuck's-"

You skirted around them to stab an entirely too interested walker, then shoved the knife back into your belt, sighed one more time, and headed into the fray.

You'd learned to fight from the same person Daryl had. You'd fought with and against Shane enough to know his style like the back of your hand as well. You ducked a swing from Daryl that was directed at Shane and slammed your shoulder into his midsection so he staggered back. Shane was in full rage at this point, and fought like a fucking demon when that happened.

It took him a second to register the change in opponent and he spun into a kick you'd taught him in the meantime. You caught his leg, jerked forward so he was off balance, and shoved backward again. As he fell, you turned back to Daryl, who'd gotten his breath back and straightened up. Shane climbed slowly to his feet as you stood there between them, fuming.

You glared from one to the other. "What the actual fuck?" you snapped.

Neither of them said anything, Daryl starting to pace a little as they glared at each other. Shane swiped a hand over his lip and scoffed at the blood on it.

"Got in a good shot there, Dixon," he said, completely ignoring you.

"Get in a couple more if ya want," Daryl snarled back.

You tossed your hands up in disgust as Shane's eyes narrowed. "Ok, fuck both of you," you yelled. "Seriously, fuck. Both of you! Look, Daryl- I'm sorry I thought you'd motherfucking died and I fell in love with Shane. It wasn't like I fucking planned it. Shane, I'm sorry I'm still in love with Daryl too. I get that both of you are hurting and it's all my fault, and if you think I take it lightly, neither of you fucking know me at all."

Both of them were looking at you now, and you met each of their eyes in turn. "But I can't goddamn do this. This shit right here? It's so fucking childish. I don't belong to either of you. I'm not a prize you need to fight to win."

"Sweetheart, I-"

"C'mon, baby-"

"No!" you snapped. You reached into your pocket and pulled out Daryl's cigarettes, desperate for something. What you really wanted was a bottle of Jack and a horde of fucking walkers you could kill one by one, and yes- you knew you were fucked up, thanks. You sighed when you saw there was only one left in the pack, and you shoved it between your lips and lit it.

Shane scowled. "You're going to fuck up your lungs doing that, criminal."

"Shut the fuck up, Shane. I'm a big girl, I can handle my own lung cancer, thanks," you shot at him.

"He's damn right, baby-"

You stared at Daryl in utter disbelief. "Really, Mister I-started-smoking-when-I-was-thirteen? Bite me, Dixon."

You closed your eyes and prayed for patience, but the temper you struggled with was boiling now and you didn't know how long you'd be able to keep it under wraps.

Shane was smiling when you opened your eyes again, and you frowned at him. "What?" you snapped.

"Born to Run?" he asked quietly, and your fingers stilled. You smiled at him as well, softening momentarily.

Daryl snorted. "The fuck's with this thing ya doin' these days, baby? Always drummin' out something or another."

"Helps keep her grounded," Shane shot back, glaring over at Daryl. "We've seen some shit, her especially."

"The fuck ya mean, keep her grounded? She ain't a goddamn balloon!"

"No, she got locked in a goddamn coffin in fucking Georgia and-"

"How the fuck ya say you took care of her if she got locked in fuckin' coffin?"

"Shut! Up!" you screamed over them. They were in each other's faces again, and you were so done. So. Very. Done.

They both froze and looked at you again, Shane wincing and Daryl looking like he didn't know if he wanted to hug you or swing at you.

"You know what?" you said through your clenched jaw. "I'm done. I'm breaking up with both of you, damn it."

"What?" Daryl asked, looking confused. Shane just raised an eyebrow at you and gave you a look of such dismissive overconfidence- like he thought he'd already won and you were just dicking around here for what? Dramatics sake?- that you considered punching him in the nose for probably longer than you should have.

You shifted your glare to Daryl and repeated yourself slowly. "I'm breaking up with both of you. There. Problem fucking solved. Shane, we got each other out of the goddamn prison. Daryl, I can take care of my fucking self, and I actually got locked in the coffin because I said 'no, Shane, we've got the place boarded up, no need for one of us to keep watch, we'll hear anything that approaches'. Both of you seem to be forgetting that I am and always will be my own goddamn hero. In conclusion," you growled, stepping closer to them, "you can both go fuck yourselves or each other; I no longer give a shit. I'm out."

You spun on your heel and stalked through the trees, storming up the road toward Hilltop's gates.

Chapter Text

Hilltop's gates swung open slowly as you angry stalked, muttering about men under your breath as you went.

Thought they knew everything, thought they'd get to decided who you'd be with based on who had done fucking enough to 'take care of' you. Bullshit. You took care of your own damn self. You knew what you were fucking-

You froze and stared at the woman standing inside the slowly opening gates. "Maggie."

She broke into a huge smile, coming toward you with her arms open and tears in her eyes. You were crying when she reached you and tossed her arms around you, and you stood there like an idiot as she hugged you.

When she pulled back, still beaming, you shook your head at her. "Maggie?" you whispered again.

"YN! I can't believe you're here!" she said happily. "I'm so glad to see you. I've missed you."

You stared at her, disbelieving. "You- Maggie, you- I'm sorry. I'm so fucking sorry, Maggie."

She shook her head, the smile fading as she reached for you. "No. Don't be. Shane told me things, YN. It's not your fault. I don't blame you," she whispered, touching your cheek with her hand. "I'm just happy you're alive and you're back with us. Are Shane and Daryl with you? Jesus and Sasha said you were staying in the Kingdom."

You sniffed and looked away from her as you tried to get yourself together. Finally you jerked a thumb over your shoulder. "They're behind me. They started fighting over me, so I told them they could both go fuck themselves or each other and I left them back there. I'm sure they're currently punching each other to see who's worthy of me," you muttered, annoyed.

Maggie's eyes danced behind her sympathetic expression. "Yeah, I saw some of the, ah, tension when they got here."

You snorted. "I bet. Maggie-"

"Don't apologize again," she said sharply. "I'm not havin' it, YN. Oh, look, there they are. They look relatively whole." Maggie shielded her eyes and looked into the distance behind you. You stubbornly refused to turn and look, and she laughed a little and waved.

They came around you and Shane hugged her. Daryl nodded and wouldn't meet her eyes, and you frowned at him while he stared at his feet. Guilt radiated off of him, and you remembered Negan's claim that Glenn had died because Daryl took a swing at him.

Fuck, you thought grimly. Fuck.

Maggie was watching him sadly as well, but she turned her smile back on you and Shane. "Shane's already gotten it, but do you want-"

"Margaret! Who is this? Another one?" Gregory's voice had an instant grimace coming to your lips. Maggie's back stiffened and her own expression matched yours.

"Gregory, you remember Daryl and Shane. This is-" she started to introduce you as Gregory came striding up with Jesus on his heels looking annoyed and put-upon.

"What the- No! You- you cannot be here!" Gregory said, eyes wide as he pointed at you.

"I see you've met," Maggie said dryly.

You smirked at her. "Yeah. While I was playing for the other team."

Daryl scoffed at the ground and you shot your middle finger up at him. Jesus caught your gaze as Gregory started blustering and winked at you, and you grinned back at him.

"Gregory! She's on our side. She stays, just like they do," Jesus said firmly. Gregory straightened up and stuffed his hands in his pockets self-importantly.

"You are not in charge here, Jesus. I am!" he declared.

You snorted. "Yeah? How many people are in your community? Bet Maggie and Jesus can answer. How's your storage room look? Bet Maggie and Jesus can answer. I saw your desk, Gregory. You're only in charge because you can brown nose Simon better than either of them can. Fuck off, ok?"

Gregory's mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. Both Daryl and Shane snorted, and you turned to Maggie and ignored Gregory's guppy routine.

"Maggie, I'd love a tour. This place is amazing, and I haven't really gotten to see it either time I've been here," you told her with a smile.

"You were here before?" Jesus said with a frown, and Gregory finally found his voice.

"She was one of the ones who killed Rory!" he snapped.

Your face shut down and you turned back to him slowly. "Now, that's untrue, Gregory," you said coldly. "I was here. But I was not one of assholes who did that. That was one asshole. His name was Donovan, and I can assure you, for that? He died bloody."

Gregory's eyes were terrified as you stared him down. You wished your had your bat. You wanted to take this fucking asshole out, slow and violent and screaming, like Donovan had gone. You wanted to-

Shane's hand touched your arm. "Easy, sweetheart," he whispered in your ear.

You closed your eyes and drew in a deep breath, forcing the tension to run out of your body. When you opened your eyes again, you looked away from Gregory and to Jesus' wary eyes instead. "It doesn't bring him back, the boy Donovan killed. Rory. I know that. But I killed the man who killed him."

Jesus nodded once. "Maggie and I will show you around."

 

 

The Hilltop was far less welcoming than the Kingdom, but you supposed that was to be expected. Jesus' trailer wasn't the same at all, filled as it was with your people. Maggie, Sasha, and a girl named Enid were all staying there, in a place meant for one. You, Daryl, and Shane were crammed in as well, and Jesus spent most of his time not there, from the looks of things.

The first night was horribly tense. You weren't talking to Shane, Shane was trying to talk to you, and Daryl wasn't talking to anyone, really. Sasha only seemed to want to talk about how the Sanctuary was set up and what Negan's strengths and plans were, and you absolutely did not want to have that discussion with her and in front of Maggie.

Finally, you escaped outside and found Jesus sitting on the steps as well. You sat beside him with a chuckle.

"Too cramped in there for you too?" he asked.

You sighed. "Not so much the close quarters as the hefty dose of awkward. I love every one of those people. Well, to be fair, I don't know Enid well, but she adores Maggie, and that makes her aces in my book. Anyway, I love them. Life is just so.... complicated."

"Yeah," Jesus said quietly. "I can imagine."

You sighed and scrubbed a hand over your face. "Thank you. For taking care of Maggie. For giving up your trailer. For helping Daryl and Shane get out. I can't thank you enough for any of that."

Jesus patted your hand gently. "You don't need to thank me for anything. Shane and Daryl were well on their way out before I ran into them. I was looking for Carl. Little punk snuck in on the same truck I did and tricked me into jumping out first."

You grinned. "Oh, God, that sounds like him." Your smiled faded, and you looked at your hands. "I wouldn't blame you for hating me, but you invited me to call you Jesus. Why?"

He snorted a little. "Partly because everyone calls me Jesus. Partly because I had to listen to Shane and Daryl argue about you enough to know you were loyal to them above all else. Partly because you looked sad."

"Well, that's honest," you muttered. "I'm sorry about Rory. I want you to know I would have saved him if I could. It- it was-"

"It wasn't your fault. Neither were Abraham and Glenn," he said softly. "Don't take on more than you need to, Nameless."

"Fucking hell. Shane start that?" you complained.

Jesus laughed. "Yeah, that's what he calls you all the time. Or 'that crazy criminal'."

You groaned and he laughed again. After a few minutes staring at the quiet Hilltop, you sighed and climbed to your feet. "Thanks for the chat, Jesus. And the floor to crash on."

"Sorry it's not a bed."

You shook your head and touched his shoulder. "It's more than enough."

You slept between Shane and Daryl and tried not think about that too damn hard. If it weren't for the fucking unbearable tension in the air, it would have been enough like that winter before you found the prison to make you smile. As it was, you were mostly just annoyed and exhausted.

 

 

Must have been twelve thirty, because you woke up from a dream about food- all you ever seemed to dream about anymore- with the panic-inducing feeling of being trapped. After you started to lash out blindly, it sank in that you were warm and the weight over your middle, semi-pinning you in place, was an arm.

You were sandwiched tightly between Daryl and Shane, more tightly even than when you'd fallen asleep. Nights were cold now, no bones about it. Even fully dressed in all the layers you could scrounge up and with as many blankets as you'd been willing to take from the others, you shivered a lot of nights. The three of you had started settling down close together, and sometime while you'd been asleep this particular night, you'd all huddled in even more.

Right now, you were pressed up against Shane's back, curled along his body and with one hand jammed half-under his side to keep your fingers warm. Daryl lay spooned in behind you much as you were against Shane, his nose on the back of your neck and his arm tossed over your side.

You wanted to protest being in the middle of this Dixon-Walsh sandwich, but you could tell how fucking cold the air was on your face, the only truly exposed part of you. Since none of the rest of your body was cold, complaining seemed a little ungrateful.

On the other hand, your arm was tingly and you hated the overprotective urge in both of them that led to you being the one in the middle.

You slid as much as you could, shifting a little at a time until you lay on your other side, facing Daryl. It left you nose to nose with him, close enough to kiss if either of you moved a few millimeters, and you tried very hard to ignore the way your heart rate sped up at the thought. You reached out and brushed your fingers gently along his cheek, unable to resist, and burrowed down a little into the warm cocoon they'd made for you. Shane grumbled in his sleep as cold air hit the back of his neck, and he rolled like you had, curling up behind you and shoving his foot into your legs.

You grinned and let him, and closed your eyes as his arm draped over your shoulders to match Daryl's over your waist. Whatever. You were warm and sometime in the next few hours they'd each wake up and notice and get up stealthily. Or you would wake up first and wiggle your way out from between them to take a shift with the rifle, and you'd all just pretend nothing had happened while running around defending camp. This was hardly the first time you'd woken up between them like this.

Most nights weren't like this. Usually the three of you didn't all collapse at once; one of you taking watch right after the other throughout the night. You'd tried to take the first shift, but Rick and Lori had had another spat, and Rick had pointed you toward Shane and Daryl without saying anything.

They really needed to figure themselves out, you thought as you drifted lazily back toward sleep. Love lives were going to bring this group down if you weren't careful.

 

 

"You made a deal with who?" you snapped at Rick.

"These scavengers. They live in-"

"A garbage dump?" you offered, rubbing a hand over your forehead. "And have a fucked-up walker named Winslow? Well, I killed Winslow, so they might have named it something else."

"You know them?" Michonne asked, leaning toward you.

Rick, Michonne, Carl, and- to Shane's tearful delight- Judith had come in just after dawn with news and updates for Maggie. They were surprised but not unhappy to see the three of you, and now you knew why Rick wasn't more bothered by the lack of support from Ezekiel.

"Oh yeah," you muttered. "Shane!" you called. He looked up from where he was playing on the floor of Jesus' trailer with Judith, lost in the little girl he'd given up hope of ever seeing again. It made you smile every time you looked at him, seeing the joy and delight on his face as he reacquainted himself with her.

"What?" he snapped.

You didn't take offence; you'd have been snapping at anyone else who dared interrupt his bonding time. "Rick made a deal with Jadis."

"Rick fucking what now?"

You snorted as Judith giggled and Shane beamed at her. "That's what I said. I've got a scar on my ass from Winslow, thank you very much. Look, Jadis is... interesting. Negan didn't pursue it too much, when we found them. They didn't have much to offer, and she's a fucking good negotiator. She and Negan have a 'live and leave alone' policy, honestly."

"Yeah, Winslow gave me a few new scars as well," Rick said. "We're getting guns, and she gets to keep them after Negan's dead."

"Must have been a new Winslow," you commented. "How'd you do it?"

"Chopped his head off with a metal sign," he admitted. "Pulled it from the garbage piled up to form walls."

"Wait, what? She shoved me in a shipping container and slammed the door! It was pitch black and there was nothing around to work with. I was lucky she gave me my bat." You were annoyed that Rick had been able to see and had gotten shit to use.

Rick scoffed. "She threw me down a mountain of trash. And a bat wouldn't have worked on this one. He had a helmet and spikes coming out of him."

"So, she improved on the design after me," you said, settling back with a smirk. "That makes me feel better. The spikes were there on my Winslow, too. That would be how I got the scar."

Daryl muttered something under his breath, and you raised an eyebrow at him.

"What was that, Dixon?" you asked sharply.

He met your eyes and smirked. "Said I wonder if it's on the same side as ya tattoo."

"It's not," Shane put in from the floor.

Daryl glared. Shane glared back over Judith's head. Rick and Michonne exchanged looks. You flipped everyone the bird.

Carl chose that moment to come inside, a sappy smile on his lips. He'd clearly been having fun hanging out with Enid, you thought, as he glanced around the room and let out a low whistle.

"Well, it's tense in here," he muttered. "Nameless, what'd you do?"

"Me?" you protested. "I didn't do anything!"

"I don't know about that," MIchonne said dryly. "I think the problem might be that you did both of these guys."

You stared at her for a moment in complete surprise, then your lips twitched. "Jesus, Michonne. You too?"

"Hey, don't drag me into this," Jesus, who you'd honestly forgotten was there, mumbled from the couch where he was stretched out.

You put your head on the table as the whole trailer cracked up laughing.

 

 

"Just be careful, ok?" you urged Rick. "Do you have the radio with you, just in case?"

"Yes. We have the radio. Three days. That's what we're planning on. Carl's staying behind with Judith. The two of them will head back to Alexandria and be there before dark. You guys are staying here until we're ready. Write down everything you know," Rick said, smiling.

You nodded, fingers tapping as you stared anxiously out at the road beyond the gates. "We need to move soon. He'll be back, both here and at Alexandria."

"I know," Rick said. He put both hands on your shoulders and gave you the intense-friendly stare. You tensed up even more, narrowing your own.

"I'm not going to like this, am I?" you muttered.

He smiled slightly. "Be safe. Don't get into too many fights with Daryl. Stay put."

You rolled your eyes. "Yes, Deputy. I'll be a good little criminal, I promise."

"Thank you," he said, pulling you into a hug. "Though I don't believe you."

You laughed and hugged him back. "Probably for the best. I'll try to be a good little criminal, how's that?"

"Fair enough," Rick agreed. "Allies?"

You smiled. "Allies. Friends?"

"Maybe. We'll see when we get back," he said with a grin, and you laughed as he ducked into the van. You waved at Michonne and she waved back, and they were gone.

Chapter Text

The next few days started out rough, but slowly got better.

Quarters were tight. Claustrophobia-inducing tight, which was saying something for you. It took exactly half of the first night for you to decide you were avoiding Jesus' trailer at any cost. You slid out sometime after your regular twelve-thirty wake up and didn't go back. You found other places to snatch a few hours' sleep here and there, and everyone noticed.

Daryl and Shane bitched at you separately and together. Maggie snagged your hand and privately said the doc would let you crash in the medical trailer if you really needed some sleep. Sasha handed you a pillow and a blanket one evening and muttered that the bed of the pickup was empty. Enid stayed silent but watchful, and you had a feeling that girl saw everything that was going on.

You helped Sasha and Maggie get the Hilltop ready to fight. Hilltop's people were wary of you at first, especially the ones who'd been at the outpost when their ill-fated drop kicked everything off. After you and Jesus sparred a couple times, they started to come around to you.

Jesus was one of the best partners you'd had to fight with in a while. The man was a goddamn ninja, and he'd had formal martial arts training. You'd taken one look at him showing Eduardo how to break a joint lock and practically started drooling.

Ten minutes later you'd been circling him warily, and twenty minutes later both of you were on the ground. You'd each gotten some good hits on the other and declared a draw. You started trying to see if you could get the drop on each other, in a game full of such stupidity you both started doing crazy shit like climbing trees and waiting.

So far, the score was Jesus three to your two. But you had plans.

Hilltop became a far more friendly place to be, and you even scored a new pack of cigarettes. Jesus presented them to you with a sly smirk and told you they were yours for the cost of one of them. Of course you accepted that offer, and you learned that your new friend had grown up in a group home, much like your first eight years. You didn't think about it much- your life, to you, always began when you sat down beside surly Daryl Dixon- but you found yourself swapping stories.

Turns out being a girl who liked rock and roll and had a smart-ass mouth led to many of the same experiences as a fairly scrawny gay kid who also had a smart mouth. Your enjoyment of Jesus went up with every conversation you had with the man.

Daryl sought you out a few times, and you fell into easy banter like when you were kids. It was something, at least, even if you were pretty sure he was only looking to bum a smoke every time. By the end of the third day, as you started getting anxious that Rick and Michonne hadn't come back, he was even starting to look you in the eye for longer than a few seconds at a time. You'd gotten a smile in passing a few times, and so far he'd stopped taking pot shots at you over Shane.

Shane acted a lot like you'd never broken up with him. Things with him were easier, you thought when he walked up, took the third cigarette in row from your lips and ground it out on the picnic table, and took the box from your hands. He walked away without a word, and you made a face at his retreating back.

You and Shane broken up looked exactly like you and Shane all the time. Just without the sex.

You watched them both, and they watched you, and all of you tried to pretend like it wasn't happening. It was better, but nothing was resolved, and you were feeling more and more like you wanted to kill something as time went on.

You didn't visit Glenn's grave, and you avoided Gregory at all costs.

 

 

"Walsh, this place gives me the fucking creeps," you whispered. You pulled your eye from the scope you were using as binoculars and passed it to Shane.

He grunted and scanned the building with its giant signs in the window spelling out 'Terminus'. There were no guards that you could see, either in the trees or in the compound itself. There was, in fact, very little movement from your current vantage point.

"Aw, shit. Sniper on the roof," Shane said. You muttered under your breath as he kept scanning. "Two. Three. Four. Jesus, how'd we miss that? Wait... got somebody coming in the gates. Looks like a group of three. Snipers are watching them, but they're heading into the compound unchallenged. What the fuck, sweetheart?"

You grimaced as you looked at building in the distance. "We need a better view."

"Hell, criminal, we need to just get out of here. This place don't fucking feel right."

"Yeah," you agreed grimly. "Ok, let's just bounce."

"Oh, I think you're going to have a little trouble with that." You didn't recognize the speaker's voice, but you knew the click of a bullet entering a chamber. "Go on and get to your feet now, both of you. Nice and slowly."

You glanced at Shane and he shrugged. You stood and turned, hands in the air, and ran a critical eye over the assholes. There were only two of them, which had you smiling. Perfect. Two you could handle easily, guns or no guns. You relaxed pretty much immediately.

"Hey. Who are you?" you asked.

The two guys glanced at each other. "We're from Terminus."

"So we're going to survive, then?" you said easily. "Those who arrive survive, right?"

The lead asshole smirked at you. "Sure. If you want."

Shane spoke up then. "Got a couple questions first."

"Fire away," Asshole number one offered, spreading his hands in a welcoming gesture.

"What the fuck's up with this place?"

The assholes glanced at each other again. "I don't like these two," Asshole number one said. "Should we just keep them for ourselves?"

"Oh that's not ominous at all," you muttered.

Shane snorted and chuckled. "You think, criminal?"

"Shut the fuck up, both of you," Asshole number one snarled. "I think we should keep them. She looks tasty."

Your nose wrinkled. "That's- that's just gross, man. And like, the least intimidating sexual threat I've ever received, let me just tell you."

Asshole number one grinned and moved closer to you. He leaned and whispered in your ear. "I mean, you look good enough to eat. For dinner. After I salt you and roast you over an open fire."

"I really, really hope that's a euphemism," you said slowly, and he chuckled.

"Not even a little bit."

You nodded. "Ok. That's a fucking new one. Hey, officer, they're cannibals."

Shane didn't speak, just gagged.

"My thoughts exactly. I think it's time to leave," you told Shane conversationally, and jumped into motion. The asshole who'd been standing there apparently appraising your meat-to-sinew ratio went down with one hit. He clearly hadn't expected his dinner to fight back, though you really wondered when the leather jacket and bad attitude would start convincing people not to fuck with you. You hoped it was soon.

Shane handled the other one before he could get a shot off, and you looked between them and Terminus.

"Should we- I don't know, do something about that?" you asked him seriously.

He snorted. "Got any grenades handy? Nameless, it's just you and me and that fucking baseball bat. And these guys' guns. Think we're going to have to leave this place standing."

You sighed. "Yeah, you're probably right. Doesn't feel right, though. Fucking cannibals, man. What the damn hell?"

 

 

Sasha was most definitely up to something, and you knew it. You, Shane, Jesus, Daryl, and Carl had all put your heads together while Carl and Judith were there and gathered as much information as you could about Sanctuary. You'd made lists of outposts, resources, channels and codes for the radio. You'd made maps of the places you'd been.

But you'd cautioned all of them that this shit was likely to change. Negan was too damn smart to keep everything the same when two of his top lieutenants joined the other side. Besides, the radio you'd gotten from Dwight had been weirdly silent for days. You spent a good part of the night and more time than you wanted to admit during the day scanning channels for voices you recognized. So far, nothing.

Sasha asked pointed questions she tried to disguise and studied the maps of the Sanctuary way too closely.

You mentioned it to Shane under your breath while you were teaching the Hilltop some basic hand-to-hand one day, and he snorted.

"No shit, Nameless. She's going to try to go kill him herself, just as soon as she gets her hands on a gun."

You grimaced. "Yeah. Shit."

Then Rosita arrived, and you knew something was up.

 

You didn't have time to do much about it, because Maggie snagged you to ask if you knew anything about fighting with spears - um, no- and about trade with the Kingdom for their body armor, which lead to a discussion on what you thought Ezekiel would agree to in terms of assistance. By the time you were done with that, Jesus came around the corner and drew you off to the side.

"Look, Sasha and Rosita are-" he started, and Khal up on the wall started clanging the alarm for Saviors.

"Son of a bitch," you snarled, and Jesus pointed you toward the emergency exit.

"Go!" he said. "I'll get the others."

You hesitated. "Shane. Daryl. Maggie-"

"I've got them. Trust me. Get yourself out!" he snapped, giving you another push.

You groaned, but took off for the tunnel Sasha had dug before you and Shane even came. You closed your eyes and concentrated on your breathing and muttering lyrics to Led Zepplin as you crawled through, trying not to think about how goddamn small and tight the fucking thing was.

On the other side, you scrambled up a tree and waited, watching the Hilltop as the trucks pulled into the gate.

"Simon," you muttered. "Of course."

A grunt sounded behind you, and Rosita appeared, hauling out a pack. She helped Sasha out of the tunnel as well.

"Did you dig that?" she asked.

"Maggie thought we needed a quick way you. So I made one," Sasha agreed, scanning the area.

Rosita nodded. "Well, we're out. Now what?"

"You know what," Sasha said grimly, and the two of them started walking.

"Fuck," you muttered when they were far enough away not to hear you. You glanced between the Hilltop and them, knowing they were going on a suicide mission to try to take out fucking Negan. And it wouldn't fucking work.

"Fuck!" you said again, and dropped from the tree. You took off at a run, in the same general direction they were going, but just slightly off. You had to get there first.

Chapter Text

They'd stop and try to hot wire a car, you decided. You went through everything Sasha had asked pointed questions about- the route there, the area around the outside of the Sanctuary, where the guards were, Negan's movements.

If she was thinking anything remotely like clearly, her plan would be to hit one of the multi-story buildings outside the fence and wait for Negan to show his face. You had to assume she had a gun, and since it was Sasha, probably a long-range one. Rick and Michonne had been searching for guns, after all, and Rosita showed up after they should have been back?

Yeah, they'd found some. And Rosita had brought Sasha one.

The good news was, you knew a few things you hadn't shared with Sasha. Private things; things you and Shane had set up over the course of your time with Negan. Things like the channel you thought was safe. Things like a car you knew would run without any effort, hidden in case of very extreme emergency. There were no supplies in it- you hadn't had any you could stash when you were able to drop the car- but a working vehicle was better than nothing.

You'd been with Negan six months. That was about as long as you'd been anywhere safely before things went to hell in a hand basket. You were beginning to think it wasn't the zombies after all. It was you.

You pondered your own plan as you drove. The car ran, like you'd known it would. You'd given the thing a tune up a few weeks before everything went to shit, when you were theoretically chasing a lead on who had destroyed T's group of Saviors.

If they wanted to snipe, they'd head to the building with the best view of the courtyard. Third floor. If they tried to do something stupid like sneak in, that same floor would give the best view of them doing it. So, to the third floor you'd go, you decided.

You weren't sure who was going to be most pissed off at you for running off like this on your own- Daryl, Shane, or Rick.

 

 

You were sitting under the window when they came up the stairs slowly. You'd been right about the gun, you noticed as Sasha lowered it and they both stared at you in surprise.

"Hey, ladies. Took you long enough," you said dryly, rising. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

"What are you doing?" Sasha snapped back, moving forward into the room as Rosita scoffed and glared silently.

You shrugged. "I saw you guys leave. You're not as subtle as you might think either, Sasha. I figured out where you were headed by your not-so-casual questions."

"And you decided to come first, without a gun? What was your plan? And how did you get here before us?" she asked sharply.

"I don't have a plan, other than turn you two around and haul you back to the Hilltop." You looked between them and sighed. "I know you loved Abraham. I know you both probably hate each other, and this whole fucked up situation sucks ass. I never met him, but from what I've been told, he was a good guy. I'm sorry for your loss. Do you really think he'd want you on this suicide mission?"

Rosita didn't do anything but sneer and head to the window to look over the Sanctuary.

Sasha's face went hard and angry. "What would you know about it?"

You shrugged. "Nothing, really, I suppose, except a thing or two about being ready and willing to die. This isn't how you get him, Sasha. He's too goddamn smart."

She scoffed now, bypassing you to set the rifle in the window and look through the scope. "I don't miss."

You looked up at the ceiling and muttered a plea for patience. "Neither do I. You still won't succeed. What if he doesn't come out? You think he doesn't know we're all gunning for him?"

"If he doesn't come out, we'll go in," Rosita snapped. "You going to help us or not? You've been in there. You know him better than any of us."

You snorted like she had earlier. "Yeah, I do. That's how I know if you go in there, you won't come back out alive. That's an idiot's choice."

"Like you weren't willing to die when you thought Daryl was dead," Sasha muttered.

"I was," you said firmly. "Shane kept me alive. That's how I know, dumbass."

Rosita rolled her eyes and walked over to you. "You don't get it, do you? You have two men who love you. I have no one. What do I have to live for?"

You stared at her for a moment and nodded slowly. "That's fair. It is. And I get where you're coming from. But you have one shot at this. If you want to kill him, you have to stay alive to do so."

She shook her head and jerked it in Sasha's direction. "That's what she said."

"Well, have you considered listening to us? You're a badass, ok. I get it. You almost took him out with that homemade bullet," you hissed. "I was fucking impressed. No one has ever put a scratch on Lucille. No one who's ever even tried has lived, which means he liked you too. He won't give you another chance. He gets his hands on you, you're dead. That what you want?"

She didn't say anything, and you sighed and rubbed a hand over your eyes. "Sasha," you said wearily. "You cannot be on board with this."

"Why not?" she asked, voice muffled by the rifle. "He killed Abraham. How would you feel, if some asshole with a baseball bat killed Daryl or Shane?"

Your whole body went cold at just the thought of losing either of them. Rosita's eyes went wide and she jerked as you stared out at the courtyard.

"That would be a very, very bad thing," you whispered.

Sasha and Rosita exchanged looks and eyed you warily. You closed your eyes and drew in a deep breath, forcing the cold back as you drummed out the Clash on your thigh, and once again missed your goddamn bat.

"Ok, bitches," you said, studying them. "Tell me what your plan is."

 

 

Three hours later, you were still there. There'd been no sign of Negan so far, and you were getting nervous and restless. Sasha seemed unphased, content to wait until the right moment. She was, you discovered, a born sniper.

Rosita was about as restless as you were, tying knot after knot in a length of rope they'd brought along. You took a turn on the scope as Sasha asked Rosita to teach her that knot. Rosita did, and you smiled as they talked quietly about it.

"We're lucky we have you," Sasha told her. "You know how to do everything."

Rosita snorted. "Johnny. That's who taught me about bombs. Survivalist, prepper-type shit. Marcus taught me about cars, he was a mechanic and a wanna-be stunt driver. And an asshole. Knot-tying was from Chaser. Yeah, that wasn't his real name."

You snorted as they both chuckled.

"There were others," she continued quietly.

"Were those people you lost on the way to DC?" Sasha asked, and you realized you still didn't know a lot of their story.

Just that Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita had been trying to get Eugene to DC because he'd claimed he could fix the world. And he'd been lying. He was also currently directing the points workers to use melted metal to weld the walkers to the fence. He'd gone full Negan, and it looked like he'd done it without getting a scratch on him.

"No, not them," Rosita said. "A lot of guys wanted to protect me. Like there was no way I could take care of myself."

"Oh Judas Priest, I hear that," you muttered, glancing down at her. She smirked up at you, taking in the Nameless patch on Merle's vest.

The vest was one of the only things from the prison you'd managed to hold on to, and people could pry it out of your cold, dead fingers. It was the only piece of Merle and your life before all this shit that you had left.

"They do that with you, too? I've heard of the Nameless. Pretty tough sons of bitches. Of course, I knew more Vatos than Nameless," she said.

You grimaced. "Fucking Vatos. Tried to kill my older brother. Twice."

Sasha rolled her eyes. "From what I hear, Merle probably had it coming."

You glared at her for a minute before you grinned against your will. "Yeah, he was high as fucking kite both times. Still, he was my high as a fucking kite asshole, so I get to hold a grudge."

They both grinned at you, and you turned back to the scope.

"Merle was Daryl's brother, right?" Rosita asked. "Daryl's a good man."

"One of the best," you agreed softly. "We grew up together, the three of us. They saved me from my foster dad. Merle got me in the club. Taught me about bikes, about guns, about how to throw a punch. He wanted to protect me, too, I guess. But he taught me well enough to know I could protect myself."

She sighed. "I didn't know how, and I hated how that felt. So I rolled with it. I didn't even notice that I was picking up how to do everything they knew how to do and doing it better. Then I'd outgrow them and bounce. The sex was just for fun," she added with a smirk you could hear in her voice.

"Amen, sister," you muttered as Sasha laughed.

"When the world's over, everyone should be getting their rocks off," she declared.

"Was that how it was with him?" Sasha asked softly.

You took your eye off the scope again, curious yourself, and watched them. Sasha wasn't looking at Rosita, and Rosita stared at the wall behind her.

"Abraham? No. I fell in with him because he saw I could handle my shit. And I never looked back."

You sighed, thinking about Shane now. Shane, who'd started out a world's-ended-let's-have-fun one night stand, and ended up a partner you could and did depend on. Shane, who trusted you to fucking handle things enough to leave you in a field alone with a shit ton of zombies and a busted ankle.

Sasha met your eyes as yours filled, and she nodded toward you. "What about you and Daryl? You and Shane? Last we saw you, you and Daryl were joined at the hip. Now..."

You scrubbed a hand across your eyes and laughed humorlessly. "Yeah. Daryl and I... Daryl was my whole fucking world. Him and Merle. When he dumped me, years before the walkers, I thought that's it. It's over. I'll never be the same. I had a series of one to three night stands. Just for fun. Turned into a badass with a heart of stone, trying to keep Merle out of fucking trouble. Didn't work, of course," you said dryly.

They laughed as you smiled, thinking about Merle. "Aw, man, that asshole got me into some shit. Then, after the world went to shit and Daryl and I got back together, I thought it was a sign. We were meant to be, I guess. Nothing could tear us apart. I mean, we'd survived our childhoods, a breakup and five years of barely speaking, and the end of the goddamn world. We were golden, right? And then I saw him die. I mean, I thought I did. I knew I did."

You stopped and looked at Sasha squarely. "I knew he was dead. I saw him get bitten, then the fucking building fell on him. And I was ready to die, right there with him," you added, looking at Rosita. "Shane convinced me not to. Shane- Shane was-"

You cut off with a laugh and a gesture. "Shane was for kicks, the first time. We fucked once, before we got to the prison. Before Daryl and I got back together."

"Oh, I know. I've heard," Sasha said with a chuckle. "I got the full run-down from Maggie. That woman enjoys betting on people's love lives, and Shane's was a popular topic in the prison. Wasn't just fun to him, though, was it?"

Your smile went soft. "Oh, yeah, she does. Took a few bets on mine, over time. No, it wasn't to him. I didn't know that for a long time. Then I did, but- he never pushed. Never asked anything of me. He was one of my first real friends, outside of the Dixons. And when Daryl- Shane asked me if we were living or dying. He was going to die with me. I didn't have a choice. I had to get out, to get him back to Judith and Rick and Carl. They all needed him. Of course, we never found you. Somewhere along the way, it turned into more."

"So, which is it? The one?" Sasha asked. "Daryl or Shane?"

You shrugged. "Fuck if I know. That's why I dumped them both."

Rosita laughed. "There's the way to handle it. But it's Shane."

"What? No!" Sasha countered. "You never saw her and Daryl. They were- shit. They were nauseating. It's Daryl," she said confidently.

You closed your eyes, shaking your head. "Why are- can we not? It's neither of them, damn it. Did you not hear me say I dumped them both?"

"Yeah," Sasha said. "And I also know you love them both. You'll go back. To someone. It should be Daryl. You've loved him your whole life."

"But she's not the same person anymore. She's seen some shit. Shane's been with her through all of it. Shane gets it," Rosita countered.

You shoved to your feet, abruptly unable to handle the argument over your love life anymore. "I'll be back. I'm going to take a piss and do a sweep of the bottom floors," you muttered, striding toward the stairs.

They fell silent as you left.

 

 

When night fell and there was still no sign of Negan, they decided to go in. You went along with them, knowing full fucking well you were the only one going in there. You were the only one who knew your way around and stood even a sliver of a chance at pulling this off.

And you had to be alone. There was no way you could keep someone else alive in there, and there was no way you could put them at risk of being captured. If Negan got you, it'd be bad, sure. But Daryl and Shane were tough, and they knew you could handle your shit, as Rosita had put it.

Shane knew you could handle anything. He'd be able to fight and not worry about you, especially since Negan would want to use you against them, so he'd keep you alive. And Shane would convince Daryl to trust in your ability to deal with shit. You believed in them.

They were still going to be pissed as hell if you made it out of here, though.

Eugene and a Savior you didn't recognize came strolling out, talking about cracking down on security protocols. Sasha nailed the Savior through the head of a walker on the fence, and Eugene hit the deck as Rosita ran forward to open the fence.

"You're getting out," Rosita told him, but you could tell by the look in his eyes he wasn't going.

"No," he said, tears in his eyes. "I'm not going with you. I didn't ask you to come, so go. People will be in route."

He headed for the door as Sasha and Rosita stared, but you were already on the move. You opened the gate and slid through, then shut it behind you. Both of them were staring at you now.

You could hear voices yelling and getting closer. "Listen to me," you told them rapidly. "I know this place inside and out. I have the best shot, but I have to do it alone. I have to be able to make rapid decisions, and I can't do that if I'm trying to protect someone. Go home. Tell them both I'm sorry and I love them, and I'll see them soon. Go! I've got this."

You turned and ran for the door as the first of them came out, taking him out with a head shot from Sasha's silenced gun. You'd lifted it from her and switched it with yours while she worked on the fence.

 

 

You got close, before they caught you. You made it all the way to the wives' quarters, mostly by sneaking. And a healthy dose of sheer dumb luck.

You actually got a shot at Negan, you thought with a chuckle as you sat in the darkness of the cell and tried to hold on to your sanity. Too damn bad you'd lost track of your ammo somewhere along the way.

You'd squeezed the trigger and the gun clicked, and Negan laughed.

"Well, well, well," he'd said, walking toward you when the fight had ended. "My criminal came back with a vengeance! Oh, honey. You made a bad call today!"

"Fuck you, Negan," you muttered, and spat blood in his face.

Chapter Text

They started blasting the pop song again about the time you got the sweats and your hands started shaking. You gritted your teeth, flinching away from the noise and trying to hold onto the Guns'n'Roses song you'd been working your way through, but it was no fucking use and you knew it.

"Damn it," you muttered.

 

 

You got your battered Walkman working again and plugged in Guns'n'Roses. Sure, you had a cd player, but honestly- Appetite for Destruction just sounded better through the headphones you'd had most of your life, from the worn-out cassette tape you'd stolen when you were eight.

You closed your eyes as the first notes of Welcome to the Jungle started blasting in your ears, and soon enough you were scream-singing along, air guitaring and head banging your way around the kitchen.

You were using the cleaning solution bottle as a microphone when you saw Daryl standing in the doorway and screamed.

 

 

Your fingers were bleeding, you thought absently, rubbing them together and feeling the sting of scrapes and the slickness of blood. That's what you get for scraping them down a cinder block wall over and over again.

You rotated your shoulders, the one you'd dislocated more than once throbbing dully at having your hands tied behind your back. It was quiet, for the moment, and you were infinitely grateful, though you knew it wouldn't last. You were afraid if you'd listened to the goddamn song one more time, your ears would have started bleeding.

Nope, you thought with an exhausted chuckle. Apparently just your fingers. Fucking hell.

The song started up again and you sobbed out a moan.

 

 

Shane's eyes widened as you slipped through the trees and back into your campsite. "Nameless, what the hell?" he snarled.

You grinned. "Settle down, officer. It's not my blood. Ran into some trouble out there, but look- I brought dinner!"

His expression didn't change as you held up one big-ass snake by the head triumphantly. "What kind of trouble?"

You shrugged. "The fun kind."

 

 

You thought you might actually have fallen asleep for a few hours. You hoped so.

The tear tracks on your cheeks had hardened and you'd added more. You were shivering now, and you'd puked already. You might have done that again, but there wasn't anything in your stomach to let out.

You were a mess and you fucking knew it, but it was ok. It was ok.

 

 

You tried to control your grin as you followed Daryl into the Council meeting, shoving ineffectively at your no doubt disheveled hair.

"Sorry we're late," Daryl muttered, taking a seat and running a hand through his own hair. "I was... doin' stuff."

You plopped down beside him and smirked at the room, reaching over to tap the buttons on Daryl's shirt that were done up wrong. "Hey," you said, waving. "I'm stuff."

"Jesus, baby," Daryl muttered, his ears turning red as a laugh ran around the room.

"Fucking hell, criminal. We'd have all figured that one out on our own," Shane muttered from your other side. "The hickey was a good clue."

You winked at him. "Hey, when it's good, it's good, Walsh."

 

 

Shane had his gun spread out over a rag on the table, cleaning it meticulously. You watched him, watched the easy, practiced movements, and smiled.

You bounded to your feet and crossed the room rapidly, dropping into his lap and winding your hands around his neck. "Hi."

"Hey," he replied, lips twitching as he set down the slide and the brush on the table behind you. One hand settled on your hip and he tucked your hair behind your ear with the other. "What's going on, Nameless?"

"I'm bored," you told him with a sigh.

He smirked at you. "Weren't we just making out like five minutes ago?"

You shrugged. "And? You stopped."

"You stopped. You said 'go do something productive, I need to sleep.'"

You leaned in and caught his lower lip in your teeth as he chuckled. "I changed my mind."

 

 

When the door opened and it wasn't a face you recognized, you squinted at the back light dude.

"Who the fuck are you?" you asked weakly.

"I'm David," he said, dropping to a crouch in front of you. So far you'd avoided losing your mind completely, partly because it wouldn't help and partly because you knew the fucking rules here. This asshole was a new and unexpected quality that actually had an extra spike of fear running through you.

You pushed to your feet using the wall for support so you were standing over the guy and sneered at him. "Bully for fucking you, David. What the fuck do you want?"

He rose, something moving behind his friendly expression. "You know I was the guy who gave the rope to the guys who tied you up? I always keep some close. There's just all kinds of fun and interesting things you can do with rope."

