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Lovers and dictators

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At some point he had to wonder what had brought him to this moment, which flap of fucking wings had changed the course of so many lives and left him utterly alone with nothing but blipping machines and the sound of artificial breathing as company.

Was it his naïve insistence that it was funny to go and search for a dead body in the woods, well half of a body, or maybe it went even further back when another naïve boy got sucked into the claws of a hunter and got his whole family killed?

It was difficult to pinpoint exactly, especially because there were too many of those little moments scattered around both before and after Peter had killed Laura. Stiles wished he could go back to that time, when his biggest problem was creepy Peter and his psychotic tendencies. It was all so fucking simple then, kill him, don’t kill him, it hadn’t even mattered. God, he’d been a righteous little shit back that. But not even half as righteous as Scott, the bastard.

Bros, brothers from another mother, best friends, fucking family. Yeah, right. He could have probably changed just one decision form his brother, just one naïve and delusional decision and half of the people underground at this point would have still been alive.

Not the way the world works. Of course not. Peter could come back, Cora from some-whatever-the-fuck-where… Hell, Stiles could sure use Peter at this point in his life. A little comedic relief, a lot of creepiness, but also support, maybe a compliment here or there, but the best part would be his wolfy genes. God, he would have gone with him to kill the first Alpha around just to get the opportunity to save his dad. Not that he believed anything could be done at this point anyway. His dad was gone… gone….Gone!!!! He still would have done it, to hell with everything else.

Stiles reached for the still warm fingers on the hospital bed in front of him. He knew those hands, the best hands, that hugged him, and ruffled his hair, and helped him and saved him again and again. Hands which loved him just as much as his dad had.

Fucking butterflies and their wings. Fucking werewolves and best friends. Fuck the fucking world all to hell Stiles thought, feeling that little tiny spark in him flutter like it did sometimes, but not when it really mattered, not when he needed it, or wanted it. No. Never when it was in Stiles best interest, he was just always more lucky that he was stupid.

He wished he could cry still, feel that bit of relief as he watched the machines breathe for his dad who wasn’t even there anymore. Just an empty shell they’d said. You will have to turn of the machines at one point Stiles, he was told. They could have said, ‘you’ll have to kill him sooner or later, Stiles’, just as well.

Not that they weren’t right. He didn’t have the money to keep going like this. There was no Derek around anymore to help out. He’d been gone for years now as was his uncle. Of course Peter was most likely dead. The last Stiles had heard Peter was a broken shell somewhere in Eichen house, not even a wolf anymore, and he’d heard that from Kira over a year ago when she was still among the living. He’d wondered how exactly they’d managed to take his wolf away, but he’d been too busy at the time to actually investigate. Served him right, maybe if Peter had been there…

Decisions and consequences, nothing new there. He shouldn’t have listened to Scott when he’d told him to let Lydia go to France or when he’d told him that Malia could watch out for herself. After all, Stiles was just a human, breakable, fucking soft. Stiles had let it go, just as he always had, because Scott had everyone’s best interest at heart, Scott was good, dependable, reasonable.

Stiles snorted hard enough he startled himself. He wasn’t even aware just how deep the silence was around him. The doctors rarely came in anymore and the nurses were barely visible as they changed the sheets, IVs and whatnot. The only time Stiles heard them was when he was asked to leave at night, and at that point he wished he could just ignore them.

It was dark outside, the lamps casting a soft glow on the street, so they would be here again in minutes, giving those sympathetic smiles with the undercurrents of rush ever present in a hospital.

There was nothing Stiles could do in the hospital anyway, he thought. Standing up he could hear his spine crack and feel his legs tingle. He’d been in the same position for too long. He leaned over and kissed his dad’s forehead, pushing his hair back just as his father had done to him so many times before. God, Stiles wished he could still cry.

The hospital was surprisingly quiet as he walked outside of the room, the nurse nowhere to be found. But it didn’t really matter, he had to go home and eat something, change clothes, shower. Life kept on spinning with his dad in it or not.

Chaos of sound erupted from the waiting room as he got near, the doctors and nurses were everywhere, holding people and shouting directions, patients still in their chairs looked shocked and scared but all of it was just too much for Stiles, so he rushed through the crowd until he could breathe fresh air again. He hated hospitals and here he was, saying the same goodbye to his father as he’d said to his mother. He laughed bitterly and got into his car to head home.

Two completely the same days later, Stiles was on his way back to the house, lost in thought and aching for a shower. The street was deserted, not that he noticed much but by the time he was almost home, he did see a dude dragging his broken leg and limping as if his ankle wasn’t at a ninety degree angle against the asphalt and he slowed down debating. It looked weird, but he’d once seen a three hundred pound lady in a transparent dress wearing a thong in the middle of the store and holding hands with a guy as thin as a rail waiving a purple dildo around, so who the fuck knew what equaled weird these days.

He almost stopped the car when a woman came out of the house smiling. She went right for the guy and Stiles was just about to speed up when the guy jumped her and bit her throat. It happened so fucking fast he didn’t manage to stop the car by the time she was falling down, her whole font red with blood. Other people rushed out of the house and the guy growled at them. Seriously, growled.

Stiles was utterly unprepared for the gun shot as one of the men from the house put a bullet right in the growling man’s head. Without hesitating Stiles pressed on the gas pedal and went straight home. He didn’t need any more bullshit in his life, but he still dug out his phone from his pocket and called the police. Surprisingly the line was busy and despite calling a few times there was no answer.

If his father had been well and still on duty, Stiles would have gone there and checked what was going on, but at this point in his life he just didn’t have the energy for that shit. Instead he turned on his computer for the first time in weeks the moment he got to his room and started undressing.

He took a shower avoiding the mirror as he wrapped a towel around his waist and walked back to his room to drop down in his chair.

Lazily he clicked on a few of the major news sites and in a new tab opened the Beacon Hills police department. The first thing he saw was a huge announcement right on the main page for everyone to stay calm and to lock their doors. To avoid public places and to keep an eye on the news.

“What the fuck…” Stiles mumbled then clicked on the rest of the now loaded tabs.

He was blasted with one title after another; Infection outbreak, vicious behavior in recently deceased, Dead are coming back to life….

Stiles’ jaw dropped as he read one page after another, unable to believe that this shit moved so quickly, but the more informed he got the more he realized it was the same shit that usually happened in Beacon Hills only this time one Alpha with a mangy pack wouldn’t be enough to deal with the issue. It was already spreading worldwide and if the military assurances were anything to go by they were all just fucked.

By the time Stiles lifted his head from the laptop he was freezing but couldn’t help thinking “Motherfucking zombies are raising, like my life wasn’t already shitty enough.”

“Ok, ok. I’m not quite ready to die yet, so let’s plan this shit.” He mumbled to himself.

He pulled out the map of the town and started checking his options. There wasn’t anything with a tall wall around and he certainly didn’t have enough people to defend a base like that even if there existed one in town. “Something with no windows and strong door on the ground floor is a must. But I have to have an exit route. The worst thing I could do is get stuck somewhere without supplies and surrounded by zombies. Not cool.” Stiles rubbed his chin with the back of his palm.

“Fuck it, I’ll drag stuff to the old bank and wait out the worst of it.” Stiles huffed, not thrilled with the idea, but figuring the actual zombies will be the worst obstacle in the first wave. After that…

“Shit, fuck!” He suddenly yelled and hit his chair until it slammed against the wall. “If the dead are rising, does that mean all the other beasties we’ve killed are rising too? Going by my luck, I just bet they are.”

“The bloody bank it is. But I gotta get out if this shit town as fast as I can.” He pushed his fingers through his longish hair and went in search of all the backpacks and travel bags they had in the house.

Stiles took the whole night, armed with just his baseball bat he snuck into the police station and picked up every weapon he thought they could spare. When added to his father’s collection it was more than he could ever need on his own, but Stiles wanted to be prepared.

With a cop for a father Stiles knew more ways to commit a crime than a lot of criminals his father had arrested. As he reached his twenties the awkwardness and flailing had gradually faded but all that knowledge for mischief and sticking his nose in places it didn’t belong had stayed.

He disabled the alarm and cameras at the store and the pharmacy and by the time he was done Roscoe was so full he couldn’t see his rear window. The stuff would last him for a while, but it wasn’t nearly enough or complete. The more he thought about things the more frightened he got. The bank would be just his first stop and he was alone. He would need better transportation, something fortified. He would need fuel which fucking sucked ass, but he supposed he could load up a few barrels and siphon fuel along the way. He would also have to pick an actual location to go to.

Shaking his head he decided to think about it as problems popped up. That was the best he could do.

There was still chaos at the bank from their last play date there but Stiles did his best to push it out of his mind. He didn’t need any more painful memories bouncing around his head. Instead he got everything out of his car, sealed the door behind him and checked the whole place out once again just in case. He took note of the doors that would need fortifying and changes he would have to make.

“I’ll need to drag a mattress here. There’s no way I’m sleeping on the fucking floor if I don’t have to.” He uttered quietly then saw an old water dispenser and went to check out the bathrooms.

Nothing worked. Of course it didn’t. He would have to drag water bottles… “Maybe it’s as simple as finding a main valve. Something to think about for tomorrow.”

Feeling paranoid, Stiles dragged all his things to the vault then checked his phone. It was early morning already and he needed to go sit with his father for a while still but he could always plan there as he listened to the sound of a still beating heart.

The drive back was exhausting as he ran on little sleep and a lot of paranoia. Hey, just like old times, right? He grinned manically but figured he’d been in the crazy house once already, the fact that he got out didn’t mean he was quite sane.

Laughing to himself Stiles parked the car than sat for a few minutes as he watched the cops putting handcuffs on a fucking zombie before dragging him away. He shook his head, if the rest of the world followed that practice he gave humanity two weeks before it all went to hell.

But he’s been there, he’s done worse and regretted only those decisions where he went against his gut and felt pity. Even brothers didn’t deserve his pity anymore.

Stiles walked into the hospital and while he saw a tall, older man pushing a woman in a wheelchair outside probably to get some fresh air, the red scarf covering her hair was enough for Stiles to look away. He knew what it meant waiting for people to die and frankly, he had plenty of the same shit in his own life to worry about strangers.

Stiles would have said he knew everyone in Beacon Hills. As an overly excited brat he’d had his nose everywhere and had spent a lot of his time down at the station with his dad. But once high school was over and pretty much everyone he knew died, he realized that most of those people he thought he knew were nothing more than acquaintances he’d forced to know about him. Stiles, the too loud and obnoxious puppy that couldn’t leave well enough alone.

With the supernatural slowly dwindling the population of his town, there just weren’t that many people around he know well enough to even say hello to when he walked by them and the sad truth of it was that he preferred it that way.

He didn’t have to care about those who might die or worse, risk his neck trying to save them. It was liberating to a point, but also depressing if he thought about the fact that everyone who knew him was dead and zombies or not, he was fucking alone on the planet.

But it didn’t really matter. His will to live was still too strong to kill himself or worse, to just surrender. He’d lived through too much bullshit and ended worse baddies than zombies to let them eat him alive. Which was just horrifying on so many levels. Stiles shook himself and walked into the hospital.

There were soldiers in front of it now, armed and on the lookout. He wondered how long the hospital would keep standing.

The nurse at the front desk smiled at him, but her smile was short of terrified and the way her hands shook was nothing if not a clear signal of how screwed all of them were. Stiles had already seen walkers in the hospital. Yes, walkers, because wide masses just weren’t educated enough when it came to the gaming world to recognize the shit for what it was. But Stiles thought there was certain charm in calling them walkers, too.

People died in hospitals and as the days crawled he’d passed by many rooms where the terminally sick were now restrained to their beds. His father was among them. It was only a matter of time, really, and Stiles wondered if he would be able to kill his own dad. The morbid part of him questioned the difference between pulling the plug and waiting for him to stop breathing and actually putting a bullet in his head. Maybe Stiles was just numb enough to not know the difference.

The sound of growling broke his line of thought just before there was a notice on the speakers calling for the support team to report to room 171. Stiles leaned into the room to take a peek and saw two nurses backed against the wall while a walker struggled restrained on the hospital bed.

He was pushed aside as soldiers rushed in and closed the door behind them. He heard a somewhat muffled gunshot before everything was quiet again.

“Huh,” he uttered, “support team is a good one.” Before he went to his dad’s room.

The old man was still warm to the touch, his monitors beeping steadily and Stiles kissed his forehead feeling his heart squeeze.

The lights suddenly went off and while the backup generators worked just fine, Stiles was startled enough to first listen to the sounds of the hospital and then to look out the window.

Dragging down the road was a mass of bloodied bodies, reaching, growling and stumbling and it made Stiles react on instinct. He ran out of the room and reached for the first station that had a PA system. Knowing which buttons to press, Stiles almost shouted, ”Support team please report at the main entrance and block the doors. Please secure all other exits. Repeat, support team please report at the main entrance.”

He grabbed his baseball bat where he’d dropped it next to the chair and ran for the entrance himself.

By the time he reached it, the soldiers were already barricaded inside the hospital, the doors well secured and the horde kept on the other side. He grabbed the first soldier he saw and asked, “What about the other doors? Are they secure?”

“I…I don’t know. The others went to check.” The guy mumbled all wide eyes and pale complexion.

Stiles turned around and rushed toward the rest of the entrances he was familiar with. The first two were blocked with soldiers standing guard but the third one he came across had no one in the vicinity. He debated for a second if he should open the door in case there were soldiers on the other side clearing up the horde, but then moved to the side room and check the window. There was no one outside but he could see more walkers in the distance. He got out of the room and locked the door in case the walkers crawled through the window and then broke out a fire hose out of a cabinet and tied the handles of the door leading outside tightly.

Next was the morgue which Stiles knew had a separate entrance. When he reached it the soldiers were already shooting at the walkers crawling through the doors of the morgue and into the hospital itself. Without thinking about it, Stiles rushed right into the fray and started hitting heads with his bat.

“We have to secure these doors,” He yelled at the soldiers, “and fast!”

“Come closer and aim for their heads.” He shouted as another skull split under his bat.

The spray of blood was fucking uncomfortable but the adrenaline rush kept Stiles going as slowly but surely they got near the door and blocked them with a couple of metal bars.

“Can you find some chains or something similar to secure it tightly so they don’t break through? If these doors don’t hold we’re screwed.” Stiles asked and the soldiers nodded, one of them even saying “Yes, sir!” before he rushed to do as he was told.

While taken aback, Stiles didn’t have time to ponder it and he rushed to another PA system, “Secure all ground floor rooms with windows. I repeat, secure all ground floor rooms with windows so we don’t have any leaks.”

With that he made another round of the ground floor before feeling safe enough to go back to his father.

At the doors he stopped and just watched as the familiar numbness spread down his body. The last link to his past life was struggling on the hospital bed, fighting the restraints as his body growled.

The expression on his father’s face was so foreign Stiles couldn’t even associate it with his dad. So he stood there watching, lost as spit flew from the growling mouth and any recognition that might have been found simply wasn’t there.

This time when Stiles called for the support team he didn’t stick around to wait for them. He walked aimlessly through the hospital dragging his bat until he found the first bathroom and pushed his whole head under the tap and let the water wash away the stink of death.

Seemingly without a goal or purpose, his legs led him to the oncology ward. He looked into the rooms as he passed, watching… He didn’t really know what he was looking for. Maybe walkers to kill or people to help. Stiles knew he needed a purpose otherwise his brain would kill him long before the walkers got their turn. He could almost feel the gears turning, his jumbled thoughts seeking connections again and making his currently numb existence into something more aware.

Stiles couldn’t deal with being more aware or rational. He wished for that instinctual rage again enough that he contemplated walking outside and bashing some heads.

Something red caught his eyes and Stiles turned only to see a woman on the bed watching him sadly, her hands restrained on the bed and a red scarf wrapped around her head.

“Why don’t you come in?” She rasped with a smile despite the pain she must have been in.

Stiles walked inside numbly and without an invitation dropped into a chair next to her.

“You’ve met some undead gentlemen I see.” She smiled again while Stiles tried to comprehend what exactly she meant.

Almost unconsciously he looked down at himself, his bloody clothes and still dripping bat and quickly lifted his gaze toward her unsuccessfully fighting a blush. The last time he’d blushed was probably months ago.

The lady chuckled even though it seemed to pain her. “You remind me of my husband.” She turned her hand so that her palm was facing upwards and wiggled her fingers in invitation.

Automatically, Stiles reached and wrapped his fingers around hers.

“I don’t think he’s aware our world is falling apart around us. I’m stuck here and I’ve heard of the walkers, can hear the growling before there are gunshots fired. But he doesn’t seem to see anything but my pain and his own.” She paused and looked toward the window for a moment before looking back at Stiles. “I worry about him.”

Without thinking about it, Stiles whispered, “I called the support team for my father today.”

“Oh you poor boy.” She squeezed his fingers. “You are far stronger than you feel right now, a survivor, just like my husband.”

“What is there to survive for?” Stiles asked not even sure why. He didn’t plan on dying, but he was curious what a strange dying woman thought he had to live for.

“Yourself. Always yourself. Life is what you make of it. I had a good one. Had love and fun and amazing sex.” Stiles choked but she just laughed at him, carefree, and Stiles could picture her healthy and mischievous. “Sex is important, darling, and it’s absolutely wasted on the young. You have no finesse or endurance, no creativity. Just you wait, you’ll see what I mean.”

Stiles found himself smiling and the feeling was so strange he reached up and touched his face, unsure what to make of it.

“I knew you’d be pretty with a bit of joy on your face.” The woman winked at him and once again Stiles blushed ducking his head down.

“No need to be shy, we’re all adults here, and it’s not like I can molest you from this bed no matter how much I might want to. Isn’t that right Negan?” She looked toward the door with a gentle smile.

“Are you mistreating strangers now, Lucille?” The man was rugged and tall. Dark hair and a confident stride, but he looked so very tired and lost Stiles found himself in the man. He went to stand up since he was suddenly feeling awkward and unwelcome, but Lucile just tightened her grip on his hand and Negan took another chair and moved it to the other side of Lucille’s bed where he sat down.

“Oh, darling, I’m too weak to mistreat anyone, but I’m not dead yet and I still have eyes. Just look at him.” She tilted her head toward Stiles, “imagine what we would have done to him.”

Stiles was mortified and probably as red as Lucille’s scarf, but Negan just turned and gave him a measured look, almost predatory which had Stiles squirming.

“Hm…very fuckable indeed.” He licked his lips which had Stiles wishing the ground would open up but Lucille cracked right up, her whole body shaking with amusement.

She squeezed Stiles’ hand again before speaking, “We often brought another to our bed, to spice things up or just to have fun. I know I would have enjoyed you.” Lucille took a moment before saying, “Do you see now why sex is wasted on the youth? But enough about that, I’ll just get us all worked up and even I have to admit this is far from an ideal place to do something about it.”

“So tell me you young and innocent thing, what is your name?” Lucille looked earnest enough Stiles easily introduced himself. “I’m Stiles. It’s very nice to meet you.”

“I would say you have a strange name, but then Negan isn’t all that common either.” Lucille whispered.
“It’s a nickname since my name is Polish and no one can pronounce it.” Stiles offered.

“That makes sense.” She told him then turned toward Negan, “See what I found you? An exotic fighter who can still blush and is probably as innocent as a babe.”

Negan leaned down and kissed the knuckles of Lucille’s hand that he was gently holding before saying, “I’m just charmed by the first impression, but you know I love ‘em with a bit of spunk.”

Stiles couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so uncomfortable or if he’d ever participated in such a strange conversation, but then again zombies were walking outside, all of his friends were dead and his father had turned mere hours ago. This was reality and perhaps he should just listen to Lucille and look for love, fun and amazing sex. The rest he’ll just take as it comes and struggle through it. Who knew if there would ever be another conversation as good as this one, despite the discomfort?

“Oh he has plenty of it, he’s just shy right now. Isn’t that right, Stiles?” Lucille tugged at his arm.

“What?” Stiles startled, “I don’t… maybe… I’m not shy!” He sat up straighter feeling all of fifteen again and both Negan and Lucile laughed at him forcing another bout of blushing to come forth.

“We’re just teasing you, darling boy. It happens when you’re sitting with a couple of old wolves.” Lucille grinned.

“Speak for yourself, I’m at my prime and ladies and boys would kill to get them some of this.” Negan sat back and gestured down the whole length of his rather sexy body with his hand.

Stiles cleared his throat, uncomfortable.

“See, the boy agrees with me. Aren’t I a sexy bastard?” Negan asked as he almost jumped and leaned forward over the bed so much that Stiles instinctively moved away all wide eyes and panting breath.

“Sure…No, I mean…Oh, God!” Stiles ducked his head down and dropped the bat he wasn’t even aware he was still holding to cover his eyes and hide.

Negan laughed and moved away, “I’ve still got it, babe. I’m fucking irresistible!”

“I’ve never said otherwise. Now come here and give us a kiss.” Lucille tugged at Negan’s hand and he at first glance happily obliged.

If Stiles had felt awkward before it was nothing compared to watching as their gentle kiss turned into nothing short of sex. He could see as their lips stretched and their tongues mingled. The inklings of spit had him half hard but the moans had him all but coming in his pants. He would have gotten up and left if his gaze hadn’t strayed and he noticed the rather large bulge in Negan’s jeans and felt too embarrassed to actually stand up and reveal his own.

Negan eventually gentled the kiss again and with one last peck sat back down, shamelessly rearranging his cock in his pants. Stiles doubted he could turn anymore red but was naturally proved wrong soon enough.

Lucille, in her gentle manner and with an almost sympathetic smile squeezed his fingers and asked, “Could you do something for this dying woman, Stiles?”

If she’d phrased it differently perhaps Stiles would have considered the question some more or asked for a clarification, but instead he just nodded expectantly.

“Give my Negan a kiss.” Stiles’ face went up in flames but Lucille continued, “Let me see him leave another man breathless one last time.”

Fuck kissing, Stiles was breathless already. He wasn’t sure if he’d forgotten how to breathe altogether or he wasn’t getting enough oxygen he just knew he was close to passing out.

“I’ll need a yes, boy, or it’s not gonna happen.” Negan said almost playfully but there was steel in his voice which just did things to Stiles body that not even his dirties fantasies had ever done.

Stiles’ yes was more of a squeak and definitely nothing he was aware of deciding but there was no time to change his mind before Negan was on his side of the bed, a knuckle of his forefinger under Stiles’ chin pushing him upwards.

Before he knew it, Stiles was on his feet looking up at the rough looking man, feeling his finger like a sear until Negan opened up his palm and cupped the whole side of Stiles’ face in his hand. He leaned down and took possession of Stiles lips, first with tiny gentle licks until Stiles gasped and opened up for the intrusion of an agile tongue. He could vaguely taste coffee but the rest of it was so completely male and had little Stiles positively straining in his pants. Then he felt a large hand wrapping around his waist and pulling him closer until he was plastered against the hard body. His arms were hanging there uselessly as he was maneuvered and conquered with all his faculties zeroed onto the hard length pressing against his belly.

When Negan sucked at his tongue and pulled him harder against his body, Negan’s thigh pressed in between Stiles’ legs giving him that one rough slide too much. Before Stiles knew what hit him his muscles contracted and he was coming in his pants with a whine, the kisses now nothing but gentle caresses and exchanged breath.

Negan kissed the tip of his nose, pushing his palm back until he had a gentle hold of the back of Stiles’ neck where he squeezed ever so lightly.

Stiles panted as he looked into those dark eyes completely undone and then pushed out of Negan’s grasp and ran out of the room.

Chapter Text

Hiding in a bathroom hugging his knees, Stiles was nothing short of mortified. They were strangers, Negan and Lucille, and in just a few hours Stiles had felt as if he was with his family – relaxed, wanted, teased and he was blushing on top of that. It was the kind of warmth that had been missing from his life for months if not years.

It reminded him of his mother and it was probably too close to his own memories when his mother was the one in a hospital bed, teasing him and giving him hope for the future. Only Lucille seemed even more, or perhaps Stiles was just seeing her with adult eyes instead of those of a kid. Her energy was infectious, her love for life and her husband inspiring and after bare few hours Stiles knew he was gonna miss her so terribly when she was gone.

He still couldn’t believe they’d made him come in his pants as if he were sixteen again. What was even crazier, Lucille had asked him to kiss her husband, really - her husband – and didn’t seem bothered by it a bit.

The door to the bathroom opened and suddenly Negan’s silhouette was blocking away the light from the hall and Stiles tucked himself further in his corner.

Negan didn’t seem to mind, instead he walked in as if he owned the place. He put some things on the sink then dropped down to his knees right in front of Stiles.

“You’re fast, I’ll give you that, but your hiding place could do with some work.” He said right before he reached for Stiles.

Stiles flinched.

“Hey, hey, don’t give me that. I’m nothing to be scared of. Shit, I’m the excellent fucking example of propriety!” Negan said with a large grin and Stiles couldn’t contain his snort.

“There he is, the perfect baby boy.” Negan lifted Stiles’ chin with his knuckles and exposed his shy and reluctant grin.

“Lucille sent me to check on you and clean your sexy ass up. And those are her fucking words mind you. If it had been me I’d have called you an indecent little fucking package of goodness.” Negan slid two of his fingers up Stiles’ neck and all the way to his hair.

“Of, God.” Stiles moaned as he shivered at the delicate touch.

“Now, are you moanin’ cause you’re embarrassed or you just like having my paws all over you?” Negan asked oh so innocently.

“I don’t even know.” Stiles whimpered then bit his lip because he hadn’t planned on saying that.

Negan threw his head back and laughed. “Well, baby boy, I’ll be sure to find out for ya through good ol’ trial and error. Now come on, stand up for me. We should get you out of these dirty clothes.”

Stiles looked at himself and despite the limited light he could see his shirt and jacket were ready for trash but his jeans and shoes were still good. Then he remembered he’d come in his pants earlier and another flush swallowed his face as he stood up. He’d have to clean that up too.

Stiles didn’t notice Negan’s fingers before he’d already started unbuttoning Stiles’ plaid shirt. He tried to move away but Negan just went all up in Stiles’ space and continued with his business as if Stiles’ wasn’t the one wearing it.

“Hey, you… just… I do know how to undress myself you know?” Stiles finally bit off looking at Negan.

But Negan just smirked and kept on unbuttoning, his tongue slipping out to lick his lower lip. If his brain cells hadn’t slid to a stop, Stiles would have called him out on it, but instead he only let his own jaw drop as he blatantly starred at those full lips and thick beard. He only shook his head to clear his fucking mind when he felt himself go hard again but by that time Negan easily slid his large hands over Stiles’ T-shirt covered chest up to his shoulders and pushed both the jacket and the shirt to the ground.

His fingers strayed down to his now exposed upper arms and Stiles felt his nipples go stiff. God, the man was a menace and Stiles had no defense against him.

“Can you…” Stiles licked his lips and ducked his head down whispering, “Can you please stop touching me now?”

“Sure I can, especially since you asked so fucking nicely.” Negan said rather loudly but moved away a step. His gaze however, that stayed glued to Stiles’ body feeling as if those hands were still very much all over him.

“Hm…” Even if he knew what to say, Stiles probably wouldn’t have managed to utter a word. Instead Negan, still watching as if Stiles was the sweetest prey, pushed, “Why don’t you wash up, baby boy, and I’ll just stay here and keep you company.”

“You don’t have to do that.” Stiles said quickly.

“I sure as fuck don’t have to, but I very fucking much want to.” Negan grinned even wider and Stiles quickly turned toward the mirror.

He looked a sight, his head still half splashed with blood and his hands all dark and crusted from the same. He couldn’t believe Lucille had wanted him to touch her, or that Negan willingly kissed his dirty ass. Stiles mentally groaned thankful he’d kept his mouth shut on that last remark as not to give Negan even more ammo.

Startled out of his thoughts as Negan reached from behind him and took the clothes off the sink, Stiles bent down and started scrubbing first at his hands and then at his whole head and neck using hand soap.

He was barely upright again when Negan thrust a bunch of paper towels at his hands and patiently waited until Stiles dried himself. The moment Stiles went to turn around, Negan slid a hand around Stiles’ waist, spreading his fingers over Stiles’ belly and pulled him back against Negan’s hard chest.

“My, aren’t you a sight, baby boy. All doe eyes, twink lips and pretty moles. I just want to fucking eat you up!” Negan hummed as he grazed the back of Stiles’ ear with the tip of his nose. “Like a motherfucking sundae!”

Stiles would have called him crazy, but despite the cursing, no, exactly because of the cursing, Stiles was as hard as a rock and heading toward diamond territory. A problem he sure didn’t need.

“What about Lucille?” Stiles asked the first thing crossing his mind. Sure, that kiss on demand was all Lucille, but that didn’t mean he wanted to fuck around with her husband behind her back.

“Baby boy, who do you think sent me after you? My girl Lucille has all but married you to me.” Negan rested his chin on Stiles’ shoulder and spoke quietly, “She doesn’t want me alone after she’s gone and her time is running out, all too fucking quickly and there’s all fucking nothing I can do about it. So am I gonna honor her last fucking request? You can bet your sweet little ass I will, I’ll chase you until my last breath but I don’t think you’ll let it go that far. Because you’ve seen my woman, you’ve tasted the gold of her motherfucking bleeding heart and you’ve fallen as much in love as I have. That’s my Lucille, the best woman any man could only wish for and she chose this poor bastard for herself. Ain’t nothing I’d ever done in my shitty life to deserve a woman like that, but I still have her, and you and me, baby boy, we’ll do everything in our fucking power to make her as happy as she can fucking be. If that means you’ll kiss me until she says you may stop, you’re gonna fucking do it and be motherfucking happy about it. Am I right?” Negan rubbed his sharp beard against Stiles’ neck, nudging Stiles’ ear with his nose as if prompting an answer.

“Lucille is pretty incredible.” Stiles whispered, leaning into the touch.

“Mhmm… Of course she is. Fucking sunshine on a raining day.” Negan mumbled, his eyes closed.

“Yeah…Yeah, I can see that,” Stiles mumbled, turning his head until he leaned his head against Negan’s, “First time I’d smiled in months and I wouldn’t have done it if not for her.”

“Stick with us, sweetheart, and you’ll keep on smiling.” Negan murmured before he placed the clothes back on the toilet lid and took firm hold of Stiles’ hips. “Unzip those pants now, we’ve got another mess to clean up.”

Stiles got dizzy at the rush of blood going to his head as he stuttered, “No…I-I can...Please, I can do it alone. Please?”

“Mmm… I know you can, baby boy,” Negan kissed the side of Stile’s head, “But I wanna see that pretty dick and watch you as you touch it. Why don’t you indulge me, pretty please?”

Stiles thought Negan’s grin was positively shark-like, and he probably could have struggled out of the man’s strong grip, he could have caused a scene and ran away again. Only, this one time, he didn’t want to just forget about it, take the easier way. Stiles wanted to be that same carefree sixteen-year-old who would have gripped the opportunity for someone to watch him or touch him and held on at the price of life long humiliation. Lydia had done it to him too many times and he’d persisted, waiting for scraps and tiny signs of affection. Why should now be any different? He was wanted, desired, fucking complimented and he didn’t want to run away and abandon all of it, no matter how terrifying Negan’s special attentions could be.

So resolutely and with no small amount of fear, Stiles dropped his pants and underwear all the way to his knees in one move and looked into the mirror at Negan.

“Abso-fucking-lutely beautiful, baby boy.” Negan said loudly, trusting his hips forward a little but never once taking his eyes from Stiles’ hard dick.

“You look so soft I wanna suck you dry then press my face against that silk between your skinny legs.” He kissed Stiles’ shoulder then returned his palms back to Stile’s hips, framing his dick. “Clean up, baby boy, I wanna watch.”

Feeling shy but extra hard, Stiles wetted some more paper towels and tried rubbing the now dry spunk off his pubes. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work that way. The come was stuck and the towels started falling apart.

“Tsk.” Negan made a harsh sound, “Take some of those towels and hold them between your legs.”

Stiles did as asked, spreading his legs a little. Negan cupped some water in his palm and rubbed it over Stiles’ cock and the surrounding curls. Next he squeezed out some soap into his hand and soaped up the whole area sliding his other hand up to spread his fingers over Stiles’ belly once more.

“Soft.” Negan whispered again as he gentled his touch, his fingers easily sliding through the soapy hairs until he cradled Stiles’ taut balls. Stiles bit off a moan and just in time as Negan suddenly left his crotch alone and washed his hand, cupping more clean water to wash out the studs between Stile’s legs.

The water was cold and he shivered, but Stiles’ hard-on barely let up. He held his breath patiently as Negan cleaned him and he fucking loved every second of it. It was so intimate and personal, Stiles had never expected to experience something like that from another person. The only one who’s ever cleaned his junk was himself, and then it was more of an automatic perfunctory thing.

“There, now put those towels to good use.” Said Negan way too loudly as he stepped away from Stiles.

The feeling was close to being cold, or left outside in the woods without anyone around but potential monsters. Stiles already missed the closeness of another body in such proximity, but he shook himself of the feeling and let the paper soak up all the water. His underwear was already dry and while not clean he had no intention of taking it off in the bathroom so he just pulled his pants up and zipped them, then at somewhat of a loss turned to look at Negan.

“There’s a shirt on the toilet for you to wear. We’ll have to see about another jacket later.” Negan was leaning on a wall his arms behind him and the look on his face was calculating, maybe even distant.

Stiles didn’t know what to make of it but he said nothing. Everything happening around him was far from his comfort zone, it was new and unexpected and he was supposed to adapt without a guideline or the internet to help him along the way.

The shirt was white with sleeves which covered the tips of Stiles’ fingers and too wide in the chest and shoulders, comfortable as it was comforting since it had to be Negan’s.

“Come. Let’s go see Lucille.” Negan turned and walked out without waiting for Stiles to keep up.

Lucille was asleep when they got there and Stiles felt uncomfortable staying in her room with Negan. It was dark outside and he still had so much work to do before his shelter was ready. He definitely had to get a better car because Roscoe was more than likely to drop dead on the side of the road and if that happened Stiles would probably be close to follow. Not a happy thought.

Stiles still wasn’t sure where he would eventually go. Everything zombie related ended up with finding that end of the road home where you were safe from walkers and had everything to sustain life. Well, for starters he would need more people for something like that, so Stiles once again decided to shelve that whole inside debate.

He wanted to ask Negan if they were staying in the hospital for much longer but already knew the answer to that. As long as Lucille was alive or they were overrun by walkers, they were staying put. He vaguely wondered if the hospital had enough resources for all of those staying inside at the moment. He would have to check that out at some point as well.

“Stop fucking thinking so loud, you’re making me dizzy.” Negan snapped from his chair where he was leaning back with his eyes closed.

“Can’t help it. I’m planning but I don’t have enough information. It figured the fucking internet would be one of the first things to go.” Stiles heard himself whine.

“Planning for what?” Negan sounded half asleep.

“The fucking apocalypse. What did you think I was talking about?” Stiles just looked at him.

Negan’s eyes were no more than slits, flashing as the light hit them right, but otherwise he didn’t move a muscle, “I did notice some shit was going down, but didn’t care enough to pay attention. I figure if the world is going to hell I’ll either go there right with it, or I’ll send other motherfuckers to say hello before my time comes. Not much else you can do about it.”

“That’s a beautiful outlook of life. What do you do for a living anyway, write fortune cookies?” Stiles asked snarkily.

“No, but close. I’m a Gym Teacher.” He said calmly leaving Stiles with nothing but a slack mouth in response.

“Jesus,” He eventually said, “the parents must love you.”

“What can I say, the moms love looking at me, while the dads would like nothing more than to deck me. It’s a charming profession.” Negan smirked.

“I just bet it is.” Stiles mumbled. “Do you teach here? Because I sure as hell would have remembered you if I’d seen you. As far as I know Finstock is still at the school.”

“Nah. This is just the final stop you could say.” Negan said somewhat somberly. “Lucille wanted to get out of Washington when it became clear there was nothing else they could do for her, so we went to the other end of the country and this place looked peaceful enough. Lots of forest, no crowds. She loved being outside when we first got here. Even now I take her out for a short ride in the chair when it’s warm enough.”

“I’ve never been anywhere else so I’m not sure where to go when the first wave passes.” Stiles confessed.

“No shame in that, you’re still young. Besides, if this shit plays out the way I think it will, we’ll go through enough states to satisfy your curiosity.”

“We?” Stiles asked tilting his head.

“Well I ain’t leaving you the fuck alone, baby boy, so you might as well accept that. From now on, where I go you go. We understand each other?” Negan dropped his head and locked eyes with Stiles until Stiles nodded and turned away.

“Good. Now get some fucking sleep. Hospitals are a pain in the ass even when you’re not tired and dropping off your feet.” It seemed like no time before Negan’s breath deepened and soft snores filled the room.

Stiles wasn’t quite so lucky. While he could sleep anywhere in the craziest of positions, his brain was just too loud and too many worries crashed and burned inside his skull to just close his eyes and leave the problems for tomorrow.

“He’s right you know,” Stiles almost fell out of his chair at the sound of Lucille’s voice. “you should rest while you have the chance.”

“Can’t, my brain refuses to shut up.” Stiles moved his chair closer to Lucille’s bed as silently as he could.

“Should have asked him to give you a hand. Negan always drops into dream land after releasing some tension.” Stiles could see her smirking in the dark as she spoke and hoped his cheeks weren’t just as visible.

“What is it about you two and sex? It’s like your every word is charged and intended to cause the maximum amount of discomfort. It’s unnerving.” Stiles leaned his head against her thigh, within reach of her fingers and still able to see her.

Lucille touched his hair carefully, “We’ve always found it fun to tease others. Negan more than me, since that was just a part of his character. But when you’re with someone as brash and honest when it comes to words as him, you have to adapt because people are cruel and the alternative simply hurts. I could never just stand aside and listen to the whispers as they judged the most wonderful man I’ve ever met. Sure, he’s different and comes off rude, I could even call him a walking profanity on some days,” she smiled, “but there’s nothing that man wouldn’t do for me. He’s too good inside and despite not caring about different opinions he still feels and he very much loves. I wouldn’t change him for anything.”

“Is that where I come in?”

“Oh darling, you remind me of me when I was young and adventurous. All pain and regret but with such potential for life it’s ridiculous. Whoever you were with before didn’t deserve you, but I know my Negan does. He’ll take good care of you and I know you’ll watch him for me.”

“I can’t just replace you.” Stiles hid his eyes against her leg trying to slow down his rabbit heart.

“It’s not about replacement. I’ll still stay with him, and he’ll remember and hurt and probably regret, but it’s different doing that on his own or with someone firmly by his side. If I had more time on my hands I would pull you in with us and show you what love was, because you seem like someone I could easily fall in love with. Imagine what a team we would have made? All those gossips and jealous, mean bastards would have eaten their hearts out. I’m sure I would have been a first class bitch in their eyes, finding a twink to go with my husband, the scandal!” Lucille laughed only to cough harshly.

Stile lifted his head up panic stopping him from looking for a way to help her.

“It’s okay. I’m just not as strong as I was.” Lucille reached for his hair again and Stiles lay back down. “I worry about him, so much. I suppose there comes a time for everyone in my situation when the pain is just too much and you accept that this is it and there’s nothing else you can do about it, but then I look at Negan and see his pain and it makes me feel worse because there’s nothing I can do to help him either. So we do what we always did, we go through the rough with jokes and good fun and if something good comes out of it it’s only for the better.”

“My mom died in a hospital like this. Only she barely remembered me by the end. I was just a kid, I didn’t understand.” Stiles told her quietly.

Lucille pressed her palm against his cheek, offering comfort and it was good, something Stiles desperately needed. They stayed in silence for a while until Lucille tugged at a strand of his hair, “Why don’t you curl yourself up on the bed with me. I can move my legs despite being tied up like this.”

“No, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.” Stiles thought for a moment, “Do you want me to untie your hand?”

“No, darling. I don’t have much time left and the last thing I would want is to take either of you with me. Just come lay on the bed next to me. Negan is too big to ever fit, but you just might be the right size. Come, cuddle with me for a bit.”

Stiles considered refusing, but he could see Lucille was just as stubborn as Negan and he didn’t want to argue with a woman in pain, so he climbed up and lay his head on her thigh, having Negan right in his eyesight while Lucille passed her fingers through his hair. Curled up there beside her, as she touched him like his mother had once long ago done, sharing warmth and just hearing the sounds both of them made left Stiles feeling wanted and not alone for the first time in a long while. He wanted these people in his life, he wanted both of them to survive and help him cope, to cherish him, a feeling he’d forgotten existed.

And so it happened, almost unexpectedly, that surrounded by people who actually cared, who offered everything they had to a stranger, Stiles found himself finally able to cry.

Stiles woke up with a hand cupping his head and rubbing gently at his hair. He blinked his eyes open, surprised by the light and his strange position on a hospital bed when he remembered the previous night and he probably would have flailed if not for the suddenly hard grip against the back of his neck.

“Hush, baby boy, you’re safe with Lucille and I.” Negan shook him slightly. “How about you get up now so we can go find us some food in this shitty place.”

His words didn’t really sound like a question, more like an order, so Stiles got up and stretched beside the bed. He looked at Lucille who seemed to be sleeping peacefully, so without thinking about it, Stiles leaned over and kissed her cheek softly.

Surprising him, she smiled slightly even when opening her eyes seemed like too much effort and whispered, “Thank you Stiles, that was so very nice of you. How about you press one right on the lips too?”
"Stiles could hear Negan chuckling behind him, but he paid him no mind and instead, with little contemplation, he leaned again and took Lucille’s warm lips between his. She returned the chaste kiss, but it didn’t go any further as it had been the case with Negan.

“Hmmm, lovely. You hold onto him Negan and don’t you dare share those lips with anyone else.”

“’Course not, I’ll keep him all to myself, sweetheart.” Negan then took hold of Stiles’ neck again and pulled him out of the room. “Come, we gotta hunt for food.”

“I don’t think asking for something in the cafeteria counts as hunting.” Stiles said smartly.

“Well that’s a matter of opinion, isn’t it?” Negan pinched the tip of Stiles ear lightly then slapped his ass as he pushed Stiles to walk ahead of him.

“Hey! Watch the merchandise!” Stiles protested just for the sake of it not because he really minded.

“Oh, I’m watching, don’t you worry your pretty head about that.” Stiles turned at the answer but at the sight of a lecherous look directed toward his ass he promptly faced forward again. It was going to be a long day.

They took their time checking out the corners of the hospital. The number of staff was limited to those who came to work on the day the soldiers had sealed the doors and there were few people around to enforce any type of rules. The cafeteria was still working but the resources were limited so Negan only asked for something for Lucille and the two of them went in search of vending machines.

The number of dead outside seemed to be increasing and Stiles wasn’t feeling optimistic when it came to their chances. He had some guns in his backpack back in Lucille’s room but that and a bat could only do so much.

As if reading his mind Negan threw his arm over Stiles’ shoulders and pulled him closer, “Stop worrying about it, we’ll sort it out.”

“Can’t help it. It’s the only thing I’ve been thinking about for days already. I have kind of a safe place only I didn’t plan on getting stuck in a hospital.” Stiles discreetly tilted his head and took in Negan’s pleasant scent pretending he wasn’t actually sniffing the man cause that would just be weird.

“I however am very fucking pleased you’ve decided to keep Lucille and me company.” Negan leaned harder on Stiles as they walked.

“I think the pleasure is all mine. Never knew anyone quite like you two.” Stiles sighed and wished there was something on the floor for him to kick.

“And you never will, baby boy, so make sure you stick with me, we’ll keep each other company.” Negan said, but he sounded distracted and Stiles could understand that, there was too much shit to worry about.

“Can we go back to Lucille? I keep thinking this whole thing is going too smoothly so far, and things never go smooth in my life. The hospital is secure for now which is just unbelievable, I’d half expected for someone to rush outside because of something stupid like claustrophobia and leave the door open, or that someone got bit and has kept quiet until they could bite like five other people.” Stiles rubbed at his hair feeling unsettled.

“Fucking human stupidity, it’ll happen sooner or later so just enjoy it while you can.” Negan said easily but directed them back toward Lucille’s room.

She was still asleep when they got there and Stiles dropped the food they’d gathered next to his backpack while Negan carried the lunch closer to Lucille on the other side of the bed.

Without thinking about it, Stiles reached for Lucille’s hand and feeling it somewhat cool he looked at Negan, “Can you touch her forehead?”

The tray barely touched the side table and Negan was touching her,“Shit, she’s too cold. I’m gonna go find a doctor in this shithole.” He pushed the door letting it hit the wall as he ran out of the room.

Suddenly abandoned, Stiles wasn’t sure what to do so he found another blanket and wrapped it around Lucille, thinking it might help, but as he got closer he noticed breathing seemed to have become hard for her.

The doctor came quickly, Negan hovering behind him all angry and afraid, and checked Lucille over without saying a word. When he finally did turn around, it was with a deep sigh, “She doesn’t have much longer, I’m sorry to say. I doubt she will wake up again and the best you can do right now is make her feel as comfortable as you can. I’m very sorry for your loss.” With that he hurried from the room.

Feeling somehow numb as he rubbed gentle circles against Lucille’s palm, Stiles thought the doctor didn’t seem like he even was from oncology and he looked young too. There was a time when he was able to recognize both nurses and doctors in this hospital.

While he was lost in thought, Negan had moved all the way to the top of the bed where he gently pushed the red scarf off Lucille’s head and moved it away. He rubbed at the naked skin, his hand looking huge next to her small skull and leaned down to press a kiss against her brow. His face was twisted in pain and Stiles could see tears falling on Lucille’s cheeks, so he stood up and wrapped his arms around Negan’s waist from behind, resting his forehead against Negan’s trembling back.

There was nothing to say at that point because all Stiles could do was wait with him and be that silent support Negan needed.

The moment she actually died was just as silent as her last minutes had been. The quiet was stifling but it only made Stiles hug tighter and he slid his hand down Negan’s arm until he could twine their fingers together and move the man slightly away from the bed.

As if flinching in surprise, Negan turned to him and seemed to finally register he was not alone. He wrapped Stiles in his arms, buried his face against Stiles’ neck and he allowed himself to mourn.

Stiles wasn’t sure how long they actually stayed there, but he rubbed his hands up and down Negan’s back, wishing he could make everything better but knowing he couldn’t.

When the first growls started, Stiles registered it as more of an annoyance than a threat but with the first snap of teeth he instinctively pushed Negan further away from the bed.

Seeing the woman Stiles had already cared for in that state was almost as bad as going through the same with his father, but hearing Negan sob loudly behind him at the sight broke his heart.

Stiles twisted and looked at him only to find Negan clutching at Lucille’s scarf and staring at a wall opposite to the bed. He understood. Just as he had been unable to face his dad, Negan wasn’t capable of seeing what had become of his wife.

“Stiles,” Negan whispered softly, “Stiles, please… I can’t…please,” his head down and his eyes squeezed shut.

Taking a hold of Negan’s waist, he led him slowly out of the room and closed the door behind him. He rested his temple against the wood, gathering courage and trying his best not to feel both horrified and terrified. Their sweet Lucille.

Tears in his eyes, Stiles pushed away from the door and reached inside his backpack where he gripped the handle of his father’s gun. Without looking at Lucille he took a pillow out of the small closet, crossed the two steps to the bed then quickly pushed the pillow against the snapping mouth, gun against the pillow and fired.

It might have been quieter but Stiles felt it down to his toes. He let his tears fall and quickly grabbed everything from the room, stuffed the gun back into his backpack and rushed out the door right into Negan’s arms where he allowed himself to fucking break down.

Chapter Text

They holed up in an empty room curled around each other on a hospital bed. Eventually the tears had dried out and Stiles had crawled his way out of a rib creaking hug to lie on top of Negan. He pressed his cheek above Negan’s heart feeling the man’s each exhale as it fluttered through his hair and he’d reached with his hand until he was able to touch the rough bristles of Negan’s beard.

He didn’t think either of them actually slept but they didn’t feel like they needed to fill the silence either, instead they took comfort in the simple touch of skin against skin, warmth of another body and the easy breath of a person still alive.

Outside the sounds of the hospital could be heard, but instead of the usual rush, soldier boots drummed against the floors and faint gunshots echoed down the corridors. The medicine becoming scarce had the already weak people slowly dying. Stiles imagined things would have been different if the army had actually taken over the hospital or if they had been in a larger city. He wouldn’t have been surprised if they’d gotten orders to kill all with the potential of becoming walkers.

“I need to fucking get out of here. I can almost smell death.” Negan’s growl vibrated through his chest letting Stiles feel it against his skin.

“We’ll have to check out possible routes. I don’t want the whole horde following us. That also leaves the car out of the picture because the internet said sound attracts the walkers.”

Negan petted his hair. “Do you need to get anything out of your car?”

Stiles pushed into the touch. “No. I’m gonna miss Roscoe but he’s too loud and unreliable to take with us and I’ve already moved everything to my safe place.”

“Alright, baby boy, up we go.” Negan jumped off the bed, pushing Stiles away only to grab his hand and pull him to his feet. “Daddy needs some peace and quiet and away from this stinking hole.”

Negan led them all the way up to the roof where they walked the edge of the building and checked for walkers. “Jesus Christ, would you look at that…”

The sight was unexpected and awful enough Stiles felt sick for a moment. There were hundreds of zombies all pushing against the walls of the hospital, growling and moaning in that creepy unnatural way. It gave Stiles the spooks. He’d seen movies and played games, but the sight of them all was staggering all the same.

They seemed to prefer the front entrance, but there were still dozens of walkers bumping and stumbling at the back of the building and for a moment all Stiles could feel was panic. How were they supposed to get out of there?

That’s when they heard another popping sound and Negan swore, “Goddamn stupid motherfuckers! They’re shooting and the sound is calling every undead biter to us.”

“Do you see a way out of here?” Stiles pulled at his own fingers, feeling unsteady on his feet.

“No. But as soon as these assholes inside start using their brain and keep quiet some of this will probably clear out.” Rubbing at his beard Negan still scowled then lay down on the roof on his back. “You wanna go tell them? I don’t feel like going back inside and it seems we’ll be stuck here for at least a while longer.”

Wanting away from the sight of so many undead waiting to eat them, Stiles turned around without a word and vanished inside the hospital. He figured he would find the military at the main entrance again so that was where he ended up all the while doing his best to keep his mind blank. The last thing he needed was a fucking panic attack.

Unlike previously, this time there were more soldiers stationed at the entrance plus a bunch of panicked people moaning and shouting, nothing that helped the situation, so he decided to speak to all of them and see who was in charge, “You need to be quiet.”

A couple of people turned to him but most ignored him. So Stiles slammed his bat against the door next to him and suddenly he had their attention. “You need to be quiet. Each time you shout, scream or shoot a gun more walkers head this way. There are hundreds of them outside right now and they are attracted by lights and sound and probably even the smell of us. If you wanna live, you’ll control yourself and be as quiet as you possibly can. We don’t want them getting inside but we also can’t stay in here forever.”

Naturally that was the moment when a sweaty, panicked guy decided it was best to completely ignore Stiles and started yelling, “We’re all gonna die in here! There’s no way out!” Then a couple of women started whimpering and crying and the fucking soldiers just stood there not saying a word.

Out of nowhere a guy with a thick mustache and thinning hair up top walked right in the middle of it, muttered “Fucking asshole,” and clocked the screaming guy right out.

“Fucking cool.” Stiles told him and nodded his head.

A few of the soldiers moved as if to contain the guy, but Stiles just gave them a withering look and motioned toward another guy who looked about ready to faint and the whimpering lady next to him. They had plenty to do without enforcing some type of unnecessary justice. Stiles truly hated people sometimes.

