Summary: A/U, No Walkers. What will happen when Federal Agent Michonne Prescott comes to King County in need of an officer to go deep undercover with her?
Rick Grimes sits at his desk, trying to reacquaint himself with his surroundings. His first day back after a 30 day suspension—without pay—is proving to be a bit unsettling. He had been looking forward to returning to work, getting away from his empty house. Now, being here doesn't feel right either. He looks across the room at the office that used to be his. The letters on the door now read: Kings County Sheriff Shane Walsh. Interim position until election, but still, it'll never say Rick Grimes again. He doesn't know how he feels about that.
The door to the office opens and Shane walks out. The two other deputies and the secretary out in the small bullpen with Rick pretend to be engrossed in work. No way are they watching the impending interaction between the new sheriff and the former. Shane strolls right up to Rick's desk.
"Deputy," Shane says, putting an extra emphasis on the word to drive home the fact that Rick has been demoted. "Settlin' in?"
Rick leans back in his chair, folds his arms over his chest. The last week or so of his suspension he used to control his anger, to be less reactive and more proactive. But there is something about looking at Shane's smug face that makes Rick want to smash it all over again. Instead he says, "How's the eye?"
Shane's grin drops off his face. The damage Rick did to Shane's left eye socket won't be permanent, but it will take a long ass time to fully heal. At least that gives him some satisfaction. Before Shane can respond, the main door opens and Carl walks in. He pauses. Looks between his dad and Shane.
"Hey dad, everything okay?"
"Yeah." Rick stands.
"Hey, Carl," Shane says. "How's it goin'?"
Carl completely ignores Shane.
"What brings you by?" Rick pulls Carl into a hug.
"Brought you lunch." Carl smiles. "Didn't think you'd remember. Then you'd end up getting something greasy and unhealthy."
Rick takes the brown paper bag, opens it, sees two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. "Thanks."
"Listen," Shane begins. "Carl, we need to work this out. The hostility is—"
Rick steps in front of Carl, gets in Shane's face. "Don't address my boy." Tension fills the small sheriff's department. All pretenses of work by the other deputies and secretary stop.
"We need to work through this, Rick," Shane says, meeting Rick's eyes. "Stop playin' the victim for five seconds and see that this is happenin'. Ain't nothin' you can do about it." Shane spreads his arms, a nearly imperceptible smirk on his face. Anyone who didn't know Shane as well as Rick wouldn't have noticed the taunting expression. "We can make this transition smooth for everybody involved. I'm with Lori now. Accept it. I'll be stepfather to your kids and—"
Rick grabs a handful of Shane's uniform shirt, yanks him forward.
"Dad, don't," Carl yells.
Before Rick can further shatter Shane's left eye socket the station door opens again. Two people walk in. One is a hulking man with red hair and beard. He wears dark shades a black t-shirt and jeans. The person with him is a slim woman, dark skin, mirrored sunshades and dark brown dreadlocks pulled back into a tight bun. She wears a white button-down shirt and navy slacks.
They both pull off their shades. The big redhead says, "We interrupting something?"
Rick releases Shane with a thrust. Shane smooths out his uniform, composes himself and addresses the two strangers.
"What can I do for you two?"
The big guy flips out a billfold, flashes a badge and identification. "I'm special agent Ford. This is my partner, special agent Prescott."
The woman doesn't bother showing her badge. Her eyes lock on Rick's and never leave. He watches her too, feeling something like dè-jà vu. But he knows that isn't right. He's never met her before. He'd remember.
Staring at him, into him, special agent Prescott says, "We need to speak with Rick Grimes."
"Um..." Shane begins, "I'm in charge. Not Deputy Grimes. I'm the sheriff now."
She looks at Shane and Rick releases a breath he's been holding since their eyes met. "I didn't ask to speak with the person in charge, did I?" Her eyes lock on Rick's again. "You're Grimes, right?" She doesn't wait for an answer. "Let's talk in here." She heads for the sheriff's office, Shane's office.
"Hang on, now. You can't just walk in here and—"
"We appreciate your cooperation," she says as she stands by the door to his office and waits for Rick to precede her inside.
"Dad?" Carl steps forward.
"It's fine," Rick says. "We're just gonna talk for a bit. I'll be out in a few."
The big red-head brings up the rear, closing the door once they are all inside. He then lowers the blinds, giving them full privacy. Rick is beyond curious. A part of him is nervous. Did Shane or Lori actually press charges against him for beating Shane half to death? Is Shane just pretending not to know why the FEDs are here to question him? Naw, he thinks. Attacking one of his deputies would be investigated by the state police, not the FEDs.
He takes a deep breath, relaxes a little. "What can I do for ya'll?" He leans against his—Shane's—desk and folds his arms over his chest.