He reached out and ran a hand down your neck and you laughed at him. He jerked back his hand and scowled as you laughed until tears sprang into your eyes. He hauled back, finally, and backhanded you a blow across the face.

Your head snapped to the side because this asshole was not playing around, goddamn, and cried out in pain. You spat more blood as he opened up your split lip again and chuckled.

"Oh, honey," you drawled in your best Rick impersonation. "This whole fuckin' thing's a mistake. You know that right? You know who I am, asshole?"

"You're the damn fine piece of ass Negan has in the cell," he snarled. "I can do whatever I want to you."

"Oh, that's probably true," you said, annoyed. "But unless Negan has really changed the fucking rules around here, there's some limits on that which are fairly gruesomely enforced. Besides," you added with a sneer as you looked him over. "You can try. But you won't get very far."

"Yeah? Fighting's just going to make it last longer," he snarled, hands dropping to his belt.

You grinned. "Then, honey, we're gonna go all night, aren't we?"

He pulled his belt off, and you braced yourself for a quick brawl, and as he moved in, Lucille slammed against the door frame.

"Hey! What the hell are you doing in here?" Negan asked.

You tossed your head and rolled your shoulders. "You change the rules while I was gone, boss? Seems this asshole thinks just 'cause I've got tits and I happen to be in time-out, I'm fair game."

"I most certainly did not change the rules, my criminal," he said, pointing Lucille toward you. "Did he get very far?"

"Naw," you said with a shrug. "I was about to kick his ass."

"Oh, fuck-"

"I'll bet you were," Negan said over David the rapist's snarl. "You- This is some unacceptable behavior. Rape is against the rules here. I wouldn't want to be somewhere where it wasn't. What about you, my criminal?"

"I've been somewhere where it wasn't, boss," you answered with a shrug.

"And what happened there?"

"I killed a bunch of people."

"Yes, you did. She did, David. She killed a bunch of people. Normally, killing a bunch of people is another thing I frown on. But it was before she joined us, see. Besides-" Negan pulled out a massive knife and you contained your eye roll with effort. "I kind of agree with her on that response. Biker!"

"Yo," you said, slumped back against the wall and watching the faces outside the cell. They looked uneasy and vaguely surprised, like they weren't really sure what was going to happen here.

Negan glanced over your way and you lifted an eyebrow at him. "What would you like me to do with this... trash?"

You smirked at David. "Well, I definitely think he should apologize. I mean, really. He hit me across the face when I laughed at him. That's just unprofessional. I taught you boys better than that, right Jim?" You winked at Jim, a Savior you knew from Laura's team.

He chuckled as Negan smiled at you. Negan turned back to David and bit his lip as he widened his eyes in an over-exaggerated waiting face.

David stuttered out an apology, directed at Negan. Negan sighed and gestured toward you. David's terrified eyes shifted your way, and you cocked your head to one side and stared at him blankly. He made another barely intelligible attempt at an apology and fell silent when Negan held the knife up in his face.

"Biker?" Negan said slowly.

You shrugged again. "Eh. Up to you."

Negan chuckled. "You know what, David? I do not accept your apology," he whispered, and slammed the knife through David's neck.

You watched without a twitch as David fell. Negan turned toward you and chuckled, swiping a hand at the corner of his mouth. He waved the now-bloody knife in your direction.

"Hello, again, Biker," he said. "We have missed you around here."

"I'll bet. You're letting all sorts of riff-raff in now that I'm gone." You met Negan's eyes, once more on solid ground.

This asshole, was an asshole you knew. And he had no hold over you these days. It was goddamn freeing.

If he killed you- which really was the only option he had, since there was nothing motivating you to work with him now that Daryl and Shane were gone- your boys would grieve. They'd mourn for awhile, and then they'd be ok. Daryl had every single one of those people. They loved him and looked out for him, and he'd be messed up, sure, but he'd be ok. He'd already gotten over your death once, after all. He could do it again.

Shane had Judith, and Carl, and Rick. He had shit to live for again; his best friend and his daughter and the boy who was basically his son. He was tough son of a bitch. He'd be all right too, eventually.

And you wouldn't have to face hurting them anymore.

So yeah. Negan you could handle.

Negan's smile spread as he braced Lucille on the wall beside your head. "What am I going to do with you?"

 

 

"A little birdie told me Rick and the others are up to no good, and you absconded with my Daryl and my cop, both of who I would like back. Now I know because you are here that you didn't run away with the cop like I thought you might have. So, what we have is a situation where I believe you are aiding Rick and the gang. I'm going to put a stop to that once and for all, and you are going to help me," Negan's whisper filled your ears as he tied the blindfold over your eyes.

"Yeah? What on earth makes you think that?" you said lazily. "Have you met me?"

He chuckled and prodded you forward with Lucille. "Indeed I have, my badass biker babe. Indeed I have. And I know at least two men in Alexandria who are not gonna watch you die. The good news is, you don't have to. I don't want that either, by the way, because I want you back on my team. The bad news is, someone has to. Maybe a couple others, tops. But not you and not most people. Shit, I'll even spare both my cop and my Daryl if you cooperate with me. There. Don't say I never gave you anything."

You felt the sunlight on your face as you heard the door swing open. "So what's this grand plan, boss?" you asked.

"You're gonna like it, darlin'," he said. "We're gonna take a little ride. I'm gonna make a speech, and you are going to help me prove a point."

"How's that?"

He chuckled again. "That's how," he said, and pulled off the blindfold.

Chapter Text

You fought them, of course. How the fuck could you not? Negan wanted to lock you in a goddamn coffin. That was literally your worst nightmare come to life. Literally.

You ended up with what was probably a broken rib, the beginnings of a spectacular black eye, and your shoulder popping out of place again. They got you in the coffin anyway, and held you down while they set your shoulder back in place.

You screamed until your throat was raw, pure terror taking over as the lid came down and you still fought like a rabid wolverine.

You lost, and Negan's chuckle in your ears echoed around and around as you lost your mind.

 

 

"Well, shit, baby girl. Ya seem to have got yourself well and truly in it now," Merle said with an laugh that sounded distinctly unconcerned.

You didn't open your eyes. "You're not real."

He snorted. "Of course I ain't real, girlie. I been dead a long-ass time. Ain't talked to me in awhile. I missed ya."

"I'm sorry," you whispered. "We got- hell, Merle. Shit happened. I lost you. Daryl too."

"Yeah, and ya hooked yourself up with Shane. I knew there was somethin' there. Ya ain't friends with guys ya fuck," he said with that suggestive asshole laugh.

You opened your eyes in the darkness, annoyed; and there he was, grinning at you.

"Hey, sugar," he said quietly.

"Hey, Merle," you answered. "So, am I dead or just insane?"

He chuckled, reaching out to pat your shoulder. You realized he had both hands, and his eyes were clear. He looked good- rested and well and not haunted like he'd been since he came back from war. Certainly a damn sight better than the last time you'd seen him for real. His vest hung from his shoulders like always, but that's how you knew he wasn't real. His vest was on your back right now; his name patch over your heart where it'd been since he died.

He spread his arms as you looked him over critically. "Do I pass muster, baby girl?" he asked with a wink.

You rolled your eyes, unable to stop the smile at seeing him, even if it was all in your head. "I guess. Missing a layer of engine grease and dirt, and your usual scrapes and scratches and shit."

"Hell, girlie, I'm in your damn head. Add whatever ya want to ol' Merle."

"So not dead then," you muttered, and swiped a hand over your eyes. "Just insane. That's fine. You look good, brother."

"Thanks. Ya look like shit on a stick."

You made a face at him. "I'm locked in a fucking coffin hallucinating a conversation with my dead brother. I'm hardly going to be looking my best, now am I?"

Merle laughed again. "Baby girl, Imma tell ya- I ain't too happy with ya right now, darlin'."

"Of course you're not. Why would I hallucinate you happy with me? I'm insane, vaguely suicidal, and well and truly fucked," you muttered, closing your eyes again. "Why are you unhappy with me, Merle?"

"What the fuck ya doin', dickin' around with my little brother's heart?" he asked firmly.

Your eyes shot back open in a hot glare. "I'm not dicking around with anyone's heart, asshole. He died. I watched him die."

"Well, he sure done a better job on the resurrection than all them other assholes out there," Merle drawled lazily. "So, what are ya gonna do about it?"

"I'm not doing anything about it! I love them both, you massive dick. I guess what I'm doing about it is losing my goddamn mind in motherfucking coffin! Neither of them will have to worry about me when I die because my heart explodes from terror," you muttered. "Look, if you're just going to harass me about my love life, kindly fuck off. I'd rather be alone and screaming."

"Screaming'll just use ya air up faster. C'mmon, sugar, ya smarter than this. Ya really think either of 'em are gonna be ok if ya let this break ya?" he asked.

You glared. "Fuck you. They'll be fine. Daryl got over me dying once, he can do it again."

Merle's laugh this time was harsh and filled with scorn. "Sure he did, baby girl. What about your pig?"

"His name's Shane Walsh, asshole, and he's a damn good man," you snarled. "He kept me alive. Be decent for once in your life, why don't you?"

Merle grinned. "Aight, settle down. Don't get ya panties in a wad. What about your Shane Walsh? He gonna be fine if ya lose it in here and come out all crazy? Or, worse, if ya don't come out at all?"

Your glare didn't let up. "Yeah, he will. He's a tough son of a bitch. One of the strongest people I know. He's got a daughter; got his best friend; got Carl. He'll be ok."

"Yeah, keep on tellin' yourself that. Ain't like he's been tellin' ya for a damn year now he'll die with ya if ya say the word. Shit. Seriously, girl- what the fuck ya doin', lettin' this bat-swinging bastard get the best of ya?" Merle shook his head, giving you a look full of disappointment. "You're Nameless. We're tough shit, sugar tits. Nut up, would ya?"

"You're a sexist dick, Merle Dixon," you snapped at him. "What the hell do you want me to do? I'm locked in a motherfucking coffin. For the second time in my life. What the hell? I don't have options."

He scoffed. "Ya a goddamn idiot in more ways'n one if ya think that, darlin'. Search around. See what ya got to work with."

"I'm in a coffin! I have exactly nothing to work with- including, if this conversation is any indication, my fucking mind!"

"Wrong," he snarled, and leaned in close. "I know ya scared, baby girl. I know ya got all kinds of terrible shit rollin' around in that pretty little head of yours."

"Fuck you, Merle," you muttered to that. He always knew how to push your buttons.

"Naw," he shot back. "You'n'me was never like that, were we? Love ya like my own little sister, but I ain't involved in your crazy love triangle. Shit, honey. I know ya think it ain't worth it, tryin' to make it out of this one. But you got people who love ya, and they're gonna need ya. Like my baby brother. Like your Shane Walsh. Think, baby girl. Think about what you heard that asshole say. Old Officer Friendly's relyin' on them garbage people. Ya give up the fuckin' ghost in here, what do you think happens?"

You shifted uneasily, though you couldn't move much. Merle was right. Fucking Jadis was double-crossing Rick. That was most of Negan's goddamn plan, and if Rick didn't have the numbers- which without Jadis he wouldn't-

But what were you supposed to do about it? Merle's finger tapped your forehead right between your eyes.

"Think, baby girl. Ya stuck in here until he opens the damn lid? Aight. Be ready."

"Be ready for what? Merle, I- I can't- Fuck! I'm terrified," you admitted in a whisper. "I'm scared I've lost it completely. I'm scared I've fucked up everyone's lives. I'm scared to die in here. I'm scared of what I'll be if I get out of here. I'm- I'm fucking terrified of hurting Daryl and Shane, and I do it with every breath I take. I- I-" you broke off as the tears started up again, hysteria bubbling back up.

Merle's form flickered in and out, like bad special effects in a ghost movie. "Hell, baby girl, I know ya are. Anybody would be, in your shoes. What the fuck ya gonna do about it?"

"I- I don't know," you whispered.

"Well, shit. Guess it's a good thing I know what ya been doin' about fear your whole damn life. Were ya scared when that asshole was outside ya door as a kid?"

"Yes," you admitted.

"What'd ya do about that?" Merle demanded.

You shrugged, looking away from him. "I ran."

"Wrong again, sister. Ya fought. Were ya scared for me, and of the life, when ya were haulin' my ass out of shit all the damn time?"

You nodded, once. It wasn't something you'd admitted, really; too bust being the tough shit Nameless to tell anyone you were terrified and didn't have a goddamn clue what you were doing.

Merle gestured lazily at you, giving you that big-brother look he was so good at. It declared quite clearly that you were a dumbass who should be able to reach the correct conclusion without him leading you by the hand, but he'd do it anyway because he loved you.

"And ya fought. Were ya scared when ya were locked in the fuckin' cell and that dead motherfucker tried to take a bite out of ya? Of course ya were. Who fuckin' wouldn't of been? Dead bastards suddenly started walking. Hell, I's scared, and ya know I ain't afraid of nothin'. But ya fought. Killed that motherfucker a second time, on ya own in lockup. And ya fought the Governor. Ya fought those assholes who put ya in one of these things and woulda done worse than just kill ya. Ya fought every fuckin' thing in ya life that's scared you so far, baby girl. Ya always come out on top."

He leaned forward and flashed you a grin. "So. Whatcha gonna do now?" he asked, poking his finger right over your pounding heart.

You took a slow, deep breath and let it out rapidly. You gave him a half-annoyed look. "I guess I'm going to fucking fight. I miss the shit out of you, Merle."

"Hell, baby girl. I ain't really gone nowhere, have I?" he said with a laugh. Then he was gone and it was just you in the pitch black closeness of the coffin, hyperventilating in the thinning air.

 

 

The first thing you did was get your breathing under control. You latched onto the simple task of breathing normally and focused every ounce of energy on that. When you'd succeeded, the edge of mind-numbing terror had worn off.

Which was good because it meant you could curse Merle for being the annoying gloating bastard he was.

You closed your eyes for a moment, even though it made absolutely no difference in the lack of light, and thought of every calming thing you knew- the scent of Daryl's blankets; the rhythm of Shane's heartbeat under your ear; Judith's bright smile; Carl's laugh; a night ride on a road full of curves, the thrum of an engine under you and the wind rushing through your open visor; smooth whiskey in a familiar bar; and rock and roll. Oh, Judas Priest, rock and roll.

When you were as calm as you were going to be, Springsteen and Axl Rose and Jimmy Page singing the blind terror away, you opened your eyes and started exploring the edges of the coffin with your fingers. You used careful, controlled movements, your jaw locked and tight as you tried not to think about just how very, very small the space was. You explored the lid first, fingers running along the seams and testing to see if you could push it open. Of course you couldn't, you thought, but you'd expected that. You firmly told the rising panic that it was fine; it was to be expected. You already knew you were trapped, there was no need to freak the fuck out about it.

Next you started on the bed, fingers running along your right side first. Maybe there was some part loose that you could use as a weapon. Something, anything.

It was on your left side that you found it, and you couldn't believe what you were feeling, or how much of a goddamn idiot you really were. You smiled slowly as you ripped at the satin lining to get to what was hidden underneath, and hoped to God you could keep it together until the thing opened.

On the heels of that thought, you felt the truck jerk to a stop.

 

 

Someone's voice echoed, trickling though the coffin as noise, not words. You couldn't tell what was being said, and it didn't sound like Negan. Either way, it was almost showtime.

You scrambled and maneuvered, making sure you were as ready as you'd ever be, and you strained to hear what you could.

You got impatient real fast.

 

 

They unstrapped the coffin from where it was lashed in place. You braced yourself as you heard the straps banging around, and sure enough-

The thing tilted and moved, and you got your feet planted under you and adjusted your grip. You could hear Negan's voice now, faintly and if you listened damn hard.

"So, you don't like Eugene anymore. You've gotta like my biker. I do too." Two taps on the coffin had you flinching before rolling your eyes.

You tightened your jaw, forced your pulse to slow, and held on to the fact that you would get exactly one shot at fucking things up enough for your friends to have a chance. One shot, and you couldn't waste it being a goddamn mess.

"Got her right here, packaged for your convenience. It sure ain't for hers! You know that woman's only fucking fear? Tiny spaces like this. I mean, she is probably going nuts right now! Isn't that right.... Shane?"

This fucking asshole. Goddamn it. Hold it together, officer, you thought grimly. If I am, you have to.

"Now, I brought her so I wouldn't have to kill all of you, and not killing all of you could get complicated. See, I know there's a lot of firepower left in there, Rick. So I'm gonna make this simple. I want all the guns you've managed to scrape up. Yep, I know about those too. I want every last grain of lemonade you got left. I want a person of your own choosing for Lucille. Daryl- I gotta get me my Daryl back. And especially for my criminal, who is too damn valuable to lose, I'm gonna want my cop back too. He's part of their package deal. So Shane-o! That means you. And the pool table, all the pool cues, and chalk; and I want it now!"

There was a response shouted that you couldn't make out, and Negan laughed.

"Oh, no, Shane-o. I'm not going to kill her. I'll drill me some holes in this thing and I will keep her alive in there, locked up until she really loses her goddamn mind, and when she does- I will let her out and I will let her lose on who the fuck ever I think needs killing. It's all of you I'll kill, so that I will be the only person she has left. C'mon, Rick. Just because I've got her in the casket doesn't mean she has to stay in it."

There was another pause as your heart pounded at that lovely image Negan had just painted. He was right. If you stayed in here, he could mold you into his pet killer for real. Bring you out, point you in the right direction, and let you go. Hell, you were one bad fucking day away from being nothing but a killing machine already.

"You know what, Rick? You suck ass. You really do. I don't want to have to break her, but that's exactly what you're gonna make me do!"

Another pause, and Negan's chuckle sounded. "Alright. Give me a minute. I might have to get her up to speed. She doesn't do well in small closed spaces, and you can't hear shit inside this thing. Should have seen how hard she fought going in. Dislocated her goddamn shoulder. Don't look so worried, Shane-o. I fixed it for her."

Lucille banged twice on the coffin lid again.

"Biker! You're not gonna believe this crap!"

He cracked the thing open.

"Holy goddamn!"

Chapter Text

The light hit your eyes and you kept them closed, stepping forward and swinging blindly toward the sound of his voice.

Shots started firing as you felt the bat connect. You opened your eyes when you were certain you wouldn't be completely blinded, and Negan staggered backward, holding his shoulder. You swung again, driving him off the edge of the truck with single-minded determination as screaming and shouting resounded all around.

Jim grabbed at you as you dropped off the truck and got ready to bash Negan's head in, and you slammed the bat into his instead. That gave you pause- Jim was a decent dude, after all- but it was your people's lives at stake, and someone was screaming your name. In that moment of distraction, a body barreled into you, knocking you to the ground.

You rolled them easily, and kept rolling as bullets started spraying your way. You punched the person and scrambled to a crouch behind one of the trucks, panting and in white hot pain already as you squared off with-

Dwight. Dwight with his hands up, casting a rapid glance around. He looked back at you. "I didn't know. Tell them I didn't know. Now, hit me again and go! Now!"

You had no idea what that meant, but 'hit me again' you were fine with. You drove your bat into his stomach, hard enough to be real but not so hard it did too much lasting damage. Dwight had gotten you out of the cell once; you figured you owed him that much. You followed it up with another punch to the jaw and then slid under the truck and made a break through the bullets for Alexandria's gates.

 

 

You got stopped right inside by one of Jadis' people, and your hands came up slowly. Then you smiled.

A single shot had the asshole dropping, and you grinned at the person who'd taken them down.

"Hey, sweetheart," Shane bit out, looking pissed as hell. "Get your ass in here and tell me where the fuck you've been."

You laughed as you ducked behind one of the Alexandrian's spiked-out cars, grabbed him by the shirt, and pulled him into a long, hard kiss. "Hey, officer. Missed you. Had a bit of an adventure."

"I heard," he said, smiling and looking a little dazed as he turned to fire at whoever was currently shooting at you. It was a bit of a mess, and you couldn't be sure where it was coming from. "You ok, criminal?"

"I'm good. Well, relatively. I think I'm sane, anyway, but that's what a crazy person would say, isn't it?" you babbled, reaching around to his side and pulling a handgun from his holster. "Can I borrow this?"

"If you shut the fuck up and start helping me get us out of here, sure," he grunted.

"Sounds good. There's a gap this way. Where's Daryl?"

Shane followed, back against yours, as you headed up the path. "Fuck if I know. Lost track of fucking everyone in this mess."

"Great. Not like we haven't been here before," you said cheerfully.

"Why the hell-" he paused as you both fired on a group of Scavengers trying to block your path; dropping them with head shots, "- are you so happy?"

You laughed. "I'm not in a fucking coffin, Shane. That's a pretty damn good reason if you ask me. Plus, I slugged Negan in the shoulder. Good day, Walsh. Hey, better gun!" You dropped the almost empty handgun and scooped up the military-grade one laying by a dead Savior. You popped the magazine and found it almost full, and slammed it back into place. "So. What's the plan?"

"I don't think there fucking is one," Shane called over his shoulder. "Go left."

You went left, and when there was a moment of not being shot at, you kissed his cheek and grinned at him. "I've got a plan. Kill everyone we don't like."

You started right back out into the fray with Shane's groan behind you.

"I love you, you crazy fucking criminal. Wait up!"

 

 

Alexandria was a fucking madhouse. Somewhere along the way, you and Shane broke different directions under a hail of bullets. You called his name a few times, but that just led to you getting shot at more, so eventually you shut the fuck up and got moving.

The rapid gunfire slowed and eventually stopped, and you started playing a deadly game of hide and seek with rescue elements built in as Saviors started winning by sheer number- them plus Jadis and her garbage people more than outnumbered your beleaguered Alexandrians. You stopped shooting to keep noise down, sneaking up behind a Savior you thought looked vaguely familiar. You had a feeling Negan had been recruiting from the factory floor to pad his numbers, because you'd been seeing an awful lot of new faces here lately. Then again, there were four outposts.

You took the guy down by strangling him with your bat- not a move you really enjoyed, since it gave you flashbacks all the way to the beginning of the goddamn apocalypse and that kid on the farm. What the fuck had his name been?

Shit, it wasn't a good sign if you were forgetting their names, you thought grimly.

When the Savior was dead, you took his gun and slung it over your back and pulled the big-ass Bowie knife from his belt. Between the knife and the bat, you were pretty fucking set.

You got the drop on a group of Alexandrians mid-surrender, taking out the garbage people with absolutely delight. You recognized one of the men, guilt slipping in when you realized you'd last seen him beat to hell and back and leaning on Rick's shoulder while Rosita was on the ground and Negan was threatening to kill someone.

Someone else, anyway.

He and the blonde guy exchanged a quick hand squeeze of reassurance, scooped up their guns, and followed you between the houses toward the gate again. You'd only been here once, and when you paused, not sure where you were or where to go, the one you recognized touched your shoulder.

"Hi. I'm Aaron. I'll lead," he told you firmly, and you shrugged.

 

"YN. I'm looking for Daryl, Rick, or Shane," you said simply, and he nodded.

 

 

You found one pissed-off Dixon, and- to your intense delight- Maggie, Jesus, Enid, and the rest of Hilltop's fighters. Hilltop was apparently sneaking their way into the party late, and you were going to give Maggie some grief about that when this was over.

"Hey, babe," you said as Daryl dropped the bullshit video-game-looking gun he held and came striding to you with his patented scowl fixed in place. "I'm home- oh, ok."

You broke off in a baffled laugh as he yanked you against him, one hand curled around the back of your neck and the other locked into Merle's vest. He held on tightly and you absolutely sank into it, your face pressed to his shoulder. Your arms locked around him in return, and you grabbed hold of his shirt to hide the fact that your hands were shaking.

You'd known, in the depths of your soul, that this was something you'd never experience again. Daryl's arms wrapped tightly around you, his hand on your neck, his scent surrounding you and him holding you up-

You shoved away from him before you had a breakdown in the middle of a fucking battle, staring at him wildly. He stared back, eyes just as lost and confused and torn as yours, and you touched his cheek with shaking fingers as Maggie grinned at you from behind him.

"Anybody seen Rick?" she asked, and you tore your eyes away from Daryl to glance around.

"Not since the shooting started, " Aaron said. He was holding the blonde guy's hand, and the blonde guy was absolutely beaming at you and Daryl.

You wondered what was up with that as Maggie started snapping out orders, but there was no time to ask him what he was grinning at as Maggie turned into a general before your eyes. You nodded at Jesus, who hovered at her side with the look of someone who very much wished Maggie wasn't quite as stubborn as she was, and he winked at you as everyone moved forward into Alexandria together.

 

 

Rick, it turns out, was on his knees beside Carl, with Negan about to take the goddamn baseball bat to Carl's head. Apparently, you going at him with a baseball bat was enough to break the no-kids rule, because you knew that face. That was Negan's 'you have fucked with the wrong man' face.

You didn't think that image would ever leave you, and you were aiming to take that fucker out when goddamn Shiva came from nowhere and ate a guy's face.

Pandemonium broke out as Maggie shouted orders and you moved forward with Daryl glued to your side and Carol, Morgan, Jerry, and King Ezekiel came at the head of what looked like the Kingdom's full strength.

"End these Saviors and their accomplices! Alexandria will not fall; not this day!" Ezekiel declared, saber in the air, as Shiva left her first target and pounced on another hapless Savior.

"Fuck yeah!" you screamed at the top of your lungs, and you caught Ezekiel's flashed smile your way.

You headed straight up the center of the road, Daryl cussing an increasingly inventive blue streak at your back as you disregarded personal safety and such notions as using cover. Rick and Carl were still on their knees, looking dazed and confused, and you picked off a Savior who would have taken down Rick when he finally scrambled toward a gun.

You scooped one up on the fly and chucked it at Carl, who caught it and gave you a nod. He and Rick went back to back, and you took a minute to enjoy that sight- another you thought you'd never see again.

Then you were looking for Negan.

 

 

He escaped, as did Jadis and most of her garbage people, and you were pissed about it. Rick, Maggie, and Ezekiel were leading the regrouping effort. Michonne was beat all to hell; Rosita had taken a bullet to the shoulder; Sasha had a nice graze on one arm; and there were a shit ton of dead. Dead who were beginning to turn.

You sighed and scrubbed a hand across your face, scanning the milling crowd of Alexandrians, Hilltop people, and Kingdom guardsmen for Shane.

"Hey, Dixon," you called. "You seen Walsh anywhere?"

Daryl shook his head and you frowned.

"Fuck. We got separated in the mess. I'm going to go-" You broke off when you moved too fast and pain shot through you.

Daryl was at your side while you were trying to breathe your way through it. "Hey, baby, ya aight?" he asked. "Ya look fuckin' pale."

He put a hand on your shoulder as you clamped your hand to your side, the source of the continuing white-hot agony. You offered Daryl a tight smile.

"If some motherfucker ruined my Cherokee rose, someone's going to have to find me a tattoo gun," you ground out through clenched teeth. Daryl looked confused, and you held up your hand to show it covered with blood. "I think I've been shot."

"Fucking hell, YN!" Daryl snarled, and caught you as your legs started to give out. "Hey! Tara! YN's been shot!"

Chapter Text

"Cain't believe ya did all that fuckin' fighting with your damn rib broken and sticking the fuck outta ya side. Shit," Daryl muttered as he stitched you up.

You had your eyes closed, focused on breathing slowly and carefully and not leaping off the table and trying to kill him. It was a step up from the screaming, swearing, shaking mess you'd been when he stripped you roughly out of your jacket and shirt and discovered that the rib you'd forgotten you'd broken was sticking out through your skin and had popped it back into place. It wasn't like there was anesthesia around here, after all.

The good news was, you hadn't been shot. You considered reminding him of that, but goddamn did everything hurt. And you'd been right; this was definitely going to fuck up the lines of your tattoo. And give you yet another scar.

From the way Daryl's eyes had wandered over you as he got the bleeding stopped so he could clean and stitch you, you'd be having a conversation about the myriad scars you'd gained in the past year pretty soon. It'd probably involve yelling. You weren't really looking forward to it.

"Hey, Daryl," Rick called, opening the door. "How's your patient?"

You lifted the hand you had clenched in a fist on your forehead and held up a very eloquent finger.

Rick laughed. "Yeah, that's what I thought. Rosita and Sasha told us what you did. That was a stupid thing to do."

"No shit," Daryl snarled. "Damn fool. Deserve the fuckin' rib."

"Fuck you too, babe," you got out as he stabbed through your skin with a little more force than you deemed necessary. Nausea rolled through you and you went back to breathing. "Shit. You almost done down there, Nurse Ratchet?"

"Yeah, yeah. Shit. Rick, I need something to clean this again," Daryl growled.

"If it's alcohol, can we skip the part where you dump it on me and let me drink some this time?" you asked.

"No," Daryl snarled, and you hissed as he dumped something that burned over your side. "There. Ya done. Put some damn clothes on."

"God, you're an asshole," you said, and stayed put for a minute until you were fairly certain you wouldn't barf all over the place if you sat up.

"Good to hear you two back to normal," Rick said dryly, his hand on your shoulder as you sat up slowly and waited for your stomach to settle and the pain in your side to ease to a throb again.

You opened your eyes and raised an eyebrow at him as Daryl stalked into the hallway behind you. You hadn't paid much attention on the way in, because you were a little busy trying not to pass out and all, but it wasn't Rick's table you'd been laying on. You wondered if it was Daryl's.

"How's Michonne?" you asked Rick. "Zombies under control? And have you seen Shane yet? I'm surprised he's not in here bullying me too."

Rick's face got serious and his hand lingered on your shoulder. You went tense immediately.

Daryl came striding back into the room and handed you a flannel shirt. You shoved your arms through it and muttered thanks, eyes not leaving Rick's. He upped from just serious to the intense-friendly look as you tried to work the buttons with hands that wouldn't stop shaking slightly. You didn't know if it was the blood loss or being locked in the goddamn coffin, but either way, you weren't a fan.

Daryl sighed and reached over Rick to button the shirt for you.

"Rick?" you asked as he stayed silent.

"Michonne's pretty bad, but she's going to be ok. Carl- Carl's with her right now."

Your eyes narrowed. "Good. I'm glad. I'll go see her in a bit. Rick, what's going on?"

"We've gotten the walkers taken care of. We're separating out our dead from the Saviors and Jadis' people," he continued.

"Fucking Jadis," you growled. "Told you they were bad news, Deputy."

"Yeah, I know. Listen, YN-" Rick looked over at Daryl and you stopped breathing. "It's Shane."

 

 

Rick assembled his council of war. Maggie, Jesus, Ezekiel, Carol, Tara, Carl, Aaron, Daryl, Rick, and you were all gathered in Rick's house, around his table where you'd watched Negan eat spaghetti.

Stories were swapped, dead were spoken of lowly, and plans were being proposed, rejected, argued over.

They had something workable. Something creative, that minimized loss of life and stood a fair chance of succeeding. Or would have.

You sat in silence at one end of the table, between Daryl and Rick. You didn't have the heart to tell them they'd already lost. They couldn't see it yet, but you knew. You knew.

Daryl's hand touched your shoulder, and you bent his wrist back and locked his elbow as you exploded from your chair in a blur. Silence had fallen on the room and all eyes were fixed on you as you released him just as rapidly, hands up like you'd been burned. He gave you a grim look and set the hand you'd just tried to remove on your shoulder.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," you whispered, pressing your hands over your eyes. "Sorry, Dixon. I was- I wasn't here."

"It's fine, baby. You aight?" he asked. "Sit back down, would ya?"

You sat because you didn't know what else to do, and tried to smile at him and the roomful of concerned faces. "I'm- I'm fine."

"Rick asked ya a question like four times and ya didn't answer, baby. Ya ain't fine," Daryl muttered.

You shrugged, not looking at anyone long enough to make eye contact. "Sorry. I was a bit lost in my own brain."

Rick patted your hand gently. "You've got every right. I'm sorry to pressure you, but- we need to know everything we can."

"I know. No, it's fine. I'll tell you what I know, but he knows I'm with you. He knows Shane-" you cut off, licked your lips, and tried again. "He knows Shane and I would have told you everything, so he's probably changed things around, like scouts and shit. Oh, fucking hell!" you snapped abruptly as you remembered something. "Dwight said to tell you he didn't know. Don't know if that matters any, but he's helped me twice now. I should get a message to him, see if I can get him to pass anything on."

Tara scoffed, and you remembered Dwight had killed her girlfriend with Daryl's crossbow. "We don't need him."

"Actually, we do," Rick said slowly, but he was eyeing you. "He came here. With Sasha and Rosita. Told us Negan's plan, said he'd slow them down to give us time to prepare. Didn't mention you or the garbage people. Guess that's what he meant by didn't know."

"I don't give a shit what he knows. Don't trust him," Daryl snarled.

You shrugged. "He's decent enough. He only came back to Negan for Sherry. He's got no reason to work for that crazy motherfucker anymore, now Sherry's gone. Rick, I can get him a message."

"No," Rick said slowly. "Not you. You need to rest. We'll get someone to do it, though."

You scowled, but didn't protest, settling back into the chair and nodding. Rick leaned toward you as conversations started to resume around the table.

"I'm worried about him, too," Rick started in a low voice, giving you the intense-friendly look. "We don't know Negan has him. Even if he does, he'll be alive. Negan'll want him to try to control us. He's alive, YN."

You smiled slightly at Rick and nodded, and didn't tell him that was what you were afraid of.

 

 

Daryl hustled you off shortly after and snarled at you until you lay down in the pile of cushions and blankets that counted as a bed. Because Negan's people had taken all the mattresses, you thought bitterly, and fucking burned them in a pile just to be dicks.

It smelled like him, and that just made things worse. You opened the window for light and air, not ready to feel enclosed in any way.

You'd scoffed at even the possibility of falling asleep, considering everything, but apparently you'd been extremely wrong. You closed your eyes, laying on a pillow that smelled like Daryl and missing the warm comfort of Shane's arm, and you were out in a flash.

You dreamed, and it wasn't good. It wasn't pretty.

It was Shane, beaten and bruised and bloody, begging you do what Negan asked and so it would end. Let it end, he whispered brokenly, blood dripping from his lips as he spoke.

It was Daryl's eyes, sliding away from all contact as he flinched at light and sound like he had when he'd first come out of the cell.

It was Glenn, Glenn who'd saved you and Rick in Atlanta, calling to you over the Savior's radio in a pitch-black room where a monster you couldn't quite see lurked- "Hey, you. Dumbass. You in the cell. Do you know how many hits it takes to beat a living man's skull in?" And you clicked the button and laughed and answered coldly, "Yes."

It was you, ducking into the Nameless Crow in Atlanta and finding Negan waiting in the burned-out husk of one of your favorite places in the world. He laughed and winked at you, and pointed toward the stage where you'd listen to bands rock night after night. He sipped from a glass at what had been a beautiful dark bar, and watched you as you turned, horror-movie-slowly, to look.

"Your choice, Biker," he whispered in your ear, and there was Shane again, and your bat in your hand, and beside him a coffin, open and waiting for you. You climbed into the coffin, shaking and weeping, as Shane begged you with his eyes to do it. Just kill him; not to climb in there.

But you couldn't; you'd never be able to make a choice like that. If it was him or you, it'd always be you. You tried to tell him it was ok, but you were screaming, screaming, screaming as the lid clanged shut-

Your eyes snapped open and you curled around a pillow to muffle your sobs.

 

 

The first person you killed for Negan was a man. He wasn't old but he wasn't young, and you didn't know his name. That was fine with you.

You did know that he had dark curly hair, tanned skin, laugh lines around his mouth, and wide, terrified brown eyes. You knew it took seven swings before Negan was satisfied, and that he'd died on the second blow. The rest had just been for show.

You knew that you'd stood, face impassive and blood that wasn't yours on the sleeves of you jacket, as Negan tossed an arm around the group's leader and whispered into his ear.

You knew you'd been rewarded with fresh fruit, the Softail, and a nice bottle of wine when you got back to the Sanctuary that night, and Negan had patted you on the back and winked at you, telling you it was a job well done.

You knew you'd stood in the shower and stared blankly at the wall, wondering why you didn't feel.... anything. Shane finally cut the water off, forced you to eat, and tucked you into bed, sliding in at your back and pulling you against him with am arm around you. He asked you if you were alright, and you turned over with a sigh to face him.

"I'm fine," you told him, surprised it was true. "I mean, I didn't enjoy that, but- whatever. I've done worse."

Shane kissed you softly, and you'd latched onto his fire to burn away the cold that had steeped into your core.

The second person you'd killed for Negan was a Savior. He'd already gotten the iron, once. Then he'd stolen and ran, and he'd been brought back by a smiling, dead-eyed Simon. Negan had given the man a choice- the fence or the bat. He'd chosen the bat, and Negan had laughed and told you to handle it.

It'd been just as easy as before.

The third was a woman. You honestly didn't remember why, and you didn't remember them in order after that, either.

What you did remember, with each of them, was after. Was Shane.

Shane, who would run a hand down your arm or your back or brush the back of your hand with his fingers, and where ever he touched would start to warm. When you were back home- back in your room together- he would pull you close without saying a word. There'd be warmth and comfort and tenderness, if you needed it; or fire and heat and sex if that's what you wanted. There was always just Shane, who brought you back and settled you down and reminded you that being alive was worth all the rest.

For him, if for nothing else. For that moment when he'd smile and call you a crazy criminal with easy affection; or start humming 'Born to Run' and corner you a little while later with hungry eyes and a predatory smirk; or share some wacky story from his Academy days or about life on the force and then stare at you with his 'what the fuck' expression when you'd counter with a story about club life.

They were always carefully edited, both your stories and his, to avoid mentioning the people you'd lost. They'd leave you both laughing or calling each other crazy either way, and that was what you held on to.

That was what you reached for, in the dark as you cried; and when it wasn't there, something froze around your heart.

You got up quietly, hissing against the pain, and reached for your bat by the door.

Chapter Text

You sneaked out of Daryl's house, hoping not to wake anyone sleeping here. Each of the houses in Alexandria were ridiculously opulent, in your mind. Hell, you'd grown up trailer trash in nowhere, Georgia. Any house with real hardwood floors, marble counters in the bathroom as well as the kitchen, and an actual fireplace was too damn much.

No one needed all that, not really. And every house here was like that. Your criminal ass would have been sneered straight out the front gate if you'd dared bring your leather-clad self inside. Or arrested.

Yeah, probably arrested.

It was enough to make you shift uncomfortably. You wondered what it'd been like for Daryl when he first got here. You wondered if he'd hated it, like he'd hated going into the nicer parts of Atlanta before everything went to shit.

You nodded to the people on the gate as you walked up, an Alexandrian you didn't know and Khal from the Hilltop. Khal nodded back, his eyes dropping to the bat that bumped your leg familiarly with every step. Neither of them tried to stop you, and you found that both worrisome and reassuring.

They trusted you, which was nice. It meant your friends thought of you as a friend. Or an ally at the very least. But that would work against them soon enough, you thought grimly.

Since you were Negan's again and all.

 

 

You made it about half a mile when you heard the deliberate crunch of sticks behind you. You stopped and sighed, turning to see who'd caught you after all.

No surprise there, you thought absently.

"Where ya think ya goin'?" Daryl asked, scowling at you. He had a backpack slung over his shoulder and his crossbow in his hands, so he clearly was heading out on a planned expedition himself.

You shrugged. "Walking."

"No ya ain't," he scoffed. He strode closer and you looked away from him, arms wrapped around yourself. "Ya ain't got a gun on ya, but ya got the damn bat. Ya goin' to Negan, ain't ya?"

You closed your eyes against the condemnation in his demand. "I have to," you whispered.

"No, ya don't."

"He has Shane, Daryl!" you screamed it, everything welling up inside you and pouring out into that one plea or protest or desperate cry for understanding.

Daryl said nothing as tears welled up and slipped from your closed eyes.

"You think I want to?" you asked, voice rough. "You think, after everything- I would ever set foot back there willingly? Fuck you. I know you heard me, at the Kingdom. I know you did. I meant it. There are no lines, Daryl. Not for you. Not for him."

He studied you for a long time before he spoke. "I heard," he said finally. "Ya think that's what either of us want?"

You laughed, but there wasn't any humor in it. You opened your eyes and met his intense ones. "Please, Dixon. I don't know what anyone wants, including myself. I just know what is. As long as he has one of you two, I'm his. I'm fucking Negan. I'm Negan's pet killer on a leash, and anything I have to give, I will."

Daryl snorted and took a step closer to you. He slung the crossbow up to his back and grabbed your shoulders with both hands. "Look, baby. I get it. There ain't much I won't do for ya. If he had you; I'd feel the same way. But I'd expect Rick or Carol or even Shane himself to talk some goddamn fuckin' sense into me, so that's what I'm gonna do here, aight?"

You didn't say anything, staring silently at the devil dancing on his arm. All this time, you thought sadly. All this time, and he still had his and you still had yours.

Why couldn't the universe have just left the two of you alone? Hadn't you done enough? Hadn't you given enough? You were happy, damn it. You remembered what happiness was, and it looked and sounded and smelled and felt a lot like him.

Now here you were, caught between the two most important people to you, and the only way to keep one of them safe was to sacrifice the last of what made you you. The last of what made you human.

"Baby. Listen. He's been in love with ya since he met ya, or close enough it don't make no difference. I've been the same fuckin' way, and ya know it. You think either of us would want ya to go back there for us? To turn into somethin' that kills ya slowly inside? Ya think we want to watch you lose what makes you human?"

Your lips twitched in the faintest hint of a smile as his words echoed your own thoughts exactly. The two of you really were the same damn person sometimes, you thought sadly. You'd miss him even worse, now that you'd found him again.

"Shit. No fuckin' way. I cain't speak for him, but, baby- I'd rather die than see what's in your eyes right now," Daryl said seriously. "I mean it. Don't do this to him. Ya want him to be ok? Trust him, like he fuckin' trusts you."

Daryl shook you slightly; not enough to hurt, just to get you to look him in the eyes again. "I wanted to go after ya. When the Saviors left and I saw ya were gone. Then again when Rosita and Sasha told us what happened. I wanted to go. Shane told me not to. Told me to trust ya to be strong enough to get it done or to handle whatever happened. I trusted ya, and it was the right call. Trust him, baby. He's a tough bastard, and ya- ya gotta trust him." His voice was growing harsher, rougher, as he looked in your eyes and didn't see what he hoped. "Please, girl, I cain't lose ya to Negan again. I just got ya back," he whispered finally, and that was it.

You shattered.

 

 

"No, Rick. I'm going with you," you said flatly. "If you're going to the Sanctuary, I am going too."

"I don't think that's a good idea," Rick declared.

You held up a hand as he shifted, hands on his gun belt and heading toward the intense-friendly look. "When have you ever known that to work on me, Rick? I'm going, damn it."

"Rick, let her go," Maggie said softly, coming up and touching your arm. "You know she'll just go anyway if you don't."

You smiled blandly as Rick looked between the two of you. He sighed and shook his head.