“You’re welcome, friend.” The guy grinned widely totally ignoring the commotion around him and promptly put out the same hand he’d used moments ago to hit someone, “The names’ Simon. Very nice to meet you.”

Stiles smiled out of reflex, finding the guy charming in a kid of vicious way. “Stiles.”

“Strange name, but I don’t need to live with it.” That surprised a chuckle out of Stiles, but Simon continued before he could think of a comment. “What do you say we get out of here and leave all these nice folks to take care of the other noisy tenants of this fine establishment?” Simon walked all the way to Stiles and then motioned him forward.

Stiles hesitated for just a second then thought to himself, fuck it, I sort of like the guy and he might be of help later on, so he walked ahead right back to Negan.

“What happened to have you stuck in this shithole?” With hands in his pockets, Simon casually asked not even looking Stiles’ way.

Stiles wasn’t exactly caught unprepared by the question, but he was far from willing to give out the answer, so he said, with a much braver mask on his face than he actually felt, “Not something that’s still keeping me here. Now I’m just waiting for the walkers to take a hike elsewhere.”

Simon laughed and he truly looked like an upbeat guy with little care in the world. “I hear ya’, we’ve all got a shitty past one way or another, especially with the end of the world right around the corner. So what do you do? Or what did you do? You have finished high school, right?”

Grinning, Stiles rubbed the back of his head, “Yeah, not legal to drink yet, but who gives a fuck, right? No, I was at college before this, did some research work on the side that paid alright. You?”

“Me? Why I’m in the mortgage business.” Simon said with what was probably his best seller’s smile.

Stiles snorted, “Yeah, good luck with that. I’m betting we’ll have our pick of free real-estate any day now.”

Simon scowled, but it was more in joke than anything, “Maybe I can try and negotiate with the walkers, offer them a new and improved feeding ground with little risk of getting shot and unlimited supply of food for a safe passage to where-ever-the-fuck I’m supposed to go now,” he lost some of his cheer as he finished.

“I doubt that’ll work for you. It will probably be more like Rambo bullshit out there from now on. But I’m thinking that approach wouldn’t work long term either. People need company otherwise we’ll end up crazier than the fucking walkers.”

“Not sure I’d make a good Rambo, my friend. Can handle a gun and a rifle but other than that I’m all about charm and that’s just a waste right now as you’ve already said.” Simon bumped into Stiles’ shoulder.

“Doesn’t matter. Guns are alright too. Better than nothing in any case, besides, you’d be surprised what people are capable of when they find themselves in unfavorable situations.” Stiles said encouraging the man. The more they talked the more he liked Simon. He was a joker but with a solid head on his shoulders and enough of that undercurrent of meanness Stiles knew all of them would end up depending on in the end.

At least life had taught him that. Bleeding hearts and compassion only lead to unnecessary deaths and in most cases survival depended on hard choices. Stiles was all about hard choices and he knew by now that Negan wasn’t one to hesitate when it came to his survival or someone else’s. Simon could very well fit in with them.

“You sound as if this isn’t your first apocalypse.” Simon’s tone held some hesitance.

“That’s because it’s not in a way. I’ve seen people killed, had them die in my arms and at some point, despite the hurt, you do become numb to it. The important thing to remember is that there will always be a clear line between us and them, or at least as clear of a line human emotions allow, and the worst thing you can do is think about what’s best for them instead of what’s best for us.” Stiles got lost in thought for a moment, all those pointless deaths flashing through his head where the choice was clear but the pack wasn’t made of killers and everyone had deserved a second chance. He was fucking fresh out of those.

“Some would think you cruel for it.” Now Simon sounded careful and in all honestly Stiles didn’t blame him.

Snorting, Stiles explained, “Maybe, but what it’s not is naïve. All those people we’ve left behind, they are sheep who will get themselves killed or worse, get others around them killed. Someone will panic and do something stupid, or they will hesitate when one of theirs turns into a walker and how do you think the rest of them will fare then? I can’t surround myself with righteous assholes throwing second chances left and right this time round, so if you won’t have us firmly in mind come some latter date, I’d rather you told me now ‘cause I won’t hesitate to kill you the first time you screw me over.”

Simon gulped and raised his shoulders slightly, but with another deep breath he locked eyes with Stiles, “I’ll follow your lead, kid, and keep in mind it’s us against them.”

Stiles let out a breath he wasn’t aware he was holding then nodded slightly in acceptance. He’d shared more than he’d planned on but it had turned alright. Maybe the rest of the crap would line up nicely as well.

Then, as if Stiles hadn’t just threatened to kill him, Simon smiled again saying, “Do you have any more rules I should be aware of or is that it?”

“Only one. You watch Negan’s back the same as you would watch mine.” Stiles told him without hesitation.

“Who’s Negan?” Simon asked curious.

“Ding Dong, Hell’s Bells, who have you brought me, Stiles?” Negan leaned into the hallway through the open door of the roof.

Smiling, Stiles gripped Simon’s shoulder pressing some of his weight against the man, “This here’s Simon, sells mortgage, but has a smile of a car salesman.”

“My, my, you’ve found us a dirty schemer. Bet you can talk yourself out of any fucking sticky situation you come across.” Negan grinned widely then put his hand out, “I’m Negan and fucking pleased to meet you.”
“Well I’m not displeased so far.” Simon winked as he shook Negan’s hand.

Throwing his head back and laughing loudly, Negan motioned for them to come back out to the roof.

“Shouldn’t we keep quiet?” Simon asked somewhat tentatively.

“You’re most probably right. I admit, I get carried away sometimes.” Negan threw his arm around Simon’s shoulders and pulled the man closer leading him toward the edge of the roof.

Reaching it, Negan dropped down and sat with his legs hanging over the side where Simon joined him with what looked like not a small dose of hesitation on his part. Stiles easily followed, sitting close to Negan he leaned his head against the man’s shoulder and looked into the distance, doing his best to ignore all the growling.

“Man, you weren’t kidding when you said there were hundreds of them outside.” Simon drawled not looking all that happy anymore.

“Yeah.” Stiles confirmed quietly rubbing his cheek slightly against Negan’s shoulder. He didn’t want to think about all the dead right now.

Negan hugged him closer, pressing his large palm all along the side of Stiles’ face and pushing his fingers in his hair to keep him against his side.

“So you two an item, then?” Simon asked making Stiles stiffen.

Negan rubbed against Stiles’ scalp forcing him to relax once more before speaking, “That’s not something you need to worry about.”

Simon raised his hands and leaned slightly back. “Hey, I don’t have a problem with it. Just asking so I don’t make a move on the kid.” He winked.

“Are you going to make a move on him?” Negan asked with a dangerous tone.

“Naw, man. I can see clear as day the kid’s taken. I ain’t planning on sticking my fingers into all that.” He made a circular motion with his hand toward Negan and Stiles.

Negan’s grin widened again, “I’m so goddammn glad we understand each other.”

Simon swallowed but nodded tentatively before trying to change the subject. “So what’s the plan? Do we stay or do we go?”

“We’ll wait a bit until they clear out, then we’ll hole up in a safe place for a while.” Negan answered, his focus now somewhere far in the distance as he continued pushing his fingers through Stiles’ hair.

“So we should stay in one place?” Simon asked.

“I don’t even know man. What exactly do you do when shit hits the fan? Ain’t no more police to call for,” Negan pointed down at the walkers where a couple of them wore police uniforms, “and considering how fast this shit is spreading, I figure in a month or two only the toughest motherfuckers will be left standing. If we can’t have a base by then, we’ll have to move out and find something better.”

“Shouldn’t we head out now while there’s still more people than walkers out there?” Simon leaned forward and spat on the walkers below.

Negan looked at him then leaned his head against Stiles’, “It’s fucking twofold isn’t it? If we stay now there’ll be more walkers around, but if we go right away there’ll be more people around to steal our supplies or just idiots with a gun who would shoot us for stealing their stuff. Because we will be stealing, it’s just the way shit works right now. Personally, I prefer killing walkers and I definitely prefer fighting a relatively stationary target than someone who fucking shoots back.”

“Yeah, I see your point. It just seems better if we make a stronghold right away than half a year from now.” Simon pushed his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“Nothing is set in stone at this point. Maybe we should just steal a couple of good vehicles, armor them some and stuff them full of supplies. Then we head out as fast as we can. Roads will be blocked so we will have to circle in some areas and probably fight our way through at certain points, but if we set our mind to it I’m sure we could reach wherever we’re heading relatively soon. We could siphon fuel along the way as well. Just something to consider. Fuck, I would haul a fuel cistern with us if I thought we could get away with it. Once I start, my mind just doesn’t stop spinning possibilities.” Stiles added his bit of wisdom and wrapped his arm around Negan’s waist to lean in more comfortably.

Simon rested his hands on his thighs and leaned forward slightly so he could see Stiles too, “Well what’s stopping us from trying? There are three of us right now, maybe we find another person or two, take a couple of cars, a cistern and head out. If we lose the cistern along the way it’s just bad luck but that shouldn’t stop us from trying. But while we’re at it, do you have any idea where we should go?”

“Not a clue. My instinct is to go for something familiar where I know I can make a stand and that’s at the other end of the fucking country. I’ve only been here for a short while so I don’t know any place where we could actually make a defendable fort.” Negan answered.

“Nothing similar in actual walking distance. But for something like that, to secure a good place, we would need people. Far more of those bastards than I’m comfortable with.” Stiles added again as he kicked his legs against the wall below him.

“So we set a goal and collect people along the way. It don’t take much to see what a person is made of. Maybe even better to do it now when everyone is still used to the existence of laws, then we can mold them more easily to our way of thinking.” Negan murmured as if thinking out loud.

Simon laughed, “God, the two of you are something else. It’s like talking to two criminal minds who’ve just been too smart to get caught.”

“I take offense to that. Gym teacher over here.” Negan lifted his hand in the air with a shit eating grin.

Simon’s jaw dropped, “Shit, I didn’t see that one coming.”

Chuckling, Stiles said, “Yeah, caught me by surprise too, but hey, if it’s any consolation, I’m the son of a sheriff.”

Simon rubbed at his jaw as he shook his head, “It’s mental, it’s what it is. One should be the definition of law-abiding while the other a model of education or some shit and in the short time I’ve known you all we’ve talked about was killing, stealing and the shitty nature of the human race. It makes you fucking wonder, jeez.”

Stiles started chuckling hard enough he found himself unable to just stop because it was fucking funny and amusing and he still felt as if this was what his life had been preparing him for. “In my case law-abiding has just meant that I’ve learned all the ways of how to show the system my middle finger and still chose not to actually do it. But things are different now and knowledge is still fucking power. And while we’re at it, we should go downstairs and find ourselves a malleable doctor to take with us.”

“Fucking A. Great way to change the subject and a brilliant fucking idea all in one breath. We should take a few with us, just to make sure. We provide the fire power and protection and they do their things. I just fucking love the way your amazing brain works, baby boy.” Negan gripped Stiles’ chin and lifted his head up slightly before taking his lips in a deep and wet kiss.

“Not sure people will go for that at this point. They still think this is just another situation that will solve itself and everything will go back to normal. Basic denial, my friend.” Simon pulled out a bent pack of smokes out of his pocket and silently offered some to Stiles and Negan.

Shaking his head Negan refused, “We’ll pass. Those cancer sticks will kill you.”

Simon shrugged. “It’s not like my supply is unlimited. I’ll have to stop at one point or another so I’ll just enjoy myself as long as I can if it’s the same to you.”

“Wish I could do the same with curly fries, but that ship has already sailed.” Stiles offered doing his best not to pout. It was the same crap with everything else worth mentioning; ice cream, pizza, McDonald’s… Hell, even lube would become scarce sooner or later. He made a mental note to grab some next time the opportunity arose.

Both Negan and Simon laughed, but they had no idea about the love Stiles held for curly fries, it was otherworldly and unexplainable.

“So, Negan, where would you go if we decided to leave California?” Simon asked before taking a drag.

“I’d go to Washington. But again, that’s familiarity. I know that place and have an idea where we could make our base. I can’t stop thinking about a prison as sanctuary, but getting rid of all the walkers in there would take weeks.” Negan said.

“Shiiit!!” Simon leaned forward laughing, “Why not just take over Alcatraz? Fucking closer than Washington.”

“Yeah, not sure what’s the right fucking choice anyway. There are just too many variables and not enough information. We’ll have to go blind most of the time. But we should at least agree on a direction.” Negan had a small smile on his face as if he was already miles away.

“We’re not falling for any potential cure locations or stuff like that, right?” Stiles lifted his head and looked at Negan and Simon.

“Even if there is one, I doubt I’ll be on the receiving end of that fucking needle.” Simon snorted and took another drag of his cigarette.

“Have you actually read anything about it before the communications went down?” Negan wondered.

“Sure. I’ve read all kinds of shit, but it doesn’t mean it was true. They’ve set up a few gathering places and medical centers, but I wouldn’t go to any of those. That would be the last thing everyone else had heard too so of course every fucking idiot will head there. It means car blocked roads, more walkers, less supplies and even if we reach a place and it’s not overrun, it will already have occupants ready to make a stand simply due to all the military power that had been sent there. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I wouldn’t risk my life finding those.”

“The kid’s smart. But I also figure if they do find a cure it will take a while to distribute that shit and after taking care of their own, someone will establish some kind of communications to let the rest of the world know. I’d rather just wait for some reliable news than go anywhere blind.” Simon added.

“That still leaves us with a question of where to actually fucking go. We’d better decide sooner rather than later, so think about it and we’ll talk so more, but now let’s go fucking eat something. All this chatter is making me hungry.” Negan grinned and all but jumped to his feet.

Stiles and Simon followed as he went back inside, Stiles somehow dead tired and wishing for a bed and Simon excited by all the possibilities without limitations set by the law and scared shitless because he was actually gonna go outside to face those walkers up close and personal and he wasn’t sure he would ever be able to rein in that dark side of his personality again.

Chapter Text

A few days later and a lot of walkers having drifted away from the hospital, Stiles and Negan felt it was time to move on. They’d packed their shit and stood on the second floor window overlooking the parking lot.

“That red Dodge Ram is mine.” Negan said as he pointed at his truck.

“Of course it had to be red. That’s just asking for trouble.” Stiles moaned.

“What can I say, red really is my color.” Negan grinned unrepentantly.

“Yeah, whatever. Let’s go find Simon and get out of here. It will be best to just jump out of that window and over the roof above the entrance. We’ll avoid the worst of them, then just run to the car.”

“Yes, dear.” Negan followed after Stiles then reached forward and pinched his butt before running ahead.

“Maybe we should consider coming back for some of these people?” Stiles contemplated as he ducked under Negan’s arm and wrapped his own around Negan’s waist.

“It’s an option. We tell them now to get ready for those who are willing to come, and warn them about no bullshit policy. I doubt many will want to risk getting outside anyway and we don’t need screamers and cowards on the road.” Negan hugged back.

“Hm… I’ll make a round around the hospital, spread the word.” Stiles said before pressing a chaste kiss against Negan’s cheek and heading on with a slight jog. He turned at the end of the hallway, “Meet you and Simon next to that window in half an hour.”

Speaking a word here and there about preparing themselves and collecting the strong and at least somewhat brave people, Stiles made his way down the hospital corridors and picked only those who gave off a good impression and he thought they would ultimately be able to work with along the way. Like everything they did, his method carried risk, but there was no way for him to know how certain people would behave in the apocalypse, so his gut was the best bet.

By the time he was back Simon was smoking next to the window all but vibrating with nerves and Negan was gazing out the window seemingly without a care in the world.

“Hey there, baby boy,” Negan smiled at him. “Any luck with the potential candidates for our little community?”

Stiles shrugged, “Some. There are a few seemingly good people in here, but I have no idea how many will take us on our offer and I have even less of an idea how many of those are actually able to survive something like this even with help.”

“Yeah, we’ll know in a few days. I don’t plan on hauling nuisances around longer than necessary.” Negan said before clamping a hand on Simon’s shoulder and startling him enough to drop his smoke and duck his head.

Stiles laughed, “Relax. You’ll just trip with how much you’re shaking in your shoes. Think of it as an adventure where you can exercise some of your hidden rage. Just follow our lead and don’t panic and we’ll be alright.”

“Fucking easy to say for you two criminals. I’ve led an innocent life up to this point. What do I know about fighting fucking walkers?” Simon threw back.

“You’re absolutely right. High school kids are just as bad as walkers. Even worse, they talk back just to screw with you.” Negan rolled his eyes and got out of the window.

Stiles smirked at Simon and picking up a large gym bag they’d filled with supplies, he followed after Negan.

“Fucking adventure seekers.” He heard Simon mutter, but he followed closely after Stiles and in no time they were sneaking over the hospital entrance overhang, past most of the walkers.

Negan didn’t hesitate to jump and once he was on the ground he hit the closest walker with Stiles’ bat. As one dropped another four turned to head for him so Stiles wasted no time to join him in front of the hospital. With no other weapon except the gun, Stiles did his best to push the walkers away and in cases where it was possible he set them up for Negan to get rid of with his bat.

By the time Simon jumped down, they were more than ready to move on because more and more walkers took notice of them and it was only a matter of time before they would be overrun.

“Come on, Simon. Run for the red truck.” Stiles said as he followed closely after Negan.

The man was quick and efficient, unlocking the doors and starting the car before Simon was near and without it even being a close call with the walkers, they were out of the parking lot and on their way toward the bank.

“We should pick up another car before we head toward the bank. I have a lot of supplies there and it won’t all fit in just one car.” Stiles told them already working out on the logistics for their trip.

Somehow they’d decided not to wait the worst of it out, but rather to head out as soon as they could, which meant packing up their shit and finding more vehicles to get them to Washington. In the end their final destination was just one of those things left up in the air and while they were heading in a certain direction, they would to take into consideration any other good location they found along the way.

“Maybe something bigger right of the bat in case more people decide to leave the hospital. There’s a Toyota dealership close to my place.” Simon suggested.

Negan smirked, “Toyota, sure, why not. Directions please.”

So they ended up with two land cruiser models, managed to clear out a pocket sized corner store which left Stiles wondering about how it had still been in business and finally found their way to the bank.

“You weren’t kidding when you said you had supplies.” Simon said wide-eyed and he tried to take in all the shit Stiles had hauled back into the bank. “Will we even have room for all this stuff?”

“We’ll fill up the truck bed and put the rest in the cruisers in the back. How are you with weapons?” Negan asked and Stiles led him to his gun collection. He hand another bat, aluminum one, but that was about it.

“I was planning on hitting a hunting store or something along those lines for some knives and maybe a machete. I would really like a machete. And I need better clothes and some protective gear.” Stiles told him.

“Yeah, we do need more weapons, and something quiet. Guns are great in a pinch but they will only lead more walkers our way so we’ll save those for emergencies. We’ll make that a rule. Everyone who comes with us should have a quiet weapon they need to learn how to wield. It should keep us safer.” Negan rummaged through the weapon bags as he spoke.

“Should we go right away?” Stiles wondered.

“No. Let’s sort through this first and then we’ll check out the perimeter before we start packing. I don’t want anyone jumping us while we’re in the middle of loading supplies.” Negan told him and started separating the supplies so that every car had enough of the basics to survive.

A couple of hours later they were done and arming themselves to go outside. Or at least Stiles and Negan were, Simon was somewhere around the place supposedly looking for a weapon which turned out to be true as he came around the corner as excited as a kid wielding a large fire axe.

“Look, it’s perfect, isn’t it?” Simon gushed as he gazed adoringly at his find.

“Hm…” Stiles hesitated as he looked up, “Isn’t that a bit too large for you?”

“What? No! Why would it be?” Simon looked at him almost offended.

“He’s saying you’ll get yourself killed by the time you pull that shit from a dead skull and it’s probably too heavy for more than a few swings, dumbass.” Negan added.

“No it isn’t.” Simon denied all serious. “It fits great in my hands and I bet I’ll kill the walkers way more efficiently than your bats. Come on, it’s one solid hit and they’re down. The bats don’t end them with just one blow most of the time.”

Stiles opened his mouth to retort but Negan held him back saying, “Leave him be, baby boy, he has to learn on his own.”

Stiles shook his head but did as told, checking once again for the knife he had in a sheath on his belt as well as a holstered gun there. If the pack crap had taught him anything, it was to always be prepared for the unexpected.

“Simon, you stay up front, check in the visibility range of the cars and the two of us will circle the building.

With a nod and a deep breath, Stiles went left and cautiously stepped over the ground, always looking around and attentively listening. He didn’t want any surprises and it was always a possibility that Simon and Negan would find trouble and he would have to go help.

The place was more or less clear but Stiles was still cautious and stepped lightly his bat at a ready and yet he wasn’t in the least prepared for the tackle from behind. He yelped as he hit the ground and vaguely heard Negan calling for him when the whole of his attention was caught up in the familiar growl behind him.

“No.” He whispered and scrambled forward on all fours before turning just in time to see Scott slashing his claws at Stiles’ abdomen.

He screamed and fell back only for Scott to jump on him and take a large bite of his shoulder.

The scent of partially decomposed flesh was overwhelming, the fangs in his shoulder sharp and painful but even dead with cloudy red eyes, Scott had the strength of an Alpha and none of his usual restraint.

“No!” A shout reached his ears and a loud thump as Scott lost his grip on Stiles’ shoulder and fell backwards.

“Shot him!” Stiles yelled as best as he could just as Scott took another leap this time toward Negan.

Negan caught Scott’s head with the tip of his bat, making him stumble before he pulled out his gun and shot him in the head.

Scott dropped down but despite the pain Stiles didn’t trust that development. He didn’t know how werewolves, even dead ones reacted to the zombie infection so with the last of his adrenaline, he shouted, “Cut off his head, he might come back. Cut it, cut it, Negan!”

Hesitating for just a moment Negan moved toward Scott when Simon appeared from nowhere and slammed his axe against Scott’s neck decapitating him.

“Holly shit! That was sick!” Simon whooped.

Stiles let his head drop as the heat of the fight ebbed and the excruciating pain from his injuries made itself known. Not even that situation left his brain still. Scott was an Alpha, even dead he might have had the possibility of turning a human so perhaps Stiles wasn’t quite dead yet.

God, his neck was killing him, but suddenly Negan was above him, some kind of a cloth was bundled and tucked beneath his neck making him grimace.

“Shit, baby boy, this looks pretty bad.” Negan touched Stiles forehead, pushing the short wet hair back and kissing his clammy skin.

“Promise me,” Stiles swallowed, feeling the blood on his tongue, “Promise me you will wait until I turn. Promise…”

“There’s no coming back from this baby,” Stiles felt the wetness of Negan’s tears as they dropped against his cheeks. He was surprised by it but then realized he shouldn’t have been. Negan cared and Negan was most definitely attached.

Feeling the familiar ache of loss making itself known in his chest, Stiles suddenly knew the last thing he wanted was to leave Negan alone in this fucking world. After Lucille Negan couldn’t be left on his own, and Stiles had no plans on just letting go. Fuck! He really wasn’t all that afraid of dying, had made his peace with it after his third or fourth close encounter, but this shit? This was different. Thinking about not seeing Negan’s smirk again, not feeling the warmth of his embrace or hearing the sound of his infectious laugh… No, Stiles just wasn’t ready to leave Negan without a fucking boatload of people who care for him and are willing to die for him.

“Just wait, promise…” Stiles whined as the pain sharpened and weakly grabbed for Negan’s shirt, “If I start to heal I’ll recover, but please wait until I die before finishing me…” Stiles lost his grip and relaxed against the ground, “Scott was a werewolf.” He whispered then lost his fight with consciousness.

One minute Stiles was asleep, the next he sat up on a mattress confused. His hands were cuffed to a radiator and he was naked from the waist up but the worst part was how loud and bright everything around him was.

It fucking figured, it really fucking figured. He let himself drop back down on the mattress as he closed his eyes trying to block everything around him. Fucking Scott. Fucking miserable asshole, he couldn’t have even died right but had to come back and fuck up Stiles just for shit and giggles for one last time.

Stiles started laughing, feeling almost hysterical at the thought of helping Scott once go through this shit, helping him stay alive and now he was in the same position thanks to that bastard. The son of a bitch knew Stiles never wanted to be a werewolf, but still, he figured it beat being fucking dead.

Then Negan was there, his scent now overpowering and so unbelievably good, but Stiles was only able to focus on one of his senses and had no idea what the fuck Negan was talking about. Leather and man and Alpha screamed through his being making his cock hard and his head buzz. God the man was overwhelming, powerful and so very much Stiles’.

“…baby boy, please.” He heard the words whisper through his clouded mind.

“Too much… bright, loud… Negan…” Stiles fought for words to explain when Negan climbed over him, touching his almost fevered skin and buried Stiles’ head against his neck, covering his eyes and shielding his ears.

The world was quieter with just Negan surrounding Stiles, his whole body sensitized to the man, and this time, the soft whisper reached his brain. “You healed the injuries overnight. Still have a fever, but otherwise you seemed to be okay.”

“Increased body heat, increased senses, strength and the ability to shift.” Stiles whispered back.

“You mentioned a werewolf.” Negan prompted gently with the same quiet tone of his voice.

“That was Scott, my former best friend. Grew up together and he got bit by a werewolf. So we formed a pack and went through all kinds of shit. These days I wish I’d never met the guy and this crap just confirmed my conviction. He’s dead right? For sure this time? Werewolves can regenerate certain injuries.” Stiles wondered.

“Yeah. He was dead when the bullet hit him. The glow in his eyes was gone.” Negan answered.

“Huh…” Stiles muttered, “So it works the same as it does with the others. It just keeps the werewolf mojo active until you kill the walker.”

“Does this mean you’re immune to the bite? Cause baby, you’re all healed up and breathing.” Negan asked.

Stiles rubbed his nose against Negan’s shoulder, “I have no fucking idea. Scott and the others were resistant to pretty much anything except Wolfsbane and just with me turning I would hazard a guess that werewolf beats zombie.”

“How about you sticking those long teeth in my shoulder then? Even a possible cure sure beats certain death.” Negan told him as he slid his hand up and down Stiles’ side.

“Doesn’t work like that. I have to be an Alpha to be able to bite someone and I don’t feel like an Alpha. Let me try something.” Stiles mumbled then concentrated on how everything was too intense, on the feeling inside from where it all came from and he jumped in place when he first felt what must have been his wolf.

The feeling was like fur gliding against his skin, a huff of breath at the back of his neck.

“You alright?” Negan tightened his hold on him.

“Yeah, yeah,” Stiles said softly, “It just startled me, it’s all. Let me try again.”

This time he was more cautious, separating his senses from the wildness of the wolf and once he was as calm as he could have hoped to get, he reached for the animal at the same time as the wolf jumped right at him.

Suddenly all those sensations were amplified, the wolf stretching against his skin wanting more than the simple transformation and oh boy could Stiles feel the first shift. Even just the eyes changed drastically and he knew he was seeing as the wolf would instead of a human. His nails scratched against bound hands and the heat of his skin seemed to rise.

But despite being overwhelmed, Stiles slowed down his breathing and pushed Negan away slightly with his shoulder, “Look at my eyes now, what color are they?”

Negan gasped as soon as he saw him, and Stiles just knew it was the sideburns and fucking eyebrows. Fuck, he better still had his eyebrows. “Gold.”

Stiles willed the change away but even as he felt the intensity decrease the wolf was still there and he could feel the bloody overgrown teeth in his mouth.

“They are still gold, but the sharp edges of your face are gone. Just the teeth and eyes now.” Negan said softly as he touched Stiles’s face, “Oh,” he paused, “And the nails are still there. Those are some wicked nails, baby.”

Stiles chuckled, “Yeah. I don’t think I can change all the way back right now. It takes some practice.”

Negan shifted then, moving next to Stiles and settling himself more comfortably. “So what do the gold eyes mean?”

“Means I’m a Beta. Or no, it just means I’m a werewolf. I don’t have a pack so I can’t be a Beta. Only an Alpha, with red eyes can change another person to a werewolf.” Stiles tilted his head back and looked at his tied up hands. “Any way you can get this off?”

“No chance of you turning dead any time soon?” Negan hesitated even as he reached for a key.

“I doubt it. I wouldn’t have healed if the virus or whatever was too much for the wolf. Besides, I think I could break these easy.” Stiles told him.

Negan unlocked him and while he wasn’t in pain, Stiles still rubbed at his wrists and stretched his arms some to get rid of the stiff feeling.

“So what do we do now?” Negan asked and moved some of the sweaty strands of hair off Stiles’ forehead.

“I’m still for moving away from here, preferably even sooner now if we can manage. Scott wasn’t the deadliest thing buried in these woods and if the rest of them have risen I want to be as far away from this place as I can manage in the least amount of time possible. But now I’ll have to stack up on some more different supplies. Shit.”

“What does that mean?”Negan pushed his fingers down Stiles’ scalp.

“It means I will need certain books and ingredients now that I’m a wolf, just as a precaution while we have time to spare. I’ll just have to swing by my house and pick up some more things.” Stiles frowned, “Damn, and I’ve made my peace with leaving that part of my life behind, it’s like I can’t catch a fucking break.”

“Not the shittiest situation we could be in. If you’re sure you’re alright, I actually like the fact you can’t be as easily killed.” Negan offered.

“Yeah, it’s not the worst thing, but I’ll be out of commission during the full moon, at least until I find my anchor and I’ll have to watch my strength in front of the others. I don’t want anyone to know about this.” Stiles confessed.

“Simon knows. It’s not like he didn’t see your injuries.” Negan shrugged.

“Ah, Simon’s alright. He’s just as nasty as we are even if he doesn’t know it yet and he won’t say shit.” Stiles shook his head slightly, unconcerned.

“Probably.” Negan conceded, still having his hand in Stiles’ hair.

“You don’t much care about this, do you?” Stiles suddenly turned and took a good look at Negan.

Again, Negan just shrugged. “The dead are walking the Earth and taking a bite of anyone too slow to outrun them. It’s not a real stretch to accept that there are other dangerous things out there. Besides, I already told you. The fact that you’re less likely to get killed now is only a plus. Now tell me how exactly does one become an Alpha, cause I’m mighty interested in the position?”

Stiles laughed utterly amused, “Of course you are. You just have to kill another Alpha.”

“I already did that.” Negan leaned away to get a better look at Stiles.

“Yeah, you have to be a werewolf first and then kill an Alpha. Not sure how it would work if a human does it but I imagine you still lack the werewolf mojo to actually be a werewolf Alpha. But maybe if we stumble on another Alpha he’ll be kind enough to turn you before you kill him.” Stile shrugged.

“Damn, it figures I did the whole thing the wrong way round.” Negan said with a pout.

Stiles made a face at him, “Don’t do that. You’re too old to pout.”

“Don’t be calling me old, baby boy, unless you want yourself a spanking.” Negan threatened pulling Stiles closer to his body.

“Not sure I’d be opposed to it, but I don’t feel very ready to jump into that hot mess right now. Still a bit too raw with everything.” Stiles confessed wrapping his now normal hands around Negan’s waist. The change seemed to have slipped as soon as he relaxed.

“Not much different on my end of things, but still feel like flirting with your sweet ass.” Negan bit at Stiles’ earlobe playfully but Stiles just pressed his face closer against Negan’s chest and breathed the man in.

“Should we start packing instead?” Negan questioned softly, his hug still firm but the ability to adapt easily heard in his voice.

Stiles sighed and started rising, “Yeah, I think we should. We’ve already lost enough time with me being bitten and I really don’t want to risk anything else crawling out of the forest. Let’s just find Simon and head for my house then the hospital and hope for the best.”

So that was what they did. With the cars half full and Simon honestly enthused that Stiles was still alive and insistently asking questions about werewolves, they were off.

Going to Stiles’ house was easy enough and while they were waiting, Negan and Simon got rid of only two walkers, but going back to the hospital seemed to present more of a challenge. The cars seemed to have multiplied since the previous day and most of the road was blocked with crashed and even burning cars.

“The shit happened here?” Simon asked as they got out of the still running cars.

“I have no idea. It looks like they all started leaving their homes at the same time. Maybe there was something on the news or radio or I have no idea what.” Stiles trailed off.

Suddenly the silence was interrupted as Negan turned on the radio in his car and through the static found a station, “This message is broadcasted at the request of the California State Police Department. This is not a test. Please stand by for further instructions. Civil authorities have issued a contagious disease warning and request all residents to secure their homes, lock all the doors and windows and stay inside until the danger has passed. We urge you to turn off the lights and keep the noise at a minimum to avoid attracting any of the infected your way. Those already on the road are asked to proceed toward the closest security point. As of this morning the city of Los Angeles has fallen and the closest military secured location is at Carson City, Nevada. The virus has now spread all across the country and as previously stated every bite and scratch is lethal. We urge you to take shelter and stay safe.”

“Well, shit.” Simon said as soon as the broadcast started repeating.
“Guess we’ll take the long way round.” Stiles said as he saw the walkers heading their way from up the road.

“How about we make sure those assholes head this way instead of the hospital?” Negan smirked and headed a few feet away before hitting a couple of parked cars to switch on their alarms.

They quickly got back into their cars and turned around to find a different way to the hospital.

Stiles turned on his radio hoping to hear some other news, but the same message kept on repeating all the way to the hospital.

The front of the hospital wasn’t cleared by any means, but at least two thirds of the walkers had drifted away and Stiles circled around the building toward the back entrance. He knew the walkers would follow them fairly quickly so there was no time to waste.

He parked with the tail end at the very entrance and got out of the car. As soon as Simon and Negan joined him he spoke, “Can one of you take a ride back to the front and draw them away from the hospital for a few minutes. I need to get inside and find whoever is coming with us.”

Simon got into the car without a question and drove away while Negan took hold of his bat and motioned for Stiles to go inside.

Stiles climbed the side wall until he reached the first floor window and fell inside. He already told all the people to be ready to move and he hoped they were all at the same place. He headed toward the front part of the hospital when a walker jumped at him from one of the rooms.

Stiles screamed in fright and instinctively pushed the walker away before reaching for his knife and at the next lunge stabbing the walker on the underside of his chin.

“Fuck that was close.” He whispered, then started forward again only more carefully this time.

There were no more walkers to surprise him but as he reached the front entrance there were only a handful of people standing there. All packed up and looking scared shitless at the walkers heading away from the building.

“What happened to the rest of you?” He asked.

Most of them jumped in place, some cursing, most of them grabbing at their chest once they realized it wasn’t a walker behind them. He recognized a couple of the men as the ones he’d spoken to, but he’d still expected to be more of them waiting.

“Someone had found a radio and they heard the news. The authorities urged everyone to head for Los Angeles, so the Military packed everyone up and they left.” A lady with red hair and wearing a skirt of all things said.

“Yeah, Los Angeles fell this morning.” Stiles told them only to hear their shocked gasps. Before they could get momentum he interrupted, “Alright. You coming with us or what?” deciding he didn’t really care. They were tight with time and they could easily chat on the way.

They picked up their shit and without another word Stiles led them to the back entrance. Instead of messing with the chains on the doors, he broke into the side room and opened a window. One look outside and he saw Negan killing a walker with a couple of more heading for him.

Without waiting for the others to catch up, he jumped outside and stabbed a shuffling lady zombie in the head. Negan turned but as soon as he saw it was only Stiles he moved to get rid of another walker.

That was when Simon drove back and Stiles turned to look for the people they were taking with them.

They were still standing inside peeking through the open window. “Well? Do you plan on fucking moving or are you staying there?”

They fell over themselves trying to get out and Stiles rolled his eyes so hard he got dizzy.

He noticed Negan smiling at him but other than smiling back he chose to remain quiet. Instead he jumped in his car and waited until the rest of them got in before driving away out of the city.

Chapter Text

Stiles had ended up in a car with John the anesthesiologist and Kevin the nurse. Now John had a kind of cool detachment going on with him and he saw the world in a bit of a bland way where the zombies barely phased him and the people dying were a way of life. He was a Caucasian gay atheist with a slim built and utterly average look. Even after a couple of hours in the car with the guy Stiles wasn’t sure he would have recognized him in a crowd. It was exactly how Stiles imagined a serial killer to be and he thoroughly approved.

Kevin on the other hand was Irish and a giant when compared to Stiles and he had the red hair to match. But so far Stiles didn’t catch any of the temper associated with it. Instead the guy seemed honestly good without the moral high horse accompanying him, something Stiles appreciated since he just didn’t have the patience for another Scott.

First order of business had been stopping at a sporting goods store at the outskirts of town. It mainly held camping gear which was exactly what Stiles wanted. By the times they’d reached it, it had already been heavily looted, but damn if Stiles hadn’t taken everything that was left. From ropes and carabiners to tents, knives and gas cookers, Stiles had it distributed through the cars and he made sure every one of them had something sharp at hand to kill a walker with.

They drove the whole day taking side roads when they came up to all the car pile-ups and whenever there weren’t any people around Stiles made them all stop to scavenge through the cars and to siphon the fuel.

Nik, who had been a newly appointed general physician at Beacon Hills and the one wearing a skirt, kept peppering him with whispered questions each time they stopped.

Stiles found it annoying, even more so each time he saw Negan smirking at him from the side and Simon outright grinning.

“Why don’t we just stop at a gas station?” “Are you sure it’s okay to steal from these people?” “Can we please stop driving anytime soon? I’m really not dressed for such a long trip, besides it’s not healthy sitting in one place for so many hours.”

The newest one was, “Lugging all this stuff around is a killer for my nails.” As she took a box of cans Stiles had found conveniently packed in one of the car trunks.

“Jesus Christ, do you ever shut up?” Stiles turned to her and asked.

“Well excuse me for not being prepared for the freaking apocalypse!” Nik straightened and lifted her chin offended.

“And that is fucking fine, but I’m betting none of the others were prepared either and none of them have told me they were uncomfortable because they haven’t changed their panties in over eight hours. For fuck sake lady!” Stiles snapped only to hear as Negan and Simon burst into laugher. When he turned to them they were leaning on each other barely breathing from their chuckles.

“Why I never…” she just dropped the box, turned around and walked away into the nearby trees.

“Hey, Nik, come on, stop.” Kevin called and jogged after her.

It wasn’t more than thirty seconds before she started screaming and then all of them ran toward the sound.

Kevin was slamming his machete over the skull of an already dead walker while Nik kept holding her bleeding arm and sobbing on the side.

“Fuck it,” Stiles spat before asking, “Were you bit?”

Nik looked at him with tears in her eyes and slowly nodded.

“Somebody please stop Kevin. The thing is passed dead by now.” Stiles told them before walking toward Nik, “The only way for you to live is to cut off that arm.” But he’d barely finished before she’d started with her typical hysterics.

Stiles tuned her out and looked at Negan who just shrugged.

“Fucking shit.” Stiles growled then called for their only surgeon, “Bill, come here, we’re gonna need you. John, go get the supplies he’ll need for an amputation. Kevin, Simon, come help me hold her.”

Nik didn’t even know what hit her before they had her on the flat, nearby ground, her arm tied and outstretched and Negan hacking it off. Bill kept talking about proper procedure but none of them were listening until the arm was detached and Nik had passed out.

They had the wound cauterized via gas cooker and wrapped up before Nik could regain consciousness, and then they picked up the rest of the stuff and moved on.

By the time they’d stopped they were in the middle of nowhere Nevada in the dark. They parked their cars in a U formation tightly and ready to go so they had protection for the night and they started a small fire.

Bill kept watch over Nik and Simon pulled out a fold up chair and put it on the roof of Negan’s truck to keep watch on their surroundings for the first few hours. Negan was still frowning at him, but said nothing.

“Will she live?” Stiles asked Bill.

“Too soon to tell, but she has a good chance. No sign of an infection at this point.” Bill answered easily. He was one cool dude, hardened by the fact he’d lost his wife in the first few days of the outbreak, or that was what Negan had told Stiles.

“And people, that is why you don’t go off into the wild without backup and least of all upset. I want you watching each other’s back and being on your guard constantly.” Stiles told them.

“Why did you have them cut her arm off?” Jamie asked somewhat naively.

Stiles looked at him but was at a bit of a loss. He figured everyone knew what was up at this point.
It was Bill who ended up explaining. “The infection spreads rapidly and in a matter of minutes it would have been too late to save her life. By cutting off her arm the body was spared of the virus and if she lives through the amputation she will survive. It’s a bit of hope for everyone. If the bite or the scratch is on one of your limbs you still have a chance, otherwise the bite is lethal in every situation.”

“What were you before all this?” Stiles asked Jamie.

“Mechanic. Cut myself at work and had to get stitches so I got stuck in the hospital.” Jamie pulled up his sleeve to show a long partially healed cut all along his forearm.

“Huh,” Stiles said unintelligently. He wondered who’d found them a mechanic in a hospital. The guy was a freaking genius. He looked at the others around him only to catch John smirking at him. A chill passed down Stiles’ spine. He just knew John had all the qualities of a serial killer. He just knew it.

“How about you?” Negan was the one to ask this time and he directed the question at Elizabeth – call me Lizzy – who was of a mixed heritage with really nice skin that made Stiles want to touch but he knew nothing about the woman other than her name.

“Ob-gyn. Not that it looks like my skill will be much needed now.” She said shortly.

“Should we have been looking for some of your family before we left?” Stiles asked tentatively since he’d expected much more hysterics before they were on the road.

Lizzy shook her head, “My girlfriend had already left for Los Angeles while I was still at work. The last I heard from her they were on their way there with someone bitten in the car with them. I didn’t hold much hope for her even before you told us Los Angeles had been overrun. And my family lives in Atlanta.”

“It’s just me and a few friends but they took off as far as I know.” Jamie said.

“The same here.” Added Kevin.

“I picked people who were willing to go. There were a few others but once they heard about the security point they decided to risk it and ran. The others went to their families. So this is it.” John said.

“You did good work, so it’s fine by me.” Stiles smiled.

“So what is your long term plan anyway?” Lizzy asked.

“We’re going toward Washington, but if we find a good place to hole up before then we’ll set up our base there.” Negan added.

“Why Washington?” Kevin asked.

“I know the place pretty well and I already have a base in mind. These other two couldn’t come up with something more elegant so we decided to just go for it. Stiles is all about survival. Most of the things in the cars are there thanks to him and his ingenuity. We figure we’ll collect people along the way and see what happens. But if you feel like someone isn’t a good fit you speak up, because all it fucking takes is a one bad apple and we’re screwed.” Negan told them.

The rest of the people nodded, thinking they knew what Negan meant, but Stiles seriously doubted it. They had been lucky so far. Minimum number of walkers, no organized groups of people yet and no one truly vicious. And Stiles knew it was only a matter of time before someone honestly cruel stumbled upon them and that would eventually show just how strong of a group they really were, because Stiles had no doubt walkers wouldn’t be the only ones they will have to kill down the road.

“Come on, let’s eat and then sleep. Kevin, Lizzy and Jamie you’re on watch tonight. Talk to Simon about the hours you would prefer.” Stiles said before digging out some of the perishables he’d packed that were still good and should be eaten first.

Later, when they were all curled up by the small fire in their sleeping bags – curtesy of Stiles and his looting knack – Stiles was pressed against Negan in the double one he’d picked especially for them.

“I’d expected you to take charge earlier.” Stiles said softly, his hand against Negan’s firm chest and his head resting on Negan’s arm as he watched the light of the flames flicker in Negan’s eyes.

“Of course I fucking didn’t,” Negan moved his right hand from Stiles’ hip and gripped the hair at the back of Stiles’ neck, “You were so damn sexy ordering them around I couldn’t think past my fucking hard-on.”

Stiles blushed and hated himself for it a bit. Despite all the crap he’d had happen in his life, he wasn’t the most experienced when it came to anything sexual or romantic. He’d always felt that there was plenty of enthusiasm on his part but never enough opportunity and it seemed such a damn shame.

“The way you had us cut the girls arm made me want to push you against the nearest wall and fuck you senseless.” Negan whispered and leaned down biting at Stiles’ earlobe, his stubble scratching against Stiles’ skin, making him shiver.

Stiles gasped, tilting his head to give better access. “You’re really morbid, you know that?”

“Sure I do. I also know you fucking love it. It turns you on, the way I watch your every move, undress you with my eyes and pucker my lips when you speak thinking about slipping my tongue in your mouth. You all but whimper when I’m ruthless and cold, when I seem strong. Do you think I’m strong, baby boy?” Negan licked the edge of Stiles’ ear, “Hm? Do you?” he questioned then went on without waiting for an answer, “Yes, you do.” He reached for Stiles’ wrists and gripped them tightly in front of his chest, pressing his weight against Stiles before nipping at his neck. “I’ll have you spread out in front of me soon, tied up and unable to move, all that pale skin just aching for me to make it blush. I’d play with you first, torture your dick a little, make it drip and hurt, then I’ll make you come a few times, let you sweat and beg, all sensitive and flushed.” Stiles could feel Negan’s thigh in between his legs now, rubbing firmly against his hard dick, but Negan just kept going, “Maybe I’ll even fuck you, if you’re good for me, if you plead for it enough. Would you like that? Hm?” Negan waited a beat then growled pressing against Stiles harder, “Answer me. Would you like my thick cock stretching your tender, tight pussy?”

Stiles shivered at the word, feeling both shame and excitement and with a little whine he breathed, “Yes.”

“Yes, what, baby boy?” Negan licked the side of Stiles’ cheek.

Confused for a moment, Stiles hesitated before saying, “Yes, Negan.”

Negan grinned looking almost cruel in the dimmed light of the fire, “Not perfect, but it’ll do for now.” And with that he leaned down and took a hard, unyielding kiss. Because Negan didn’t ask, or encourage, he thrust his thigh against Stiles’ cock allowing no movement but only hard pressure and he plundered Stiles’ mouth as if he owned it, taking both breath and sound as he kissed until Stiles shook underneath him feeling his toes curl and his dick clench through orgasm.

“That’s it, baby boy. Just like that.” Negan whispered against his ear, both his hands in Stiles’ hair now, holding him still. “You were just beautiful, so perfect for me, baby boy. I want you like that every time, listening to me, doing exactly what I want you to, surrendering so nicely as if you were born to obey to me. So gorgeous.” Negan touched his lips against Stiles’ licking the swollen flesh ever so lightly, and then he tucked Stiles against him, uncaring about his own hardness which dug at Stiles’s hip, nor for the mess in Stiles’ pants which was downright uncomfortable.

But after such a heartfelt praise, something almost grew in Stiles’ chest, he could feel his wolf preening, chanting Alpha, and yours so softly Stiles thought he imagined it. And he just couldn’t disobey, get up and clean himself, or even move away from Negan’s firm embrace. All he could do was what his wolf wanted to do, to surrender once more and obey his Alpha, and surrender Stiles did.

As he relaxed and let sleep lull him in, he heard Negan breathe against him, “Good boy,” and he couldn’t remember ever feeling quite so content.

Morning gave an indication of another sunny day and after a peaceful night Stiles felt they were ready to move out. Nik was awake but obviously in pain and not speaking to anyone. Stiles didn’t much care but made sure she was taken good care of by the others and as comfortable as she could be. They had eaten, cleaned up in Stiles case, and packed their stuff and soon after they were on a road to Ely, Nevada.

Stiles had every intention of avoiding the town just as they’d done with every other larger place on their way and scavenge what they could along the road.

Their first snag happened just as they managed to circle the town via side roads and were trying to reach the Route 50 again. They were flagged by a man and a woman who had managed to crash their car with another further down the road and they obviously had a screaming child in the back of it.

Negan was the first in line and he’d decided to stop. Stiles parked behind him and said to Kevin and John, “Stay in the car, but have your guns and knives close. We don’t know what’s happening with them.”

Both of the guys nodded and seemed alert before Stiles got out of the car, leaving it running and with the door open. He walked to the crash site to hear Negan talking. “How the fuck were you driving, and with a kid, to manage to hit another car in this wasteland?”

“The other car just turned from his lane into ours and pushed us off the road. The guy is still in the car but he’s growling and I didn’t want to near him.” The frantic guy said.

Suddenly Negan was much more alert, “Were you bit?”

“What? No. I didn’t open the door or anything.” The guy said now frightened.

“And before? Did you get bit or scratched before the crash?” Negan persisted.

“No. We just packed out things and got out of town when the chaos started.” Now the wife got involved.

“Are you headed anywhere specific?” Negan asked.

“They said to head for Carson City on the radio.” The guy almost questioned.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t advise that shit. We’ve passed around it and it’s jammed to all hell. I doubt they’ll stay safe much longer.” Negan told them somewhat bluntly.

The guy paled and his wife wasn’t much better, but Stiles was more focused on the child. The sound of crying was piercing and there was just something about that cry which bothered Stiles. So slowly while Negan talked, he walked around and behind the parents’ backs until he got close enough to take a look inside the car.

The child was small, probably walking already but small enough Stiles would have called it a baby, and one of the little boy’s hands was wrapped up in gauze and whatever wound was underneath kept bleeding. It was surprising for a moment, but Stiles could smell the death coming from that wound and he felt his eyes flash for a moment.

Swiftly Stiles turned and called back, “How about your son? Was he bit?”

The reaction was instant, the mother yelling, “Stay away from my child!” while the man rushed as if to attack him only Negan grabbed the back of the man’s shirt and held him in place.

Stiles moved from the car and the mother his hands in the air, “Hate to say it, but your son will die sooner rather than later if he was bit, and if he was bit we’re not taking him with us.”

“You can’t do that, he’s just a child, you can’t just leave us here.” The mother yelled.

"In a different fucking world maybe not, but at this time and place, lady, we sure won’t be losing sleep over it.” Negan told her as he pushed her husband her way and motioned for Stiles to get back to the car.

Stiles probably should have felt worse about it than he actually did, but he supposed he just wasn’t that kind of a man anymore.

“What happened? Are we leaving them here?” Kevin asked as Stiles got into the car and followed after Negan.

“The kid was bit and we’re not bringing anyone bitten with us, so the parents are staying where they are.” Stiles said easily.

“That’s cold man. But I would have probably done the same.” John added and Stiles smiled amused, feeling once again as if he’d read the man right.

“Does that mean we’re taking random people with us? I kind of figured… I don’t know what I figured,” Keving laughed a bit, “I actually just realized that whoever we take with us they will be a stranger.”

“Yeah they will be, but if they are willing and a good match we’ll take them. Make sure we have enough supplies and shit along the way and we can take a lot of people. It would be good to make a community in the end and for right now there is security in numbers. Maybe not when we’re relatively safe and driving like now, but in the future shit might happened and we might run out of fuel. Then it will be a good thing to have more guns at hand.” Stiles explained.

That night they stopped near Durango after having to take a turn from the direct route to Denver. The traffic was horrible and while they did pick up a lot of things and their supplies had started spreading toward the back seats, it meant it was well into the night by the time they managed to stop. They made the same camp as before, only this time Jamie took the first watch and the rest of them went right to sleep after dinner.

The next day Stiles was exhausted having taken the last watch in the early morning and let Kevin drive while he hitched a ride with Negan.

Stiles slept through the morning and if they’d stopped anywhere in that time no one woke him up.

“Are you finally awake, baby boy?” Negan asked as Stiles rubbed at his eyes.

“Kind of. Where are we?” Stiles looked around seeing a hilly landscape.

“Trinidad, or close to anyway. I’m looking for side roads or something since we’re avoiding towns.” Negan easily said and Stiles turned around only to see they were alone in the car.

“You got rid of the company?” Stiles asked.

“It seemed like a good idea. We don’t get a lot of time to ourselves and if the days keep on going as they have we’ll end up sleeping as soon as we hit the sack. Been missing you, baby boy.” Negan dropped his hand on Stiles’ thigh squeezing lightly.

“Kind of missed you, too. Had fun the other night. Was an experience.” Stile said softly.

“Yeah?” Negan questioned then slid his hand higher, closer to Stiles’ crotch.

Stiles slid in his seat, making Negan’s hand climb even closer.

