Natalie sat comfortably on her couch with her feet propped up on the coffee table and Nathan on her upper thighs. She nudged his little lips with the teat of the small feeding bottle in her hand and he listlessly suckled on it before his mouth got slack again.
“Falling asleep with a bottle in your mouth. I can’t decide if you got this from me or your daddy,” she mumbled, put the bottle away, lifted him up and carried him to his bassinet. She was covering him with a soft, yellow blanket when she caught a movement in the corner of her eyes and turned to the door. Wade stood there like he was just about to leave again looking anywhere but at her.
“Is this a bad time?” he asked the doorframe. Natalie sighed.
“No, come in,” she said jovially. “Take a seat,” he hesitantly stepped into the room and dropped on the empty armchair. Then he frowned at her skeptically.
“You summoned me?” she shrugged.
“Kind of have to, the way you are hiding from me,” she said with a small smile. He wasn’t reacting. “Look,” she let herself fall on the couch again. “I owe you an apology.”
“For what?” he asked slowly. Natalie rolled her eyes.
“For treating you like shit the past 13 months.”
“You don’t have to…”
“Shut up and listen. I behaved like a total bitch. Hell, I was a total bitch. Sure, you screwed up, but what I did to you after was uncalled for. All of it. I harassed you, I terrorized you. I mean I used you as target practice with a BB gun,” Wade smiled a weak smile and pointed at the spot on his upper thigh where she had hit him.
“You know, the slag is still inside. Carson says it’s easier to just leave it there. Real conversation starter.”
“Yeah I bet, anyway. I am sorry. I should have let it go a long time ago and there had been no reason I haven’t. So I just hope you have it in you to forgive me one day. Even if not, I promise you I make it up to you,” now Wade scoffed. Not dismissively, amused.
“You don’t have to make it up to me, just don’t shoot me again. And as for accepting your apology, you kind of had me at hello,” he grinned.
“I didn’t say hello,” she said flatly. Wade rolled his eyes.
“Just roll with it,” they both huffed a laugh and sat around for a while, a bit awkwardly to be honest.
“Should we, I don’t know, hug?” Natalie asked with a frown and a raised eyebrow.
“Is this something we do?”
“Not that I am aware off, but we can try,” she shrugged. They got up and locked each other in their arms clumsily.
“This feels weird,” Wade said next to Natalie’s ear.
“Shh, just roll with it,” Wade chuckled. Then Natalie gave him a real squeeze. “Thanks for saving Simon’s life,” she said softly.
“Anytime,” they stepped away from each other, Natalie clapped him on the shoulder, which was more their thing, and Wade stirred the conversation into more comfortable waters. “So how’s the little guy?” he looked into the bassinet onto a fast-asleep Nathan. Natalie walked to him.
“He’s very lazy.”
“How can an infant be lazy? I mean what’s he doing, not doing his chores?” Wade asked skeptically.
“You can try to feed him, see it for yourself,” it was something that actually had concerned them, Nathan not drinking as much as they had expected. But Carmen, the midwife who helped them out, had told them not to panic, this was perfectly normal. He had lost a bit weight at the beginning, but now he steadily gained it, and although he still was rather skinny, he was healthy and well-nourished.
“You know Simon doesn’t shut up about him. And he is in such a good mood, it’s actually kinda scary, and a bit annoying. Negan, too,” Wade said with a smirk. Natalie chuckled.
“That’s all the baby hormones. I swear Simon’s close on lactating. Don’t tell him I said that.”
“Can a man lactate?” Wade askes in a mix of curiosity and horror.
“No idea. But I keep you posted,” speaking of Simon, the man came in. Natalie’s whole face lit up. He only had been gone since morning, but she had missed him something fierce. The week apart from each other not knowing if the respective other was still alive had basically conjoined them by their hips. So even a couple of hours separated felt like a very long time.
“Hey,” Simon said with a warm smile and gave her the kind of hello kiss that made Wade turning nonchalantly somewhere else to give them some privacy. Then Simon looked down on his son and carefully put his hand on his chest, feeling his heartbeat. “So what’s going on here? You two kissed and made up?” he asked both Wade and Natalie.
“We were just about to come to the kissing part when you showed up,” Wade said seriously. Simon’s only reaction to that was a chuckle. Wade decided it was time for him to go anyways. When he was gone Simon pulled her in for another kiss.
“I missed you,” he said against her lips before he went for another not giving Natalie a chance to tell him that she missed him, too. He knew it either way. Then he sat on the couch with a sigh signaling her to join him. He didn’t have to ask twice. She made herself comfortable with her head on his chest.
“So how did it go?” Simon scoffed.
“Everyone was an asshole,” he said. He and Negan, and a couple of non-threatening others, like Alden and Gavin, had been in Alexandria to lay the foundation for future collaborations. This and because they wanted to check the place out assessing them for what they had. Old habits died hard.
“That includes you, I assume?”