"You know, sometimes I wonder why I'm even supposed to be in charge, when you guys just do what you want anyway," he said, but his tone was fond. "Course, it usually turns out better when you do. Maggie, I'm grateful you decided to come."

Maggie shifted, staring out at the hustle and bustle as three communities made their plans. "The decision was made a long time ago, Rick. Before any of us knew each other. When we were all strangers, who would have just passed each other on street before the world ended. And now we mean everything to each other."

She had tears in her eyes and a smile on her lips as she touched your shoulder, and you looked down at your feet.

"You were in trouble. You were trapped. Glenn didn't know either of you, but he helped you. He put himself in danger for you," she continued softly, and tears slid from your eyes and landed on the dirty toes of your boots. "And that started it all. From Atlanta, to my daddy's farm, to the prison, to here... To this moment now. Not as strangers- as family. Because Glenn chose to be there for you that day a long time ago. That was the decision that changed everything. It started with three of you, and it just grew. To all of us. To sacrifice for each other. To suffer; to stand; to grieve; to give; to love; to live. To fight for each other. Glenn made the decision, Rick. I was just following his lead."

You turned away, head down and hands shaking, but Maggie pulled you back with a hand on your wrist. You turned and looked at her, tears falling swiftly now, and she smiled at you slowly.

"You're one of us, YN. You always have been. It doesn't matter what happened. You and Shane and Daryl- you're carrying so much guilt, all of you. You'll drown in it. Let it go. Let us love you. Let us fight and fear and hope with you. We'll watch your back, like you have always watched ours," she said.

You choked out a laugh and dashed tears from your eyes. "Damn it, Maggie," you muttered. "When did you get so fucking wise?"

"Yeah, she's good at this kind of thing. That's why Deanna chose her as a leader. Now she's leading the Hilltop," Rick said, and touched your elbow. "You come, you stick to the plan. Can you do that?"

"Of course she can," Maggie said firmly, and you nodded.

 

 

It took three days of long, hard work on everyone's part. You were quietly but firmly directed to sit and do nothing as much as possible, which amounted to not actually sitting very much after all. They wouldn't let you weld or lift or do any of the actual hard work, so you wandered around with water and Kingdom produce and distributed ammo. You rode your bike, brought from the Kingdom and carefully inspected afterward by you with narrowed eyes while Alvaro (who'd driven it) and Jerry stood smirking at you, between all three communities to deliver messages, coordinate movements, and basically just keep you out of the way, if the look in both Rick and Daryl's eyes was any indication.

You did your grunt work, took care of your stitches, and muttered about how all the tattoo artists in North America couldn't possibly be dead, right? Daryl growled back every time that he'd be happy to jab you repeatedly with a needle if it would make you shut the fuck up about it, and you flipped him off.

Mostly, though, you stared toward the Sanctuary, chain smoked on the porch every night, and worried.

 

 

Finally, it was time.

Scouts were taken out; teams who wouldn't be going to the Sanctuary were sent to their places; and your remaining forces were gathered. Daryl was watching you with undisguised worry as you sat calmly on the seat of your bike and waited for Rick, Ezekiel, and Maggie to get this show on the road.

There were parts you'd argued with- like who should be leading the zombie herd and going to fucking Jadis and many other things- but overall, it was a sound plan. There were parts Daryl had argued with, most notably your involvement in any way whatsoever, until the two of you had been nose to nose in the middle of the night before, hissing at each other and trying not to wake Ezekiel and Jerry, who'd been bunked with you and Daryl for convenience sake.

You'd won with the simple and persuasive statement that you'd do what you damn well pleased and the only way he was going to stop you was if he killed you.

He wandered over to you now and tentatively took your hand. You offered him a small smile, an apology for the night before, and squeezed his fingers. He held on tighter, staring at the ground.

"Still wish ya'd stay back in Alexandria. Let us handle this," he said with a toss of his head toward the others.

"Please don't start, Daryl. I'm not up for another argument," you said wearily.

He shook his head and stepped a little closer. "Not lookin' to fight, baby. Just worried. Ya got shit, girl, and I don't want more added to it if ya don't need more. We got enough people; ya don't have to go."

You sighed as Rick helped Maggie up on to the bed of a truck and he and Ezekiel followed her there. "I'm not going because we need killers. I'm going because he has Shane," you said quietly, and turned your attention to Rick.

"When I first met him," Rick declared in full inspiring-leader voice, and you bit your lip to keep from laughing at the way the man managed to do that. Officer Friendly shined through Rick's scruffy survivor beard, you thought with a smile. "Jesus said that my world was going to get a whole lot bigger. We found that world. We found each other. That... 'bigger world' is ours by right."

He moved from one side of the truck to the other, and you glanced at Daryl. "He been taking speech making classes or something?" you asked, and Daryl snorted.

"That we've come together for it, all of us- it's that much more true. It's ours by right. Any person who would live in peace and fairness, who would find common ground- it's their right too. But those who use and take and kill, who carve out the world and make it theirs alone--" Rick broke off and you looked down, knowing not too long ago, that was you. If things went a hair the wrong way, it'd be you again.

Daryl's hand around yours tightened, and you looked up at him. "That's not you," he whispered, and your eyes filled again.

Goddamn, you were an emotional wreck these days.

"We end them!" Rick declared. "We don't celebrate it, but we don't- we don't have shame about it either. There's only one person who has to die. And I will kill him myself; I will. I will."

Well, we'll just see about that, you thought absently. You and Rick seemed to always be gunning for the same bastards' deaths.

"But if it's the others- the others who prop him up, stand by his side, even those who just look the other way, so be it. Then, we keep making the world bigger. Together," Rick said, meeting your eyes with a smile.

You smiled back with a nod, and your smile turned into a grin as Ezekiel took up the speech with his own unique flair.

"Together! Bound forever! To quote The Bard-" he began, and you couldn't help it. It just popped right out of your mouth before you could do anything.

"Oh, yes; please do," you said, and clapped a hand over your mouth as a muted chuckle ran around the gathered crowd. Jerry grinned at you outright, and Ezekiel glanced in your direction with amusement in his eyes and kept going without missing a beat.

"'For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother. For she today, my sister.'" He touched Rick and Maggie's shoulders as Shiva chose that moment to roar, like she'd been fucking trained.

You resolved to ask Jerry if she'd been fucking trained.

"We've practiced," Maggie said now, simply and clearly. She wasn't making a speech, and that, in your mind, made it the most effective speech of all. "We've been through it over and over again. We all know the plan doesn't end this morning. That we may have to live in uncertainty for days, maybe more. That we have to keep our faith in each other. If we can hold on to that with everything we have, the future is ours. The world is ours."

You wrinkled your nose, shaded your eyes against the rising sun, and looked up at them. "Why can't you guys ever just say, 'hey, it's time. Let's go?'" you complained.

Laughter ran around the group again, especially those who'd known you. There weren't that many of them, you realized suddenly. With Michonne, Carl, and Sasha all back in Alexandria, your people were down to Rick, Maggie, Carol, Morgan in a way, and Daryl. That was a shock to think about, and your heart clenched for those you'd lost.

Rick sighed and shook his head. "We missed you, Nameless," he said, and your eyebrows shot up. He never called you Nameless. Then he grinned and looked at the group. "Hey, it's time. Let's go."

Chapter Text

Before he left, Daryl kissed you.

Not like a kiss on the cheek or the forehead, but a haul-you-up-on-your-toes, hand-on-your-neck, world's-ending-and-I-still-love-you, breath-stealing knockout of a thing. He set you back on your feet and you dropped bonelessly onto the seat of the Softail as he turned and stalked over to the bike he'd apparently built in Aaron and Eric's garage, leaving you staring after him with wide eyes and tingling lips and absolutely no idea what the fuck had just happened.

"Need a minute?" Maggie teased with a wink as she and Jesus headed by you.

Jesus paused and flashed you a grin. "I think that's Dixon 1, Nameless 0. You keep losing, don't you?"

"Oh, bite me, ninja man," you shot back, swinging onto the bike.

Jesus started walking backward to make a face at you. "No, thanks. You're not my type. Think you might be Daryl's type, though."

You flipped him the bird and he returned the favor as you roared your engine to life.

 

"It went up towards the herd way," Arat's voice crackled over the radio.

You glanced over at Rick, his window rolled down and you bracing the Softail up as you waited for exactly that. You smiled grimly and ne nodded.

"Go big. Two cars, ten guns. We're not messing around; not now. You take the Sister. It's locked down," Dwight responded.

Exactly as planned. Exactly as you'd have guessed, even if he wasn't working your side. That's why it worked; because it was natural.

"Think it's them?" Arat asked.

"Naw, probably just something left behind, maybe under one of the bodies."

"I want some bang band, Dwighty. I want some scream scream. I want blood," a new voice insisted, and your lip curled in a sneer. Sara was worse than Arat, and that was saying something.

"Well, maybe you'll get lucky."

 

There were too lookouts on one of the lower buildings. You pulled the rifle from your back when you got close, and panned to make sure they were alone. You'd abandoned the bike at the regroup spot, since you'd need it for the next leg but you were looking for stealth here. You braced the rifle on the top of the truck, standing in the bed, and took a look around.

Dwight was smoking a cigarette as you scanned, and he glanced toward them, dropped the cigarette, and walked back inside.

Killing them was easy as breathing, especially with the badass rifle Sasha had loaned you for the task. It was the one Rosita had brought her and she'd been planning to take out Negan with.

You smirked and thumped the roof twice lightly.

Rick's armored car fleet drove into the Sanctuary courtyard, and you studied the faces of the walkers on the fence, heart in your throat. You didn't relax any when none of them were Shane.

That was, after all, almost worse.

 

Your people poured out of vehicles and you vaulted from the truck, grunting when you hit the ground and it jostled the rib. You waved off Jesus' concerned expression, him happening to be the person closest to you, and followed him into position with Maggie and Rick.

Maggie's hand went up in the signal, and you aimed the badass rifle toward the sky and watched for her hand to drop.

When it did, everyone fired at once- once, twice, a third time, like knocking on the goddamn door. But, you know, way more fucking dramatic.

You lowered the rifle, leaned against the armored car beside Maggie, and crossed your legs.

"Negan'll make you wait," you'd warned Rick. "Don't get impatient. He's an over-dramatic asshole, a lot like you sometimes. Don't be insulted."

Rick's lips had twitched and he'd shaken his head. "Oh, I'm not. I am an over-dramtic asshole. It works, though."

"Yeah, it does. He'll come, but he'll make you wait," you'd repeated. "Keep your cool. It'll piss him off."

He did indeed make Rick wait, but not as long as you'd been expecting. You'd tipped your head back and started drumming out a Springsteen song, that one Shane liked so damn much and you could never remember the fucking name of, and you hadn't even made it to the chorus when the door slammed open.

Showtime.

 

 

"Well, shit," Negan declared. You closed your eyes for a minute, then turned to look through the gap beside you.

He strolled out first, Lucille in hand, and Simon followed with the rest of the lieutenants.

"I'm sorry," Negan continued, pacing the length of the balcony with Lucille on his shoulders and that fucking smirk on his lips. "I was in a meeting."

He'd called Regina back, you noticed. And Dwight was obviously one of the top dogs still. From the looks of things, he hadn't replaced you or Shane, unless you counted Eugene.

You fucking didn't.

Negan started in on the taunts right away, and you ignored most of it to focus on their faces. Simon looked delighted by this turn of events, but he looked delighted by most turns of events. Eugene looked scared. Regina looked ready to kick ass, and you knew damn well that she could. You didn't know if you were glad she was here, for the offer Rick was about to make, or if you wished she'd stayed at her outpost. Whatever, what's done is done, you thought.

Gavin looked even more done with the world than usual, and you hoped that meant he'd be persuaded. Dwight looked remarkably calm, considering he knew what was about to happen and was very much guaranteed to be dead if anyone up there caught wind of that.

Negan moved on to threats following a good extended dick measuring bit- the fucker was downright predictable, you thought boredly- and then extended his hands with a wide smile. "So, Rick, what the hell can I do for you?"

"Dwight," Rick declared, pointing. "Your name's Simon. You're Gavin. You're Regina."

"Rick, I'd feel remiss if --" Eugene began, and Rick cut him off with a sharp no.

"I know who you are," Rick said grimly. "Listen, you five. The Saviors inside. All of you have a chance to survive here. To survive this. You all get to live if you surrender. I can't guarantee it any time but now. Right now."

There was a heavy pause, and Negan smiled. "So they surrender, and you and your little piss patrol doesn't kill them. That sounds like a good deal! What about me, Rick?"

"I told you. Twice," Rick said simply. "You know know what's gonna happen."

"I do. I do know what's gonna happen. You don't! You have no idea the shit that's about to go down. Let me ask you something, Rick. You think you have the numbers for this fight? You don't. Simon? Bring out our guest, would you?"

Your hands tightened on the rifle, and Maggie's hand locked on your shoulder. Your eyes were glued to the doorway where Simon disappeared, waiting while your pulse thundered in your ears.

It wasn't Shane he came back with; it was Gregory the asshole. You relaxed almost immediately as Maggie sighed.

"Of course that's where he went," Jesus said dryly from just behind you and Maggie.

Negan and Gregory made some blatantly inconsequential declarations about Hilltop and its loyalty to Negan. Gregory was posing like mad, and you saw nearly every resident of the Hilltop sneer as he declared that they should go home now or they won't have a home to go home to.

Maggie's quiet "do what you need to do" inspired exactly zero movement. Jesus shrugged.

"All I have at the Hilltop are a bunch of books and an old lobster bib," he said.

You snorted. "Yeah, I bet you do. God, how much longer are we letting the dramatics go on? Gotta be close now."

"You heard the man!" Negan declared. He started insulting everyone there- who you knew for a fact supplied around half the Sanctuary's food; not the best of plans in your opinion- and Maggie smirked.

"Doesn't look like anyone's going, does it?" she called.

"Hilltop stands with-" Gregory began, and Jesus rolled his eyes.

"Hilltop stands with Maggie, you dick!" he yelled, and you started laughing. Simon, who wasn't exactly known for his impulse control, shoved Gregory down the stairs. udden silence descended.

"Oh," Negan said into it. "Rick's here. The Widow's here. I bet I know who else is here."

Your pulse picked up again as Negan chuckled.

"Is my criminal out there somewhere? Come on, darlin', say hello if you're there," he called.

You said nothing, shifting your grip on the gun and brushing off Maggie's steadying hand. Negan shook his head and slammed Lucille on the railing with a clang.

"Oh come on now, my biker bitch! I know you wouldn't send Rick and the piss patrol to party here without you. Not when you were so hell-bent on taking a chunk out of me last time we met. Got some questions about who slipped your goddamn bat into that coffin, too. Some questions I've been asking someone you might give two shits about."

You glared out at his angry face, but you still didn't speak. Rick was holding up a hand your way, silently urging you not to go against the plan.

Negan laughed again. "Well, if you don't want to say hello to your old friends, maybe we can find someone you will speak to. Dwight!"

You'd known. You'd known all along, of course. It'd been fool's hope that kept a small voice in the back of your mind saying no, he was safe.

Of course he wasn't safe. Of course Negan had picked him up somewhere.

You stared as Dwight shoved Shane ahead of him, unbound, hands in the air, and from the looks of him, relatively unhurt. That wasn't what you were expecting, but it did nothing to ease the chill that had already settled somewhere in your chest and started expanding.

"Shit," Maggie said, harsh and vicious, as you stared. "Shit. YN, don't. Don't do anything stupid."

"Say hello to your friends, Shane-o!" Negan said with a laugh as Shane was roughly drug forward. Shane glanced at him and said nothing, jaw setting firmly. Negan grinned and bit his lip, staring at Shane. "God, he's so tough! You know that, though, don't you? Ricky, my cop was your friend, wasn't he? Once upon a time. Back in the day."

Negan was pacing around Shane, and Shane stared straight ahead with his hands still up. Negan chuckled, settling against the railing with his back to the courtyard, and leaned into Shane's ear. He spoke in a mock whisper for everyone to hear. "Of course, that's not who you're most concerned with out there, is it, boy toy? I'm thinking she's out there. My criminal. She hasn't said anything yet, but- I bet we can get her to talk."

"I bet you won't," Shane shot back, and you closed your eyes against the warning in his voice.

Negan laughed. "Aw, I do believe you are wrong! Biker! I'm going to give you to the count of three to say hello, or I will blow one of your pretty boy toy's kneecaps away!"

He took a gun from Dwight's hands and racked one in the chamber as he spoke, and the resounding click of it echoed in your ears as you stared.

"One! Two!"

"What's up, boss?" you called, leaning your forehead against the sheet metal you leaned on. Defeated. You brushed off Maggie again, knocking her hand away forcefully. This wasn't her decision.

"Well, well, well," Negan said slowly. "I told you I could get her attention, Shane-o! Now, what do you think we should do next? I know! How about this. Biker! Come on out here. I'd like to see that sexy-ass smile of yours."

"Why the fuck would I do that, Negan?" you shot back, knowing already you'd do it. You'd just make him fucking work for it.

Stepping out there wouldn't interfere with Rick's plan. Hell, it might even help it. This was all about timing, after all, and keeping Negan talking. You could certainly do that.

"YN, don't-" Maggie started in a low voice, but Negan's came over hers, and Negan's was all that mattered.

"Haven't we established why already? He's handsome, dark haired, built like a fucking statue- your little boy toy?"

"God, do you ever shut the fuck up?" you yelled, annoyed. "He's not a goddamn toy. Judas fucking Priest!"

"Nameless, don't worry-" Shane's voice cut through you, and the sound of something hitting him made you flinch.

The rifle was against your shoulder and you were stepping out from your cover before you thought any more about it, and Negan had a gun pointed at Shane's head.
Shane's bleeding head.

"Hey, Officer. You good?" you called, ignoring Negan's scowl.

Shane sighed. "Shouldn't be here, sweetheart. Get back there and stick to whatever Rick's plan is."

"Ah, that is the question," Negan chimed in. You had the rifle trained on him and your eyes were fixed on him as well. He held Shane at gunpoint, and the lieutenants were all looking mildly distressed at this turn of events. "Just what is Rick's plan? Come on, my criminal. Tell me."

"No," you said simply.

Negan cocked the gun and raised it to aim at Shane's core. "Who the fuck are you again, Biker?"

"I'm Nameless, asshole. You shoot him; I shoot you. Want to see who wins, boss?" you called back.

"Sweetheart-"

"Shut up, Walsh," you snapped. "We're living today."

"Are you, though?" Negan asked quietly. "That's not the way I see it. I shoot him, you shoot me? What about the person who shoots you?"

Gavin, Simon, and Regina drew instantly. Eugene looked scared and Dwight hooked his hands in his belt loops, his gun currently in Negan's hand and pointed at Shane. The other three were trained on you.

You shrugged. "Whatever. You don't make it out of here either way. I can live with that. Or die with it."

An explosion rang in the distance.

"Sounds like shit is going down, Rick," Negan called.

"You lieutenants are going to have to make up your minds," Rick called back.

You could hear the anger in his voice, and you genuinely didn't know if it was directed at you. You genuinely didn't care. That was Shane. It was Rick's partner and best friend, and your- what? Ex? Lover? Boyfriend? Who the fuck knew; he was yours. That was what mattered.

He was yours.

"You're gonna make me count?" Rick declared into the silence. "Ok. Ok."

"You'll just be counting down to Shane-o eating a lead breakfast, Rick!" Negan roared.

"Ten!" Rick called back. "Nine!"

Your finger rested on the trigger.

"Eight!"

Negan smirked at you, winked, and fired.

You felt nothing; nothing but cold and empty and blank as you opened fire on him and he dove for cover. The world around you descended into chaos. Negan dove off the steps in one direction as Dwight darted forward, looking like he was reaching for Shane, and ended up shoving Shane backward instead.

Shane tumbled over the railing and hit the ground, lying still, and you were moving forward even as the lieutenants on the balcony ran for cover and slammed the door. You kept firing on Negan, over and over and over as you made your way to Shane.

Glass was raining from the sky as Rick's people followed the plan and started shooting out the windows. There would be walkers coming soon, but it didn't matter.

Shane was on the ground and he wasn't moving, and Negan was behind that fucking dumpster.

You'd told him. He shot Shane, you'd shoot him. That was what you were going to do.

 

Horns echoed as you reached Shane's side, and someone grabbed your arm.

You whirled, swinging the rifle around to fight whoever it was as the RV rammed into the fence. Rick grabbed the rifle and met your eyes.

"YN! We have to go, now! Help me get him!" Rick insisted.

"Nameless," Shane groaned, and you dropped to him instantly.

"Hey, Officer. What the hell you doing laying down on the job like this? Come on, we've got to get out of here," you told him casually, Rick helping you haul him.

You supported him between the two of you, and he chuckled faintly. "Hell, sweetheart, we've been here before."

"Not quite like this, Walsh," you muttered, feeling his blood soaking into your side already and trying not to. "Not quite like this."

Gabriel blew the RV as Rick slid you and Shane into the backseat and jumped behind the wheel.

"Hang in there, Shane," he called over his shoulder as he floored it out of there. "We've got a doctor close."

"I'm good, man," Shane called back, smiling at you from where he lay against the seat. "I'm good."

Chapter Text

"Shit. Shit. Shane? You're going to be ok," you muttered, hand pressed to his stomach to try to stop the bleeding, or slow it at the very least.

Shane coughed, and it sounded wet. "Hey. Sweetheart. It's ok," he whispered.

You froze as his hand touched your cheek, leaning into it as the cold evaporated beneath the warmth of his hand. Tears spilled from your eyes as you shook your head in mute, pleading denial.

"No, Officer. No. We're not dying today. I told you, we're living. We're living," you begged him brokenly.

"You're living," he whispered back. "Come on, Nameless. You're living. Promise me."

You shook your head, eyes closed.

"Hey!" he snapped, voice harsh. You opened your eyes and looked at him as Rick took a corner damn fucking fast and threw both of you a little.

Shane's face, already too goddamn pale because most of his blood was flowing over your hands as you spoke, clenched in pain.

"Fuck, Rick!" you snarled.

"Sorry!" Rick yelled back, slamming his hand into the wheel in frustration. "Shane, you good, brother? Hang on! Goddamn it!"

"Rick. Take care of Judith. Tell Carl I'm proud as hell of him. Tell Judith I love her," Shane called to him, lifting his voice as much as he could through the grimace of pain. Rick started cursing harder.

"Do it yourself, when we get you patched up, you asshole," Rick called, glancing over his shoulder and meeting your eyes. "Fuck!"

"I love you, brother. But shut up with that shit, man. I'm tryin' to have a moment with this crazy criminal," Shane complained. You choked out a laugh over the sobs that threatened to bust out of you.

He rubbed his thumb over your cheek. "That's better. Come on, sweetheart. You promise me. You're living. You got Dixon, and Rick, and Carl. My little girl needs to know her criminal aunt. Promise me."

You nodded, eyes closing. Everything hurt. This hurt too goddamn much, and Shane was the one bleeding. "I promise," you whispered.

"Good. Now get over here. I can't come to you this time, Nameless."

Your throat caught as you leaned into him, pressing your lips to his. He kissed you back, hard and desperate, like he was trying to memorize the feel of your lips as much as you were trying to memorize his.

"Don't be-" he broke off and coughed again, reaching down and lifting your hand from the hole in his stomach. He twinned his fingers through your blood-covered ones and chuckled faintly. "Don't be an idiot, ok? I ain't saying go jump in his arms the minute the fucking car stops, but don't drive that man away either. You love him; he loves you. Don't be a dumbass."

"Shane, I-"

"I know. You love me too. I know, criminal. I know," he said, smiling at you. "That's always been enough for me, girl."

His eyes were getting glassy, and you pressed your forehead to his, not wanting to see. Not wanting to watch your officer slip away from you. Jesus, how were you supposed to make it without him? He was the reason you were alive. He was the reason you'd kept going.

"Don't do this, Shane. Don't leave me. Please. Please don't leave me. I need you, Officer. Please," you mumbled through the tears.

"Hey. Don't- Sweetheart. You know better. You know. I'm not going anywhere, ok? Never," he whispered.

His fingers were cold where they touched your face.

He kissed you again, soft and sweet and so goddamn final. You clung to him, holding on through the tears you couldn't seem to stop, some wild part of you thinking if you didn't let him let go, he wouldn't die. You were supposed to be living today.

"Jesus, Nameless. I love you. With all the madness in my soul," he whispered after a minute. Then he laughed faintly.

"What?" you asked him, smiling at his smile, even weak as it was.

His smile grew as he squeezed your hand weakly. "Tramps like us, sweetheart."

You laughed through the tears, your grin rising unbidden. Of course he would say that now. Springsteen. "Baby, we were born to run," you answered him gently.

"There it is," he whispered, his thumb tracing your lip. "That damn smile. Knocked me out first time you turned it on me. Goddamn Springsteen. I was gone when you started singing in my Jeep, criminal. Didn't stand a fuckin' chance." He started coughing again, sucking in air with effort so he could continue.

"Oh, I more than tolerate you, Nameless," he managed to get out, still smiling at you somehow.

You kept your own in place through sheer force of will as you watched the light fading from his eyes. It took all the heat and warmth you had to offer as it went, sucking from somewhere in your core through the touch of his hand in yours and on your face.

"I more than tolerate you, too, Officer Walsh," you told him. "I more than tolerate you, too."

His lips turned up slightly, and his hand slid slowly from your cheek.

"YN? We're here," Rick called. "YN? YN!"

 

 

 

You understood now, you thought dully as the car slammed to a stop and Rick turned to look. His panicked voice faded from your ears in the rush of your own thundering pulse and ragged breath. You understood Andrea.

You hadn't gotten it before- way before- when she lost Amy. You'd defended her from Daryl, stood up for her right to sit over her sister and grieve. But you didn't understand it.

You did now. You understood as you ran shaking fingers, covered in Shane's blood, over his cheek. You understood as you stared at him, willing him to open his eyes and say something else to you- to call you criminal, Nameless, sweetheart; to scowl and tell you to take better care of yourself; to argue that Springsteen was better than Petty; that the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac were better than Motorhead and Metallica.

You asked all the gods above for this to be just another nightmare you woke up from.

You prayed you were still in the coffin, losing your goddamn mind. You prayed you'd see Merle soon and he'd laugh and tell you it was all a dream.

Hell, if you were really, really lucky, you'd open your eyes and find out the past- what? Two years? Three? Four? However long it had been- was just one really bad trip; that you were still in a cell in King County lockup and you'd been high as a kite when you'd been pulled.

Officer Shane Walsh of King County Sheriff's department had booked you for operating under the influence as well as possession with intent to distribute, and this whole thing- zombies, Rick and the others, Daryl, Merle, Shane himself- was just your bad trip.

You'd be fine with that, you thought wildly. You'd be fine with losing your restored friendship with Daryl. With losing what you'd had with him in the prison. You'd be fine with not knowing Rick or Carl or Judith or Maggie or Michonne or any of them. You'd even be fine with losing the love you'd found with Shane, if it meant he was alive.

If he was alive and out there kicking ass somewhere, even Nameless ass, that was enough.

Yes, you decided, pressing your lips to his lightly and whispering his name. Any second now, you were going to wake up. You'd be in a cell, and he'd smirk at you and call you a criminal.

It wouldn't be the same, but it would be- it would be something. It would be enough.

And you'd demand a phone call, and call Merle and tell him it was his turn to bail you out for once, and then-

Then maybe you'd go home and exchange tired insults with Daryl. And you'd be miserable and broken and worried about Merle, but hey.

Merle would be alive. You'd be less miserable and broken than you were right now, and Daryl would come around eventually; he always did.

And Shane would be alive.

He'd be alive.

"Any minute now," you whispered, and squeezed your eyes shut as you held him. "Any minute now."

 

 

 

"Baby?" Daryl's voice called. "Hey. YN."

He touched your shoulder and that was fine. It was fine because you still believed you'd wake up from this.

"YN. We're gonna need to- he's-" Daryl broke off. "Let me do it," he finished, and reached for Shane.

Your knife was at his throat in a blur. "Don't," you croaked, staring at him blankly.

The car was parked, and Rick stood just outside the door, leaning in with devastated eyes. People were gathered all around, various states of shocked concern on their faces.

Daryl held his hands up. "Aight. Aight, baby. I won't. But, YN, he's-"

"I know," you whispered, dropping the knife from his throat. "I know. I'll handle it, Daryl."

"Baby, I ain't gonna let ya do stuff that'll break ya."

You turned back to looking at Shane's pale, still face. "I'm already broken, Dixon. I'll do it. It should be someone who loves you. That's what Carl told me. In the prison. With Lori. It should be someone who loves you," you repeated, and your voice cracked as the tears started again.

Daryl started to reach for you, but stopped. "I'm sorry, baby."

"I know," you whispered, running a hand over Shane's hair as you waited for him to wake up. "I'm sorry, too."

"Can I wait with ya?"

You shrugged, not looking away. "It'll be soon. Any minute now. Either he'll wake up or I will," you whispered.

"What's that mean?" Daryl asked.

You laughed humorlessly. "Doesn't matter. I'm not the one who'll wake up."

Shane's hand twitched. Your got a good grip on your knife and watched until his eyes fluttered open.

"It isn't you," you whispered as the zombie in your arms snarled and came after you. "This isn't you. Guess neither of us is waking up. Not really. Don't worry, Walsh. This isn't how I'll remember you. Oh, fucking hell, Officer. I more than tolerate you so damn much."

You closed your eyes as you did it, and tried not to feel anything at all.

 

 

A week after the coffin incident and a few days after Terminus, you and Shane were going north. No real reason why, just because. It was a direction. There'd been vague discussion about it, but mostly you were just wandering.

Terminus had been the last straw. It was the last bit of direction either of you had had in your lives; the last hope you'd privately been holding out for finding any of your people. You were both feeling the sting of losing that purpose, and it showed.

You'd been short tempered and irritable; most of your communication consisting of lobbing complaints and snapping orders at each other. You were both downright nasty when you were angry, you discovered. Add in the loss that had slammed back into you full-force, neither of you were exactly pleasant to be around.

You cried yourself to sleep every night, and stayed awake as much as you could.

"Get some goddamn rest, sweetheart," Shane snarled at you when you tripped over a nothing, staggering with exhaustion and hunger.

You turned and looked at him, tears trickling from your eyes. "What's the fucking point, Shane?" you asked. "What's the point?"

"We been through this, criminal," he snarled. "We're alive, ain't we?"

You shrugged. You trudged on.

That night, you found a house. You cleared it, taking out one walker each. Shane found a couple ancient, dented cans of chicken noodle soup in the kitchen, and you made a fire in the living room floor out of all the books and papers and most of a broken chair.

You ate, full for the first time since you left the funeral parlor, and stretched out to sleep on the second floor. Shane took watch, pointing you irately toward the bed. You faced away from him and curled up, trying to cry quietly. It was something you were good at, and you bit down on your thumb hard enough to draw blood.

The bed creaked and dipped as you tasted the coppery tang on your tongue, and Shane curled behind you, his arm wrapping around you and pulling you securely back against him.

"Hey. Sweetheart. I've got you," he whispered. That was all it took, and you rolled over and buried your face in his chest with a sob.

Neither of you had talked about you kissing him or the night you'd spent in his arms, after the coffin. You'd ignored it, like you'd ignored everything else, but you hadn't forgotten it.

For you, at least, it lingered in every glance. Every smile you managed to dig up for each other. Every touch, no matter how casual.

You knew he loved you. He'd told you as much, even as he said it didn't change anything or mean anything. He didn't want anything from you but friendship, but it lingered between you all the same. Especially now.

He loved you enough to die for you, and he loved you enough to live for you.

He loved you enough right now to hold you as you cried and tell you it'd be fine, when he'd lost just as much as you had.

Your tears slowed and you didn't move away from Shane, and he didn't try to move away from you. He ran his fingers through your hair slowly and carefully, his lips brushing the top of your ear as he whispered to you that it'd be ok. You'd figure it out. Somehow, someway, you'd survive.

You tipped your head back, studied his face for a minute from a breath apart, and kissed him again.

It wasn't hard and fast and needy, but slow and careful. You asked a question with your lips on his, and his hand in your hair tightened into a fist before he relaxed it deliberately. You ended the kiss and looked at him, waiting for an answer.

His eyes stayed closed as he drew in a ragged breath before looking at you seriously. "You sure, sweetheart?" he whispered.

"I want something to live for, Shane," you told him honestly. "I know things are.... complicated. I care about you so fucking much, and the last thing I'd want is to hurt you. You're my friend, beyond and before anything else. But-" You smiled at him slightly. "If you want. Yes, I'm sure."

He studied your eyes, sliding his hand from your hair to brush along your cheek. "I should say no," he whispered, and you looked away, starting to move out of his arms. He held you in place tightly.

"I should. I'm not. I love you, criminal. I'm going to be real clear about that up front. I've loved you for a long damn time, and I don't care if you don't feel the same way. You're the one who taught me you have to be blunt and open with shit like this, so there it is. If you can handle that, well...." he shrugged a little, and his fingers tightened in your hair again.

You leaned in and kissed him, hungry and hard this time, sliding your hand down his chest and under his shirt as he shivered. "I think I can handle that," you said against his lips.

He pulled you tightly against him and kissed you like he'd never let you go again.

Chapter Text

"This wasn't supposed to happen," you said flatly. Your eyes were closed, your forehead pressed to Shane's.

To what used to be Shane's.

"Course it wasn't, baby," Daryl said, tone gentle.

You shook your head and slowly unbent from over Shane. "No. This. Me. Shane. He and I, we weren't supposed to happen. He wasn't supposed to matter so much."

"He did, though."

You nodded, eyes still closed. "He did. No. No. He does. He does matter, damn it. He does matter."

Your words grew strong and harsh, and you opened your eyes to glare at Daryl, even though it wasn't him you were angry with. It was Negan. It was Negan, and Simon and Gavin and Regina and Arat and every other goddamn Savior. It was Jadis and the Wolves and Terminus and the Claimers and whoever those assholes who'd locked you in the coffin had been. It was the goddamn Governor, who'd started it all by destroying your home and killing Merle and terrorizing Maggie. It was everyone. Every asshole from here to the ends of the earth who couldn't fucking leave you alone and let you live, goddamn it.

It was god himself if he existed; and if he existed, by God, you were going to kill him for this.

You were going to kill them all for this.

"Baby?" Daryl's tone was questioning, his eyes worried.

You looked down slowly and ran your fingers over Shane's cheek one last time. You stuck your knife between your teeth so you had both hands, and took off the 22 necklace Shane had worn since always.

Funny, you'd always meant to ask him about it. You'd always had other things on your mind whenever it was visible, though, and somehow you just.... never asked. Now it was too damn late, you thought dully. Too damn late for a lot of things.

It was the only thing of his you could take. The only piece of him you'd be able to carry with you.

Your fist clenched around it and you looked down at your blood-covered hands.

"Move, Daryl," you said, and your voice sounded odd. It sounded empty, like you felt. Cold and harsh and distant. "We've got somewhere to be, don't we?"

 

 

"Sweetheart, if you're looking to die, just fucking tell me, alright?" Shane growled. He knelt beside you, digging in your shoulder for the bullet.

You gripped the bat in your hands and leaned into it, gritting your teeth and holding as still as you could. "What, you think this was planned? Shit. I was looking for food. I found a person."

"I'd say a person found you," he shot back. "Ok, good. Got it. Fucking hell. What the fuck?"

"Shane, I don't know if you realize this, but repeating the word fuck is not helping my shoulder hurt any less and frankly, I'm getting dizzy," you muttered, closing your eyes.

"Fuck!" he snapped out, probably just to spite you, and slapped something against your shoulder. "Hold that."

You did, keeping your eyes closed, and he wound a long bandage around your shoulder.

"You'll live," he declared shortly. "Gotta get some food in you, though, criminal."

"Guess it's a good thing I went in there then, isn't it? Look in my bag. Fucker might have been a crazy redneck with a gun, but he also had a stash of the good shit," you muttered, sinking down slowly to lay flat on your back. That was better. The world was a little steadier, at least.

Shane muttered under his breath about crazy fucking criminals as he rifled through the MRE's the asshole had horded. "Shit," he said, loud enough you figured you were supposed to hear that one. "Holy hell, sweetheart."

"Am I forgiven now?" you asked, cracking one eye open to smirk at him.

He rolled his eyes at you. "Not yet. Sleep while I cook, Princess."

You mock-gagged until he laughed, then curled on your not-shot side and watched him stalk around. He glanced your way and caught you looking.

"What?" he asked shortly, and you shook your head with a smile.

"Nothing. Just watching you."

He looked away, smiling a little, and you started humming as he worked and you watched. He plopped down beside you as you sat up slowly. His arm slid around you and he passed over a ripped-open package.

"Eat up, criminal. I'm rubbing off on you, huh? Springsteen."

"Petty's still better," you muttered, and he rolled his eyes as you stuck your fork into his pouch and stole a bite.

 

 

"You should take him back to Alexandria," Rick urged, hand on your shoulder.

You stood by your bike, checking the smaller rifle you'd chosen for this part of the trip. You'd already double-checked your saddle bags, finding everything you needed.

"No," you said flatly, slinging the gun over your back. "I'm going. There's people need killing, Rick."

"You don't have to do this," he urged, and your smile felt foreign as you patted his cheek.

Your hands were clean now, at least physically. Daryl had pulled a water bottle and his ever-present bandanna and taken care of that as you'd stood and stared in silence.

Daryl had fastened the necklace around your neck when your hands were shaking too hard to do it yourself. He'd touched your cheek, studied your eyes, and whispered for you to be careful.

Now he sat his own bike, watching as the gathered others took to their cars for their own tasks in phase two. He waited for Rick's signal, and Rick was standing here wasting time trying to convince you to do something you weren't going to do.

"Yes, I do," you told him. "You know that. I'll be ok, Deputy. Come on. We can't let this all be in vain. We have to finish it."

Rick nodded as a woman stepped forward and hesitantly volunteered to take Shane to Alexandria. You thanked her remotely, not looking at the car as she touched your shoulder in sympathy and walked toward it to drive away.

To drive what was left of Shane away.

"I'm not going anywhere, sweetheart," his voice echoed, and you swung on your bike and roared it to life impatiently.

"I'm going, Rick! Get a fucking move on!"

 

 

"So, what's the weirdest thing you've ever seen?" you asked, kicked your legs so your heels banged against the wall.

Shane snorted from behind you. "The dead walking around isn't good enough for you, criminal? Be careful over there. You fall, game over."

You glanced over your shoulder at him and rolled your eyes. "I'm fine, Walsh. I mean, like, before all this. Weirdest, most fucking haunted thing ever. These empty cities are fucking close, but I saw a chupacabra in the woods once."

Shane's lips twitched. "I think I've heard that story."

You smiled. "Yeah, I bet you have. Come on, I'm bored. We've covered, like, all the fun sex shit. Let's talk ghost stories."

He laughed. "Get off the damn edge and I'll tell you. Don't want you freaking out and falling on me. Besides, dinner is served, sweetheart."

He lifted the rabbit you'd managed to snare earlier that day off the fire, and you swung around and hopped off the wall you'd been sitting on. At your back, the Charlotte skyline stretched out. You were on the outskirts of the city, still heading north for whatever reason. You weren't going in, because cities were a bad fucking idea, but you'd found this place and taken up residence on the roof for a few nights. A bit of a breather for both of you.

You sat beside him and leaned your head on his shoulder as he held the rabbit out toward you. You pulled some off and passed it back, waiting for him to start talking.

He picked at it in thought. "I'm pretty sure I dated a demon once. No, wait. Yeah, this story's better. Alright, so there was this house, way back in the shit end of nowhere in King County, ok? And all the kids in school said it was haunted. So, me and Rick, being the dumbasses we were, decide to go on fuckin' Halloween night and have ourselves a party out there. Only...."

 

 

You pulled the bike to halt not far from the satellite outpost, swung off and strode to where the strike team was gathered in the trees, staring at the walker moat.

"Hey," Jesus said. "They've made themselves a moat. Guess we shouldn't be surprised. Considering."

"We can do this. We did before," Tara said flatly, racking a bullet into the chamber after she finished screwing the suppressor onto her gun.

"Yeah. That's what I was considering," Jesus muttered, looking at you. "Hey, Nameless. You ok?"

You flinched when he called you Nameless. "I'm fine," you snapped. "Cover me."

"Wait! If they fire, we're not getting-" Jesus called, but you were already striding back toward your bike and firing it up.

You roared down the path, shooting gravel as you pulled to a halt in front of the two guards. You scowled as you swung off, both of them staring at you in confusion.

"What the fuck is this? Are you two it? Do you even know what's going on at base?" you snarled, striding toward them purposefully. "Damn it! What channel do you have your radios-"

You cut off as you reached them and stabbed one in the neck and shot the other point-blank in the head. You turned and lifted your hand, circling your gun in the air.
Your team filtered out of the trees, jogging to meet you, and Jesus looked pissed.

"What the fuck was that?" he asked in a hiss when he got close enough. Tara clapped you on the shoulder and Morgan nodded once they passed.

You shrugged at Jesus. "Worked, didn't it? Let's go."

 

 

"You know kissing me won't make this go away, right?" Shane mumbled as you paused for air.

You laughed quietly, but went back in for more. "I notice you're not exactly pushing me away here."

His hands slid under your shirt as you pressed tighter against him. "That's a fair point, criminal. Gotta be quiet, though."

"What's that supposed to mean?" you demanded, pulling back a little to glare at him. Of course, in the total darkness, it wasn't like it did any good.

His fingers dipped just below the waistband of your jeans, then slid lightly up your spine, gliding over your skin and sending goosebumps down your arms. You moaned his name before he'd made it halfway, and he crushed his lips to yours to swallow the sound.

"That's what I mean," he whispered with lazy satisfaction.

You smacked his arm, annoyed. "Yeah? Bet I can make you do that, too, damn it."

"Sweetheart, that's not the best bet to be making, considering why we're in- shit!" he grunted as you dropped to your knees.

"Quiet, officer," you giggled. "There's zombies out there."

"Fuck you, criminal," he muttered, leaning back against the wall and tangling a hand in your hair. "Jesus fucking Christ."

 

 

You led the way inside, bat in one hand now and gun in the other. One Savior came out from the corner and you shot him, then Jesus and Tara fired simultaneously on two more. You held up a hand for everyone to pause and listened for any movement or sounds of alarm. When there was nothing, you nodded to Diane and your team followed you in.

Jesus was at your side as you moved forward. "I was there. I saw Shane get shot. Is he ok?" he asked in a barely audible whisper as teams lined up in front of doors to sleeping quarters.

You held up your clenched fist with him, glancing down the line at Tara, Eduardo, Diane, Morgan.

When everyone's hands were raised in the ready position, you dropped your fist and kicked open the door.

Chapter Text

You kicked in the door, shot the man who looked up wildly, and cleared the rest of the room. You went to the next door and repeated the process as shots filled the air and Jesus darted to back up Tara, probably realizing you didn't fucking need backup right now.