“Now that’s just naughty, baby boy. You sure you want me to play with you now?” Negan smirked at him and there was nothing even remotely innocent about that smirk.

But Stiles was feeling particularly brave so he just grinned and said, “Oh yeah, sexy times.”

Negan laughed, slapping his hand on the wheel but then his voice took that dangerous note, “Your hands on the headrest, do not move them and spread your legs as far as you can.”

Stiles complied so quickly his heart rushed and the blood headed south. But it was nothing compared to the thrill he felt when Negan whispered, “Good boy.”

He reached toward Stiles’ crotch and unzipped him roughly. One handed Negan dug out his cock and balls and pulled them out so that his boxers and jeans pressed uncomfortably underneath them. Stiles felt his claws come out and pierce the seat but the sight was so obscene he hardly cared.

Then Negan took hold of his T-shirt and pulled it up until he lifted it up over Stiles’ head and left it stuck behind his neck. Just the force of the move did things to Stiles and he watched as his exposed dick bobbed against his naked stomach.

He watched as Negan licked his thumb, all the while smirking evilly, then brought his hand to Stiles’ nipple. He rubbed gently at first, forcing a moan from Stiles’ lips, then he circled around as if absentmindedly. Stiles’ hips hitched but Negan just continued teasing lightly watching the road.

“You have such pretty skin, baby boy. All innocent and lickable. I’ll probably spend hours biting it sometime in the future, leaving my marks all over your flesh. I’d love to see you bruised and claimed.” Negan said conversationally.

But it was the word again, claimed, something his wolf reacted to and Stiles was totally unprepared for. He whined at the thought, imagining teeth at his neck, claws holding him down, pushing into him and claiming him.

“Oh would you look at that, you’re dripping for me. Are you feeling slutty already?” Negan dipped his fingers into the precome, rubbed it into Stiles’ belly, then lifted his fingers and pushed them roughly into Stiles’ mouth. “Suck them, baby boy. See how good you taste.”

Stiles moaned closing his eyes and was surprised when Negan pulled his fingers out and pinched his nipple, tugging at it sharply. Stiles hissed his cock bouncing against his belly again only for Negan to grip it tightly at the base to the point of pain but Stiles just moaned, kind of loving it.

Then it was back to the nipples, a vicious circle of torment which Stiles reveled in. On the other hand Negan looked as if he was watching TV and Stiles couldn’t see if his cock was hard. Arousal swam through the air but Stiles’ was so potent he wasn’t sure if he could scent Negan in all that. Just cum, sweat, some tears and excitement, so much excitement.

Meowling started as his nipples got real sensitive, his cock dripping continuously. Stiles could feel the headrest ripping under his claws and his eyes flashing gold every so often. He was squirming in place constantly, needing something to rub against, something to touch him, but other than a vicious squeeze here and there he got nothing, just wet fingers against his nipples, rubbing and pinching and rubbing some more, “Please…” He begged, the sound of his heartbeat deafening.

“Is baby boy exited? Do you need to dribble some more for me? Are you wet?” Negan taunted, his pinching gaining in strength and Stiles whined in both pain and pleasure.

“Come on baby, ask me for it.” Negan directed not once stopping with his fingers.

“Negan, please…” Stiles gasped as he felt the edge of a nail against his swollen nipple, “Please, make me come, please, Negan.”

“Holly fuck are you pretty when you plead with me. Wish I could give you all of my attention; stretch this for some hours more. Do you know you’ve been writhing for me for close to an hour now?” Negan slid his fingers down Stiles’ chest, over his belly, his touch barely there but Stiles felt it as if it were a fucking brand.

“You’re all flushed for me, aching, just what I wanted, baby boy. Wish I could take you in my mouth right now, taste those sweet fucking drops you’re spilling. But, oh well.” Negan said then took hold of his cock and pressed his thumb just below the slit and started rubbing insistently.

Stiles twisted in place, his cock so swollen and tender now and Negan’s fingers caused such conflicting sensations Stiles felt tears slide down his cheeks. It hurt, right on the edge of too much, but God it felt so good too. Negan persisted, he didn’t hesitate, he didn’t let his grip drop, his finger pump a couple of time, nothing, just his thumb and constant pressure.

Stiles whimpered and cried, turned as much as he could but forced his legs to stay open and his claws never once let go of the headrest. He was so close but God it hurt and he loved and he couldn’t…So fucking much and…

“Come on, baby boy, finish for me, don’t my fingers feel good rubbing your sweet little clit?”

Stiles came so hard he got a cramp in his side, Negan’s words so fucking kinky Stiles knew he would be embarrassed for days, but he still came and kept on coming, painting his chest and belly until it started to hurt and he twitched away, forcing Negan to let go.

Negan swiped the come with his fingers and fed it to Stiles without apology or explanation. He expected Stiles to eat it and feeling the silent command Stiles sucked on the fingers again and again as long as Negan wanted him to slowly dropping down from his high.

“Such a good boy, aren’t you baby?” Negan said sweetly, “Now zip up your pants and pull your shirt back on then come climb in my lap for a bit, I want to hold you. Careful of the wheel please.”

God Stiles felt uncoordinated and clumsy but he obeyed and as carefully as he could, he climbed into Negan’s lap, his legs on edges of the seat and he pressed his head against Negan’s shoulder.

“Feeling embarrassed, baby boy?” Negan asked, his hand at the back of Stiles’ neck, tugging at his hair.

Stiles just nodded. He felt damn good, but God was he ashamed and he didn’t think he’d ever felt that shy in his life as he did in that moment, taking in Negan’s scent, the leather and man and Alpha. He would really have to take the time to chat with his wolf one of these days.

“Don’t be. I loved every minute of it. Loved touching your clit, your little titties, wished I could have tasted them too…” Negain trailed off and slid his hand down Stiles’ back all the way to his crack where he lingered tauntingly.

“Oh God,” Stiles whimpered, his cock giving it another effort.

“Shhhh, it’s alright. We’ll have the time to explore all that. You take your comfort now, I’m right here holding you.” Negan whispered and pressed a kiss against Stiles’ forehead.

He didn’t know how long he sat there, but eventually they pulled over, raided some cars and had a bite to eat and if Stiles felt awkward and as if everyone could smell the traces of spunk on his skin, no one commented on it. Instead Negan was always there to give his a reassuring smile, a kiss against his cheek or just another ‘good boy’ which had Stiles shivering. It was a good morning, one to remember.

In the end it took them a few more days to near Memphis, the roads getting crowded and the walkers increasing in number. They were in a populated area and it showed. What was up to that point a rather fast ride, turned to more of an avoidance game where they had to use every side path they found and still they came upon people and cars.

That same night Memphis burned and with it the world around them turned into chaos.

Chapter Text

They could hear the screams of the people closer to town even from a distance as they watched the bombs fall and the flames swallow the whole city. The smoke was horrible and the panic around them terrifying. Stiles had never seen anything like it and despite not knowing what exactly had gotten to him the most, he still felt the fear at the sight.

The car pile-ups toward the city were long and while they were at the very end they could see the people getting out of their vehicles watching and screaming. Their families were there, it had been another security point and who knows how many people had looked for safety in the city lines only to be burned to death. Another sanctuary must have fallen.

“Why would they do that?” Jamie asked while Stiles could hear Lizzy throwing up on the side of the road.

He turned to check out the rest of them, but the only one with an unusual expression was Nik and Stiles wasn’t sure what to make of her at the moment. She had been feeling better, moving around, functioning and personally Stiles thought she should have been grateful for surviving when so many others had met their end.

“The infection has spread and they are trying to contain it. The refugee camp must have fallen.” Billy answered.

“God knows how many cities they’ve burned.” Kevin said softly.

“Come on. We have to get out of here. The dead will follow the noise and the food and we don’t want to be in their way once they do. We go around and we don’t stop. The further we are away from this place the better.” Negan hit the roof of his truck with his palm and got into the car.

They all but crawled down the road, driving over fields where they were able until they left Memphis behind and finally stopped at the edges of some farm in the early hours of the morning.

“No fire this time. We’ll just stop for a while to stretch our legs and eat something.” Negan said from up front as they all got out.

It was a rest stop of sorts with a small store and café attached. Without speaking about it, Negan motioned for Stiles and he called, “John and Jamie, watch out backs.”

They went inside cautiously, noticing that very little of it was actually looted but they still went forward with Negan leading the way and Stiles keeping a watchful eye on their surroundings. Suddenly Jamie shouted, “Watch out!” when a zombie tripped over to Stiles from the side of the shelves.

He pushed it away then slammed his knife in its head, but the noise seemed to have called the others because the swinging door connected to the café opened and a good dozen walkers stumbled their way inside.

“Shit"!” Stiles yelled before screaming at John and Jamie, “Get out! Get out!”

“Stiles, this way! Negan called for him and they rushed into to back office like space where Negan dropped another walker.

They closed and locked the door but it wouldn’t hold them for long.

“The window.” Stiles motioned toward the one leading to the other side of the building. It wasn’t very big but both of them could crawl outside.

Negan opened it just as the wood of door behind them started creaking and breaking.

“Hurry, hurry, hurry!” Stiles chanted behind him when the door snapped and the first walker started falling right at Stiles.

Heart almost jumping out of his chest, Stiles lifted his knife and reached to his left for anything he could find when his hand wrapped around something cold and he swung it in front of himself with all his might.

The walker fell away and before the others could reach him, Negan pulled the back of his hoodie and dragged him out of the window.

The weight of him had Negan tripping backwards straight into a barb wire. It cut into him and caught on his clothes and as he tried to stand up it just pulled him down again making him grunt.

“Fuck! Shit!” Stiles felt it cut a line on his arm through the hoodie but he did his best to try and untangle Negan. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite working and the walkers had started to push through the window.

“Fucking bullshit!” Stiles yelled and pressed the edge of his knife against the wire pole and started frantically hitting it with the bat.

Negan did his best to get out of his jacket but it had pierced through and was cutting his shirt and into his skin.

Stiles turned and broke the skull of the one zombie that had managed to get out then ran to the other pole and started hitting the same line of wire with his knife and bat.

Negan managed to pull out one hand out of the jacket and he slid out his knife and killed another walker heading after him.

Stiles screamed, fucking scared and feeling the adrenaline hitting him. He got back to Negan, wrapped the part of the jacket that he was free of around the wire and started pulling at it, using all his strength and weight.
When the wire finally snapped, Negan fell forward, the bottom wire line ripping at his pants and skin while the upper, broken one gained momentum and hit Stiles right across his face.

He yelled, but more of the walkers had managed to get out and there were others drawn by the noise from the field, so he ignored the momentary pain and pulled Negan up before dragging him back to the car, barbed wire and all.

Negan leaned down in motion to pick up their bats and they ran around the whole building only to meet up with Kevin and Jamie in the middle.

“Go, go, go!” Stiles shouted and all of them found their way to the cars.

Negan crawled in the back seat while Stiles jumped in the front and they were on the road again.

The silence was broken only by the harsh breathing for a few minutes as Simon drove when Stiles started hitting the dash board and screaming, “Shit! Fucking shit! Fuck! That did not just happen! Jesus fucking Christ are you fucking kidding me! Fucking bullshit, that’s what that was back there! Jesus!”

He wanted to cry and he had no idea it that was from relief or just fright. He didn’t even feel bad about the dented and cracked plastic of the dashboard as he’d apparently lost control of his strength.

When he eventually calmed he asked, “Are you alright back there?”

“Yeah. Just cut to shit. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the might of barbed wire as much as I do right now.” Negan said dryly.

Stiles took a moment then started laughing like a lunatic.

Eventually Simon asked, “Did he hit his head or something?” which only made Stiles laugh harder.

“He just can’t believe we actually lived through that.” Negan said sounding pained, then after a few seconds added, “You know, I’m still tangled in that shit and it fucking hurts.”

Stiles laughed to tears.

They stopped next in a relatively clear spot with good visibility and it took two people to free Negan from the rest of that wire. Billy and Lizzy cleaned and even stitched some of his wounds but Negan was a good sport about it, much better than Stiles who hovered like a mother hen and kept twisting his fingers until Negan noticed the blood on his palms and face from the wire.

The roles instantly reversed but while Negan tried to check him out, Stiles kept his eye on the doctors saying, “It’s alright, none of it is my blood. I’m fine, I’m good.”

Once they actually left him alone, Negan was the first to ask, “Instant healing, huh?”

“Apparently. I mean I know what being a werewolf actually means, but we’re on the move constantly, I’m stressed and mentally occupied plus it’s all still really new. I forget I have the strength and that certain things can’t hurt me. I would have acted differently back then if I’d remembered I can actually rip every piece of clothing on you to pieces. It would have been damn useful.” Stiles said tiredly.

Negan chuckled, “We’ll have to test that sooner rather than later. There’s just something about ripping clothes as a form of fucking foreplay.”

Stiles blushed, hiding his face against Negan’s neck, but it was a comforting moment, something he really needed after being so scared for Negan’s life. They were good, they were okay, and they should fucking keep it that way.

Patched up and relatively clean, they were back on the road seeing signs for Waynesboro with Negan driving and Stiles riding shotgun. Stiles had his feet on the dashboard, holding Negan’s bat between his legs as he wrapped the barbed wire around the wood.

“You’re making my weapon pretty?” Negan asked, looking in pain but too stubborn to stretch in the back.

“I’m making it more deadly. That was fucking bullshit what happened there. This will be a reminder to never get in stupid shit like that again.” Stiles said just offended for living due to nothing but pigheadedness and dumb luck.

“I really can’t argue that. Probably would have had the same breakdown as you did but I was in too much fucking pain and you’d already said it all for me.” Negan confessed.
“As soon as we make a base, or even a temporary base, we teach those people to have our backs. And we need more pawns, someone more expendable than doctors. I keep sparing Billy whenever we stop just because it won’t be so easy to find another damn surgeon.” Stiles told him, making sure the wire was sitting right.

“First we’ll have to find someplace safe. We’re too vulnerable on the road like this. I want walls and fences, shit like that.”

Stiles nodded, “Yeah, and we’ll have all that.” Then he lifted the bat between them and dropped his legs, “Here, you like it?”

He turned the bat around so Negan could see it better, then feeling almost shy whispered, “I was thinking we could call her Lucille. Have our girl right here fighting with us.”

Negan was quiet for a long moment, then he signaled he was stopping and pulled up to the side of the road. He turned toward Stiles, taking the bat out of his hands and laying it to the side. He took hold of Stiles’ upper arms and dragged him into his lap where he kissed him senseless.

By the time they took a breath Negan was silently crying, and Stiles shushed him, kissing his cheeks and wiping away his tears.

“God I love you, baby boy.” Negan rubbed his thumbs against Stiles’ biceps. “She couldn’t have picked better for me, could she?”

“I think I’m in love with you, too.” Stiles whispered shyly, lowering his gaze only for Negan to tip his chin back up.

“It’s you and me now, baby boy, to the end of this shitty apocalypse until perhaps we’ll see her again.” Negan said then pressed a soft kiss against Stiles’ lips. “Now, since I’ll have Lucille with me, you should have your bit of her too.” Negan took off Lucille’s scarf from around his neck and wrapped it around Stiles’. “Red on you really fucking turns me on, baby boy.”

Stiles couldn’t think of anything to say, but he blushed and he rubbed the edge of the soft scarf in between his fingers until Negan tapped his palm against Stiles’ thigh and Stiles’ took it as a signal to move back to his seat.

“We’ll have to look for some type of communication devices when we stop by an electronics store or whatever.” Negan said as he looked in his rearview mirror and Stiles turned to see the others with their doors open ready to get out.

Instead, Negan signaled again and got back on the road, the others following soon enough.

“You know, this boy saved my life a couple of times already,” Stiles said as he dragged out the bright blue aluminum bat he’d accidentally picked up in the office room, from the back seat. “Look, it’s even scuffed from where I hit the knife with it. Maybe I should call it Roscoe, for my car. God, that car went through wars with me and survived. Not without damage mind you, but he was there for me.”

“I think that’s fitting, besides, it’s not fair that I have a bat with a name and you don’t.” Negan grinned at him and Stiles smiled back, pulling the bat closer and touching the scarf around his neck again. Sure, the zombies crawled over Earth, the food would soon become scarce and it was more than likely people would fight people in no time, but it wasn’t all bad and with Negan by his side, Stiles thought he could come out on top and be content.

Another stop to eat and a switch in drivers found Stiles behind the wheel with Nik riding shotgun and Jamie sleeping in the back. Negan had wanted to speak to Billy and Lizzy in the other car and settle on a procedure when it came to dealing with walkers and keeping the doctors alive.

Nik wasn’t the most talkative person anymore and while she seemed to hold certain animosity toward Stiles she kept quiet about it and Stiles wasn’t the same person from before, who had to fill every silence with unimportant chatter. Her keeping her mouth shut was more than fine by him.

As they finally neared Chattanooga Stiles wished they could have found a way around it. There were fires burning deep in the city and the roads leading to it were blocked in both directions. It was pretty much the same with side roads as well and there seemed to have been a large accident up ahead of them with five semi-trucks as far as he could see. Everything around was a mass of destruction with flipped over cars, spilled cargo and even a couple of cars precariously hanging off the semi-trailers, but there was a path cleared in between them and Stiles figured the actual accident had happened before the world went to shit and there had still been people doing their jobs.

The two cars almost crawled in front of Stiles, their progress slow and cautious, but when they actually started driving in between the damaged trucks a large piece of the semi-trailer broke and fell in front of Stiles’ car.

Cursing softly, Stiles said, “Just gimme a second and I’ll be right back.” taking his bat with him just in case.

He got out of the car leaving the door open and started pulling the damn thing off the road. He could hear the walkers growling nearby and pulled harder only for Nik to close the door and hit the gas just as she was cleared to move.

Stiles cursed, not crazy enough to yell and rushed after the car. But by now Negan was far up ahead and Nik drove way too fast for the narrow passage. He saw as she clipped one of the trailers just as she neared the other cars and up at the front of the semi a car that was balanced on top of it flipped and fell right on top of Negan’s car.

This time Stiles did scream running toward the cars when a fucking herd came out of nowhere and pushed their way in between the damaged trucks heading straight at him. Barely able to stop, Stiles back tracked, hitting one of the zombies in front of him. But they were all around him and feeling the desperation crawling up his chest, Stiles took one last look at the group cars far ahead of him before he turned back and ran in the opposite direction.

He climbed one of the undamaged semis in the far back and saw the cars were still there but he couldn’t see what was happening except that people had gotten outside and there were zombies getting way too close. Nik pushed against the back of Negan’s car with hers and bit by bit Stiles saw them getting free but by then there were just as many walkers around them as there were around him and he had no way of reaching them without going through dozens of walkers who were already attacking the trailer he was on.

Running on the top of the trailer he prayed Negan was alright since that car had fallen right over the people inside the truck but even as she did his best to reach them, the cars broke free and drove off.

Desperate and trapped, Stiles crawled inside the small hole on the top of the trailer and hunkered down inside trying his best to stay quiet until the walkers trailed away.

It must have been hours by the time the sounds quieted but while it had been easy to jump inside, it was a different story to just climb back up. He dragged the crates bellow the hole and eventually pulled himself up, this time managing to cut himself on a piece of damaged metal all the way from his shoulder down his back.

As he stood on top of the trailer he took in the car graveyard around him and moved toward the place he’d last seen the group cars. He killed a stray walker here and there only to finally stop when he reached the fallen car and Negan’s bloody leather jacket. It had been damaged by the barbed wire but still wearable, but now the whole front was torn and soaked in blood. He smelled it, the scent of Negan making him dizzy for a moment as the strength of his sense of smell overwhelmed him.

Shaking it off and then hearing the sounds of growling behind him, Stiles wiped the tears off his cheeks with the back of his hand, only then noticing there was blood dripping down his fingers. He dropped the jacket and pulled off his hoodie. The back of it was ripped, but what was worse, he’d bled enough to attract the walkers right to him. The place was crawling with them and he just couldn’t stay there, not even to wait in case the group came back for him.

Stiles threw the hoodie next to Negan’s jacket, almost wishing he could just hug the fucking thing and let the walkers end it for him. But Stiles had always been stronger than that, a survivor and he couldn’t make himself just lie down and die. He would go to Washington after them, Negan being alive or not. After all, even if there was nothing for him there anymore, he still had a bitch to kill.

Stiles walked for a while away from the worst of the pile up after he’d lost the horde until he found a lone tractor unit with the door actually open and a bed in the back. He looked around and not noticing any walkers he climbed inside and closed the door.

It wasn’t very spacious but it was a good enough place to sleep for the night. He picked through the cabinets until he found a first aid kit. Tilting the side mirror the best he could he looked at his back only to realize the wound was gone because he was a fucking werewolf. A werewolf. He could have jumped to the trapped cars and killed that bitch on the spot… but it probably wouldn’t have worked anyway considering there had been a horde of walkers surrounding them and werewolf or not, he still would have been lunch.

Eating everything he’d managed to find in the small fridge which wasn’t yet spoiled, he dug out a shirt two sizes too big for him and crawled into the bed in the back.

When he woke up it was morning. He contemplated going back to the crash site one last time, but there was really no point, it was better to work his way around Chattanooga and head for Washington.

In the end, the plan had sounded much better in his head than in reality. There was no way around Chattanooga other than by foot. If the car pileup was manageable, as soon as he stopped for more than a few minutes the place was crawling with zombies and there was no way for him to move so many of the stuck cars off the road. One hour of looking for a way, then two and all he’d managed to achieve was head further south.

He’d found a truck with some gas in it and the keys still inside and started doing the same as his group had done. When there were just one or two cars on the road, he picked them clean, even finding a canister by the side of an abandoned car still half full. The poor guy must have gotten eaten just as he’d tried to refuel.

That car however was a goldmine. It had weapons, both guns and knives, a sleeping bag and a tent, boots that were too big for Stiles but he took them anyway just in case and half a trunk filled with cans of food. Fucking score.
The only issue was he was still headed south and he sure could have used some company at least to help him get a handle on his wolf. The thing was pacing inside, agitated and pissed. Stiles’ eyes kept flashing and his claws digging into the wheel. He felt as if he was stretching himself thin and the wolf kept whining at him to stop. Only Stiles couldn’t stop. Without a group he wasn’t safe and there was no other way to get to Washington.

He was passing Cassville when he took note of a grocery and slowed down hesitating. It might be too much for him, but God was it tempting. Just then two pickup trucks drove off a side road, men with guns standing in the back bed ready for a show.

Stiles gunned it, ducking as he heard the gunshots and pretty sure some of those hit, but after a few minutes they stopped tailing him and he took a breath relieved. That had been too close for comfort.

Already out of the town and heading south, again, Stiles heard the sounds of a pick up once more, but when he looked in the rear-view mirror there was no one following him. Just then something slammed in his side pushing him off the road and forcing the metal to cut into his leg and pin it down. Stiles screamed.

The healing kicked in right away, but the metal was still in his leg and it kept on cutting into the meat of it as he heard people getting out of the truck and coming near his vehicle. High on survival, Stiles leaned down despite the pain and wrapped his hand around the gun that had slid off the side seat onto the floor. When he came up he turned toward the sound and started shooting.

Stiles was very good at shooting and he’d killed three of them before the fourth guy managed to hit him in his shoulder, the bullet going all the way out the back. Stiles gritted his teeth and ignoring the pain shot the last man down. His gun still in the air, he watched his surroundings carefully, waiting for the other pickup to appear, but when he heard no one for a while he dropped his shaking hand.

“Now for the dirty work,” He mumbled as he took a look at his bleeding leg.

With both hands he gripped the metal and pulled it out, bending it back against the door, and before the wound even had a chance to close, he pushed the door outward to free himself before crawling out through the other side.

He still didn’t hear anyone around except some growling in the distance, so he checked the guys were actually dead before going toward their pickup. It was solid with enough fuel to take him far enough away so he took the guns from the men, loaded them up in their pickup and started quickly transferring all his things.

The blood had attracted walkers soon enough and with making sure he had his bat, Stiles closed the door to his new truck and got swiftly out of there.

He didn’t stop until he was closer to Atlanta than he possibly could have planned and wasn’t that just his fucking luck. He robbed a couple of more cars until he found some clothes in a trunk and at that point he was way past caring. When he looked at himself he had more blood on him than clear skin and his stomach was eating at itself. He was dirty and starving and this close to Atlanta everything stunk to high heaven. As he tried to suppress the scent of decay he caught the smell of fire and he just knew Atlanta had gotten the same treatment as Memphis and wasn’t that a cosmic joke.

Taking out a couple of bottles of water he’d scavenged, he ripped the clean part of the shirt he’d been wearing, wetted it and started rubbing the blood away in just his underwear at the side of the fucking road.

Of course that was the moment the fucking bushes slightly away from him started to rustle and without taking the time to blink, Stiles picked up the guns off the roof of his car and turned to face whatever was coming his way.

“Damn! It sure is the apocalypse Darylina. We’ve got twinks bathing themselves in blood right in the middle of the fucking road.” A tough looking guy pointing a shotgun at Stiles said as he got out of the tall bush.

Not long after him another guy, looking younger but scruffier came out too, only this one was carrying a fucking crossbow and again, pointing it right at Stiles.

Without hesitation, Stiles directed his other gun slightly to the left at the new guy but kept the other one on the first man. Just another thing he didn’t need right now.

At that moment he noticed them sniffing the air and without conscious thought Stiles sniffed back. If someone had asked how exactly he knew, or why smelling like forest, earth and the wild meant they were werewolves Stiles would have told them he hadn’t the faintest idea. But his wolf was somewhere between growling in threat and throwing himself on the ground cooing ‘pack mates – goood’. The beast was fucking ridiculous.

“Well, well, if we don’t have ourselves a mutt.” The older guy drawled as he leaned his shotgun on his shoulder.

Being a werewolf apparently also meant the younger guy would lower his crossbow, but despite knowing the guns would do little damage, Stiles was on his own with strange wolves and all that meant was that he was an easy prey so every little bit of an advantage could only help.

“Put your toys down, little twinky cub. Ain’t no one here’s gonna attack ya.” The older man said, “The name’s Merle, and this here’s Daryl, my little brother.”

Daryl just grunted and inclined his head slightly, but Stiles figured it was as good a greeting as any.

They did seem openly honest and while Stiles had no idea how to focus on just the heartbeats as of yet, his wolf seemed at ease and it automatically let Stiles relax some. He lowered his guns slightly and offered, “I’m Stiles.” Grimacing at how rough his voice sounded.

“Been through the rough, haven’t ya, little cub?” Merle moved closer and leaned his hip on the tail of the truck still watching Stiles while Daryl used the opportunity to mess with his crossbow.

“The world’s not a friendly place,” Stiles said, then after a moment added, “And bitches seem to grow on fucking trees.”

Merle started laughing at that and even Daryl let out a rough chuckle.

“Ya’re alright little twinky cub. Why don’t ya wash up now, all that blood’s makin’ me hella hungry.” Merle said smirking.

Finally Stiles smiled even as he rolled his eyes and he put his guns back on the roof and continued cleaning himself.

“Far from home, ain’t ya? Them words don’t sound all southern like to me.” Merle added conversationally.

“California. Had a group heading for Washington but a certain bitch left me for the walkers and I couldn’t find a clear way heading there again. Instead I kept on getting pushed south.” Stiles answered and he had a suspicion his wolf was responsible for all that honesty. “I just can’t catch a break and find them again.”

“Well now, don’t be like that, you’ve met us now, and there ain’t no better luck than having a well able pack. What do ya say, boy?” Merle asked with a grin.

Stiles pulled on a plaid shirt over a T-shirt he’d found in the last car, feeling nostalgic for a moment before he looked at Daryl, the man just observing him cautiously, then turned back toward Merle, “I might as well. I’ve almost died a few times since I’ve been alone and it’s barely been a day. So long you understand I’m heading for Washington as soon as I find someone willing to keep me company. Unless you’re interested in going with me?”

Merle smiled widely then rubbed at his chin, “Don’t rightly know yet, do I? Let’s see how we fit first and then go on from there, little cub.”

Stiles nodded. It wasn’t perfect but it was the best he was going to get. If just a few hours of driving alone could be such a fucking disaster he wasn’t planning on trying to reach Washington on his own and so far Merle and Daryl had the approval of his wolf. Stiles doubted it would get better than that.

Chapter Text

They’d decided not to move ahead that day, and instead they drove the trucks up to an abandoned one story building, the backs of them right against the walls in case they had to get away and made their camp on the flat roof.

The brothers worked in tandem, lighting a fire then rolled a metal barrel over to it. The thing had a hole on the bottom part and was even partially cut out on one side, but they flipped it over and just like that a light bulb lit above Stiles’ head. They covered the fire with it, found a wider pipe and stuck it in the hole of the barrel up top for the smoke and their fire was hidden but giving out warmth like crazy nonetheless.

“The night is kind of cool.” Stiles offered as he rubbed his hands. It wasn’t exactly cold, but he was feeling weak and he liked the warmth.

Daryl opened a few cans and put them on the top of the barrel to heat the food up and Stiles actually smiled. All of it was sort of domestic and he felt taken care of after such a shit day which had his wolf going all puppy on him.

“Ya do know we can smell what’cha feelin’ right?” Daryl spoke for the first time, giving Stiles an almost incredulous look beneath his eyebrows.
Stiles just shrugged. “Can’t help it. I’ve never been ashamed of expressing myself, but since I’ve been bit the wolf keeps pushing his wants up front.”

“How long ago was that?” Merle asked as he sat right next to Stiles, their arms brushing against each other.

“A week ago, maybe ten days.” Stiles said then thanked Daryl as he offered him a hot can of soup wrapped in thick cloth.

Merle whistled softly leaning back, “Ya sure as shit are out of luck, twinky boy.”

“Yeah, tell me about it. I mean I knew about werewolves and all kinds of shit from before, ran with a pack for a few years, but never wanted to be one myself, and then all the wolves I knew are dead, the dead are walking and what do you know, among them my ex best Alpha werewolf friend.”

“You got bit by a walker?” Daryl tensed as he looked at him.

“Jumped me in the forest, slashed me up good and took a chunk out of my shoulder. But I recovered and the next day my eyes were flashing. Didn’t even occur to me that a dead wolf’s bite would transfer werewolf mojo rather than the virus, but there you have it.” Stiles took a sip of his soup.

“What happened to the Alpha?” Daryl titled his head as he looked at Stiles.

“Got shot in the head and had it chopped off.” Stiles said with an honest grin.

Merle snorted laughing, “I like your wicked streak, boy. Now that bite ain’t the same as one from a live Alpha, but got no damn idea how it would have changed ya. Are ya immune to the biters?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t chanced it and I don’t plan on it.” Stiles told him.

“I can tell you we are partially immune. One of our own got bit on his shoulder and days later he was still right as rain, all healed up too. But a few days ago he got bit again, only this time the wound was worse. Chunks of meat missing and shit. Turned just as regular people. I’m thinkin’ the wolf can fight either a wound or the virus but it can’t do both.” Merle explained.

“Same thing happen’ to our pa. Got reckless, thinkin’ no biter could mean the end of him and got himself dead as soon as one of them bastards got a hold of his neck. It don’t make a lick of difference that he’d been an Alpha.” Daryl added nodding.

Thinking, Stiles commented, “Neither of you smells Alpha to me.” Hoping for an explanation.

“That’s cause we ain’t.” Merle sat up straight with a frown almost shining out the anger, “Ol’ bastard got killed by a biter and wasn’t of a mind to pass it along.”

“Wait, it means just dying doesn’t get you the Alpha power anymore? You have to kill the zombie too?” Stiles widened his eyes as he looked at Merle.

“Seems like it. Our pa took off and bein’ dead an all means he don’t smell right no more. Couldn’t track him.” Daryl said.

“So are you handling the whole no Alpha thing? Or is he still your Alpha?” Stiles let himself lean against Merle again, rubbing the ground with the tip of his shoe. His wolf appreciated it.

“Fucked up is what it is. He’s still Alpha, but the moment he died he done stopped being ours. Not connected with the livin’ no more I recon. Was getting itchy fore we met ya, but it’s better now. You’re alone but have a tie with an Alpha somewhere and your wolf’s taking us in.” Daryl told him despite seeming reluctant to even speak.

Stiles just looked at them. “I don’t understand. I don’t even know any alive werewolves anymore other than you two.”

“Well who done and got the Alpha who bit you killed?” Merle took hold of Stiles neck and shook him lightly.

“That was my… my mate I supposed I should call him. Shot the dumbass in the head, but he’s human, he can’t be my Alpha.” Stiles leaned into the touch.

“Sure he can. All ya need is a damn strong personality and you done got yourself an Alpha for the pickin’. He don’t work quite the same, ain’t got no healin’ or the strength but the connection’s there. That friend of yours being a dead Alpha might change it up some more. Don’t rightly know.” Merle said.

“Huh. I think my wolf’s been crooning about it for days but I’ve been too stupid to listen.” Stiles confessed. “Would you be willing to teach me about my instincts and stuff? I know more than I should about werewolves from an outsider’s perspective, but it’s different being one.”

“You’re pack now, twinky boy, we sure plan on doin’ our best.” Merle grinned as he pulled Stiles closer and Stiles let him.

That night they slept next to each other, one of them on watch while the other two hugged it out. Stiles always knew there should have been puppy piles going on in his previous pack, but all of them were too emotionally repressed to acknowledge it and the rest were horny teenagers squashing the feeling with sex. It really fucking figured that two strangers made him fit better in a pack then his childhood friends ever managed.

In the morning they packed quickly and while Merle and Daryl moved their stuff back to the truck, Stiles kept on staring at their fire.

“Do you think we could take that barrel with us? It’s a really good idea and I doubt we’ll find something similar at our next stop. And what is our next stop anyway?” Stiles turned to look at Merle.

Rubbing at his unshaven jaw, Merle said, “We was thinkin’ of heading for this quarry near Atlanta. There’s water and it should be good hunting for a while. With you now and this burnin’ desire to head for Washington, we might just stop there to take a real bath and maybe preserve some game for the travel.”

“I’d kick myself later if I missed an opportunity to gather more supplies.” Stiles mumbled. “I’ll follow you. It doesn’t really sit well with me to head for Atlanta. It burned just like Memphis and it’s nothing I really want to see. Plus it will probably be crawling with walkers just like every other city I’d passed. Anyway, I’ll go with you.”

“Good. Now that’s settled, go pick up your barrel and we’ll get goin’.” Merle pushed him toward the ashes of the fire none too gently but Stiles didn’t mind, after all it was playful and he barely felt it.

Merle was driving up ahead on his bike while Stiles and Daryl followed in their trucks, only Stiles had trouble breaking up his habit and after stopping twice to gather supplies with Merle leaving them behind unintentionally, Merle had had enough.

“You’re like a damn hamster picking up shit everywhere and tucking it in your stash. This way we won’t be reaching anywhere before dark.”

“Well I can’t just leave all this stuff laying round. What if we need it sometime in the future? No one is making tampons anymore,” He held up a box of them in one hand making Merle’s jaw drop, “or toothpaste! There are no dentists around so we have to get toothpaste wherever we can.”

“You’re fucking stoppin’ for tampons?” Merle asked incredulously.

“Are you one of them hoarders with basements full of stuff?” Daryl asked from the side looking at Stiles as if he were a fascinating rare creature.

Stiles rolled his eyes, “It’s not just tampons, it’s everything, and no, I’m not a hoarder, or I haven’t been before. But times have changed and soon enough there won’t be any soap or cigarettes or alcohol. Look, if we ever pick up a woman along the way you can always exchange tampons for her washing your clothes or something.”

“You’ve got an alcohol stash back there?” Daryl leaned over Stiles to look at the back of his truck.

“Son,” Merle threw his arm around Stiles and hugged him closer, “If we ever pick us up a woman, the last thing I’ll ask of her is to wash my clothes. But I see ya point, tampons are valuable merchandise. Darylina, from now on, we’ll be hoarding us some tampons.”

Stiles shrugged him off and rolled his eyes again. It was such a typical Merle thing to say, but at least he got his point across. He looked at Daryl who was still checking out the back of his truck, “I have some alcohol, not as much as I would like. Why do you even care, it’s not like you can get drunk?”

Both Merle and Daryl laughed at him but it was Merle who answered, “Twinky boy, the two of us,” He motioned between Daryl and him, “when the dead hit, we didn’ go for food or guns, we went for wolfsbane. And we got ourselves a mighty fine stash.”

Stiles snorted, then laughed, “I should have known, but honestly, I totally respect that move. I had both wolfsbane and mountain ash along with some books before. You never know what might come in handy. Now can I please continue with my hoarding?”

Daryl snorted but both of them helped and it was easier when there were three of them and someone always watching for walkers.

By the time they reached the road leading to the quarry, both trucks were full of supplies and Stiles had with him two damn cranky rednecks who only wanted to curl up somewhere and sleep. Stiles had fed them well as a reward for their efforts and they had enough of food to keep them supplied for a couple of weeks at least, and months when it came to everything else.

Of course that was when they came upon a whole camp of incompetent idiots and their children, and Stiles had a feeling none of his efforts would be enough to keep that group alive.

“For fuck sake. They’re on a fucking camping trip.” Stiles said standing there in front of their cars with Daryl and Merle by his side and overlooking all the tents right there in the open with no protection, no watch other than some guy taking a nap on the RV… Was that a fucking ironing board? Shit, they were just a fucking buffet waiting for the walkers to stumble on them.

He didn’t even feel like pointing his guns. It was just fucking sad. Of course Merle and Daryl didn’t have those issues. Theirs were directed straight at the campers and they came closer to Stiles protecting his back as the people around them finally realized there were strangers among them.

“We just steel their shit when they go sleep and be on our way.” Merle whispered quiet enough for just Daryl and Stiles to hear.

“I’m seriously considering it.” Stiles rubbed the back of his head as he watched most of the people stay back while the one on the RV somehow got down and another, macho man, came up front gun in hand.

“This place here is occupied, folks.” The guy said.

“I can see that. You on a camping trip or something?” Stiles took a look at the rest of them. It seemed like the only ones with any guns were the front man and the old guy. Two others looked like they could maybe do something, and one woman if that. Overall they really were a sorry bunch.

“It don’t matter. There’s no more room here.” He said.

“Sure there is. Look at all them woods. Plenty of space.” Merle grinned.

“Maybe we don’t want you here.” A skinny lady snapped.

“To tell you the truth we don’t really care at this point. We need some time to regroup and this is the safest spot for the moment. It doesn’t matter if you like it or you don’t we’re staying here for a while. Now you can remove your guns and let us set up camp or we can do this a more difficult way and we take them and get rid of all of you who seem like a threat.” Stiles looked at the front guy straight in the eye and waited for the reaction.

The guy gritted his teeth, obviously pissed but he turned around, looked at the skinny woman and the kid next to her them then spat on the ground, “You keep to yourselves and cause no trouble.”

“Fine by us.” Stiles smiled but waited until those in the camp lowered their guns then motioned for Merle and Daryl to do the same.

Not feeling the threat anymore, Stiles motioned for the two to follow to their truck.

“I ain’t playing nice with the Brady Bunch!” Merle growled at Stiles’s back.

“I’m not asking you to. It was your idea to recoup a bit and I understand that, I need some time to rest. In worst case scenario, with them here, the walkers will have a very loud snack before they come for us. It’s win win.” Stiles explained then got in the car, “We should find the best place for a quick getaway and where we’re not as exposed as the others.”

Daryl looked around them, “That right there’s our best stop. Nothing can come at us from the back.”

“Good. We’ll park the cars so we can get out of here quick.” Stiles got inside and drove the distance before getting back out.

He started unpacking his sleeping bag, the tarp he’d found and he picked up that barrel they’d used before.

Merle and Daryl brought their bags and the tent to the same space and started setting up. Not long after they had the tent set, the tarp stretched above for protection from possible rain and the sun and Daryl was starting on the fire.

“You wanna go hunting?” Merle asked Daryl.

“Should. ‘s a good spot.” With the fire going, Daryl picked up his bow.

“Should I go with you?” Stiles stood but Daryl just shook his head.

“The boy loves them trees. He needs to unwind after bein’ ‘round so many people.” Merle added his bit as he dropped down by the fire tinkering with his rifle. Stiles didn’t even know he had one.

As Daryl left, Stiles stretched out on the ground thinking about their location. He was so far from Washington it wasn’t even funny. But on the other hand he couldn’t know Negan was even alive. He could maybe ask Merle what he thought, doubting him despite the previous reassurance, but Stiles wasn’t sure if he wanted to know the answer at this point. If Negan was alive then Stiles was an asshole who was slacking around instead of going to him, and if he was dead then Washington didn’t matter in the least.

There was also the issue of not knowing where exactly had Negan settled down. Stiles could get there and never find him, or even get there before Negan if his group ran into trouble on the road. It was all so fucked up. “God I miss cell phones.”

Merle snorted, “What for? Never had one in my life.”

Stiles looked at him then grinned, “Figures.”

“Wha’?” Merle squinted at him as he broke of a small stick and started chewing on the end.

“You don’t seem like the type to own a phone anyway. But I was thinking I could have avoided this whole mess if only the phones still worked. I could have called my group and just asked where the fuck they are instead of stressing about it and continuing in the wrong direction.”

“It ain’t like ya don’t have the time.” Merle grumbled.

“Point. I’m not in a hurry. Right now I can’t do anything to help them out, I can’t help them secure a base and I don’t even know if they’re alive. I guess I’ll get there when I do and then see what they’d managed without me.” Stiles sighed.

“Well ain’t you a peach, twinky boy.” Merle chuckled then after a moment asked, “What kind of base are the setting up?”

Stiles debated for a moment, but in all honestly he trusted Daryl and Merle and if it were up to him both of them were coming with Stiles. “We started this whole thing, well, I started it at first, by gathering all types of supplies and thinking of making a base somewhere, a permanent one with good walls, guard and the like. Then I got company and the plans expanded. I needed more supplies, more vehicles and a bigger location. So we decided on Washington. We collected some doctors and planned on picking up more people along the way, but rough people if you know what I mean. For me it was a condition, people who weren’t killers and murderers but who realized that they probably would become ones sometime in the future. This is that kind of a world now. All this,” Stiles motioned at the camp, “This is the life that’s gone. Zombies don’t care if our clothes are ironed and there sure as shit won’t be a conference in the near future that we just have to attend. They should be learning how to handle knives and guns. Someone should have asked to go with Daryl and learn how to set snares,”

Merle snorted, “Yea, good luck with tha’.”

Stiles smiled, “Yeah, I know he’s antisocial, but he’s not a bad guy. If someone asked a few times he would relent and we all need skills right now. These people don’t see it. Hell, they’re probably waiting for the army or some such nonsense to come rescue them.”

“You’re probably right, but it ain’t like we care. Should just let them be and they better do the same. I’d gone and done speaking to Moses for the day and those rest of the beaners and spear-chuckers better not come yappin’.” Merle kicked a rock with his boot giving the whole camp the evil eye.

Stiles laughed, “Ah, man, you’re all heart, aren’t you.”

Merle frowned at him, “Don’t ya start.”

“What? It’s not like their skin color, religion or any of that really, matter. At this point there’s two kinds, the dead ones and the food.” Stiles told him with a playful smile.

Merle laughed, “Yeah, you’re right, but I still don’ like ‘em.”

“Any particular reason?” Stiles wondered as he stood and found some wood around them to feed to the fire. They would have to take a hike and collect some before Daryl got back.

Merle gave him a look as if debating if he should answer but then with a grunt said, “Me pa weren’t the nicest man and with his education came certain expectations. Now I ain’t saying all of me is what he made, but ‘twas a start. Now,” he shot a nasty glare at some of the people in the camp, “now ‘tis my experience talkin’. Had some of them thicklips gang up on me and them Mexicans never failed to call me trailer-trash. I’ve been a cracker and a peckerwood, hell, was even called a pig-fucker once and I ain’t seen a pig tha’ wasn’t sausage first ‘til I killed ma first boar.”

“So what you’re saying is that you’re just returning the favor?” Stiles tilted his head as he looked at Merle.

“Naw. Just don’t trust them an’ even if I did, I ain’t prettyin’ ma language for no one.” Merle grinned widely.

“I suppose that’s fair enough.” Stiles paused then asked, “Does that mean you’ll start calling me shirt lifter and fudge packer now?”

Merle paused in his chewing, “Depends, are you one?”

“Bisexual but in love with a guy. Don’t see myself breaking that up until one of us is dead. Or at least until I know for sure he’s dead.” Stiles never stopped watching Merle.

“Well in that case, sure. I’ll call ya a pillow biter, but twinky boy works mighty fine too.” Merle smirked. “But boy, you already done and said ya had a mate an’ neither of us took the time to blink about it.”

“I guess I forgot. I don’t really mind the names to be honest. It’s just words.” Stiles turned away.

Merle laughed, “Now ya getting’ it.”

Stiles looked at him curious.

“’tis just words boy. I don’t mind ya getting on with chinks, greasers or even rug munchers if it gets ya going, but if it quacks like a duck then it’s a damn duck and I ain’t callin’ it different.” Merle nodded almost with a purpose then leaned back again.

Laughing Stiles crouched next to him, “So that means I’m still cuddling with you tonight while Daryl’s on watch?”

Merle just stared at him, “Why wouldn’t you?”

“Thought you might not want a pillow biter cuddling up to you in the middle of the night.”

Merle reached for him and pulled him up close by his shirt, “Listen ya little twink, yous’ pack, and pack sticks together. Ya don’t leave without tellin’ us and ya don’t sleep away. We watch our backs. Pack is pack.”

Merle pushed him away and Stiles fell down on his ass grinning like a lunatic, “I care about you too, Merle.”

“Fucking nancy. Git!” Merle stomped his boot and Stiles lifted up his hands as he stood, “Fine, fine. I’m gonna go look for some firewood.”

That night no one approached them from the rest of the camp and Daryl came back with a rabbit and a couple of squirrels which Merle cleaned while showing Stiles how to do it himself. They cooked and ate in silence, listening to the sounds of a nearby camp until it was time for rest.

Daryl and Stiles shared the tent first with Merle on watch and for once Stiles didn’t hesitate to come closer to Daryl, pressing himself right next to Daryl’s hot running body.

Daryl seemed caught by the move, but relaxed almost instantly, pressing his nose against Stiles’ hair and taking in his scent.

“It’s never been like this in my old pack.” Stiles breathed Daryl in through his clothes. It was so very comforting he just couldn’t understand how Derek and Peter denied it to themselves.

“Like wha’? Daryl tugged at the hair at the back of Stiles’ neck lightly sounding tired.

“They never touched, the wolves. They never hugged among themselves and they certainly never showed affection for the humans. I’ve know you two for two days and I couldn’t imagine not being close to you. I think I would starve.”

“Merle would call ya a pussy for saying that,” Daryl started only for them to hear Merle from outside, “He is a pussy, fuckin’ shirt lifter.”

Stiles chuckled and he could feel Daryl grinning above him, “I love you too, you fucking redneck.”

Merle just grunted but that was alright. Stiles understood him and he genuinely liked the man.

“Healthy pack needs touch and scenting, it gives strength here,” Daryl tapped Stiles’ head then his chest, “and here, makes us thrive. Our family, we had our trouble, our pa… he gone done wanted us dead more than he wanted us there, but we was strong together. Ain’t nothing can kill a Dixon but a Dixon.”

“Ain’t that the truth.” Merle murmured from outside.

“Is it alright if I touch you when we’re outside?” Stiles felt very insecure all of a sudden as he thought about it, remembering how he’d always been an extra, a tag-along and more often than not it meant pain and hurt. He’d allowed them to treat him like shit and they took advantage. Stiles desperately needed to know his boundaries, how far he was allowed to let himself go with Daryl and Merle.

He heard Merle growl in the night and the rush of panic in the other camp at the sound, but Daryl just pulled him closer, shaking him a little, “Ya need reassurance ya come to us, Stiles. We ain’t never gonna turn ya away. It don’ matter how many eyes are watchin’, ya hear?”

He was rough but he was Daryl and Stiles believed him. “Thank you.” He whispered, tucking himself closer and doing his best to drown in the comfort of his new pack instead of the sorrow nipping at his heals at the aching need for Negan.

Chapter Text

Daryl kept to the woods most days with Merle accompanying him on occasion while Merle went down to the quarry when he could. Stiles preferred to stay in camp, listening to the others and stifling his quick responses to most daily situations which were something closer to a soap opera rather than real life.

The sounds of the camp were overwhelming at its high, Stiles’ hearing able to tune to most conversations even murmurs when he concentrated. He caught particular scents and gauged certain moods and at the end of the day had Merle calling him a teacher’s pet do to his ability to catch on quick. Children screamed and ran around, the women gossiped and men gossiped worse. One guy kept beating his wife every couple of days, drinking as if his sources of bear were never-ending while another couple kept disappearing in the woods to fuck as if no one realized what they were actually doing.

No one really interacted with them which was for the best if anyone would have asked Stiles. He liked only a few people in the whole camp and he could see how even those would rub Merle and Daryl the wrong way. Especially Merle who disliked taking orders or direction from anyone – though it didn’t stop him from throwing out insults as he passed certain people – and Shane, a self-proclaimed leader of the group was a real champ in having everyone do as he wanted them to.

Shane by himself wasn’t all bad. The guy had a temper and a way of taking charge which was too confrontational for most people so to avoid a potential argument Shane often got his way. The thing was, and it took Stiles a few days to figure it, it wasn’t Shane who actually wanted to lead. He was a typical second in command, someone willing to follow good orders, someone who excelled in directing others the right way, but he didn’t do so well with making plans nor did he want to.

No, the woman behind the curtains was a housewife and Stiles would swear she was a former cheerleader, who wanted things her way no matter the cost. She had the best alpha around to do her bidding, meaning she was perceived as the second in command while being able to avoid all conflict and instead pretend to be best friends with everyone. She divided the whole camp having women do women’s work and men either resting or doing men’s work. Lori had set it up all nicely so she could fuck Shane every chance she got with doing minimum work around camp and at the same time she managed to neglect her son who ran wild more often than not. But it was the nights that were a real treat. She whispered in Shane’s ear seductively, directing him her way and making him feel important and strong while filling the air with arousal and expectation of something more.

It even made Stiles hard as he listened, Merle chuckling softly next to him and Daryl blushing as if he were a virgin. More often than not Stiles wished for popcorn to sweeten the deal because just listening was better than some movies he’d seen. Most nights ended with Merle taking things into his own hands in the tent while Daryl walked down to the quarry to cool off. But still, they listened each evening by the fire and enjoyed the entertainment.

Now Glenn was someone Stiles genuinely liked and if the direction of Daryl’s gaze and the scent wafting out of him each time Glenn walked by was any indication, Daryl had no lack of appreciation on his part. The guy was genuinely nice even if painfully shy, resourceful and smart. Stiles would have wanted him in his original group.

Andrea was someone Negan would have appreciated. She was hard and willful, definitely opinionated and would have been easy to mold. However Stiles disliked her unjustified overconfidence and overall attitude. It reminded him of Peter somewhat, but without all of the charm and actual backing Peter had had. She was a poser who at this point was more likely to accidentally kill some of them than be an asset. Merle however disagreed. For him she was the perfect white princess he would have loved to fuck, despite him murmuring rug muncher under his breath every once in a while.

Jim was alright, useful and soft spoken. He was someone Stiles could have used and that was always a plus and at that point Stiles realized he was already recruiting them in his head, planning on taking them with him to Washington. He cursed.

“Wha’?” Daryl asked from where he was sitting next to him on a log they’d dragged to the fire, making bolts.

“I just realized I’ve an assessment of every member of this camp and have a list of those I would be willing to take with us.” Stiles rubbed at his chin frustrated.