“What do you mean? I was my usual charming self. These people are very uptight. I mean I get it. We would be a little nervous around strangers too if someone just came into our home in the middle of the day starting to cut up people throwing a couple of hundred corpses at us, but Jesus. None of them has any humor they are aware of. Didn’t even get a grin out of any of them,” Natalie looked up.
“In all fairness, yours and Negan’s humor is an acquired taste,” he smiled down on her and gave her a small peck.
“Anyhow, overall it went well. We get a bunch of these solar panels, they get something to eat and we go from there. Rick and Negan are madly in love with each other, they just don’t know it yet. I am actually kind of jealous. That “One day I will kill you so let's be best friends” look used to address me,” he chuckled.
“I can try to subtly threat to end you from time to time. If this would make you feel any better?”
“You’re sweet,” he looked over to Nathan’s crib. “So I talked to your brother,” she looked up.
“Couple of things. Like getting out of here. Getting a new place,” she frowned.
“What do you mean?”
“The way we built up the Satellite Outpost the last year really shows. You haven’t been there yet, but it’s actually kind of neat. Let’s say we really improved the lodging quality. The solar panels are just the icing on the cake. Nathan shouldn’t grow up surrounded by concrete and corroding steel. It will be hard enough as it is to give him something resembling a normal childhood with telling him the monsters under his bed are actually on the other side of the fence. So why not at least give him blue sky, green grass and the one or other free-range chicken?” she blinked at him.
“Seriously? What’s Negan saying to that?” Simon just shrugged.
“When that’s something you want he will help us pack. It’s just a couple of hours away. He can see Nathan and you all the time. And he will, I have no illusions about that,” a wide smile crawled up Natalie’s face.
“This would be awesome. I mean I will miss Negan, but I was worried about the child friendliness of this place. Everything on the factory floor is a fucking safety hazard.”
“I know you worried, that’s why I brought it up with Negan,” with a soft sound she put her head back on his chest.
“I love you, so fucking much,” she said. Simon let his fingers run through her hair.
“Me too, love. So fucking much,” they sat in silence for a while, but Natalie wouldn’t be Natalie if she would shut up for longer than five minutes.
“You think we can take Arat and Gary with us?”
“Well, they are human beings, not pets, so you actually would need to ask them first if they even want to, but I couldn’t see why not. Before you start to pick out the curtains, allowing us to move into new accommodations wasn’t the only thing I asked Negan for,” he freed himself from her and got up. After rummaging around in the pockets of one of his jackets he turned around with a very serious expression.
“What was it?” Instead of an answer he just walked back to her and to her surprise got down on one knee. She just stared at the little ring box in his hands.
“His blessing. I was thinking about a great, romantic gesture, but I can’t really see me pulling this off and I can’t really see you being impressed by it, so I thought let’s do it the straight-forward way. Natalie, will you do me the honor and make an honest man out of me?” Natalie looked up in his eyes.
“Yes,” she said.
“Yeah,” he surged forward practically crashing their lips together and Natalie would have fallen from the couch if she hadn’t thrown her arms around his neck just in time using him as leverage. “Put it on,” she said the second he pulled away. He chuckled when he slipped on the ring. It fitted perfectly. “It’s beautiful,” the ring was unpretentious, but timeless, white gold with a small stone, probably a diamond, exactly the kind of model she would have picked. “I love it,” she said seriously. Simon smiled wider than he already did. He sat next to her on the couch again and pulled her against him.
“I heard second marriages are the best, by the way,” he said. Natalie had to laugh.
“I have no doubt about it,” she pressed her lips on his pulse point basking in his warmth and his scent while he held her close, gently running his fingers through her hair. They could have sat like that forever, but Nathan had other ideas. He started to fuss and whimper before he let out a small cry. Simon picked him up carefully.
“Hey little man,” he said cradling him in his arms. Natalie had already taken the bottle from earlier out of the cooler and warmed it up in her hands. “Remember what we talked about the other day? The thing I wanted to ask your mom? Guess what she said?” he sat back and took the bottle. This time Nathan actually drank the formula while Simon cooed over him. Not for the first time, Natalie looked at this scene with love, awe, and a bit disbelief.
The world was in ruins, the dead owned the earth, places like this, the Kingdom, the Hilltop, Alexandria were little, fragile beacons of humanity, for better or for worse, and here they were. She and Simon somehow had carved out their own place of happiness, against all odds and clearly defying Karma. Some might think they didn’t deserve it, some might argue a lot of people had to suffer and die so they could be where they were now, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But all Natalie had done since the beginning of the end was to fight. And she would continue to do so. But this time it wouldn’t be just for herself and her brother, not just to survive, it would be the good fight. A fight for the people of the Sanctuary, for the other communities, for her brother, for Nathan and Simon, for her family. The future was right in front of her, in Simon’s arms, and she would be damned if she wouldn’t do all she could do to make it a better one.