Someone started shooting back, and you ended up on the corner with Diane as Tara threw open the door a room just across the hall. You glanced at her as Diane reported and you fired around the corner.

"We're missing some people from the other team," Diane said grimly.

"Morgan?" Tara asked.

You sighed and fired, and down the hall someone screamed. Behind Tara, Jesus held someone at gunpoint in the closet.

"Just stay in there," Diane said. "We're on top of each other out here. We'll signal you when it's clear. Get ready."

"Yeah," you said flatly, holstering your gun. "Close the door. Diane, cover me."

You stepped around the corner before either of them could protest and charged down the hall. Bullets rang out around you, but Diane did as she was told and fired back. You exploded around the corner they were using as cover, bat swinging before you'd fully cleared it. One man went down in a crumpled heap as you connected, his head bouncing off the wall as he did.

There were several startled exclamations behind you, including one distinct 'fucking crazy bitch, what the hell?' that you thought might have been Diane herself. It didn't matter.

There were three Saviors left in front of you, and you knew them all. "Hey, boys," you said with a smirk. "Let's play."

All three of them dropped their guns. You started swinging again anyway.

"Clear!" you called, strolling back around the corner and heading to the storage room Tara and Jesus were in.

 

 

 

"-- See, if I take the two of you with me, then I've got one hell of an insurance policy," a familiar voice said.

You hesitated at the door, easing eye around the corner. Diane gave you a 'you need backup?' glance and you waved her away.

A Savior had Jesus at gunpoint, and Tara had drawn on him.

"So why don't you put that thing down unless you're going to shoot through this beautiful man here?"

The voice connected with the part of his face you could see around Jesus, and you sighed. You stepped through the door, swinging your bloody bat to your shoulder. "Hey, Dean," you said easily.

"What the fuck do we have here?" Dean asked, looking at you in surprise. "The boss's biker bitch?"

"Dean, you charmer," you said dryly. "Let the man go."

"Oh, I don't think so, honey. I'm not going to ask you again," Dean snarled at Tara as you walked up to stand beside her.

"I think she's going to shoot you," Jesus observed.

"I am," Tara agreed.

"Yeah. She is. Tara, he has a gun to my head," Jesus pointed out.

"Not for long," Tara snapped.

Dean shifted behind Jesus and moved the gun slightly. "You really want to risk it? Me for him? I can tell you right now that I am not worth it," he said with a nervous chuckle.

You snorted, eyes on Jesus. "Oh, he's definitely not. Dean's an asshole. Does it smell like piss in here? Goddamn."

"We can work this out. Come on, Biker. You're one of us. You know I talk a big game, like I'm a tough guy, but I'm not."

"No, you're not," you agreed.

"I really just want to-" he stopped talking as he abruptly lifted the gun to aim at you, and you stood still while Jesus put the man on the ground in seconds.

Jesus held the gun on him and you strolled up, looking down at Dean. "You good?" you asked Jesus.

"I'm fine," he said shortly, locked in a staring contest with Dean.

"You're not going to do it," Dean said slowly. "Not you."

You sighed, glancing between them. "No, he's not," you agreed, and swung the bat.

Dean's skull made a wet crunching sound as it shattered. His mouth gaped as he looked at you, and Tara wretched behind you. You swung a second time and he fell.

"What the fuck was that for? He was unarmed!" Jesus yelled.

You shook blood off your bat and set it on your shoulder again. You shrugged at Jesus. "He needed killing. He's a first order dickbag, like all of us Saviors. Trust me, we're better off."

Tara was still puking in the corner as you headed toward the door. A radio on the shelf crackled.

"Evac, Stat 1! Evac, Stat 1!"

 

 

"Is there another exit?" Diane asked as the Saviors fell back.

Jesus snarled. You watched the halls and the retreating backs, and pulled you gun again.

"Follow my lead," Jesus said. "All of you, damn it, Nameless." He turned and headed down the hall the way you'd come, Tara, Diane, and the others going with him.

You went further into the compound.

 

 

A few turns in, you stumbled across the bodies of Andy and Freddie. Andy had been here the last time you were, part of the ill-fated Hilltop drop. He'd apparently been part of the murder spree that Rick and company had led as well, and he'd been one of the most hostile when you'd first arrived in Hilltop.

He'd also held out a hand and wished you luck in the field before you left for the Sanctuary this morning, telling you he knew you'd tried to keep the loss of life down that day. That he knew you'd been making hard choices and he hoped you got Shane back.

"Fuck," you whispered.

The two of them had been with Morgan, and you didn't see Morgan's body anywhere.

"Further up and further in, then," you muttered, and so it went.

 

 

 

Two turns and four dead later, you saw Morgan's back.

"Morgan!" you called.

He turned, gun up, and you held up your hands. He lowered the gun as you walked to join him. No more words were spoken as you walked the halls together, steering you toward the back exit, where the Saviors would have retreated.

A lot more motherfuckers died, between the two of you.

Morgan didn't hesitate when someone appeared, and you didn't either. You knew who he'd lost. You'd heard that Jared killed the kid, Ben. That's what brought Carol and Ezekiel into the fight. It's what brought Morgan out of his no-killing zen.

You got it. You got him.

You rounded the door into the field, where Jesus, Tara, and Diane had Saviors at gunpoint.

 

 

The gun pointed at your face rattled with the shaking of the man's hand. He had wild eyes and was covered in dirt and sweat and blood, carrying a backpack on his back with a big-ass knife at his hip.

You held your hands up in the universal gesture of peace and tried to figure out how to calm him down. "Hey. Hey. Mister. I'm not a threat, ok?"

"Who- who the fuck are you? Where did you come from?" the man half-shouted.

You winced. He was too loud. "I'm YN. Sir, there are zombies in these woods. You've got to keep-"

"Where did you come from?" he yelled again.

Your jaw tightened, but you kept your voice and face calm. "I came from the prison. We have a community there. We take in survivors."

"You- what?"

Movement in the trees beside you caught your eye and you wanted to groan. Daryl stepped out of the trees with his crossbow aimed square between the man's eyes and a threat in his own.

"Hey, asshole. Ya gonna want to put that gun down now," he snapped.

"I've got this, Dixon," you shot back as the guy swung his gun wildly between the two of you, eyes huge and crazed. "Sir, we're not going to hurt you. What's your name?"

He looked from you to Daryl again, and you gestured irritably for Daryl to lower the crossbow. He stared for a beat, but finally did. The man looked back at you, and you held out a hand to him soothingly.

"That's Daryl. He's my boyfriend. Our community- there's fences to keep the dead out. Rick's growing crops. There's beds and walls and children playing. It's a good place, a safe place. You can come with us, if you want," you offered.

"How- why would you- what do you want from me? If I come?" the man asked, focusing on you.

You shrugged. "I'll ask you three questions. If you answer them honestly, we'll take you in. After that, it's up to you. People all pitch in, but we don't have requirements. We're just trying to make lives for ourselves."

"What are your- what are your questions?"

You smiled at him. "How many walkers have you killed?"

 

 

"Shit. I know you. You get transferred too?"

Your eyes snapped to the owner of that voice as Morgan stalked forward, and you groaned. Fucking Jared. Jared, who'd killed the kid.

Jesus got in Morgan's way, stopping him from taking the bastard out as your eyes ran over the rest of the group.

"We came here to kill them. We're supposed to," Morgan snarled.

"They surrendered," Jesus said softly. "It's not what we do."

"She does things differently that you do," Jared said, nodding toward you. "She's one of us."

Jesus met your eyes. "She used to be. She's not any more."

You looked back at him and shrugged. "I might be."

"YN?" It was the voice that had called the evac, and you looked over at the group again.

"Alden," you said flatly. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

"Got sent to build the fence. Guess you found a way around it," he answered. "YN, what happened?"

You eyed him. Alden was a worker. He wasn't a soldier, but he didn't work for points. He was an engineer of sorts, always level headed and calm. He'd been friends, tentatively, with Shane.

You flinched away from thinking about Shane.

You shrugged. "We're winning."

"I see that. YN, you don't- you don't look so great. Where's Shane?" Alden asked.

You almost put a bullet in his head for saying his name. Your finger twitched on the trigger, and you shoved the gun into your thigh holster to keep it from happening as your hands started to shake. You looked back and met Alden's worried eyes.

"Shane's dead," you snarled. "Negan killed him."

"Oh, fuck," someone in the crowd whispered as Alden's eyes closed for a minute. Half the Saviors held at gunpoint were people you knew at least in passing, and your team looked confused and worried as all of them edged away from you with freaked-out expressions.

You started drumming the Clash on the bloody bat hanging from your side.

"I'm-"

"Don't," you snarled, stepping toward Alden. You got right in his face, and the kid didn't back down. "Don't."

"Nameless," Jesus called, but you didn't turn.

"I won't. We surrendered. We'd like to live. I'd like to live," Alden said simply, and heads nodded in agreement behind him.

"What the hell? Why are we acting so fucking scared?" Jared sneered. "So some bastard died. Big deal."

"Don't you get it, asshole?" a voice snapped from the Saviors. "That's the biker. Negan's biker. If Walsh is gone, we're all fucked."

"Oh, yeah," you answered. "You are."

Chapter Text

"I wish you'd come with us. They're terrified of you; it might help keep them in line," Jesus said seriously.

You looked over the line of Saviors, tied together in a chain gang with a pissed-off Tara and a vacant-eyed Morgan standing guard. You met Alden's eyes and he nodded to you, but the others looked away and murmured to each other as your gaze slid over them.

You shook your head. "No. They're terrified of me because they think I'm going lose my mind and kill them all without Shane around. There's a real possibility they aren't wrong. I'm going to do one last sweep through the building, make sure there are no more surprises; then I'm heading back to Alexandria. I've got something to do there."

Jesus' eyes went soft. "I'll sweep with you," he offered, touching your arm.

You sighed and gripped his hand for a moment. "No. I'll do it alone. Go with them. Update Maggie."

Jesus hesitated, but you were already turning to go. "Nameless," he called.

You flinched, but didn't tell him not to call you that. You didn't think you could bear to never hear that called your way again, even if it wouldn't be Shane's voice. You glanced back at him, lifting an eyebrow.

"Be careful, ok? And I'm sorry."

You turned and started walking. "Me too."

 

 

In the darkness of the outpost, you checked every room. You snagged a bag from someone's bed and started loading it with things you thought needed to go to Alexandria.

A couple of knives. A full magazine. A box of high-quality protein bars. Six packs of cigarettes, two bottles of wine, a bottle of Jim Beam, painkillers and antibiotics, and your personal favorite discovery- someone's stash and rolling papers.

Oh, you were gonna have fun tonight, you thought grimly. Smokes, booze, and weed. Just what you needed.

You put down a few dead who'd risen, but for the most part everyone had taken head shots. When there was nothing and no one moving in the place but you, you headed for the doors and your bike.

You had someone waiting for you.

 

 

Chain smoking while riding a motorcycle at speeds far greater than recommended wasn't exactly smart. You didn't care.

You roared up to Alexandria alone, blood and guts on splattered up your leg and on the side of your bike from the walker you'd shot and then run over. It's head had quasi-exploded when that front tire hit, and the results were harsh.

You didn't care about that either.

Sasha opened the gate as you approached, and you blew by her without stopping. She swung it closed as you drove through the streets to Rick and Daryl's houses.

You cut the engine in Daryl's driveway, dropped the kickstand and the cigarette from your lips, and looked down at your clenched fists as Rick's door opened slowly.

"Nameless," Carl said, his voice thick and rough and bringing all the things you weren't feeling rushing back in that one word.

You swung off the bike slowly, and dropped the bag and your rifle beside it. When there was no putting it off any longer, you headed toward Rick's house. Carl waited on the porch, his one eye red-rimmed and tears staining his cheek.

At the bottom of the steps you stopped, staring at him and unable to go any further. "I'm sorry," you whispered.

He shook his head and sniffed. "Why the fuck are you sorry?"

"Because. I- I should have stayed- I should have stayed in the cell. If I hadn't left, he- he would-" You didn't so much stop talking as find yourself unable to continue as a weight crushed you and had you sinking to your knees right there, with your hands over your face. You weren't crying, though god knew you wanted to be. You just- stopped.

Stopped moving, stopped talking, stopped being able to think of anything except that Shane was dead.

He was dead, and you were still alive, and that wasn't supposed to happen. That's not how it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be together.

We living or dying today, Nameless? You're living. Promise me.

I can't do it, Shane, you thought wildly. I can't do it.

"That's bullshit," Carl snapped. "You didn't do anything. It's Negan. Negan did this. Not you."

You shook your head. "If I'd stayed in the cell-"

"If you'd stayed in the cell, Uncle Shane and Daryl would have come busting in there to get you. I would have to. Then all of us would have been killed, damn it," Carl shot back. "Come on, Nameless. This isn't your fault. Get up. We need to bury him."

Why did all the men in your life bully you? you wondered, but you were on your feet and climbing the steps slowly.

Oh. Because bullying you worked, that's why.

When you reached the top of the stairs, you looked at the door and took a slow, deep breath. You could do this, you thought as you squared your shoulders. You could do this. You could-

Carl wrapped his arms around you and you held on for dear life.

 

 

You sat behind D block, in a corner tucked as far away from everything and everyone as you possibly could, and pulled the single joint from your jacket pocket. You smirked as you lit it and leaned back with a long sigh, blowing smoke contentedly.

"Oh man, that's good shit," you whispered to the air, looking at it in surprise. "God."

A few minutes later, you heard someone walking around. You scooted further back into the corner, trying to keep the laughter in as you hoped they'd pass you unseen and not ask any questions. Or smell anything.

Shane came around the corner and you put your head on your knees to stifle the groan. Of course it'd be the officer. The only worse person you could think of would have been Deputy Do Good.

"Nameless? What are you doing way back- Is that pot?" Shane asked, stopping abruptly.

You lifted your head from your knees and lost the battle with laughter, even as you took another hit from the joint. You blew smoke in his direction with a grin as you got the giggles under control.

"Maybe," you told him. "Maybe it's just a cigarette."

"Yeah, cause you smoke and I don't know what pot smells like," Shane said with a roll of his eyes. He took a couple steps closer, eyeing you. "How much of that you had, criminal?"

You looked at it and shrugged. "Some. Not all. Why? Gonna arrest me?" You dissolved into more laughter as Shane rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath. You waved at the prison. "Get it? Arrest me? Goddamn, I'm hilarious."

"Oh, yeah, you're hilarious," he agreed, deadpan, but you saw him trying not to laugh. Finally he ran a hand through his hair and plopped down beside you. "Alright. Give it."

"No?" you told him, sticking it back between your lips. "My shit, officer. You aren't taking it from me."

He leaned over and plucked it from you before you could react, and you started laughing again. He rolled his eyes and took a hit himself as you stared, hand over your mouth, in surprised delight.

"Damn," he muttered. "That's good shit."

"That's what I said!" you exploded, leaning into his shoulder as you cracked up again. "Oh Judas Priest, Walsh. What the fuck. Didn't know you were into this kind of stuff, man."

Shane shrugged. "We all had high school days, Nameless."

You giggled. "Officer Shane Walsh, smoking pot behind a prison with one of the Nameless. Damn."

"Yeah, the apocalypse is weird, ain't it? Shit. Damn good," Shane muttered.

You took it from him and winked. "Life of crime's fun, officer. You should try it sometime."

"Maybe I will," Shane said with a smirk, and tucked a piece of your hair behind you ear as you blew smoke and grinned.

 

 

You and Carl dug. Others came and offered to help, but both of you waved them away. Carl was nicer about it than you were, but Carl was a hell of a lot nicer than you were in general.

Michonne came. Sasha came. Rosita came, and she hadn't even known Shane at all, really. Michonne brought Judith, and you held her while they spoke about Shane and looked for him in her little face.

When it was done, when there was no more dirt to move and nothing left to be said, you stood alone and wondered what the hell you were supposed to do now.

 

 

The weed was awful, but it did the trick. You went through both bottles of wine and two packs of cigarettes, sitting miserable and alone and crying on the floor of Daryl's bathroom.

This beautiful house, with its genuine marble counters, elegant fixtures, and fucking soaking tub, you thought in disgust. You were going to fuck it up. You were going to fuck everything up.

Or maybe you already had fucked everything up.

You'd intended to get a shower. Wash away the dirt, the brains, the blood-

So much blood. On your shirt, on your cheek, on your hands, soaked into your pants. You could feel it burning on your skin like a brand. Shane's blood.

You'd had Shane's blood on you before, but it wasn't the same. You'd patched him up a few times. You'd made him bleed a couple of times, too; in the heat of battle or lost in the chaos swarming in your brain when he'd tried to pull you out and it didn't quite work. But it'd never been like this. Never so much blood you didn't think it'd ever come out.

You were onto the Beam and pack number three, cigarette number four. You'd puked twice, which was why you'd stayed in the bathroom, and you'd somehow stripped and gotten into the tub and filled it up with water.

You didn't remember doing any of that, and you couldn't quite convince yourself to get the fuck out or scrub off the blood and dirt or do anything put smoke and sip and sob or stare at the wall blankly. The water was cold and every part of your body hurt and sitting here like this wasn't doing your healing side any good.

But what the fuck did you care?

It'd be easy to slide down under the surface of the water, you thought. It was still and cold, like you. You could slip under there; and after a few minutes, nothing would hurt anymore. You'd just be drifting, like you were now. Maybe you'd run into Merle and Shane.

Shane.

We living or dying today, Nameless? You're living. Promise me.

I tried, you thought. I tried, but I can't do this without you. I miss you too much already, and it's only been... hours. It's only been a few hours.

You closed your eyes and sank into the water until it was right under your nose. You thought about going further, but you didn't have the energy. You wanted another sip, but you didn't have the energy for that either.

So you sat and let the water surround you, until you heard a door slam in the distance.

Daryl, you thought tiredly, and closed eyes that burned from staring unblinking at the wall for so long. Still, you didn't move.

Steps rattled through the hallway, and you knew he was doing it on purpose. He moved like a cat in the night normally; only making this much racket when he wanted someone to know he was coming. The steps paused outside the door, and he knocked softly.

"Baby? Ya aight?"

You thought about responding. But with what? Cause the answer sure as fuck wasn't yes.

"Baby? Damn it, say something to me. Please," Daryl called again. He paused. "Fuck this. I don't care if ya decent or not, I'm comin' in."

The door crashed open and suddenly Daryl was dragging you from the water, hands gripping you hard enough to bruise as he yanked you roughly up and out. You gasped at the sudden change; the still peaceful numbness of the water replaced with rough hands and cold air on cold skin and the solid painful reality of the floor under you as he set you on the tile and tossed a towel at you.

You blinked at him as your stomach rolled and he grabbed the bottle, glanced at the label, and sucked down what looked like half of it in one gulp.

"What the fuck do ya think ya doin', girl?" he snarled then, dropping down into your face and tucking the towel around you firmly. "Ya seriously- What the fuck. Ya hurt?"

He started searching you briskly, and you didn't move to stop him or help or anything at all- except to lean around him and grab the bottle for another drink.

He snatched it from your hands and drank more himself before putting it out of reach. "No. Ya had enough of that. What the hell? There's enough fuckin' blood in that water it's damn near the fuckin' Nile and it's stone cold. Ya shiverin' like crazy. Ya fuckin' trying to die?" He yelled it at you, and you recognized wild panic when you saw it, especially in him.

You met his eyes and spoke through the shudders that rolled through you. "M- Maybe. At least not- not trying to live."

"Shit!" he yelled, shoving away from you to lean against the side of the tub and press his fingers over his eyes. "Shit," he repeated, softly. "Don't- don't. Just... don't."

You shrugged and huddled into the towel, then abruptly leaned forward, puked into the toilet again, and groaned.

Daryl's hands were gentle, wrapping a dry towel around your back and scooping your dripping hair out of the way. "Easy, girl. That's it, baby. You're gonna be fine. Ain't the first time ya puked up- shit, what the fuck all ya had in here? Do I smell pot? Ya gonna be hurtin' in a few hours, baby."

You laughed roughly, hysterically, at his last words. "I'm already hurting, Dixon. I'm already hurting," you mumbled into the toilet, and then you started sobbing again.

 

 

Dry, dressed in a warm, clean flannel, and holding a bottle of water and yet another cigarette, you leaned, exhausted, against the couch and stared at the honest-to-God fire in the honest-to-God fireplace. Daryl'd gone into the kitchen, rattled around, and came back with something he made you choke down. Now he sat in the floor at your feet, staring at the fire and smoking as well.

"It was Beth," he said softly.

You stirred, looking down at the top of his head tipped back on the couch. He had one leg drawn up and his arm rested on it, cigarette dangling from his fingers. You could see the partially-healed burns on his hand and arm and something stirred in the blankness you'd been sunk in.

"What?" you asked finally, voice hollow and rusty.

He took a drag on the cigarette and dropped his hand back to his knee. "It was Beth. The- the someone else. Nothin' came of it, and she was- shit, she was gone before I really realized. But still."

"Fuck," you whispered. You reached out and touched his shoulder. He looked up at you, offered the faintest hint of a smile.

"Yeah. She was killed right in front of me. We'd almost saved her, and then- then she was just gone."

You didn't have anything to say to that, so you didn't say anything at all. After a minute, he stirred again and met your eyes, his own hard and angry.

"I wanna break the fuckin' wall. Let the walkers in the Sanctuary. You in?"

Chapter Text

You stared at him. "I'm sorry, you want to what?"

He turned so he was kneeling in front of you, looking at you intensely. "Think about it. We take one of the garbage trucks those scavenger fuckers left here. We ram it into the wall; crack that place open like a fuckin' egg. The walkers go in, and they got their hands full dealin' with that shit."

You blinked. "What about Rick's minimizing loss of life speech?"

"Ya really give a shit about that? He killed Abraham and Glenn and Shane," Daryl sneered.

You thought about it for a minute, even as you flinched back from the harshness in Daryl's voice. This wasn't your Dixon, you thought. But that was ok. You weren't the same anymore either.

Turns out, you didn't give a shit about the workers or the foot soldiers or any of that shit. Once upon a time, you would have. Once upon a time, Merle had told you that the soldiers were just following orders.

You'd stood beside Shane and refused to shoot through a random person to kill the Governor. What if you had? What if you'd taken that shot, poor bastard in the way be damned?

Your fingers wrapped around Shane's necklace. If you'd taken that goddamn shot, the Governor wouldn't have gotten away. He wouldn't have come back. The prison wouldn't have fallen, and people would still be alive. Hershel and Beth and Tyreese and Bob and Shane.

Shane would still be alive if you hadn't pussied out, to save some poor bastard who'd just ended up dead anyway because he was just a soldier.

You smiled at Daryl. "I'm in. What do we need?"

Daryl smiled back, leaned in, and kissed you abruptly. It was quick and firm and not at all sexual, and you blinked at him in surprise as he touched your cheek.

"We need Tara and a truck. Come on, let's go."

 

 

Tara was coming out of her house as the two of you walked up. She glanced between you.

"Hey," she said. "I was just coming to look for you."

"We're lookin' for you," Daryl said. "Ya just get in?"

She nodded and glanced toward you. "Maggie took them prisoner. She made a cage and has them all in it."

You sighed, scrubbing at your forehead. "Of course she did."

"Who? What are ya talkin' about?" Daryl asked, obviously confused.

"Jesus took a bunch of Saviors prisoner. Maggie's keeping them until she decides what to do with them." Tara's voice dripped with deep disgust.

"Alden's a decent person. Jared needs to be shot. Most of the rest of them are fair to medium levels of shitholes," you said with a shrug. "She'll let them live and I'll kill Jared when she's not looking."

Daryl winced. "The fuck, baby?"

Tara just nodded. "Sounds right. Ok. So you were looking for me? What's up?"

"Wanna do something crazy?" you asked, flashing her a smile that didn't sit right on your lips.

"With you?" Tara asked. "I'm honestly not sure. Yeah, whatever. I'm in."

 

 

You drove, partly because you had an idea for somewhere to look for explosives and shit and partly because you'd stared Daryl down until he scowled and shifted to the middle seat, muttering under his breath about you never being able to let someone else behind the goddamn wheel and maybe you had some control issues, did ya ever think about that?

You fired up the garbage truck and grinned. "This bitch is tough. Ok, troops. Let's roll."

Sasha let you out again through the gate with narrowed eyes, and you didn't have to look to know all three of you had matching bland expressions. Who us? No, we're not going to do something in direct disobedience with Rick's plan. Not us.

"So if you thought there were weapons here, why didn't you mention it to Rick?" Tara demanded as you drove.

"I didn't say I think there are weapons here. I said it's the only place I can think to look. It felt like an unnecessary risk to look before we set the plan in motion. If there happened to be a team there, they could radio in way too damn easily."

She grunted. "Fair enough. So what all's there?"

"Food. Random shit from scavenging trips that hasn't been assigned to any particular outpost or brought to the Sanctuary yet. Smaller teams- Saviors Negan's testing, low-ranking shits, you know?- bring their hauls there and they get processed with bigger drops from the outposts." You glanced in the mirrors out of habit, but who the fuck else was going to be out on the road?

Daryl shifted in the middle seat. "What was your job?" he asked quietly.

Your hands tightened on the wheel. "Pet killer on a goddamn leash. I've told you that," you said harshly.

He shook his head as Tara shifted to stare at you. "Naw," he said. "That ain't all. Ya too damn smart."

You sighed. "Smart? Yes. Fucked up? Also yes."

"I heard a story..." Tara said hesitantly.

You snorted and glanced at her. "I bet. There's more than a few. What the fuck did Alden tell you?"

Her lip curled. "Wasn't Alden. It was Jared."

"Oh, well, it's probably wrong then," you muttered.

"He said you killed a woman for Negan."

"I killed several women for Negan. Negan doesn't like killing women," you shot back. "He narrow that one down any?"

She leaned around Daryl and you raised an eyebrow at her. "He said you killed a pregnant woman and chained her to the fence because she slept with- uh. With Shane."

"Oh for shit's sake," you muttered, ignoring the stab of pain at Shane's name. "How the hell does that story keep getting worse? Judas fucking Priest. I did not kill a pregnant woman for any reason, ever. Negan doesn't hurt kids, and he sure as shit doesn't kill pregnant women. People are a goddamn resource," you snapped, copying his intonation so well Daryl flinched away from you.

You started tapping on the steering wheel, Motorhead this time, and sighed. There was dead silence in the cab as they waited for you to continue.

"I killed a woman and chained her to the fence. And I beat the ever-loving shit out of a woman who wanted to sleep with Shane. Arat," you added unnecessarily, not really wanting to admit to the rest of it. "I don't- I don't actually remember why I killed her. Negan told me to, so I did. I didn't ask any difficult questions. This was fairly early on, mind, when Shane and I were starting to establish ourselves. Shortly after Winslow and the fucking garbage people, but before Negan decided we were really trustworthy. She fought back and she was a tough bitch, let me tell you. Negan had forbidden weapons. He said he would have done it himself, but he wanted it to be an even fight. It was pretty spectacular. A branding iron got involved, I think, and-" you shrugged. "Guess it became legendary."

Daryl was staring at you and you scowled. "What?" you snapped. "That's not the worst thing I ever did for him, so judge away."

"They're terrified of you," Tara said quietly. "Listen, you know I was with the Governor when he attacked your prison. Glenn- Glenn saved me. I was coming to kill you with them. I thought the worst thing I'd ever see was the Governor cutting the old man- Hershel's- head off. I was wrong."

Your eyes welled at the thought of Maggie's dad. "Yeah? Now what's the worst thing you've ever seen?" you asked, guessing you knew the answer.

She looked over at you. "You taking that bat to Dean's head yesterday."

"Ya did what?" Daryl snarled.

You sighed. "Dixon, if you're going to do that every time some shit I've done gets announced, you're going to be repeating that phrase until the end of time."

Daryl looked between you and Tara. "Look, one of ya needs to fill me in on what happened at that fuckin' outpost."

"We killed some people. Someone tried to kill Tara and Jesus. Jesus got the drop on him, and I took him out anyway. Trust me, he deserved it. Then Jesus decided to take a bunch of them prisoner instead of taking them out."

"They all think you're going off the deep end without Shane," Tara told you.

"They're probably right," you muttered, reaching up and touching Shane's necklace.

"No, they ain't," Daryl snarled. "Don't care what ya done. Ya ain't crazy."

"Daryl, I- do you hear music?" you asked, listening.

"Yeah," Tara said slowly. "I think it's coming from-"

"The cache," you agreed, and hit the gas.

 

 

"What the fuck-" Daryl started when the truck full of speakers came into view.

You slammed down the gas pedal, and he braced himself on the dash as Tara unleashed a stream of creative cursing you had not expected from her.

You T-boned the truck at 50 miles per hour and wrecked the thing completely, and your garbage truck took exactly zero damage.

You whooped, unbuckled, and were out the door before Tara and Daryl were moving. You snagged Daryl's crossbow from the floorboard as you hopped out, heading to the driver's side of the wrecked truck and wrenching open the door. A dazed-looking woman blinked up at you through blood streaming from a cut on her forehead, and you lifted the crossbow, aimed, and fired in one smooth motion.

Daryl had gotten out and Tara followed him when you came back around with the bolt and bow and handed both to Daryl.

"Yeah, I can't draw this thing with the broken rib; sorry," you muttered.

"That was a damn stupid move, girl," he snarled back, waving the arrow at you.

You shrugged. "Worked, didn't it?"

"It did. Thank you. That was too close." Michonne's voice had you turning with your eyebrows raised to see her and Rosita standing there looking concerned and vaguely guilty.

"It's a-" Rosita started, jerking her thumb over her shoulder toward the building.

"Cache. I know," you interrupted, and sighed. "What the fuck are you guys doing out here?"

Chapter Text

Michonne wanted to see it. She said she couldn't rest until she saw with her own eyes that it was working, and the letters didn't help.

The Kingdom had been decimated. You leaned back against the garbage truck, eyes closed, as she filled you and Daryl in on what Carol's letter had said. Daryl had told you some of what Alexandria had lost- poor Aaron- and about meeting and killing Morales.

"Oh, shit. Yeah, I'd forgotten he was out there," you'd muttered. He'd taken one look at you and Shane when he'd been brought in and immediately requested to be anywhere you weren't.

The big guns hadn't been at Rick and Daryl's outpost, where both you and Dwight had thought they'd be. That had been bad, and the Kingdom had paid the price. According to Carol's letter, only she, Ezekiel, and Jerry had made it out of there.

"Goddamn it!" you snarled, kicking the wheel of the truck. "Dixon, we have to-"

"Yeah. We ain't got the Kingdom no more. We gotta finish this shit," he agreed grimly. He turned to Michonne and Rosita. "We're breakin' the wall. Ya in?"
Michonne nodded. "I'm in."

Rosita was out. She'd only come because she didn't want the beat-up Michonne out by herself, and with you and your mission, she could go back. She urged Michonne and Tara to do the same, saying it took you come out of a coffin, but she finally got it.

"We don't get to know," she said softly, holding your eyes. "And killing yourself won't bring him back."

You said nothing as she turned and walked off.

 

"Look, we add this into the mix, they're sure to surrender," Daryl muttered.

The tension was high enough you could have cut it with the knife on your belt; the four of you packed in tightly and no one speaking. You glanced down the line of them briefly before focusing back on the road.

Michonne stared out the window at the trees flowing by, and her shoulders were stiff. Tara had a white-knuckle grip on her gun, held between her knees and up like a spear. There were circles under her eyes, and you remembered with a flash of guilt that Dwight had killed her girlfriend. Daryl sat at your side, packed in so tightly that his leg pressed to yours; his shoulder brushed yours as he shifted and fiddled with the strap of his crossbow.

You snorted. "Negan's in there."

He turned toward you, and in the corner of your eye you saw Tara and Michonne do the same.

"Yeah?" he said, eyeing you through shaggy hair that desperately needed some attention.

You glanced over at him and smiled, but it wasn't a pleasant smile. More a wolf's baring of teeth than anything. "Negan doesn't surrender. Never."

"So- what's the point of this, then?" Tara asked, looking confused.

You went back to watching the road as you got closer. "The point is to break the goddamn wall and let the walkers take some of them out. Make it easier to mop up later. Hell, maybe one of them will get lucky and bite Negan's ass."

"What about the workers? Their families?" Michonne asked quietly.

"They'll get to safety," Daryl answered firmly. "We'll hit it on the other side from where they live. They'll get up the stairs."

"And if they don't?" she pressed.

"They will."

"YN? You agree?"

You turned and looked Michonne dead in the eyes. "I honestly don't give a shit. They'll live or they won't. As long as Negan dies, it's worth it."

 

 

"Hey, YN!"

You paused and turned toward Laura's voice, raising an eyebrow in question. She jogged up to you, holding a clipboard.

"Sorry. I've been on the factory floor all morning and the workers have a list of things they'd like taken care of. I was wondering if you could take it up to the Big Man?"

You sighed and reached for the clipboard. "What are they asking for? Jesus, they're needy sometimes."

Laura handed it over with a laugh. "Yeah. This time it seems fairly reasonable, but I didn't want to make any promises unless Negan or someone higher up than me approved."

"Good policy," you grunted, scanning the neat list she'd made and the notes on each item.

They wanted another rain barrel or two; a few job-change requests, including one woman who was a teacher before the world ended who wanted to set up a classroom for the kids; and a few requests for exams from Dr. Carson. All in all, it was fairly reasonable.

"Yeah, this looks pretty normal. I'll run it by Negan, but I don't see any problems. Anything going on down there that concerns you? Was today inspection day?" you asked, pulling Laura's list from the clipboard and handing it back.

She nodded. "Inspection went well. Found some minor problems but they've all been handled. All good on the floor."

"Perfect. I'll pass it along," you said, patting her shoulder and heading toward Negan's meeting room.

 

Your fingers drummed absently and tunelessly on the steering wheel as you waited for the signal. Walkers swarmed the courtyard, blocking all the exits. You couldn't hear the hum of the big generators, so they'd cut them off to conserve fuel.

Smart, but probably going to lead to problems as the lower floors heated up and the workers got scared.

"Hey. Ya aight?" Daryl asked softly.

You lifted one shoulder in a careless shrug, not looking away from the courtyard.

"Baby." He touched your leg hesitantly. "Come on, girl. Talk to me."

"About what, Dixon?" you asked, tearing your eyes from where Shane had fallen with difficulty. You met Daryl's worried stare; the familiar intensity and concern stabbing into the ice you'd drawn around you so it cracked dangerously.

You shook your head, swallowed hard, and looked away again. You couldn't afford to crack right now. You couldn't feel; not until that bastard inside your former home was dead.

"Shit, girl. Anything," Daryl muttered.

You snorted. "Weather's nice."

"Bitch."

"Asshole."

He mumbled something under his breath and you felt your lips moving in an unbidden smile. It was too damn familiar, him and you bickering.

"I missed you, Dixon," you said softly, glancing over at him.

He went still, surprise radiating off him. You rolled your eyes as the radio crackled.

"Snipers ready. You're clear to go," Morgan's voice came through.

"Here's where you get out," you told Daryl, turning the ignition.

Daryl shook his head. "Don't think so, baby. I'll do it. Move."

You laughed, once, short and harsh. "Oh really?"

He tossed his head impatiently and stabbed a finger toward the Sanctuary. "Ya think I don't know ya plannin' to go in there? Grab one of them walkers and use it as a shield; try and kill Negan? How dumb ya think I am, girl?"

You bit down on your lip, eyes sliding from his guilty. That had been your plan, actually. How the fuck had he figured that out?

Michonne had bailed after seeing the place. She said that's all she'd wanted, and Rosita was right. She didn't get any certainties in life. She'd decided to trust Rick's plan. Tara had glanced at you, agonized, and you'd jerked your head toward Michonne. Tara had left with her, leaving you and Daryl to handle it on your own. Morgan and the snipers had agreed to help, and here you were.

"It's suicide, and ya know it," Daryl continued.

"And?" you muttered. "Come on, we're going to lose our window. Negan has to die."

"Yeah, he does. You don't. Ya ain't goin' alone. Either I go with ya, or I go," Daryl snarled.

You glared at him and he glared back, and finally you slumped, defeated. "Fine. Asshole."

You wrenched open the door and dropped down as he slid to take your place. He handed you the rifle and touched your hand.

"See ya in a minute."

"Don't fuck this up, Dixon," you snapped, already heading toward the vantage point you'd picked out to cover your retreat.

Chapter Text

"Remember that trip we took? Up the Parkway, you'n'me and Merle?"

You turned from the window to glance at Daryl. He was driving, apparently not having trusted you enough to let you behind the wheel.

The garbage truck had worked. The wall broke; the walkers flooded in; and you and Daryl had retreated. You were on the way back to Alexandria now, and you'd been sitting in silence the whole time. Daryl was staring out the wind shield, one hand loose on the wheel, chewing on a hangnail on the other hand.

You'd seen that before, you thought absently, the tick he'd had since childhood making you smile faintly.

"Right before he shipped out," you said finally as he glanced at you. "Of course. Why?"

Daryl turned back to the road and you did as well. "I's thinkin' about it. Three of us, stayin' in shitholes. Ridin' all damn day. Thought it was what fucking freedom felt like."

The road flew by and you leaned your head back against the seat. "It was. What's freedom feel like now, Dixon?"

"I don't even fuckin' know. Maybe still that," he muttered. "I miss him."

"I saw him."

The car jerked as Daryl did, and you looked at him and raised an eyebrow.

"The fuck ya mean, girl?" he snapped at you, glaring out the window with both hands on the wheel.

"While I was locked in the coffin. It wasn't really him. Just my brain trying to keep me from loosing my sanity completely, I guess. But it felt real," you whispered, closing your eyes. "He looked good. Had both hands."

"Shit. I ain't- we ain't talked much, you'n'me," Daryl muttered. "Know you got some heavy shit goin' on, and I just- I'm here, baby."

You laughed harshly. "Yeah, heavy shit about covers it. I'm- I can't- Dixon, I open that door again and I don't know if it'll close. I have to keep-"

"Ya gotta keep movin'. I know. I know you," he agreed, and the back of his fingers brushed your cheek. "When ya can, I'll be here."

Your skin burned where he'd touched you, and you swallowed back the tears. Numb. You had to stay numb, until this was over.

Until Negan was dead, you had to stay dead inside too.

 

 

The day Merle left was spent mostly in a haze. You and Daryl were the only ones who knew he was leaving. Will didn't know, and Daryl was prepared to take a beating over it- though Merle didn't know that.

Merle had left an explanation, some cash, and the booze you'd caught him stealing from the liquor store to try to bribe Will into not giving a shit. Daryl nodded and agreed to spend a night or two in the woods and acted like he thought that would handle it.

In the dark the night before, after you'd crawled into his bed without a word, he'd whispered that he knew it wouldn't be enough. You'd inched your hand over the mattress until your fingers brushed his. He twitched, and slid his fingertips against yours, not really holding your hand but something close to it.

Now Merle was leaving, between classes so no one knew. You'd said tearful goodbyes the night before, and you sat in class, slumped in your chair and staring at your desk. You and Daryl weren't allowed to sit next to each other anymore- not since the incident with the knife and the rabbit's pelt and your foster sister's homework- but you had a feeling it was the same for him.

When the bell finally rang, you scooped up your backpack and fell into step with him in silence, both of you heading over to where Merle would have been waiting for you any other day without really thinking about it.

He wasn't there, and something cold that had been spreading from your chest all day took up residence in your stomach as well.

Daryl's fingers touched the back of your hand as you left the school without Merle, brushed lightly and then were gone. Then again, and again, until finally his shoulder bumped yours and he gripped your hand as you turned onto the road that led to your houses.

"Wanna hit the woods?" he asked softly.

You shrugged, but the curious numbness slowly seemed to be retreating under the warmth of the sun and Daryl's hand in yours.

"Yeah. Creek?" you asked, glancing at him from the corner of your eye.

He nodded and shifted his hand in yours, holding on a little more firmly. "Gonna sleep in the tent tonight. Leave my window open, though."

You smiled. "Maybe I'll come to the tent."

"Naw. You'll get in trouble if ya go that far. You can crash in my room, though, if ya need to. It's cool. Just--"

"-- make sure Will's passed out and lock your door. Shit, Dixon. Just cause Merle's not here doesn't mean you need to turn into a mother hen instead," you complained, rolling your eyes at him as he scowled.

"Whatever," he muttered. Then he grinned at you. "Race ya. Go!"

He took off like a shot, dropping your hand and sprinting for the creek.

"Damn it! No fair!" you called after him, laughing as you ran and knowing there was no way you'd catch up. You tried anyway.

 

 

Tara, Rosita, and Michonne waited inside the gate. Sasha drug it open, shook her head at all of you, and slid it closed as Daryl parked.

"Did it work?" Tara asked, practically before you were out of the damn car.

"Yeah, it worked. Wall broke. Should keep 'em busy," Daryl said quietly.

You glanced around Alexandria and sharply back to Michonne. "Rick back yet?"

She shook her head, worry springing into her eyes. "No. Not yet."

You rubbed a hand over your eyes in frustration. "Yeah. Alright."

Daryl and Tara were having a low conversation as you started walking, heading for his house and your bike. Fucking Jadis, you thought grimly. Rick should have been back by now. Him being gone could only mean something had happened with the garbage people.

"Hey, baby! Where ya going?" Daryl asked, grabbing at your elbow as he caught up to you.

"Rick's not back," you told him shortly.

He fell into step with you when you didn't stop walking, nodding to people you passed on the streets. "And?"

You glanced at him, eyebrow up. "It's fucking Jadis. Remember--"

Your words came to an abrupt halt as physical pain stabbed into you. No, he didn't remember. He wouldn't remember, because he wasn't there. It'd been Shane at your side for that adventure-

Shane, who would never be at your side again.

Daryl was giving you a concerned look as you fumbled in your pocket for cigarettes and lit one up with suddenly shaking hands. You forced yourself to keep talking through the ache in your lungs and the lump in your throat.

"If Rick's not back it's because Jadis double crossed him. He's probably locked in some goddamn shipping container or fighting her newest version of Winslow as we speak. I'm grabbing my bike; heading out there. I'll fish him out of her fucking clutches if he isn't dead already."

Daryl winced. "That's cold."

"So am I."

"Naw, yain't. You've told me that before, ya know. Didn't believe you then, either. Rick can handle himself," Daryl argued. "You need to get some fucking rest or ya won't be worth a shit for the next steps, baby."

You rolled your eyes at him and scoffed. "Bite me, Dixon."

"YN."

You stopped and looked at him, annoyed. He rarely used that tone with you, and it got your attention, albeit reluctantly. "What?"

He stared down at his feet and shook his head. "Worried about ya, girl. Please. Don't go. Give Rick a couple more hours."

You groaned. "Damn it, Daryl."

"I know. Ya need to keep movin'. Ya gonna run yourself into the ground, though. Won't be able to take that motherfucker out if ya do that."

He made a good point, you admitted. You blew smoke from your nose and tossed your hands up in frustration.

"Fine! Shit. Two hours. Then I go."

He nodded. "Two hours. Then we go."