“Ya shittin’ me?” Daryl dropped his hands and looked at him.

“I kid you not my friend. Some of them have potential, but I hadn’t planned on staying. Honestly I was just waiting for you to kill that deer so we could have a stash of meat for the road, but now I’m considering it.” Stiles gripped the hair at the back of his head.

Daryl continued with his bolts, “Merle won’t like it.”

“Fuck, I don’t even like it. At this point I would take maybe half of them but the other half I just don’t want. The problem is I can’t have the first half without the second. That means I either have to get rid of them myself or let nature take care of it. This complicates things.”

“What does?” Merle joined them and started gutting fish he’d caught down at the quarry.

“I want some of them in our group.” Stiles repeated.

“Fuckin’ hell. I can’t stand most of them, why the fuck would ya want to tie those shackles to our feet?” Merle asked.

“I know. But we do need people. Maybe not so much for the road, but for later on, and this group is checked out in a way. I know who would stab me in the back and who wouldn’t. Besides, I think Daryl is already somewhat attached.” Grinning Stiles tilted his chin in the direction of Glenn who was all twisted and pulling the back of his shirt to the front to inspect the gash in the cloth.

Daryl spluttered blushing like crazy while Merle dropped his knife and looked at him, “Fuckin’ hell Darylina, this here camp might be all shades like them Skittles but it don’t mean you gotta love all the colors of the fuckin’ rainbow! A chink of all things…”

“’Tis not all colors ya jackass.” Daryl mumbled.

“’course not, just fuckin’ yellow.” Merle scowled.

“Shut the fuck up, Merle!” Daryl snarled.

“I ain’t gonna shut up. Chink or not, that boy ‘s gonna break first time ya touch him with your brute paws, little bother. Look at ‘im, all skin and bone,” Just at that time Glenn caught a sticking root with his foot and almost fell down, “Jesus, are you fucking kidding me. Ya don’t even have ta touch ‘im, he’s gonna break on his own.”
“I’d done gone and told ya to shut up Merle!” Daryl growled and threw himself at Merle.

In a matter of seconds they were rolling and hitting each other in the dirt narrowly avoiding the fire and every once in a while Stiles lifted his feet as not to get pulled into the fight. Most of the camp stopped what they were doing and watched the two fighting it out, but while they were fast and Stiles took note of the strength of their hits, there were no claws or flashing eyes involved and soon enough they were breaking apart with Daryl storming out into the woods.

“Was that really necessary?” Stiles picked up the now dirt covered fish as Merle sat down next to him.

He spat out a glob of blood, “Sure was. Darylina needs to learn to fight for wha’ he wants.”

Stiles started laughing, “God, you’re such a jackass.”

“You know it, twinky boy.” Merle told him with a bloody grin, then turned as he heard Shane coming their way.

“Everything alright?” Shane looked at them, giving barely a glance to Merle and focusing his attention on Stiles.

All of them did it, treating Merle and Daryl as if they were the lowest of the low, but at the moment it was better if Merle didn’t speak to anyone. “Perfectly fine officer.” Stiles said stretching the words slightly.

Shane paused for a moment as if at war with himself and Stiles decided to make it easier on him, “My dad was a cop. I can recognize you lot even at a distance.”

Shane smiled and nodded, as if just that one piece of information made Stiles alright in his book, and who knows, maybe it did, cops did stick together. “Glenn is heading out to the city for some supplies,” Shane turned as if looking for something and Stiles noticed he was checking out where Lori was and once sure she wasn’t paying attention he continued, “If you need anything you can let him know.”

“He’s going alone?” Stiles wondered. He wasn’t sure a single man could gather enough for the whole group, plus it was a risk.

“Sure, he does it every few days. Prefers to go alone.” Shane nodded easily.

Deciding not to prolong this, Stiles said, “Thank you. We’ll keep it in mind.”

Shane smiled then left, leaving Stiles and Merle alone again.

“He’s so whipped it ain’t even funny.” Merle grumbled.

“Yeah, she has his balls in a vice. Him I’d take with us, but her? I’d get rid of her right now and then I would re-educated her boy to make him useful for once.” Just the notion of that woman had his hackles rising.

“Olive Oyl is something else I’ll giva ya that.” Merle took the fish from Stiles’ hands and put it back in the bucket.

“I plan on going with Glenn. It won’t hurt and I don’t like Glenn going alone.” Stiles said just as Merle stood.

“Watch yourself. The two us will probably go huntin’ but if you’re not back by tomorrow mornin’ we’ll come after ya. Gonna go wash the fish again.” Merle left without waiting for an answer and Stiles went in search of Glenn.

Stiles leaned against the truck Glenn was half inside of packing. “Mind if I join you?”

Glenn jumped and hit his head inside before coming out and looking at Stiles, one hand rubbing at his head and a blush spreading down his neck.”Wha…what?”

“You’re heading into the city and I’m going with you.” Stiles said easily.

Glenn looked around as if searching for someone to get him out of this mess.

“Don’t worry. I’m fast and quiet and I won’t make trouble for you.” Stiles reassured him.

“I guess it’s alright.” Glenn mumbled barely meeting Stiles’ eyes.

“Good. Half an hour enough for you to get ready?” Stiles asked then slapped his hand against Glenn’s shoulder and without waiting for an answer said, “Good. See you soon.”

Of course nothing was that easy. He was packing a small bag of emergency rations when he heard Lori approaching Daryl by the fire. Merle was still gone and she’d strategically picked the most likely of them to do her bidding. Smart.

“Hi. I’m Lori and this is Carl.” She said all smiles and hospitality.

Daryl just mumbled, so uncomfortable Stiles was feeling it.

“I’ve seen you huntin’ bringing in game and I was wondering if you could share some of that with our children? There’s four kids with us and we would be much obliged.” She was welcoming and sincere and perhaps if he’d not been listening to her work over Shane every night he would have bought it.

Unfortunately for Lori, Stiles was smarter than that, and before Daryl could mumble something which could be taken as consent, Stiles stepped out and asked, “What do you have to offer in return?”

Her eyes widened and she was at a loss for a moment, but gathered herself quickly, “Well, we find some mushrooms on accession and Glenn goes into the city every once in a while. I’m sure he could find whatever y’all might need.”

“I’m going to the city with him so I’m sure I can handle our supplies on my own, but mushrooms aren’t a bad idea.” Stiles smiled at her, not willing to blow her off completely but also unwilling to just bow down to her demands because they were demands. Then he thought of something else and found he was actually delighted by having the opportunity to get his way, “ I’ve seen you washing clothes down at the quarry. Would you be willing to wash ours?”

Lori swallowed, but quickly pasted another polite smile on her face. “Of course.”

“Okay. There’s three of us, so I’m willing to offer a third of our catch for you washing our clothes twice a week. Good?” Stiles raised his eyebrows and waited for an answer. He could tell she didn’t like it at all but she still nodded then made herself scarce.

“Next time if you see her coming, disappear. That one will spin you around in circles and always get her way.” Stiles told Daryl as he pushed his fingers through the man’s hair, Daryl closed his eyes leaning into them slightly.

“I’ll pick through the clothes and leave it with her before I go. You just make sure Merle knows.” Stiles gave Daryl another rub before going back into the tent.

Naturally, that wasn’t all as it never was when it came to Lori. Stiles had just gathered all the dirty clothes and was ready to go meet Glenn when Shane came back.

“Heard you was heading to town with Glenn.” Shane said noncommittally.

“Sure am.” Stiles told him cheerfully and with the same amount of reservation. There was no way he was going to give Shane an inch.

“Well,” Shane rubbed at his head, somewhat of a nervous tick Stiles had noticed about him. He usually did it when he was doing something at Lori’s command, “I was wondering how you were planning on sharing the supplies when you got back?”

Stiles tilted his head stalling only for Shane to add, “I mean so far we’ve been strictly separate with everything so I guess I was wondering what changed and if it meant you were willing to help us out any?”

“When we first got here you told us there was no room and you obviously weren’t willing to share anything with a bunch of strangers and we’ve accepted that. As far as I’m concerned the rules have been established at the beginning and there’s no sense in changing them now. As for the trip to town, I’ll give you half of the fuel I siphon just because we’re going with your truck and a third of my loot because Glenn will be watching my back. That sound fair?” Stiles thought it was more than fair considering he would be watching Glenn’s back too, but in his head Glenn was already Daryl’s and he would always do that for free.

“Yeah, it sounds fair. You’re willing to negotiate on some of the supplies?” Shane wondered.

“Sure. You have something we want and I’ll make sure we have something equally valuable.” Stiles grinned then thrust the bag of dirty clothes at Shane, “Glenn and I are leaving now, do you mind taking this to Lori? Thanks.”

And with that Stiles crawled into the truck with Glenn and mumbled, “That fucking bitch will be the death of me.”

Glenn snorted all surprised but in the end chose not to say anything.

They drove into town easily enough, parking ways away from all of the hot spots for walkers Glenn was aware of and just as they were getting out Stiles said, “Take the key Glenn and put it somewhere safe. We want our ride to still be here when we get back.”

“Yeah, sorry.” Glenn mumbled as he took the key and put it in his pocket.

“Any plans on where we’re going?” Stiles stretched his legs and put on his backpack. He had two other somewhat large handbags packed tight inside for their supplies.

“I saw a Korean and a Mexican restaurant not too far from here the last time I was there. Not sure what we can find but had to be better than nothing. It’s a residential area as well but last time I didn’t see one walker over there.” Glenn adjusted his hat as they ran always looking around and stopping before each corner to see what was behind.

Stiles groaned. “Is this payback?”

“No, what?” Glenn stopped to look at him, “What do you mean?”

“I know you must have heard Merle calling you Chinaman. Seems appropriate to bring back Korean food. At least that’s what I would have done, but I can see by your blush it hadn’t even occurred to you.” Stiles tilted his head as he watched Glenn getting more and more embarrassed.

“No, I’m sorry. Look, can we just go?” Glenn looked really flustered but at Stiles’ nod he easily turned and they were running again.

The streets looked deserted with very few cars around and while they passed a Mexican restaurant and some kind of a BBQ place, Glenn wanted to hit the farthest place first. Stiles agreed.

Glenn carried only a crowbar while Stiles had all his guns and knives strapped on plus Roscoe in hand. Not willing to comment, Stiles leaned against the glass of the restaurant and looked for any walkers. Not seeing anything and with the doors sealed, he figured it was better to risk going inside than making noise and killing any potential walker outside where others were more likely to hear.

“Let me handle the lock you watch for any zombies.” Stiles whispered and started breaking in.

It took him awhile and he was forever grateful for practicing while in high school, but eventually they were in with minimal noise. They walked around the tables already smelling the spoiled food in the back and it wasn’t until they were almost to the kitchen when a walker stumbled from around the corner and Stiles reflexively pulled out a knife and stabbed at his temple.

They continued on clearing each room and finally they were good to go.

“I’ll pick up what I recognize, but everything else is up to you. If it’s edible we take it.” Stiles was already stuffing one of his bags with large packs of pasta, grains, different pastes and spices. If it was in a can he was packing it.
Overall it didn’t take them long but when they got outside Stiles could see walkers coming closer from the park.

“We have to hurry, they’ve noticed us.” Stiles was already running back toward the Mexican restaurant, one full bag over his shoulder and one half-full in his hand.

Glenn also had a full bag on him but was easily keeping up the pace.

The Mexican place was broken in to, but while they found finished walkers inside, there were also a couple of moving ones and an already filled up bag on the floor.

“Looks like someone wasn’t so lucky.” Glenn mumbled frowning.

“Don’t worry about it. Check the rooms so we don’t end up stuck here groaning with them, I’ll get rid of them.” Stiles told him already taking care of the zombies.

“No geeks in the kitchen.” Glenn called relatively softly and soon enough they were looting what was left.

“I’ve got two full bags already, are we stopping at the BBQ?” Stiles asked as they turned the corner and were just about the pass the place.

Suddenly hands started hitting the long sidewalk glass of the place. It was full of walkers and they were easily attracting the others.

“No way in hell, man.” Glenn said and started running faster.

As they moved through the streets walkers started coming out of the side streets dragging their way after them and stopping anyplace else was out of the question. Only as they neared their truck did Stiles slow down and started breaking into cars.
“Got another bag, Glenn?” He asked and Glenn pulled out one from his pack.

Stiles found a couple of bottles of juice, a pair of sneakers and some gum in the first one, but the second one had a gas can and a tire iron. He hooked the potential weapon in his jeans and dropping the bags on the ground started siphoning fuel.

Glenn just watched at first, standing guard, but as the walkers were still away, he followed Stiles’ lead.

By the time they reached the truck they had their hands full and if Stiles had still been human he would have felt like a mule. He’d hit a carwash on the way and found four empty plastic cans. He figured they’d used it for storing large amounts of soap but they would work great for fuel.

As they headed back Stiles watched for walkers and as soon as the coast was clear he said, “Park behind that abandoned car. Stage it a bit so the bed is hidden and just looks like another crashed truck.”

“Why are we stopping?” Glenn asked looking at the mostly clear road ahead of them.

“We’re hitting those cars.” Stiles motioned to the other side of the road, the one leading out of Atlanta which was dotted with stranded vehicles. “No way are they all looted. Besides, do you think Merle will eat Korean or Mexican? I’ll be hearing about that for days. So I better come back with something else. I’ll probably trade you most of the food for some other things anyway.” Stiles commented while getting out of the car.

Glenn followed until he reached the middle barrier and there Stiles had him stop and watch for both the living and the dead.

Breaking into cars one after another, Stiles systematically checked both the interiors as well as the trunks, killing tied up walkers he had to and ignoring the sad sights of dead children no one was able to save in time.

By the time they reached the camp, their truck was full to bursting, the night had already fallen and they were dead exhausted.

“Leave it. We’ll unpack tomorrow.” Stiles said as he walked toward his tent waving absently toward the other group.

It wasn’t until he reached their trucks that he’d smelled it; the scent of a little thief of a kid focused in the back where most of the sweets they’d found were kept hidden under a tarp. He counted through their stash and realized three chocolate bars were missing.

Instantly he was pissed off. It wasn’t really about the chocolates which must have melted then firmed again more than a few times, but rather Lori who fucked instead of watching her kid. It was about the little delinquent who would get himself killed by ignoring the rules or by stealing from someone who would actually kill him for a chocolate bar. It was frustrating and it really was fucking unfair that he had to educate other people’s children.

Perhaps if Daryl had been there someone would have held Stiles back, or maybe if Merle had been there things would have been even worse. In the end, Stiles was alone and he pushed away from the truck, dropping his emergency bag next to it and leaning Roscoe against the tire before striding angrily toward the other group’s fire.

Some looked up as he approached but no one was ready for him lifting Carl to his feet by the back of his shirt and pulling him away from the hands of his mother.

Shane instantly stood up, but Stiles didn’t even hesitate to pull his gun on the man, “This is between me and Carl so sit your ass down Shane.”

Shane took his time, watching Stiles and glancing at Lori who was half to her feet but not daring to move. “You too, Lori. You had your chance to educate the boy, but the moment he stole from me, you lost that right.”

As they reluctantly settled down, Stiles put the gun away and thrust his open palm in front of Carl, “Give them back.”

Trembling in his hand Carl reached into his pocket and pulled out a chocolate bar, placing it shakily in Stiles palm.

“The other too.” Stiles shook his palm impatiently.
Carl started crying and stuttering, “I…I ate them…”

Stiles was expecting it but still he sighed tiredly, “Then you’ll just have to work for them. The first thing in the morning when Daryl and Merle walk into this camp you’ll be there by our fire. We clear?”

The boy nodded frantically and Stiles pushed him back into his mother’s arms.

He turned toward Shane and Lori, “Next time you two decide there are better ways to spend your time than keeping an eye on the boy, I’ll have Merle show him a thing or two and I won’t be asking permission either.” With that he marched his way back to his tent. He quickly ate the now cold fish and dropped into the sleeping bag without even taking off his weapons.

The factory rose above them, abandoned and just as secured as Negan had known it to be. He could see where the reinforcements would be needed and he could already imagine it improved and secure in his head. A stronghold, safe from both the dead and the living, a place where he and Stiles…

Negan gritted his teeth, shutting those thoughts away. Instead he focused on the fences and motioned to those in the first car to start getting inside them.

Simon walked up to him as the cars started piling into the secure place. “You think we’ll be safe here?”

“I know we will be. There’s a water source and enough space for everyone. We’ll connect some solar panels and I want to expand in the back to gain more ground for planting and shit. I want us to be able to sustain ourselves when all else fails. You’ll be in charge of setting up the watch posts and the fence. I want it strong enough to hold a tank away. Not taking any chances this time.” Negan swung Lucille by his side, his only comfort these days.

“Should I get the new people on it?” Simon directed the cars and gave a signal to Kevin and John to come to them.

Negan sighed, “Just ask for their fucking qualification and their input. See what we can improve on and get it done. Have them make a list of whatever the fuck they need to make our life here better. We are very well supplied right now, but more shit to work with can’t hurt.”

“Yeah?” John asked while Kevin stayed a step behind. Since things had changed he became more contained, less likely to smile. But who the fuck cared, Negan himself was all fresh out of smiles. It was the way of the world now.

“Set up a medical. Check whatever supplies we have and see what else we need to get. I’ll make it happen so we have power, so put machinery on that list as well.” Negan told them and just as easily dismissed them. He didn’t trust anyone but Simon anymore. The original man, but there were days when he knew even that wasn’t foolproof.

“We’ll have it done.” Simon touched the back of his neck, hesitating, “What about Nik?”

Negan turned to look at him then grinned. He knew it was fake as hell, but it was all the more vicious for it. Without replaying he turned and walked to the back of his car which was still outside of the fence. Tied to the back of it and laying on the ground was Nik, or what was left of her.

Crouching, Negan tsked, “Look at you darlin’ all messed up and so very dead. Who would have thought we don’t even need a bite to turn into a fucking zombie? I suppose you were useful for at least something.” Nik growled at him, her remaining hand reaching for Negan.

The front half of her was still looking half decent, torn and bloody but Negan had made sure to drive as slowly as he could to make her live longer. He’d wanted it to hurt. Unfortunately sometime in the last couple of days she’d found it appropriate to die.

Negan stood and turned to Simon. “Get her on her feet, cut off the arms and the lower jaw then tie her to the front gate. I want them all to see what the fuck happens to traitors and backstabbers.”
Simon got two other guys and did as told, but as he put her on her feet Negan started laughing almost manically. The back flesh side of her was scraped off with her whole skeleton visible. Getting angry suddenly his face contorting, Negan wanted to hurt her again. Bash her head in, cut her limb by limb until she begged him for her life. He remember the first time she’d done it, pled and cried, telling him how sorry she was but none of it got Stiles back. All Negan had of him was a bloody hoodie torn by walkers and so soaked in blood no one could have survived it and she had been the one who’d left him because he’d done the human thing and saved her life.

The others had been too frightened to say anything as he’d first tied her to the back of his truck. Only Lizzy tried to reason with him the first time they’d stopped but when he’d told her he would kill every fucking single one of them to have Stiles back she smartly shut her fucking mouth.

This was their life now. She could always leave, take her chances away from his protection but none of them did. All the people they’d gathered since Stiles got killed and none of them left after asking about Nik. No, they lowered their heads and kindly asked if they could stay and contribute. This was Negan’s world now, fair but ruthless and he was beyond granting mercy for backstabbers. All of the mercy left in him had died with Stiles.

Chapter Text

With something like dawn brightening the camp, Stiles was sitting on a log trying to get warm by the only now started fire and imagining the smell of coffee and all the wonderful flavors they would never again get to taste. God, he missed coffee… The warmth of the cup between his fingers, the potent, lovely scent surrounding him and the taste spilling over his tongue, Stiles groaned thinking the taste would probably be only better with his werewolf senses and the thought made him want to weep.

“What has ya mopin’ about before the sun is properly up?” Merle rumbled behind Stiles, startling him since he was so far lost in his head he didn’t even hear them return.

Stiles rubbed his hair roughly, trying to wake up. “Just missing coffee.”

Daryl snorted. “Wouldn’t touch the stuff.”

“Blasphemy!” Stiles turned to him feeling betrayed.

“Wha’? The stuff stinks, is bitter and I hear addicting. I don’ understand ya people.” Daryl mumbled before he started stringing up the deer they’d killed.

Stiles looked at Merle, hoping for some support. “Don’t ya look at me. Never acquired the taste for it, but gimme a bottle of Southern Comfort and I just might be your friend for life.”

“That’s it. You’re banished from this pack. I don’t even know you people.” Stiles groaned still not feeling quite awake.

Both of them laughed with Daryl adding, “And that’s why ya’re better off without it.”

“God, shut up, it’s too early for this.” Stiles muttered then saw Carl struggling to get away from his mother and come to him.

“Good to see you, Carl.” Stiles called, forcing Lori to bring the boy over.

Reluctantly she came to their fire but then she had to open her mouth. “I don’t rightly know what your intentions are, but it just ain’t right to treat a child this way.”

“I would have started with a good morning, but if you insist…” He heard Merle chuckle but continued, “The boy stole and since you’ve failed to teach him otherwise I will. Now I don’t want to hear anything else from you unless you’re willing to air all your dirty laundry for all of the camp to hear?” He looked at her with his eyebrows raised, “No? Well then, you might as well go back to your camp. Carl will be just fine here with us.” Stiles patted the place on the log right next to him and watched as Carl pulled away from his mother and obediently sat down.

Unsure of her place now and without the crutch the child had been next to her, she lifted her nose high then left.
“Tha’ woman’s stuck up higher than a light-pole.” Daryl whispered and was laughing with Merle who seemed to wholeheartedly agree.

“Good. Now pass me those squirrels Daryl, we have a new student with us today.” Stiles asked hoping Carl didn’t quite catch that.

Teaching Carl wasn’t much of a hardship. When given a task he listened and did his best. There was a bit of a temper there usually following after frustration, but a light head slap later and he was properly chastised and back to work.

The rest of the group was already up by the time they were done, the meat cut and set to smoke and Merle and Daryl gone to wash up. Stiles had cut up some squirrels and some venison for lunch and put everything in a pot before gathering the venison set aside for the others.

“Here, you take these squirrels. This is the third for your group, but these two you’ve earned by helping me today.” Stiles told Carl.

The kid blushed and ducked his head but he was obviously pleased.

“Come on, let’s take the meat to the others. I want you to come to our fire the next time they catch something. Alright?” Stiles picked up the bucket and led the bloody kid back to his mother.

“Yes, sir.” Carl nodded again and Stiles almost tripped as just that one fucking word made him feel ancient.

“No, hey,” He crouched down to the level of the kid, “don’t call me sir. My name is Stiles or even that dude over there, anything but Sir or Mister Stilinski,” Stiles shuddered just thinking about it. “Dude would work perfectly if you can’t pronounce Stiles. We cool?”
Carl smiled brilliantly, “Yes, Stiles.”

“Good boy, I can already tell we’ll get along splendidly.” Stiles smiled back and continued leading him.

“Here’s the meat we agreed on.” Stiles offered the bucket, but it was Carol who jumped to take it instead of Lori. Not that Stiles expected anything different.

Lori was too busy fretting over her son who was desperately trying to show her the squirrels he’d earned but she wasn’t even listening.

“Lady, I’m not typically a violent man, but it you don’t stop smothering him I’ll smack you I swear. Can’t you see he’s trying to tell you something?” Stiles snapped at her.

Lori looked at him with her bitch face on, but then bit her tongue and took a real look at Carl for the first time. The boy was blushing but wasted no time in explaining to her how he learned how to skin squirrels and how he’d earned two of them all by himself. She wasn’t all that pleased by it, especially since the kid was pretty much bloody from head to foot. Stiles guessed the mess children usually made when doing anything meant gutting animals would only turn out the same.

The rest of the people around the fire, including Shane, looked on indulgently at the kid and for once Stiles didn’t have to say anything.

“Is Glenn up? I’ll go wash off the blood but then we could divide the loot from yesterday.” Stiles asked Shane.

“Yeah, he’s over there with Dale. I’ll let him know.” Shane said nodding in their direction.

And that’s what they did for the rest of the morning. Stiles watched their food while both Daryl and Merle caught up on their sleep and somehow all of it became somewhat of a routine which they followed for the next few weeks.

Stiles had wanted to change a lot of the things wrong with the camp, from their security and watch schedule to the simple fact that none of them quite knew how to defend themselves, but each time he tried anything constructive he was met with resistance and scorn, so he kept to Merle and Daryl, making sure they were content and none of the others provoked them too much and bid his time observing.

“I’m going back to town for some supplies and I was wondering if you had any requests?” Glenn was there one day shifting his weight from one foot to the other and looking only at Daryl despite all three of them being by the fire.

“Yeah, Darylina, do you want your boyfriend to get you anythin’ while he’s in town?” Merle drawled leaning back with his attention jumping from Daryl to Glenn.

“Shut up, Merle.” Daryl snapped.

“Aww, don’ be like that. Chinaman is offering nicely.” Merle grinned as he nudged Daryl with his shoulder.

Face dropping, Glenn lost the embarrassment, “I’m Korean.”

“Whatever,” Merle said then scowled at Glenn, “Don’t go bringing back that native food again. Find a good American place and rob that.”

Stiles gave Glenn a look then and they both ended up snickering like little kids.

“What’s so damn funny?” Merle growled at them both.

“Don’t worry about it Merle, it’s an inside joke between us girls.” Stiles told him all serious.

“Aww, just ‘cause you’re a shirt-lifter, twinky boy, it don’t mean you’re a girl, too.” Merle was all comfort and sympathy Stiles couldn’t help himself but burst into laughter.

“Anyway, do you need anything?” Glenn interrupted obviously feeling awkward just standing there.

“Sure. If you pass by a sporting store or something, get us anything from the camping section. If you find any survival manuals, bolts or lube for Daryl’s cross bow... Hell, if you find another crossbow or a bow bring that back. I’ll learn how to shoot the damn thing. If you find string, rope or carabiners, take it. Whatever you can find, I’m sure we have something in our trucks we can trade you for it.” Stiles said while Glenn just nodded and looking grateful slipped away.

“Have you gotten anywhere with him or is it still just as crush from afar?” Stiles asked Daryl.

“Shut up, Stiles, it ain’t none of y’alls business.” Daryl snapped before using his default exit and disappearing into the forest.

Just then Ed, in all his wisdom and drunkenness, decided it would be a great idea to slap Carol in the middle of the camp where she was ironing clothes.

Before Stiles even knew what was happening Merle was right there one hand on Ed’s shirt holding him in place on the ground while he slammed his fist into the guys face.

Shane was on his feet too, close enough as if he was heading to help but had gotten there too late. Carol was crying on the side but all you could really hear was the hits Merle’s fist made as it slammed to the side of Ed’s skull and Merle’s mumbles “Wife beater scum, should kill ya I should. Treating a woman tha’ way, and a good hard workin’ woman…”

Afraid he would kill the man, Stiles jumped in and wrapped his arms around Merle’s chest lifting him away from the unconscious man. “Come on. We don’t want to kill him. It’ll be better if the walkers get him.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Merle nodded agreeing, “Nothing more than food for the biters, fucking trash.” Merle gave him another hit to his side with his foot then turned, “Wha’ the hell are y’all looking at? He’s been hammering on her for weeks now and none of y’all saw fit to help her out. To hell with ya.”

The others looked away in shame, only Carol, with tears in her eyes moved toward her husband as if to help him but Merle caught her around her waist and pulled her close to his chest, “By this act and the will of God, you are hereby officially divorced. Ya go on and pack your things now, yours and your little girl’s and come round our way, we have a tent ya can settle in.”

Carol stepped away just looking at him then glanced at Stiles, but it was Merle who encouraged her, “Go on now. We’ll be waitin’ for ya.” She spared one last glance at the unconscious Ed but Merle stepped in her line of sight, “Don’t ya look at him, he don’ deserve one single care from ya no more.”

Carol nodded then took Sophia’s hand and went back to their tent.

Stiles ignored the group watching them and went back to their trucks. He easily found another tent and some sleeping bags. He even dug out a coloring book and a couple of plush toys for Sophia. But Merle was the one who set it all up right next to their tent.

Carol took a while but she did come to them, “Are you sure it’s alright? We don’t want to impose…”

“Consider yourselves adopted now. What’s ours is your and if you need help don’t hesitate to ask.” Stiles said easily and opened the new tent for her.

With a blush Carol ducked inside and started putting their things away but Sophia stayed outside, her doll clutched tightly against her chest when she suddenly lifted her gaze and with a focus moved closer to Merle, “Thank you Mister Merle. No one has ever protected my mum before.”

Stiles could see Merle was embarrassed. He didn’t often get a thank you or even acknowledgement for his work or deeds, but he got past it quickly, “Now girly, there ain’t nothing to be thankful for. I only did what any decent man woulda done. Ya both are safe now, don’t ya worry none.”

Sophia smiled then just sat right there next to Merle as if more than half of the camp wasn’t afraid of him.

That’s how Daryl found them when he came back, but other than pausing for a second he didn’t do or say anything, he just sat down next to Sophia, pulling the two hares he’d probably found in the snares up front. He gently took Sophia’s doll from her, putting it to the side on the log and gave her a smaller knife from his boot and started teaching her how to work the animals until they were ready to be cooked.

Carol just stood behind them, her hand over her mouth and silent tears sliding down her cheeks as she watched her daughter participate and talk without fear with the two roughest men in camp.

Ed tried coming near them a few more times but either Merle or Daryl were always there and the one time they weren’t Sophia started screaming so loudly all the men from the camp came running toward her while Ed tripped over himself trying to run away from her.

Merle praised her after for good thinking, but Daryl was the one who explained the dangers of being too loud and took her hunting after so she could learn to appreciate silence. Merle rolled his eyes at them, but as soon as Carol sat down next to him, patting his shoulder, he was all smiles again completely forgetting about Daryl and his love of the woods.

But an even better moment was when all of them were sitting by the fire eating one night and Glenn came back from Atlanta excited and flushed. He’d picked his moment badly, but Stiles figured he’d just been too impatient to wait and catch Daryl on his own. Instead he unhooked a grocery bag off his backpack and pulled out this huge and awfully colorful trailer war bonnet and presented it to Daryl.

Merle choked on his fucking food, Carol thumping on his back with one hand while she covered her mouth with the other trying to hide her smile. But Daryl just had his mouth open mid bite staring at Glenn as if he were a fucking freak show.

Of course all that made Glenn flustered, “I thought you might… you know arrows and things… The window was broken and I just… You know, here. Please take it!” Glenn pushed it forward, the bottom end passing over the open flame and suddenly catching fire.

Laughing his ass off Stiles jumped and grabbed it, putting the thing out before it could burn completely instead of just the few bottom feathers. He hugged Glenn closer with his other hand and led him slightly away ignoring the exploding laughter behind them, “He’s really grateful. While the bolts might not be a problem right now, in the future things like this will be worth their weight in gold. I remember Walmart having arrow tips, so if you ever feel like looking out for something like that, I’m sure Daryl would be grateful.” Stiles leaned closer to him, “But next time, if you want to avoid all that,” Stiles motioned with his hand at the sound behind them, “you find Daryl when he’s on his own. I’m sure he’ll even manage to find his tongue then.”

Glenn just nodded then quickly ran away. Stiles was sure he wouldn’t see him for days after that.

“Wha’ does he think ya are, a fucking Injun? Ya gotta do something about that boy ‘fore he done trips and dies from that strange blood flow thing he has goin’ on all up his face.” Merle growled making Carol laugh so hard she couldn’t catch her breath.

“Shut up, Merle.” Daryl spat, his meal forgotten.

“I ain’t gonna shut up, boy. He’s done been eatin’ ya up with them winky eyes of his fo’ weeks and ya ain’t done none ‘bout it. If it were just ‘im pushin’ I woulda set him straight, but ya can’t be hankerin’ ‘bout him back and just sit there pretendin’ it ain’t hapenin’. Were’s ya balls at, boy?” Merle snapped enough for Daryl to push him until he fell before leaving for the woods.

“Don’t be too harsh on him Merle, not everyone works as fast as you.” Stiles rubbed his short hair as he reached him telling him silently his words carried no malice.

“Ain’t that the truth.” Merle looked at Carol and grinned, making her blush and Stiles left them to it, wondering how long it would actually take Daryl to make his move. Knowing him it was more likely Glenn would stutter something out or kiss him at the most inappropriate moment. Stiles chuckled and just went to bed.

When it all went to hell it happened unexpectedly. It wasn’t predictable or even sudden. The moment they first changed their routine seemed inconsequential. Glenn protested quietly as he was prone to do and Stiles let him, hoping the kid would stand up for himself finally, but he didn’t and they ran their show over him, completely disregarding his opinions and got ready for the excursion to the city.

Glenn had a plan like he always did, but there were too many people involved, people who didn’t know what they were doing and talked big but fell through when the time came to show their game. Two people became four became six and Stiles just wasn’t in the mood to hold Merle back for once. They were all getting restless and bored but if the three of them planned on staying with the group and eventually taking them along to Washington, all of them had to learn to play with Merle. So Stiles kept quiet and hoped for the best.

He knew Merle wouldn’t die, and he would do his best to protect Glenn for Daryl’s sake, but Stiles either didn’t know the others well enough or he just didn’t care for them.

Daryl was off hunting and it was a long one. He planned on bagging another deer and was still embarrassed because of Glenn so he needed to cool his head some and no better way of doing that than getting his fill of the forest.

So it took Stiles by surprise when the others called, the connection weak but clear enough to let them know they were trapped. Amy did her hysteric bit she was prone to without ever actually accomplishing anything constructive, but Stiles didn’t need direction or orders. He quickly took note of the cars they still had and which ones were empty before he headed for his gear.

“And just where the hell do you think you’re going?” Shane was suddenly in front of him all threatening and giving him the same spiel about protecting the camp and what not until Stiles interrupted, “Other than Daryl, Carol and Sophia, I frankly don’t give a damn about anyone currently in this camp. You either fight for yourselves or you die. Meanwhile my family is out there and trapped so I’m doing what I need to.”

Unfortunately Shane was already thin on patience and because Stiles wasn’t expecting it, Shane hit him right on the cheek. It unbalanced Stiles a little but not enough for him to hit the ground, but he did manage to cut his cheek on his teeth and spat out blood grinning widely at Shane. There was nothing pretty about that grin and everything dangerous Stiles had in him.

For once he didn’t use his words. He just turned and slowly walked back to his tent. He took an emergency backpack, filling it with more things than usual just because he didn’t know if anyone had been hurt. He took his weapons and his bat and walked toward the others.

Some watched him, but Shane had his back to him, discussing whatever it was with Lori. Stiles didn’t hesitate. He swung Roscoe at Shane’s shin. Hard enough to take him down but not enough to actually break the bone. Shane turned as he fell down to his knees and Stiles hit him back hard to the side of his head knocking him to the ground. “Next time you touch me or my family officer, I’ll break something. It better not even occur to you to work against me or mine or I just might have to kill you despite kinda liking you.” Stiles spat more blood next to him and walked away toward the truck.

Before actually getting in he added, “Anyone touches any of our things and you’ll lose a hand. Carol, you’re in charge and if Daryl gets back before we do, fill him in.”

“Don’t you worry about anything Stiles.” She said with a smile but it was Sophia yelling, “Please bring Mister Merle back safe to us!” That had his heart swelling. With another nod, Stiles was on his way to the city.

It was still bright when he reached Atlanta but with having no idea where to actually look Stiles lost a lot of time driving around and checking sighs for a department store. It was only when he heard the car alarm that he headed in the right direction.

He saw the Challenger as it passed down the crossroad up ahead of him but as he noticed all the walkers twitching at the sound and moving to follow, he parked the car in a way he could make an easy getaway and climbed a fire escape of a building he saw shared a roof with a whole row of them.

Reaching the very far edge he saw the horde dragging themselves after the sound of the alarm that could still be heard in the distance and then saw a van in between the buildings also leaving the city. He was just about to head back to the car, figuring they’d managed to find a way back when a very loud howl ripped through the streets, bouncing against the buildings and slamming against Stiles’ chest hard enough he felt as if he was having a heart attack.

Stiles didn’t quite speak wolf, having no chance to actually hear a howl since he’d turned, but it seemed like he didn’t need a dictionary for it. He just understood – pain, desperation, hopelessness and a fucking cry for help. Merle was in so much need his voice had rattled Stiles’ bones.

Unsure of how to exactly answer, Stiles looked around noticing all the walkers around then found his possible escape and decided to risk it. He breathed in deeply then let out a sound not unlike something out a cartoon saying ‘I’m coming’, but the howl he got back was one of pure relief.

Not wasting anymore time, Stiles rushed back closer to the building where he’d left his car then found himself an exit route and followed the pull of his pack mate through the alleys and over buildings until he found a department store.

Getting inside proved a bit trickier with all the walkers pressing up the front and with the night falling he knew he wasn’t going to risk heading back for the quarry, so he made sure he barricaded the door he’d found and headed for the roof. The first route he found was crawling with walkers so he traced his steps back and blocked each door he found to keep those bastards from following him. Eventually he found a way through some offices with just a couple of zombies inside and was suddenly on the roof.

He could hear Merle mumbling, sounding hurt and completely out of it and rushed toward him his heart beating hard enough there was serious danger of it jumping out of his chest. What he found had him so pissed he was close to breathing fire.

Merle was cuffed to a pipe, half delirious with such a bad sunburn Stiles was seriously worried about him. He dropped to his knees and hugged him close, pressing his hot head against his chest, “I’m here Merle, you’re safe now, I’m gonna get you free, don’t you worry about anything.”

Merle started crying and hugging back, straining against the cuff but he had little strength to spare and his grip felt barely there.

Stiles shrugged off his backpack and dug out a bottle of water, uncapping it he tilted it and had Merle drink some, careful not to give him too much, “Easy. Just a bit for now then you can have some more. Let me look at you.”

Stiles moved the water away and with the last of the light gone, deeply thankful for his wolf eyes. He took in the damaged skin of his head and shoulders and then took note of the saw and the deep, still bleeding cut on his wrist.

“No, no, what did you try to do, Merle? Didn’t you know I would never leave you? And why isn’t this shit healing?” Stiles asked scarily worried.

“Stupid…gone and done stupid,” he mumbled, “Mixn’ wolfsbane…done forgot it don’t work well with healin’.”

Stiles sighed then heard the walkers pressing against the door and it was like a cold shower. Suddenly Merle’s panic made all the sense. “What else does it do? Healing and I’m guessing your strength? Every werewolf I’d even known could have broken those cuffs in a heartbeat.” Stiles leaned down and broke the chain leaving the cuff around Merle’s hand for now.

“Come on. We need to find someplace safer than this, then we’ll talk some more. Here, have some more water first.” Stiles tipped the bottle again then threw Merle’s hand over his shoulder and started half-carrying back the way he’d come up.

He was listening for walkers but still blocked all the doors he walked through figuring once they settled, they wouldn’t be moving until morning.

As he found a room which felt safe, Stiles closed and locked the door again then lay Merle on a leather couch. He wetted a bandana he’d appropriated from Daryl some days passed and draped it over Merle’s head to cool him down a bit. He then cleaned and bandaged Merle’s wrist, getting rid of the cuff before he fed him some more water.

“How long does the high usually last?” Stiles asked once he thought Merle was looking better.

Merle groaned when he turned his head to better see Stiles, “Should have been gone by now, but the sun and the blood I’d lost made it worse.”

“So that means instead of a simple high and slight blood poisoning, you now have severe blood poisoning and your body is fighting that in addition to your other injuries?” Stiles scowled at him, “Do you think you’ll be healed by morning?”

“No. Need food and water and rest, then maybe tomorrow night?” Merle asked him as if Stiles had any idea how a high worked with a werewolf.

“That must have been some high quality wolfsbane.” Stiles slid down and leaned against the couch, not really angry at Merle, just wishing he’d picked a better moment to indulge in it.

“The best.” Merle drawled grinning.

Stiles couldn’t help it but grin back. Fuck it, they were still human. Sure there was a place and time for everything and maybe Merle had picked wrong, he was certainly prone to stupidity despite being far from a stupid man, but there was still no excuse for leaving the man cuffed on a roof with walkers just out of reach of him. It made the hairs on the back of Stile’s neck stand up and he was so beyond pissed when he just thought about it.

But there would be time for questions tomorrow, and a time for answers once he got back to camp and answers he would certainly get. For now, he had Merle drink a lot more water and gave him most of the food he’d packed to help him get better. After that they slept, Stiles hugging Merle and reassuring him through the night as he woke up thinking he was still alone on that roof and that he would have to cut off his own hand to survive. By early hours Stiles was ready to kill half the camp and itching to do so.

Chapter Text

Even if Stiles hadn’t been pissed during the ride, running out of fuel just before the climb up to the quarry had him spitting mad. With Merle still not fully back to himself, Stiles had to help him up the rise and he kept on spinning Merle’s words in his head about exchanged words on that roof and how he’d just lost it and offended a bunch of people who probably didn’t deserve it, not to that extent anyway. Merle could be vicious when he wanted to, both of them knew it, add in the wolfsbane and he was probably writing a script with the bullshit coming out of his mouth. Only thing was, it weren’t the offended people who’d cuffed him, no, it was some stranger none of them even knew and they let him. They just traded one of their own for a fucking potential liability, and they brought that liability back to camp.

That was about the time they were near enough to the camp for Stiles to hear Daryl screaming. Stiles didn’t even hesitate dropping Merle where he stood and running toward the sound.

He heard Shane saying something, then a stranger talking about a calm discussion and suddenly he was there. The sight that greeted him had him seeing red. Stiles reached for his gun before he could even think about it and was shooting not a fraction of a second later. The bullet nipped at the tip of Shane’s ear and right away the guy next to him was reaching for his gun while Shane judged correctly and had his hands off Daryl and up in the air while taking two steps back away from the whole scene.

But Stiles didn’t give the stranger a chance. Before the gun was even pointed he was there slapping it away and slamming his bat against the guy’s shin. Once on his knees he had a gun pressed against his forehead, “I would like to have a calm discussion on this topic, think we can manage that?” Stiles almost hissed wanting nothing more than to bite the guy’s head off.

Then Carl was screaming and Lori not far behind about not hurting his father or her husband, but Stiles just turned toward them without removing his gun, “What about my family? Should I treat yours as you did mine? You left one on the roof without water, sunburned, with walkers in spitting distance trying to reach him. Oh right, I forgot, you left him a saw so he could cut off his own hand in case he minded waiting for the zombies to eat him alive.”

“Merle!” Daryl almost whined and Stiles stopped his tirade to reassure him, “He’s down the road, go help him.” Before turning back to Lori, “Or should we talk about the other member of my family, who you attacked while he grieved for his brother while each and every one of you scumbags stood there watching. Should I cuff your husband down on the highway, or maybe I should give him the mercy of a bullet in his head instead. It would certainly be more than you’ve granted my fucking family.”

“He’s sorry. Tell him you’re sorry, Rick!” Lori shouted clutching at Carl.

“Oh he will be sorry, but first we’re gonna have ourselves a nice and calm discussion on the topic, won’t we?”

Stiles heard the crunch of gravel and instantly pulled his other gun at Shane, “You have something to add, Shane? I thought the two of us had already had this discussion before I left.”

“Nothing to add, brother, just hoping you’ll do better by my family than I did yours.” Shane ducked his head, hands still in the air.

Stiles exhaled deeply, putting the second gun away. Left with only his own brain at his disposal, Shane was actually rather good at diffusing a situation. For the first time he could actually see that cop in him and said so, “You know Shane, this is the first time since I’ve met you that you actually reminded me of my father and everything good his career represented. For once you just might be the better man.”

“So, stranger, would you be kind enough to tell me what exactly gives you the right to cuff my family or attack them? Are you somehow better than them?” Stiles pressed the gun harder.

“Look, I understand what you’re sayin’ but what I did wasn’t on a whim, Merle does not work or play well with others…” Rick started only for Stiles to interrupt him, “Lori, tell your husband who supplies more than half of the food you and Carl eat?”

Lori hesitated but eventually spoke, “Merle and Daryl.”

Stiles continued, “Sophia, Carl, who teaches you to hunt and take care of your kills?”

The kids mumbled but the answer was both heard the same as Lori’s.

“Carol, you want to tell me who stopped your ex-husband from beating you day in day out while others ducked their heads in the sand?”

Carol’s voice carried when she spoke, “Merle.”

“You want to try again, Rick? Tell me once more how Merle doesn’t play well with others.” Stiles forced the words through his teeth.

“I’m sorry, the Merle I met was shooting off a building and beating on people while not sparing them insults. I did what I had to do to contain the situation.” Rick said his raised hands moving back and forth with each word.

“Honestly, I would give you that. Merle can be an asshole when he wants, under the influence he’s ten times worse. I can even believe you honestly thought he would kill the others there. But ask yourself this, you swore to protect and serve, and while you protected innocent civilians who were all armed one way or another, where was your responsibility for your own actions in all that? You cuffed him, it was your duty to release him. If you joined a group, you’re responsible for protecting all members of that group. Perhaps next time we’ll just have Glenn leave you in your own crap seeing as you only care about people you pick and choose and not all members of a particular group who just happened to be there to save you.”

Rick ducked his head but didn’t say anything, Stiles however wasn’t feeling done, “Now about another member of my family, one who’s far less violate and is the biggest damn sweetheart in this camp, am I right Carol?”

Carol smiled at him, “You are Stiles.”

“Daryl doesn’t ask for much, he cares deeply and is one of the most competent men I know and I don’t mean in this shitty camp but in general. So without even properly meeting him, what do you do? You threaten him, damn near beat him and Shane fucking dares to help you!” Stiles snapped glaring at Shane now because he just couldn’t get over it.

“He was aggressive and wasn’t willin’ to listen.” Rick tries again, but even if he’d told Stiles Daryl had killed Rick’s whole family at one point or another, Stiles wasn’t inclined to listen either.

“Let me guess, you’d just told him you’d left his brother on the roof or some version of the tale? Tell me, how would you react if I’d told you I’d tied Lori and Carl to the same pipe and there was a stairwell full of walkers just waiting for us to leave so they could eat them?”

Rick visibly flinched but didn’t say anything.

“You know, Rick, there is something about a calm discussion, I’ll give you that. I’m not feeling even half as murderous as I did when I first got here. I’m even willing to leave you off the hook for your bullshit judgement call, but I’ll give you the same warning I gave Shane,” Stiles put away his gun and crouched to look Rick in the eyes, “If you allow yourself to do anything else to my family, hurt them in any way, I’ll make sure to repay you in kind, and make you thank me for it before I kill you. Do we understand one another?”

Rick nodded and Stiles stood looking back at Shane once again, “You know Daryl could have killed you both without breaking a sweat, because he truly is that good and that fast, but he didn’t because he wasn’t trying to. I want you to keep that in mind for next time you get any ideas.”

Stiles saw Daryl and Merle coming up the road slowly, but he still looked at Glenn, “I don’t know precisely what happened back there on that roof, and I’ll assume you were in that Challenger when they were leaving Atlanta, but if you plan on treating my family that way in the future I don’t want you in it and I’ll make damn sure Daryl knows it.”

Glenn had tears in his eyes but he nodded obediently.

“For the rest of you, as far as us Dixons are concerned, until we get an apology from every one of you who left Merle on that roof, you can forget about any meat we’d be willing to share. And someone should do something about the guy digging up there.” Stiles finished pointing in the direction of the sound and gave Merle another shoulder to lean on as they half carried him to the tent.

They crawled inside together, laying Merle in between them. They got him out of his dirty clothes and washed with water and cloth. It was all somehow dependent, too much, something Merle would have scoffed at and outright refused, especially if it had been anyone else caring for him other than his brother and Stiles.

But Stiles and Daryl didn’t speak of it, they touched Merle gently, careful of his still damaged skin and they held him close knowing instinctively it was something Merle needed the most. He might have been free now, safe from the walkers and the harsh beating sun, but the panic was still there, lurking under his skin. The sounds of the biters ready to get him echoed in his head each time he closed his eyes and the feeling of the saw biting into his skin…

Merle’s sobs when they came, were soft but broken things, muffled by the arms and chest holding him close and covered by the rushed whispers of reassurance falling from Daryl’s lips. Stiles touched Merle, squeezing his fingers, his sides in small affirming ways, telling him he was with them, he was safe surrounded by the scent of his pack and still strong, a wolf, a brother, a pack mate. Merle was theirs and they would never let anything happen to him.

That afternoon they fed Merle well, their squirrel stew plentiful when they didn’t need to share and while he still wasn’t healing he was feeling much better. They sat by their fire, Carol and Sofia with them and Glenn hovering in hearing distance but seemingly at war with himself.

Stiles gave him some ten minutes before finally snapping, “Glenn, get your ass here by the fire and sit down.”

All sound stopped but then he seemed to find his courage because he walked up to them and sat down quickly before he managed to lose his nerve.

“I’m sorry I didn’t fight them when they cuffed you on the roof.” Glenn said softly his gaze glued to the ground.

Merle gritted his teeth before relaxing, “Don’t rightly blame ya, boy. I reckon I had some of tha’ comin’. Now leaving me behind? That’s another matter.”

Glenn dared to look at him, “I didn’t know they would leave you. Rick gave them the key and they were all in the van behind me. I only realized you weren’t with them when we reached the camp.”

Merle watched him, assessing, “Next time ya put family first and I won’t have ta slap ya silly.”

Glenn just nodded quickly then gripped the bowl of stew Daryl had unceremoniously pushed in his hands with a short, “’ere.”

“Oh no, thank you, Andrea had caught some fish…” But Glenn trailed off at the look on Daryl’s face and just started eating.

“Ya need some more meat on them bones of yours. If you stood sideways and stuck out your tongue you’d look like a damn zipper.” Merle snapped looking almost angry but Carol laughed at him and Glenn ducked his head and hid his blush.

Of course Merle was never exactly subtle, and even when he whispered, it carried, “Told you there was somethin’ wrong with that blood flow of his.”

“Shut up, Merle.” Daryl growled at him but just as Merle opened his mouth Stiles stood saying “Hush!”

Then all three of them were on their feet yelling, “Walkers!”

“To the RV Sophia!” Carol told her panicked, but both Stiles and Merle shouted, “No!”

“That’s where they’re coming from, get in one of the trucks here and lock the doors, duck down and be quiet so they don’t see you.” Stiles said grabbing his weapons and throwing his bat at Glenn, “Hold onto that until you get to your weapons.”

Glenn nodded gripping Roscoe as if he would drown without it, but he had no more than a few seconds to prepare because the Dixons were then running toward the other camp and Stiles was pulling Glenn with them.

Only some of the men had an actual weapon in hand and were busy looking around for the threat while the others just huddled together and basically kept on yelling ‘dinner is served’ with their panicked screams and wails.

“Are you insane people? Grab a fucking weapon and put the children in a vehicle.” Stiles shouted then added, “Not the fucking RV! That’s where they’re coming from.”

Just then Amy opened the RV door and stepped outside, a biter right behind her. Daryl didn’t hesitate shooting a bolt in its forehead but then the real screaming began since the campers apparently didn’t believe Stiles until they saw it themselves.

Amy found her feet and ran toward her sister, another walker close enough behind it touched her hair and everyone with a gun suddenly started shooting. It wasn’t necessarily accurate because killing headshots didn’t seem to be common knowledge and it gave the walkers an advantage in that some of them reached the tents and all hell broke loose.

Merle and Stiles had each other’s backs, always careful, turning together so no biter could sneak up on them. Daryl was trying the same with Glenn and while it kind of worked, Stiles noticed Daryl pulling Glenn back a couple of times when Glenn strayed.