 

 

He came to you this time, opening your door and standing in the doorway fidgeting. You'd collapsed into the cushion-bed in what had somehow just become your room after the coffin, and you assumed he'd gone to do the same.

"What's wrong?" you asked, voice thick with sleep even as you reached for your gun.

"Nothin'. Just--" he broke off and shook his head. "Nothin'. Never mind. Go back to sleep."

He turned and started to close the door, but stopped when you called his name, shoulders hunched and back to you.

"Why are you here?" you asked quietly.

He turned back to you, picking absently at his lip as he refused to meet your eyes. "Cain't settle. Could--"

"Yes," you whispered, cutting him off before he even made the request.

He stepped inside, closed the door behind him, and stretched out beside you, close enough to know he was there but not close enough to touch. You settled back down and closed your eyes, wondering how something as familiar as laying at Daryl Dixon's side could possibly hurt so badly.

Chapter Text

Your eyes shot open in the darkness, heart pounding as you listened, hard. Something had woken you up, and you didn't--

Bang, bang, bang.

"Fuck," Daryl snarled, coming to his feet as you did. "What the hell is-?"

"Negan," you snarled, wrenching the door open. "He got out."

A loudspeaker clicked and Negan's voice filled the air as you and Daryl hit the street.

 

 

"Should have let me go in there after him, goddamn it," you snapped at Daryl as you jogged toward the knot of your people.

"I'm going to kill Rick and the biker in front of everyone, and then we can all move on!" Negan called, sounding pissed. You rolled your eyes, not giving a shit, but Daryl's snarl reached you easily. You ignored that too.

Your people were gathered around the truck already loaded with supplies for the next step in the plan, ready for departure- well, probably sometime around now.

"And that's another thing," you added, glaring as Negan monologued about wanting creative apologies and Alexandria having three minutes. "What the fuck, Dixon? It's fucking dark."

"Yeah, I's definitely gonna let ya go in there on your own and get fuckin' killed. Don't be a bitch. Ya needed the damn sleep, same as I did," he told you as you reached the others.

Carl was loading smoke grenades into a bag with single-minded determination. "Good, you're here," he said when he saw the two of you. He started issuing orders and your eyes narrowed.

"No," you told him flatly as Negan whistled.

Carl's head shot up and he gave you a look so very like Rick's it made your heart hurt; an almost spot-on impression of the intense-friendly stare coming out from under that damn sheriff's hat. As with the first time you'd seen that look from his father, you considered yourself instantly immune.

"Yn-" he started.

"No, Carl."

"Come on, Nameless-"

"I said no!"

 

 

"How the fuck do those damn Grimes boys do it, Dixon? Every damn time, I lose! Dumbass plan gets proposed, and I fight it, damn it. And yet, who ends up on the horse or wearing walker guts or living in a goddamn prison? Or driving the fucking garbage truck while the kid confronts Negan on his own?"

You bitched to Daryl as you watched for the signal in the mirror. Tobin waved from the end of the four-truck convoy and you shot your arm out in response, firing the truck up and watching lights come on from the convoy behind you. Daryl just grunted and mumbled something as you rammed the pedal all the way to the floor.

"Brace yourself," you shouted as the wall approached rapidly. "And don't think I didn't hear that!"

You plowed straight through the wall and carried on, yelling in wordless triumph, to steamroll over the Savior's cars guarding the road. Alexandria might never have used this rear emergency exit, but Negan was nothing if not thorough. You caught a glimpse of scurrying figures as Daryl yelled a string of threats, insults, and profanity at you while you took a hand off the wheel to hold your middle finger up at your former friends.

"Oh my God, I fucking love these things! I need to get me a tank!" you yelled when you were clear. You looked over at Daryl with a crazed grin, and he rolled his eyes and released his white-knuckled grip on the dash.

"Last thing ya fuckin' need is a tank, ya crazy bitch," he shot back, but his lips twitched up ever so slightly as he studied you. "I'm drivin' back."

"Nope," you told him cheerfully. "I heard that crack you made, Dixon. You can argue all you want, but it only works if you're a Grimes. You Dixon boys never stand a chance against me."

"Ain't that the damn truth. Hey, that looks as good a spot as any, right?"

 

 

"Hey, guys," you said nervously, backing up slowly. "This is... a really bad idea."

You'd been minding your own business, sitting on a picnic table with your headphones in and a tattered paperback while you ate lunch. Daryl'd skipped school today to work with Will, which you thought was bullshit of the highest order, but what could you do about it? So you were alone and distracted when they ripped your headphones off your ears and your book out of your hands.

Now the four of them, senior boys, crowded threateningly around you and grinned at each other. The ringleader looked vaguely familiar, but you had some rather pressing concerns right now. Like not getting the shit beat out of you by these assholes.

"You're even scrawnier than I remember, little girl. Don't know what the fuck that redneck trash is thinking," the ringleader sneered. "But hey, if you put out for Merle, you'll put out for me, too, right?"

A chill brushed your spine, but you fixed a sneer in place. "I'm thirteen, asshole."

He shrugged. "Didn't stop you from punching me in the nose, did it?"

Oh, that's where you knew him. Shit. He'd been beating the shit out of Merle a couple weeks ago, and you'd jumped in. Clearly it was payback time, though why the asshole brought backup to face you was a little beyond you at the moment. Maybe he assumed Daryl would be there too. After all, he'd been less than impressed with you at the time.

Whatever, you were where you were and you accepted the fact that you were about to get fucking hurt. Four on one, all of them seniors and you being- well, you- wasn't exactly odds you liked much.

You didn't like the looks in their eyes, either.

"So here's what I'm thinking," the ringleader said, leaning over you as you backed into the wall. He ran his hand over your cheek and you tried not to flinch. "Either you can give me and my boys here some services, as repayment for my nose, or..."

"Or?" you snapped, eyes flashing as you knocked his hand away and squared your shoulders.

His eyes narrowed. "Or you can take the beating, little girl."

"Four against one? That hardly seems fair," you challenged, looking down your nose at them. "Look, you and your backup dancers really think there's glory in ganging up on a girl, what? Five years younger than you?"

His buddies shifted nervously, but the ringleader was not deterred. "I'm getting my payment, you little bitch!"

You caught movement behind them and grinned.

"Yeah, I bet you are," you told him casually, and swung at him at the same time Merle came barreling in from the side.

 

 

Explosions started echoing from Alexandria as you were driving, the sky in your rear view mirror lighting red and gold as the town began to burn. You stared anxiously at it instead of watching the road once you'd set up your ambush, wondering just what the fuck had happened to make Negan abandon all his usual rules and go full scorched earth.

Was it you jumping ship? Did Rick just get under Negan's skin that fucking badly?

"What the fuck did Rick do to him?" you muttered out loud.

Tara snorted. "He's destroyed places before."

"No he hasn't. People are a goddamn resource," you snapped back. "He kills one. Two tops; individuals as needed to teach a lesson. He doesn't bomb a whole fucking community that could produce for him. Rick really got to him. Or Shane and I did. Or Daryl and I with that goddamn truck. Fuck!"

Guilt was a motherfucking bitch, you thought grimly. If you'd just stayed, maybe Shane would be alive and Alexandria wouldn't be burning and Carl wouldn't be in the middle of that hell hole and-

"What about Oceanside?"

Tara's question knocked our brain out of the spiral it was beginning to travel into. You glanced at her and lifted an eyebrow. "What the fuck's Oceanside?"

"It's where we got these guns. A community of women and children. Negan killed every man and boy over thirteen," she answered bluntly. "I found them when I got separated from Heath, on our supply run. They saved me, swore me to secrecy. Then we went and took their guns."

"So they made it," you whispered, amazed. Pleased. "I'd wondered. That wasn't Negan. It was Simon," you told her shortly.

"How do you know? They said it was Negan!"

"We're all Negan," you reminded her tiredly. "I know because I cleaned up the goddamn mess. I put down the zombies and almost put down Simon. Negan wouldn't let me. It was the first time I took a trip through the gauntlet and spent a night in the cell. He was pissed when they ran, though. Damn. Good for them."

She looked like she wanted to say something else, and you realized you had everyone's attention- Tara, Michonne, Rosita, Sasha, and Daryl were all watching and listening. Luckily for you, you caught the first hint of engines approaching.

"Dixon. Hit it with a smoke grenade," you whispered, and Daryl pulled the pin and launched one into the middle of the road.

Smoke began to swirl into a fog around the garbage trucks parked in the road, and you wondered just how alert whoever was in charge of the pursuit would be. This was pretty fucking clearly an ambush, but....

Huh, you thought as the cars came in sight. They slowed, but didn't stop, creeping closer and closer to your spot as the moron in charge didn't notice- or didn't care- about the trap.

"What the fuck?" Daryl asked.

You shrugged. "Who cares. Gift horses. Light those bastards up."

 

 

You fired on them; they fired on you; the shooting stopped.

Daryl held up a hand to keep you in place when you'd have headed down there immediately, shooting you a glare that had you rolling your eyes at him. Sure, you were a little less than interested in personal safety here lately. You didn't need a fucking mother hen. You knew what you were doing.

"It's over!" a familiar voice called.

"That explains it," you muttered, and this time no one stopped you as you headed down the hill toward the cars.

Dwight had been hit in the arm, and he leaned against the rear tire of one of the cars. Tara and Daryl had drawn on him immediately, but you didn't. Dwight had been your friend, once upon a time. You had vague plans to kill him eventually for what he'd done to Daryl- and for daring to wear the vest still settled on his shoulders- but you didn't think it'd be today.

"Did he make it?" Dwight asked as you stood over him. "Shane. Did he make it?"

You flinched. "No."

Dwight closed his eyes and grimaced. "I'm so sorry, Nameless."

"Don't fucking call me that," you snarled, hauling him up by the front of his shirt. "Give me one good fucking reason not to let Tara here kill you."

Tara's gun clicked and she set the barrel against Dwight's ear. You shot her a semi-annoyed look, because that was an amateur move through and through, but didn't say anything. Her eyes were harsh as Dwight looked between her and you.

"I'm your friend. I was Shane's friend. I made sure you could get him. I made it so you could get out the back; drove the convoy straight up to the road block. I can't go back. I shot them; I shot my own people. Laura got away, though. She'll tell them all what I did. I can't go back," he told you grimly. "But I can still help you. I know how he thinks. I want you to win. I want Negan to die. We can settle up after."

You snorted. "Whatever, D. It's up to you," you told Daryl and Tara coldly. "He probably does have better information than I do. More up to date. But we can get by without it if we need to."

Daryl and Tara looked at each other, and you wandered away to check the cars while they argued. Michonne, Sasha, and Rosita were collecting guns and making sure the dead stayed dead, and you collected a few weapons and extra magazines from the vehicles. When you rejoined the group, apparently Dwight had gotten a reprieve, because he was alive and Rosita was tying a bandage around his arm.

Daryl's vest was back on his shoulders where it belonged, and you stared almost sightlessly at tattered wings as you walked back toward Alexandria and the sewer access just outside the wall. Then you stared at the fire and watched the woods as everyone followed Dixon down one at a time, and when he called your name, you looked down into his eyes.

You shook your head slowly and slid the grate back into place. "Go. Get them to safety. I- I have to-"

"Damn it, baby! YN!" he yelled as you backed away and headed for the open gates at a run. "YN!"

Chapter Text

The smoke made a pretty decent cover as you slipped into the devastation of the town. The fire, of course, drew the walkers; and they came in from the destroyed gate and the hole you'd crashed into the wall at the back. Saviors wandered from place to place, clearly searching for any Alexandrians unlucky enough to be left behind and raining more devastation in their wake.

At least you knew your people were safe.

You took out a few Saviors when you had to, quickly and silently. You'd known most of them, and somewhere deep inside, past the layer of ice you couldn't- wouldn't- break through, you knew you should care about killing them. You knew you should feel... something. But you didn't.

You were looking for Negan, and you had a pretty good idea where he'd be going. He'd be in the Grimes house. The fact that your bike was in the driveway next door meant your and Daryl's place was probably being sacked as well. You figured you could kiss your bike goodbye, but whatever.

It was just a bike, and it'd been a gift from Negan anyway.

Sure enough, when you got there, the Softail was gone. You had more pressing concerns, however, with the door to Rick's house standing open and the sounds of fighting echoing from within.

You walked right in the front door, reaching for the bat at your side and ready to fuck the bastard up.

 

 

"Don't make me do this now, Rick. I've got plans for you! Cut you up into itty-bitty pieces, feed you to the dead, and make you watch!" Negan snarled, and from just ahead the sickening crunch of Lucille making contact with flesh echoed under a groan from Rick.

Fuck that, you thought grimly.

You came flying in soundlessly as he kept talking, and you planted yourself in front of Rick's curled-up body and caught the next blow from Lucille on your own bat.

"Really, boss? That the best you've got?" you grunted as the strength of it staggered you back a half-step.

"Oh! My biker badass!" Surprise had flickered through Negan's face at your abrupt appearance, but he recovered quickly. He usually did. "What the hell do you think you're doing here? Looking to die today?"

We living or dying today, Nameless? You're living. Promise me.

Might be dying today after all, Shane.

You shrugged as he disengaged, shifting on the balls of your feet and watching his eyes and shoulders for any sign of movement. You were going to get hurt, but that was ok. The question was, how fucking much, and could you make the bastard bleed as well?

Rick got to his feet behind you, and Negan's shoulder twitched slightly. You reacted even as you spoke, twisting to the side as Lucille flashed forward. "I'm here to kick your ass, boss," you said, kicking out as Lucille hit the wall near your head.

You landed a solid blow to Negan's core that had him grunting and stepping back, and you took advantage of the opportunity to put some space between you, pushing Rick into a retreat as well.

"Oh, darlin'. I'm gonna have some fun with you before I kill you. Maybe have you take the pieces off old Ricky boy here!" Negan yelled as he followed you.

"Do you ever shut the hell up?" Rick snarled.

Negan laughed as he came at the two of you and you broke in different directions. "Nope!" he answered, following Rick. "You know your kid volunteered to die? What kind of boy you raise, Rick? I'm gonna fix him. 'Cause I like him. A few years, he'll be one of my top guys."

Negan chased Rick around the table as you stuck to the shadows, trying to get into a better position. But of course, Negan got another shot at Rick and connected, and you abandoned all hope of plans and strategy in favor of what was going to be a brutal, down-and-dirty brawl.

"When I am through with you, nobody will ever try to do what you did--"

"Rick's right," you ground through your teeth, clinging to Negan's back and locking him in a textbook arm bar as he struggled. "You do need to shut up."

Negan staggered backward and slammed you into the wall- once, twice, three times. You held on grimly, but the fourth hit stunned you and you fell from his back to the floor. He whirled and the next thing you knew, Lucille was coming down on your bad shoulder. You heard more than felt the pop and heard your own scream as the bat connected. You saw stars and thanked your lucky one that your jacket and Merle's vest took the bite of the wire. You were dazed and distracted enough that you probably would have taken more serious damage if Rick hadn't come in from the side and tackled Negan.

They staggered into the next room and you climbed to your feet, not bothering to try to reset your shoulder right then- it was just going to get popped out again anyway, and this was your chance. You needed to back Rick up.

Two steps forward and your feet bumped something on the ground. You scooped up Lucille, twirled her in your hand, and found yourself grinning as you charged in swinging.

 

 

 

"So, you're really going to keep that?" Shane's voice was an odd mixture of amusement and distaste from behind you, and you flipped him off without turning from what you were doing.

"I mean," he continued, dropping to a crouch beside you, "it makes a statement, sure. But it's fuckin' disgusting, criminal. That's a damn mess."

You shot him a look and wiped a trickle of sweat from your forehead with the back of your hand. "It'd be a damn mess no matter what. Killing things isn't easy, city boy; especially when they're decomposing already."

"Who you calling a city boy, Atlanta Chapter?" he shot back, grinning. "Got some blood on you."

You groaned. "Just help me search the bastard, would you, and stop complaining about shit? He smells fucking loud."

Shane laughed. "Bashing dead guys' brains in doesn't help the smell. For real, sweetheart; you keeping the bat?"

"Yes," you told him firmly.

He eyed you, reaching out and grabbing your arm as you rose. "YN-"

"No," you snapped, shaking his hand off. "We're not talking about it. I'm fine, Shane. But the bat stays."

He hesitated and you didn't meet his eyes. Finally he shrugged. "Guess we'd better find a way for you to keep it close and keep your hands free so you can shoot."

 

 

"Don't you touch her!" Negan yelled as you brought the butt end of Lucille into contact with his solar plexus. His teeth were bared in an expression similar to the rage he'd shown when Rosita's bullet had lodged in the bat.

You glanced from him to Lucille, and spun it in your fingers again. Rick was on the ground, slowly using the wall to climb to his feet, and for the moment at least, you had Negan's attention.

"You want her back? Come and get her, boss. Or are you too scared to come play with your pet killer?" You taunted him shamelessly, hoping to goad him into the kind of rage you could use.

He came at you in a roar, and you realized pretty much immediately that you'd fucked up. Negan was good. He was a fighter- a brawler born and bred. It'd been a long ass time since you'd seen him use anything other than terror tactics, though. Besides, he'd had you.

So you'd forgotten how fucking good he was.

You were on the defense from the start and that wasn't where you wanted to be. He was fury and thunder, blows raining down from all around as he got into your space and had you backing up slowly into the dining room again. You held your own, taking a few glancing shots that'd leave you with sore muscles and bruises for days, but no real damage.

But if you didn't do something to break the current pattern, you were going to fuck up. You'd run out of room or you wouldn't be able to block or you'd trip on unfamiliar ground. One corner of your mind was searching for a way out of this while the rest of you worked on staying in one piece long enough for it to matter.

Turned out he was the one who tripped, and you moved in close with Lucille, pressing instant advantage like he had. You primal-screamed as you swung out at him, and you got goddamn lucky and landed a blow on his side that sent him flying.

The barbed wire wouldn't do anything with his jacket, but there was a strong possibility you'd fucked up one of his ribs, at least.

He came up with Rick's gun in his hand, and Rick came from the shadows and shoved you backward through the window. You cried out again as glass cut everywhere that wasn't protected by leather and your shoulder sent white-hot agony lancing through you as you landed flat on your back. You tried to roll to your feet, but your body wouldn't listen.

Then there was a single shot from the house, and you staggered upright, clutching your arm and screaming Rick's name.

 

 

He took a header out the window and rolled, grabbing you and shoving you ahead of him when you would have gone back inside for Negan.

"Come on!" he snarled. "Where are our people?"

You fought him for a moment, single-minded need to kill Negan, to fucking end this- now- not letting you see reason. Then his words sank in.

Our people. Where are our people?

Daryl, Carl, Judith.

You took the lead, running through the smoke for the nearest sewer grate.

 

 

"What the fucking hell do you think you were doin', baby?" Daryl snarled, his nose inches from yours and his voice angry.

"Daryl-" Rick started, setting a hand on his shoulder.

Daryl shook him off with a snarl, turning to face him with intense, pissed off eyes. You took advantage of Rick's distraction to set your shoulder against the wall and pop it back into place, but you couldn't keep in the gasp as your eyes watered.

For a instant, in the dim tunnel, the pain sent you back and you were being held down in a coffin, Negan shoving your shoulder into place and laughing as the lid came down and-

"YN!" Daryl said sharply, giving you a small shake with his hands on your arms. "The fuck ya thinking, huh?"

You glared back, pulling out of his arms. "I had a chance and I goddamn took it, Dixon! Crawl back out of my ass, would you?"

"Ya tryin' to die?" He flung the words at you along with a wild gesture, like they were supposed to hurt.

They didn't. You shrugged in response.

Daryl's face turned into a thundercloud and he started forward, one finger jabbing out at you, but Rick slid between the two of you and held up a placating hand.

"Daryl. Brother. Where is everyone? Carl? Judy? Michonne? Are they ok?" Rick asked, and you could tell from his posture the intense-friendly look was out in full fucking force.

Daryl's glare softened briefly and something passed over his face. You straightened up, worried by the look in his eyes as they slid away from Rick's.

"Ya better come with me, man," Daryl said softly.

Fucking hell, what now?

Chapter Text

Judith's wail split the air and you shot to your feet, rolling off the bunk and ducking under the curtain hanging loose over the cell door.

"Judy?" Shane yelled from the common area, followed by a quieter, "What the fuck?"

You slowed as you saw them, Shane on his stomach on the floor looking under the metal shelving unit Rick and Glenn had wrestled in at Carol's insistence a few days after you took over the cell block. She'd been using it for food then, but now it held C block's weapons and ammunition, and your head tilted in amusement as Shane muttered to himself and looked under it.

"How the hell did you get in there, little girl? Look, I know you're proud of yourself being all mobile, but show some sense. Jesus Christ!"

"Need some help, officer?" you asked, dropping to stretch out beside him. Judith's panicked cries had settled into what sounded a lot like steady wordless bitching, and you smiled when she saw you and her lower lip poked out further. "Hey, Judy. Whatcha doing under there?" you asked her, lifting an eyebrow.

Her baby hands waved and she laid one cheek on the floor with a louder cry.

"Aww," you laughed. "You stuck?"

"She's rolling around now, and I swear you can't take your eyes off her for one damn minute," Shane complained. "How did she even get under there?"

You patted his shoulder. "Babies are a lot like mice."

"The fuck?"

Your lips twitched. "You get the head through, the rest of them can go as well."

He glared at you. "Don't compare my daughter to a mouse again, criminal. Just help me get her out of here, would you?"

"Sure, dad," you told him with a grin, and scooted back to hop to your feet. "Yo, anybody else inside?" you yelled toward the block. No one answered you and you shrugged. "Whatever. I'm going to tip the shelf back a little. You pull her out and let me know when I can lower it again. Unless you'd rather tilt it?"

Shane grunted. "Naw, you're good. Seen you wrestle that bike around, you can handle a shelf. Come on, she's giving me that damn face again."

You tipped the shelf as far as you dared. "The one with the lip?"

"Yeah. Hey, baby girl. Come on out, would you? That's no place for a little lady." Shane's voice was muffled, then he grunted. "Gotcha."

He rose as you lowered the shelf, Judith in his arms, and you looked at the baby curled on his chest.

"Well, trouble. How was that for an adventure?" you asked her, running a fingertip down her cheek.

She twisted her face up and made a series of baby coos as she waved one hand and brought it to her mouth, eyes dead on yours. You nodded solemnly.

"I agree. Small spaces aren't much fun. I recommend rolling into the yard instead. When you learn to walk, I'll take you out on the bike. Show you the whole wide world."

Shane snorted. "Don't encourage her."

"Aw, Lil Ass-kicker doesn't need any encouragement, Daddy," you told him, winking at Judith.

"What'd I say about calling me that, criminal? Shit."

 

 

"I'm fine, Dad," Carl complained. "I just got a little too close when one of his grenades went off."

Rick continued to hover, ignoring his son's protests in favor of inspecting the kid's injuries and muttering to Michonne.

"You're lucky you weren't any closer," you informed him grimly, supervising over the shoulder of some new guy as he stitched a cut on Carl's leg. Kid had that long slash on his leg, a twisted ankle, and a smattering of first and second degree burns over his arms, hands, and neck.

He scowled at you. "I was careful."

"You were reckless," you shot back.

"Hey, fucking pot callin' the kettle. Who the hell went runnin' back in there alone?" Daryl muttered.

An explosion rattled the sewers as you opened your mouth to argue with him. Judith, laying against his chest with wide eyes and her thumb in her mouth, whimpered. You sighed and scrubbed a hand across your eyes.

"You went in that shit alone?" Carl asked, rising to his feet and brushing off Rick's hand at his elbow. "What the hell were you thinking?"

"God, is everyone ganging up on me tonight?" You tossed your hands in annoyance. "I was thinking that Negan needs to be fucking killed and hey, here's a girl who's pretty goddamn good at killing. I knew where he'd be and I went to handle this shit once and for all! What do you people not get about this concept?"

"The part where you run off like a one-woman army! Do you have some sort of death wish? What the hell, Nameless!" Carl asked, his one eye narrowed.

"Maybe!" You screamed the word, frustration making you honest, as another explosion rattled even closer. Dirt fell from the roof and you kept talking over the nauseatingly concerned and pissed off expressions on the faces of everyone around you. "Maybe I just know that my life is a small fucking price to pay if it means we can take him out!"

Carl took a step toward you, limping on the twisted ankle. "You really think so little of yourself?"

"Fuck." You laughed, short and sharp. "Of course. I'm just a killer, Carl. It's better if I run in there alone, without any one I care about to hold me back. I'll kill him because it's my job, and if I die in the process, who gives a shit? Worth it."

"Damn it, baby-" Daryl started, but Carl cut him off with a hand on his arm.

"You really think that's what Uncle Shane would want?"

You stared, wordless, as the careful wall of ice inside you cracked dangerously and pain leaked through. You took a step in Carl's direction, leaning into his face as you held his gaze.

"Shane's dead, kid. He doesn't want anything anymore."

You spun on your heel and stalked away, brushing off Daryl when he reached for you and heading into the darkness of the tunnel.

 

 

Dwight stood at your elbow as you stared into the darkness, eyes hot and dry and aching. You flinched a little with every booming explosion from Alexandria.

"It'll be over soon," Dwight said quietly.

You didn't speak.

He cleared his throat and leaned against the wall beside you. "Sherry's probably dead," he said quietly. "I went back to our house. What had been our house, before all of this. We had this- this stupid thing, about pretzels and beer. I brought 'em. She didn't think I'd remember, 'cause my memory's always been shit. Except when it came to her."

You still didn't speak, wondering why he was talking to you right now.

"She left me a letter. Said she hated seeing what I'd become, under Negan. What she'd- what she'd made me become."

You snorted. "She didn't make you do anything."

"I know that," he agreed with a nod. "You didn't make Shane do anything, either. He- shit, Nameless, that man was so damn in love with-"

You spun and shoved him up against the wall, arm over his throat like the day you'd seen Daryl's vest on his back. "How many times do I have to tell you, D? Don't call me Nameless," you hissed, pressing your arm in tighter as he nodded slightly.

He held his hands up, just like in the Sanctuary. He held your eyes with his. "You're- not- just a killer," he got out, struggling against your arm crushing his throat.

You dropped your eyes and shook your head with a sigh, looking at the sewage under your boots. Wasn't that appropriate? you thought as you chuckled.

"Come on, Dwighty," you said quietly, dropping your arm. He drew in a sharp breath, hand coming up to rub his neck as you backed a step away. "A killer's exactly what I am."

"Maybe. You're not just that, though. One night, Shane and me-"

You jerked, your hand dropping to grip the gun in your holster, the gun you'd never fucking bothered to draw on Negan, you suddenly realized. What a goddamn wasted opportunity. "Dwight, if you want to make it out of this shithole, you'll shut the fuck up right now," you snapped, prying your fingers loose with difficulty.

He nodded slowly. "I just-"

"Dwight!"

"Baby?" Daryl's voice called as you were spinning toward Dwight again, ready to throw the bastard up against the wall and watch him die. You froze, eyes closing as you drew in a deep breath.

Even sewer air was worth it if it meant you got your shit under wraps. Dixon didn't need to see just how close to the fucking edge you really were. He wouldn't let you out of his sight again.

"Here," you answered him shortly, and he materialized out of the darkness.

"Hey. Ya aight?" he asked, eyeing Dwight.

"Fine," you muttered. "They done up there? Nothing's exploded for a bit."

Daryl's shoulder jerked. "Ain't sure. We're gonna move out soon. Rick's got a plan. Ya ain't gonna like it."

 

 

 

"We need to get everybody to Hilltop. Dwight said it's safe," Rick said grimly as his council huddled up.

"And we trust Dwight?" Tara asked grimly.

Eyes flicked to you. You shrugged. "Oh, you're listening to my judgement now? That's a fucking first."

Daryl rolled his eyes and Rick rubbed at his forehead.

"YN-" Rick started, gesturing.

Carl interrupted him with a hard look your direction. "Don't be a bitch because we're calling you on your shit. We care about you. Deal with it."

"Carl!" Michonne said, giving him the most mom look you'd seen since Lori died under your knife.

You snorted and waved Michonne off. "Kid's right; I am being a bitch. We can trust Dwight. He really is a halfway decent human being, all things considered. Hell, he's probably a better one than I am," you added with a contemplative look at the ceiling. "Unless he's been up to some fucked up shit since I started running around with you people again, he's certainly done less bad than I have."

"That ain't exactly encouraging, baby," Daryl muttered.

"It wasn't meant to be, Dixon."

"The point is, we need to get our people to safety. Dwight says Hilltop is safe." Rick's voice urged you all to please just focus on the goddamn point already, and your lips twitched as you obeyed.

"Negan won't fuck with Hilltop," you agreed. "They provide well over half the Sanctuary's food. Hilltop is a good bet. It's also defensible and more easily gotten to than the Kingdom. Which, without warriors, is probably royally fucked. Sanctuary's been busted up six ways from Sunday, so Negan's going to need a new base. He'll probably chose Kingdom. D!"

You looked over your shoulder and Dwight lifted his head and met your eyes.

"Negan taking Kingdom?" you asked. He nodded once and you turned back to Rick and shrugged. "Cool. I still know how the bastard thinks. Ok, so you guys head to the Hilltop and I'll make my merry way to the Kingdom."

Carl groaned. "Really, Nameless?"

"What? I'll take out Negan from the inside. Shane-- I know a way in that isn't through the front doors. I'll sneak in, take Negan down. Maybe some others. Simon for sure," you mused, ticking people off on your fingers. "Probably Regina, damn it. Arat. Laura if I have to, but she's mostly just a soldier. Gavin if I must."

"There a point to this speech?" Rick asked dryly.

You focused on him again. "You get them to safety; I'll kill who needs killing. Plan made. Let's go."

"No," Rick said, simply and firmly.

Your eyes narrowed. "Yes."

"No."

"Yes, Deputy."

"I'll knock ya ass out myself, baby," Daryl snapped. "Shut the fuck up now. Rick ain't even got to the part ya gonna argue with him about."

Rick sighed. "I convinced Jadis and her people to-"

You started laughing, mean and hysterical.

"Told ya," Daryl muttered, hefting Judith up in his arms. She'd fallen asleep at some point, and all you saw in the shape of her nose and set of her lips was Shane. You looked away as your throat went dry.

"Rick, you cannot be serious," you said tiredly.

He shifted, and everyone in the circle with you started muttering among themselves while you pinched the bridge of your nose and reminded yourself that you liked all of these people. You loved most of them.

"Rick, no."

"YN, they were with me at the Sanctuary-"

"They've betrayed you twice now, and Rick seriously-"

"But they-"

"Fucking Winslow, Rick!"

"What the hell is happening?" Tara asked the room in general, bewildered.

Daryl snorted. "They do this. Just give her a minute to get it out of her system. She argues, but she always ends up doin' what Rick wants anyway. Works from Carl too."

"It does?" Carl asked, looking way too cheerful about that knowledge.

You flipped Daryl off, heard his chuckle, and glared at Rick. "You're not going alone."

"I have to. I convinced her on my own before," Rick objected, shaking his head as he planted his hands on his gun belt.

You straightened your spine and crossed your arms. "I'm going with you. Or."

"Or what?" he asked, looking amused.

You leaned in and whispered, "Or I'll tell Carl and Michonne just how much of a fucking beating you took tonight, Deputy Grimes."

Rick winced, glancing at where they stood, both frowning in your direction. "Fair enough. Daryl, you get everyone to Hilltop. YN and I will go see Jadis."

Chapter Text

"Be careful, baby," Daryl told you, running his fingers down your arm.

You offered him a weak smile. "Sure. You too, Dixon."

"Naw. Don't pull that shit on me," he snapped. His eyes met yours and flashed angrily. "We're gonna have a long fuckin' talk about what the hell's going on with ya soon enough, but until then, ya be careful. Watch ya own damn back and stop bein' an idiot. Carl's right. You killing yourself ain't what Shane'd want."

You jerked away from him. "Fuck you. You hate-" you stopped, reached into your jacket absently, and lit up without thinking about it.

He watched you, not saying anything, until you stabbed the cigarette out at him, smoke trailing from your lips as you forced the past-tense out. "You hated him. Don't fucking talk to me about what he would want."

Daryl shook his head sadly, his eyes pissed but worried. "Fine. Ya get yourself hurt, we're gonna fuckin' fight for real, baby. Don't die while I ain't around to save ya."

"You haven't saved me in a long damn time, Daryl!" you yelled after him. You hated yourself a little for it, but you hated him a little right then, too. You hated the world right now, if you were honest.

He shook his head and flipped you off as he walked away.

Rick came over from telling Michonne, Carl, and Judith goodbye, glancing between you and Daryl's retreating back warily. "Ready?"

You sighed and shrugged. "Sure. Good a time to see a backstabbing bitch as any."

 

 

"This feels like old times," Rick said dryly.

You glanced over at him and raised an eyebrow. He gestured to you in the driver's seat and the rolled-down windows.

"Two of us, you angry and taciturn and insisting on driving. Not sure, exactly, but I'm pretty sure you're humming Ozzy Osborne again."

You smiled at him as you thought about your first road trip with Rick Grimes, King County to Atlanta in a department cruiser. "Yeah, going off the fucking rails describes my life, Deputy."

"Same here. Never saw this coming. Never saw a lot of it coming," Rick agreed. "Like having you watch my back, though. I have from day one. Always knew you'd be right there if I needed anything. I'm going to watch yours, too."

"Oh, the pointed segue," you deadpaned.

"YN-"

You stopped the van. "This is the closest I got without being blindfolded. Where are we going from here, Deputy?" you said brightly.

Rick eyed you, but didn't press. "Let's go on foot."

 

 

"Gawd, Shane, where the fuck are we?"

Shane snorted. "Damn if I know. This place gives me the creeps, though."

"It ought to. It's a fucking cemetery. Why the hell are we here?" you whispered, pressing close to his back as you moved through the graves.

He shot an exasperated look over his shoulder at you. "Well, Nameless, I think it was because somebody said 'hey, Walsh, let's cut through that alley and try to hot wire that fucking Mustang' and then the herd of walkers appeared when she set off the alarm and we had to haul ass in the opposite direction from where we wanted to go."

You winced. "Sorry?"

"Shut up and keep moving, you crazy criminal."

 

 

Getting in required moving stealthily through a shipping container, and you drummed AC/DC frantically against your gun as you went. Your shoulders were a knot of tension as the dark pressed around you, and you knew with no question that it was only the light spilling in through the cracked door at the far end that had you making it through.

You really were fucked up six ways from Sunday, you thought tiredly. God, I miss you, Officer.

There was no time for that shit as you ducked through the doors and a veritable mountain of trash spilled down to block the exit. You turned to Rick and raised an eyebrow at him, asking 'now fucking what?' without saying a word.

He shrugged, looking around warily, and stepped into a puddle of blue paint.

The place seemed deserted, but something had you on edge. Then again, you were pretty much constantly on edge right now, so who the fuck knew?

The growling gave them away. You grabbed Rick's arm and pulled him back to your side as you searched for them, and his eyes grew round when he heard it too. He started pulling at the garbage that had blocked your exit, but you took a look around instead, and pulled a short metal pole from the pile with a grin.

"Damn it," Rick whispered as the walkers closed in and he got a good look at them.

It was Jadis' people. You glanced over at Rick as you swung the pole experimentally and planted your feet.

"Left my bat in your house," you grunted at Rick as you stepped forward and took the first swing. "Gonna need to fix that on the way back."

Rick moved forward with you, a half step back at your side. Shane would have been glued to your back.

The thought flashed through you before you could catch it, and you lashed out at the next zombie in black robes to drive thoughts of Shane away.

Rick fired, gun in one hand, and stabbed out with his knife with the other. Walkers were coming from all sides, and you were busy with your pole. You kicked up garbage from the ground into the face of one, shoved your leather-covered arm into the mouth of another and let it chew on your jacket while you stabbed the pole back and through the eye of a third.

Rick dropped the bastard gnawing on your arm and settled in at your shoulder. "You really want to go back to Alexandria for that gruesome thing?" he asked as you reversed the pole and knocked a hole in the skull of the next one in line.

Hey, you recognized that dead asshole. He'd been one of the ones who escorted you to Winslow.

You snorted, bent to grab whatever was closest, and hurled it toward a walker. "Of course. That gruesome thing is what I'm going to kill Negan with. Hey, Deputy, we need an exit. This isn't working."

"Yeah," Rick said slowly. "Up the walls."

"Good call," you grunted. "You first."

"YN-"

You speared another one with your pole, swung it around with the walker still on it, and clothes-lined another with the pole. "You really going to argue with me right now?"

 

 

"How did this happen?" Rick asked when you got to the top of a pile, both of you trying to get oxygen and leaning on each other as the walkers milled below.

You shook your head grimly. "This has Simon written all over it. I've seen it before," you told him softly.

"Rick."

You whirled, gun up and aimed, and there was Jadis.

She barely glanced at you, her attention on Rick. She sat a little higher up on the pile, and you recognized the look of someone who's world had been destroyed. You'd been seeing it a lot in recent times.

"What happened here?" Rick asked.

"The Saviors," she answered. "Simon."

"Told you," you muttered. "How do we get out?" you called up to her.

"Get out how you got in," she answered, voice twisting.

You glanced behind you and sighed. Rick pulled bullets from his belt and started reloading his Colt. You eyed Jadis warily, wondering how this was going to play out.

"These weren't heaps before. It was just trash, laid out as far as the eye could see. I used to come here to find things to paint on. Metal sheets. Fabrics. And then after everything changed, I realized this whole place was a canvas. That we were the paint," her voice cracked and broke and you shifted, looking away from someone else's grief.

How the hell could you be expected to handle hers, when you could barely deal with your own?

"You tossed both of us to Winslow," you called to her, finding refuge in being bitchy. "I still have a scar on my ass from that."

"You're a Savior," she said with a sniff.

"Was," Rick called back, his shoulder brushing yours. "She was a Savior. She's my friend."

You lifted your eyebrow at him. "We friends now, Deputy?"

He smiled your way. "We never stopped being friends, YN."

"We became something new," Jadis said. "This was our world, apart from everyone else."

"You did this," Rick told her bluntly, waving toward the walkers. "This is because of you."

"Damn, Deputy," you whispered as Jadis' face twisted and she looked away. "And Negan says I'm cold."

"Well," Rick grunted, bending down and picking up a car door. He gave it a heft, then started looking around again. "Shit happens. We're going to make a run for it."

You felt the smile forming as he bent part of the door into spikes. "Aw, shit."

"Let me come with you. At least until they're gone," Jadis pleaded, and you shot a glance her way to see her hefting a chair seat in her white dress and bare feet.

You met Rick's eyes and lifted your eyebrow in question. He handed you the car door.

"Naw. I'm done with her games," he told you, grabbing another twisted piece of metal from the pile. "She can't help us anyway. Come on."

 

 

"Deputy Do-Good Grimes, abandoning a woman in a garbage dump of zombies," you said blandly as you bulled your way through walkers. "What the hell happened to you out there?"

Rick snorted at your back. "The Governor. Claimers. Terminus. Negan."

"Fair enough. Hey, there's a gap. Ditch the armor and go for speed," you told him, tossing your door aside and on top of a walker. He grunted behind you and did the same, a shot ringing out past your ear as he took out one coming up on your side.

You'd made it over the garbage and to the crack in the door when you saw her running behind you. You tapped Rick's shoulder and pointed.

"Just let me get out!" she called desperately, as walkers converged on her.

Rick's Python came up slowly and he fired once, dropping the one at her back. "Let's go," he told you, and ducked through the gap.

You followed him without a backwards glance.

Chapter Text

"What the hell happened back there?" Rick asked into the silence.

You were back behind the wheel, driving his van, but now both of you had a nice layer of zombie guts to add a distinctive smell to the air.

"Simon. He's done shit like that before. Negan probably sent him to make sure Jadis was back on their side, take their guns- did you notice they didn't have any?- and Simon got pissy," you told him.

"What if Negan ordered it?"

"People are a goddamn resource," you reminded him, and Rick jerked.

"You're too good at that. What about Oceanside?"

You shook your head. "That was Simon. I was there; I cleaned up the mess. Trust me, Rick- Negan doesn't do wholesale slaughter. Simon acted on his own. What I want to know is how the fuck did they get out? It wasn't Daryl and I breaking the wall, was it?"

Rick hesitated and you looked over at him. He shook his head, running a hand over his face. "No, it wasn't that. Dwight said- Dwight said it was Eugene."

You nodded and turned back toward the road. "I'm sorry, by the way. Well, no, being honest, I'm not sorry. But I do feel a little bad for not sticking to the plan."

Rick laughed. "When do you ever truly stick to the plan? Besides, Daryl was hell-bent on it before he recruited you. He and I got in a fight over it."

You blinked. "You what now?"

Rick made a vague gesture and propped one foot up on the dashboard. "We- we got in a fight. When we went after the big guns. We got 'em, but wrecked the truck they were in. We got some of the shit out, but Daryl was talking about blowing the wall and I said no and- well, punches were thrown. He used a damn choke hold on me and I told him-" Rick started laughing.

You shot him an amused glance, wondering just where he was going.

"I reminded him choke hold's illegal. See, way back at the quarry, when I had to tell him about Merle, Daryl came at me with the knife. He and I swung a few times, then Shane-" Rick stopped talking abruptly.

You stared straight ahead, then pulled the van over and put it in park. You sat with your hands on the wheel and focused on breathing. "Go on," you told him finally.

He was looking at you, giving you that concerned Rick look, and you shook your head and focused on your hands on the wheel.

"Please," you whispered. "Finish the story."

He hesitated, but went on. "Shane grabbed Daryl in a choke hold, got him on the ground. Daryl and I had a chat and Daryl agreed to not try to stab me again. Then he tells Shane, 'choke hold's illegal, asshole.' And Shane-" Rick laughed again, shaking his head. "Shane just goes 'yeah, well, you can file a complaint.'"

You cracked up, the laugh spilling out of you surprising yourself as much as it did Rick. You laughed for a long time, imagining the scene- Daryl on the ground, radiating anger like he did in those days, Shane with his what-the-fuck-ever attitude.

Damn, Officer Walsh, you thought, and you bent forward with your head on the wheel as the laughter turned to sobbing instead.

"Rick, I- I-" you gasped out, and Rick's hand came to grip your shoulder.

"I know. I miss him too," he said quietly. "You were-"

You sat back up and scrubbed at your eyes as Rick broke off. Exhaustion left you hollow even as pain seeped from the Shane-sized hole somewhere in your core. You leaned your head against the seat and turned to look at Rick. He was staring out the window, his own eyes red-rimmed and empty.

"He needed you," Rick said simply. "I loved Lori. But she- she messed up. She messed things up for the three of us, by not just telling me what happened. And I know she's the one who convinced Shane not to say anything. Man was my best friend, and I let- I let things get all twisted up. I don't think they'd have gotten untwisted without you there."

Rick turned to you, reached for your shoulder again. "He fell for you hard and fast, YN. I've never seen anything like it. I'm glad you were there for him. He was a better man for knowing you."

You shook your head, mute denial as your throat closed. "No. No, Deputy. He- I only got him hurt. Over and over again, I got him hurt, and then I got him killed. I got him killed, Rick, because I couldn't-"

"Hey. No. You didn't. It's not on you. It's on Negan. It's only on Negan," Rick told you seriously, grabbing your eyes and holding them with such intensity in his you couldn't look away. "And Negan's going to pay for it."

You nodded once, a sharp jerk of your chin. "He doesn't get to live."

"No," Rick agreed. "He doesn't get to live."

"I'm not supposed to be alive. Shane and I were supposed to die together, Rick. That's what we agreed on, when the prison fell and every day since. 'We living or dying today?'" You whispered it, saying it out loud for the first time.

You weren't supposed to be alive if Shane wasn't.

Rick's arm slid around you and you leaned into him. You tried to stay numb; tried not to feel, but here with Rick- Shane's best friend, the only other person who knew him as well as you had- you couldn't do it. You started to shake and thought desperately about Springsteen.

That only made it worse.

"He'd want you alive. You know that, right?" Rick asked as you soaked his shirt with tears. His voice was thick too, and you felt like a right bitch. This was Shane's best friend, and he had just gotten the officer back. Now he was gone for real. Rick was grieving his best friend for the second time, and here you were, acting like you were the only one Shane's death affected.

You half-laughed, and it sounded wrong. But you answered Rick's question. "Of course he would. You think I don't know? He made me promise, Rick. Right before he- right before."

You're living. Promise me.

"Did you?"

You pushed away from Rick and fished a cigarette out of your pocket. "Why the hell wouldn't I? He's only asked two things of me, Rick. The whole fucking time, he kept me moving, kept me alive. Took care of me when I turned into nothing but a walking killing machine, no better than the mindless dead out there, and brought me back to myself. And he only ever asked two things of me that whole time. I kept my promise not to talk about Judith. I don't know if I can keep this one, Rick. How the fuck am I supposed to live without him?"

Rick was quiet long enough to have you looking over at him. He shook his head, eyes helpless. "You find a reason, and you keep going."

"What happens when my reason's gone?"

Rick gestured, the rested his hand on your shoulder and squeezed. "You find another one."

You scoffed and started the van again. "I need my fucking bat from your house."

 

 

"What's the difference between men and women?" you asked, leaning into the doorway of Shane's cell.

He glanced up at you, Judith in his arms, looking like this was clearly a trap. "You joking?"

You shook your head and stepped in, leaning against the wall and sliding toward the floor. "Nope, not a joke. Just answer the question."

"Aight," he said, eyeing your irritated expression. "Well, I ain't met a woman yet who can turn off a light. They're born thinking the switch only goes one way- on."

You considered getting offended. You thought about it, but damn it- he was right, and you'd asked. You met his eyes as you tried not to laugh and knew Shane was following your thought process by the glint in his eyes.

He leaned forward. "They're struck blind the second they leave a room. I mean, every woman I ever let have a key- I swear to god, it's like I came home, house all lit up. And my job, apparently, because my- my chromosomes happen to be different- is I've then gotta walk through that house, turn off every single light this chick left on."

"Is that right?" you muttered, reaching out to rub Judith's back as she made a squawking noise at Shane. "I don't think she agrees."

"Yeah, baby. Hell, Judith don't know what a light switch is, but you wait- she gets older, gonna leave every fucking lantern lit behind her, just like you do."

"Oh, fuck you, Walsh," you declared, but you were laughing.

He grinned at you. "Oh, Reverend Shane's a preachin' to you now, girl. This same chick, mind you, she'll bitch about global warming. This is- this is when Reverend Shane wants to quote from the guy gospel and say, 'darlin', maybe you and every other pair of boobs on this planet just figure out the light switch, see, goes both ways- maybe we wouldn't have so much global warming.'"

"Please tell me you've actually said that to a woman," you told Shane, completely seriously. He was doing exactly what you'd hoped he'd do, distracting you from your bad mood.

He winked at you. "A polite version. Still, girl, that earned me this look of loathing you would not believe. And that's when the exorcist voice pops out. 'You sound just like my damn father! Always yelling about the power bill, telling me to turn off the damn lights.'"

"Oh God," you muttered, and took Judith from his arms. "Come here, little girl. Your dad's scary when he's doing that, isn't he? But what do you say to that, Reverend Walsh?"

Shane flipped you off. "I know what I wanna say. I want to say, 'Bitch, you mean to tell me you've been hearing this your entire life and you are still too damn stupid to learn how to turn off a switch?'"

You started laughing and you couldn't stop, and in moments Judith was giggling with you in your arms. Shane started grinning too, and both of you had tears in your eyes when Rick stepped into the room.

"What are you three up to?" he asked, smiling at the scene.

Judith babbled and reached for him, and you passed her to Rick. "Oh, Reverend Shane's just preaching to us, explaining the difference between men and women," you told him.

"Jesus. Maybe I should take Judy and go," Rick muttered.

"It's all cool, Rick. Shane's just telling me how no woman alive can turn off a light."

"Well, Carol does have a tendency to leave that one lantern on in the common room every night," Rick said, lips twitching.

That set you and Shane off again, and pretty soon Judith was giggling happily too.

"So, what is the difference between men and women, Nameless? Since you're the one who asked and all," Shane said when you got yourselves under control again. Rick shifted and leaned on the cell door, looking at you in surprise.

You rolled your eyes. "The difference between men and women? Women talk. Men don't. Reverend Shane here is the exception. Isn't that right, Rick?"

Shane raised an eyebrow. "You and Dixon having some communication problems, criminal?"

"Lori and I had some issues there. Better nip that in the bud," Rick said quietly.

You caught his sad smile, and touched the back of his hand in sympathy. Then you shrugged. "Oh, we communicate. We communicated half the damn night, then I ask him to walk it off before we say things we'll both regret and I wake up to an empty bed he hasn't slept in. Asshole was heading into the woods; wasn't going to say a word. The fuck?" you declared, irritated all over again. Then you waved your hands, dismissing your own words. "Naw, it's fine. I caught him and we talked a little. Going to talk more when he gets back. I was just looking for a distraction, and Reverend Shane here certainly provided one."

Shane grinned at you and Rick set Judith down into her pack'n'play and collapsed onto the floor beside you.

"I knew this girl once," he started, and you and Shane both looked at him, eyes wide in surprise.

"You knew a girl? She know you know her, or this a stalker situation?" Shane muttered, and you were laughing again as Rick scowled.

 

 

"I didn't want her dead; I just wanted her gone," Rick said abruptly into the silence.

You'd made a pit stop in Alexandria; grabbing assorted items from the few houses left standing, and jumped back on the road. You glanced over at him- behind the wheel now for the first time due to you having been handling zombies when he decided it was time to get the fuck out of there. His face looked tortured, and you felt yourself smiling a little.

So Deputy Do Good Grimes was still in there somewhere after all.

"I shot above her head. She made it out. I saw her," he rambled.

You scoffed. "Rick, do you hear me asking any questions? That woman tried to feed me to Winslow and double crossed you twice. Sure, seeing all her people killed in front of her like that is enough to garner some sympathy, but- Winslow, Rick. I don't give a shit if she made it or not."

Rick looked over at you like he wanted to say something, then shook his head instead. "You should. She's a person."

You sighed and shrugged, leaning back and propping your feet on the dash. You closed your eyes, because damn you were tired. It had been one long-ass day, and the night before hadn't been much better. "Whatever. I don't give a shit, man. You could have shot her in the head and I'd back your play."

He winced and silence descended.

Shit, Officer. You could have shot him and kicked his corpse to the zombies and I would keep your secret with no judgement. Your own voice echoed in your ears, a memory of a sunny day on a farm, back when you'd thought things were as bad as they could get.

Wasn't that amusing? Miles and months later, you were still a stone-cold bitch like that. Still willing to do whatever it took to save who you wanted to save, and fuck the rest of the world. What would Shane have to say about you now, you wondered? Shit. He'd probably be proud of you.

We living or dying today, Nameless? You're living. Promise me.

 

 

You fell asleep, lulled by the sound of an engine and the wind in your face and Rick's silence. He wasn't as ok with your attitude as Shane would have been.

You dreamed, because of course you did.

In the dark school, you and Shane were running. Something was on your heels, but it wasn't walkers like it had been, and you looked around wildly for Otis. He wasn't there, and you glanced at Shane, wondering in some corner of your confused mind if the two of you had already sacrificed him.

"Tramps like us, girl," Shane said with a wink, and you were standing still in the suffocating darkness.

"Baby, we were-" you started to respond, but he shook his head.

"Naw, we're done running. Come on, criminal. What have you got to lose?" he asked, and held out his arms.

You fell into them, clinging to him; knowing somewhere deep inside this was all wrong and you'd already lost something wildly important. "Everything," you whispered. "I could lose everything."

"I'm not going anywhere, sweetheart. I promise."

Your eyes shot open and Rick was driving and Shane was still fucking dead.

Shane was dead.

You grabbed the radio from the dash before you thought about what you were doing. "Get me Negan," you snapped into it, fingers sliding up and down the handle of the bat propped in the floorboard at your feet.

Rick slammed on the breaks, turning to stare at you and try to snatch the radio from your hands. You held it out of his reach, fixing him with a blank stare. His face softened, twisting in pain while he studied you. You closed to your eyes so you didn't have to see the pity in his, trying to harden the ice back around your heart.

The radio crackled in your hand. "Who the hell is asking?"

"The Biker," you snapped into it. "Get me fucking Negan, DJ."

There was silence from the radio for a long moment.

"Well hell, Biker. Look at you, calling me up. You want to tell me where you and Ricky boy are so we can do this face to face?"

You closed your eyes and saw Negan wink at you and shoot Shane. "Fuck you, boss," you told him grimly. "Why'd you do it?"

"Do what, Biker?"

Your lips twisted in agony. "Why'd you shoot him?"

"Who? Shane-o? Ahhh.... how is your little boy toy, darlin'? I didn't see him at our last little meeting."

Rick's hand closed over yours on the radio and you shot him a hot glare as you yanked your hand away. "He's dead, asshole."

Silence. "Aw, shit. I'm sorry, Biker. I know how you felt about him. Hell, I liked him. He was a good man."

"Go to hell," you snapped viciously. "Just shut up, Negan. Rick and Carl and Daryl- they're all worried about me. They think I've got a death wish. Want me to stop coming after you."

"Do you have one? Shit, honey, half my boys are gonna be shakin' in their boots knowing the cop isn't around to keep you on a leash."

You laughed into the radio. "They should be. It's too late for me to stop. I'm coming for you, Negan. I'm coming for you, and I'm going to kill you. I've got my own thirsty bitch, and it's your blood she wants."

There was another pause. You stared into the distance, toward the Sanctuary, and waited. Finally, his voice came back, amused but with an edge you didn't recognize. "What the hell are you doing, Biker? Why are you making this so hard?"

"I'm the one making it hard?"

"Yes, you, goddamn it. My cop and my criminal- you were supposed to be a part of this. You were supposed to help me save people. That's what I do; I save people. I had such plans for the two of you, darlin', and now he is dead, because you wouldn't fall in line. So you wanna kill me? I guess you know where to find me, don't you?"

"Of course I do... boss," you snarled. Negan blaming you for Shane was what you'd needed, somehow. It hardened your heart, stopping the slow bleed inside that Rick had cracked open. "Any Saviors in range, listen up: it's not too late for you. But it is too late for him. Decide which team you're on, because if you cross paths with me- you're dead."

You cut the radio off and tossed it down, turning hot eyes to Rick. "We need a plan."

Chapter Text

Daryl stared from afar when you followed Rick into Hilltop. You were a mess and you knew it, and Maggie's sympathetic hug made your skin crawl.

Jesus' offer of a hot shower you accepted without hesitation.

Clean was better than dirty and blood soaked, and you scowled at the tiny rips in the shoulder of your leather jacket from Lucille as you ducked back out of Jesus' trailer. Shit like that could get worse real fast, and then you wouldn't have a layer of protection against the living and the dead that you were going to need pretty badly.

Daryl fell into step beside you.

"I don't suppose Jesus has another leather jacket laying around somewhere," you muttered, not looking at him. "Going to need one soon."

"Ya damn look really what ya wanna talk about?"

You rolled your eyes. "You know, as much as I do love my aesthetic, the jacket's actually a valuable piece of my armor."

"Whatever," he muttered, and grabbed your arm. "Baby."

You sighed. "I know. I'm a brash, suicidal fool. I have reasons to live, yadda yadda. I'm not going to throw myself on the sword any time soon, Daryl. But I'm going to kill Negan, even if it kills me in the process. And I'm going to do it with this." You tapped the bat at your side, hanging from the loop Shane had made for your gun belt.

Daryl didn't bother to look, keeping his eyes on yours instead. "I ain't lettin' ya die, girl. I lost ya once. I cain't do it again."

"You can if you have to," you told him bluntly.

He tossed his hands in the air and scowled at you. "Ya a right bitch sometimes, ya know that? Go to hell, then."

"I've already been, thanks!" you yelled after him, but guilt reared its fucking bitch head and had you looking for solitude.

 

 

Solitude apparently didn't exist in the overflowing Hilltop community, and after playing a game of 'keep moving so no one else says they're sorry', you somehow ended up in what might have been the last place you wanted to be. On the other hand, Maggie's office sounded like a real fucking bad idea right now too, what with Maggie, Rick, Michonne, Carl, Sasha, Rosita, Tara, Jesus, Carol, and Ezekiel in there trying to figure out what the fuck to do next. That was way too many people who wanted to tell you how sorry they were and then kick your ass over your behavior.

The fact that you had probably earned each and every ass-kicking was, to your mind at least, irrelevant.

So you ended up hiding near the cage full of Saviors, all of whom shifted uneasily as they watched you, leaning against the Hilltop wall with a cigarette in your lips and your arms crossed loosely. You fiddled absently with Shane's necklace and resolved once again to ask Rick what the story was behind the damn thing.

Alden walked over the side of the cage. "YN. You ok? You don't look very good."

You flipped him off lazily and closed your eyes.

"Just leave that crazy bitch alone, Al. Bad enough you keep trying to get on the bitch widow's good side. You know she's going to change her mind and kill us."

You could have ignored Jared if he hadn't called Maggie the bitch widow. You shoved off from the wall and grabbed Jared by the throat through the wire fence. His hands were still bound, though most everyone else's weren't at this point. Good call on someone's part, you thought.

"You're going to want to shut your damn mouth now, Jared," you told him casually. "You can say whatever you want about me. I certainly don't give a shit, and besides- you're probably not entirely wrong. But say another unkind word about Maggie Rhee, and I'll see how many hits it takes to color your hair red."

Jared laughed as you let him go and he stumbled back, coughing a little. "You all see that? That's the shit I'm talking about. They don't care about us! Got Negan's killer that you're all so damn scared of running loose out here, where she can threaten us. Fuck."

"Ya the only one in there she threatened, asshole," Daryl snarled from behind you.

You smirked at Jared, winked at one of the others, and nodded to Alden before you turned. You touched the back of Daryl's hand where he gripped his crossbow strap and stared beyond you into the cage, a wordless apology that he accepted with a jerk of his shoulders.

"So, you her new keeper now or what? The cop's dead, so she found herself an archer."

"Shut your damn mouth!" Daryl yelled, and you grabbed his arm when he would have drawn on him. Daryl glanced at you in surprise, but you shook your head slightly.

"Let him bluster. He's not going anywhere. I'll kill him later," you said, loud enough for them to hear.

Daryl snorted, eyeing you as you started walking away from the cage. He came with you, shooting a look over his shoulder. "Hate that guy."

"Jared? Yeah, like I said. Massive dick, and a sadistic fuck as well," you muttered. "Hey, Dixon, I'm-"

"I know," he said before you could finish getting the apology out.

You stopped and huffed, shoving a hand through your hair and glaring at him. "You want to let me be an adult here and apologize for being a bitch?"

He had a tiny smile on his lips that had your eyebrow lifting. He gestured at your hair. "Got that from him, didn't ya? The hair thing."

You thought you'd rather get stabbed again. You knew for a fact it didn't hurt as much as this.

"Jesus. Sorry, baby. I didn't- hell, girl. Ya really are on the goddamn edge, ain't ya? Fuck," Daryl muttered, pulling you close.

You leaned into his shoulder and shook your head. "Daryl, I can't- I crack it open, even a little, and I-"

"Yeah. I'm gettin' that. Whatever. Be a bitch to me if ya need to. Just- baby, for real. Stop tryin' to get yourself killed," he muttered, his hand sliding to the back of your neck, warm and solid and reassuring.

You sighed and pushed away from him. "I can't promise that."

His jaw clenched as he studied the dirt and didn't respond to that. "Maggie's got scouts every half-mile. Rick's goin' out there and so am I."

"I'll go too," you offered, grateful for the subject change. "I can't stay in here. Too damn many people, and besides, I'd end up killing someone and Maggie'd be pissed. She wants to send them to Negan one at a time apparently."

Daryl snorted as you started walking again, lifting a hand to wave at Rick as he jumped into a truck. "Yeah. Looks like ya ain't the only one got cold."

"No, looks like I'm not," you agreed. You squeezed his hand as he hesitated by his bike and gave you that concerned look again. "See you later, babe. And I am sorry."

He tossed his head and dismissed that with a jerk of his shoulders. "Whatever. See ya later."

 

 

You panned with your eye to the scope, fingers tapping along to the Guns'N'Roses song currently in your head. You missed Axl Rose. You missed screaming guitars and banging drumbeats and laughing over the noise of a crowded bar on a Saturday night.

You missed the time in your life when you didn't know how to use the gun in your hands; didn't know how to beat a man to death; didn't know what it was like to kill someone you knew twice.

You missed Merle. You missed- You missed Shane.

You saw Rick's truck flying up the road in a cloud of dust. "What the fuck?" you muttered, and then you saw the convoy. "Oh Judas Priest."

You had exactly two seconds to make a decision, and you knew even as you swung through the open window of your own borrowed ride that it was probably the wrong one. You were sacrificing a few minutes of preparation for Hilltop in favor of chasing down one crazy deputy and maybe, just maybe, taking your shot at Negan.

Which, come to think of it, was probably Rick's plan as well.

 

 

"Jesus," you muttered, slipping through the buildings on foot and getting a glimpse of the wreck.

Negan's black Charger was tipped on its side, blood soaking the windshield and the front seat. Bullet holes riddled the thing, and you'd heard shooting earlier. You had a feeling Negan had walked away from this shit, though, or you'd have run into Rick by now.

You crept closer, glancing into the window as you kept an eye out, and frowned at the overturned bucket of blood. "What the fuck?"

"Holy shit!"

Your teeth ground to together at the sound of Simon's voice, and you started to fade back and lose yourself in the empty buildings. You waited, though, crouched behind Rick's equally abandoned truck, as Simon and Dwight came into view. You'd gotten the story from Tara, about how she'd almost killed D on the way over and then Dwight had saved their lives, going back to the Saviors to keep them from finding your people even though if Laura had reported back, he'd be killed.

Seems Laura hadn't reported back yet.

"Could be his," Simon observed.

Dwight eyed him with obvious suspicion. "Or the bucket he brought with him."

Simon looked around and you hunkered down further. "Could be anywhere, alive or dead. Somewhere in between. Just cause he walked away doesn't mean he's breathing."

Dwight wandered toward your cover, staring out at the buildings and rolling his eyes so hard at Simon you could practically hear it.

"We could keep looking. Maybe find him more alive than dead, but then what?" Simon continued. He was clearly making a pitch for Dwight's support, and you almost hoped Rick didn't kill Negan, just to see the big man take Simon's uppity ass down a peg.

Nope, scratch that. You'd do it for him. You got a better grip on your gun as Dwight turned his back to you to face Simon again.

"We could face a distasteful moment. Or we could walk away. Get back to our people, make things even better."

"And how are you going to do that, Simon?" you called, rifle aimed at his head. You stayed behind Rick's truck, keeping yourself covered, as both of them drew on you. "How do you think your murdering ass being in charge will be any better than the big man's?"

Simon's empty smile spread across his face and he chuckled. "Biker! How lovely to see you again. So sorry to hear about Shane."

"Fuck you, Simon," you called back. "I asked you a question. How are you going to make anything better?"

He sighed and shook his head, lowering his gun. "We'll pull up stakes. Move further out. Find other communities to save. Rick, the Widow, the King- they clearly aren't going to fall in line. And that doesn't even begin to cover the nightmare in the ranks that is you."

"So, what do you think? Abandon Negan out here, hurt from the crash, and tell the Saviors what? To head home, the boss is dead?" you called.

"Maybe," Simon agreed. "Suppose that depends on our friend D here. And how this little meeting turns out of course."

"Of course. D?" you called.

Dwight reached in his pocket took out a tattered carton of cigarettes. He lit one, took a couple of long drags, and flicked it away.

Toward Negan's car.

The car went up almost as soon as the cigarette hit the puddle of gas and oil that had been slowly leaking from the Charger since you'd gotten there, and Simon laughed and clapped Dwight on the shoulder.

"Good answer, Dwight. Now, for the lady," he added, turning to you with his hands on his hips. "Are we done?"

"Nope," you said easily. "You see, I don't trust you, Simon. You're a backstabbing bastard. I know about Jadis and her people. Just like Oceanside, wasn't it? Fucker. Come on. You're going back to where ever you left the troops, and we're going to have us one great big family reunion."

Simon's eyes hardened, but Dwight scoffed and started walking. "Come on, man. It can't hurt, and she's one person."

"Yeah, Simon," you teased as you moved toward him, gun never wavering. "I'm one person."

 

 

A few streets later, he turned on you.

Simon knocked your gun to the side and kicked up at you, and the man wasn't half-bad. None of Negan's top people were bad fighters. They just weren't as good as you.

Unfortunately, it was two against one, and Dwight pulled a gun on you as you were moving into kick Simon's ass. You brought your hands up and Simon laughed. Dwight gave you the smallest of nods when Simon looked away, and you nodded back.

Now they had you in the lead, but your eyes were already moving. Your opportunity came fairly swiftly, in the form of curious zombies drawn by the fire a few streets over and the scent of living people. Dwight shot at the first one around the corner and you made a break for it while Simon yelled.

You circled back around to where you'd left your own vehicle at a dead run, knowing it was time to get on the horn and let Alexandria know what the fuck was coming. You'd tried it Deputy Do Good's way. You'd tried to get them to surrender before you slaughtered them. This was their choice, now.

Chapter Text

You took 85 out of Atlanta, Daryl weaving in and out of the inevitable traffic almost as recklessly as you would have. You clung to him on the bitch seat, grinning at the expressions on faces as you passed cars going to slowly they seemed to be standing still.

Another advantage of a bike, you thought spitefully.

Someone laid on the horn and you thought about flipping them off, but that would have required taking a hand out from where you'd slid them both up under Daryl's shirt. You were having way too much fun tracing patterns on his stomach and drawing your nails lightly over his skin until he tensed, so you let the asshole be an asshole.

Hell, you probably deserved it, you thought with a grin as Daryl whipped across three lanes to take the next exit. He barely stopped at the light, and bulleted through the nearest parking lot to pull up across three spaces. He cut the engine, set the kickstand, and spun in the seat.

He grabbed you by the arm and jerked you into the saddle with him, flipping up his visor as you did yours. You were grinning and he glared. He tipped your heads together until your helmets thunked lightly and your faces were as close as they could get, his hands sliding up your arms and tracing back down your sides. You toyed with the buttons on his vest as he scowled at you.

"Ya wanna stay alive long enough to get there, ya better cut that shit out."

You bit your lip and grinned at him. "Sorry, babe."

"Naw, ya ain't," he fired back, and you pressed in closer.

"No, I'm not," you agreed with a wink. "I'll stop, though."

He snorted, curling a hand around the back of your neck and digging his fingers in tightly. "Better."

You were practically in the man's lap, but the damn helmets kept you from doing anything other than blowing him a kiss. "Better get back in my seat before some disgruntled McDonald's employee wants to know what the riffraff are doing in his parking lot."

"Too late," Daryl muttered, glancing behind you. His lips turned up slightly and his eyes danced as he gave you a little push. "Get back up there an' behave yourself, girl."

He spun and fired the Triumph back up, and you closed your visor as he pulled out of the parking spaces with an extra rev for the manager standing in the doorway frowning at you. You flipped off the McDonald's as you pulled out, keeping your other hand respectably on the outside of Daryl's clothes as he sped back up the ramp toward the highway.

 

 

You paced while Daryl leaned on the seat of his bike. It was like the two of you had swapped personalities for the day, you thought sourly.

"What the fuck is taking them so long?" you muttered for the eighteenth time. "When I got away, they should have been getting on the road! And where the fuck is Rick? Did he make it back? Shit, I should have kept looking for him."

"Ya said they'd wait till dark. It ain't dark yet," Daryl said impatiently. "Would ya calm down? And ya did the right thing, soundin' the alarm. Rick can handle himself."

"Oh, so it's fine when Rick goes running off on his own to take on Negan, but when I do it, it's 'reckless' and 'suicidal'!"

"Baby. Shut the fuck up."

You looked at him, eyebrow rising. "You going to make me?"

He snorted and shook his head, shoving off the bike and stepping over to you. You eyed him, he eyed you, and then he wrapped his arms around you without a word.

You leaned into him and closed your eyes as tears welled up. "Damn it," you whispered, and he chuckled.

He let you go and swiped at the tears on your cheek with calloused fingers, then kissed your forehead. "It's gonna be aight, YN. We'll get them. Rick'll kill Negan or someone else will. Promise. He don't get to live."

You swallowed hard and nodded, jaw firming. "He doesn't get to live."

 

 

You watched as they passed your hiding place after dark, counting headlights. Once they stopped, just beyond the Hilltop where the spike strips had been placed, Daryl turned his radio back on.

You listened as Simon traded jabs with Maggie, annoyed that Negan wasn't with them. You could tell it in Simon's voice- overconfident and brash. After he rejected the Saviors she had captured- as you'd told her they would- you nodded to Daryl. The two of you wrestled his bike upright and hopped on, and you kissed his cheek as you settled behind him on the bitch seat.

"Just like old times, babe," you said quietly.

Daryl snorted. "This ain't nothin' like old times, unless ya bike had a gun mount and ya were into some way weirder shit than ya ever let on in that damn club."

You laughed as he fired the bike up and you wrapped an arm around his waist, leaning into him as he opened the throttle. You both fired as you pulled up even with the Saviors, laying down cover as the ones milling around ducked for their vehicles again.

Hilltop's gate opened slowly and Daryl had to ease off the gas to let them get in place for the trap, which had you laughing again.

"The fuck ya think is funny?" Daryl yelled at you as you twisted and fired into the headlights behind you.

You didn't bother trying to respond, but it didn't matter. He was through the gates anyway, pulling to the side as the school bus cut off the truck right behind you. You flung yourself off and rolled, Daryl doing the same and grabbing the guns tossed your way by others as Maggie yelled "Now!"

You fell into step with him, your whole gang popping out from everywhere to mow down anyone you saw. It was working, but-

Why the fuck wasn't anyone shooting back? Something was off and you couldn't figure it out.

 

 

"Arrows?" you asked Daryl, bewildered, when they finally did start to return fire. "Arrows?"

"What the fuck ya goin' on about?"

You gestured at the arrow sticking out of the ground at your feet. "Dixon, they're shooting arrows."

"So?" he grunted, leaning around to take a shot at the bowmen in the bed of a truck.

"So why the fuck aren't they shooting guns?" You popped up and fired blindly, then ducked back down, more worried about solving this bizarre twist of a puzzle than anything else. It had to mean something.

"Time to move," Daryl said as he pulled back, and you rose and fell back with him to the next convenient patch of cover.

"Maybe they're outta ammo," he offered between shots.

You shook your head, confused as all hell. "Eugene can fucking make bullets. This doesn't make any sense, babe."

Daryl shoved you to the side with a glare as one of the arrows you were so fixated on whipped through the space you'd just occupied. "Could ya pay attention, damn it? Solve the fuckin' mystery after this shit's over! Fucking hell!"

 

 

You got separated somewhere in the mess, but it was fine. There was a plan.

Plus, Daryl had been right. You got your head in the game, and no one who crossed your path stood a chance.

Then the light went out on Barrington House's porch, and that meant it was time for phase two. Flash-bangs went off and you took a few last shots at headlights, and when darkness reigned, you slid backward and into position silently.

Daryl materialized at your shoulder again, brushing your hand with his, and you flashed him a smile as you waited.

 

 

Chaos was always your friend. "Keep them on their toes," had been your biggest advice when you'd been asked about what to do.

Rick and company sure had done that, you thought proudly as Simon started leading them forward. The bastard split his people into three teams, and then he started the fucking whistle.

You almost joined in, just to see what he would do. And maybe, just a bit, out of habit. Daryl flinched beside you when they all took it up, though, and you wondered about that night. The night Glenn died and Daryl was shot and captured. He'd clearly heard this before.

Those in the cars flipped on the headlights, the shooters in the windows laid down an impressive array of fire, and Simon's troops broke and ran under this fresh onslaught. They found yet more trouble waiting for them, as your people boiled out of hiding places and went hand to hand.

You tossed aside your empty gun and unhooked the bat. "Now we're going to have some fun, Dixon!" you called to him, and he cursed viciously as you tossed yourself into the nearest group of them, bat swinging.

One went down with a crunch before they registered your presence, and then they were falling over themselves to get away from you.

 

 

Rick tossed a gun at you as a couple of trucks fired up, and Maggie came out of nowhere at your side. The three of you emptied your magazines into the vehicles, but it was too late and you knew it.

You stood, dripping bat in one hand and now-empty gun in the other, and watched the tail lights.

"I wanted them dead. I wanted them all dead. Negan most of all," Maggie declared, voice rough and pained in a way you hadn't heard from her yet.

"Yeah," you agreed. "Me too."

"Did you see him?" she asked.

"He wasn't here," Rick said. "I saw him out there."

"Yes, you did, Deputy. We're going to have us a chat about that," you muttered.

"What the hell?" Maggie asked.

"I broke away and tried to kill him. I didn't, but I tried," Rick admitted.

Maggie sighed. "Thank you," she whispered.

Chapter Text

Sasha was dead. They buried her beside Abraham and Glenn, and Maggie, Enid, Rosita, and Jesus cried. You didn't.

Tara had been hurt, and Daryl was pissed about it. "He tried to kill you, and what? It's square?" he hissed at Tara.

"Jesus, Dixon, what the fuck are you talking about?" you asked, glancing between the two of them.

Tara sighed. "Dwight's the one who shot me. Daryl saw him and Simon trying to sneak up on me, and Dwight took the shot."

You frowned. "With what?"

"The fuck does it matter?" Daryl demanded.

"If it was with a bow, he might have saved her life. Dwight can't shoot arrows worth a damn," you said with a shrug.

Tara shot Daryl a look as he muttered a creative suggestion about what to do with Dwight and a bow. "See? I told you. He's on our side, Daryl. He saved us in the woods, and he saved me last night."

Maggie waved you over to where she, Jesus, and Rick were talking, and you left Daryl and Tara to it. You really didn't want to have that argument anyway.

"What's up?" you asked as you reached them.

Maggie rubbed her eyes. "We don't have enough resources to withstand another attack. We need to be ready to move. But if we can keep this place, we need to. There's too damn many walkers on the walls to do anything, though."

You glanced at the gate. "I'll handle the walkers. Don't worry about that."

"YN-" Rick started, but you waved him off.

"It's cool. I can handle it, but I'll take someone else with me if it'll make you feel better."

"I'll come," Jesus offered.

Rick and Maggie glanced at each other, but you just nodded. "Cool. Let's kick some zombie ass, ninja man."

 

 

"Sorry about Sasha," you told Jesus quietly as you grabbed extra gear from his trailer.

He glanced over as he tied his hair up and you swung a machete experimentally. "Thank you. She was a good friend. I'm sorry about Shane."

You shrugged. "I know. Thanks."

"You doing ok?" Jesus pulled his duster on as he asked.

You snorted and shoved the machete through your belt. "What do you think?"

"Yeah. I get that. Well. Ready to go?"

You nodded and the two of you headed to the gates. "Why are you coming with me?"

"What do you mean?" he asked.

You nodded to Khal and he opened the gate just enough for the two of you to slide through one at a time. Zombies immediately took an interest, and you unhooked your bat and rested it on your shoulder. Jesus had a knife in his hand and eyed the closest of the dead like he was sizing them up.

"I mean, you didn't even try to talk me out of this. You've got to admit, coming out here to take them on is a little insane."

Zombie brains went flying as you moved forward to meet them, and Jesus grunted as he drove his knife into his own first one. There was quiet for awhile as you fell into the steady rhythm of slaying.

When you caught a few seconds to breathe, both of you panting a little, he shrugged. "It is a bit insane. But you can handle yourself. So can I. We can handle ourselves out here together. And- you looked like you needed it. You certainly weren't taking no for an answer."

You laughed and pulled the first of your knives, hurling it as you approached the next group of dead. "That's true."

"That was a good shot, but a waste of a blade," Jesus observed as your target went down.

You shrugged. "I've got another one."

"Fair enough."

 

 

Jesus ended up leaning on the wall calling out advice as you handled the last batch and critiquing you as you cussed over your shoulder at him.

"I wouldn't do- oh, well, I suppose that approach works," he offered.

You glared at him, holding a walker by the back of the throat and using it as a shield against the last two. "Really? You could get off your ass and help me here, you know."

"No, no- it looks like you've got it handled. Besides, only one of us being covered in blood and... stuff is probably better than both of us," he said with a shrug.

You swung the bat one-handed and it bounced off the skull of the walker, leaving a dent but not actually injuring the brain and slipping out of your hand on the back swing. "Son of a bitch!" you muttered.

You fumbled for your knife, only to realize you'd left it in the eye socket of one of the other ones. You cussed again, grimacing at the walkers in distaste. "Fine, I'll do this the hard way."

You hauled back and punched the one you held in the back of the head, pausing to kick the curious asshole slipping in from the side away from you. It took two blows, but this fucker had apparently been dead longer than the one who'd taken a hit from the bat and kept right on coming. You got brains on your hand- and in your hair, damn it- but that was one down and two to go.

You turned and promptly tripped over your own bat, and number two came down with snapping teeth to try to eat your guts for breakfast. You jammed your arm in it's mouth and let it gnaw on the leather, your fingers scrabbling in the dirt around you for anything you could use as a weapon.

A knife buried itself in the thing's temple and it fell forward over you. You closed your eyes and focused on breathing. You'd get up in a minute.

"Comfy down there?" Jesus asked dryly.

You wrenched your arm free from the walker's jaws and flipped him off. He laughed, hauling you to your feet.

"So, we're going to not mention that moment to Daryl or Carl, right?" you asked Jesus.

He gestured behind him with one of the knives he was retrieving from the dead. "Too late. You have an audience."

You glanced over your shoulder and held back the groan with difficulty. Faces watched you anxiously from the walls and the now-open gates, and you looked down at yourself and sighed. "Perfect. Because I'm not already crazy enough to everyone here."

You scooped up your bat- which needed to be hosed down something awful, and you felt vaguely nauseous at the idea of Maggie or Rosita seeing it dripping blood and brains like this- and fell reluctantly into step with Jesus.

"Don't worry about it," he said quietly. "Somebody had to handle it."

"I'm Negan's pet killer, carrying a bat, and wearing a delightful amount of blood. I'm lucky these guys don't shoot me before I get in the gates," you shot back.

"Your people would-"

"Holy shit!" Jared's voice cut over Jesus' and conversations all around ended in sudden silence. You turned to the cage and he was staring at you.

They were all staring at you, but Jared's expression was amused and cruel. Alden looked concerned, and the others eyed you like they were afraid you'd come after them next.

"Ignore him," Jesus said, hand on your back as he started to steer you away toward his trailer.

Rick and Maggie came out from Barrington House as Jared started laughing. "That? That's who's on your side, but you have us locked in a cage? Damn!"

You shifted uneasily and looked at the ground, but Jesus turned you both and hustled you along. Maggie and Rick came to meet you, and you tucked your bat behind your leg.

"Walkers are handled. Might be a few stragglers out there somewhere, but it's all good. YN's going to get a shower and a change of clothes from my trailer," Jesus informed them.

You offered a tight smile to Rick and squeezed Maggie's fingers as you brushed past them, not meeting anyone's eyes as you made your way to Jesus' trailer.

 

 

"You know, sweetheart, you could help. This was your idea," Shane said dryly.

You glanced down from your perch on top of the car, meeting his annoyed eyes. "I'm supervising."

"Yeah, yeah-"

Your radio crackled. "Got a herd headed your way, Biker."

"How many?" you snapped into it, grabbing for the binoculars hanging from your neck.

"Looks like about twenty head. Coming in from the north."

You panned and found your lookout, then on down to the shambling dead on approach. You shrugged. "Be there in a minute. Cop and I will handle it."

You hooked the radio back to your belt, swung the binoculars around to your back, and vaulted off the roof of the car in front of Shane. He crossed his arms and glared at you.

"We can handle it? Twenty head, and you want to do it just us?"

You grinned and kissed him lightly. "Yeah. We can. We've done worse before."

"Because we had to!"

"Aww, come on, Officer. Let's have a little fun," you said with a wink.

"You got a warped sense of a good time, criminal," he bitched, but he was already following you as he did.

 

 

Maggie declared that the Savior prisoners would be let out in pairs under guard for exercise and to work. She also allowed them quarter rations, like the rest of you were getting. Hilltop was struggling to feed the refuges, and scavenging had been turning up slim pickings here lately.

She let a handful of them, including Alden, out first, and somehow you ended up tapped for guard duty while they dug graves outside Hilltop's walls for the Saviors killed in the fight. You were not happy about it, and neither were any of the Saviors except Alden.

"Come on, guys. She's not a monster," he scolded them as you leaned on the wall with a rifle loose in your hands. "She's not going to gun us down for no reason."

"You sure about that, man?" someone muttered. "Walsh isn't around."

"Yeah, and ever think maybe you should shut up about that?" Alden snapped at him. "You want me to keep bringing up Sarah, asshole?"

"Don't fucking talk about-" the guy broke off abruptly, shooting you a guilty look. "Oh. Sorry, Biker."

You shrugged. "Whatever. I have a name, you know."

"Negan never used it, so no one else did," Alden told you with half a grin. "For that matter, neither did- uh."

"Maybe you should stop bringing him up all time, asshole," the guy Alden had snapped at muttered.

You found yourself smiling despite yourself. "No, it's cool. Sh- Shane never used my name either. Guess I shouldn't be surprised you guys don't."

Alden smiled back at you and tossed more dirt. "We want to help, you know. I'm not surprised Simon cut us loose. What do we have to be loyal to back there? Most of us don't have any family anymore."

You shrugged. "Tell Maggie. She's in charge here."

"I have. I was hoping you would put in a good word for us."

"What makes you think she'd listen to me?" you asked, lifting an eyebrow at him.

He shot you a bitch please look. "You're one of them, but you used to be one of us. They like you. They'll listen to you if you tell them we're on their side."

You shifted a little. "Are you on our side?"

Alden leaned on his shovel and regarded you steadily. "YN, I'm on my own side. I just want to live. Preferably in peace. You guys are decent enough- a damn sight more decent than Negan is."

Your eyes slid from his to the distance. "Some of them are, anyway."

"You are too."

"No, I'm really not," you muttered, and walked further down the line.

Chapter Text

You slept fitfully on the floor of Jesus' trailer, rising after a couple of hours to slip out the door. You were damn near utterly silent, but Jesus still leaned up on one elbow to watch you as ducked out.

You ended up in the empty cupola on top of Barrington House, staring at the miles of the world spread out below you. It reminded you of nights on the guard tower, and you leaned your forehead against the glass wearily.

"Couldn't sleep?"

You shook your head, not bothering to push upright. "No. You?"

Daryl's hand touched your back and he leaned one shoulder on the glass beside you. "Naw. Saw ya come up here. I's roaming the halls. Too damn many people in one spot. We're fuckin' vulnerable."

"Yeah," you agreed. "Got guards on the walls, though. Should have a fair warning if they come back."

Daryl grunted. "So why ya up here then?"

You shot him a dry look. He snorted.

"Yeah. Fair enough," he muttered. "Baby. Come on. Talk to me."

You sighed. "I- about what, Daryl? Shane? You want me to tell you I miss him like I'd miss my right hand, or that if I stop to think about it for two seconds and really feel it, I'll fall completely apart? Because I think you already know."

"Yeah, I know. Still think ya need to talk."

You shook your head and started pacing, fingers tapping the Clash absently. "About what?" you asked again, annoyed.

He watched you, finally shrugging. "Tell me about him."

"What?" You froze, staring at him in blank confusion.

He huffed, blowing his shaggy hair out of his face. He needed a goddamn haircut, you thought. And a shower.

"Look, baby. I'm ya friend, right?"

You nodded slowly, wondering just what the fuck that was supposed to mean.

"So, talk to me. Like ya would have when we were kids. Tell me about him," Daryl said with another shrug and a vague gesture.

"You want me to tell you... about me and Shane?" you asked, bewildered.

He nodded, giving you a look like you were damn stupid. You scowled at him.

"Don't look at me like that, you asshole. Why the fuck would I assume you want to hear any of that shit? You hated me and Shane together. I remember a few fucking arguments in the prison about the fact that he and I were friends, and someone looking at me like I was Satan incarnate when we found you again!"

He had the grace to look embarrassed. "That's fair. Ain't gonna lie and say I like hearin' the way ya talk about him. But ya need- shit, baby. Ya need something. Someone. I's always been who ya leaned on. Don't want that to change just 'cause we got some shit."

"Fucking hell, Dixon," you whispered as your eyes filled. He reached for you, one hand and hesitant. That was all it took for you to collapse into him, needing what he was offering. Needing your friend. "We do have some shit, don't we?" you asked, voice muffled against his shoulder.

He snorted. "Ya think? Now come on, girl. Tell me the first thing that comes to mind."

You thought for a minute as he stroked your back. "I never told him, but I think Springsteen might be better than Petty."

"Jesus fuckin' Christ," Daryl said, sounding awed. "He changed ya mind about music?"

You thumped him on the side of the head, but gently. You were smiling slightly, and you sniffed back the tears. "Yeah. Maybe. I mean, it can be done. And- I mean, you hear the songs enough times, coming from someone who's- who's your everything, and you can't help but love them. Because they do."

His hand curled on the back of your neck, thumb stroking softly. "Yeah, I get that. Why ya think I know every fuckin' Guns'n'Roses song in existence? Plus, there's this song- I don't remember it, not really, but every now and then I get a line. Beth sang it. Night before I lost her."

You shifted a little, resting your chin on his shoulder and staring out into the night. "Know any of it now?"

He shrugged. "Don't know."

"I'd like to hear," you whispered.

"I- aight. I mean, all's I can think up right now is a couple of lines..." He trailed off and you waited, scanning the Hilltop's still, silent tents and trailers.