It couldn’t have taken more than a few minutes, but by the end of it the camp looked like they’d been through war. Not seeing any more walkers, Stiles hated to be the bad guy but it seemed he’d embraced the role somewhere along the way, “Everyone quiet!” He shouted, “I need to hear if there are anymore.”

The silence wasn’t absolute. It was cut with sobs and moans of pains, crunching gravel and rustle of foliage, but all three of them listened for that specific sound of walkers.

“Looks like that was it, but if you have a weapon I want you to pair up and check out the perimeter. Without a weapon come closer to the middle where we can see you.” Stiles ordered but after no movement ten seconds later, he snapped, “Fucking now!”

Daryl took Glenn with him while Merle fell in step with Dale, leaving Stiles with those in the middle of the camp. He looked around, taking note of the dead and bitten then cursed himself for not making a bigger issues of their pathetic excuse for security around camp, not that they’d listened any of the times he’d brought it up.

Two by two, those checking their surrounding came back with nothing to report other than killing a couple of stranglers who were lagging behind the original herd.

Allowing himself to relax slightly, Stiles sheathed his knife and holstered his gun then took a walk around himself, giving hand where he could before they decided the rest could wait for morning.

They cleaned themselves the best they could, Stiles retrieving Roscoe from Glenn and pulling the panicked man with them until they were back at their tent.

“I’ll take first watch.” Merle offered, his rifle in hand and he climbed to the top of his truck taking position. Stiles would have said something out of concern, but he stopped himself in time, knowing Merle wouldn’t have offered if he hadn’t felt up to it.

“Will you two be alright in your tent?” Stiles asked Carol who was hugging Sophia close and although scared didn’t look quite as terrified as the rest of the camp.

“We’ll be just fine, dear. Merle will watch over us.” Carol smiled, Merle calling, “Bet your sweet ass I will, sweetheart.” then she ushered Sophia to bed.

“Come Glenn, you’re sleeping with us tonight.” Stiles pulled him again and all but pushing him inside the tent before he could react.

“I don’t think this is such a good idea.” Glenn mumbled.

“Take off some of your clothes so I don’t have to. You’ll be more comfortable that way.” Stiles ignored him.

Getting ready himself, Stiles put his weapons above his head as they’d all gotten used to doing then settled himself to the left and dragged Glenn next to him, leaving Daryl’s right side unoccupied for when the man gathered enough courage to join them.

“Well, this isn’t awkward at all.” Glenn whispered twisting the edge of his shirt.

“It’s not. You’re warm and comfortable and safe. No one will get to you before going through Daryl and me first. What happened tonight is unfortunate, but you’re not alone. It’s alright to be sad. You knew these people and it’s in human nature to mourn the loss. We’re your family now and we’re here if you need protection, food, or just comfort.” Stiles whispered, his fingers lost in Glenn’s longish hair as he tried to coax him to let go.

Glenn took a while, lost in his own thoughts, but eventually Stiles could smell the tears and when the soft sobs started, he pulled him against his chest and hugged him hard. Stiles gave amazing hugs, ones even Merle wasn’t able to resist. Compared to that Glenn was a piece of cake.

Worrywart that he was, Daryl might have been outside, but he was very aware of everything Glenn. It wasn’t long before his self-restraint weakened and he crawled inside, molding himself against Glenn’s back and pushing his nose against Glenn’s hair.

Glenn noticed him, but wasn’t of a mind to protest or even stiffen. He allowed them to comfort him and make the situation better for which Stiles was grateful. He needed things to be right, for his family to be content and happy. He needed everyone safe and almost always in his line of sight. His loss was still raw and as Glenn’s tears soaked through his shirt, Stiles let go of his own.

God, he missed him. They’d known each other for such a short time, but Stiles felt as if he’d lost a life time when he’d lost Negan. Maybe it was the wolf, leaving half his soul in Negan’s hands, but Stiles was pretty positive some of it was the human in him, needing the man almost as much as he needed very air. His chest was tight with want, his head full of images and flashes, he ached so badly he had to bite off a whine.

Daryl stretched his arm far enough to touch Stiles, to be that comfort all of them craved and while he didn’t want to upset Glenn anymore there was no hiding from another werewolf. His pack knew just how much he hurt, hell they could probably smell it, day in and day out as he pasted a fake smile or got lost in his head while sitting by the fire. They knew and they were there for him, looking for ways to help, needing him to get better.

The thing was, both Daryl and Merle were convinced Negan was still alive. Merle said there was a connection they could feel, a call of an Alpha but it was unfocused and far away. Merle speculated it had something to do with Negan being human and not knowing how to call for his pack or how to even acknowledge his pack. But when Stiles asked if it were possible he was just a walking dead with that Alpha spark Merle said he doubted it based on his experience with his father, but he couldn’t be a hundred percent sure, and that little sliver of doubt was enough for Stiles to hesitate, to wait out the potential group members and only leave for Washington when he was sure he had something to offer to Negan, or a group big enough for them to make it on their own.

As he closed his eyes exhausted and emotionally drained he felt his wolf take charge before he was lost to the world of dreams, too weary to acknowledge their potential connection to the living…

Anger, so much anger and hate and hurt. A ball of raging fire coursed through his mate, uncontrollable and hungry. He wanted to hurt the others as he was hurt, to make them all pay for betraying his one connection to sanity, make them pay for giving second chances where there weren’t deserved. He’d offered them peace, trade and protection and they killed his men, betrayed again, stabbed in the back when offering trust and a piece of himself. But no more. He’d never been a pushover and he would wield fear as a weapon until no one would dare to betray him again….

Negan woke from a dream, his chest aching and almost tender to the touch. He’d dreamt about Stiles again, his naughty grin and bright eyes, only he was in pain now, hurting and distant, out of reach somehow but still calling him… Negan shook his head. He was going slowly fucking insane.

His head was a jumble of betrayal and the lingering hurt his dream had left behind and it never made a good recipe for progress. He needed to move past all the bullshit, grow from his mistake of believing in other people and trusting blindly. He had a community to take care of and as their mistake had shown, there would be no one left if he continued just giving their lives away.

He got cleaned up and dressed, regaining some of his usual calm. He caressed Lucille for a moment, his fingertips playing over the rounded angles of her handle. He wasn’t sure anymore if she was a memory of Lucille or of Stiles. Perhaps both, but in this age where food, medicine and shelter were the greatest commodities, Negan found himself thinking he could go days or longer without any of those, but take away Lucille for mere hours and he could feel himself crumbling from inside out.

Simon greeted him as he got out of his room, falling in step as they walked to the very gates of the factory. What once had been a fence had evolved into two walls with the inner one steel reinforced and the middle filled with old tires. It was tall with watch towers strategically placed to cover the whole complex.

Negan even had people welding steel shutters over the large glass front of the factory, just in case. These days Negan always had a just in case projects to ensure his survival, after all that was all he was left with, his life.

The number of people had increased in the past weeks, their admission always passing by Negan first, where he allowed his personality to run free and told them all about the rules and the consequences of disobeying them. The first one is free, isn’t it? After that, well…

It was all about fear it turned out. Most people weren’t unlike teenagers, tamer in fact and with them Negan had always had to clearly show who was in charge and what the rules were. With the end of the world the rules obviously changed, more of a life or death type of thing. Negan chuckled to himself thinking Stiles would have appreciated the comparison.

“Are we ready?” Negan asked as he stopped next to the trucks filled with his men.

“Yes, Negan.” Simon said.

“Keep the fort then and expect us victorious.” Negan grinned as he jumped into the truck and tapped the side of it through the open window to get them all moving.

The settlement they were headed for was one they were in a type of a peaceful agreement with. An agreement of simple trade and mutual protection, but during the meet the previous day, his men had seen something which didn’t sit right with them and for it they ended up killed.

If anyone other than John had been the only survivor, Negan would have doubted the story, but John was one of the few Negan somewhat trusted and would certainly think again about letting him out of the Sanctuary no matter how safe the mission might be.

“We handle this carefully,” Negan started as they hid their vehicles at a safe distance, planning on approaching the settlement on foot. “You kill the ringleaders but leave those who surrender alone, we’ve got no use of the dead. Careful and fucking precise. Any one of you get shot and I’ll fucking cut off your shooting fingers for being so incompetent. We clear?”

A bunch of grunts and nods later and Negan was sneaking with his men through the forest. He knew the settlement well just because he liked to be fucking informed, and with it all the weak spots. It was time to use them.

They crawled to the part of the fence which wasn’t visible from the watch post cutting an entrance silently. They snuck in like thieves keeping to the shadows of the early morning and once nicely spread out they started taking out the biggest threats. Chaos ensued as was predictable, but it didn’t take long for the return fire to quiet and his men to line those still among the living in the center on their knees.

Negan walked out of the shadow, Lucille on his shoulder, “Are we shitting out pants yet?”

No one answered but he didn’t expect them to, “No? I have a feeling that’s about to fucking change.”

“Where’s that sorry excuse for their leader?” Negan looked around and saw one of his men dragging Tim up to the front, leaving a trail of blood in their wake.

“Timmy boy!” Negan shouted with way too much enthusiasm as soon as Tim was gasping and in front of him on his knees. “Didn’t we have an agreement? The two of us? You stroke my dick and I fucking stroke yours back? That way we both get to come and everyone is so fucking happy we could just piss ourselves.”

Tim spat next to Negan’s feet struggling to answer due to injury and angry enough to force out the words, “Stuck your fucking nose in my business, asshole.”

“Your business? Timmy boy, the moment you pissed me off you made everything my fucking business, but the moment you killed my people? That just made you and everyone you give a crap about, dead.” Negan gave the rest of them a glance, picking those who weren’t meant to live another day.

He casually walked in their direction, taking his time, “I heard a lovely tale last night from my man John. A great guy, John. Worked with doctors you know? Level head and all that shit, very clinical. You know what he told me?”

Negan paused giving Tim time to answer, “No? He told me you have some lovely ladies here, ladies who would rather be anywhere else, and that you like to play with those ladies, make them earn their keep.”

“What of it?” Tim spat again.

“Why Tim, that attitude just won’t do. It’s a simple fact of life that for some things you have to ask permission. Isn’t that right, little lady? What’s your name?” Negan put the tip of Lucille underneath the girl’s chin forcing her to look up.

“Marlene, sir.” She whispered.

“She called me sir. Did you hear that boys? She’s awfully respectful, just as she should be. You should pay attention Tim, this is how one speaks to their betters and I sure as shit am your better, Tim.” Negan focused on the girl again, “So tell me, Marlene, if you wanted to sexually violate Tim, say fuck him with the handle of a bat right up his tight asshole, would you ask permission first?”

“I… Yes sir. I would ask if he was willin’.” She blushed as she spoke but answer she did.

“Why thank you lovely Merlene. See Tim, it’s basic courtesy, you ask for permission. So the setup you have going around here is just not cool. So not cool. And killing my people? That’s fucking unforgivable.” Negan swiveled round, raised his bat and slammed it right in the middle of the head of Tim’s little brother. He hit until there was barely anything left of the man’s head ignoring Tim’s screams and the struggle as his men held him.

“Whoa, that was fucking intense!” He wiped his forehead, “Still feeling like I’m in your business Tim? All up close and personal?”

Negan laughed loudly, “This is the fucking new world order, Negan’s order. You had trouble trading with me? Now rules have changed, now, whoever is left in charge of this little idyllic settlement will give me half your shit. Everything you own? Half of that shit is mine, no negotiation, no rescheduling, no fucking mercy. It’s simple, I don’t get my shit? You die.”

“Ladies, whoever wishes to abandon this lovely place you have one free chance to come with us.” Negan threw over his shoulder before bashing in Tim’s skull.

He gave a signal to his men and three others had their brains spread on the ground. He laughed as their bodies fell then headed in the direction of their trucks, “Pack it up boys! Our dinner is waiting.”

Chapter Text

The next morning Stiles watched. He observed the people as they handled the dead, as the self-proclaimed leaders had their little discussions and arguments. He watched the love triangle and the way Shane was doing anything but handling the situation.

He paid attention to Glenn and Daryl, saw the tension in the former and frustration in latter. They were from different worlds and while Glenn had been close to some of the people Daryl hadn’t. What was worse, Daryl didn’t understand why his approach would be considered wrong. None of the people who’d died were blood and it had been their time, hell, Daryl probably thought they were partially responsible for being incompetent. They were not pack, another bond Daryl could understand, but rather they were friends and Stiles doubted Daryl had ever had any of those. In fact Stiles was under the impression that any such show of vulnerability had always been perceived as weak, so neither him nor Merle ever showed it.

The only emotion Daryl openly showed was anger and his frustration with something he just didn’t understand always had him spitting mad, and yet his wolf caught Glenn’s distress and just couldn’t keep away.

Stiles noticed the way Jaqui carried herself, how she was lost in her head but it wasn’t until he got close to her that he could smell the bite. Still, he chose to say nothing. He was sure Daryl would have mentioned it if he’d noticed, but Daryl never got too close to the women in camp and his senses were overwhelmed by everything dead around them.

So when Dale, being once again friendly and supportive, went to offer help and saw fresh blood instead everyone had a thing or two to say.

Again, Stiles understood Daryl. Everyone bitten was a potential risk and if he had to choose between slow or quick death, there really wasn’t any choice. But Stiles still vividly remembered the time when he’d begged Negan to wait until he turned and he supposed there was something in the notion of clinging to life for as long as one could.

This time when the argument got almost violent and the guns were drawn, Stiles didn’t react and he caught Merle’s arm as he went to stand. Daryl had to fight some battles on his own and there was no other way for him to show his worth, his character.

So Merle sat down and the debates went on. Jaqui begged for drugs or anything to put her to sleep, resolute in her decision to die sooner rather than later and Stiles could see that as many in the camp agreed with it, just as many kept clinging to some hope, discussing the CDC and whatever imaginary cure they’ve dreamed up.

The disposal of bodies was at its end when Stiles called for his little pack. Glenn seemed lost, but Carol stronger than ever. Merle was still not at full strength but well enough he could pass for a healthy human. His wrist had finally healed and the fatigue was gone.

They gathered around the hood of a truck, attentive and curious and Stiles pulled out his maps.

“Jeez, how many of those do you have?” Glenn adjusted his hat, his color seeming better than it had been for the whole morning.

“Probably another three or four in the trucks.” Stiles was distracted as he looked for the right one.

“Why so many, man?” Glenn started to open one of them, peeking inside.

“They are not all the same. Some have notes others aren’t for this area. When I loot I take the maps as well. They’re useful, especially for me since I’ve never been in this state before.” Stiles finally pulled out the right one and spread it over the hood. It was a printed out map with pages glued together to form a full image, and it was covered in attraction stickers and little notes.

“Now, they’re talking about heading to CDC or Fort Benning, and I don’t want to go to either of those places.” Stiles explained.

This time it was Carol who asked, “Why not? Is it worth it to split up the group?”

“Yeah, I know we haven’t really talked about this,” Stiles hesitated, “Sophia, I need you to not say anything you hear when we’re speaking among ourselves to Carl or any of the others outside our little group. Okay?”

Sophia nodded seriously, “I can keep a secret.”

“You’re a good girl, ain’t ya?” Merle grinned, messing up the girl’s hair but instead of minding, Sophia seemed to like the attention.

“Alright, what you need to know is that up until Rick came back Shane and Lori had a thing going, to say it nicely. But since Rick came back that’s a whole lot of mess that could blow up any second. Truthfully, I don’t want us anywhere near them when that happens, because as things stand now, those two are the pillars of that group, and what happens when the pillar breaks?” Stiles looked at them, but Carol and Glenn understood what he meant. “I don’t want Dale with us,” He saw Glenn and Carol were ready to protest but he continued, “The thing about him is that he has a real clear cut vision of right and wrong and that just won’t work in the world as it is today. I don’t want him questioning my every decision and causing trouble when he doesn’t get his way. Close up is Andrea. The woman is unstable, full of herself and I don’t trust her at all. Of course, she and Amy go together. Now I like Jim as much as I know him which really isn’t much, and I don’t know anything about T-Dog nor am I close to Morales, so for now I would like only the six of us in our group. Besides, Merle and Daryl don’t really get along with the others.”

“’course I don’t. They’re a bunch of sissies and they left me for dead.” Merle snapped.

“I don’t like the idea of leaving T-Dog.” Glenn said softly.

“Ain’t none of them apologized yet.” Daryl added and Glenn snapped his mouth shut.

“And that’s alright, I don’t plan on making out separation a permanent one yet, so we should see them again and they should find the time to apologize. Just hear me out for now. I don’t want to go to the CDC, that’s where they’re leaning on at this point as far as I know. The idea of a cure is very slim. The location is too close to a lot of the dead and even if it is still standing it will probably be guarded and with the army I can’t be positive they won’t shoot at us first and ask the questions later. Fort Benning is a similar situation but on a larger scale. That complex is huge and way too big for us to defend in case it’s unoccupied. If it is unoccupied by the living, the number of dead there will overwhelm us. If they are still alive, again, it’s the army and we can’t know they’re still letting people in. In my book that’s just too big of a risk.”

“I liked the idea about Fort Benning, but I didn’t think about it that way. I just figured if there’s an army, they would keep us safe.” Glenn confessed.

“Too many men,” Carol said then blushed but lifted her head, “I actually preferred the CDC.”

“No. They don’t know what they’re talking about. The city is crawling with geeks, I should know, and just going into that with cars and so many of us? We’ll be ringing the dinner bell.” Glenn said.

“So what was your idea, Stiles?” Carol prompted.

“My idea is to go here,” Stiles pointed at a map where a date was scrawled in and a picture of a farm glued underneath.

Glenn removed his hat, “Why?”

“Because of this,” Stiles lifted the first leaf of the sticker and it turned out there was a note underneath ‘loved the blueberries, looking forwards to peaches’. “This should be the right time for peaches and some other things if they have them, right?”

“Yes, maybe plums and apricots too.” Carol added.

“We have enough food for now, but I’m more worried for long term and by the quality of food. We can’t just survive on cans and squirrels, we need fruit and vegetables. So if the farm is not overrun, I was thinking of staying at least long enough to make a large stash of dried stuff or if they have the equipment, maybe preserve some things. I will be taking the van too. They only need a hose from it anyway and I already found one on the last run Glenn and I did together.”

Carol looked at him making Stiles protest, “What? I was planning on trading it for something. That reminds me, I have tampons if you need any.”

Merle snorted, but Glenn got them back on track, “So you were thinking of getting more supplies and then what, meeting up with them?”

“No, we’ll let them know where we’ll be and give them the choice. If they still want to go to Fort Benning they can, but we won’t follow. We’ll give them some ten days or leave them a note if the farm is no good.” Stiles took in their reactions and felt his confidence rise.

Glenn put his hat back on, “It’s a good plan. A long term one. We haven’t had any issues with fuel so far and the way you scavenge I don’t see us having any. I like that you know what you want and I’m betting you have a backup plan as well. It’s better than risking everything on an uncertainty. Should we share our plans, do you think?”

“Nah, they’ll just shit on us as they’d done so far. Whenever we’d suggested they set up a better watch, or make a more efficient alarm system, they kept saying there’s no need. No need to learn to fight, to track, to hunt…” Daryl raised his voice as he got into it his frustration and anger coming out.

“I didn’t know that.” Glenn gave Daryl’s shoulder a hesitant squeeze.

“’twas that Olive Oyl who done and shut us out each time. She talks around it until everyone just starts nodding along and that’s that.” Daryl crossed his arms.

“So we agree? We’re on our own but give them our destination?” Stiles checked with everyone and when he got nods in return he packed up his map ready to leave.

“The supplies we gather,” Carol stopped him hesitantly, “do we share with the group?”

Stiles sighed rubbing the back of his neck, “Look Carol, I’m not really cheap, but so far they’ve done minimum effort and except too much in return. I won’t let anyone use me again, and working for a week or however long, straight without their input then sharing what we’ve made? That will just be me bending over.”

“I understand. Doesn’t quite sit right, but I do understand. How about Carl, he’s just a little kid?” Carol looked at him pleadingly.

“I’m not a monster, I will feed the kid, hell, I know I’ll probably give some to the adults as well, but even now we have our trucks full of supplies. It’s not something I’ve just carried from home, I gathered that shit from Chattanooga to Atlanta while they’re running on empty and seem rather okay with it. None of them asked to learn or to come with, hell the one time they followed Glenn they caused more trouble than good. Did they even bring anything back from the run? I didn’t care to ask. Instead they’ve been depending on Glenn risking his life for months now.”

Carol sighed, “You’re right. We’ve allowed the division of labor where women wash and cook and men stand guard, but only one person scavenged for supplies. Seems ridiculous when you point it out.”

“I’ll share within limits, but it will still be our supplies versus theirs. I won’t budge on that. Besides, I plan on scavenging all the way to that farm, but I’ve yet to hear them talking about the same.” Stiles finished then turned to start packing their things.

When it came to the discussion later in the day, the group was first surprised by the Morales family taking their leave, but once they heard about the six of them going in a different direction everything seemed to stop.

“Are you sure we can’t change your mind?” Rick asked so pale he seemed in dire need of a transfusion.

“No. There’s no way we’re risking either CDC or Fort Benning. We’ll stock up on our supplies at this farm I’d found on a map. You’re welcome to join us when you’re finished with the CDC. We plan on sticking around for ten days or so, but if the farm is overrun, we’ll leave you a message with the directions where you can find us in the period of those ten days. After that we’ll most likely head for Washington.” Stiles finished.

“I just think it ain’t fair that you’re abandoning us.” Lori ended up saying when Stiles thought their discussion was already done.

“Well I don’t think it’s fair you’re risking the lives of all these people just because you’re feeling guilty and are unable to choose.” Stiles snapped feeling attacked.

“Hey, that was out of line.” Shane took a step toward Stiles.

“No. What’s out of line is Lori trying to force her mistakes on others because she’s afraid now that her main providers of supplies are leaving. But you know what lady, this is a different time. You can’t survive by just washing clothes and finding babysitters for your kid. You have to learn certain things otherwise you’re as good as dead. I won’t be anyone’s fool and if you expect something from me, you’ll have to trade me for it.” Stiles said with a straight back, defensive.

“I’m sure she didn’t mean it like that.” Rick offered.

“Look, Rick. I think you might have been a good guy and a good cop before all this. But times have changed and you’re just not keeping up. You’re making decisions as if we’re still surrounded by the living while on the other hand you’re letting stupid mistakes pass because everything is different now and we can’t expect everyone to adapt to the difficulties. You can’t have it both ways and you need to stick by your decisions. You’ve missed a better part of this shit it seems and you aren’t catching up. But let me tell you, I can and will expect from everyone to adapt and to learn to fight and survive. Until our expectations align we’ll be two different groups.” Stiles turned toward Dale, dismissing Rick, “I know you need the hose for the RV, I have one, but I want the van and I’m willing to negotiate the price.”

“I’m sure we can come to an agreement.” Dale smiled at him and beckoned him over.

Traveling to the farm was slow with how many times Stiles called a stop. But their supplies were slowly increasing with each mile they traveled. Not every car was empty nor were the roads, but while the men got rid of the most dangerous walkers, Merle was slowly coaxing Carol and Sophia to get a handle of it.

“This will be yours Sophia.” Stiles pulled out a Glock entrenching tool from Daryl’s truck.

He showed her how it could be packed and tightened in place as well as the hidden saw, then he told he, “This is Daryl’s. He was secretly a prepper before all this so you have to take real good care of it. From now on you put your doll in your backpack, but you have this always at hand. It means you sleep with it within reach. Alright?”
Daryl blushed and Glenn gave him a speculative look. Stiles heard him say, “I ain’t no fucking prepper, Chinaman, I just liked it. ‘tis useful.”

“Whatever you say doomsday man.” Glen chuckled but shut up when Daryl pushed him hard enough to stumble.

Focusing back on Sophia, Stiles showed her how she should hold it and swing it before Merle took over again and led her to one of the cars with a walker inside.

It was still light when they reached the farm. The number of walkers had dwindled the further they got from the city and while the farm was only maybe an hour away, it was apparently far enough from anything too populated to stay walker free still.

They secured the main house killing the whole family who were locked inside and growling, but outside they only found a couple of zombies.

“Okay, we’re doing this intelligently. Two groups of three at all times and no chatter louder than a whisper when outside. You all listen to your surroundings, if someone is approaching the grass or leaves will rustle, but still pay attention. We’ll check out if there’s any fruit still out there, if there is we pick it and bring it back to the house. Everyone ready? Good. Take some baskets with you and we’re back while there’s still light out.” Stiles smiled at them then led Sophia and Daryl in one direction while Merle, Glenn and Carol went in the other.

It turned out there was plenty left to pick still. By night fall Stiles’ group went back to the house five times with baskets filled with peaches, apricots and plums and they barely scratched the surface.

Merle had found a few trees of early apples, some blueberries and blackberries while Carol had stumbled upon a vegetable garden.

By the time they’d dragged everything inside they were exhausted but Stiles still took the time to scout around until he found an actual generator hooked up outside and Carol dug out a book of recipes in a fully stocked kitchen and a pantry filled full with jars, some of which were obviously intended for sales.

“God, I can’t even say how much we actually scored with this farm.” Glenn mumbled as he lay down on a carpet leaning his head on the edge of a couch.

“We’re coming back here.” Stiles wasn’t even kidding. It didn’t matter if he was in Washington or somewhere else, he was coming back to pick the rest of the stuff when it was ripe enough.

“What do ya mean?” Daryl was sitting above Glenn picking his nails with the tip of his knife.

“Originally I’d just planned on clearing this place up and leaving, but there are so many fruit trees here and a lot of it won’t be ripe for some time yet. I’ll be coming back next month for whatever is in season, and we’ll take care of the trees. There must be some kind of supplements or whatever the trees need around here. This is too good of a find to just abandon. Hell, if there were more of us, I would fortify the house.” Stiles pulled all the curtains over the windows despite Merle already having closed the shutters.

“There’s some kind of an automatic watering system set up for all the berries.” Carol said.

“The whole thing is solar and connected to water well. I kind of love it.” Glenn added.

“Like I said, we’re definitely not abandoning this place. Shit, when we set up a community I’ll make it mandatory to find more farms and maintain them. Some of these trees don’t even need much attention but can feed us whole year round.” Stiles dropped down on an armchair, leaning against Merle who’d already been seated in it.

“What about tomorrow?” Sophia mumbled half sleeping stretched out next to Daryl.

“Tomorrow we’ll see what we have at our disposal here, and most likely half of us will go back to picking and the other half will start cutting up the fruit.” Stiles yawned, “It’s best we just eat something and go to bed. No lights please and we’ll start with first light.”

So that was what they did and when morning came they found all the equipment they needed and more along with a basement full of bulk bought supplies needed for preserves. Stiles just loved the fucking farm.

On day five of their stay on the farm they got dragged into the mess the other group had gotten themselves into and it was nothing less than Stiles had been expecting.

“Hush.” Stiles said to Glenn and Carol who were chattering softly as they cut the apples in slices before they were set to dry. “There’s a truck coming down the road.”

“Get your guns and stay in the house.” Stiles said as he took his own weapons and got outside.

It didn’t take Stiles long to recognize the truck as well as T-Dog and Jim riding in it as they neared the house so he motioned for Carol and Glenn to come out, too.

“Where’s the rest of you?” Stiles asked as soon as they got out of the car.

T-Dog and Jim looked at each other before Jim answered, “They’re at this farm. Amy got lost in the woods and then Carl got shot.”

“Carl got shot? Oh my God, is he alright?” Carol covered her mouth with her hand.

“We don’t know yet. He was operated on last night and Shane got him and T-dog some meds, but it was still too soon to tell when we headed this way.” Jim said.

“What happened to you? You weren’t bit.” Stiles lifted his chin in the direction of T-Dog’s arm.

We ran into a horde of geeks and I got cut as I tried to hide. Almost got eaten, too, but the walker I killed dropped on me and hid the scent of blood. Was damn lucky.” T-dog grinned.

“I supposed it’s too optimistic of me to hope you’ve just come to join us?” Stiles smiled at them getting a sheepish reaction in return.

“We need help finding Amy and since Andrea is frantic we were wondering if you or Daryl could come back with us and help us look. Maybe track her down.” Jim shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

Stiles sighed, “I suppose we’ll talk it over when the others come back. You want to eat anything? There’s plenty of fruit.”

An hour later T-Dog and Jim were stuffed and in awe of the quantity of supplies the group had managed to gather. The thing was, they only knew about the things in plain sight. The group had already stashed a lot of things and the van was half filled with supplies, hidden in the barn with their other vehicles out of sight. They did their best to make the farm seem unoccupied and their trucks positioned for an easy getaway.

Merle stood aside glaring at T-Dog not willing to let up until T-Dog finally snapped, “Look, I’m really sorry for dropping the key and leaving you up there. It was my fault and I probably would have done things different if I could go back, but I can’t. Sorry man.”

Merle snorted, but he finally looked away, and Stiles supposed the apology was better than they could have hoped for. T-Dog wasn’t a bad guy it seemed, Stiles just didn’t know him well yet.

“Merle is a much better tracker than I. Daryl and him could find Amy in a few hours probably.” Stiles offered leaning back against the wall.

Both Jim and T-Dog hesitated as if at a loss for words, but in the end it was Merle who broke the silence, “’cept I don’ wanna go look for the bitch.”

Stiles rolled his eyes already knowing that but he’d kind of wondered what T-Dog and Jim would say without actually offending Merle or Daryl, “I’m shit at tracking, can barely tell a difference between a human and a deer but I’ll go with you, and Daryl won’t let me go alone, won’t you Daryl?”

Daryl huffed and turned away but he still nodded.

“We’ll give you five days, after that we’ll head back. I honestly don’t want to hang out with those people more than necessary.” Stiles said then looked at Merle, Glenn and Carol, “I think you should just keep doing as we’ve been so far, only I want you together. Picking together and pickling or whatever together.” Stiles pulled a map out of his pocket, “If shit happens we’ll meet here, “He pointed at another farm not too far. “That’s where I’ll go if I don’t find you here.”

Everyone nodded and Stiles and Daryl soon had their tent and some of the supplies packed. They loaded up their truck with crates of fruit to bring for Carl and the others because Stiles would have felt like a bastard otherwise, but he was still reluctant to leave and before he actually did, he ran and jumped at Merle, wrapping his legs around the man’s waist and he easily held him up.

Stiles pressed his nose against Merle’s neck whispering, ‘Take care of them and don’t take stupid risks, please. If shit happens you run, fuck the supplies, we’ll scavenge others. Just please stay safe.”

Merle, wrapped his big hand around the back of Stiles’ neck, pressing him closer and scenting him, “Don’t ya worry, twinky boy. Just take care of Darylina for me and come back before those five days are up so I don’t hafta come lookin’ for ya.”

Stiles gave him one more tight squeeze and hopped down. He hugged the others in goodbye but not with the same enthusiasm while Daryl just nodded at them and got into his truck. He’d never been big on showing affection, the sap.

They arrived at the farm in the early afternoon and half the group was missing. Rick was somewhere with the owner of the farm, Lori inside the house with Carl while Shane and Andrea went in search of Amy and still weren’t back.

Dale greeted them from the top of the RV and the daughter of the farm owner came down the steps to introduce herself. Maggie also informed them they would need to put their weapons away while staying on the farm as her daddy had requested and Rick had agreed, at which point Stiles laughed in her face. “Lady, I don’t know you, and even if I did, there’s nothing you could say to me to make me relinquish my weapons in the world we’re living in now. This isn’t some fortified stronghold where nothing could reach us and I could maybe relax. You’re right out in the open, an easy target for both the walkers and the humans and I like myself a little too much to risk my life for some childish notions of gun control. Now, do you have a map of the area and a location where the idiots lost Amy in the first place? We don’t plan on staying here longer than absolutely necessary.”

Flushed and obviously pissed off, Maggie still gave him a map and showed him the approximate location and without waiting, Stiles and Daryl packed their emergency packs and headed out into the forest.

They followed her tracks for a few hours until they got trampled by a group of walkers and it got too dark for Daryl to distinguish the foot prints. Disappointed but not really surprised, the two got back to camp which was now a lot livelier than before.

Meeting Hershel went as well as Stiles had expected. He’s not a man someone like Hershel would welcome on his farm and Stiles was more than okay with that. He just wanted to find the girl and go back to the people he actually liked spending time with.

He could still see the tension between the Grimes family and caught Shane looking worse than ever, just about ready to implode. He would find the time to deal with him if it were the last thing he would do. Andrea looked just about insane and T-Dog and Jim as nothing more than outsiders.

Daryl and him set their tent away from the main group and decided they would have to rely on their instincts and whatever watch the other group secured for the night. If they cut on their sleep they were likely to risk their lives in the woods in the morning and Stiles wasn’t okay with that.

He heard Lori crying somewhere during the night and the sounds of walkers trapped in the nearby barn and even before his eyes dropped closed, Stiles was ready to leave the place.

Chapter Text

They woke up long before the others and had breakfast made from their own supplies but the tension they felt just refused to leave, making both of them somewhat grumpy.

“Ya think it’s the group or the geeks in the barn.” Daryl asked between chews.

“Hell if I know, but the fucking walkers are making me antsy in general and this close it’s just against common sense. I don’t think the group even knows about them. They’re not the best at taking in their surroundings.” Stiles drank some water then rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“Wanna go ahead and look?” Daryl pulled on his boots and rechecked his emergency bag.

“We might as well. But we’ll split and I should probably come back before lunch. I haven’t talked to anyone significant in the group yet and I don’t want them to ambush me.” Stiles sighed thinking out loud, “Should we split up? I’m not good at tracks, but yesterday I could catch her scent pretty well everywhere you saw prints.”

“Sure. If ya lose the scent ‘member the area and I’ll come look at it in the afternoon. Should we borrow horses? Been a while since I could.” Daryl looked wistfully toward the sound and scent of horses.

“You can. I can’t ride, besides I’m afraid the scent of the horse will distract me. We’ll apologize for it after we’re back because I don’t plan on waiting for them to wake up before moving. I’ll just run toward the place we lost the tracks yesterday.” Stiles stood and pulled Daryl into a hug, “You watch what you’re doing and stay safe. You’re more important than these idiots here so act like it.”

Daryl just grinned at him then went in search of the horses while Stiles started on a light jog toward the tree line before sprinting to the last place he’d scented Amy. He loved being a wolf and even regretted not taking the bite so long ago when Peter had offered. He wondered how things might have been different, and he knew they would have been different because he would have handled Peter like the Alpha he’d been and so many of Scott’s mistakes would have been avoided. God, there were just so many ifs and maybes it was ridiculous.

He missed his dad so much, but the whole apocalypse thing helped. There was little time for remembering and so many things left to do just to survive. His brain spun scenarios and he just continued on planning, working on contingencies and safe places. On one hand it was as if he’d been made for this, his constant need for research, to keep moving and doing and he kind of loved it. Still, it would have been better if his dad had been with him, show that asshole what a real cop was like, or Lucille… Stiles missed her as if he’d known her his whole life. God, if he’d known dead Scott could still turn a person he would have dragged him to the hospital. Shoulds and could haves and fucking bullshit.

Stiles missed Peter and Sour wolf, wished he could have saved them and he would have loved to have them with him. If anyone knew survival it was the two of them, and Stiles could all but hear Peter’s sarcastic remarks at anything Lori had to say. Peter had really been something, and Stiles hadn’t even known how much he respected and even admired him until he was gone. Erased like so many others.

Amy’s scent brought him back out of his thoughts and Stiles followed slowly, looking at the ground and avoiding stepping where he thought she might have walked. He followed for a few hours, catching a footprint here or there, but eventually he reached a river and despite searching the surroundings he lost her scent completely. That was about the time he decided to return to the farm.

Stiles ran again, loving the feel of the forest around him and wishing he could enjoy it more, have Daryl and Merle with him, just running and chasing until they were too tired to run anymore. The thought shook Stiles a little because he realized the full moon was approaching and he’d put it out of his mind. It wouldn’t be their first since the world went to hell, but before Stiles hadn’t felt safe sharing their secret with the others while now he was leaning toward coming clean. Damn, he missed a good care free run back from when he was nothing but pale skin and fragile bone and running couldn’t even compare to what it felt like now. Stiles swore he would find the time for it as soon as they were together again.

“Anything?” Andrea all but jumped him as soon as he neared the farm.

Stiles shook his head, “I tracked her to the river but couldn’t find any sign of her after that.”

Andrea just turned, huffing and obviously worried, and climbed the RV again, taking up the rifle and Stiles all but rolled his eyes.

“Daryl isn’t with you?” Rick was the next one to stop him and Stiles saw Jim coming to them from the back.

“We split to cover more territory.” Stiles told him smiling at Jim.

“Did he by chance take a horse? Hershel was asking about it.” Rick questioned, his fingers hooked on his belt and his cop pose in full effect.

Without stopping to think about it, the question set Stiles on the defensive, “We went out early and I told him I’ll deal with it after the fact. I wasn’t planning on going from one person to the other to ask permission. Besides, I was prepared to give Hershel some supplies in exchange.”

“It’s fine. I talked it out with Hershel. Just from now on we have to ask if we can use something on the farm.” Rick lifted up his hands in a placating manner.

“Honestly I don’t plan on staying here long enough for it to be an issue.” Stiles told him then just left, making his way to Jim.

“They still treating you alright? Seems like no one really takes notice of you here.” Stiles bumped his shoulder against Jim’s.

Jim shrugged, “It’s what it is. I don’t mind all that much. Talk to Dale on occasion.”

This time Stiles didn’t hesitate to roll his eyes, “That old gossip just wants to have his way from the sidelines so he’s working over everyone to have more people take his side in case of whatever. He might as well have been a politician.”

Jim laughed loudly and it was such a joyous sound it hit Stiles he’d never heard Jim laugh like that before. It was sobering and had Stiles reacting right away, “That’s it, as soon as we leave this place you’re coming with us. This group doesn’t deserve you and I think you’ll fit right in with the Dixons, Carol and Glenn, hell, they like you already.”

Jim didn’t actually say anything, but he pushed his hands in his pockets and a soft smile was still there. What Stiles could smell was a whole different thing. Traces of embarrassment however slight were there, but mostly it was contentment and happiness. Jim was pleased Stiles wanted him with his group and he wasn’t planning on saying no.

Stiles was just relaxing into the grass, allowing his muscles to unclench when Andrea shouted, “Walker!”

On his feet and already running toward the direction Andrea was aiming at, Stiles joined the others as they told her not to shoot and added, “The sound might attract more of them.”

He wasn’t hurrying really, one walker was the same as the next, but as the others ran slightly ahead of him, Stiles’ wolf felt the urge to keep up.

Stiles was maybe half way there when he smelled Daryl and he picked up his pace, catching up with the others. The moment Rick lifted his gun Stiles growled, “You better put that gun down if you don’t want me to kill you, Rick.”

Confused, Rick looked between Daryl and Stiles then realization hit him and he lowered his gun.

“You’re hurt.” Stiles said, closing the distance between them when the shot echoed through the trees and Daryl dropped to the ground.

Stiles wasn’t really aware of the sound he’d made, but it was more than a shout and louder than a howl. He fell almost on top of Daryl touching his head frantically but with a hesitation that had his fingers trembling. He didn’t want to make it worse and while he saw the wound was just a graze, his heart kept fighting to leave his chest and the panic gripping him was making it hard to breathe.

Daryl was covered in dirt, sweat and had blood covering his skin, soaking through his shirt. The wounds weren’t healing and his pack mate was hurt and Stiles felt helpless, guilty and unbelievably angry. It took all he had to fight the shift, to not kill the people around him who were closer to enemies than friends. They drew a gun at Daryl, they shot him. He got hurt while trying to help them and as a thanks he got a bullet to his head.

The moment Daryl looked at him, touching his head wound, Stiles felt tears slipping down his cheeks and he pushed his head against Daryl’s dirty neck, sniffing at him, rubbing his nose against the skin in comfort while a loud whine left his throat.

The strange scents on Daryl made him sneeze but Daryl just gripped his head tightly, hugging him and shushed him quietly. He smelled of pain and discomfort, confusion and betrayal. They fucking shot him.

Huffing out a growl, Stiles moved away and pulled one of Daryl’s arms over his shoulder, intending on picking him up bridal style and carrying him to their tent, secrets be damned when Shane took the other arm and helped him carry Daryl between them.

It was barely seconds before Andrea came running toward them, speaking, but for Stiles it wasn’t more than meaningless mumble. As soon as she was in reach Stiles decked her. He didn’t hesitate and held back only enough not to break her fucking jaw.

The others, especially Dale, started protesting yelling or whatever, but Stiles couldn’t give them more than a pissed off growl. Dale dropped down next to her and Rick joined him, but Shane kept holding Daryl and T-Dog and Jim followed him. Stiles guessed he knew who he was taking with him once he left.

Some of the others came running, a few Stiles hadn’t even met yet, but as soon as they neared Daryl he growled, almost flashing his eyes to tell them to back off. Fortunately they must have seen the threat in his posture because none of them came near enough to touch.

“Shane, help me put him in our tent.” Stiles said as they reached it, then turned his head toward the two of the others, “T-Dog, Jim, with Shane you’re the only ones I trust in this place. Please help me look after Daryl?”

Both of them nodded and ran for supplies but Shane still tried as they laid Daryl down on his sleeping bag, “Hershel is a vet, he could look at his injuries.”

“I don’t trust any of them, Shane. They tried to kill my pack and more than once. They asked us to come and help then shot at Daryl and what’s worse they’re more worried about Andrea than about Daryl. I’m holding back with everything in me not to go out there and kill them all. Right now I trust you to have our back. I trust you to put me before Rick and Lori and whatever bullshit they have to spew. Please, Shane.” Stiles said taking hold of Shane’s head and pressing their foreheads together, looking imploringly into his eyes.

Shane swallowed roughly before smoothing his hand over Stiles’ hair, gritting his jaw and nodding.

Stiles tightened his grip for a second then let Shane go to turn toward Daryl. He ripped open his shirt and saw the arrow wound. He noticed all the scratches over Daryl’s torso and the light yellow powder that seemed to cover the whole of him. The more he touched the more Stiles’ fingers seemed to go numb and as the reason hit him, Stiles leaned closer to the wound on Daryl’s side only to see the so far slight discoloration spreading away from it. Fucking wolfsbane, he thought then promptly sneezed again as the particles tickled his nose.

The stuff must not have been too strong since it was twice now that Stiles had inhaled it and didn’t feel it, but in Daryl’s open wounds it had him weak and easily poisoned.

“You’ll see shit, Shane, secrets not even everyone in my group knows, and I’ll need you to keep a level head, to not panic and to keep stuff to yourself. No one outside this tent knows what happens inside.” Stiles turned to him, “Are we clear?”

Shane quickly nodded, his hands rubbing over his jeans covered thighs as he sat next to Stiles on his heels. “Yeah, man, I’ll keep quiet.”

Just then T-Dog and Jim could be heard outside and Stiles opened the tent to take the water and cloth, the bandages the guys had managed to scrounge up. ”Thanks, guy. Could you keep the others out while we take care of Daryl?”

“Yeah, man. We’ll keep them out.” T-Dog nodded then closed the tent before straightening up with his back toward the tent.

Stiles tapped Daryl slightly on his cheek, needing him somewhat more lucid, “Daryl, come on, wake up for me.”

Daryl groaned but opened his slightly unfocused eyes.

“Wolfsbane?” Stiles asked him, his grip firm on Daryl’s jaw.

Daryl groaned, “Fuckin’ fell. A whole meadow of the shit and I rolled in it.” Daryl mumbled something else not really coherent before saying, “Back pocket.”

Stiles turned him quickly and for the first time noticed the actual flowers tucked in there. “Clever pup.” Stiles mumbled. Now those he could actually smell real good and his wolf instinctively had him backing off. Shit, Stiles handled that much better as human.

“Shane, please wrap some cloth around your hand and pick up those flowers, we’ll need them.” Stiles said as he started to unbuckle Daryl’s pants and pull everything off him.

“This flower he rolled in is poisonous. Most types of it are extremely poisonous but to us it’s one of the rare things that affect our healing and can kill us. He fell somewhere and rolled in the pollen of the flower. It got all over his skin and in his wounds and he won’t heal until he’s clean of it. In fact, he’s more likely to die from the poisoning. So we need to clean him up as soon as possible before we can tackle the wounds. Alright?”

Shane just nodded and picked up one of the clothes wetting it before wiping a section of Daryl’s skin clean.

They worked in tandem for a while and as more of his skin got cleaned, easier Daryl breathed, but his wounds got more of the black in them as the poison spread through his bloodstream.

“Now this is really going to hurt him, and I’ll need you to do it Shane, because you’re not strong enough to hold Daryl without getting hurt yourself.” Stiles positioned himself, holding Daryl tightly against the ground and his hands well away from Shane and his own skin.

“You need to burn those flowers then rub the ash in all of his wounds. The reaction will be harsh and most likely loud, but keep at it.” Stiles instructed before yelling, “Jim, T-Dog, no matter what you hear, you don’t let anyone inside this tent.”

“No worries, man, we got your back.” T-Dog said.

“Alright, Shane. You can do this.” Stiles nodded at him and Shane while nervous and smelling really skeptical, did as asked.

The moment the ash touched Daryl’s wound on the side he roared, his features partially shifted and on the edges of his overwhelming scent of pain, Stiles could smell Shane’s terror. Still, Shane, rubbed the ash well into the wound and while flinching each time Daryl tugged toward him, trying to get free and kill him for inflicting pain, Shane still put the ash on Daryl’s head and into every other wound he could find.

The wounds almost sizzled, the scent doing its best to make Stiles sneeze again, but Stiles held firm and pushed his nose against his shoulder until Daryl relaxed panting in his hold.

“You’re good now. Getting all better already.” Stiles mumbled, pushing his head against Daryl’s neck, giving him comfort.

He heard Shane gasp and peeked out of his shelter to see Shane watching Daryl’s wounds heal too rapidly for him to be all human.

“We’re werewolves.” Stiles told him, watching his reactions as he pulled Daryl right into his lap and hugged him closer. “Before this world went to shit, there were all kinds of creatures of the night, lurking around the corner, preying on humans but only a selected few were actually aware of it. I had a pack once, and back then I wasn’t a werewolf. That shit actually happened after the apocalypse. But really, all you need to know is that werewolves are real. We have our weaknesses, but in general all our senses are better than those of a human, we are stronger, faster and we heal really fast. We’re somewhat immune to the walker bite, but if the wound is serious enough it will still kill us.”

“Holy shit.” Shane rubbed the back of his head, eyes wide. “And you hid this the whole time?”

“Of course. How would anyone react to learn there are worse things out there than zombies? We hid before and other than the group knowing, we plan on hiding some more.” Stiles told him, rubbing his fingers through Daryl’s hair as his body took to rest.

“Yet you trusted me.” Shane steeled his jaw and looked at Stiles.

“Yes. I did.” Stiles paused then soldiered on, “I want you with us. This fucking group is killing you. Before we left you were on edge but coping. Now, you’re sliding down a dangerous slope and I don’t see anyone jumping in to help you or to stop you. Some shit happened, I can tell just by looking at you, and you’re not dealing with it and you’re not confiding in anyone. In fact, I think they’re pushing you away instead and you have no way of getting back on your feet or anyone around to give you comfort.”

Shane got paler the more Stiles talked and eventually he lowered his gaze until Stiles couldn’t see his face at all, just watch as Shane rubbed his fingers harshly over the inside of his palm.

Seeing no other way, Stiles decided to play somewhat dirty, “You and Rick used to be best friends?”

Shane nodded, “Yeah. He was as good as my brother. Would have stayed with him in the hospital if I’d known he was alive. I swear I couldn’t hear his heart beating when the soldiers started shooting people.”

Stiles could smell the agitation on him. “But you went and got his wife and kid out instead?”

“Yeah man, I figured that way I would at least have some part of him left, you know? Lori was alright, and Carl reminded me of Rick sometimes. We weren’t all that close before, but…” Shane trailed off.

“But when they’re the only people you know and you’re surrounded by the dead, things can get real cozy.” Stiles continued for him.

“Yeah, they…” Shane agreed almost grateful before Stiles interrupted, “Especially when Lori needed comfort and you wanted another piece of Rick with you to not feel as lonely.”

Shane looked at him then, all big eyes and disbelief.

“Werewolf hearing, Shane. We could hear each time you fucked, and we listened each night when she worked you over and filled your head with tales. I know exactly what you wanted and got from that relationship and I know what she wanted and got. Trust me, there’s a reason I’m talking with you and I can’t stand the sight of her.”

Shane blushed and ducked his head again.

“You need to understand Shane, whatever you had with Rick before, it’s gone. He will put his family first, and that is unfortunately Lori and Carl, and Lori will make sure there is no room for you in that story. She has too much to lose and things will only get worse for you. I actually like you, and I believe you will be a good addition to the group. You know how to listen and how to follow when there’s no one there whispering in your ear about how you’re a great leader and everyone should listen and bow to you. That’s not who you are and frankly, you’ll be better off without the pressure.” Stiles leaned over and took hold of Shane’s hand, pulling him until Shane almost toppled into his lap.

Eventually Shane relaxed, his head next to Daryl’s resting against Stiles’ thigh. “You’re really good at that.”

Stiles smiled, “Are you ready to tell me what happened?”

Shane hesitated for a long while before he started softly telling the whole tale about losing Amy and Carl getting shot, but it wasn’t until he started explaining how he and Otis went to the FEMA camp and how he shot the man to escape that Shane’s voice broke.

“All I kept thinking about was Carl and how he would die if I didn’t come back.” Shane pushed the heels of his palms against his eyes and rubbed as he talked, “Man, I kind of liked the guy, you know? Would have probably risked my life for him if it hadn’t been for Carl dying here. I feel so bad about it you don’t even know. He didn’t deserve to die and I shot him, I actually shot him so the geeks would focus on him and I could escape. What kind of a cop does that, huh? I feel like a fucking monster and the worst thing is, I think I would actually do it again, because the thought of Carl dying…”

“Shhh, it’s alright Shane,” Stiles pulled him closer, wrapping himself around Shane’s head the best he could, “That is one of those things Rick doesn’t understand, something he would judge you for, but I bet he would have done the same if he’d been in your position. A lot of them are like that, and I can’t stand the duplicity. There are times when you have to do what you have to do, times when it’s you or them and people who would choose them are fucking rare.”

“It’s just hard to leave everything I’ve been taught behind and adapt to the new rules where the fittest survive.” Shane whispered.

Suddenly Daryl snorted, “Always been like that, pig. Only before the fittest were the richest or those with influence and the rest of us was still left to struggle. I ain’t always been guilty, but I was always looked at as if I was.”

Stiles rubbed his fingers through Daryl’s still greasy hair, “Feeling alright?”

“Been better.” Daryl grunted.

“Well enough to go back home?” Stiles asked looking at the bullet graze on Daryl’s head and the way the swelling had went down and the wound was slowly knitting together.

“Ain’t found the girl yet.” Daryl mumbled scratching at his chin.

“And you won’t. They either do it themselves or they don’t. We’re leaving as soon as you’re well enough.” Stiles snapped, fingers tightening in Daryl’s hair.

“We taking anyone with us besides the pig?” Daryl asked as he slowly sat up.

“I’ll ask Jim and T-Dog. Don’t want the others near us and this time I’m not telling them where we’re going either.” Stiles watched as Shane sat up, a blush on his face then left him to it and helped Daryl back to his feet.

“So, do you have our backs, Shane? I know it will be hard to leave Carl and Rick, but I really don’t think you’ll live much longer if you stay with them. At this point, Rick has Lori and Carl has both of them to keep him safe.” Stiles asked, looking at Shane as if he could see right into his soul.

Shane rubbed the back of his head almost squirming in place. He seemed to hesitate, conflicted but eventually he gave in, “Yeah, I’ve got your back. But Rick and Lori ain’t gonna like it.”