"We'll buy a beer to shotgun, an' we'll lay in the lawn, an' we'll be good..."

You smiled into his shoulder. "I remember that one."

"Yeah. She's playin' it on the piano, in this- this funeral home we found. Shit, girl. She-" he laughed a little. "Shoulda- shoulda seen her face when I laid down in the coffin. Comfiest bed I've had in years."

You shivered. You certainly hadn't had the same experience he'd had in- Wait. Wait a damn minute.

"She wanted to leave a note. For whoever had been there before us, whoever's food we'd been- what? Baby?" he broke off, frowning at you when you shoved away from him to stare. "Ya fuckin' white as a sheet."

"Where?" you asked, hands shaking so badly you clenched them into fists.

Men surrounded you, guns at you and Shane's heads and laughing as they shoved you in. Shane's eyes, worried and dark and pissed as the lid came down and your world went black and oh so small-

"What do ya mean, where?" Daryl asked.

"Where was this?" you ground out slowly.

He blinked, one shoulder coming up in a shrug. "I don't know, baby, somewhere in Georgia, some random funeral home and- fuck. Naw. No way," he argued, shaking his head rapidly.

You started to laugh hysterically, the sound bubbling out and filling the little space as he watched you with wary eyes. "Oh my god. Oh my god. It was Beth's note we found. That was Beth. That was you and Beth, and we didn't even- and- and then-"

"That's the place? Where ya got locked in the damn coffin?"

You nodded, eyes squeezed shut. "It certainly sounds like it, doesn't it?"

"What the hell- how did that even happen?" he asked, reaching for you again.

"Stupidity," you answered harshly, stepping away from his touch. You couldn't. Not with all that fresh in your mind. "It happened through stupidity. My own. And Shane almost fucking died for it. Just delayed the inevitable by surviving that shit, I guess."

"Ya didn't kill Shane."

You snorted and reached into your pocket, but came up empty. Scowling, you checked again, craving nicotine or alcohol or, shit, maybe one of Merle's potent little cocktails. "Where the fuck are my cigarettes?"

"Stole 'em while ya was gettin' cleaned up."

You rounded on him, pissed and ready to fight, when you caught movement from the medical trailer. You stepped over to the window and frowned down at the shape staggering toward Barrington House. The jerky movements, the inability to walk a straight line-

"Oh shit balls! Daryl, that's a walker!"

 

 

Shane found you standing at the fence, staring straight into the snapping, snarling face a walker. The fence cut into the things face as it pressed harder against the chain, trying to get through and take a bite out of you. Your nose was centimeters from its teeth and you didn't give a single shit.

"The fuck you doing, sweetheart?"

You didn't look away from the asshole's dead eyes and broken teeth. "Nothing. Thinking."

"It's what? One am? What exactly are you thinking about that leads to staring a walker down at this time of...." he trailed off and sighed.

You glanced over in time to catch him rubbing his head. He saw you look and offered you a gentle smile.

"Want to talk about it?"

"Have I ever?" you muttered.

He took your hand. "Alright. We can watch the stars instead, criminal."

That got you to smile, and you leaned against his shoulder. "Dreamed about my foster dad. Woke up and came out here to think."

He waited patiently, knowing you all too well.

"I'm in my thirties, Shane. I mean, I've lost all track of how long this goddamn apocalypse has been going on, so I don't know where in my thirties I am, but I know I'm in there. Why does shit that stopped happening when I was sixteen still wake me up at night?" you asked, disgusted at how petulant you sounded. You were far from a being a child, so why the hell were you acting like one?

He slid an arm around you and pulled you closer. "Shit like what you went through doesn't go away. It was major, sweetheart."

"Yeah," you agreed. "But still. Fifteen plus years? You'd think I'd be over it by now."

"No, I wouldn't. Listen, I didn't go through anything like you did when I was a kid. Not by a long shot. But in high school, I played on the football team, right? And one game, against our rival school, this big asshole who'd been after me all damn season- he sees his chance and he takes it. I was the quarterback, so I wasn't huge. I could take a hit- I've always been able to take a hit- but not like this goddamn mountain of a kid delivered. Broke my arm in two places and popped my knee out of joint. I didn't play again," he said quietly. Sadly.

"I'm sorry." You hated the look on his face, reading the loss in it even as he tried to brush it off. You didn't talk about high school much, but he'd mentioned sports enough for you to know he'd loved playing. This was the first you'd learned of why he stopped, and it pissed you off on his behalf, to have something he cared about so much taken away from him because of some asshole.

He waved you off with a twisted smile. "Like I said, it isn't anything like what you went through. But I still dream about it sometimes. That moment, right before he slammed into me. Time slowed down, and I thought to myself 'Shane, this one's gonna hurt'. I was right. Sometimes in the dreams, I think I can change it. Never can, though. Shit that hurts, criminal? It never really goes away. And what you lived through with that bastard is a hell of a lot worse than a bad tackle."

 

 

Barrington House was packed, and nearly everyone sleeping on the floors and in the rooms inside had been injured in the fight with the Saviors. You and Daryl practically fell down the stairs in your rush to get there before the walker you'd seen shambling from the medical trailer could, both of you sick with fear for everyone sleeping helplessly inside.

What you found was utter chaos.

The dead were everywhere. People were screaming and more and more dead were rising; dead who's injuries hadn't really been that bad. You and Daryl glanced at each other and waded into the fray, going cold when you remembered the kids were in here.

Judith, you thought grimly, and made a path straight for the room Rick, Michonne, Carl, and Judith had all been packed into. Rick and Michonne came busting out, weapons at the ready, as you flung yourself onto the back of a zombie just outside their door.

The zombie had a Hilltop armband and a neat line of stitches from her elbow to her wrist that you'd placed for her earlier in the day. You'd done a few hours on emergency medicine to help out Siddiq and the Kingdom's doctor with the workload, years of patching up Dixons coming in handy for flesh wounds like most everyone had received.

"What the fuck, Rick?" you yelled as you sunk your knife into her skull. "Judy?"

"Carl's got her!" Rick snarled back, and he was running down the steps into the battle himself.

Michonne's sword gleamed in candlelight and flashlight beams as she moved down the hallway as well, and you looked around the chaos and wondered just what the fuck was going on here.

 

 

It hit you four zombies later, as you tied a tourniquet around someone's leg at the knee, sat on her to keep her down while she screamed in pain, and took the lower half of her leg of with the machete. It wasn't clean and it wasn't neat, but she'd live. Probably.

You looked up as Siddiq hit his knees at your side, a blanket in his hands that he wrapped around the bleeding stump. "Go," he said simply, and you nodded and climbed to your feet.

"Rick! Daryl!" you yelled down the stairs, and they both looked up at you. Daryl was holding a walker at arm's length when he did, and Jesus turned and whipped a knife with blinding speed into its ear. The walker stopped moving and Daryl gestured at you impatiently. "The arrows! The blood!"

Everyone stared at you blankly and you groaned. "Fucking hell. They wanted us to turn! Everyone who got hurt is at risk!"

Rick started cussing wildly and imaginatively, until you whistled in appreciation.

"Nice one, Deputy, but may I suggest-"

"YN!" Daryl snapped, pointing behind you, and you spun to the side and kicked the zombie who'd snuck at your back over the railing. "Focus, damn it!"

You made a face as he put the zombie- now crawling hand over hand toward him- down.

 

 

All in all, it didn't take long. Your group gathered at the stairs, looking down at Tobin's walker form.

"YN figured it out. Negan's bat was covered in blood. I thought he'd just run into some, but-" Rick broke off, shaking his head.

"They have us working for them again," Maggie said grimly. "Damn it."

"Fuck. Tara," Daryl spat, and turned a glare on you. "Still think Dwight saved her fuckin' life?"

"Daryl, we don't know that-" Rick started, but Daryl cut him off.

"Where is she? We gotta tell her."

 

 

Tara took it downright calmly, and as they talked, you wandered to her window and looked out.

"Oh, fuck!" you snarled. "Tara, stay here!"

You were out the door with everyone else following you, questioning what the fuck you were doing. You didn't bother to answer, because time was of the essence. They got it soon enough, when you hit the porch and they saw what you saw.

Walkers still wandered the grounds, and the cage stood open.

"Hands up!" Maggie snapped, gun trained on Alden.

He had a shovel in his hands and had just dropped a walker who nearly took down Siddiq. Carl's doctor friend seemed to have about as much regard for his own safety as you did, but he, at least, always ran headlong into trouble in order to help someone else.

"We're trying to help!" Alden said, dropping the shovel and putting his hands up. "A kid came and opened up the pen. We had people turn. A bunch of 'em left, but a bunch of 'em are trying to close that gate."

You took off, heading straight for the gate where five of the prisoners were struggling to hold it closed against what looked like a shit ton of walkers. You skidded to a halt and started hacking at the hands reaching through, then tossed your own weight against the heavy wooden gates.

"Hey, Biker," the man Alden had called out earlier for bringing up Shane grunted from beside you. "Thanks for the assist."

"YN," you told him, and twisted to stab through the gap again as Jesus, Daryl, Rick, and Dianne came your way. Maggie still held Alden at gunpoint, but shit. You had bigger worries.

"YN. Alex," he offered.

You grinned at him as Daryl's crossbow twanged out into the oncoming horde. "Nice to meet you, Alex. Let's close this thing, shall we?"

Chapter Text

The next morning brought yet more cleanup and repair and grave digging. A long, drawn-out argument with Maggie and Rick the night before led to the sight you now kept a steady eye on- Alden, Alex, and the rest of the Saviors who had stayed behind were walking free, helping put the Hilltop back together.

Rick came striding toward Alden, coat on and gun in hand, and you slid from your perch on a picnic table and wandered down as they talked.

"There'd been some talk about trying to get out, but it was just talk. Nothing specific," Alden said as you walked up behind Rick.

"This about your friends?" you asked.

Rick glanced over his shoulder at you and nodded. "I was gonna find you next. See if you wanted to go on a little field trip with me."

You smiled. "Sounds like fun. Where are we headed?"

He turned back to Alden and tilted his head, and Alden looked between the two of you with a sigh.

"Saying they had a plan is giving them too much credit," Alden warned.

"What if it was you?" You asked it thoughtfully, eyeing the kid. Looked like he still had some loyalty to his friends after all, since he looked decidedly squirrely. "You're on foot, some of you are probably injured. Might need somewhere to hole up for awhile."

"There's an old dive bar three miles off Edgehill Parkway. Some of them took me there once. They wanted my expert opinion on what it'd take to turn the place into an outpost. It's between here and there, but the chances of it actually-"

"Thanks, Al," you said as Rick started walking. The attack from the inside had really pissed the deputy off, and he was not playing anymore, you thought. You started off after him when Alden called.

"Hey."

Both of you stopped and looked at him.

"If it's not for nothing, can you do me a favor?" Alden asked, glancing from one to the other. You lifted and eyebrow and waited for him to go on. "If you happen to find them, don't kill any more of them than you have to? When it went bad last night, they- they made a choice. It was the wrong choice. Some of them, it probably hasn't hit them yet. You could show them, by bringing them back. You two could do that."

Rick didn't say a word as he started walking away again. You shrugged at Alden. "Yeah, we could."

"You aren't like Negan. You're not just a killer, YN," he called after you. "This is as good a chance to show that as any."

 

 

You went on foot, so you could pick up a trail.

"Admit it, Deputy, you only wanted me along because you needed a tracker," you muttered, crouching to squint at the ground.

"No," Rick said easily. "If that had been the case, I'd have brought Daryl."

"Ouch," you muttered, glancing up with your lips twitching to find him grinning down at you. "Well, if it's not for my superior woods skills, why did you ask me to come?"

Rick was quiet as you rose. He sighed. "I miss Shane. You remind me of him."

You stopped short, swallowing past the lump in your throat as you stared at a broken twig on a nearby tree. "Yeah?"

He placed one hand on your shoulder. "We don't have to talk about him. I know you're struggling. If it helps, by my standards, you're handling it well."

"Really?" you asked, giving him an incredulous look. "I'm a cranky bitch killing machine with a death wish, Rick."

Rick shook his head, amusement in his eyes. "Remember when I lost Lori?"

You considered that and made a 'fair point' face. "Mmm. Hard to forget the phone calls from the great beyond."

"And the hallucinations, and shooting at Sasha and Tyreese." He leaned in close to you. "These Saviors think you're crazy? They'd think differently if they knew me any better."

You laughed. "Jesus. Thanks, Deputy."

"Any time."

You got moving again, in companionable silence. Virginia was heading toward winter, and while it wasn't like you were in fucking Maine, winter up here had been a hell of a lot colder than Georgia. You were already glad for your leather jacket and the trees had only been in full color for a week or two.

"Hey, Rick?" you asked after a bit. "I was wondering..."

"Hmmm?"

You reached up and pulled Shane's necklace from under your shirt, where it had rested against your skin. "I took this from Shane. It was- it was the only thing of his I could keep with me."

Rick smiled and touched it lightly with one finger. "I'm glad you did."

You smiled back at him, hand closing over the 22 until it bit into your palm. "The thing is, I never- I never got around to asking him about it. I always meant to, but just-" You shrugged.

Rick laughed. "And he didn't volunteer the information? Man, he had changed."

"Yeah?" you asked, intrigued. You were smiling because Rick was, you realized. Talking about Shane with Rick made you, if not really happy- at least it didn't leave you feeling like someone was ripping your heart out slowly through your toes, like talking about Shane to other people did.

"Oh yeah. He mention he played sports in school?"

You snorted. "Maybe once or twice. Baseball, basketball, football. He told me once he was the quarterback, and a bad tackle blew out his knee."

"Yeah. He mention it happened at a game where he was getting scouted for college ball?" Rick held a branch out of the way and you ducked under it.

You shook your head. "No, we talked more about his Academy days and crazy shit the two of you landed in than anything else. We avoided high school glory days, since it's not my favorite subject in the world."

"I can see that. Jesus, you probably heard some big fat lies about us, too." Rick shook his head fondly. "Anyway. Shane was running the game. In charge. He was damn good too. He was going places- college, maybe even pro. Then that bastard- anyway."

You smiled at the angry edge in Rick's voice. Best friends, you thought. That's what it looked like, right there. All these years later and Rick was still pissed on Shane's behalf.

Rick waved a hand in the air as he got back to the point. "I guess there's no real story behind the necklace. I got it for him, for his birthday shortly before that game. It was his jersey number."

You touched it again, rolling your eyes at the Shaneness of that. "Idiot wore a reminder of something he wanted that he couldn't have around his neck every day of his life? Yeah, that- That sounds exactly like him," you finished with a chuckle.

"Oh, exactly like him. And before all this shit, he'd talk the ear off everyone he ever met about his high school career and where he could have gone. He told me once part of it was a test. If a woman could handle him rambling on about high school without interrupting him, she was either a keeper or totally insane. He'd do a second test to figure out which."

"Or she was humoring the asshole until she could get away," you muttered.

Rick snorted. "That's what I said. Can't believe it never came up."

"Like I said, we didn't talk about high school much. Though... he once told me he had sex with the girl's gym teacher while he was in high school," you told Rick, eyeing him sideways. Truth be told, you'd laughed in Shane's face and called him a damn liar. Shane had protested that it was true, but the only other person he'd ever told had been Rick.

At the time, neither of you thought you'd ever be able to ask Rick about it. Funny how life worked sometimes.

"Shit. He told me that too. I called him a liar," Rick muttered, shaking his head. "No way he slept with Mrs. Kelly. She was married and in her thirties! Don't care how much of a stud he was."

You laughed again. "That's what I said, too. He gave me this look of complete betrayal and muttered about wishing he'd found Mrs. Kelly and gotten her to confirm it before we left Georgia."

"Well, if any of our teachers survived this shit, it'd be her. She was a tough bitch in high school and just got tougher over the years. Last time I saw her, she was celebrating her fiftieth birthday by jumping out of an airplane," Rick said, shaking his head fondly. "Shit. Mrs. Kelly."

"Mrs. Kelly," you agreed. "I'd have liked to meet her."

"She'd have loved you."

"Rick, did- did Shane have any family? Before? He never talked about parents or siblings or anything, and- well, end of the world and all. We'd lost everything; neither of us wanted to think about it too hard," you admitted.

Rick shook his head. "No, he was an only child. Both his parents were gone before the dead started walking."

You nodded, sliding the necklace between your fingers. "I wish I'd asked him about it. I would have enjoyed listening to him talk about incessantly about football. If only so I could mock him endlessly for being obsessed with high school."

"Why didn't you? Ask him, I mean."

You tried to stop the blush rising on your cheeks, but knew you probably didn't do a very good job. "Uh. Well, whenever it was visible, we were usually a little- a little busy," you mumbled lamely.

Rick shot you a look and you stared fixedly at the floor, biting the inside of your cheek. "Well, that's understandable, I suppose. Don't seem to recall you turning that color the last time we talked about you and Shane having sex."

That had you grinning and laughing, bumping your shoulder into Rick's playfully. "Fair point. It's different now, I guess. When it's just a fling, just sex for the fun of it, what's there to blush about? I had fun, so did he. Easy to laugh and tease and shit. Now... He's gone. He was so much more than that, Rick, and that's not- that's not even the part I care about most. Not what I want us reduced to, you know? Though he was a stud," you added slyly.

Rick shook his head in exasperation. "Thanks. I needed to know that. It makes sense though. It's not sex with Lori I want to remember. Or, God forbid, if I were to lose Michonne, that's not what I'd focus on either. And I'd probably be a little pissed if others tried to boil what we have- what we are- down to that."

"Yeah," you agreed softly. "What we are. Shit, I don't know how either of us would have labelled what we are. Were," you corrected. "He was mine, though, Rick. And I'm sorry."

Rick draped an arm around your shoulders. "I'm sorry too."

 

 

Rick grabbed your arm and hauled you behind a tree.

"Shit-" you started, but he slapped a hand over your mouth and pointed through the trees.

You caught sight of the dead, shuffling through the trees, and did a rapid head count. Then you glanced over your shoulder at Rick and raised an eyebrow. You could take them. There were only ten or so.

He scowled and shook his head. You sighed, rolled your eyes, and nodded. Rick led the way backward, and for all you'd teased him over and over about his woods skills, he'd certainly picked up the trick of moving quietly over fallen leaves. You barely heard his footfalls.

"You know we could have taken them," you complained when you were far enough away.

Rick sighed. "I know. But we're doing something here."

"Fine," you huffed.

And frozen when Morgan came around the corner, stick out with the pointy end toward you.

Rick's gun came up when Morgan appeared, but he lowered it immediately. You lifted your empty hands, only needing to take one look at Morgan's face to know the man was most indubitably not ok. Plus, you'd been in the outpost with him.

"Hail, hail, the gang's all here," you said, glancing from Morgan to Rick with a smirk. "Looks like Team King County's back together."

Rick shook his head at you, but Morgan just stared. "Morgan. You know me," Rick said slowly. "You know us."

Finally the other man lowered the stick. "Rick. YN. I'm not right," he said bluntly.

You snorted. "Welcome to the club. I'd like to elect Rick here president."

"That's not helpful," Rick muttered.

Morgan, however, had cracked the fainest smile. "I'm out here for them."

"Me too. Want to kill Jared? I'll give you dibs," you offered.

Rick had a hand pressed to his eyes, like he was reconsidering all his life decisions so far. Morgan focused on you and nodded.

"We finish it," you said grimly. "The three of us. Morgan gets Jared."

Rick shook his head, but nodded. "Let's go."

 

 

Of course, things got complicated. You found the place Alden had mentioned- you'd actually been there once yourself, but it had been months ago and you'd come at it from the other direction- and found a hand and a foot waiting for you.

No body, just a hand and a foot.

You crouched, poked at them lightly with a stick, and looked back up at Rick and Morgan with a shrug. "They don't look like they belong to the same body."

Rick sighed. "Ok. Well, at least we know they came this-"

Chapter Text

The first thing you registered was your hands were tied. Son of a bitch. Not again.

You opened your eyes, blinked a few times until they focused, and low and behold- it was the assholes you'd been looking for. And Jared was swinging your bat experimentally.

"Maybe we didn't do it in time," a anxiety-filled voice said.

Your eyes narrowed on Jared, but you forced yourself to look around some more. This wasn't the first time someone else had your bat. You'd get it back. Rick was to your right, head down and from the look of him, still unconscious. Morgan was just beyond him, and he met your eyes and gave you a nod. You nodded back and started testing how good these damn ropes were.

"Maybe they don't look so hot 'cause we hacked off part of them," Jared said snidely.

You noticed the two guys on the ground, who definitely looked rough, and started counting the remaining assholes standing. Six guys on their feet, two on the floor who you assumed were the owners of the hand and foot from outside.

Eight on three wasn't bad odds. Especially considering the three.

Rick's head came up beside you and he jerked. "How long have I been out?" he whispered as the Saviors argued.

You looked over him to Morgan, who shrugged without taking his eyes off Jared. "Just long enough to end up here," he whispered back.

That was something, at least.

"I mean, what's waiting for us back there? We pooched it. Simon wasn't going to carry us!" You focused back in on the argument at hand as Jared scoffed.

"That's right," he snapped, swinging your bat onto his shoulder and doing an imitation of Negan's signature pose. "Because we lost. But things have changed!"

He pointed the bat toward you, smiling ferally when he saw you and Rick awake. "Delivering Rick the Prick and the Biker to Negan is a win. We wiped our own asses on this one, and the Big Man is going to recognize."

You shook your head with a drawn-out sigh. "You absolute moron."

He whirled and glared at you. "What did you say to me?"

"I called you a moron," you repeated, more loudly. Rick shifted uneasily beside you, but you ignored him.

Jared stalked toward you, dropping to a crouch in front of you and setting your bat under your chin. You lifted an eyebrow at him with bored eyes.

"You wanna run that by me one more time?" Jared hissed.

"I mean, sure. You. Are. An. Absolute. Moron," you enunciated clearly. You focused on the other Saviors over his shoulder. "I'm sorry, are you really taking orders from this shithead? Jared? He's been passed around to every fucking outpost because no one wants him on their hands! Not even Negan!"

They glanced at each other as Jared rose and swung your bat up like he was going to bring it down on your head. You didn't bother to twitch.

"I mean, sure. You bring me and Rick, maybe the boss does notice. Maybe he lets you back in. And you're on shit patrol for the rest of your lives. Which, let's be honest, won't be very long," you said with a shrug.

"And why is that?" Jared asked, putting himself in your field of view.

You looked down your nose at him as best you could, since he was towering over you. "Because we've already won. You and Negan and the others just haven't realized it yet. So, you go back. You work piss jobs, probably for points on the factory floor, and then you die. There's another option."

"Yeah?" Jared sneered. "The other option is I bash your brains in and bring your body to Negan!"

"Jared! Wait," one of the others snapped, walking over and forcing Jared to lower the bat.

So far, Rick and Morgan had stayed silent, letting you play this out. Rick took a chance now, and you trusted him to figure out where you'd been going and not fuck it up completely.

"My truck's not far. We can get your friends to the Hilltop's doctor. They could come back with us. You all could," Rick offered. "You don't want this."

"You made a split-second choice, and you chose wrong," you added, holding the man's eyes. "Trust me, we've all been there. It's not too late. Cut us loose. Come back. Your friends who stayed? They're already part of the community. I mean, hell. Look at me."

Jared laughed. "Yes. Look at you. Negan's bitch killer. Why would we listen to you? You're willing to betray your own when the first asshole comes along and says go!"

Rick jumped in before you could say anything. "I'm giving you my word. There's not a lot that's worth much these days, but a man's word... That's got to mean something, right?"

Well, that was it. They were coming back now, even if you weren't sure that was the best decision in the world. You'd been spouting the same shit as Rick, sure. But you just wanted them to free your hands. You weren't at all certain you wanted to let these assholes into your community unguarded.

But Deputy Do Good Grimes had spoken, and they saw it. They trusted Rick and his word, and you found yourself wondering once again just what the fuck it was about him that gave him that Grimes magic. Everyone he ever met seemed to bend to his will when he did that thing.

"You asshats aren't dumb enough to believe that," Jared said slowly, looking around.

Ok, nearly everyone, you thought with satisfaction. Jared still got to die.

"There's a herd out there. A decision needs to be made," you told them firmly. "Let's go, people."

"Wake up! There isn't any herd!" Jared yelled, and he swung your bat into a metal table with a sharp clang.

You winced. "Brace yourself," you muttered to Rick as Jared kept yelling.

"No shit," he muttered back. "They're coming."

Jared was railing at Morgan, and he looked back at Jared with dead eyes.

"You should save your bullets, 'cause you're gonna need them. That herd, it is coming. Maybe they'll hear the moans or the coughs, you know? Maybe they'll just stumble in through the open walls, but they are comin'. And then after- after, when you're just torn skin and loose teeth and blood... when you're nothing but the stuff that they didn't eat. Well, that'll be a damn shame. Because then there'll be none of you left for me to kill."

You stared. Rick stared. Hell, everyone stared.

"Damn, Morgan," you whispered.

Jared started forward, a determined look in his eyes, and you caught the first, faint growl.

 

 

"Walkers! We're surrounded!"

The Saviors formed up, around their comrades with the missing parts and around the three of you. You started laughing as the dead started stumbling in.

"Shut up, bitch!" Jared snapped, turning toward you. He'd dropped your bat in favor of a gun.

"Oh, you idiots. We've already killed you," you called. "Someone cut us loose. You all know me. Or at least you've heard of me."

You met the eyes of the one who'd been listening to you as calls of 'coming in!' came from behind you.

"You know I can handle it," you told that guy specifically. He hesitated, then nodded over your shoulder.

You glanced at Rick and Morgan as someone behind you sliced the ropes on your hands, and you shook your arms out and climbed to your feet. You bent and grabbed your bat, giving it a spin in your hands as Rick and Morgan followed you to your feet.

"Guns!" you snapped at the Saviors.

The screaming had started as the injured got taken down first. You stepped forward, swinging and taking down a walker who sank his teeth into one of the remaining Saviors. Rick called your name and you snatched the rifle from the air that he tossed your way. You started shooting as you backed up, closing up with Rick and Morgan.

"Watch your six, Deputy," you snapped to Rick, dropping one who came around and got way too fucking close to Rick's neck for comfort. "Told you we should have taken on those ten. Seems they found some friends."

"Yeah, yeah," Rick muttered. He looked over to the guy who'd listened to reason and your eyes narrowed at the look on Rick's face. "We're almost out. Go on ahead," Rick said.

The guy nodded and stepped forward. Rick fired a few more shots, then glanced at you.

"Ready?" he asked, and your eyes went wide. No way in hell, Deputy Grimes was thinking about-

Rick's hand dropped to the ax at his side, and he drew and heaved it at the Savior in front while you were still trying to process. It didn't take you long to burst into motion yourself, though, and you put down two of the men with single shots as Morgan used his stick to stab his own two through the throat in rapid succession.

You blinked and went back to shooting walkers. "Ok, I wasn't expecting that, Rick. Give a girl some warning, and I'll use my fun weapon next time."

Rick glanced at you, a retort on his lips, and the guy you'd forgotten about came out of nowhere.

"You son of a bitch!" he yelled, tackling Rick.

"Shit!" you hissed, gun moving as you vied for a shot. This is what happened when you got taken by surprise and forgot to count bodies. Damn it. You shouldn't have worried. Rick scrambled to his feet, grabbed the guy, and pitched him into the oncoming zombies. The screaming didn't last long.

Rick was on his feet and heaving at your side, and you glanced at him as you kept shooting at the walkers.

"We getting out of here any time soon, Deputy?" you asked.

He nodded. "Yeah. Morgan-"

You both realized Morgan was gone at the same time. "Well, fuck. Jared."

"He ran," Rick snarled, and pointed.

"I'd say it's a safe bet Morgan chased him."

 

 

"We have a place. It's safe. Got walls and fences; food," Rick told the frightened man in front of you.

You eyed Rick and the guy, harboring some serious questions about the wisdom of this plan. Bringing people in was all well and good in theory, but what if they were more like the Governor than like Rick? What if you brought someone deadly into your hard-won safe haven?

You'd voiced your concerns loudly, repeatedly, and uselessly, as Rick and his newly appointed Council overruled you. So here you were, ostensibly out with Daryl and Rick to scavenge and look for the Governor. Then there as this guy, and Rick was doing the intense-friendly thing at him.

"You can join us," Rick was offering now, and the man looked at the three of you skeptically. "We just have- we just have a couple of questions we need to ask you first." Rick shifted as he spoke, and you felt your expression contort before you got it under control.

"What- what questions?" the man asked.

"How many walkers have you killed?"

God damn it, you thought, biting the inside of your cheek as you struggled to maintain a straight face. The man's look of total confusion didn't help as he shrugged and said he didn't know. Rick nodded seriously and hooked his hands on his belt.

"How many people have you killed?"

You ducked your head when you couldn't keep the smile off your lips, thinking about Shane's voice as he described where the fuck Rick had come up with this shit. Daryl elbowed you in the side, but you shook your head and kept your face turned firmly to the ground.

"I mean, seriously, Nameless. He tells me he's got these questions he wants to ask people before we bring them in, and I'm like, aight man, that's a good idea. Get to know who we're letting inside, right? Then he tells me what they are, and ok. Not what I'd have chosen, but whatever Rick wants, Rick gets, right?" Shane had said, gesturing broadly before running a hand through his hair. You'd shrugged, tipping your face toward the sun and closing your eyes.

"So then- I asked him where he came up with these. Just curious, you know? Guess where, criminal. Guess," Shane had gone on.

You'd laughed. "How should I know, Officer? Some training manual from your Academy days?"

Shane had shaken his head gravelly and met your eyes. "That phone call he got, down in the boiler block. He got this shit from a hallucination of a bunch of dead people calling him on the damn phone. It's what they asked him, when he was trying to get into his imaginary safe haven."

You'd blinked once and lost your shit.

"Why?" Rick asked now.

The man looked confused. "Why? Why have I not killed any people? Because- because!"

You walked away before you started laughing right then and there, Daryl's eyes dancing as they followed you.

 

 

 

Morgan had chased him. Morgan had found him. Morgan held him in place while zombies ate him.

It was, in your opinion, a fitting death for Jared.

"Everybody turns," Morgan declared as he joined you and Rick. The walkers had wandered on when the noise stopped, and the three of you stood together, surrounded by the dead Saviors. Or what was left of them anyway.

"Everybody turns," you agreed. "Come on. Let's get back. We need another plan."

Rick sighed and rubbed his face, like he was tired of making plans.

"That's what happens when you declare a Rickocracy," you told him cheerfully.

 

 

 

You were met at Hilltop's gate by three pissed-off people with their arms crossed and hell-to-pay expressions. You winced at the fury in Daryl and Carl's eyes.

"I can explain," you started weakly.

Daryl snorted. "Ya done now?"

"You know, I expected this kind of thing from you, Nameless, but Dad? Seriously?" Carl agreed.

Michonne shook her head wordlessly. Morgan looked from them to you and Rick and brushed by without a word.

"Oh, nice, man, just jump ship!" you called after him.

He lifted one hand in a casual wave, and Rick laughed under his breath.

"What do you think is so funny?" Michonne demanded. "You getting yourself killed? Getting her or Morgan killed?"

"Hey!" you protested, annoyed that someone would think you couldn't handle it out there.

"Don't," Daryl snapped. "Don't even fuckin' start. Shit, I wouldn't be surprised if ya were the one dragged Rick into this."

"Actually, I drug her into it," Rick said, resting his hands on his belt and giving Michonne the intense-friendly look. Her expression wavered as she succumbed to it's powers, but Carl's scowl strengthened.

"And that makes it better? Why are you encouraging her?" he snapped. "Did you at least find them?"

"Found them; killed them. Deputy, we actually need to have a chat about-" you started, looking over at Rick.

"No, we don't. It's done," Rick interrupted you. "We need to get everyone together. Decide what are next step is going to be."

"In the mornin'. Maggie's asleep, or at least she should be. My girl needs to sleep too. So do you, Rick," Daryl said firmly.

You rolled your eyes, but truth was you were damn exhausted.

"So, they're dead. Are you two done now?" Carl demanded.

You set off for Jesus' trailer, not bothering to dignify that with a response.

Chapter Text

You didn't make it very far before Alden called your name. You paused long enough for him to fall into step with you.

"Are they all dead?"

You sighed and scuffed at the dirt with one foot. "Yeah. They are."

He nodded. "I'm sure you had no choice."

"No, we had a choice. We always have a choice," you told him sharply. "Thing is, I make the wrong choice and people end up dead. I decided to let people live, and the ones I love died."

"So you're just going to kill everyone who crosses you, then?" Alden asked. His voice was wary, but didn't hold judgement.

You shrugged. "Only the ones who deserve it."

He sighed, squinting into the distance. "I know you don't want to talk about Shane, but we were friends. He told me some of what you guys went through, before you found Negan. He told me who you were, before the world ended. You know who I was? I was just a college student. Had a brother, a mom and dad. They're all gone, and sometimes I wonder- would they like who I am now? Would they be proud of me?"

You shot him a look, raising an eyebrow and dismissing him with a cool smile. "I'm not sitting around wondering if Shane would be proud of me."

"No. No, you don't have to. He would be. No matter what, that man had your back," Alden said easily. "But, YN- he was also worried about you. Said there was something broken. Now I don't- I don't put much stock in that. The way I see it, people are never really broken. Just hurting. You don't have to keep going like this, though. Shane knew you'd be ok, no matter what. But I think- I think maybe he'd want you to be more than ok. Don't you?"

You sneered, but Alden was turning and walking away from you.

"Think about it," he called over his shoulder as he went, hands tucked in his pockets, and paused to speak to Rick.

 

 

 

You sat bolt upright in the dark, heart pounding from whatever the fuck nightmare you'd been having. Shane sat in the window, silhouetted dark against the night sky beyond the broken glass. You slipped silently over the half-rotten floorboards to lean into his back, chin on his shoulder.

"Hey, criminal. What are you doin' up? Ain't twelve thirty," he whispered.

You shrugged. "How do you know?"

"The sky," he said dryly, nodding out. "Thought you were all woodsy and shit, can't even look out and see it's heading toward dawn?"

You rolled your eyes. "Asshole."

"Yeah, you love me."

You pressed a kiss to his cheek. "Yeah, I do. You ok? Want me to take over?"

"I'm good, sweetheart. You should go back to sleep," he said, running a hand through his hair with a sigh.

"Shane." That was all you said, just his name, as you collapsed opposite him in the window.

He glanced at you and half-laughed. "Gettin' to know me too well, criminal."

You lifted an eyebrow at him and wrapped your arms loosely around your knees, waiting. You'd discovered early on, a lifetime ago in his Jeep before you were even what you'd call friends, that he worked a lot like you. Ask the question, hover, and wait, and he'd crack eventually.

It'd worked then and it worked now.

"I'm sorry. Just- Just missing them tonight. It was the damnedest thing, Nameless. Just sitting here, keeping watch, and suddenly I was sitting on Hershel's porch with you, after Otis- just watching the stars. And I was thinking about Rick's face, and how Carl looked as he fell backward, and-" Shane broke off with a shake of his head, and you leaned forward and grabbed his hand in yours.

"Yeah," you said softly. "Yeah."

"Yeah," he agreed, tipping his head back against the window frame. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry, Shane. Never be sorry," you told him sharply, tightening your grip on his hand. "Not for this."

He tugged at your hand until you moved toward him, and he wrapped his arms around you. You lay against his chest and listened to his heartbeat.

"This isn't safe, Officer," you whispered, gripping a fistful of his shirt.

He kissed your head. "Don't care. We'll be ok. We always are."

"Yeah," you agreed, closing your eyes. "We'll be ok."

 

 

 

Daryl came in as you were getting ready to use the tiny shower in Jesus' trailer. You'd peeled off your jacket, your shoes, and your belt. Your holster- gun in it- rested on the back of the toilet, in easy reach of the shower when you hopped in, and your bat leaned just outside the open bathroom door. You were only paranoid if someone wasn't out to get you, right?

You glanced over your shoulder as the trailer door opened, knowing it'd be either Daryl or Jesus. Since you didn't care if either of them saw you naked, you kept pulling the shirt over your head as well. After all, Daryl'd seen it all before and Jesus wasn't exactly what you'd call interested.

Daryl snorted. "Any of that blood yours?"

"Don't think so. Pretty sure it's all the other guys'." You grimaced at the blood and at how goddamn stiff you were. Hot water would do you a world of good. Too bad showers were cold these days. You sat on the side of the tub to pull your jeans off one leg at a time, and Daryl stood with his arms crossed and watched you.

"You need something?" you asked him when you were standing again. You hesitated to pull off your bra and underwear after all, so maybe you did care a little.

He sighed. "I'm crashing in here for the night."

You shrugged. "Cool. I'm going down after this." You gestured vaguely at the shower.

"Yeah. Aight. Guess I'll, uh-" he turned and headed for the door and you laughed.

"Dixon. It's fine," you called, amused at both of you. "Not like you've never seen me naked before."

"Yeah, well. Different now," he muttered, shoulders hunched. "Be back in a little while."

You sighed. "Whatever you want, man," you mumbled as he slipped out the door.

 

 

 

You were dressed and laying on the couch when he came back in. You didn't move as he collapsed on the floor across the room from you.

"Where's Jesus?" you whispered.

"Don't know. Think he's on the wall tonight. Seemed agitated about somethin'," Daryl whispered back.

You lay there in silence, eyes open and staring at the dark shape that was Daryl. As you stared, he shifted, resettling his shoulders on the ground. It twisted the knife fairly permanently wedged into your back, a move you'd seen- or felt- him do a thousand times before. You dropped your eyes and picked at the threads on the blanket over you.

"We killed them all. Rick gave them his word they could rejoin us if they untied us and gave us our weapons back. They did. They were all in, all of them except Jared. Then Rick- then we killed them all."

Daryl didn't say anything or move. You started to wonder if he was asleep or if he'd even heard you, when he sighed. "Sounds like Rick's about on the same page as you are then."

"Fuck you, Daryl," you muttered.

He shifted around and you thought he was turned toward you now. "Didn't mean nothin' by it. Just meant, ya got the same point of view on shit. It's gotta end. Any way it can."

"Yeah," you said softly. "Daryl?"

"Hmm?"

"You think I'm broken?" you whispered.

He went quiet again, and you closed your eyes. A tear you tried to fight leaked out, and you hoped Daryl didn't notice. Somehow, even though you'd thought it yourself plenty of times and you knew Shane had too, Daryl believing that- it hurt. Daryl'd been the first person in your life to make you feel whole. If he thought you were broken-

Well.

"Broken's a strong word, baby. I think- I think we all got shit. You. Me. Rick. Hell, even fuckin' Negan's got shit. Don't make us broken. Just- just people."

You swallowed hard, past a lump in your throat, and felt another tear slide down your neck. "Thanks," you said, as normally as you could.

"Yeah."

"Dixon?" Your voice was a raw whisper.

"What, girl?" The impatience in his voice had you biting your lip and smiling a little. You'd heard that a thousand times in your life, as a kid and later when you were together. He'd be trying to sleep and you'd whisper question after question until he told you to shut the fuck up already.

You missed those days so much. You drummed on the couch cushion awkwardly, fidgeting while he huffed impatiently, and finally just gave up. "Can- Can I..."

"Yeah," he said when you trailed off. "Yeah."

You slid from the couch, bringing one of the pillows and the blanket with you. You curled up close to Daryl, but not touching. You could hear him breathing and feel his presence, but you weren't pressed up against him or anything.

"Thanks," you whispered again.

His hand slid out and his fingers brushed yours lightly before he pulled them back and rolled onto his side. "Always, baby."

 

 

 

You woke up exhausted, which wasn't at all surprising to you considering the dreams you'd been having. They'd been bloody and brutal and-

And you didn't want to think about them too hard.

Daryl wasn't in the trailer when you scrubbed your eyes and sat up with a stifled moan. Bruised and abused muscles were getting really tired of your shit. You were in your thirties and sleeping on the goddamn ground for fuck's sake. And that didn't even account for the fights.

How many had you been in this week? Jesus fucking Christ, you didn't even know.

Outside, the sun was bright enough you immediately wished for sunglasses, blocking it with one hand and muttering about the sun, being old, overprotective assholes stealing your cigarettes, and hard floors.

"You could have slept on the couch, you know. Or the bed."

"I'm not taking your bed," you told Jesus, lowering your hand to squint at him. "And I started out on the couch."

He chuckled. "Well, your choice then. Here, catch."

You snatched the carton from the air and beamed down at it. "Thank you, Jesus!" you mumbled, pulling out a cigarette and lighting it immediately.

"Ask and you will receive. Knock and the door will be opened unto you," he intoned.

You choked on smoke and started coughing and laughing at the same time. "What the hell, man? Oh, Lord. Shit. That was pretty good."

He winked at you. "I may have an ulterior motive for giving you those. I was, after all, asked to keep them for your health."

"Fucking Dixon is a mother hen. My health is fine," you said with an eye roll, and tucked the carton back into your pocket possessively. "So, what's up?"

He hesitated, eyes shifting away, and you felt yours narrow. "Daryl and Rosita are gone," he said finally.

"Gone where?" you snapped.

He gestured vaguely. "Out there. I think they went to try to kidnap Eugene."

You opened the door to his trailer, leaned inside, and snatched up your bat. You hooked it to the loop on your belt and gestured at Jesus with the cigarette as you started toward the gates. "Where?"

"I can't tell you that," he said seriously.

You rounded on him, furious. "Why the hell not? Just tell me, damn it!"

"No, I mean, I physically cannot tell you that. Because I don't know," he said, putting a hand on your shoulder. You scowled. "I truly don't. I would tell you if I did."

"Yeah?" you muttered, eyeing him.

He nodded, face serious but with a faint light in his eyes that made you think he was teasing you. "I like you better than Daryl."

Your lips twitched. You couldn't help it. He smiled slyly, and you found yourself smiling back as you sighed and shook your head. You shoved your hand through your hair, cigarette still in it, as you looked away. "Damn it, Jesus."

"I wonder if the actual son of God heard that as much as I do."

"You do know you're kind of an asshole, right?" you said mildly and Rick came striding your way with his serious face on.

Jesus shrugged. "So I've been told. Rick! I need to tell you something."

Chapter Text

You wandered around Hilltop for a little while, looking for busy work as Rick and Maggie and the others hashed out the next steps. You didn't have the resources for another major assault, and the food situation was rapidly becoming downright dire. You were considering making a supply run, maybe sneaking out to see if you could dig up anything at the outposts.

Sneaking out, because there was no way they'd be ok with you going alone if they knew. And hey, if Dixon could do it, so could you, right?

Carl and Judith caught your eye, on Barrington house steps with their heads together. Carl took Rick's battered hat off his head and set it on Judith's, and Judith turned her face up to Carl and laughed.

You found yourself drawn to them, even as Judith gave a crooked smile that was a mini version of Shane's and your heart dropped to your feet.

"Hey, munchkins," you called as you made your way up the steps. "What are you guys getting up to out here?"