“I don’t give a shit what they want, like or need. They’ve got each other, they should be fucking ecstatic. It’s more than most of us got.” Stiles said tersely before flinging the tent flap open and going outside.

“Please help Daryl pack the tent. Then you should go and get your things. We’re leaving as soon as possible.” Stiles turned back to T-Dog and pulled him and Jim further away from the tent.

Stiles was just about to start talking when Rick came at him, Dale at his back and Hershel observing at a hearing distance. “Stiles, it ain’t right hitting a woman like that.”

“Let me stop you right there. I don’t give a flying fuck about your opinion or weather Andrea is a woman or not. You deemed her good enough to stand guard, trustworthy enough to have our backs and work for the better of the collective. Instead she disobeyed each and every one of us and shot Daryl. It either means she shot him on purpose or she couldn’t see well enough and shot anyway. She could have easily killed any one of you who were near Daryl at the time. There aren’t any excuses you could make for her, and you better keep her away from me until we leave.” Stiles ignored Dale who kept opening his mouth every few seconds as if to say something. Stiles wasn’t interested in anything Dale had to say on a good day.

That seemed to catch Rick off guard, “You’re leaving?” While Dale asked, “What about Amy?”

“You can bet your ass we’re leaving. We’re not welcome here and we’re not safe here, besides, the more time I spend with you people the less I care for you. I want to leave while I’m still of a frame of mind where I’ll help you next time I see you instead of just shooting you.” Stiles turned toward Dale, “And Amy isn’t my problem. You lost her, you can very well find her yourselves. Maybe Andrea should go on a hike through the woods considering she has enough confidence to not listen to those who know better. I was willing to help out because I don’t want any one of you dead, but not at the price of one of my own. Daryl could have died and if that happened I would kill every one of you, make no mistake.”

“You can’t just leave!” Dale persisted.

“Sure I can. You just watch me. Now I have issues to discuss with people I actually like, so if you’ll excuse me.” Stiles turned his back to them and pulled T-Dog and Jim further away.

Jim looked at the people watching them, far enough away not to hear them, but still watching, “This is really awkward, Stiles.”

Stiles pushed his fingers through his hair and sighed, “I don’t really care Jim. Daryl, Shane and I are leaving as soon as we pack, and I was wondering if you two would be willing to leave with us?”

T-Dog seemed to be caught off guard while Jim looked nothing less than pleased, “I would actually like that.”

T-Dog turned to him, jaw slack, “You would?”

Jim answered, “Yeah. People here don’t really see me, and I don’t trust them to watch my back. I think Stiles is much more organized and they as a group have a much higher survival rate. Stiles doesn’t rush into things blind.”

“But what about Merle? I doubt he’ll just accept a nigger in his group.” T-Dog clenched his jaw.

“Merle doesn’t actually care about skin color, nationality or orientation, no matter how insane that sounds if you’ve ever met Merle. He just doesn’t hold back when it comes to slurs or insults. He figures if people are allowed to call him names he’ll just call them names back, and he’s rather creative about it. I’ve always figured I knew where I stood with Merle because if he has anything to say he will be colorful about it and he’ll say it to my face. I need someone like that with me. Besides I appreciate honesty.” Stiles paused before saying, “I have to tell you, Merle won’t bite his tongue. He’ll keep calling you names and he’ll tell you when you fuck up, but he’ll have your back. I can guarantee that.” Thinking it over but ultimately deciding it could only work in his favor, Stiles added, “You’re probably not aware of it, but Daryl and Glenn are sweet on each other and other than teasing them to death Merle doesn’t mind.”

T-Dog still looked somewhat skeptical, “Daryl and Glenn? Really?” He rubbed his neck once Stiles nodded grinning then he gave the group watching them another measuring gaze before ducking his head, “I’m the one black guy however you turn it my odds aren’t great, and I’ve been looking how to get away from this group for a while now. I guess I might as well see if I fare any better with you guys.”

Stiles smiled at him, “Good, then we’re all leaving. Go pack and I assume you can take one of the trucks of the lot?”

“Yeah, we’ll have to talk with the others, but they don’t need that many vehicles with three of us leaving.” Jim said and then they parted, Stiles heading back to Daryl and Shane.

He picked up his pace once he saw Rick already gesticulating at Shane, his expression intense and although too quiet to hear, his words looked harsh. Stiles really didn’t want the cop influencing Shane any more than he already was and he was well and truly sick of the fucking drama. His life had went from a teen horror show, through some tragic but steamy and fucking epic romance only to end up in a shitty soap opera and Stiles had a feeling if they didn’t watch it the ending might very well read as a serial killer biography because he would really just kill them all to spare himself the histrionics.

“We need you Shane. We’re family.” Rick was saying when Stiles could hear him again and he had his hand on Shane’s shoulder.
Stiles could already see Shane was about to give in. If anyone was his weakness, it was Rick.

“Did you by chance run that by Lori?” Stiles shouted to break the moment before he managed to reach them.

Both of them looked at him but it was Rick who said, “You stay out of this Stiles, you’ve caused enough trouble already.”

“I’m sorry but Shane is my business. Since you’ve joined the group he’s been on the edge of a nervous breakdown and you’re so far inside your own head you don’t see it. So did you ask Lori what she wants? Because I remember her telling Shane to stay away from her family.”

That bit caught Rick off guard and he turned back to Shane who had his head down and wasn’t looking at either of them, “Brother, is that true?”

It was obvious Shane didn’t want to answer, but he must have felt the pressure because he eventually nodded.

“Look, I don’t know what she might have meant by that, or what her reasons are, but you’re my family and I want you with me.” Rick said, trying to put his hand on Shane’s shoulder again, but this time Shane stepped away before he could.

“Will you say the same if Lori tells you she disagrees? Because you can’t have it both ways. You have to choose, either Carl and Lori or Shane and I don’t see you picking Shane.” Stiles butted in again, secretly loving it despite feeling bad about Shane. He always was an asshole and giving a hard time to people who’d done him wrong had Stiles feeling satisfied.

“Stay out of it, Stiles!” Rick snapped.

This time it had Shane straightening his back, “Stiles is right, Rick. You have your family back and I need to find my own way. I’ve disagreed with you more since this whole thing started than I did in our whole lives before and it ain’t right. I have to do this brother, and you have to take care of your family.”

“But you’re my family.” Rick tried almost desperate now and Stiles could smell the unshed tears gathering in his eyes.

“And I always will be, but we have to go our separate ways now, because we don’t work well together anymore and I can’t follow you when I think you’re making mistakes. We’ll see each other again.” Shane pulled him into a quick hug then turned and left without even glancing back.

However Rick wasn’t quite done, “You! You did this! You broke my family apart!”

“I did no such thing Rick. It was all your wife and your bad decisions. Perhaps you should ask her to be honest with you for once and then go throwing blame at everyone else.” Stiles told him with a smirk then left as well. He planned on being gone before Lori found another way to stir shit up. Stiles had a feeling she wouldn’t just take it all laying down.

Chapter Text

The first part of the drive was utterly uncomfortable. Daryl was his typical silent self until he fell asleep which really changed little, Shane kept staring out the window and Stiles had his characteristic urge to blather on without stopping but did his best to restrain himself. If was real fucking uncomfortable not speaking, but then he had nothing of significance to say.

They’d left the farm as thieves almost, packed and gone before more than a few of the camp dwellers could catch them. People were busy and not right by the house, but as they were leaving, Stiles couldn’t resist saying, “And I would do something about those walkers in the barn before you become dinner.”

Rick was there and Dale, but Stiles was loud enough for Andrea to hear who kept watching them with hate and Stiles knew she wasn’t likely to just ignore the dead. At least not without any protest made loud and obnoxiously clear. For some reason Stiles still didn’t want all of them dead and he really couldn’t explain his bleeding heart when he knew deep down that he wouldn’t hesitate to kill them if it ever came down to choice. Real confusing and really, in the past now.

Stiles had other things to think about, one of which was the uncomfortable silence he was stuck in and he vaguely wondered if there was a way for him to switch cars and ride with T-Dog and Jim. They must be better company.

“Too damn loud, Stiles.” Daryl sounded cranky as he woke from his nap and started moving on the back seat.

“What? I haven’t said anything for hours.” Stiles complained gripping the wheel tighter.

“Well your’ thinkin’ it and feels just about the same. So stop it.” Daryl snapped making Stiles scowl.

“You know what? I think we should go explore before we return to the farm. We need a place to hole up for the winter because I don’t plan on going to Washington before spring.” Stiles said cheerfully.

Daryl stared at him, as if chewing on the words before saying, “Ya won’t know he’s dead if you don’t go check. Waitin’ won’t make it any easier.”

“I’m taking care of us first. We need supplies and safety, and when we’re well enough I’ll go look. No point in rushing.” Stiles gripped the wheel tighter not liking how Daryl could just read him.

“Ya keep telling yourself that.” Daryl mumbled making Stiles scowl.

“You didn’t see the blood, Daryl. He was human.” Stiles whispered, fingering the red scarf still wrapped around his neck. He avoided wearing it when around Rick’s group but didn’t hesitate to put it on when around his pack. Not that it mattered much. Negan’s scent was long gone from it.

“And we keep telling ya, we have an Alpha somewhere and it ain’t my pa. Unless ya found another Alpha along the way and forgot to mention it.” Daryl growled and it was suddenly all too much for Stiles.

He stopped the car on the side of the road, grabbed Roscoe and walked out into the field. Tears ran down his cheeks as he sniffled unable to stop it. He’d lost so fucking much and Negan was the only thing keeping him afloat. Negan was that strand of life force giving him strength to move on. The memory of Lucille and the fucking love Negan had for him after so little time. It was worth it to keep moving, hanging on and fighting. The pack? He cared for them, felt the connection with Merle and Daryl but it was different, Stiles was different. The pack seemed like something too easy to lose and Stiles knew from experience that no matter how much he fought for them and how much of himself he put into it, they were destined to die, to leave him alone. All he really had was his memory of Negan and that sliver of hope that maybe he was still alive somewhere. But it felt foolish to hope, and Stiles was so afraid of the hurt that would follow that it was easier to not think about it, to keep himself and others occupied and with a vague goal in mind while they wasted time. Because that’s what he was doing, he was wasting time. He should have looked for Negan, but he was so fucking terrified and he didn’t know how to overcome it.

Stiles laughed bitterly remembering how he never really got over the loss of his first family. He remembered when Scott called Derek to come and help them against a couple of Alphas that had decided to take their territory from them. He’d bitten Liam and with him came Mason, not that Stiles had anything against them in theory, but when it meant that suddenly Stiles’ opinion didn’t matter and his advice was discarded, then it made a difference.

Derek had been abandoned to his fate, killed by the Alphas when Scott went to face them without a plan and without consulting Stiles. He led them right into a trap and the first thing Stiles heard about it was when they came back without Derek. He was still in the state of disbelief that they’d just left him for the Alphas to kill. It wasn’t what pack did, but Scott was of the opinion that Derek was only pack when they needed him, but was easily discarded when he needed them.

Peter was in a rage when he got back to town and attacked Scott only for Kira and Lydia to have something to say to that. Back then Stiles still had his loyalty tying him to Scott. It’s the only way how he can justify condemning Peter to Eichen house when he very well know exactly what happened there and when he completely understood where Peter was coming from. They took the last of his family away. His rage was justified.

Jackson went down when Scott and Isaac pissed off some fairies and wouldn’t listen to Stiles when he explained about territories and customs, instead went in all territorial and larger than life. It was the last drop for Lydia who wouldn’t stop screaming for days. But instead of helping her, giving Stiles time to find a solution, Scott sent her off with Isaac to France, hoping that maybe Chris had an easy fix for her. Their plane crashed.

By the time the Beast of Gevaudan happened Stiles didn’t have any fight left in him. Scott died as a product of his own stupidity, but not before dragging the others down with him, including Stiles’ father.

It was only a matter of time before the same thing happened to his new pack, Stiles knew it. It was inevitable. He just hoped he would maybe find Negan again, maybe see him one last time to ease the pain. Stiles cried bitterly, needing someone to take over the reins, to tell him how to go forward, tell him everything would be alright and that he was doing the best he could. He needed support he’d originally found in Negan, someone who would stand when Stiles dropped and someone who would speak up when Stiles was out of words to give.

Stiles fell down to his knees, feeling inconsolable as he cried, ugly broken sounds cracking over the clearing making his throat hurt.

The thing was, Stiles didn’t even hear the walker as it dragged itself right behind him and clamped its teeth against Stiles’ shoulder. He screamed in pain, dropping down on his palms and dragging the walker on his back as it gripped at his shoulders with its strong hands.

In the next moment the weight was off him and Daryl was there, touching him and patting over every part of him looking for injuries. But there was nothing there except the original bite and Stiles could feel that already healing over.

He turned and saw that the walker was still alive, its jaw separated and head detached, but its eyes were still moving and it kept its focus on Stiles hungrily. Daryl must have pried open its jaw to prevent it from taking a chunk of meat out of Stiles’ shoulder.

“I’m fine. No other wound. I’m just dizzy.” Stiles confessed, pushing himself against Daryl’s body as he heard the others running toward him.

“Was he bit?” He head T-Dog while Shane shouted as the same time, “Is he okay?”

Daryl just grunted as was typical for him then stood up with Stiles in his arms and on his way back to the cars, he stepped on the walker’s skull, killing it.

“There’s blood but I don’t see a bite.” T-Dog commented when they reached the car and Daryl sat Stiles down on the truck bed.

Shane killed another walker that had wandered close but no one bothered to even comment on it. Daryl went through their things and pulled out a clean T-shirt then opened a water bottle and washed out the bite area. He tore off the shirt Stiles was still wearing, forcing Stiles to comment, “My, what would Glenn say?”

“Shut up, Stiles.” Daryl responded gruffly then used the torn shirt to soak up the water. He dressed Stiles back as if he was a child and it didn’t occur to Stiles to protest because he knew exactly what Daryl felt. Stiles would have acted the same.

“He was bit, wasn’t he?” Shane looked pale enough Stiles thought he would faint.

“Yes.” Daryl said simply, not bothering to explain.

Jim and T-Dog gave him looks of pity muddled with horror and Stiles just sighed tiredly, rubbing at his eyes.

“There’s a very good chance it won’t turn me. I’m not quite human.” Stiles started only to now be faced with looks of disbelief and then more pity.

Daryl must have sensed something on them when all Stiles could smell was dead flesh, because he turned to the two then partially shifted, showing off his fangs, eyes and sideburns. Just for effect he lifted up his hand then let his nails elongate gradually. Stiles had only seen such control with Peter and Deucalion.

“Holy shit!”, “What the fuck?” and “Oh my God,” kept on sounding as Jim and T-Dog scrambled a few steps back.

“Yeah, I’m a werewolf. Dixons too. The bite acts somewhat different for us. Hell, I turned when I got bit by a werewolf walker. Instead of turning into a zombie I was suddenly a werewolf. Weird how that happened.” Stiles chuckled, the tiredness persisting.

“So the bite does nothing?” Jim braved a question, still looking at Daryl despite him now looking completely human.

“Dunno. Stiles is different with how he got bit an all. Dave just walked the bite off the first time. Healed over like it was nothin’. The second time when there was chunks missin’ the wound was starting to heal but real slow, like he was human ya know? He lasted a couple of days but the fever got him and the wound changed color. Was nasty, too.” Daryl told them biting at his thumb.

“Yeah, I’m feeling like I might be getting the flu only it’s working me over fast. I’m thinking we should take a detour and see if I get any better. I don’t want Merle to see me dying if I don’t have to. He might not take it well.” Stiles mumbled, wanting to lie down for a while.

“Yeah, might not be a bad idea.” Daryl nodded then picked Stiles up and carried him to the back seat where he could partially stretch out.

“Where the hell should we go?” Shane scowled as he followed them.

“I saw a sign for a prison when we were going to the farm. Keep an eye for it and check if any of the maps have it marked. It would be a good fortified base to spend the winter in. We have enough supplies to not have to worry about it until spring and we will raid more farms while there are still things to pick. After winter we’ll head for Washington. There are not enough of us to actually defend a whole prison complex on our own.” Stiles had his eyes closed and he sighed again before continuing, “We will scout it before bringing the rest of the pack there if it’s an option at all. Just wake me up when we get there.”

If they listened or not, Stiles didn’t really know because in the next moment he felt himself slipping away and he got swallowed by fitful sleep.

The prison was full of walkers. Feverish or not, Stiles wasn’t fucking blind and while it was possible to kill the lot and lock themselves inside, Stiles wanted to explore more options. “Let’s go to the back. I want to see if we can enter that way.”

A hole in the wall wasn’t exactly what Stiles had been expecting, but it would serve its purpose. He noticed there were a lot less walkers on the back side and if they could lure some of them from the inside to the front fences it would be a lot easier to take the prison.

“We’ll get the others and take the prison. We only need one cell block and maybe clear a path to the infirmary and the kitchens.” Stiles mumbled already planning before saying, “We can go now. I don’t feel so hot.”

Stiles closed his eyes and felt Daryl fussing, hell he could smell his worry, but Stiles’ whole body ached, he was running a fever and had little strength to spare.

“I’m takin’ you back to Merle. Don’t know what to do, Stiles.” Daryl whispered but Stiles was too tired to answer.

He kept tuning into the conversation as they drove, slightly aware but never well enough to participate.

“Stiles is different. I don’t rightly know if he will turn or not. I didn’t expect him running so hot.” He heard Daryl at one point and Shane as he talked at another, “You don’t want to kill him if it comes down to that. You’re hoping Merle will do it.”

Stiles never heard whatever Daryl answered to that, but he agreed Merle should be the one to kill him, he was strong enough and he would take it as a necessity instead of a block of guilt.

By the time they finally stopped Stiles’ head was somewhat clearer and he managed to open his eyes as the others started getting out of the cars.

Even with the doors closed he heard Merle “Well twinky boy, I’m not sure you quite know how procreation works. How are we supposed to re-populate the world if you keep on bringing only men to our pack? Not that I have anything against you Darylina and your Chinaman.”

“I’m Korean, Merle.” Glenn said exasperated at the same time as Daryl’s “Shut up, Merle,” rang in the clearing.

“What’s wrong with, Stiles?” Merle suddenly said, “He don’t smell right.”

Then the door was opening and Merle was dragging him out of the car only to carry him inside the house and place him on cool sheets. Stiles let out a relived breath he wasn’t even aware he was holding. The coolness felt so good against his overheated skin and the drive in the sun probably didn’t do him any favors.

He smelled Carol at one point and flinched as she placed cold, wet cloth against his exposed skin then relaxed into it, allowing himself to rest.

When Stiles woke up next he was a new man. Refreshed and feeling really happy, but none of it gripped his attention as much as his growling stomach did.

He followed the scents of food only to have Sophia slam into his body and hug him close. Carol, Daryl and Merle promptly followed, squeezing him between them and as he struggled for breath he caught sight of Glenn shifting from one leg to the other in the background. Stiles twitched his head in invitation and Glenn visibly relaxed and joined them with a smile.

“How long was I asleep?” Stiles voice was barely better than croak.

Suddenly Merle slapped the back of his neck, “You gone done stupid, boy. Could snap your neck myself.” he growled.

“Yes, that cat is out of the bag. Can’t say I saw it coming despite some of Merle’s more canine traits.” Carol commented on the growl and with it took all of Merle’s attention.

“Daryl couldn’t wake you for three whole days.” Sophia took his hand in hers and leaned her small body against Stiles.

“Sorry for worrying you buttercup.” Stiles said softly making Sophia giggle.

“Come on, let’s get ya fed.” Daryl threw his arm around Stiles’ shoulders and led him into a suddenly overcrowded kitchen.

Shane, Jim and T-Dog were seated at the table cutting up fruit and there were places all around where others must have been doing the same.

“We’re almost ready to leave this farm and find another.” Carol told him as she put a plate of food in front of him right after Daryl had pushed him into a seat.

Stiles listened and ate as they slowly filled him in on their progress and what had been happening while he was out. He didn’t notice any tension or injuries on the humans. In fact, Shane looked visibly better. He grinned at Sophia and joked with Glenn while Jim smiled a lot more and there was a certain tension missing from his frame that Stiles wasn’t aware Jim had been carrying around with him.

T-Dog was his usual jovial self, only there didn’t seem to be any hostility between him and Merle. In fact he seemed to be giving as good as he got and while their words would never have been socially acceptable in a world past, now no one so much as paused at it.

“Who shared the werewolf story?” Stiles eventually asked, curious.

T-Dog promptly blushed while Daryl snorted.

“What? I figured they already knew.” T-Dog sat up scowling.

Stiles chuckled, “So whose reaction was the best?”

“Chinaman and Sophia asked to see Darylina’s teeth.” Merle guffawed.

“And did he show them?”

“As meek as a kitten, our Darylina.” Merle grinned at Stiles quite satisfied while Daryl added his by now signature, “Shut up, Merle!”

“Now that you’re up, Stiles, what do you want us to do next? We had some idea, but since you’re our unofficial leader we would like to have a solid plan to fall back to.” Carol smiled as she filled up more of Stiles’ plate.

Stiles fought the blush creeping up his neck. Now he just felt like an idiot for his breakdown. It was a real stupid thing to do and he’d lost all reason, something he couldn’t afford in the future if he ever planned on meeting up with Negan. Yes, he was having mood swings and shit, but it was the zombie apocalypse, he was allowed to have moments of utter chaos and panic. Today he truly believed Negan was safe and sound and that he would find him again in spring.

“We loot the other farms, stash whatever we can live without in various well-hidden places and as soon as we sniff a whiff of winter, we head to the prison. We’ll hole up there and leave only for the occasional hunt for meat. I don’t want us scavenging around our base, especially since it would be hard to defend it.” Stiles thought for a moment, “We could opt to stay here on the farm or any other farm during winter, but I don’t like how defenseless it is. One major horde would level the place. The prison is much better in that regard. Good solid walls and plenty of dead around to discourage anyone brave enough to think of taking the place for themselves. But I doubt many will wander around in the snow so that should work in our favor. In the spring we resupply and head for Washington. I’ve been stalling long enough.”

Daryl gave him a small half hidden grin and Stiles knew he approved of the decision.

“Just with this farm we have enough to go through the winter and with plenty left over.” Shane said with an unasked question up in the air.

Before Stiles could answer, Merle came right behind Stiles and leaned some of his weight on Stiles shoulders, “Ya don’t rightly know our twinky boy ‘ere, he hoards enough them tampons and diapers he might as well be a newly popped mother.”

Stiles scowled at him while everyone else snickered. “I just think some things should be salvaged while they still can be. No one is producing certain amenities anymore and it won’t be long before we run out of toilet paper or shampoo. I hoard everything and especially food. Preserved stuff can last and in case we go hungry in a few months we will know where we can find something to eat. This way we are not only secure for the next couple of months, but rather for a few years, because any one of these farms will still have fruit trees unless something extreme happens and that is one of the few things we can count on and which might save our life in the future.”

“Sounds solid to me, man. I’m all for not going hungry and this is probably the best I’ve had it since shit hit the fan. You can count me in for anything you have in mind.” T-Dog added his two cents.

The rest of the conversation easily flowed, plans were made and tentative alternatives suggested. Everything was taken into account and all of them felt only more safe for it.

It was late sundown by the time Merle, Daryl and Stiles found the time to seclude themselves for a few minutes away from the rest. Carol had taken Sophia to sleep, Jim and T-Dog were softly conversing and playing cards with what little light was still coming in through the window while Glenn and Shane went through all the exits securing the doors and windows as was the group’s practice every night.

“Ya’re runnin’ cooler some than ya was before.” Merle told Stiles his gaze directed at the distant forest surrounding the farm.

“Don’t smell quite the same either.” Daryl added while cleaning his crossbow.

Stiles sighed, sharing their worries but not knowing what it all meant and doing his best not to stress over it. “I can still shift and everything looks normal. My wolf senses are the same and I feel fine. But I should probably avoid getting bit again.”

Daryl snorted.

“I think you’re changin’ somehow. All subtle like, but changin’. Might be ‘bout the wolf that bit ya, too dead and not enough magic.” Merle said.

“I was a spark before I was bit. Could do a lot of the magic shit and I was good at it, too.” Stiles remembered that time almost fondly and just about missed the twin looks of surprise.

It was Daryl who broke the silence, “Tha’ changes things.”

Tilting his head Stiles asked, “In what way?”

Merle was the one who answered, “Sparks are unpredictable. They can go their ‘ole lives and never know there’s a thing special ‘bout them, or they can go the opposite way and have all that is magic going right at them. There’s no two alike, be it ‘bout their magic or their connection to the supernatural. A bite could turn ya, or it might not. It even goes part ways. So that wolf that bit ya is but a small part of it, the other bit to the trouble is ya spark.”

Stiles though about it, thinking of the all cryptic shit Deaton had filled his head with and all the ways Stiles never quite fit the mold, “It probably has a lot to do with the force of will and personality, right?” At the two of them nodding, Stiles continued, “My old teacher used to say that I just had to wish for some things enough, so I assume if I’d been bitten by a normal Alpha and didn’t want the bite there was a possibility of me being immune to it completely. If I’m right, it just might be possible my spark is molding me in the way that would benefit me the most, because by the time I got a handle of my spark it worked in my favor every single time.”

“Makes me worry less.” Daryl broke the new settled silence.

“Me too, Daryl, me too.” Stiles added just before they heard Shane and Glenn coming near, marking the end of that particular conversation.

The fall passed in a similar fashion, they scavenged between farms and picked the farms themselves clean. Their hoard ended up including various nuts they scored on one property that turned out to be too big of a bite for their stores and numbers plus large quantities of mushrooms they stumbled on along the way. By the time the first snowflakes started drifting through the air, they were at the back side of the prison developing their strategy for the best way to secure their takeover.

Stiles had walked around the walls a few times before he decided their best entry point would be the fallen fence in the back. It just wasn’t worth it to fight through another fenced area only to leave another vulnerable spot the walkers could use.

They parked the cars next to some tall grass like shrubs right at the tree line and positioned them for an easy getaway.

When Stiles finally spoke it was to lay down a plan, “We all go in until the first possible safety point and we stick together. Sophia you don’t leave the center of the group. If you can save someone’s life, by all means, do, but not if it means you leave the center. Yell for someone else to jump in.” He waited until Sophia nodded then turned to the others, “If there are too many of them inside or we find resistance in the living we fall back and regroup. I need all of you alive rather than this particular spot for the winter at any price.”

When everyone agreed, Stiles pulled Daryl and Merle to the front and placed Sophia and Carol in the middle with Jim, Glenn and T-Dog having their backs.

Surprisingly enough the entrance point was relatively walker free but behind the first partially closed door into the very prison they could hear those characteristic walker groans.

“The hallway inside is too narrow for all of us to go. Could you Glenn and Daryl stay outside with Carol and Sophia? Keep this exit clear in case we need to get out of here.”

“Sure.” Glenn said while Daryl just nodded.

Without waiting, Stiles turned and with Merle up front next to him, they led the way into the unknown.

The struggle to get inside was brutal. There were zombies everywhere and as the two up front got tired they switched mid fight, letting the two from the back to take their place in the heat of the fight. The blood got everywhere and the ground turned slippery, but they moved forward until they finally hit a break and there was nothing but an open cell block in front of them. They moved slowly, checking every cell and every seemingly unmoving body until there were no more sounds around other than their own.

“I’m not sure if that was too easy or way overwhelming.” Jim said as he leaned against a wall.

“They must have gotten in from the outside then rushed at us as they heard us coming.” Shane added.

T-Dog wiped the sweat and blood from his forehead, “What do you want us to do now?”

“Keep movin’, ‘course. Need a safe place, don’t we? And this ain’t it.” Merle told him then went to the next door leading into the guts of the prison.

“I figure it would be best to find a central point, cells closest to the offices or whatever they have. Someplace where we can be cut off from all the blocks and still have access to them for an eventual escape. I don’t want to block our exit in any way.” Stiles said softly before following Merle.

They did eventually find offices with dead guards and a couple of sets of keys to help them out. They cleared the place systematically, making sure to close all the doors to the unsecured areas and as they went back for the others, they made sure to lock them.

By the time night fell they were exhausted but they had a safe place to sleep and they’d even managed to clear out the worst of the dead bodies, taking them outside and throwing them into a building surrounded open space hidden from anyone likely to come in looking.

Chapter Text

The first night sleeping in the prison was restless. They could hear the random moaning from one of the uncleaned blocks and the startling sounds of the dead tripping over various junk which probably littered the floors.

Huddling together on salvaged thin mattresses, the group conserved warmth and took comfort in their closeness despite T-Dog’s unpredictable snoring bouts throughout the night.

Come morning the most affected were the werewolves, looking tired and grouchy around a breakfast spread. Stiles kept mumbling ‘coffee’ under his breath, eyes half-closed feeling sleep deprived. He, together with Merle and Daryl could her much further inside the prison walls and it did them no favors during the night.

“Any plans for today?” Asked Shane after he’d eaten and stretched out his legs in front of him.

“Coffee.” Stiles groaned leaning his head against his knees.

“Shouldn’t you be weaned off of it already?” Asked Glenn. “The cravings stopped hitting me after the first few weeks.

Stiles whimpered thinking how long it had been since he’d actually stopped consuming coffee regularly. He’d found a stash here or there, some of the instant stuff, but it went quickly and it was one luxury he wasn’t willing to share or trade.

“It’s not an addiction, it’s a necessity. I’ll never be weaned off coffee.” Stiles said with a pout.

Merle snorted, “Kids. Should’ve spent time in the woods ‘stead of playin’ those video games and you would need no coffee. Be up with dawn like my Daryl here.”

“Shut up Merle. We can’t all be jungle men.” Stiles grouched, then turned to Daryl, “No offense Daryl, love you man just the way you are.”

Daryl just grunted and continued eating, making Glenn smile shyly at the reaction.

“Anyway, plans for today?” Shane asked again.

“We need to go and hide our rides and take out some of the supplies. I don’t want to take everything into the prison nor do I want to leave everything inside. I have some camo netting from this one truck I’d scavenged and Glenn had found some in Atlanta. Not sure if it will be enough, but we’ll cover what we can and hide the rest deep in the grass. Just for that I’m kind of hoping it might snow.” Stiles took a sip of water then stretched his arms above his head. He felt tired. “Later we’ll check out the maps of the prison and look for at least two more exits plus the armory and the kitchens.”

“Sounds good.” T-Dog clapped his hands and stood up, making all three wolves wince.

Hiding the vehicles turned out to be easy, but the map showed the armory to be out of reach unless they wanted to tackle the whole of the zombies up front.

“Shouldn’t we at least try?” Shane pushed.

Stiles looked him in the eye, “Shane, you mean to me more than any gun or rifle we could possibly find in there. Right now we have more than enough ammo and guns for our numbers, plus that shit is heavy. I would rather gather more food and leave the guns here if we ever decide to come back for them.”

“I still think we should at least try.” Shane rubbed the back of his head.

“Tell you what. Let’s handle the food first and make a space for us to get through the winter and then in spring we’ll decide if we can take over the armory and kill all the walkers up front. I want them as a barrier between us and whoever thinks of taking over the prison while we’re here. Sound good?”

Shane nodded and then went back to checking over the map.

“We can take the kitchen, but we should also go here to the medical and definitely check out the laundry room for some sheets.” Shane pointed at the right places on the map.

Stiles nodded, “It all seems fairly close. See here, this looks like another exit and we need to clear out this part anyway to get to the medical.”

“Let’s do that. We can handle at least the kitchen today then take a look at that exit.” Shane tucked in his gun and picked up a machete he’d been using the most recently.

“Come on everyone, we stick to silent weapons while inside. Stay in the back please Carol, Sophia and Jim.” Stiles lifted Roscoe and a tire iron that he’d found the most practical for the narrow hallways.

Right at the first hallway there were a couple of dead sitting against the walls and Stiles whispered, “If it’s a new hallway and you haven’t killed the walker there yourselves, stab the head again, just in case.”

Stiles neared the first one only to find half its head missing. He still pushed it to the ground and stabbed the remaining piece of the skull.

The second zombie reached for Shane as he neared it, but Daryl took care of it with a bolt through the head.

“We either check the doors we pass or we lock them. I don’t want anything coming at us from the back.” Stiles whispered once more, things he’d already repeated a few times but felt should be said again.

They found a couple of offices, one cleaning supply storage which Stiles wanted to take with them badly and a whole lot of walkers right in the hallways. The place was a maze in the dark, but Stiles remembered enough of the map to know which path was shorter and easier to clear out, so they took it slowly one side at a time. When they reached the bars at the end of the long hallway they could lock, Stiles was already dead on his feet.

Shane wiped the grime off his face and spat before saying, “The exit we saw is not much further from here, but I’m guessing the door to the outside is open,” he looked at the walkers pressing against the bars trying to reach them, “and this seems like quite a lot of dead to go through.”

Stiles nodded and turned around, “We’ll find something else. Let’s check out what’s behind the doors we locked and in the kitchen.”

The kitchen had handcuffs on the handles and Stiles didn’t like their chances considering he would have used them to keep the walkers in. “Slowly now and step away from the door. I’ll unlock the cuffs because using them like this is rather great. We might need them. Daryl, Merle, take the handle each and hold the door closed. I don’t want anything opening it from the inside while I’m so low.”

Stiles crouched in between them and slowly unlocked both sides pocketing the cuffs. He stood nodding at Merle and Daryl to keep hold then knocked on the door.

All of them listened, but it was the wolves who heard whispering on the other side instead of the usual growling.

Stiles quickly signaled everyone up front to get their weapons up and motioned for Sophia, Carol, Jim and Glenn who were in the back to go around the corner and hide.

When they went in, the three of them up front pushed the doors hard. Daryl and Merle had their crossbows pointed each on one side and Stiles pulled out his gun from his holster standing right in the middle.

What came at them were not the dead but rather the living and five of them, the man at the front of the rest pointing a gun.

“Put your weapon down if you care to breathe tomorrow, too.” Stiles told him without raising his voice.

“Why should I? You don’t look like no rescue team.”

“If that’s what you’re waiting for it will be awhile man, closer to never.” T-Dog said.

“The gun, down.” Stiles repeated.

“Hey man put the gun down.” The blond one in the back said to his friend but the gun man just snapped, “Shut up, Axel.”

“You should listen to yer friend there, boy. We ain’t patient men.” Merle said with a harsh grin.

“He don’t tell me what to do. Now I don’t know who you people are, but we was here first and I’m not moving until you tell me what’s going on.” The man kept swinging his gun and Stiles breathed out slowly and pulled the trigger.

The blood and brain matter splashed over the others in the back, but while all of them looked horrified and shocked, only one of them didn’t quite smell right.

“Nooo!” He shouted and moved toward Stiles only for Merle to put a bolt between his eyes.

The other inmates looked at them with wide eyes as they huddled together.

“Wha’?” Merle asked them lowering his crossbow, “He twitched.”

Stiles snorted and put his own gun down not moving his gaze from the inmates. “How long have you been in here?”

Axel moved his arm over his chest and took hold of his bicep. “192 days. There was a riot. A guard locked us in here until help arrived.”

“Sorry to say, but that ain’t gonna happen.” Merle said as he loaded his crossbow.

“What do you mean?” The big guy in the back asked.

“There is no one outside to come help you. They’re all like this.” Shane explained slowly, using his cop voice which made Stiles feel kind of nostalgic. “Some kind of infection spread and everyone who died got back up again. They started biting and infecting others and soon enough it was everywhere. By now probably more than half the population is gone. There is no more police or army, there are no hospitals or any type of communications. Hell, there’s no electricity or running water.”

“Jesus, what about my family?” The middle one asked but no one answered that question.


“Can’t we go somewhere else where it isn’t happening?” The big guy looked the most frightened of the three and there was an almost whine in his voice.

“I’m originally from California and I drove here through the worst of it. The government bombed most of the big cities to contain the infection not that it helped. North America is gone and if you turn on your brains you’ll realize that probably the rest of the world is the same. There is nowhere to go. Besides, you know we’re here now, so you’ll be staying with us until after winter. Then you can go wherever you please.” Stiles explained, breathing deeply to catch their reactions.

None of them seemed to take it too harshly, but the middle guy asked, “Can we go outside? Haven’t seen the sun in a while.”

Stiles smiled, “Sure. But you try running and I’ll kill you. You have to realize that you’re a risk to us now, and I don’t trust you. Hang on for a few more months until spring and no one will stop you. Hell, you can even stay here after we’re gone. But just to make sure you understand, Daryl, Merle, please show them.”

By the horrified looks and the way the inmates backed into the wall Stiles knew the two had shifted so he continued, “We will hunt you down because we are stronger and faster and we don’t need guns to kill you.” Stiles saw with the corner of his eye the way Merle stretched out his clawed fingers. “Do we understand each other?”

The guys nodded looking frantic and just to be extra creepy, Stiles grinned exuberantly like it was the best news he’d gotten the whole year and said, “That’s really great. Now boys, I’m Stiles and to my right is my brother Merle and on my left my other brother Daryl. This here bald man is Shane, who’s an ex-cop mind you, so you better don’t go around lying and stealing while he’s on watch. In the back you have my man T-Dog who’s all smiles but vicious as a dog if you cross him and the rest you’ll meet later.”

Then he motioned to them still all smiles and cheerful demeanor, “Oh, and I’ll need the reason you’re in here, too.”

“Big Tiny.” The big man said almost bashful, “Was in the wrong place with the wrong guys. They robbed a place and killed some people and since I was with them I got locked up, too.”

Stiles couldn’t catch the really big liars, but after spending so much time with Merle and Daryl he could hear the most obvious of lies. Big Tiny was telling the truth.

“Oscar, breaking and entering.” The middle guy said.

“Axel. I robbed a store with a water pistol and hid at my brother’s place. The cops came and found his gun and said it fit the description so I got locked away for armed robbery.” The blond man rushed through it almost tripping over his words.

“That’s some shit luck, man.” Merle guffawed and moved to Axel throwing his arm around his shoulders and pulling him closer, “You’re alright, whitey.”

“Does that mean you aren’t gonna kill us?” Axel asked timidly.

“’course not. We’re best of friends now.” Merle rubbed his hair and let him go.

“Come on, we have to clear the rest of this section. What’s up behind you in those rooms?” Stiles passed them and went to look.

“There’s some food and we slept there.” Oscar followed.

Shane and Merle whistled as they turned the corner after Stiles, with Merle saying, “Boys, that just gone and bought you five star accommodations in this fine establishment.”

“It’s a real nice haul.” Shane added checking the bags.

Stiles turned to the three inmates, “If you choose to leave in spring, we’ll set you up with enough to keep you going for a while.”

The three nodded, but only Oscar really smelled relieved.

Daryl and Shane gave them weapons and all together they cleared the rest of the closed off section. Meeting Jim, Glenn, Carol and Sophia went well and while Axel seemed like he would rather take Sophia’s weapon away, Stiles said nothing, knowing the man wasn’t really aware how bad things were outside.

“Do you want to check out the commissary? It’s close to here and there’s no exit on the other side.” Oscar pointed toward the hallway they’d previously closed off.

“Sure, but then we should clear out the dead and get back to the offices.” Stiles moved forward, again pulling Daryl and Merle with him up front.

Like Oscar had said, there weren’t more than a few zombies hiding to greet them and for their efforts they got another mostly full store of packed food.

“You did well.” Stiles slapped Oscar on his back then organized them all to start hauling the dead bodies outside.

Oscar, Axel and Big Tiny stood out in the sun for a long while. The air was chilly and they hugged themselves tightly but they stuck with it, their faces turned toward the sky.

Stiles let them be, and later they joined the rest of them and started clearing off the dead.

“Why are we throwing them in between buildings?” Big Tiny dumped another zombie on the pile.

“You can’t see this place from the road and we can’t burn them for the same reason. Today you have to worry about the living as much as you do the dead.” Jim talked as he helped him with another body.

“It’s that bad?” Big Tiny looked surprised.

“Well imagine if there were no laws to hold you back, no police to come and catch you. You know the people you used to hang out with? Imagine those you thought were the smartest and the most resilient, give them as much guns as they can carry and set them loose on a world where there are no consequences. Now, the strongest win and they set their own laws. Fortunately we haven’t run into the worst of them yet, but it will only be a matter of time.” Grunting as he dragged another zombie, Jim quickened his step.

“But what makes your group the good guys? You just shot Andrew and Thomas.” Big Tiny took two walkers by the back of their shirts and started pulling them with him.

“The three of you are still alive, aren’t ya? Daryl added as he passed them making Big Tiny pause for a moment.

Jim chuckled, “He’s just messing with you. As far as I was told your guys moved on us first and we’ve got our own to protect. Can you honestly tell me Thomas and Andrew could have lived with us here without trying anything until spring?”

Big Tiny stayed quiet for a long while until asking, “How did they know?”

“That Thomas and Andrew were no good?” Jim lifted an eyebrow.

“Yes.” Big Tiny nodded.

Jim thought for a moment, “They could probably smell it on them, or they had a feeling. Stiles, Daryl and Merle are good judges of character. We used to be a larger group but we didn’t all get along with the others so we separated. Sometimes I wonder how the others are doing or if I’d still be alive if I’d stayed with them. We weren’t doing so good before the Dixons joined us, and even then there was a lot of conflict with them and the others. We were all clinging to our past lives I suppose and ignored the dangers. In the end it cost us when a herd stumbled on our camp. I think more of us would have died if not for the Dixons.”

“Are they really brothers?”

“Merle and Daryl are, but they found Stiles on the road as far as I know. But all of them are wolves and Stiles called himself their brother so who am I to contradict him?” Jim grinned.

“Damn straight!” Merle snapped as he passed them.

“How do they just appear like that?” Big Tiny turned around himself and seeing no one else there looked back at Jim.

But it was Stiles who answered, “We’re really good at listening,” making Big Tiny jump and squeak.

Jim laughed too then dumped the body he was holding and went back with Stiles.

In the late afternoon they were tired and dirty and took turns washing up. They found some new clothes for Axel, Big Tiny and Oscar and then they took out all of the furniture from one of the offices. They lined the lower walls and the floors with all the clean mattresses they found and raided the sheets from the laundry room.

“So you all sleep together?” Oscar asked after they were done, looking weirded out.

“Keeps us warm and close in case something happens. Until we find a secure location where we’ll settle down permanently we’ll keep on doing it.” Shane had no reservations in taking off his jeans and pulling on the more comfortable sweatpants.

“You’re not scared some of those things might come in here?” Axel rubbed at his upper arms as he moved from one foot to the other.

“All the doors are locked and in places there are double barriers between the dead and us. Just in case those fail there’s all kind of junk in all entrances and if someone moves through there one of us will hear it.” Stiles told him as he dropped down on the makeshift bed ready to sleep.

“But what if some of you want to get it on?” Big Tiny looked at Merle and Carol.

“Boy, if I want some alone time with my woman I’ll get some, ya don’t have to worry ‘bout old Merle.” Merle chuckled and wrapped his arm around Carol’s neck pulling her close enough to kiss.

Carol laughed looking years younger as he leaned her hands on Merle’s chest and kissed back. Sophia hugged her doll with one hand, holding her entrenching tool with the other and dropped down on Daryl’s lap as she watched her mother just being happy. Daryl hugged her small form closer and leaned against a folded mattress pulling her with him. Glenn soon found his way next to him, curling slightly as he tended to do. Carol and Merle snuggled into the space between Glenn and Stiles while the others slowly but surely found their own spot in the puppy pile.

That night they huddled together under all the blankets they could find and it marked the first of many they spent together that winter. The dead slowed down outside slightly and while they saw little snow it was cold enough they kept indoors and out of sight.

Rick and his family had never known such hunger. They dragged themselves through the woods fearing the upcoming winter and scared for their dwindling numbers. They found Amy soon after Stiles and Shane left them, dead and tucked away in the barn. Andrea probably blamed herself not that she spoke enough for Rick to be sure. Lori was round with the baby already looking sucked dry from it and Carl had stopped speaking altogether when Shane left.

The Greenes were pale, Beth looking more like a walker than some of the dead he’d seen. She kept hanging off Maggie these days who seems to be the pillar of the whole family. Patricia was permanently two steps behind, her gaze distant and unfocused, not that Rick blamed any of them.

Hershel, Rick and Dale had brought Randall to the farm, always thinking the best of people, and Hershel and Rick had let the man go never thinking a whole group would follow him back.

They’d lost Jimmy, and listened as the men raped Beth and Patricia before Carl managed to get free and set the rest of them loose. They killed most of the men before they simply ran for their lives.

Dale had lost his smile too somewhere along the way, his step slow and his words of wisdom all dried up.

Stopping as they heard shouts in the distance, weariness written on all their faces, they gripped their weapons tighter. Should they help or keep away, are those friends or more people set out to hurt them? In the end their choice was taken from them as a man and a woman fell out of the bushes and Rick and Maggie rushed forward to defend them all from the surging walkers.

“Thanks man,” The big guy said, “the name’s Tyreese and this here’s my sister, Sasha. We’re with another family, can you come help, please?”

Listening to his instinct, Rick ran forward and as a result they acquired a few more group members. It was a couple of weeks later that they stumbled upon Michonne and another week more before they reached a settlement and breathed in relief as they were welcomed, “I’m the Governor and this here is Woodbury.”

Chapter Text

Warm enough with little chance of frost was as good as it was going to get for Stiles when it came to heading in the direction of Washington. They emptied the prison of supplies and even persuaded Stiles to try for the armory. With three more strapping men to help it went easier than expected but required Shane and Daryl to go in search of another larger truck.

It took them two days but they returned with another, larger, U-Haul and a pickup which Jim, after an inspection, declared to be in excellent condition. Loading everything into their vehicles, they made sure each one had a bit of everything packed in case they got separated on the way.

“Are you three sure you wanna head out with us?” Stiles looked at Axel, Oscar and Big Tiny. They’d discussed it before and while Oscar and Big Tiny wondered about their family they didn’t kid themselves that they were still in the same place after all this time even if they’ve managed to survive.

“Yeah man. I wouldn’t know where to start on my own.” Oscar said while the other two just nodded.

“All right. I’m thinking of going to around Atlanta and emptying a couple of our stashes to take with us. There are more of us and we should make the ride in two to three days considering I don’t plan on stopping except for piss breaks until we reach Washington. I’m fairly confident we could defend ourselves at this point but every stop we make is a risk. What do you think?” Stiles looked at his group of people. He was rather pleased with his selection and trusted most of them as if they were family.

“You’re confident we’ll be safe there?” Carol held hands with Merle but had eyes only for Stiles at the moment.

Stiles sighed and rubbed at the back of his head, “I figure it this way. If we don’t find the safe haven I’m expecting there we’ll find a strong enough building with enough of a safety fence or a wall and we’ll make it our own. At this point I’m tired of moving from one place to the next. It’s a risk and it’s exhausting. If everything else falls through, Washington is as good enough of a place to be at as any, what matters is that we’re all together.”

Carol smiled at him in her own special kind of way while Glenn jumped in, “We can scavenge there too and I’m sure there are farms around to pick over.”

Stiles nodded at him and looked at the others, “Everyone agreed?”

He got various words and grunts of confirmation and they were ready to go.

The first part of the journey passed without a hitch. They loaded up the supplies they’d planned on and found none of the farms they stopped at disturbed. It was like whatever survivors were around avoided that area completely. The roads were for the most part clear and they saw only a few zombies stumbling around.

"It’s like the whole area was cleared.” Glenn mumbled next to him in the truck.

Daryl just grunted as he drove while Stiles thought about it before speaking, “I think the walkers left the cities in search of more food. It’s been a while now since everything’s been abandoned and you remember when we first left they were already heading out. The roads were known to be full and even at the prison we had more of them up front when we arrived than in last couple of months.”

Glenn mumbled, “I just hope the road stays this clear all the way to Washington.”

“Roads ’ll be blocked, been so far. Better gone on using side paths, ya think?” Daryl glanced Stiles’ way before turning back to the road.

“Probably. Stay on this course for now.” Stiles said and that was probably his first mistake.

He didn’t really smell trouble until they saw the first sign for Terminus. Daryl and Stiles glanced at each other and Stiles said, “Pull over.”

He got out of the car and walked first to the truck Merle was driving and climbing on the first step leaned in, “I don’t like that Terminus welcome. Everything in me is screaming it’s a trap and I’d like to avoid it as widely as we can.”

“It’s your nose, twinky boy. Even this far out it just don’t smell right.” Merle nodded.

“Good. I’ll let the others know.” Stiles grinned, jumped off and went to tell those in the back they would be circling this place, taking a route closer to Atlanta.

However, not even twenty minute after their change of direction, a woman walked out right in front of the truck carrying what looked to be a baby. She was thin as a rail and if not for that relatively clean baby Stiles would have mistaken her for a walker.

Daryl turned harshly knocking some things back in the truck, but he stopped alright and without turning off the engine, he pulled out a gun.

Stiles was pleased to see Glenn did the same, but Stiles motioned them both to stay inside while he took his bat and gun and hopped out, never once taking his aim off the woman now clutching at her child.

He could hear another heartbeat out among the trees and he called out, “Come out where I can see you if you don’t want me to shoot them both.”

Merle appeared behind him at the same time as an African American woman with long dreads and a sword walked out into the road.

“That there is old Olive Oyl. Can’t ya smell her, cub? She’s ripe I’ll tell ya that, and half her usual size under them rags I shit ya not.” Merle leaned in and whispered.

Stiles paused but didn’t lower his gun, “Lori?”

He could tell she’d recognized Merle, but for a moment or two more she drew a blank when it came to Stiles. Not that he blamed her. His beard was so wild and puffy it looked like a whole animal attached to his face and his hair was now long enough that even with his red knit hat it brushed the edge of his jaw. He found it warmer that way in prison and never cared enough to actually shave. Besides, he liked the way Sophia giggled and squeaked when he rubbed the hair against her neck. It was all about small joys these days.

“Stiles?” She eventually asked and then, as soon as the information registered she was moving toward him.

But knowing the woman or not, Stiles still took two steps away and kept his gun on her.

Lori did stop, but instead of showing other signs of reluctance, she clutched the child closer and started talking, “Oh, God, Stiles! You have to help them. My Carl, and Rick, they are all trapped at the station. Rick told us to wait, but they never came back and we heard screams… Oh Please, Stiles, you have to help them.” Lori took two more steps toward Stiles.

“Ya gone and went ta Terminus, didn’t ya?” Merle mocked sounding pissed.

“Hunger will drive a person to places where they would usually never go.” The woman with the sword said.

Stiles looked at Merle hoping he would find his answer there without even knowing which answer he was looking for.

“No, boy. Don’t ya even think ‘bout it!” Merle snapped tightening his fingers around his rifle.

“What’s the hold up?” Came Shane’s voice from the back.
Stiles just kept looking at Merle. He heard as Shane said with wonder, “Lori?” and he answering “Shane?”

He knew they hugged and despite everything that had happened there were still bonds between them, far stronger bonds than little time could weaken.

“Who’s this?” Shane questioned, and Stiles figured he meant the child. It hadn’t occurred to Stiles to even ask.

“This is Judith.” Lori seemed to hesitate for some reason before there was some steel in her voice, “She’s yours.”

Merle looked at the sky cursing as he hadn’t in a long time the moment the words slipped Lori’s lips while Stiles just closed his eyes and let his head drop.

“Ya all gotta get off the road.” Daryl leaned out of the truck and said loudly enough for them to hear.

“We passed a small clearin’ not too far back. Best get this done and over with.” Merle growled, turned and went back to his truck.

Most of the guys stayed back, including T-Dog and Jim, but Merle, Glenn, Daryl and Shane were right there listening with Carol holding Lori as she wept.

Both Merle and Daryl had their arms crossed in front of their chests clearly wishing they were anywhere but there. Glenn looked worried as he usually did when something didn’t go as planned and Stiles just felt resigned.

He didn’t care about those people, not really. He finally felt brave enough to go looking for Negan and now there was another obstacle in his path because he knew he would go look for Rick. It was inevitable really. He would always wonder if he’d done the right thing and while Merle and Daryl would never judge him, Carol, Sophia, Shane and Glenn certainly would. Carl was still a kid and thanks to his incompetent father he was trapped somewhere out there.

When he considered the situation further, he knew the rest of the guys would wonder as well. They might be on the fence right now, but as time passed and they had time to think about it, they would wonder if the group would leave them in a bind as well if it ever came to that. It was human nature to look for trouble where there was none and to weigh each word and every action. He couldn’t very well resent other people for the same doubts that often troubled him thanks to his past unpleasant experiences.

He half listened to Lori as she told the others how they had trouble in a place called Woodbury and barely escaped with their lives. More people had joined their group but Beth had died and Patricia had betrayed them and left with their enemy, some dude that called himself the Governor. Stiles rolled his eyes so hard it hurt.

Apparently they’ve all been going in circles for most of the winter, they were starving and never found anything other than a few abandoned houses and other small groups trying to kill them.

Stiles figured every member of his group would have fared better on their own than that. Sick of listening to Lori any longer he moved closer to Merle and Daryl.

“I need you to lead the rest of the group and the supplies to Washington.” Stiles said under his breath.

“How ya figure that?” Merle shot him a disapproving look.

“If I don’t go and save Rick’s ass I risk tearing apart our group. You think Carol will just forgive us for leaving Carl to his death, or Glenn for that matter? I doubt at this point Shane would even join us the rest of the way. She’s dangling his child in front of him and I don’t have a doubt in my mind it’s his. She’s too small to be Rick’s and considering how much Shane and Lori fucked before he showed up….” Stiles shook his head.

“I can go.” Daryl offered not taking his eyes off Glenn.

“Honestly I would prefer you stayed with Merle and the supplies. You can sense him if he’s really the Alpha as you think he is. I can’t and once you reach him, you can always find me again. I don’t think I could find you two no matter how much I might want to.” Stiles worried at his lip.

“Senses ain’t all the same with every wolf. Some are better at trackin’, others at the bonds or whatever. You’re still young.” Merle bumped Stiles’ shoulder.

“How many do ya think?” Daryl was now biting his thumb stressing.

“I have no idea. But I know I want more of you with the supplies. Once we rescue the others we’ll have more numbers on our side.” Stiles said.

“Why not all of us?” Daryl asked drawing blood with his teeth but looking as if he didn’t notice.

Stiles rubbed at his head and sighed, “I don’t know how many of them there are and I don’t want them near our supplies. We’ve worked for months gathering and hauling and now we’re supposed to share with a group we don’t even like? I just don’t want to. I want to keep what’s ours, do our fucking duty among peers and get the hell out of their vicinity.”

He’d managed to raise his voice in his rant and too many eyes were now focused on the three of them.

“I want to come.” Glenn was the first to speak up.

“No.” Daryl stepped forward his hands suddenly by his sides.

Glenn startled eyes wide, “Yes?” he phrased it like a question but Stiles already knew there was no way Daryl was talking him out of it.

“I’m coming, too.” Carol straightened her spine but instead of looking at Stiles she kept her gaze on Merle.

Merle was quiet for a long while before dropping his arms saying, “Damn it all to hell, woman!”

Carol went to him right away pulling him to the side at which point Stiles stopped listening. He was lost in his own head even while he watched the tender way Daryl cupped Glenn’s face and kissed the corner of his lips. Glenn cried as he hugged him and Stiles could smell Daryl’s tears despite not being able to see them. It was like the Fellowship of the Ring all over again and Stiles seriously doubted they would fare better than that group. He supposed zombies were marginally less tricky than orcs but just as he wouldn’t want to vacation on Mount Doom he had the same enthusiasm for visiting Terminus and yet Negan seemed to be on the other end of the world with Mordor between them. Hell, knowing Rick he will throw in Moria in there too by the time all was said and done.

Stiles didn’t have to ask if Shane was coming but he looked at the others because he didn’t know which way they would lean. In the end T-Dog stepped forward and Stiles sincerely hoped that decision wouldn’t bite him in the ass.

“What exactly is going on here?” Axel questioned in his characteristically timid way.

Stiles smiled at him, mostly because out of the three former inmates Axel was his favorite, “A few of us will go and help out Lori and the others we traveled with for a while at the start. The rest of you will continue as we planned.”

He saw Big Tiny trying to say something, but Stiles shook his head. Out of the lot of them Big Tiny was the one who always said too much and he really didn’t want to share anything with Lori. Nor Michonne come to think of it. She was smart and Stiles didn’t know her at all to trust her.

“Shane.” Stiles called the man who was still in awe of his child.

He turned to him ignoring Lori for a moment and listening what Stiles had to say. “The child doesn’t belong on a rescue mission.”

Realization dawned on Shane but Lori kept looking from one to the other, “What? What do you mean? I can’t leave Judith.”

Shane sighed hugging the girl closer, “Lori, she’s too small to go into a fight. She could get hurt or she could betray our position. She will have to go with the other group.”

“No. Not my baby. Shane?” Lori stepped away but Shane took hold of her wrist, “Don’t do this to me Shane, I can’t leave my baby. Shane!” She started crying and tugging away but Shane held fast and pulled her closer into a hug so Judith was tucked in between them sensing the distress and quietly whimpering.

After a few minutes Lori wiped her tears, cleaning her face slightly from the grime, and turned to Stiles with a resolution he’d seen within her before, “I want to go with her.”

Stiles folded his arms and leaned slightly back in place, “No.”

“What do you mean no?” Lori lost some of her composure. She obviously forgot that she never actually got her way when it came to Stiles.

“Lori, I don’t trust you. Never have and never will. You’re toxic and self-serving and I don’t want you around me or mine. The child goes because she’s a liability and she’s apparently Shane’s and make no mistake, Shane is one of mine. You will be our guide to wherever Rick is, we will save him and the others and once we all meet up again or Merle and Daryl find me, you will get your daughter back. What you do after that is between you and Shane but I can tell you right now, you will never be welcome with my group. It’s just the way it is. Now you have another child to think about, but if you love one more than the other we’ll just be on our way and you can run a rescue mission by yourself.”

Lori was speechless for a moment but she was also the kind of woman who never stayed that way for long. “Fine. You can have it your way. But it something happens to my baby I’ll kill you myself.”

Stiles smirked, “No problem, but if something happens to me I have a few people who’ll just as easily kill you.”

Merle guffawed behind her startling her badly enough she stumbled.

Stiles caught a grin on Michonne’s face which she quickly hid, but it said enough about the feelings between those two. It looked like hunger also forced people to stick with those they would usually rather avoid.

After deciding they were taking two pickups with them, with various but limited supplies because Stiles was still reluctant to share more than he had to, the group hugged it out. Lori wept for her child with Shane comforting her which Stiles found deeply annoying since the last thing he needed was that relationship coming back to life.

Sophia looked pale and somber and while she listened to Carol she didn’t say a word nor did she cry. It was Merle who got down to her level, “Mama is a fighter and she’ll take care of that other little pipsqueak and come back to us. Now you’re gonna help old Merle take care of that tiny bug we’re stuck with, alright?”

While faintly, Sophia did smile and she hugged her mother goodbye.

Daryl and Glenn as usual shared little words but you could read a book off their expressions and Stiles knew he had to come back with Glenn in tow otherwise Daryl might just not recover.

He rest shared their manly hugs and slaps on the back as was proper and Stiles barely restrained himself from rolling his eyes again. Instead, as soon as they were all done, he pulled Daryl and Merle to the side and whispered right next to their ears, “I haven’t said his name before because it felt like I might jinx myself with it, but if you do manage to find the factory or just his group, you should ask for Negan. If he’s not there ask for Simon and mention me. I have no idea how big his group is by now and the chances are good no one else knows about me. Don’t trust them.”

“Don’t ya worry your pretty little head, as soon as we done gone and deliver the supplies we’re coming right back for ya with our mighty Alpha in tow.” Merle rubbed the side of his face against Stiles and pushed him against Daryl who hugged him fiercely.

“Go on now, give Sophia a kiss and off with ya, ya slacker.” Daryl said roughly against Stiles’ ear then nudged him away.

In the end, good intentions or not, Stiles was forced to split up his group for the sake of Rick’s and despite not really having a choice he counted that as his second fucking mistake.

Chapter Text

The drive although not long was tense and silent. Stiles had nothing he wanted to say in front of Michonne and hoped Shane and T-Dog restrained themselves in front of Lori as well.

He had them stop well before Terminus and then pulled his group aside out of hearing distance from the two women. “I have no idea what we’re getting into but we’re playing it safe. No crazy escapades or heroics, just whatever you do be sure to do it smart. We leave none of us behind unless you’re sure the person is dead. That means if you have to push Lori under a truck to save T-Dog, you do it. We agreed?”

Everyone except Shane looked him in the eye and nodded. Their bonds were strong, much stronger than those with their previous group and Stiles was certain even Glenn’s conviction was actually true.

“Shane, I know she’s the mother of your child, and Rick was your best friend, so I won’t ask the same of you, but just know that if anything were to happen to Carol or Glenn under your watch you would be the one to explain it to Merle and Daryl.” Shane paled but nodded still looking relieved.

Contemplating the rest of them Stiles snapped, “Fuck it, if it turns out that way you save Carl. He’s just a fucking kid and even I can’t be that heartless.” Everyone chuckled at that so Stiles continued, “I have no idea how many people we’ll actually rescue in the end, but I’m not leaving our trucks. Whatever supplies we’ve got will have to be enough and they’ll just have to fit in the pickups if they want to tag along.” Stiles hesitated for a moment but then, as if sensing something bad was waiting for him around the corner, he continued, “If something happens to me whether I’m too badly injured or even bit, you take me with you and keep watch until I turn or die. At this point I don’t know what my body can handle and so far I’ve been immune to the bite. I should still have the rapid healing thing, so don’t give up on me too soon, please.” It took something from him to admit to that weakness. It was different from speaking to Merle and Daryl. With them the werewolf bond worked its magic, deleting any shame or reluctance. Pack meant family and speaking your mind with the ingrained certainty that you will never be judged or ridiculed for your words.

So he was completely surprised when Glenn almost jumped and hugged him tightly saying, “We’re pack, we take care of our own.”

Stiles hugged back feeling encouraged and more importantly, wanted.

“You got a plan?” Shane asked quietly giving a grazing glance to Lori.

Stiles smirked, “Sure I do.”

Stiles left the others far enough away that no one in the camp they were breaking into could hear them and then he took Carol with him and walked further away, making sure not even a wolf would be able to know the distraction was there.

It was slow going, trying to be quiet and making sure each step carried as little sound as possible. It was probably overkill but Stiles worried and as if understanding those worries, Carol followed his lead.

Only when their hike took them outside the limits of the comp and Stiles’ wolf eased a little did Stiles start singing under his breath, quietly enough it looked more like he was just mouthing the words.

‘long live the pioneers, rebels mutineers,’ he stepped over a branch and held out his hand to help Carol, ‘go fourth have no fear, come close lend an ear and I say’ then, feeling playful he leaned next to her ear, ‘hey hey hey, living like we’re renegades’.

Carol smiled, touching Stiles’ cheek and encouraged, he continued, ‘all hail the underdogs all hail the new kids, all hail the outlaws, Spielbergs and Kubrics, it’s our time to make a move it’s our time to make amends it’s our time to break the rules, let’s begin’

He took out a small device out of his pocket and watched as Carol’s eyes widened, “I can’t believe you’ve thought of that.”

Stiles chuckled, “Only ten bucks on Amazon so I bought a few, and then I found some more while scavenging. It’s a nightmare on werewolf ears and I used to be a part of a pack.”

Carol looked at him incredulously, at which point Stiles felt a bit defensive, “What? I was 147 pounds of pale skin and fragile bone and none of them held back when it came to pushing me around.”

Carol was still looking at him, only her eyes were narrowed now so Stiles sighed, “Fine, I was a dick and I loved to watch them cringe and whine. All that muscle and power and they were brought down to their knees.” Stiles grinned evilly and almost waited for that cruel cartoonish laugh to echo around the forest.

Instead only Carol chuckled, “There, was that so hard? It’s best not to lie.”

Stiles frowned at her all pretend like then pulled her in a half hug.

“Will you tell me about him?” She asked so suddenly Stiles just about tripped and still took a moment to realize what she was talking about.

He swallowed, letting her go and put his hand in his pocket to fiddle with the sound grenade, Roscoe propped on his shoulder as he looked into the distance, “What do you want to know?”

Carol took a step closer to him, “What is he like?”

Stiles laughed softly, “He’s a dick, just like me.”

Carol smiled at him, “Just a dick? Or is there something you like about him?”

“Oh don’t get me wrong, I love that he’s a dick, we match. I don’t have to hold back, or weigh my words when I’m around him. He understands and often he’s a step ahead of me when it comes to actually being an asshole. Curses are half his vocabulary and he never ever holds back on his opinion. I figure he’s a killer by now, ruthless and unforgiving...” Stiles trailed off.

“Doesn’t sound like someone who will welcome us to his home.” Carol commented but there was no judgment or even worry in her voice.

“I feel like I’ve known him for just one heartbeat and he’d still buried himself so deeply into my heart I know I would pine away at the very thought of him dead. Merle and Daryl have been carrying me more than they probably realize, feeding me their hope to move me forward. I was half gone before I met him, and I think he was probably in just about the same state.” Stiles jumped from one thought to the next, unable to focus on just one moment they’d shared, “My home is wherever he is, and my pack will fit right in. It won’t all be sunshine and rainbows, you realize?” Stiles turned to her, watching her expression, “We’re ruthless, especially when together and this weakness I’ve been allowing myself, things like this whole rescue thing, he would have plucked the very idea right out of me because nothing matters more than my survival, more than his.”

“Sometimes love is much more than empty words.” Carol said wisely.

Stiles felt as if he could cry, “Yeah, no empty words between us,” he fingered the scarf around his neck, a small comfort he’d desperately needed when away from Merle and Daryl, “Sometimes I miss him so much it’s hard to breathe and when this whole leadership thing weighs on me, I want him to come back, to hold me by his side and take charge, to make everything right without my fucking input. I need to be the second in command for a while, and have a leader I trust to guide me.”

Carol hugged him, “We might all seem soft to you, unprepared, but we’ve watched you and stood by your side for so long now, I know we will follow no matter what we find at the end of the road. We’re with you, Stiles, your family, your pack. And as your lover is your rock, we will make him ours as well and we will survive this, we will fucking thrive.”

Stiles nodded at her then took a deep breath humming the same song softly, because they would be renegades, they would abandon the society as they knew it if they haven’t already. He took a step away from Carol, prepared himself for the sound then detached the pin from the device and the sound exploded around them.

Stiles hung it on a branch and took the pin with him then they moved far enough away where they waited to see if any dead would show up.

It didn’t take them long to start gathering and Stiles and Carol slowly sneaked away. They were running by the time they were half-way to the camp and Stiles caught Carol, stopping her.

“We’ll set another one here to have them going in the right direction but I don’t want it going off just yet.” Stiles tied the grenade on a tree and hung an empty can on the ring below, filling it slowly with rocks until he felt it was just right.

“Are you sure that will go off? It doesn’t seem like it’s slipping at all.” Carol asked looking at the small device that made so much noise.

“Yeah. This is my most worn one. I’ve played with the pin so much it’s rather loose. It will take a while, but as it swings it will pull out eventually. We need that time to reach the others and for enough of a herd to gather.” Stiles pulled her with him and he quickened their step, watching where he was placing his feet now as they were getting closer to the camp.

When they approached, they were on the opposite side of the rest of their group. Here Stiles neared the camp fence. He pulled out a pair of reading glasses from his pocket and broke them in two. Then he rigged them a few yards apart, setting them up carefully so that the sunlight passed through them and underneath he arranged neat piles of dry grass. For a finishing touch he threw a handful of firecrackers around.

All that set up they sneaked around to the other side of the camp to the others.

Almost as soon as he got there he could see the relief on Shane’s face and the nervous squirming he found to be a trademark when it came to Glenn. Lori was right by Shane’s shoulder shooting a venomous gaze toward Stiles while Shane all about begged for rescue with his eyes.

Not saying anything, Stiles motioned for them to zip it and to lay low as he led them through an almost crawl toward the camp fence.

It took two more times of him giving certain individuals pointed looks and sharp motions with his hands for even the softest of whispers to stop. Lori was persistent when she wanted it and Stiles knew she was trying to persuade Shane to abandon them and go back to her one way or the other.

Shouts from the camp eventually broke the silence, and while Michonne was half-way up on her feet in that moment, Stiles pushed her down and it was T-Dog who grabbed Lori once they heard screams from inside one of the buildings.

Stiles could hear people running in the distance, words of fire and they all heard the firecrackers which sounded very much like gunshots then motioned for them all to move and stay low.

Creeping toward the building he directed the others, having them keep out of sight while at the same time Stiles listened to all the nearby chatter.

Only once the shooting started did Stiles motion for them to get inside where the screaming had since tapered off.

The sight that greeted them wasn’t pretty. It took Stiles barely a second to notice the four men and two women on their knees, feet tied and their hands restrained at their backs. They had a piece of cloth between their teeth tied at the back of their head. He recognized Rick and Maggie, but didn’t know the others. However, Maggie was hysterical, not even noticing their entrance, her eyes fixed on the man at the table who was missing his leg below the knee.

It took Stiles another second to realize it was Hershel at which point he said to Carol softly, “You take care of him,” before turning toward the three men holding the group subdued.

Only one guy had a baseball bat while the other two were unarmed, but Stiles got a real bad feeling about them, especially when the dark-haired man kept on smirking at him.

“Oh, look brother, more will be joining us for dinner.” He eventually said not taking his eyes off Stiles as if he knew something Stiles wasn’t aware of.

“Should we get mother?” The brother asked.

The obvious leader just smiled, “No need. I’m sure we can deal with this ourselves.”

The man walked casually around the prisoners, all of the group watching him tensely, until he reached the end of the row and the large dark haired man who was crying. Then he casually asked, “Ever seen a pig bled out?” Before popping a claw and cutting the man’s throat, pushing him head first into the long water trough in front of them.

It was so unexpected and so damn quick, Stiles barely managed to react and just blinked when the large ginger screamed through his mouth bind what was probably some kind of name.

As if time slowed down it was another moment before Stiles comprehended what he was seeing. They were fucking werewolves and he cursed his shitty nose under his breath. He was so used to ignoring most scents considering the very air was polluted with the decomposing flesh, he completely missed the camp being occupied by werewolves. He didn’t even have any wolfsbane, not that he’d taken any from Merle at all. You always had to forget something.

Pushing all that aside Stiles got a grip and yelled, “Aim for the head or heart!” before jumping into the fray.

The werewolf easily dodged him, but Stiles pushed off the wall and slashed at his side with his claws. The gunshots all around were so deafening Stiles couldn’t hear what was happening to the others so instead he focused on his own opponent. The werewolf seemed to hiss at the injury, but Stiles was focused and ducked under his blow and in the same move pulled out his long blade and cut at the werewolf’s middle.

It took the guy by surprise and he grunted, gripping at his stomach but Stiles didn’t pause. Instead he pulled out his gun and shot the guy in the head.

He heard a scream, “Gareth!” but paid it no mind. Instead he lifted his long blade above his head and slammed it against the werewolf’s neck, decapitating him.

A door slammed behind him and Stiles turned just in time to see the other werewolf run outside. Glancing over the others he noticed those that had been kneeling down were cut loose and an African American man tending to Herschel who still must have been alive.

The baseball bat guy was dead but Shane seemed to be hurt as well. Stiles gave him a look only to get an “I’m okay, I’m alright,” in return.

“What was it? A bite or a scratch?” Stiles got to him and pulled his shirt up to see.

Five long cuts stretched all the way from his side to his shoulder blade. They weren’t too deep but they could easily get infected. “Carol, wrap it up quickly. No time now to take care of it but we better protect it.” Stiles then turned to the others asking, “Everyone else okay?”

“We have to go get Carl!” Rick suddenly rushed him, gripping at Stiles shoulders until Stiles tugged away giving him a nasty look.

Stiles took in the others then said, “Grab a weapon people and take cover when we get outside. This shit just got complicated.” Only then did he turn back to Rick, “Where are they kept? I assume you have more people trapped here and not only your son?”
“We were all held in train cars outside before they dragged us in here.” The ginger man said.

Stiles nodded than asked, “Any of you know how to use a sniper rifle?”

The same ginger man said, “I do,” but a Hispanic-American woman joined in, “So do I.”

“Good. Shane?” Stiles motioned at him and Shane dragged a bag he’d dropped at the entrance, pulling out two rifles.

“We had them but none of us here is real good with them and right now I need you two to be fucking excellent at it. That guy that just left here will bring reinforcement and to be honest, I’m more afraid of his mother than I am of other people with guns. So you two will climb up this building and cover us. If you could shoot others up on those roofs I would really appreciate it. Once we’re clear you follow and we’ll provide backup fire.”

“Why his mother? What are you?” Lori suddenly stepped up front, “I’m not sure I want you near my son.”

“Well then you can just kindly fuck off and rescue everyone yourself, and me and mine will be on our merry fucking way you ignorant bitch.” Stiles snapped deadly afraid that the mother in question will be the Alpha and ignoring the first question. They didn’t have time for this shit.

“Hey!” Rick started only for Stiles to finish, “I don’t even want to hear it Officer. You either want our help or you don’t and you’ve got two fucking seconds to decide.”

Rick barely took time to breathe before saying, “We want it.”

“Good, then shut the fuck up.” Stiles turned to the others, “When I first agreed to this bullshit I had no idea the place was run by werewolves. We’re fast, stronger with super healing, advanced hearing and very little can actually kill us. With what we have at our disposal, you best aim for the heart or the head and then either run out of reach or decapitate them quicker than they could heal. Best leave that guy’s mother to me.”

The two with rifles were almost at the roof by then and Stiles took note of the others before calling out to Maggie, “Will he live?”

“Bob’s stopped the bleeding.” Maggie said through tears.

“I did my best with what little I had on me. He needs a transfusion and some drugs and soon.” Bob added.

“Fuck it.” Stiles rubbed at his beard, “Put a board or something on that cart and load him up. You two stay behind us and once the path is clear you follow. We’ll take him with us somehow. Now we’re out of time. Stick to walls everyone and you Rick lead the way to your son.”

The same as it usually happened in every cop movie Stiles had ever seen, Rick went first, a machete in hand while Stiles provided back up. They watched for corners and took in every hidden nookie that could be their downfall, but no one was there until they got outside.

It seemed like half the camp was armed and waiting for them, not something Stiles had planned for, not even in his worst case scenario. But some luck was still at his side because he heard gunshots on the other side of the camp. The dead must have arrived.

Stiles watched as the Alpha, and Stiles had no doubt the woman up front was the Alpha, ordered a good two thirds of the group to go deal with the situation. Somewhat unexpected, but then again, every Alpha Stiles had ever met had been overconfident. She probably thought she could handle all of them by herself.

“Why don’t you come out, wolf? No point in hiding after invading my territory so blatantly and then killing my boy. You know there’s no way for you to leave this place except with a wolfsbane bullet in your head.” The Alpha spoke and Stiles could feel her anger thrumming through his body with each word.

“Well, I’d rather avoid that bullet if at all possible, and your friends there don’t look real friendly.” Stiles told her, motioning for the others behind him to stay hidden inside the room while he kept to the very edge of the doorframe leading out.

He heard the Alpha growl, “If I have to drag you out, I’ll eat all of your friend while still alive right in front of you, and then I’ll eat parts of you. And I’ll make sure to pick those parts you’ll miss the most.”

“Was cannibalism a thing even before the apocalypse? Because I’ve known some crazy bastards in my life but none of them leaned toward grilling their first door neighbor.” Stiles couldn’t really resist. He didn’t know what to do. If they went outside they were as good as dead. It wouldn’t change much if the Alpha came inside. They were just screwed no matter how you looked at it.

“Meat is meat. Werewolves have eaten human flesh for hundreds of years, especially when none was available.”

Stiles looked at the others and mouthed ‘eww’ before focusing back on the sounds outside. The number of zombies on the other side of the camp wasn’t really infinite, and everyone inside was heavily armed. Stiles didn’t really have a choice, he had to take his chances with the Alpha.

He looked at Shane, T-Dog, Carol and Glenn, silently asking for forgiveness before he stepped outside. He heard Glenn saying, “What’s he doing?” in the background, but just couldn’t focus on whatever might have followed. He had an angry mother Alpha to face and wasn’t his life just peachy?

“So you’re the little boy who deemed himself brave enough.” Alpha growled and instantly started moving to her left, forcing him to move with her and keep her in his sight.

“Honestly, had no idea this was werewolf territory. The dead stink up everything.” Stiles shrugged.

“I hope it was worth it, because none of you are leaving here alive.” She took two more steps to the left and Stiles glanced at the men now to his right. He had no idea how many of them were shifters too.

“See, I have a problem with that. I have places to be and things to do, this whole show was just a side stop and not one I really took all that willingly.” Stiles smiled at her positive she could smell his terror while she moved once more to the left, getting mere feet away from the rest of his group.

Stiles took too long to figure out her plan, because he still had that stupid sarcastic smile on his face when she jumped through the doorway and the screams started.

“Nooo!” Stiles yelled just before claws ripped into his shoulder and the shooting started. He felt the tug as the bullet hit the werewolf holding him and he felt the spray of blood on his face, but all of that was disregardable. Stiles only had eyes for that doorway and the scent of blood that suddenly overpowered the stench of death in the air.

He ran for the Alpha as much as he ran to his family and he ignored the pain of a bullet in his other shoulder and the one in his thigh. He could feel the wounds healing just as he cleared the doorway and saw Rick getting flung against a wall.

Shane was down, as was Lori and at one point Stiles would have thought to himself ‘it figured, that trio was always together and in deep shit every time’. But as the Alpha headed for Carol for what seemed the second time, Stiles jumped right in, tackling her to the floor and getting himself a fresh set of claw marks all the way from his thigh to his middle, and this set wasn’t likely to heal any time soon.

Taking the last of his breath as he slammed the Alpha’s head into the ground, he yelled, “Go save the others, run!” and then his wrist was broken and he was screaming for different reasons.

Instinctively he kicked out with his feet and hit the Alpha strongly enough she moved a couple of steps away from him, but she just smirked at him, her whole face bloody and hair matted, “How does it feel to lose? Does it hurt?” before she jumped right at him again.

Stiles rolled out of the way of her first attack, hearing her claws scrape against the concrete, but the next one caught him across his back and he didn’t have time to react when she had her teeth deep in his newly healed shoulder and was doing her best to just rip out the whole chunk of flesh out.

Feeling as if he was as good as dead already, Stiles was very much surprised when a gunshot rang too close to his head, taking away his hearing and the teeth loosened from his shoulder. Quickly he turned away, a pathetic whine leaving his lips. He knew he was losing too much blood, and a couple of more Alpha injuries meant not even werewolf mojo would be able to save him.

But then he saw Carol, bloody and shaking, a gun in her hand pointed at a sprawled and already healing Alpha with a serious head wound. Despite the pain Stiles didn’t even hesitate. He bit down on the Alpha’s neck and with the help of both his teeth and claws, he removed her head from her shoulders.

The sound rushed back as an overwhelming explosion and all of his wounds seemed to wrap themselves back as if someone had pressed rewind at its highest setting then added a shot of adrenaline, some steroids, pepper up and fucking phoenix tears to the mix. Stiles could feel the strength crawling along his senses, the amp up of every single part of him and for a moment he was fucking invincible and then the pain hit and he was screaming once more as if on fucking repeat.

It took him a moment, and it was probably a moment too fucking long, to realize where the pain came from and then he was moving.

Carol almost jumped away from him, but he was lifting up her shirt before she could. Her hand was basically holding her guts in even as she stood on her feet, looking at him with nothing but sheer relief, relief that he was safe, that he was alive.

There was no coming back from that kind of injury for someone like her, someone human, and Stiles felt desperate, frantic almost as he experienced Merle’s anguish right next to his heart and he leaned closer to Carol, looking at her from down on his knees, looking right into her eyes, “Do you trust me, Carol?”

Carol dropped her gun and leaned into him with that serene smile only Carol could manage, as if she didn’t feel any pain and all was just right with the world. She touched his cheek with her bloody palm and said, “With my life, sweetheart.”

Stiles whined deep in his throat and then did what his very bones were urging him to do. He turned into her palm then bit her wrist all the while chanting in his head, ‘turn, Beta, turn, Beta, turn, Beta…’

When she dropped into his arms, he looked at her once more and whispered “Think of Merle, Sophia. You need to want to live with every part of your soul,” then he bit her again, right above her heart and picked her up growling.

He took in the scene around him and noticed Rick crying above a most likely dying Lori, no concern for Carl now, nor for his best buddy Shane, who was barely a couple of feet away choking on his blood. Bob was pressing a shirt against Shane’s chest, speaking to him softly, while Maggie kept trying to do the same for Lori but was fighting both her and Rick just to get to the wounds.

Not wasting any more time, Stiles lay Carol down right next to Shane then leaned to him, already feeling the wounds as if they were his own. The bitch had stabbed him deep, barely missing his heart but puncturing a lung and he had a broken leg and arm which wasn’t quite as life threatening.

“Do you trust me, brother?” Stiles asked, taking hold of Shane’s hand and pressing it against his chest. “Do you trust me to do what’s best for you?”

Shane choked, looking at him, then turned to glance at Rick and Lori who only had enough attention span for their own pain. A dribble of blood slid down Shane’s cheek as he croaked a weak “Yes.”

Stiles moved as fast as his new status allowed him to and he bit Shane’s shoulder, hearing the man yell in pain against him, but he still kept on going, wishing for another Beta, for his family member to live.

Only as he felt confident he’d done everything he could, he spoke to Bob, “Do your best to set their bones and wrap up their wounds. No stitches of any kind. If they’re gonna live they won’t need them and if they won’t no amount of stitches will help.”

Looking once again toward Lori and Rick, he noticed he had their attention now and it was not of the positive kind. Deciding to ignore them, he asked Maggie, “What’s wrong with her?”

Maggie was crying as she spoke, “She’s all clawed up, from her belly to her neck and she’s loosing blood so fast…”

Doubting it would make much difference, Stiles still decided to offer, “I can give you the same chance I gave Carol and Shane. The bite might save you only it will turn you into a werewolf and after that there’s no going back.”

“Yes! Do it! Anything!” Rick yelled, but at the same time Lori only had terror in her eyes as she rasped, “Get away from me,… monster…”

Rick looked at her, all shocked “What? No!” then turned back to Stiles, “Help her! Please!”

Stiles sighed even as he got back to his feet, “I’m sorry Rick, it doesn’t quite work that way. She has to be willing and she has to really want it. On top of that, if she turns, I’m responsible for her for the rest of her life or until she finds a new Alpha, and considering most of the population is dead that isn’t likely to happen. I can’t be responsible for someone who’ll call me a monster with her dying breath.”

Stiles turned and just walked away, ignoring Rick’s shouts and pleading. Stiles just didn’t have any more fucks to give. He had half his family still to find with Glenn and T-Dog somewhere out there in that mess, unhurt but very much out of his sight, and Carol and Shane with as much of a chance for surviving as they had for dying and that really wasn’t okay with Stiles. It wasn’t even close to being fucking okay, but there was one thing Stiles now knew for certain, without one ounce of motherfucking doubt, he knew his own Alpha was very much alive and Stiles was going to get him one way or the other.

Chapter Text

By some stroke of luck Merle thought they were doing great time on the road toward Washington. Some places had been a tight squeeze, but for the most part Merle led the way by driving in empty lanes. As they left the general Atlanta area the roads got clearer and other then a few walkers along the way, the path was pretty much straightforward.

They were past Charlotte, circling around the town via all the side roads that seemed remotely passable and still they hit more of the smaller herds then they’d encountered all along the way from Atlanta. Merle wasn’t all that confident in Washington being quite the safe heaven they were looking for but he knew their Alpha was there and it had to be good enough.

“Ya think we did the right thing?” Daryl was bouncing his leg and chewing his thumbnail for too many miles now, nervous enough that Sophia chose Axel’s lap to rest her head instead of Daryl’s.

“Sure ‘lil brother, Stiles’ll take care of everyone.” Merle told him for the third time despite doubting the decision to separate himself.

“As soon as we unload these trucks we can go back for them. I’m sure whoever we’re meeting will give us a hand.” Axel offered, then paused only to ask, “He never did say who exactly we’re looking for in Washington?”

Daryl snorted then finally took his thumb out of his mouth, “Stiles’ mate. They done separated months ago but planned on going to Washington. We feel ‘im there. He’s doing good.”

Axel just looked at him for a long while before asking, “You feel him?”

Merle chuckled, “Man’s our Alpha, we know where he’s at and if Stiles says the man’s got a kingdom out there or some shit, we trust Stiles. Besides, if he’s even half the fucking hamster that Stiles is, I recon we’d done and stuck gold.”

Even Daryl laughed at that, but then searing pain ripped through Merle’s gut and the wheel run away from him for a moment. He was aware of Daryl taking control and Merle barely managed to hit the break before wave after wave of pain slashed through different parts of his body, mimicking those he knew Stiles was receiving.

Gritting his teeth in an effort not to scream, Merle squeezed his eyes shut and did his best to block Stiles. He might not be able to do the same for Carol as his mate, but with just a part of it he would be able to function.

Vaguely he heard Daryl getting the same backslash before their whole pack bond realigned and there was nothing more for him but darkness.

Talking with others was becoming more and more tedious with each day that passed. Ruling with fear and fucking intimidation was all dandy and shit for a time, but Negan wasn’t stupid, he could all but smell the roots of a future mutiny. This whole set up he had going on, while motherfucking fabulous for him, still meant some were on the bottom and not really liking their lot in life.

It was just exhausting and chasing supplies with other communities while looking like pure profit was in reality more work than gain. It required controls and bullying and that fine balance where those sheep feared him just enough not to try anything and still felt comfort that he would protect them and that they could potentially have it way worse. It really was fucking exhausting and time consuming, time he could use to go on his own scavenging trips where they always found three times the supplies, but at this point Negan wasn’t sure what the hell to do about it. When he’d first made the shitty rules it was necessary, a type of punishment, but it didn’t take fucking long for his men to read it as god damn law. It certainly didn’t help that a large number of his enforcers weren’t quite honest men of the law but rather more on the less scrupulous side of the fence. It’s what he’d needed at the time, hell, he will always need those who were more likely to listen without asking questions than those riding in on their high horse spreading fairytales about fairness and morals. Fucking shit, it’s what it was, and now he was in another one of those meetings where he had to listen to what exactly his men did wrong and how it would affect their future relations with the other communities.

The issue was that while really not giving a shit, Negan still kind of gave a shit. There was always that little Stiles voice at the back of his head that whispered about right directions and better decisions, a voice that was damn hard to fucking ignore.

Simon snapping “That’s your fucking group Dwight, you’re in charge and each time you fuck up one of us has to fix the problem. The more you speak the more it looks like you’re not the right man for the job,” pulled Negan out of his mournful thoughts.

Dwight just scowled and crossed his arms in front of his chest. Negan had seen him as a problem almost from the start, but was lacking people at the time and now had an even bigger problem on his hands. He wondered briefly what Stiles would have done in this situation, but then just as quickly abandoned that pit of desperation and sorrow. “Drop the fucking attitude, Dwight. I’m not above letting you come all up and personal with Lucille if you push me hard enough.”

How Dwight reacted to that Negan had no fucking idea, because all of a sudden his chest constricted, painfully enough he screamed and dropped out of his chair. Simon was at his side right away while he fought for breath, panting.

“What is it? You alright, man?” Simon kept touching his back and doing his best to remove Negan’s hand from his chest.

And Negan really wasn’t sure what was up. That small niggling he’d sensed on occasion that Stiles wasn’t actually gone from his life, something he’d always dismissed as a delusion caused by uncontrollable longing had flared up so brightly Negan could taste Stiles’ fucking anger. It was as sweet as a peach and as potent as a shot of the oldest whiskey, god damn delicious and the determination he could sense, the need for Negan made the said man dizzy.

Unable to control himself Negan dropped to his back right there on the floor and started laughing, laughing until his eyes teared up and Simon became a chattering and worried nuisance Negan could no longer ignore. He looked at him then with a smile that must have been fucking precious if Simon’s expression was anything to go by, and said, “Stiles is alive,” he paused, “and he’s so fucking pissed I just fell in fucking love all over again.”

Then Simon was laughing too, and all those ‘what’ and ‘who’ questions from the rest of the men were as good as not even heard.

Having told Maggie and Bob to take care of Shane and Carol at the expense of their lives or he would kill them himself, Stiles went outside in search of T-Dog and Glenn.

Through the chaos of human screams, the groans of the walkers and random gunfire, it was impossible to pinpoint the exact location, but his Alpha senses led him right and it wasn’t but a couple of minutes when he came upon the heart of the battle.

Stiles easily caught sight of the other man he knew was a werewolf. He was twisting and crying on the ground half hidden from some of the others who were shooting in the direction of his men. He didn’t seem to care that he was in the line of fire, but the break of such a bond, especially when the Alpha was his mother probably had that kind of effect.

He saw Glenn and T-Dog hiding behind some vehicles along with a few other people who were the ones shooting, but there was also quite a lot of zombies milling around them, seemingly having trouble deciding on which of them to feast first. So unlike him, Stiles decided to ignore the werewolf and ran through the gunfire straight to his people where he arrived just in time for a man, who he in the next second realized was Dale, to get attacked and pretty much torn right in front of him.

“No!” Came from Andrea who didn’t go for the zombie, but draped herself over Dale and started sobbing almost getting eaten herself.

Stiles kicked off the walker, crushing its head under his foot then asked Glenn and T-Dog “Ready to get out of here?”

Both of them grinned with Glenn adding “Yes,” and T-Dog turning it into “Hell, yes!”

But nothing was ever simple, or easy. With the corner of his eye Stiles caught sight of Rick sneaking behind his kidnappers and as soon as he saw the large propane tank he knew what the guy was planning.

Panicking he yelled at them, “Run!” knowing that they were close enough the explosion could very well kill them too.

Michonne and T-Dog listen right away scrambling up, but Stiles ended up grabbing Carl by his shit and the beck of his pants and threw him some thirty feet away into the nearby trees. Next he did the same with Glenn completely ignoring any protests before he caught up with T-Dog who was lagging behind Michonne and jumped at him, wrapping his whole body around him just as the tank exploded and slammed them right into the ground.

Stiles screamed as a piece of metal slammed into his side and as the fire licked all along his exposed back and then, because his life wasn’t fucked up enough, a head of a walker slammed into a car next to them, bounced off at them, the teeth of the zombie headed for T-Dog’s arm. With his Alpha speed Stiles twisted in the last possible second and screamed anew as the teeth closed over the flesh of his forearm.

T-Dog pushed away, thrusting the gun in the walker’s mouth from the side and blew its brain away before it could chomp right through the arm.

“Jesus Crist!” T-Dog yelled and it was only due to his fast recovery that Stiles could hear him at all.

He could feel the bite on the arm partially healing before it stopped completely and the poison started traveling from it through his body as quick as his werewolf blood could carry it. As it passed, each aspect of his fast healing seemed to slow down and the pain hit him full force.

“T-Dog,” He whispered, pulling at the man, “The others, get them out. We need to find Merle and Daryl.”

T-Dog touched him, then moved away as Stiles hissed, noticing the injuries on Stiles’ back and at the same time Stiles caught sight of the burns stretching down T-dog’s leg. That would be a bitch to heal he absently thought feeling the darkness catching up to him. It really would be nothing short of fucking fate if the infection chose now to beat his ass was his last conscious thought.

Glenn clambered down from the tree ignoring the sting of various scrapes and the dull pain of bruises that particular flight had cost him and looked around for Carl. It took him just a few seconds to see the nearby bushes rustling before a half torn and somewhat bloodied boy came out.

“Are you bit?” Glenn asked right away and the boy shook his head in a no. But Glenn shot the next question right away “Hurt anywhere?”

This time Carl took a moment to think about it, before showing Glenn the worst of the scrapes in answer.

Glenn took hold of his arms, turning them gently around before saying, “That’s not so bad, it will need cleaning but you’ll live for the moment. We gotta go find the others now, come.”

Carl easily followed and the first person they stumbled upon was Michonne.

“You alright?” she asked Carl making the boy nod.

“The others,” Glenn forced through his teeth then started moving again.

The sight of T-Dog hovering over Stiles who was obviously unconscious, had Glenn rushing toward them, “What happened, is he alive?”

T-Dog rushed his words as quietly as he could so the other two wouldn’t hear, “Got bit, not healing right, I wrapped his arm but don’t mention it to the old group. We have to get out of here, find Merle and Daryl.” Then he raised his voice, “He’s burned bad so we have to get out of here. I think I can limp after you, just find a way to get him to the others.”

He heard Michonne’s weak shout of ‘Andrea’ and looked that way, only to find both her and Dale almost fried with Andrea still covering him. Glenn turned around and threw up. Even after all the crap they’d seen some things still turned his stomach.

In the end they found some kind of a rusted and bent luggage cart, but it still had wheels and was able to carry both Stiles and T-Dog.

Most of the immediate threat coming from walkers was gone and the guys that were shooting at them seemed to be blown away. Just as they were heading around the corner, Rick almost fell in front of them, then yelled “Carl” and hugged the boy as if he hadn’t seen him in centuries.

On one hand Glenn could understand that, he was a parent and he probably thought he would never again see his child, but he couldn’t help that sliver of resentment. He was away from Daryl for those two, unsure if he would ever see him again. Stiles was badly injured with T-Dog not far behind and he had no idea what happened with Shane and Carol.

“Where are the others?” He asked as the two finally separated.

“They’re all back in that first building.” Rick said, but there was something off about him and Glenn wondered for a moment if he should pry before deciding he had other worries.

The scene they came upon when they reached the others had Glenn stumbling so badly he nearly fell.

“Carol? Shane?” He asked fearing whatever information he might get.

“Hanging on for the moment. Whatever Stiles did to them has kept them alive with their injuries healing faster than it’s normal, but they’re running a fever and I’m not sure what that means.” A woman answered just as the other guy that was with them rushed toward T-Dog and Stiles, checking over their injuries.

That’s when Glenn saw a body covered with a sheet wondering if he should ask, but felt as if it wasn’t his place considering all of his people were still alive.

T-Dog didn’t seem to have the same problem, “Who did we lose, Maggie?” and Glenn realized she was from that farm they’d stayed at.

The same woman answered, “Lori.”

“Shit.” Glenn cursed softly unable to help himself.

“So we staying or we leavin’?” The big ginger Stiles had sent to the roof what seemed like hours ago now, asked.

“Leaving.” Rick shot out as if he had no care in the world.

Glenn turned to him, “Not until we’re sure the others can be moved.”

But Rick had his stubborn face on even as he hugged his crying son and Glenn was glad he’d missed that particular conversation. “We can’t stay here.”

“We wouldn’t even be here if not for you getting into trouble.” T-Dog added.

“I saved your life!” Rick snapped.

“You’re the one who blew us up?” Michonne was the one who stepped forward with an angry expression on her face.

“I had to do something!” Rick rubbed at his face.

“You killed Andrea!” She was reaching for her sword but the big ginger caught her from the back.

“What?” Maggie turned to look at him.

“What do you people want from me? There was no other way! I saved your life! Lost my wife because of you,…” Rick seemed to be on a roll but T-Dog was suddenly on his feet and right in his face despite how much that must have hurt, “That’s the biggest load of shit I’ve heard in a while! You got yourself in trouble and we’re the ones who came to save your self-righteous ass. We separated from our family. Four out of five of us got hurt and three might not even make it. Then you kill your own people and we’re to blame for your fucking mistakes? I don’t think so. Merle was so fucking right when he said you weren’t our fucking problem. None of this would have happened if we’d just ignored your wife and kept going.”

“That wasn’t what I meant,…” Risk started but T-Dog interrupted him again, “Yeah, you don’t seem to mean a lot of things and you still end up sayin’ a lot. I don’t even care anymore, dude. As soon as we can we’ll be on our way again.”

He wasn’t yet down when Michonne stepped forward “I’m coming with you.”

Glenn’s jaw dropped and when he looked T-Dog wasn’t faring much better. She didn’t really ask, more like ordered and Glenn wasn’t sure what to think about that. God he missed Daryl. Even Merle would have been a God sent at that point. Without Stiles to lead the way Glenn was at a loss as what to do. He just knew they had to head for Washington, other than that he had no idea.

“You know what?” T-Dog said, “I don’t think I would mind you coming with us, and what with Stiles out of it, what do you think Glenn?”

“Me?” Glenn actually pointed at himself like a total loser, “I mean, yeah. Ok. You can come.” He could feel the blush climbing up his face so he ducked his head, now glad Merle wasn’t there to comment on it. He could actually hear him laughing in his head.

“You’re gonna need help with all those injured people. The name’s Abraham, but you can call me Abe and this here’s Rosita. We’d like to join if it’s not too much trouble.” The ginger said while pointing at the Hispanic-American woman.

T-Dog laughed, “What the hell, the more the merrier.”

They ended up staying for another half hour, taking care of the injured and introducing themselves before Glenn took Abe to the hidden trucks and they found their way back to Terminus.

“We’ll need another vehicle for the injured. They should be lying down and if we put them in the back then the rest of us won’t fit.” Bob said as they got out.

“We should pack it up people,” Rosita came from the other side of the building, “A herd is gathering at the far back of this place. It won’t be long before they’re on us.”

“Shit. Just what we need. I’ll go look for something.” Glenn sighed then picked up Stiles’ bat and jogged in the direction where he thought it most likely to stumble upon something.

It took a while, but when he saw an RV in the distance he mumbled, “You’ve gotta be kidding me,” and yet he ran to it, checking slowly that there weren’t no geeks around to take a bite, before looking it over on the inside. It was much newer than Dale’s RV had been and had a lot more room in the back plus two bunks in the hallway where someone had obviously been murdered if all the dried blood was anything to go by. The RV was a real monster and terribly convenient. Glenn sighed but just in case went to check if there were keys for it anywhere around. After he found them in a cup in the cup holder he whispered, “You’ve got be kidding me,” yet he still started it up only to shout “Fucking score!” when it showed the thing had a full tank.

“I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth.” He said to himself before he drove the RV to the others.

When he got there T-Dog was looking real bad and Rick was arguing with him.

He jumped out of the RV and reached them quickly, “Hey, hey, what’s going on?”

“This jackass is trying to invite himself along but hey, while he’s at it he might as well be the leader of our group.” T-Dog grimaced as he spoke, obviously in pain.

“That’s not what I was saying at all.” Rick sighed sounding exasperated and Glenn kinda resented him some more for it.

“You can come until Stiles is better, then he will decide.” Glenn told him, “But you don’t cause any trouble and you don’t make the decisions. I don’t trust you.”

Rick seemed to be gritting his teeth but in the end he nodded and went back inside.

Glenn turned to T-Dog, “You alright?”

T-Dog grimaced, “Bob gave me some meds from our trucks, so I should be fine, but the pain is really starting to hit and those for the pain aren’t kicking in yet.” T Dog leaned back some more into the truck seat, “You know, I never really realized what a pain in the ass leading actually was. I feel sorry for Stiles now, he had to take all of this shit all the time and make all the hard decisions.”

Glenn nodded, “I know what you mean. I’m sweating as soon as they all look in my direction, but he made it seem easy.”

Glenn thought to himself for a moment, then leaned closer, “Do you know what really happened, both here and during the explosion?”

T-Dog looked around for a moment and not seeing anyone he spoke, “Most of them are keeping quiet, but Maggie said Stiles bit Shane and Carol, saying it will turn them into werewolves or kill them, but they were already dying. Got injured. He offered the same to Lori but she flat out refused while Rick disagreed. Stiles ignored him. But something else is different too, something with Stiles. I’m not sure what it is, but I kind of felt something change while the two of us were out there, plus he seemed somehow faster when he flung you and Carl all that way.” Glenn nodded, remembering the rush he’d felt run through him for a moment, but at the time he’d dismissed it as adrenaline.

T-Dog continued, “And Stiles saved my life out there, too. It was the most bizarre fucking thing, you know. We’d just survived the explosion, with him covering my body and then out of nowhere this walker head bounces off a car still biting and everything and heads straight for me. The bastard pushed his arm in the way so I wouldn’t get bit.”

“Jesus.” Glenn mumbled while T-Dog nodded agreeing, “He was out of it in a matter of moments but I saw right away he was not healing right and I checked the bite when they weren’t looking. It looks days old but that’s the only thing on him that’s actually healed even partially and I still wrapped it all up and I told Bob it was an injury from before and it’s almost healed. I don’t think he cares enough to check. But it worries me. We’ll have to keep an eye on him, with a gun. I don’t know if he turns if he’ll be as strong as a normal walker or a werewolf walker.”

“Shit,” Glenn cursed, “I didn’t think of that.”

“Yeah, and I bet we’re not thinking of a lot of other things too. Carol would have been much better at this, Shane too.” T-Dog said just as Abe and Bob rolled Shane out of the building to the RV.

“Is there enough space inside for all of them?” Abe asked.

“Yeah, there’s a Queen in the back and bunks in the hallway, plus a couch up front.” Glenn told them then went to help them settle everyone.

In the end Carol and Shane ended up sharing the Queen while they took off the mattress off the top bunk and stuffed it at the bottom of the queen after throwing out the TV and pulling out the small cabinet at the bottom. They settled Stiles there and Hershel got the bottom bunk while T-Dog opted for the couch.

T-Dog and Glenn weren’t willing to leave the trucks so Glenn separated the supplies three ways as Stiles had taught them then settled on the direction with Michonne and Rosita who would be leading in the first truck and instructed them to stop if they see anything worth salvaging, especially fuel since the RV would probably need a lot. The second truck was a hassle until he and T-Dog finally managed to out argue Rick and had him and Carl following behind the RV.

As soon as Rick was out and they were driving with Abe behind the wheel T-Dog conked out. It was so surprising actually that Abe asked, “You really have issues with that guy, huh?”

Glenn sighed checking for the others and when he saw that Bob was in the back and Maggie with her father he answered, “We were together, one group, when all this started, but from the start Stiles and two of his,…” he hesitated, “I guess you could call them his brothers, Daryl and Merle, showed up, they kept to themselves. They hunted for food and had these trucks full of supplies while we struggled to gather whatever just to survive. But the group received them wrong and they took their lead from that. Whatever they gave the group they asked something in return, you know as a trade. It seemed fair enough to me because up to that point I was the one always going on the runs alone for the whole group. It’s a risk and it’s hard work, you know? Anyways, things weren’t great and they were obviously outsiders but it kinda worked I guess. Then one run happened where we found Rick but he cuffed Merle to a pipe on top of a building and our group left him there. There were walkers on the stairs trying to get to him through a door that was chained up. Stiles rescued him but blew it at camp. He had words for everyone, almost killed Rick.” Glenn thought for a moment then continued, “Merle told me that night that you put family first and everything they’d done since then only confirmed it. A herd stumbled upon us, killed some people and at that point Stiles refused to follow Rick. It was only the three of them, Carol, her daughter and me that left, but man we thrived. See, Stiles has a system. Wherever we went we gathered supplies. It didn’t matter what it was, if it was usable he needed it. We ended up on a farm that was full of all kinds of fruit and we harvested everything, preserved and dried it. In just a few days we had enough food to last us months. Then of course Rick needed more help. We’d told him where we’d be for a while and he sent T-Dog and Jim to come get us. He’d lost one of his members and Daryl and Stiles were trackers so they went to them. I’m not quite sure what happened there,…” Glenn tried to remember when Maggie spoke startling him enough he almost fell out of his chair.