"Hey, Nameless. Judy, can you say hello?" Carl asked as Judith pulled his hat from her head and held it solemnly out to you.

You took it and hid your face behind it, peeking around to see Carl smiling at you and Judith looking at you like you were the dumbest thing on the planet. You snorted. "Fair enough, little girl," you told her easily, Shane's term of endearment for her falling naturally from your lips. "After the shit you've seen, peek-a-boo wouldn't hold much interest for me either."

Carl laughed, and Judith offered you a tiny hint of a smile as you sat down and handed her the hat back. She held it up to Carl, who ducked his head so she could set it back down. She patted it into place- crooked, covering the kid's good eye- and turned back to you.

"Carl!" she declared, and stuck her thumb in her mouth.

You grinned as Carl sighed and shoved the hat back so he could see. "Yeah, that's Carl. He's your brother, right? Takes good care of you, doesn't he?" Judith nodded. You nodded back. "Cool. Hey, you've got some cute curls."

"Yeah, her hair's curling like Shane's, but it's light like mine was when I was little," Carl said quietly.

You didn't flinch from Shane's name, but you wanted to. Judith looked from Carl to you and back, then popped her thumb out of her mouth.

"Shane?" she asked, looking at you curiously.

 

 

It took awhile for you to get yourself under control. Judith watched anxiously as Carl set a hand on your shoulder while you cried.

And cried, and cried, and cried.

Finally, what felt like an eternity later, you drew your first non-hiccuping breath and scrubbed at your eyes. Your whole body felt raw. Judith was in Carl's arms now, her head on the kid's shoulder as he watched you steadily.

"Sorry," you whispered.

He shook his head. "Don't be. Should have warned you, she's started talking all the sudden. Names, mostly. Mine, Shane's. Daddy and Mama. She calls Michonne 'chonne'. Tara comes out Ta-ta. Daryl was trying to get her to say 'Uncle Daryl' on the way here from Alexandria. She just looked at him, but finally she said 'Dar.' He decided that was good enough."

You chuckled. "That's cute."

"Yeah. Sorry," he said, biting his lip. "I've been, ah- I've been talking to her about him a lot. Since."

You nodded, swallowing hard. "Thanks. She should- she should have as much of him as possible," you said quietly.

"He was a good dad."

"He was," you agreed. You remembered his face, when Rick had told you Lori was pregnant. You remembered his face when you'd seen him holding her for the first time.

"I mean, he was practically my second dad, before all of this," Carl added with a small chuckle. Judith climbed down from his lap, eyed you sideways, and went back to playing with chalk on the steps.

You leaned back against the railing and watched her. "You remember before?"

He snorted. "Yeah. I mean, sure, I was just a kid-"

"You're still a kid, kid," you muttered. He flipped you off and you laughed. "Don't let your dad or Michonne see that."

"Yeah, that's probably fair," Carl agreed. "I remember a lot. Birthday parties. Friday night pizza. School and teachers. Walks with Dad, when I was Judy's age. We'd talk about life, and there was this cow that came up to the fence. Dad loves that story."

You sighed. "That sounds nice."

"Yeah. It was. Shane was always around, too. He coached my little league team one year. I wanted to impress him so badly, I got myself almost kicked off."

"How do you get kicked off Little League?" you demanded, looking at him with wide eyes.

He glanced at you, clearly trying not to laugh. "Biting."

"Oh for- You're pulling my leg," you decided.

"Promise I'm not. Judy! Don't put it in your mouth; it'll get all over you," he called, and Judith lowered the chalk that had been inching toward her mouth and gave Carl a betrayed look.

You snorted. "I should head out there and look for some food. A girl's gotta be hungry to try eating chalk."

"No, that's just babies and toddlers. They try to eat everything," Carl said with a sigh. "Trust me. On the road, after the prison fell? She went through a major chewing-on-everything phase. My finger, my hat. She got a knife- it was sheathed, don't worry- and tried to eat the sheath and the handle. She's a handful."

You smiled faintly at her as she shoved curls out of her eyes and screwed her face up in concentration. "I knew she would be. Shane didn't- didn't want to talk about her. He asked me not to."

"I know. Dad didn't want to talk about him. Daryl didn't say your name for a long time. I couldn't do that. I get why they could, but I just couldn't cut you guys out of our lives. I talked to her about both of you. Shane a lot, but I told her stories about you too. I mean, you were the one who- how could I not?" he said quietly.

You glanced over at him, thinking about Lori and Judith's birth for the first time in a long time. "I'm still sorry you had to go through that. With your mom."

"She was brave. She told me I'd beat this world. I don't know about that. This world takes a lot from us." Carl shifted and caught your eyes. He leaned forward seriously. "It'd be easy to forget everything that came before. It'd be easy to let the bad outweigh the good."

You ran a hand through your hair and shot him a look. "Some Grimes philosophy there? You and your dad are both masters of the pointed segue."

Carl shrugged, smiling faintly. "Maybe. Doesn't make us wrong."

"It doesn't make you right, either," you snapped.

"Nameless. Come on. You think killing Negan is the answer? Killing all of them?" he asked, gesturing out toward the world beyond Hilltop. "I know what you and my dad and Morgan did. I know he gave his word and then killed them all. My dad's done things like that before. He's crossed lines before. Hell, so have I. But when I killed that kid at the prison, my dad brought me back. All of you did. We can all come back again. We just have to remember what it was like before all this. Before walkers and Negans and Governors."

"When life was all Friday night pizza and birthday parties?" you asked, hearing the cynical edge to your voice. You didn't want to burst this kid's bubble. He'd been through a lot, but you couldn't help the way the sneer dripped from your words. "Kid, life wasn't that great before the apocalypse either."

"Maybe not. But it was something. People were safe," he said, undeterred by your tone.

"Were they? Were people safe? Kids? Let me tell you something, Carl. You were lucky. You had birthdays and Little League and extra parents, who cared. My parents died before I was even Judy's age. I grew up with no one. With nothing. Bouncing from place to place for years. A group home, like Jesus. Then my foster family," you spat. "What a joy they were. There weren't long walks. There were no birthday parties. No pizza nights for me. I was on my own, kid."

"No, you weren't."

You shot Carl a hard glare. "What?"

He met your gaze and didn't back down. "You weren't alone. You had Daryl and Merle. I've heard stories. Kids hear more than you guys realize," he said in the most wry, adult tone you'd ever heard from him. "I know what life was like for you. But you weren't alone. There was good, even in your world."

You sighed, frustration welling inside. "Ok. That's fair. I got lucky, and got Daryl and Merle. I stitched them up and they kept me safe. Taught me how to survive. That's what I'm trying to do here, Carl. What your dad is trying to do. Sometimes we have to do things that aren't pretty in order to survive."

"Is that all you want? Survival?"

"Yes. I want you and Judith and everyone I love to survive. And I want Negan's head," you told him firmly.

Judith ran up and babbled something in toddler at Carl, and you blinked as he nodded. "Yeah, you can go get Michonne," Carl said easily, glancing around you and waving. Judith grinned and ran off, and you watched Michonne take her hand and start walking around Hilltop.

"Maybe your world before wasn't birthdays and pizza. Maybe it was harsh and cold, and maybe this world is too. But is that the world you want for Judith?" Carl asked you in a whisper, and you scowled at him.

He shrugged. "I think there's another way. But what do I know? I'm just a kid."

 

 

Jimmy's fist slammed into your face and you went down, hard. You lay there, stunned, and considered backing down. You thought about just staying on the ground, a tactic well known to make bullies leave people alone.

You couldn't do it, you thought, already scrambling to your feet. You planted your hands on your scrawny, non-existent hips and firmed up your jaw. You wouldn't give him the satisfaction of knowing how much getting punched in the face fucking hurt.

Jimmy was ten and bully, and you'd been here three weeks and gotten into three fights with him already. The problem was, you kept losing. He was bigger than you, and he hit harder too.

Daryl and Merle had both offered to take him on for you. And they could beat him, sure. Shit, Merle was twelve. Merle could beat anybody.

But that wouldn't get him off your ass, and besides, it'd just prove Jimmy's point that girls were too weak to like things boys liked. Girls, according to Jimmy, couldn't like Guns'N'Roses or Led Zepplin or the Rolling Stones.

Fuck Jimmy and his punches, you thought. "Fuck you, Jimmy. You punch like a wimp!"

Jimmy's eyes got wide and mean, as his little backup chorus of friends oohed behind him. He glanced over his shoulder, then laughed. "Yeah? Then eat my fist again, little girl!"

He hit you again, this time in the stomach, and you doubled over and hit your knees. You wheezed, and climbing to your feet took a lot of effort. You didn't stand up all the way straight either, because you couldn't, but you were on your feet. You weren't backing down.

You glared. "Sissy."

"Bitch!" he yelled back, and flew at you. This time, when you went down, he came in and started kicking.

You curled into a ball with your arms over your head and waited for him to stop. He finally did, leaving you on the ground with another muttered 'bitch!'. You uncurled slowly, painfully, and hauled yourself to your feet. You wiped blood from your lip and stared at the ground, ashamed for not getting back up and going at him again.

It didn't matter how much you hurt. In your eight year old mind, you'd lost that fight. Girls were weak.

"Hey! Baby girl!" Merle called from the road. Your shoulders hunched and you turned away. "Hey, the hell happened here? I just saw Jimmy an' his shithead friends- fuckin' a!"

Merle's eyes were pissed as he took in the throbbing bruise on your jaw and the blood on your split lip. "Imma punch the shit outta that kid."

"No!" you snapped, and winced as you grabbed for him. He glared at you, yanked your shirt up, and poked at your side.

"What else?" he asked sharply. "Ain't broke, so that's good."

You rolled your eyes at him. "I'm fine, asshole. You're not doing anything to Jimmy."

"Yeah? Ya think Imma let him get away with beatin' up my friend?"

"Nope." You met Merle's eyes and nodded once, hard and final. "You're going to teach me how to fight."

 

 

When the gates creaked open, you came to your feet, dashing yet more tears from your eyes. You hated how goddamn emotional you were, all the time now it seemed. You stepped forward, squaring your shoulders so you could give Dixon the talking to he'd earned, damn it, sneaking out like that-

You hesitated. That wasn't Daryl and Rosita.

You glanced over and saw Maggie and Rick come striding out the doors of Barrington House, and fell into step with Jesus as you went to meet them and Gregory.

"I thought you killed everyone who escaped," Jesus asked quietly.

"Yeah, so did I," you muttered back. "I guess we forgot someone. He definitely wasn't there."

"No, he wasn't," Rick agreed as you formed up with him and Maggie.

Maggie glared at Gregory. "What do you want?"

"I- I have- I have a message," Gregory stuttered, reaching into his pocket.

You had your gun out and trained on him, as did Rick- not to mention the others gathered around Hilltop's yard. Gregory glanced from you to Rick and swallowed hard, focusing on Maggie.

"It's- it's a message from Dwight," he said. "Margaret, please."

Maggie snatched the paper he held out from his hand and jerked her head at you and Jesus. "Get him into the cage," she snapped.

You stepped forward and gestured with your gun. Gregory's hands rose into the air, and he started walking.

 

 

"What do you think?" Rick asked.

"Shhh," you said mildly, bent over the spread-out map that was Dwight's message. You studied the circles, the X, and Dwight's scrawled note- "Tomorrow afternoon- Negan and ten men at the X. Eleven person teams at each of the circles. End Negan. End the rest. End this."

Rick shifted impatiently beside you, and Jesus cleared his throat lightly. You sighed and rubbed your forehead.

"I mean, it looks like something Negan would come up with. None of these spots are viable as true outposts, but I recognize most of them. They'd be halfway decent supply drops; small caches. They get people out there, they can pick us off any time we try to leave," you said seriously, meeting Rick's eyes. "I get that we're all rather skeptical of D, but- he got me out of the cell. He planted my bat in the coffin. He set it up so we could get out of Alexandria, and he turned on Saviors under his command. He hasn't steered us wrong yet."

Rick nodded and scooped up the map. "Then we go tomorrow. End this."

You smiled, and it felt cold. "We end this."

Beyond Rick, near the wall, Carl held Judith's hand and pointed to plants in the Hilltop's garden. Yeah. You were going to end this.

Chapter Text

The gate creaked open again and you turned toward it absently while Rick and Maggie were arguing about who should go where and when. Your eyes narrowed and you crossed your arms, waiting for Daryl and Rosita to notice you.

Daryl glanced around, waved to Carl and Judith, and caught your expression. You could see him wince from all the way over here, and he said something to Rosita that had her glancing your way as well. She patted him on the shoulder with her lips pressed together to keep down a grin.

"Daryl Dixon, what the fuck do you think-"

"Aw, don't start," he said, shooting you an irritated look as they joined the group.

Your eyes widened for a split second before narrowing on his dangerously. "Excuse me?"

"Ya been doin' stupid shit since I laid eyes on ya again. Hell, you been doin' stupid, dangerous shit our whole damn lives. We had a good plan, and it fuckin' worked," he shot back, pointing at you.

Around you, people shifted. Maggie muttered something to Rick, who barely covered a laugh with a cough and an innocent expression as you shot a look their way.

"Well, if it worked, where's Eugene?" you asked snidely.

"He puked on me and got away," Rosita admitted.

Your nose wrinkled. "Ok, that's a new one."

"Yeah. It wasn't pleasant," she said grimly. "What's going on here?"

"Got a message. From Dwight," Rick said, and gestured toward the map. "YN thinks it's good intel. We're going to move. This afternoon."

 

 

"You think we can trust Gregory?" Carol asked. You eyed her armor and seriously considered getting some of your own, but as usual came to the conclusion that it looked too restrictive. Leather layers and quick wits would have to be good enough.

"I locked him up in the house. He knew I wouldn't let him walk around free. He knew he was coming back to that. He doesn't believe in anything except himself, and he'd have to believe in the Saviors a whole lot to send us into a trap and think it'd work out for him," Maggie replied seriously.

"Unless Dwight didn't tell him," Daryl muttered. "That asshole could be setting us up."

"He's not a bad guy, Daryl. I mean, sure, he's done some shit I'd like to kill him for- and I was planning on it- but he's helped us so far," you muttered. "Why do you have to-"

You stopped, watching as Morgan went striding by with an odd expression. Carol and Rick started after him, and you did as well. The man was not ok.

Carol talked to him as he looked around wildly, and you hung back. Sure, you'd known Morgan for a minute in King County, but she'd been with him for awhile. If she couldn't handle whatever had put that wild look in Morgan's eyes, she'd call for assistance. Carol had always been tough and competent, and that had only increased since the prison fell.

The gate creaked open and Alden and the others trudged up, looking tired. Morgan whipped around and was heading forward, stick pointy-end out.

You darted forward, but you knew you wouldn't be quick enough. "Shit, shit, shit," you muttered as Morgan went straight for Alden.

Some kid- Howard? Hank? no, Henry- darted in with a stick of his own and knocked Morgan's to the side. You skidded to a halt between Morgan and the Saviors as Morgan put Henry on his ass and went in for the goddamn kill.

"Morgan!" you yelled, but Carol was just there, her hands on Morgan's arm even as he pulled his blow at the last minute.

"Jesus," you whispered, scrubbing a hand over your eyes.

"They were, ah- they were gone-- him!" Morgan said, and you shifted to keep yourself between him and Alden as he jabbed a finger accusingly. "They were coming in!"

Alden set a hand on your shoulder and stepped around you, expression open as he spoke directly to Morgan. "I asked Maggie if we could clear the walkers from the wall. We... drew them away so we wouldn't have to worry about them when we rolled out."

"He did," Maggie said firmly, though she didn't look Alden's way.

Morgan looked lost.

You glanced at Alden and jerked your head, telling him to take his friends and head away. Alex gave you a nod of thanks same as Alden as they started to shift away quietly. Rick strode up into the silence, essentially telling everyone to mind their own as he stepped to Morgan's side.

"First team's going in 20," he added, and met your eyes as the knot of people began to disband. You didn't move, and you crossed your arms and stared Rick down.

Like hell were you just going to leave Rick alone with Morgan right now. Shit, you wouldn't have left anyone alone with Morgan right now. Rick seemed to decide this wasn't a hill he wanted to die on and focused on the other man instead.

"Maybe you shouldn't come with us," Rick suggested quietly. You drifted closer, amused by the argument that went something along the lines of: 'I have to', 'but what if you don't?' It wasn't getting anywhere, and you wondered if Morgan had a bit of an immunity to the Grimes magic as well.

Then again, Morgan had met Rick while Rick was wearing a hospital gown and had no idea what the fuck was going on. Seemed like that was enough to keep a man from taking your orders too seriously.

"Morgan..."

"Rick!" Morgan snapped.

You snorted. "This sounds familiar."

They both glanced at you, Rick rolling his eyes. You stepped up so the three of you stood in a tight circle, a little knot of the vaguely crazy among all the so far fairly normal ones.

"I have to. I have t- to..." Morgan trailed off, looking away and like he couldn't articulate it any better than that.

"Respect the man, Deputy. As long as he can hold his shit together, let him do what he needs to do," you said with a shrug.

Rick looked mutinous. Morgan gave you both serious looks. "We.... we are worse than we were. All three of us," he said softly.

You felt that like a blow to the stomach, and you wrapped your arms tightly around yourself as you snorted. "No fucking shit," you muttered grimly.

Rick touched your arm, but Morgan mostly ignored you. "Giving your word to those men back at the bar. I mean, it's what it took, yeah, but... But that was something else. That was something wrong for you. And we crossed into it because- because we've lost everything, everything good."

Rick started to object, shaking his head, but you were nodding. "Morgan's right, Rick. That was something wrong for you. That's not what Deputy Do Good would do. It's something I would do, zero hesitation. But I've always been colder than you, Rick."

He glared from you to Morgan. "What are you saying?"

Morgan answered before you could. "What does it matter if we spend what's left on keeping people alive?"

"That," you said firmly, hooking a finger in Morgan's direction. "That's what I've been saying all along. Let the man come, Rick. Leave him alone."

"We haven't lost everything," Rick disagreed, tears in his eyes as he half-glared at both of you. His expression shifted as he ran a hand over his jaw, and you saw the beginnings of the intense-friendly look starting. "We haven't. Not yet."

"You haven't," you said softly.

"Neither have you!" he snapped. "You have good here, too, YN. Daryl. Judith and Carl. Michonne and I, we're your friends. Yours too, Morgan. We haven't lost everything."

"Yes, we have. And we can't go back." Morgan's voice held the bone-deep sadness of loss, and you remembered Morgan stepping in front of his little boy as you held a gun on them and the deputy. "So let's just finish this."

 

 

"Someone had to have made it out," you said abruptly.

Shane jumped. You were sitting right beside him, but neither of you had spoken in days. You hadn't needed to. You hadn't wanted to.

He looked at you now with dull eyes and shrugged. "Maybe."

His voice sounded rusty.

"I mean, if we made it out, someone else must have. I know we found the bus, but we didn't see any- any C block people in there. Right?" You glanced at him, unsure. He hadn't let you look in there, and he'd have told you. If anyone had been in it, he'd have told you. He wouldn't have left them.

He jerked his head, a sharp, angry gesture. "No, none of C block was in there," he said with a frown. "Look, Nameless, yeah. Maybe someone's alive and wandering around. We're looking for them. What more do you want?"

You shrugged, giving him a helpless look. "I don't know, Walsh. I don't know! I- I'm just- I can't believe everyone's gone. I can't. I mean, if everyone's gone, what's the fucking point?" you could hear your voice rising, hear the hysterical note creeping in.

Shane's jaw tightened and he looked away from you, his eyes going dark and hard in a way you'd never seen before. You tried to stop the words spilling out, because you could see the officer's heartache as much as you could feel your own, but it was too late. You'd broken the silence, and there was no stopping you now.

"What's the point? We have to- they have to be alive. Michonne, Carol. Maggie and Beth and Glenn. They have to. Carl and Rick- They're not dead. Deputy Do Good is too damn tough. I can't believe- " you gestured wildly, hating yourself for each name as Shane flinched every time. "It's bad enough. I can't take this. I can't take not fucking knowing! At least I know Dar- I at least I know Daryl's gone. And Judith-"

"Stop!"

You froze, staring at Shane with wide eyes as your jaw dropped before you clicked it shut abruptly. He glared at you, something that looked terrifyingly like hatred boiling in his eyes.

You'd seen Shane's temper before. It matched yours, when you let it out. You could handle him pissed off, even if it'd been a long time since you'd seen it directed your way. This was something different.

He took two long steps and was in your face, nose practically brushing yours. "Just shut up, would you? Shut the fuck up!"

"Don't you yell at me, Shane!" you snarled at him, your back going straight and shoulders stiff. You wouldn't be pushed around, not even by Shane. Not even if he was all you had.

"Don't talk about them, then! Don't- don't talk about-" Shane's face contorted and he turned away from you.

All the fight drained from you as you realized his shoulders were shaking. You reached out a shaking hand and touched his shoulder. He shook his head, keeping his back to you, and didn't speak.

You hesitated, not sure what to do here, and finally wrapped your arms around him from behind, pressing your cheek against his shoulder. You stared at a spot on the ground and held on as he sucked in a breath and you felt him physically try to hold it all in.

"Shane," you whispered, and you felt the moment he started to cry. He jerked away from you again, half-turned to you and whipped back to slam his fist into the nearest tree.

You winced as he let out a scream, knowing he'd have cuts at the least and maybe some broken bones at the worst. You didn't have much time to think about it, though, because he turned to look at you. He shoved his hand roughly through his hair and fixed you with red-rimmed eyes. Tears hung on his cheeks and you took a step toward him as your own vision blurred and your throat burned.

"No," he said sharply, holding up a hand to stop you in your tracks. "No. Please, criminal. I can't- I can't talk about- about her. I can't. She- my- my- Nameless, my little girl is gone. She's gone, and I'm still here, and that ain't how it's supposed to be. I can't- I can't talk about her. I can't- please. Promise me. Right here, right now. We aren't- we won't say her name. We don't talk about her. That's it, sweetheart. We don't talk about her."

"Shane-" you started, hesitant. He really wanted to what? Pretend Judith had never existed? How could he do that.

"No!" he snapped it, then his face softened. He scrubbed a hand over his eyes, stepped toward you, and lowered his voice. "Please. YN. Please."

You stared at him. Shane didn't beg. Shane didn't use your name, either, and Shane Walsh certainly didn't look at you like that.

"I promise," you heard yourself saying, and his eyes closed. He nodded once, drew in a deep breath, and opened his eyes again.

"Thank you," he said hoarsely, and reached for your hand. You held on tight for a minute before frowning down at his fingers wrapped around yours.

"You're bleeding, asshole. Did you break anything?" you asked him, forcing your typical sarcastic annoyance into your tone.

 

 

Alden stepped up to where you'd disassembled and cleaned the rifle you'd be taking. You were putting it back together, on the table outside Jesus' trailer. Jesus sat on the steps, sharpening a small collection of pointy objects he'd stash liberally around himself when he was done.

Alden nodded to Jesus, who nodded back, before giving you an earnest look. "I wanted to say thank you. For what you did back there."

You scoffed. "I didn't do anything."

"You put yourself in harms way for us," he countered with a shrug. "That's not nothing."

"What, you think I couldn't take Morgan down in my sleep?" you muttered.

Jesus laughed. "I think you'd be surprised. He almost took me down once."

"Really?" you said slowly, giving Jesus an appraising look. "Maybe the man's tougher than he looks. Why were you and Morgan fighting, anyway?"

"Uh," Alden shifted, looking uncomfortable. "It was on the way to Hilltop. From the outpost."

"Ah." You went back to your gun as Jesus shrugged and started stashing his knives. You could have been staring right at him and still not known where all of them went. They just... disappeared. They'd reappear later, right when he was in a situation you didn't think he'd get out of.

You really liked the ninja man.

"Anyway," Alden said quietly. "Maggie says we're not going. Those of us from the Sanctuary, I mean. And that's fine. I get it. I just wanted to say thanks, and good luck. And- maybe to remind you that everyone there isn't bad. Not everyone deserves to die."

You snapped the last piece of your rifle into place, whipped it to your shoulder to check the scope, and looked at him. "Thanks, I guess. Keep an eye on this place, would you? We're leaving a few pretty important people behind."

Alden nodded. "We'll guard Hilltop, even if Maggie doesn't believe in us."

You snapped the magazine into place and slung the rifle over your shoulder. "Good. See you when we get back, then."

Chapter Text

Team one pretty much consisted of all of your little group's leaders. You glanced around at your companions as you stuck to the trees and once again questioned the validity of this approach.

Rick and Michonne were holding hands as you wandered and that made you smile. Carol and Ezekiel were flirting- pretty poorly, but it was still flirting. Jerry caught you looking at them and winked at you. You winked back. Rosita walked with Jesus, and you and Daryl were side-by-side and silent. Morgan, who had been allowed along after all, stayed a step or two apart from the group.

"Hey," Daryl said quietly. "We good?"

You huffed out a breath, kind of a laugh but not really, and smiled over at him. "Yeah, we're good, babe. Worried me."

"Imagine that," he said dryly, and you shoved his shoulder with yours as you rolled your eyes. He staggered aside a step obligingly, then came back to your side. "Anyway. Would have taken ya with us, but I thought ya could use the rest."

"You probably weren't wrong," you admitted. "Jesus gave me back my cigarettes. Don't do that shit again."

"Damn it," he said with a sigh. "Fine. Don't chain smoke and I won't."

"Pot, this is kettle calling," you muttered.

Rick held up a hand and all of you formed up and got quiet. You were almost there, then.

 

 

 

There was a group of Saviors setting up a roadblock with walkers. You scanned the group with your scope and glanced at Rick.

"This is Negan shit, alright," you whispered. "Shane and I did this more than once."

Rick nodded. He glanced back at the others and lifted his hand, three fingers up. Two. One.

They didn't stand a chance. Hell, you didn't even fire. Everyone else did, and the living dropped in a wave.

The walkers were still standing as your group spilled silently from the trees, checking the bodies of the living and putting down the dead hand-to-hand. You rounded one of the cars, slipping your knife into the skull of one of the Saviors just to be safe.

There was an alive guy. "Hey! I give up!" he said, hands in the air. "I'm- I'm done!"

"Bully for you," you muttered, grabbing a handful of his hair. Your knife when in behind his ear and you promptly relieved him of his gun and extra magazine.

Then you were on your feet and drifting over to join the rest of your slowly collecting team. Daryl asked a question with his eyes and you nodded once. You were fine.

"Good people. Found something on our quarry," Ezekiel said.

"'Quarry'," you muttered to Daryl. he shot you a look, humor dancing in his eyes as the two of you headed over to see what the king had found.

"What is it?" Michonne asked.

"A list and another map."

"May I?" You stepped to Ezekiel's side and held out a hand.

He passed it over with a smile. "Indeed, Nameless One. You are best equipped of all of us to judge the veracity of our discovery."

Daryl started laughing even as you sighed and rolled your eyes. "Nameless One. Don't let Carl hear that shit."

"That's what I said," you agreed absently, already scanning the paper in your hands. "Fucking a. Rick, check this out. They're lining up Saviors on the Old Mill Road."

"That's where Negan will be," Rick agreed, staring at the list in your hand. "Alright, change in plans."

 

 

 

Daryl fell into step with you, grabbing your elbow and moving you around a tree while you frowned at the map and the list in your hand.

"Wha- oh, thanks," you muttered absently.

He scowled and took them from you, ignoring your glare. "The fuck ya doin', baby? Pay attention. Ya all over the damn place these days."

"Sorry, sorry. I'm good. It's just weird. Dwight's never steered us wrong before," you said, reaching into your pocket and pulling out your cigarettes. Daryl snatched at them, too, but you pulled them out of his reach and stared him down blandly as you lit one.

He sighed. "Didn't tell us about ya bein' in the damn coffin, or Jadis' fuckin' betrayal."

You shrugged. "That's different. That was incomplete information, not wrong information. That-" you waved the cigarette in the direction of the map Daryl'd shoved into his own pocket- "is, as Ezekiel put it, 'new facts'. Something's off."

Daryl frowned at his feet as you walked. Finally you shrugged. "Whatever. Maybe I'm just paranoid or something. Maybe the plan changed after he sent us the message. Gregory did say he snuck out in the middle of a fight. Hopefully Negan took Simon out. Fucking hate that bastard."

"Why not hope he took down Negan?"

You shot him a look. "Because I'm going to kill Negan. Simon's a creepy piece of shit who isn't worth my time."

"Baby..." Daryl said. He hesitated. You waited, knowing what was probably coming was more of the same- don't be an idiot, are you ok, etc. Finally he shifted the crossbow on his shoulder and glanced at you nervously from under all that hair. "Ya aight to be doin' this?"

"What's that supposed to mean, Dixon?" you asked, voice a clear warning that he should back the hell off.

He didn't, because Daryl Dixon hadn't listened to you in all the fucking years you'd known him.

"I mean, ya all over the damn place. Emotional and shit one minute, then cold as ice and killin' people the next. I'm- I'm worried about ya, girl."

You ground your teeth together and tried not to be pissed off, mostly about the 'emotional and shit' part. "I'm good."

"No, ya ain't."

"Ok, no. I'm not good. I haven't been good since the prison fell," you snapped. "It's been a pisser of a year. I watched the love of my life fucking die, along with what I firmly believed was basically everyone else I gave two shits about; lost my home; lost my fucking bike. I had one person left, and I held onto him with everything I had- loved him with everything I had- and the world just- just kept trying to take him from me. Then we were finally, finally something resembling safe, and I find out that everything I thought I knew was a lie and by the way, the love of your life's alive. Then that one person that my world had narrowed to dies in my arms and here we fucking are, Daryl. I'm not good. I'm nowhere near good," you snarled. You glared at your feet as you spoke, uncertain what you'd do if you met anyone's eyes. "But I have one goal in life right now, babe; and that's kill Negan and anyone else who gets in my goddamn way. I'm going to do that."

"And then what?" he asked.

"Then we'll just fucking see," you muttered, kicking viciously at a bush in your path. Petty? Yes. You were just like that sometimes.

He sighed and took your hand. His fingers were rough around yours and it pulled your temper-stirring hard and cruel and rising with each passing second- up short. You glanced over at him, surprised by the contact. He was staring straight ahead, though, not at you, and he looked- sad. Damn it.

"I ain't had the best year either, baby. I get it. I ain't what you'd call good myself. Ask any of 'em; I lost it bad for awhile," he mumbled, chewing on his lip. You glanced at the hand holding yours and the small peppered three-quarters-healed cigarette burns. They were small enough to miss, or assume weren't important. You knew better.

Yeah, he hadn't had the best year either. You hated being a bitch to him, even if it didn't seem that way with your tendency to take your pain out on Daryl. He did the same thing, and it'd always evened out in the end, but- you'd told him in the Kingdom that you couldn't keep doing that to each other. You had to be adults. Even when it was hard, you had to be adults.

"I'm sorry," you whispered.

He jerked his shoulder. "Ain't nothin'. Just- be careful, would ya? None of this 'at all costs' shit. Ya ain't a price I can pay, baby. Not again. Not even to take Negan down."

You walked in silence, torn between a need to reassure him and the truth. You wanted to say you'd always be here. It was Daryl. You'd been together since the beginning, and you hated the fear you could feel through in his hand in yours. Hated the hurt he'd gone through, same as you. You'd lost each other, found someone else, and both of you had lost the someone else. Maybe you had each other back, but it wasn't the same, and that was a kind of death as well. A death of something good and real, that you might never get back.

But you couldn't get the words past the lump in your throat, past the chill in your core that said it didn't matter. You didn't matter. All that was important was ridding the world of Negan- at any cost to yourself. No matter what, Negan was going to die today.

"Daryl. I can't- I can't make promises I won't keep," you told him finally. "I'm not looking to die or anything, but- Negan has to. No matter what, I'm going to kill him."

"Damn it, baby," Daryl growled, and you tried hard not to hear the sick worry beneath his anger.

We living or dying today, Nameless? You're living. Promise me.

Damn it, Shane.

Chapter Text

You picked up Maggie and the rest of the fighting force, running a critical eye over the numbers. You glanced anxiously in the vague direction of Hilltop, thinking about Carl and Judith, left back there with Tara and a minimal force. If Negan's plan involved sending people to Hilltop while this was all a distraction...

That was why, you reminded yourself firmly, they had escape plans in place.

You forced your thoughts away from that as the group walked a ridge line. Rural Virginia stretched out for miles around, and you caught sight of a massive herd in the distance. You turned away, knowing zombies were a problem for another day that could damn well wait to be solved, only to find the rest of the group had stopped and were staring.

"Holy damn," Jerry said. "Ever see one that big?"

You stood impatiently beside Rick. He shook his head, eyes raking over the group of easily a thousand dead assholes shambling together.

"Yes," you said bluntly, already turning away. "Come on, people. We've got somewhere to be. Dead'll still be there to stare at when Negan's joined them."

"How much further?" Daryl asked into the silence. You'd started walking, well aware of a bunch of eyes drilling questing holes into your shoulder blades, but you had no intention of satisfying their curiosity right now.

You people had shit to do, damn it.

"We grow close. Yonder, over the ridge," Ezekiel answered.

"Fucking good," you muttered as Rick fell into step beside you again, giving you that Rick look. "It's getting late. We don't get there soon, we won't get there at all. This has to end, Rick."

"YN, are you ok?"

"What is it with everyone today? Of course I'm fine. Come on, Deputy," you huffed impatiently. "Let's go."

 

 

"Hey. We gotta move," you told Shane in an urgent whisper.

He shot to his feet and grabbed the bag that held everything you had left in the world. It wasn't even a large bag, since you had a couple dented cans of food you were hoarding like gold, a couple plastic water bottles likely to give you cancer you'd refilled them so goddamn many times (if you didn't get poisoned or some shit from drinking questionable water in the first place), a couple spare knives, a box of matches, and a threadbare blanket.

You were travelling light these days, which was about to be an extremely good thing.

"What's going on?" he asked, kicking the fire out. Once a public safety official, always a public safety official, you supposed.

You went straight for the back exit of your hideout, a fire escape that would drop you in an alley, where you could maybe- maybe- get ahead of what you'd seen coming your way. You wished you were in Atlanta, if only to use Glenn's maybe-criminal pathways. Alas, some-fucking-where, North Carolina wasn't exactly your old stomping grounds.

"You would not believe the size of the herd headed our way, officer," you said over you shoulder as you ducked through the window and glanced down the ladder. "I mean, we've seen some shit. But this is- thousands. Worse than Atlanta."

"I wasn't in Atlanta with you," he grunted as he followed you down.

You thought about that. "Huh. You're right. Well, this shit's bigger than the one that got- that got me stuck in that tank."

"Awesome," Shane muttered, and you privately thought he'd been spending too damn much time with you.

You hit the ground and waited, knife in one hand just in case while Shane dropped the last few feet. You gave him a look. "Don't fuck your ankle up right now, Walsh. We don't need a school situation on our hands."

He rolled his eyes and pointed at the far end of the alley. "Aren't we in a hurry?"

 

 

You made it three alleys before you got trapped. On an inset patio behind a very, very weak-looking wrought iron fence. You were below the herd and they were kept out by what seemed to be a largely decorative gate, but hands were reaching between the bars and this was very much a not-good situation.

Shane was trying to break into the building, but the window was boarded over and something heavy was behind the door. There was no where to go, and an ocean of dead fuckers trying to get to you.

"We can wait them out," Shane offered. It sounded more like a question than a suggestion.

"I don't think that's an option," you said grimly. They were really starting to stack up, and you looked dubiously at where the fence was secured in the concrete. It was starting to rock a little. "I don't know how long that's going to hold."

"So, what's your big idea, criminal?" he asked, looking vaguely annoyed.

Like this shit was your fault somehow. It hit you suddenly and you groaned. "Goddamn it!"

"What?" He snapped, scanning for some fresh threat.

You made a face and started for the gate. "Atlanta," you said over your shoulder as you braced yourself to open the gate and grab a walker.

"The fuck do you think you're doing?" Shane snapped, snatching you by the waist and physically pulling you back.

You huffed. "We need a walker. Two would be better. Three might be best of all."

He stared. You looked at him with your eyebrows raised, waiting for it to hit him.

"I wasn't in Atlanta!" he ground out through clenched teeth, tossing his hand in the air. A walker threw itself against the fence and a chunk of concrete broke off the edge and fell.

 

 

You used two zombies each. The smell had your stomach churning and something suspiciously like panic fluttering in your chest, but you got a good grip on your knife- considering how goddamn close the walkers were packed into the streets, your bat was pretty much useless- and nodded at Shane.

He took a deep breath and opened the gate. Zombies stumbled forward into your tiny patio space, pushed by the weight of others behind them. They staggered into and around you and did.... nothing.

You let out a quiet breath you didn't realize you'd been holding, and edged forward into the crowd.

Three blocks in you'd broken out in a cold sweat. They were everywhere. Rotten flesh and bony fingers and arms were brushing you all over. The smell was thick and in the heat and close quarters the air seemed like it was disappearing.

What seemed like a thousand miles of shuffling dead in, you were pretty sure you were going to start screaming, pass out, or maybe just start killing everything. You couldn't take it any more.

You couldn't breathe; couldn't think. Your stomach churned, your hands shook so badly you thought you'd drop your knife if you weren't careful, and you could hear the pounding of your heart as it raced. It was amazing the walkers didn't hear it and eat you despite the guts coating every inch of you. You almost wished they would, just to end this madness.

Shane grabbed your hand and gripped it tightly, looking at you with obvious concern. 'Hold on' he mouthed, and tapped on the palm of your hand until it registered that he was tapping out Tom Petty.

Your hand clenched around his and you fought for every goddamn step, but holy shit, they were thinning out. They were thinning out, and there was a building you could get into, and-

Somehow, you were on the second floor, behind two locked doors, and in Shane's arms. He was whispering something to you in a calm, soothing voice, using some of your questionable water to clean the guts off your faces and hands, and the world snapped back into focus.

Springsteen. He was half-singing, half-reciting Springsteen, you realized abruptly. You kissed him hard as relief rushed cool and clear through you.

"We made it," you whispered.

He smiled, stroking your cheek. "Course we did, sweetheart. Piece of cake."

 

 

You crossed one ridge and headed into the valley, deep in discussion with Jesus about hand-to-hand techniques you'd learned in group homes. Rick had let you do the brooding stalk for a bit, then all the sudden Jesus was at your side and talking and you honestly weren't sure when he'd gotten there or what the fuck he thought he was doing.

But fighting was your thing, and Jesus was an amusing little shit, and you'd been drawn out of your own head despite your best efforts.

You might have even laughed once or twice as you walked.

Daryl was hovering, but you ignored that determinedly. You wanted to survive this fight. At least you were fairly certain you did. But you wouldn't, couldn't, let him keep you from your goal.

He'd be ok if you died taking Negan out. He'd be ok.

You were still telling yourself that when the whistling started.

"Fuck me," you whispered, gun up and moving as Daryl closed on your back and Jesus disappeared to Maggie's side. "Fucking hell!"

Chapter Text

The whistling was coming from fucking everywhere, but there was nothing to goddamn well shoot at.

"Dixon?" He had his back to yours, covering the opposite direction with his own gun.

"Nothin'," he said, and his voice sounded strained as the whistling continued. You reached a hand back and brushed his arm, and he twitched under your fingers. Fuck Negan and his terror tactics. Fuck the fact that they worked so goddamn well.

Fuck the fact that you'd used them pointedly and with great effect yourself.

"Well, damn, Rick, look at that," Negan's voice echoed over the ridge from a loudspeaker.

You felt the cold spreading from your core and welcomed it. You had a feeling the only way anyone was getting out of this one was if you didn't care if you made it out or not. Negan had you neatly pinned here, and your people were well and truly fucked.

"Pegged again. Pegged so very hard," Negan continued. "I ambushed your ambush with an even bigger ambush!"

"God, boss, how small is your dick after all?" You yelled it as you thought it, and made a face as you wondered just how bad an idea that had been. Fuck it, everyone here knew you by now, including Negan.

Jesus was looking at you with a kind of mildly shocked amusement, like he wasn't surprised to hear you say that, but he was surprised to hear you say it to Negan. In the silence that followed, Rick sent you a 'shut up or I'll shoot you myself' look and took over.

"How about you step out and face us?" he called.

"Oh, I am everywhere, Rick. My biker's insinuation aside- and believe me, she should know better- I have more dick than you dicks could even guess at. More bullhorns, more walkies. Pick a direction and run. See how you do. Make it fun for all of us!"

You rolled your eyes. Daryl had stiffened a little and you caught a couple looks from your people as you scanned the ridge for any sign of movement. "I have never seen Negan's dick, no matter what he feels the need to imply," you informed the air firmly.

Daryl grunted. "Whatever," he muttered.

"So, this is going to be a thing?" you asked him dryly.

"Will you two shut up?" Rick hissed at you.

You proceeded to shut up. Negan started talking again, apparently deciding you weren't sufficiently traumatized down here and it wasn't time for the killing to begin yet.

"Guess what else I did? I brought you some of your old friends."

The gun dropped as you started to shake. Daryl grabbed your hand and shoved the gun back into it, giving you a sharp look as you tried to draw in air through suddenly burning lungs.

Negan looked at you, winked, and pulled the trigger. Shane fell over the railing as you fired, fired, fired, and still that bastard got away-

"Hey! Baby! Fuckin' keep it together, YN. Keep ya head!" Daryl snarled, slapping you across the face when you just looked at him blankly.

You jerked, swinging the butt of the gun around in reaction, but you caught yourself before you hit him. You sucked in air, shaking your head to clear it, and nodded. "Thanks."

"Yeah. Kept ya shit together, girl," Daryl said. He sounded pissed, which meant he was worried and you were going to get hell for that moment later. Assuming there was a later.

Negan was still talking, something about homemade bullets that had Daryl looking even more pissed. Whatever, you didn't care. Eugene could suck Negan's tiny dick and die for all you cared.

"In case you were wondering, Dwighty-boy here didn't ream you on purpose," Negan continued, and you tuned into that.

So Negan knew about Dwight. He was dead, you thought grimly.

"No, he is just a- a gutless nothin' that sucks at life, and now he gets to stand up here and watch you all die, and he's going to live with that. Gabriel? He's gotta go too! We are cleaning house today, Rick!"

You frowned. "Who the fuck is Gabriel?" you asked.

"Priest. We picked him up on the road," Daryl snarled. "Ain't half-bad."

"Oh, right. Dug the fake graves. Did we know Negan had him?"

"Naw, thought he was dead at the Sanctuary."

"Then there's you, Rick. You and my beloved biker. Now, I am sorry about the death of my cop, and I hate that it has to be this way, but I guess I'm going to have to kill my criminal, too. It never had to be a fight, Rick. You just had to accept how things are. The same goes for her, and the Widow, and all of you. You just had to let me save you. But- here we are. Congratulations, Rick." Funny, Negan didn't sound at all upset about this turn of events.

 

 

Negan whistled as he walked the fence, squinting out at the walkers