He turned and saw both her and Bob listening to the story. He hadn’t even heard them come.

“They’d lost Amy in the woods, Andrea’s sister, and then Otis, one of our farm hands shot a deer but didn’t see Carl behind it and the bullet went through. They all ended up on our farm. Shane went out with Otis to get the supplies for the operation but only Shane came back and the next morning I got to meet Stiles.” Maggie grinned, “God, I thought he was so full of himself back then. You see, my father didn’t want any of them carrying guns on his farm, and we were practically out in the open, unprotected from both the walkers and the humans, but we didn’t really know it. We hadn’t run across any bad people and up to that point my father and Otis had been collecting walkers and were keeping them in our barn. My father believed they were just sick and could be cured. But Stiles told me right to my face that he wasn’t about to surrender his gun and I was both delusional and naïve for even suggesting it.” Maggie laughed.

“What happened then?” Bob asked.

“Oh well, they looked for the girl but it was obvious they weren’t really welcome on the farm. The tension was really high and Rick and Lori kept arguing. Both with each other as well as with the others and Shane was half crazy then. It was only later that I was told Lori had been sleeping with Shane while they thought Rick was dead and even had his child when we left the farm, but back then she kept stringing them both along and Shane wasn’t handling it. In any case, Daryl came injured from the search and Andrea thought he was a walker. Stiles and a few others told her not to shoot since she wasn’t really good at it in the first place and they obviously knew something she didn’t, but she pulled the trigger and grazed Daryl’s head.” Maggie laughed again, “As soon as he was sure Daryl was still alive, Stiles knocked her right out. I didn’t think it funny while it was happening, but now, after everything we’d been through I completely understand everything he’d ever done or said. Now I’m thinking he was downright polite about it. He took care of Daryl, took care of Shane and he dragged all of them including Jim and T-Dog with him.”

“What about the girl?” Abe asked.

“She wasn’t their problem. Stiles figured Rick lost her, Rick could very well find her. It certainly didn’t help that her sister shot Daryl. Later we found out she was dead anyway. Otis must have found her that first day and dragged her back to the barn.” Maggie finished.

“T-Dog said back there that you came to rescue Rick…” Abe trailed off but glanced at Glenn.

“We were heading for Washington with trucks full of supplies when Lori and Michonne stumbled on the road. Lori begged for us to come save Rick and Carl and Stiles felt bad about it, or I guess he felt cornered. I thought it was wrong to just abandon a kid and all the others there if we could help and there was no way Carol would leave a kid to die. Shane is still hung up on Rick and Lori, or I guess he was, plus she came at him with his daughter. So Stiles sent the others with the supplies and we headed to the rescue. The plan was good but he didn’t know they were werewolves. But I guess you all know that part.” Glenn thought about it for a moment then asked, “How did you end up in there anyway? I mean as soon as Stiles and Daryl saw that sign we were going around it. They said they smelled trouble.”

All Maggie had to add was, “Rick.”

Just as Bob was about to speak Abe said, “Shit,” and all of them looked out onto the road where Michonne was slowing down and there were two people in front of her truck.

“Oh my God! That’s Tyreese and Sasha. Open the door.” Maggie said quickly, running out as soon as Abe let her.

“I take it they’re yours?” Glenn asked somewhat dryly.

“Never seen them in my life.” Abe told him in the exact same tone making Bob snort who took it upon himself to explain, “They were with the group before I joined. Must have been in another cart at Terminus. Good people.”

Abe grunted, “That explains it, they had different accommodations.”

Glenn laughed at that and soon enough they had two more people joining them in the RV.

“You mind if they come along?” Maggie asked Glenn as she brought them inside.

“Not really, no. But this is temporary. I can’t guarantee Stiles will think the same. His view of this apocalypse is somewhat harsher.” Glenn nodded at the newcomers before another round of introductions was made.

“We’re just exchanging stories of where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing.” Maggie told them and they settled down close to the still sleeping T-Dog.

Glenn nodded, “Yeah, you said it was Rick that led you to Terminus.”

Sasha snorted but Maggie told the story, “It was a couple of months after Woodbury was overrun and we were starved and half-frozen. Rick saw the sign for Terminus and we headed there. Sasha, Tara, Dale and Michonne opposed but were overruled. Tara died right at the start as they were taking us in.”

Sasha looked angry as she spoke, “It could have been avoided, all of it. Tara, Lori, Dale, Andrea. Just one decision but it led to four of our own dead. We could have stayed at Woodbury if Rick had just kept his mouth shut.”

“It wasn’t right what the Governor was doing, you know it.” Tyreese may have looked harsh, but even when rebuking he didn’t really sound it.

"Yes, but we could have gone about it in a different way. Most of those people were innocent and had no idea what was going on behind closed doors. We destroyed their home and lost ours. Our actions didn’t bring anything but more death.” Maggie picked at a hole in her jeans before looking at Glenn, “We got separated in Terminus and you know the rest.”

“Our story wasn’t much different but we ended up in the carts a couple of days before the rest of you. Eugene was with us, the big guy they’d killed just as you came to the rescue. He said he had the cure to this and we were leading him to Washington. We only stopped at Terminus in the hopes of more people joining us. Eugene insisted. I suppose it don’t matter now if he was lying or not, we’ll never know. But I figure we might as well join you. We’ll see what’s in Washington and there’s strength in numbers.” Abe never once took his eyes off the road.

Glenn bit his lip debating with himself before deciding, “I should tell you that Rick and Stiles clash. A lot and often and they’ve gone their separate ways twice before. Even if I didn’t think of Stiles and the others as my family, I still wouldn’t go with Rick. I’m telling you all this not because I want you to cross to our side, but because you need to know that what Stiles decides is usually how we roll and we haven’t yet made a mistake. That means if he thinks someone’s a threat he’ll kill them and he won’t care for your opinions on the matter. For the Dixons family comes first and every decision is made to protect that family. You need to decide if you’re able to follow and deal with the hard decisions before he invites you to stay. If he does it at all.”

Glenn nodded at them then and softly excused himself. He never usually talked that much, other than speaking to Daryl and that was usually uncontrollable ramblings since Daryl mostly communicated in grunts and when Glenn thought he’d done or said something wrong he got nervous and just talked. Daryl never stopped him other than pulling him into a hug when he felt Glenn couldn’t stop on his own. Right now Glenn had no one to stop him. He sighed to himself then rubbed the back of his hand against T-Dog’s cheek as he passed him, something they’d all picked up from the werewolves, then left to the back room.

All of them looked the same, but Glenn noticed Carol and Shane had moved slightly toward each other so their arms touched down the whole length and Glenn leaned down to each of them, pressing his cheek against theirs and rubbing them together softy. It made him feel better and he knew they would feel the same. They were still hot and sweating but seemed to be in a deep healing sleep so Glenn believed they would eventually be alright.

Without thinking much about it, Glenn shed his hoodie, leaving himself in only a T-shirt then curled down on the mattress text to Stiles. Mindful of his injuries he nuzzled against Stiles’ neck and whispered, “Please wake up soon, Stiles. We miss you and need you to get better. I’ll watch over you while you sleep. Love you, man.”

Feeling embarrassed he hid his face against Stiles and closed his eyes, feeling better just by being among his family. He fiercely hoped they would find the others soon and he really missed Daryl.

Chapter Text

When Daryl woke up all he could smell was the worry. He tried to remember what had happened but everything was fuzzy and the scent of concern kept distracting him, kept pulling his wolf to the surface to face whatever danger there was.

Then he heard Sophia’s soft voice, “Daryl, Daryl, are you awake?” and suddenly he could open his eyes and face the world.

She smiled beautifully when he finally looked at her and she didn’t hesitate to throw herself at him and wrap him into a hug, “It’s been hours. We’ve all been worried.”

“What happened?” He pulled her close, pushing his nose against her neck to smell her and both seeking comfort and offering it in return.

Axel was the one who spoke from behind her making Daryl notice the man was even there, “Merle almost crashed the truck. Something was wrong with him and then he collapsed and you followed. We couldn’t wake you up so we moved off the road and made you comfortable.”

It was only then that it hit Daryl what exactly was wrong. He grabbed at his chest instantly, mentally reaching for Stiles. He could vaguely feel him but it was very muted and the only thing that actually came through was pain. His heart started beating faster and he turned around until he found Merle laying a couple of feet away from him.

Daryl struggled out of Sophia’s embrace and reached for his brother, ignoring both her and Axel’s questions about what was wrong. He shook Merle persistently until he groaned and rubbed at his chest absentmindedly before sitting up and looking at Daryl, “Shit, ‘lil brother.”

“Why can’t I feel ‘im right? Should be stronger, shouldn’t it?” Daryl asked not really capable of stringing the right words together but knowing Merle would understand him.

“Don’t rightly now. Was an Alpha for a moment, fucking pissed and strong and he done gone and claimed us without even bein’ ‘ere. Can’t feel him now though, just know he’s in pain. Carol is distant too, was hurt before, now I’m thinking she’s just sleepin’ real tight.” Merle said and Daryl reached for Glenn right away feeling him bright and clear.

“Glenn’s alright, some worry but seems to be doin’ good.” Daryl exhaled loudly, relieved.

“Sometin’ must have happened. Maybe Stiles got bit again.” Merle hummed to himself, thinking that just might be right.

“Mama was hurt?” Sophia’s voice trembled and there were already tears gathering in her eyes.

Merle reached for her even as he mumbled ‘Shit’ then pulled her into a hug, “Was hurt, kid. Now she’s just resting. She’ll be alright.”

“How come you can feel them too? I thought only Stiles was a werewolf.” Axel tilted his head as he observed them, as if they were some kind of a fucking experiment.

“Done made her my woman, my mate. Will always feel her.” Merle told him and Daryl didn’t feel the need to explain how he’d done the same with Glenn. Was just how it was, no need for jappin’ ‘bout it.

“Do we go back?” This time it was Oscar who leaner over them and asked.

Merle seemed to think about it for a moment but Daryl already knew what the answer would be, “Naw. What’s done is done. Now they’s probably travelin’ like we are and we can’t help them by just bein’ there. The worst of the fightin’s over and they took ‘nough supplies to fix whatever shit they got themselves into.”

Bit Tiny bit his lip, “So we just drive for Washington?”

Merle nodded, “Hell, there’s nothin’ else we can do. We find his man, unload the supplies and then we go back.”

Daryl nodded, itching to go back for the others but knowing that Glenn was okay eased some of his more impulsive tendencies. ‘Twas best to just follow the plan, Stiles would have wanted it that way.

Simon watched as Negan paced from one end of the room they’d claimed as their meeting space to the other. It had been going on close to an hour now and eventually Simon had stopped talking the man down. The curses had stopped some twenty minutes ago, for the most part anyway and all that was now left was pure frustration.

Then suddenly Negan stopped and turned toward Simon, “You listen to me Simon and you listen good, I’m not staying in this fucking shithole for a moment longer. Stiles is out there somewhere and you can bet your little white ass I’m gonna go look for him.”

“Didn’t we agree we would solve the Hilltop issue first?” Simon asked calmly doing his best not to get killed.

“Just kill the fuckers and be done with it!” Negan exploded and threw his chair against a wall.

Simon sat up straighter in his seat, “Well, there’s also the issue of two of our groups who are out with some of our best men and best vehicles and they aren’t expected to get back until tonight.”

There was more Simon could have said, but at that point Negan leaned against the table, Lucille still gripped in his hand, stretched across the long table and he started talking all calm and icy, the way that scared Simon shitless, “Are you fucking telling me I can’t leave my own fucking home whenever I fucking want with the men I goddamn made into who they are to search for the only man who actually matters in this shithole of a world because everyone is so fucking busy at the moment? Are you telling me, Simon, that everyone is too busy to help me out? To help Negan out? Hmm?”

Not quite sure what to say as he leaned back against chair hard he mumbled, “Dwight is still in the Sanctuary.”

Lucille slammed against the table, “Are you kidding me? Are you fucking kidding me right now with this fucking bullshit?”

Then Negan was moving, he kicked another chair across the room, knocked a plastic cup that had miraculously managed to stay on the table right off it with the tip of Lucille so it slammed into Simon’s forehead, and stormed out of the room.

His heart beating as if he were a fucking rabbit, Simon prayed that Stiles was alright and he would find his way to them just to fucking tame the beast that was Negan and make life bearable for the rest of them again. Then he scrambled to his feet and rushed after Negan before he killed off half the place. People were a fucking resource as Negan always said, but they were only a resource it they didn’t get in Negan’s way. If they by chance did, then they were no better than prey.

At the sound of gun shots T-Dog started awake getting up to his feet and promptly grunted and almost fell back down when the pain hit. Through squinted eyes he looked outside and saw Rick up front shooting at some people with the others giving him back up. The others looked armed but a man couldn’t even take a nap without Rick getting into some shit.

Eventually the gunfire died down and Michonne was instantly in Rick’s face with Glenn not far behind. T-Dog wasn’t sure he even wanted to know what the fuck that was all about. Instead he looked around and realized he was the only one awake in the RV and took a limping walk into the back.

He passed Hershel who was still sleeping and got to the room. Right away he saw Shane and Carol were looking loads better and were curled into each other. The sight distracted him for a moment and he imagined how Merle would have reacted to the sight. Just the idea had him chuckling.

T-Dog then turned toward Stiles who was still naked on his belly sprawled out. The burns and the stab wound looked slightly better but he was even more pale than usual and his moles looked almost painted on. Some of his hair – which was almost down to his shoulders now and rivaling Carl’s - and one side of his beard, were singed and if possible it looked more hideous than the usual image he presented. His arm was still wrapped up and T-Dog got down to his knees, checked there was no one around and unwrapped it.

It had healed some, but not enough for him to leave it exposed. He dragged the nearby bag where he saw some bandages, and wrapped the wound again so Bob wouldn’t be tempted to touch it.

T-Dog pressed his hand against Stiles’ forehead and was instantly worried by how cool he seemed. After the winter together everyone knew werewolves ran hot. It didn’t seem like a very good sign.

Unable to do anything to fix the situation, T-Dog lay down next to Stiles and pressed himself against him wherever he could without aggravating the injuries then started pushing his fingers through his hair gently, offering what comfort he could.

Tyreese was holding Michonne’s hand where she gripped her sword as she kept lunging at Rick hissing threats. She was one pissed off woman and Glenn didn’t envy Tyreese one bit.

The whole day was turning out to be a shit storm and Glenn was ready for this joint trip to be over already.

“They would have killed us!” Rick defended himself looking at both Michonne and Sasha who were confronting him, but Glenn could see Abe and Rosita weren’t quite disagreeing with them although they were yet to say a word.

“You don’t just storm out and start shooting people! I was up front! Me and Rosita. If they’d managed to return fire it wouldn’t have been your ass but ours. Don’t you ever think, you fucking asshole!” Michonne wasn’t quite shouting, but she had this intensity to her that she might as well have been.

Sasha had her arms crossed under her chest as she added, “If it won’t kill Carl, our Rick just doesn’t give a shit.”

“What is it with you people? Each time I save your asses I get blamed for something!” Rick spread his arms as he shouted.

Michonne snorted, “That’s because you only think you’re helping when in reality you could have just fucked us over. You have no idea if they had back up in the forest, back up that had just went to report this to a bigger group, and you have no idea how many other people or walkers that gunfire might have attracted.”

Rick looked at her imploringly, like he was explaining something to an idiot and Glenn was familiar with that look so he knew exactly what would come out of Rick’s mouth.

“That may be true,…” Rick started, but Glenn was really just fed up and didn’t allow him to finish, “Rick, it is true no matter how you twist it. You’re with us on borrowed time and I don’t figure that lasting longer than it takes for Stiles to wake up. So you might as well keep your head down and for now help us move these trucks so we can keep going.”

Rick probably would have said something else but the others just moved past him and scavenged what they could from the trucks before pushing them off the road and getting back to their rides.

“I can’t believe he’s back to his old shit.” Sasha said as soon as she dropped on the couch in the RV.

However instead of answering Glenn felt a sliver of worry and looked around for T-Dog. As soon as he caught sight of his legs through the open doorway into the room he let out a sigh of relief and went there to check on them.

Everyone was sleeping and T-Dog obviously needed more rest, too. So Glenn left them alone and returned to the others.

“It’s like he only has two modes, where he trusts everyone or distrust everyone.” Tyreese offered patting his sister on her shoulder.

Glenn couldn’t help it but chuckle at that, “Yeah, you’re probably right. If he can’t benefit from the people they are a threat, but if he can they’re an asset. Only he presents it better.” Glenn shook the thought around some more, “You know, I think he might have been less extreme when we’d first met. I would be you Lori’s death snapped something in him and he’s lost the few boundaries he’d had. But it doesn’t matter anyway. We’ll put up with him for a while longer and pray our generosity doesn’t kill us all.”

“You think those people will come after us?” Maggie asked after everyone was lost to their thoughts for a while.

“Hard to say. If they are a large group or we missed someone in the forest they just might.” Abe offered.

“Fucking Rick.” Sasha mumbled, but then a different voice cut through the RV, “God, you fuckers are loud.”

Glenn almost tripped with how fast he turned only to see Shane leaning against the wall outside the room. He rushed to him and hugged him not even caring this was Shane and other then when they slept he wasn’t quite prone to approaching Shane that way.

But Shane hugged back and mumbled, “Glad to see you too, kid.”

Glenn blushed but even as he moved away he couldn’t stop grinning. He kept one hand on Shane’s arm, unwilling to stop touching him just to reassure himself he was okay, so he also asked, “You feeling good?”

“Yeah, I’m good. I feel amazing actually, it’s just that everything is too loud and it’s giving me a headache.” Shane moved forward and dropped into the booth.

He looked around then, “Shit, I don’t know half you people.”

Everyone chuckled at that and they introduced themselves one by one.

“Stiles mentioned speed and strength and healing, hell, even hearing, but I must have been asleep when he talked about the smell. This fucking world stinks, and if I’m catching this right, y’all ain’t roses either.” Shane crunched his nose while the others reacted half offended and half amused.

Glenn pushed in next to Shane so he was basically plastered against his side when Bob commented, “You save a guy’s life and nurture him to health and this is the thanks you get.”

After another round of laugher, Shane asked, “So what’s this about Rick?”

So they filled him in about everything that had happened since he was down and though he went through various relatively mild reactions, Glenn thought he took it rather well and was optimistic when it came to their survival. Because if anyone could control Rick it was Shane. Well werewolf Shane was likely to have more luck than the human Shane had but even that was something.

They were so close to Washington Merle could almost smell it. After travelling for pretty much three days straight he felt dirty and exhausted but above all worried.

He was old enough to recognize a pack bond when he sensed one so he knew Shane and Carol were both much brighter now than they were. While alive and well, they were still werewolves and Merle was going out of his mind because he didn’t know what had happened and because Stiles was still nothing more than a vague impression.

They were on the outskirts of Washington when they were greeted by a large group of armed individuals and while Merle might not have known them, all the leather and bikes meant they spoke the same damn language.

So Merle stopped the truck and got out, motioning to Daryl to take his place in case something went wrong. Worst case scenario, they could always push the group off the road and pass by force.

“Good day to ya gentlemen.” Merle said with a wide grin.

“It will be for us if those trucks are as full as I think they are.” The man up front said.

“Now don’t be like that.” Merle grinned nastily, “To get ya hands on my property ya first hav’ ta go through me, and I don’t see that playing out to your advantage.”

The man circled his lips with his thumb and middle finger, “But see, that’s the thing. That isn’t your property anymore. Everything you think you own, your guns, your food, the shit you’re wearing, it all belongs to Negan.”

If Merle hadn’t been amused before he certainly would have been now, “Negan, ya say? Well, would ya look at tha’. Negan is exactly the man we’ve come ‘ere lookin’ for.”

That seemed to throw the man for a moment and he gave Merle another look and squinted at the truck cabin to check out the others inside before coming back to Merle. “You’re looking for him?”

Merle was still grinning and really enjoying himself now, “Sure. Came all the way from Atlanta for the guy. Even came bearing fucking gifts!” Merle motioned at the trucks behind him.

The guy looked at the men behind him but none of them seem to offer him any clues so he came back to Merle once more, “That might be, but I’ll still be taking your guns.”

Merle chuckled, “Now ya see here boy, my guns stay with my person at all times and there ain’t nothin’ ya can say ta me ta change my mind. But I need a guide ta take me ta Negan and to guide me, ya’ll ain’t necessary. I only need me one man. Hell, he don’t even hav’ta take me ta Negan, Simon will do just fine.”

At the second name some of the men seemed to relax while the others tensed, but it was that first guy who interested Merle the most and he seemed to breathe out a sigh of relief.

“You know Simon?” The man asked.

Merle rubbed the side of his face as he spoke, “Well, I don’t rightly know either of them, but I do have something for them, and I come bearing news. And man, if Negan don’t hear this information for some reason I can guaran-fucking-tee ya’ll will be as good as dead.”

Now the others started to squirm and Merle knew his human Alpha was just as badass as Stiles always claimed.

“Come on. We’ll take you there. But if you try anything know we have enough people to wipe you off the face of the Earth.” The man gave him his back and got on his bike, the whole group turning around and leading the way.

Merle got into the truck, Daryl already having started it, “We’re on a roll, lil’ brother. Not long now.”

"I can’t help it but think that whole encounter could have ended way worse for us.” Axel was like a nervous ball of energy in his seat.

“Don’t cha worry your pretty head ‘bout it. Merle’s got it all in hand.” Merle slapped him so hard on the back Axel almost slapped his forehead against the dashboard. “Now go to the other truck and take the brat with ya, its startin’ ta stink.” Merle motioned at Judith lying in between them who looked to be on the verge of crying.

Axel rolled his shoulders then turned to him, “Was that really necessary?”

Merle shrugged, “Sometimes I’m not aware of my own strength,” and while he stayed dead serious, Daryl snickering beside him pretty much ruined the whole fucking act. Dumbass.

Simon could have sworn he’d lost more hair in the past couple of days than he did since this whole apocalypse shit had started. Handling Negan was never supposed to be his job. They’d had clear leadership roles at the beginning and he was just supposed to be a faithful second in command, right beneath the leading couple of fags who were mean and smart enough to rule the new, somewhat less populated, world. Nowhere did it say that he would become the shoulder to lean on, the sympathetic ear or the on call scapegoat everyone was allowed to tell their woes to so he could face Negan with them.

He had no idea how he’d managed it half the time but somehow Negan was packed and gone as of that morning searching in the direction where he felt the call of his boyfriend was coming from. Apparently they communicated via sound waves or some shit, he didn’t even know. Hell, Simon was ready to learn all kinds of shit just to get Stiles back from the dead and right into Negan’s arms. What could he say, he was romantic that way, plus he was always all for saving his own ass.

Of course, Negan being gone meant Simon was in charge, and with one problem gone, twenty others were right there to take its place.

“Simon, Simon, we have company.” Mara came round to the office shouting.

“Can’t someone else handle it?” Simon asked but he was already getting up suspecting the answer.

“No. It’s some guys from Atlanta, looking for you.”

Simon stopped. Atlanta? Who the fuck did he know from Atlanta?

Simon quickened his step and got out front in no time. He wasn’t quite prepared for the sight of the large trucks and the couple of pick-up that greeted him, nor did he know who the fuck the large guy up front was.

He was the very image of a redneck if Simon had ever seen one, and the guy with the crossbow standing next to him wasn’t much better.

Fortunately Simon didn’t need to speak because at that point the big guy said, “You Simon?” and when Simon nodded the guy spread his arms as if to present to him whatever those trucks held before adding, “Stiles sends his regards.”

Carol woke up a couple of hours after Shane, she was told, feeling disoriented and hurting in the strangest way. Everything was too bright, too loud, too something and that didn’t even cover the rest of the things she was feeling. Half of her was wolf and that part came with a whole different set of rules she wasn’t familiar with. The wolf seemed to be cranky and was missing Merle and Sophia to the point that she could almost hear the beast whining in her head. It kept pulling her forward as if the vehicle would move faster just because the wolf wanted it to.

Then there was the whole explosion of emotions inside she couldn’t quite identify, like the way she felt toward Shane and Glenn, the devotion that seemed to force her to whine out loud just because Stiles was hurt and she couldn’t do anything about it. She was tactile in general, but the way she couldn’t seem to keep her hands off Shane, Glenn and especially Stiles was a whole different level of strange and weird.

All the scents, or better yet, all the odors surrounding her were distracting enough so that she was only half listening to all the conversations happening around and it proved to be very difficult to focus on just one thing at a time. But the upside of everything was just how young her body felt. For the first time in the past ten plus years, Carol realized exactly how much her marriage, or rather Ed, had damaged her. The years probably hadn’t helped, but now she was like a teenager again, so energetic and alert and vaguely she wondered what the new elation would do for her sex life.

“No! You can’t be serious.” A raised voice snapped her out of her musings and Carol lifted her gaze only to notice Rick of all people standing toe to toe with T-Dog.

T-Dog had a bitter like scent to him and as she focused more on it she realized it was the same one Stiles shared, it was pain.

“I will not risk my son’s life just because you might know the leader of the local tugs.” Rick’s scent was sharp and annoying as if a feather was tickling her nose. He was irritated.

T-Dog scowled, “So you would risk all our lives instead? You have no idea how many people are out there and you can’t just shoot them all.”

Rick pushed out his chest and rose in place slightly, giving the impression of someone menacing, “I don’t care. I will not bow down to criminals and if you have a problem with that we’ll solve it right now.”

He barely finished the sentence before Carol was on her feet and inches away from Rick growling. She could hear Shane as he materialized just a step behind her, forcing the same sound from between his lips and showing his own displeasure. It wasn’t a conscious act, but her wolf seemed to know what it was doing. Her pack was threatened and she was ready to protect them.

Rick almost stumbled back away from them, a different scent coming off him, slightly sour but with an under taste of sweet which she found appealing. He was afraid of them, and the wolf associated the scent with prey.

T-Dog smiled at them softly saying, “You should go check out your dental problems, I’ve got this.”

It took Carol a moment before she realized she’d wolfed out and then felt a blush coloring her cheeks. She didn’t even notice the wolf taking over.

“Look, Rick. You’re not in charge here. There are at least four people before you and likely a couple of others as well. The fact of the matter is, if you screw up we’ll either kick you out or just give you to the criminals you’re so afraid of because I doubt any of us here except Stiles, have what it takes to outright kill you. You better hope he doesn’t wake up and keep the fuck to yourself. We don’t need your kind of help.” T-Dog said which only seemed to leave Rick scowling before he marched out of the RV.

“What is his problem?” Carol asked as she got a hold of her shift.

Glenn dropped into a seat and sprawled, “He hasn’t been all there since Lori died. Or at least I think so, maybe it all started while we’ve been apart. Hard to tell. But he’s not really rational anymore and we’re having trouble handling him. We thought Shane would help, but you two are more led by your instincts than I’ve ever seen from the Dixons, so it’s still up to us. I kinda wish Stiles was up so he would take care of it and then I feel bad because I’m basically wishing he would kill a father in front of his son.”

Instantly Carol was next to him, threading her fingers through his hair in an offer of comfort, “You’re hoping we might meet the people of Stiles’ lover on the road?”

“I don’t know. But I’ve heard them talking, and this guy is some big short, real mean and if he followed Stiles’ original plan he probably has an army somewhere around here. There’s a good chance we might meet them.” Glenn confessed.

Carol chuckled, “Eavesdropping - is that what you picked up from the Dixons?”

Glenn grinned, “Hell yeah, with their twitching ears you just know they’re always listening.”

Carol hugged him, “It will be alright. Don’t you worry.”

“Is it just me or are Stiles’ burns better?” They could hear Shane asking from the back room.

Both of them rushed to check and ended up crowding Stiles on the bed where they’d eventually moved him.

“Out of the way.” Bob pushed them without a care until he was there front and center, inches away from Stiles’ back.

“Yes, at least twenty percent since this morning. The healing speed is increasing.” He pressed his hand against Stiles’ forehead, “His temperature was low, but now it seemes to be climbing drastically.”

“That’s normal, we run hotter than humans,” Carol offered, allowing Bob to touch her face.

“Huh, you’re hotter than when you were still sleeping.” Bob commented.

“Apparently it’s the quicker metabolism or something along those lines. I’m optimistic he’ll be alright now.” Carol smiled.

“Guys!” Abe shouted from the front, “We’ve got a problem.”

Carol peeked through the windshield and noticed the blocked road up ahead and at least three dozen armed men waiting for them. There were probably more but the day was gone, the dusk swallowing the little light still left and she simply couldn’t tell.

“Shane,” she tugged at his sleeve, “Help me dress Stiles. I don’t think they’ll let us leave him in the RV.”

So they quickly did just that and Carol even remembered to wrap his red scarf around his neck.

“Why bother with it?” Shane asked as he tied Stiles’ shoes.

“It was a gift and one of the only things Stiles cares about.” Carol told him.

“I did notice he kept touching it, but never asked. That’s why you’ve washed it.”

Carol nodded, “That and the thing goes around his neck. Just because everything else smells like the dead doesn’t mean he should be sniffing it that close too.”

Shane chuckled, but then Glenn rushed to them, “It doesn’t look good, and Rick’s already up front taking to the men. We’ll have to get out, but don’t let them see your wolf. If everything goes to shit, you’ll be our rescue.”

Both Carol and Shane nodded, but she was petrified. The whole plan seemed to hang on control which hasn’t been the best since she’d woken up. Half the time she wasn’t even aware her teeth and nails had changed.

“What about Stiles?” Shane wondered.

“We’ll see.” Glenn just said, smelling scared before they all got out of the RV.

“Is this all of you?” A young woman with curly black and blond hair asked as they stopped in front of her.

“No. Our friend is inside unconscious.” Carol answered.

“He bit?”

Carol shook her head, “No, has burns. There was an explosion.”

The woman nodded to a couple of her men but Shane raised his voice, “No. I can go get him.”

She seemed to consider him, but then she allowed it.

“Look, we can talk about this.” Rick suddenly butted in.

The woman just looked at him then turned to one of her people and asked, “Is that him?”

Carol watched the exchange carefully but then the sticky scent of defeat distracted her and she turned to see both Glenn and Sasha had closed their eyes and while Glenn just shook his head Sasha let out a deep sigh.

“Yeah, that’s him.” The man said and then another guy kicked the back of Rick’s legs and had him on his knees.

The woman crouched down, a gun held loosely in her hand as she faced Rick, “As far as I was informed, you’ve done enough talking, with your gun. Now it’s time to listen.”

Rick looked shocked then started, “It wasn’t like that…” but the woman waved the gun in front of his face and he quieted.

That’s when Carol heard Shane coming toward them and she saw he was carrying Stiles piggy back. It was probably the best for Stiles’ back only… Stiles’ eyes were open and he was looking around as if in a daze and Carol couldn’t help it but grin, her hand flying toward her mouth to curb her relief.

As soon as he stopped people were coming from everywhere, even more than she’d originally anticipated and they started disarming them.

“On your knees.” The woman said and while some of them were reluctant Carol didn’t share the same issues. She’d been ordered to do much worse in her life. Instead she moved to Shane, putting Stiles in between them and helping him they all kneeled down.

The whole situation was creepy. She could hear a lot more people in the forest surrounding them than she could actually see. Some were whistling this annoying high pitched tune, but the moment the woman stepped away from them and the door to a large truck opened the whole place went quiet.

The man that stepped out was imposing. Ruggedly handsome but with such a presence Carol felt the need to expose her neck. A leather jacket, a dangerous looking barbed wire wrapped baseball bat on his shoulder and swagger in his step.

Stiles head dropped on her shoulder as he leaned dangerously forward, face pointing at the ground, and she doubted he was quite there.

“Pissing our pants yet?” The man asked rather crudely and while he had a smile on his face, Carol could both smell and sense the simmering rage in him. Someone or something had made him angry but it didn’t really feel like he was angry at them, rather more at the whole situation.

“Boy do I have a feeling we’re getting close.” The man walked in front of them, gaze lingering on Shane, Carol and Stiles, but he quickly moved away.

“Which one of you pricks is the leader?” He was theatrical, menacing, but for some inexplicable reason Carol didn’t feel as if she should fear him. She wasn’t sure if it were her new senses playing tricks with her or if it was something else, but it took everything she had in her to focus and not let her wolf out.

No one said anything, but then to Carol’s surprise, and it seemed to the surprise of a few others, the man from before pointed at Rick and declared him the leader. Funnily enough none of the group contradicted him.

“Hi,” the man said, “I’m Negan, and I do not appreciate you killing my men. They were all polite and shit, ready to chat and ne-go-ti-ate and you shot them. Not cool.” Negan leaned back slightly as he finished the sentence then moved back.

“Not cool. You have no idea how uncool that shit is. But, I think you’ll be up to speed shortly.” Negan frowned slightly, that so far restrained rage trickled to the surface, “Yeah, you’re so gonna regret crossing me in a few minutes. Yes you are.”

Negan continued talking to Rick, giving him a speech of some new world order, waving his lethal bat, often pointing it at Rick’s face and at some point Carol stopped listening and just relaxed into Negan’s voice, almost feeling at home.

But as the threats began she stiffened, Shane kneeling straighter next to her. She wrapped her arms around Stiles pulling him closer and waited. The three of them would be alright but they had to cover for Glenn and T-Dog. So she looked at them until they looked back and she nodded, looking discreetly at the closest men next to them. The only option really was for them to take cover behind the enemy, and she knew they exact moment the two of them realized what she wanted them to.

Negan did another walk in front of them, moving from Carol all the way to Carl at the other end then back to the three of them until he stopped right in front of Stiles, “Jesus, he does look shitty. Let’s just put him out of his misery right now.” He put the bat under Stiles’ chin, making both Carol and Shane tense, ready to attack, and he lifted his head so he could see his, well, rather overgrown face. Even Carol had to admit Stiles made a pathetic sight. His beard was insanely long, his hair not far behind. Both were dirty and greasy and the paleness caused by his injuries certainly didn’t do him any favors.

But for some reason, at that moment Stiles decided to open his eyes, and he didn’t look at the Negan, no, he looked at the bat and frowned before asking, “Lucille?”

The very air seemed to freeze, and Negan stiffened in what looked to Carol like nothing short of shock. Gone was his previous self-confidence, his aura of danger. No, the same man who almost had Rick pissing his pants only moments ago, now looked just as bad as Rick. He flicked his gaze from Stiles' face to the scarf wrapped around his neck before going back again and whispering, “Stiles?”

Chapter Text

Negan had already been mentally absent when it came to his Saviors and his duties. He had a goal again, and a fucking sweet one at that, really, the best one he could have only hoped for. He would find Stiles even if it killed him.

But right from the start everything seemed to go wrong. From a broken down truck to an unexpected herd to finally his men finding this group before he could travel a distance worth mentioning.

Apparently there were new players in his territory, ones who shot first and didn’t bother with asking questions and it so happened they’d killed a good number of his men.

Finally surrendering to the inevitable, considering everything was fucking against him, Negan organized an ambush and figured he would solve this one more problem before he was back out there looking. After all, Stiles might stumble on this group and Negan wasn’t willing to risk his life.

By the time his men had rounded up the ballsy newcomers, the day was gone and Negan was beyond pissed off. He followed his usual script, adapting where he thought changes were needed and he quickly assessed that the ginger dude and the killer were probably the biggest threats. If he eliminated them the rest would bow down. Or he would even leave the killer alive to make it more entertaining for himself down the road.

The only ones he couldn’t get a read on were the short haired woman supporting the injured fellow and the guy giving her a hand. They seemed almost serene as he talked and it creeped him the fuck out. He also figured the guy in between them was as good as gone to be so out of it when the guy missing his leg, although weak, was up and about and they probably got the injuries at the same time.

Negan went through the motions, spilling out enough crap to intimidate all of them, but the couple must have had a spine of steel or just really good poker faces because they didn’t even twitch. In fact Negan thought he even saw the woman smile.

Another disturbing thing was that despite his anger and despite playing this game countless times already, Negan’ gaze kept straying toward the weakest member, the one still kneeling only by the strength of the woman’s support next to him.

He’d never seen the guy before and despite the clean clothes he was dirty. Not like the others around him, but rather as if he’d stopped caring months ago and he’d decided to just let the world swallow him. And yet Negan’s legs kept leading him in that direction.

He noticed as the woman and the man stiffened once he got too close and for the first time there was something menacing about them, but his curiosity was louder than his brain and he’d always loved playing with fire.

What he didn’t expect was for the man to know Lucille nor for the sound of his voice to break every barrier Negan had ever created.

He barely recognized his voice, the trembling, weak thing. But he did recognize those doe eyes, the barely noticeable pattern on the red scarf around his neck and suddenly the rest of the world was but an ocean of silence.

Negan dropped to his knees as if he was cut at the legs. Lucille slipped from his fingers and he took hold of Stiles’ face between his palms, “Stiles?”

Negan sounded so unsure the word was more like a broken whisper than anything else, but he was fucking trembling as he searched for recognition in those beautiful eyes.

Stiles blinked looking drugged out of his mind before he weakly leaned his palm against Negan’s chest and reverently mumbled, “Alpha…”

Negan heard gasps from the two still holding Stiles before he pulled him into his lap. At that point a few things happened; Stiles screamed, the woman shouted “He’s hurt!” while the man growled and wolfed out lunging at Negan.

Instinctively Negan turned clutching Stiles close to himself as he gave the wolf his back in an attempt to protect Stiles.

There were shouts around them, then gun shots and for a moment Negan’s whole world was a white flash of pain. Then he got his bearings and realized the woman had pulled the men off him and was now protecting both him and Stiles from Negan’s men who were shooting at them.

“Enough!” Negan shouted and stumbled to his feet, Stiles wrapped around him and his arms firmly under Stiles’ too skinny ass. “The next one who fires a shot will hang off the walls.”

Suddenly there was silence with all the guns pointed elsewhere.

Negan took a look around and noticed the new divide in the group. The Asian guy and the African American had joined the two wolves in front of Stiles and Negan. The two dangerous looking women and the ginger man kind of hovered next to them but kept throwing these unsure looks toward the two wolves. So they were on Stiles’ side but weren’t in on the secret or just weren’t quite comfortable with it.

The others stuck to the man missing a leg and the lady hugging him. Unfortunately that left them too close to the killer for Negan’s comfort.

“Give these ones here a room and post a couple of guards back at the Sanctuary,” Negan nodded toward those right in front of him, “put the rest in a cell.”

He could feel himself bleeding as he turned, Stiles still in his arms moaning and not in a fucking good way.

“His back is hurt!” The wolf woman shouted behind him and Negan nodded, doing his best to rearrange his arms so Stiles was more comfortable.

“I’m a medic!” the skinny African American added, making Negan pause again before the wolf woman added, “He helped Stiles get better.”

Sighing Negan called, “Laura, bring him with us to the RV and let’s get back to the Sanctuary.”

Taking the steps was painful but Negan gritted his teeth and walked back to the one room where he sat Stiles down on the edge of the bed.

He was more asleep than he was awake and Negan wasn’t sure Stiles realized what was happening. God, Negan had no idea what the fuck was happening. He was alive right in front of him. Injured and hurt and looking nothing like the sweet boy he’d thought he’d lost. The fucking bush on his face had to go. Negan missed those adorable moles and the lush lips. He missed his boy so fucking much it was hard to breathe.

“Where do you want him, boss?” Laura asked from behind.

“What’s wrong with Stiles?”

“He was in an explosion when he was rescuing us from some cannibals. A piece of metal stabbed him as well. The burn would have killed a normal human, but he’s healing, only slowly.” The guy answered.

“On his back?” Negan asked.

“Yes. Just lay him on his stomach and he should be fine. I’d just like to check nothing was reopened while he was up and about. He really should stay resting for a few more days at least.”

Negan watched as the guy rearranged Stiles, helping him lay down and itched to break the man’s arms just for touching him. But his own wounds were aching and Negan didn’t think he could actually bend one more time to do it himself.

“Let me check your back now, please.” The man turned toward him as he was done with Stiles who’d seemed to fall back to sleep as soon as his face touched the pillow.

“Laura, watch him.” Negan looked at her before turning and once he reached it, lowering himself on the edge of the bed next to Stiles. “Just cut everything off.”

Laura did as he said, only taking off the leather jacket which was ruined anyway.

The medic hissed as he saw his back, “This will need a lot of stiches and I have no idea how you’re still awake. You’re losing too much blood.”

“Help me lay him down.” The medic must have said to Laura because suddenly there were hands on him and they’d placed him right next to Stiles where he could see his slightly opened mouth as he breathed softly.

“Do you have any pain killers?” Laura asked and Negan listened only vaguely, feeling his own eyes closing.

When Negan next woke up, his whole body was feeling stretched and numbed and he was naked from the waist up, spread out on his front. He struggled through a persistent fog until he could open his eyes, and the first thing he saw was the warm sight of Stiles’ awake but tired face.

He reached out with his hand, but the stitches pulled so he slowed down until he could press his palm against the back of Stiles’ neck, “Baby boy...”

Negan was unprepared for the tears or the way Stiles’ face contorted through a gut wrenching sob. He dragged himself until he was right next to him, until he could press Stiles’ face against his chest while he stayed on the bed mostly on his side and ignored the painful tug of his stiches. “I’m right here, baby boy, I’ve got you. I’m not going anywhere.”

Stiles gripped his hip tight enough it hurt and Negan could feel the prickle of his claws though the jeans, but he didn’t pull away and he didn’t stop speaking, “I’m alright and you’re gonna be fucking fine, baby. You’re with me now, safe and fucking beautiful and we’ll rule this shitty world. Just you and me baby boy. Just you and me.”

He pushed his fingers through Stiles’ matted hair, touched his ear and squeezed his neck gently before doing it all over again, touching constantly and hugging his boy as close as he could.

“I thought you’d died….” He heard Stiles’ soft whisper and scooted lower until they were face to face again and he could see the pain itched in every visible piece of Stiles’ skin.

“I went back… Found your bloody jacket… I thought you were dead and I was all alone.” Stiles whimpered, his fingers and claws pressing harder, “I tried to go to Washington anyway, but every road was blocked and I just kept going further and further south. Ended up in fucking Atlanta, met some people and after a while I was too fucking scared to come and make sure you were dead.” Stiles sobbed harder his voice breaking.

“Shh, baby, I’m alright. A few more scars than before, but I’m one tough bastard it’s not so easy to kill me.” Negan kissed Stiles’ cheekbone, tasting the tears and remembering the same gut wrenching despair he’d felt back then.

“You’re human!” Stiles shouted, “Humans are fragile and easy to kill. I could smell your blood.”

Negan’s heart broke at the sight of Stiles’ devastated expression. “When I realized what happened I confronted Nik and she cut me. Was wide but still caught me good and we attracted the walkers so Simon took us out of there. I went back for you when I was on my feet. I hoped I would at least find a sign of where you went, but found your hoody instead.” Negan rubbed his stubble against Stiles’ beard, “I killed the bitch. Eventually.”

He still remembered the squeeze in his stomach, the shock of seeing all the blood and the disbelief that he’d lost Stiles mere days after finding him, after losing Lucille, and he was now goddamn alone in the apocalypse. Something had snapped in him then, he probably even cried, but he didn’t really remember much of that time. Just the urge to move forward, to do as Stiles had planned, to gather people and supplies, to fortify. He was running on instinct and he refused to think, because each time he did the flood of heartache brought him down to his knees and he’d lose hours of time wandering in his own head only to come to bone tired with a wet face, red eyes and dehydrated. Only Simon was allowed to come looking for him in those early days. The only one who saw his anguish.

“Never again,” Stiles gave a little lick against Negan’s neck, “Please, never leave me again, Negan,” he sobbed again, “if you do, please kill me first, please,” Stiles begged, his voice breaking, and Negan felt the tears rush his eyes and he leaned lower, pressing his face against Stiles’, kissed his ear and his neck and his dirty hair, “Never, baby. I won’t ever leave you. They’ll have to pry me off your dead body to get me to leave and I’ll kill them all first. You’re mine, my life, my will, my hope, you’re my fucking everything, baby boy. Fucking everything.”

“I can’t do it again, Negan. I can’t lead and I can’t lose you or watch you die and watch you leave…” Stiles hesitated and growled a little, his grip tightening once more, drawing blood, “I don’t trust myself either. I’m afraid, so fucking afraid I’ll just end it and let the grief swallow me. I’m not built to survive alone, please Negan, promise me, promise you’ll kill me before you leave so I don’t have to, please…” Stiles whined then shouted, “Promise me!”

“I promise, baby boy. I promise whatever you want. But I’ll never leave you, never, you hear me?” Negan pulled at Stiles’ hair, tugging harshly making him hiss, “You’re mine until we die, baby, no one else.”

Stiles kicked him before growling, “Then let me bite you, let me tie you to me, make you stay,” and his eyes glowed fucking crimson.

“Oh, baby boy, you’re full of surprises, aren’t you?” Negan asked him, fucking delighted before he slammed his lips against Stiles’ and kissed his breath away. He chased his taste and his whimpers, biting at his fat lips and sucking at his tongue. Negan devoured him like he hadn’t been able to for months and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so goddamned happy.

“Yes, you silly fucking boy, you can bite me. Didn’t I ask once already? I’m with you wherever you want to go, baby, and if I go first, I’ll save you a seat next to me and Lucille right there in hell.” Negan grinned as widely as he could, loving every damn moment of the various expressions fleeting across Stiles’ face.

“Alpha,” Stiles whimpered, crying again, before he pushed his face against Negan’s neck and bit him hard enough Negan grunted and gritted his teeth, pushing through the pain and hugging Stiles closer.

The small licks that followed the bite were like a balm on the wound and Negan said nothing, letting Stiles take care of him while he kept on touching wherever he could until sleep claimed him.

The first time Stiles felt like himself after what seemed like weeks, he woke up to a familiar pattern of breathing, the most comforting scent in the world and the warmth of a body he’d thought he’d lost forever.

Too afraid to move he stilled, listening and taking it all in. He didn’t hurt anymore and didn’t feel tired, something he vaguely remembered being a constant for a very long time. Instead there was a strange sensation tingling in his chest, something powerful and right and Stiles focused inward, searching for whatever had woken him up.

He realized Shane and Carol were alright. Somehow he had an impression that he’d already known that, that they’d spoken even, but he didn’t truly remember and was comforted once again by them being safe and sound. He could feel Glenn and T-Dog, somewhat less intensely but they were there, as was Jim and Sophia and the bright two stars that were Merle and Daryl, but there was also something else and it felt different. Another bond was snapping into place, one tying them all so firmly together it left Stiles breathless. He was Alpha, he knew that much, but… And he snapped his eyes open to look at Negan tucked safely next to him and he remembered that desperate bite, the need to make him safe and tie him tightly to himself. He remember wanting him as an Alpha and as his mate and as everything, and now, looking at the bright and solid bond between Negan and himself, between Negan and the others he probably didn’t even know, Stiles realized his spark had made his wish true.

What he both saw and sensed wasn’t like anything he’d ever read about before. A bite couldn’t turn another human into an Alpha, only ever a Beta, and it certainly never placed the newly bitten at the top of the pack. But there was also the little titbit where Stiles still felt very much like an Alpha and that was fucking strange too. It meant he didn’t just give his status away, it stayed, and for a moment Stiles was overwhelmed by the worry about what else he might have transferred via his bite. He was a zombie chew toy and there was no knowing how that might have changed all the rules he’d ever known.

“Stop thinking so loudly, baby boy.” Negan grumbled and instinctively Stiles pushed himself closer.

“How do you feel?” Stiles asked tentatively.

“Like a million bucks, baby.” Negan’s voice rumbled and Stiles felt a splash of arousal at the sound.

“Mmmmm, that smells fucking good, whatever it is.” Negan mumbled pulling Stiles even closer.

Stiles flushed, embarrassed, but his brain instantly jumped to all the possibilities of Negan smelling every reaction he’ll ever have. The man already read him like an open book.

“I’m betting that’s you, baby boy. Delicious.” Negan kissed his forehead.

“How about you try and take these stitches out of me before we start anything?”Negan rubbed his hand against Stiles’ back who instantly popped his head up, “Stitches?”

“Got slashed by one of your friends and they stitched me up. But it feels healed now and just pulls at my skin.” Without thinking about it Stiles growled feeling the rage at anyone trying to hurt his mate.

“Relax, baby boy, he was just protecting you while you were hurt. I’m not unreasonable and I like the fact that they’d protect you no matter what.” Stiles snorted and took another whiff of Negan’s intoxicating scent before siting up on his knees.

He flinched with each piece of thread he pulled, watching the skin heal right in front of his eyes, leaving only small blood drops behind. He wasn’t comfortable with it despite knowing Negan didn’t feel it beyond a momentary discomfort.

Once done Stiles took a moment to look at the cleaned expanse of Negan’s back, the way his ass looked hugged by his jeans and the seductive dimples alongside his spine. His wolf was coming more and more to the front, overcoming that pesky human need of manners and propriety.

“That feels so much better, thank you, baby boy.” Negan broke Stiles’ train of thought and flipped over almost dislodging Stiles off his legs.

“What now?” Stiles asked suddenly focused on Negan’s hairy chest. There was just so much of it, silver mixed with black and Stiles realized his mate was a cougar which had him snickering like he hadn’t done since before.

“Something funny?” Negan wondered before he reversed their positions and had Stiles under him.

Stiles could feel the semi pressing against his hipbone and all thought of cougars flew out of his mind. Instead he moaned loudly enough all those heartbeats outside could probably hear him.

“Yeah, baby boy, I’ve missed this.” Negan almost hissed. “But I’m not taking you out here for the first time, and I certainly want you clean, preferably without that animal on your face. Clean shaven and smelling delicious, mmmm” Negan took a deep breath right next to Stiles neck, “I’d love to taste your fresh sweat while I’m balls deep in you, pushing out all those sweet whimpers.” Stiles shivered, his own dick more than ready but Negan just continued, “But first I’m gonna soak you real good, fuck, I’m gonna shave you myself. You think you can stand still for me long enough, no twitching under the blade? Mmmm?”

Stiles just moaned, clutching at the covers and fighting not to come. He didn’t remember the last time he’d jerked off come to think of it.

“I’ll shave your legs too, that curly patch between your legs, so I can suck at every inch of your baby skin. Have you ever shaved your legs, Stiles? It makes you more sensitive, each touch will be just on the verge of too much, but I’ll let you come our first time, as many times as I can make you until you’ll sob for me from exhaustion. You think my stamina will be improved by the wolf? Cause I gotta tell you baby boy, I was no fucking slouch before. Could go for hours. Think your little pussy will be able to take me?” Negan pushed his hand between Stiles legs and pressed hard against his hole forcing his pants along his crack, but for some reason it was enough for Stiles because he came with a choked off scream. From words and a bit of a rub, he came right in his pants and couldn’t muster the strength to be embarrassed about it.

“Good. Now we can go places and do things.” Negan said just before he turned Stiles whole world around and he found himself thrown over Negan’s shoulder as he marched out of what looked to Stiles like an RV.

“Hey!” he protested halfheartedly.

“Hush, baby boy. My men are around and I don’t want them meeting you until you’re at your best. First impressions are important. Pretend you’re unconscious and I’ll make it true in a few hours. By then you’ll be relieved by the respite.” Negan chuckled and Stiles did as asked, relaxing against Negan’s back, enjoying the view and loving his new pain free existence. Who knew having a mate came with perks.