The two agents stand side by side, studying Rick. The woman, agent Prescott, angles her head to the side. The guy, agent Ford seems to be made of granite as he glares at Rick like Rick has personally offended him.
"I don't know," agent Prescott says. "He could work."
"He certainly looks like shit today," Ford says. "Good to know he's not always as pretty as his profile picture."
"What the fuck is going on?" Rick says, coming up off the desk.
Prescott stretches her arm forward, palm out. "I apologize, deputy. We're being rude."
Rick leans against the desk again, watches this woman, wondering why she is so damn captivating.
"We need your help. Agent Ford and I are a part of a special taskforce set up to take down a notorious biker gang. Have you heard of The Walking Dead?"
"Yeah. I thought they were a northern thang. New York, DC, places like that."
"They are," she says. "But they're branching out."
"Spreading like a damn ass-rash, more like," Ford says.
"Branches of them have popped up as far south as Fannin county, Union and Gilmer. It won't be long before they're knocking on your door."
"So how can I help?" Rick asks.
Agent Prescott sighs. "We had an in, a way to go undercover in the one of the newest branches established in northern Georgia, but…"
"I went and got myself made," Ford finishes for his partner. "Cover blown wide as a hooker's asshole. As you might expect, we don't have a large supply of agents who can pass for a biker. Not to mention the need to be familiar with Georgia and is okay graying the lines of the law."
Rick pinches the bridge of his nose. "Again, I ask, how can I help?"
Agent Prescott steps forward. "We need you to go undercover with me."
For a split second Rick nearly says he'll go anywhere, do anything she wants him to do. He shakes his head, hoping to jar his brain back into place.
"To what end?" Rick asks.
Ford answers with a question. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, what are you tryin' to achieve with this undercover mission?"
Prescott nods and gives an approving smile. Inexplicably, Rick swells a little with pride that he has pleased her. What is going on with me?
"We have solid intel that the head of TWD is here, in this state, and always has been. Cut the head off the king and the empire crumbles."
Rick nods, but still doesn't understand how they came to look for him. "Why me?"
At this, agent Prescott, folds her arms over her chest, cocks her head to the side, and regards him. "I've studied the files of nearly seventy officers in the mid-to-southern Georgia region and to be honest, yours was the only one with potential."
"I find that hard to believe," Rick says. "I can't be the best officer out of all those men and women."
"I didn't say you were the best." She smiles and Rick nearly forgets how to think. He swallows and looks at the floor. Get it together, Grimes.
Prescott continues. "Your file had the most incidents of violent infractions. It almost read like a rap sheet. Nine incidents of excessive force…"
Rick spreads his arms wide, palms up. "Some people need to get punched."
"Seven incidents of discharging your weapon, two with fatal outcomes…"
He shrugs. "Some people need to get shot."
Ford belts out a laugh. "I like this guy. He's perfect."
"I'll be the judge of that," Prescott says.
"I haven't agreed to anythang," Rick says. "Don't see why I should."
Agent Prescott looks at him with a frown. Rick almost changes his mind. This woman is seriously fucking with his mind. He knows nothing about her, but he feels like the last thing in the world he'd want to do is disappoint her.
When she speaks, her voice is soft and low. "Have you ever seen a town once The Walking Dead have come through?"
Rick shakes his head.
"Businesses that have been open for generations are closed. The ones that aren't burned to the ground or looted, simply close because they are too afraid to remain open. Incidents of violent crime spike at an astronomical rate. They leave nothing in their wake but death and destruction." She glances over her shoulder at the closed door. "That was your son out there?"
"What is he, fifteen, sixteen?"
"Freshman in high school?"
Again, Rick nods. He doesn't like where this is going.
"I think the saddest thing of all is when TWD infiltrates the schools. The kids they don't turn into junkies, they turn into pushers. You don't want your son on either side of that equation, do you?"
"My son is smart." Rick glares. Not so enthralled with her just now. Never use his kids to make a point. "Carl's smarter than most kids his age. Smarter than most people twice his age. He won't sell drugs or use them."
"Then he'll be dead."
Rick comes up off the desk. Agent Ford steps forward, but agent Prescott doesn't move or blink. "My partner and I have tracked this gang," she says. "We know The Walking Dead. I'm not telling you these things to piss you off. I'm telling you what I know. What I've seen, time and time again. You use for them, sell for them, or they kill you. It doesn't matter that he's fourteen. You can wait until this gang makes its way this far south, but by then, it will be too late. I promise you that. No matter how much of a Billy-bad-ass you are you will lose against them."
Rick clenches his jaw, begins to pace. He knows she is right, but this is excessive. He'd be a fool, a lying fool if he said this didn't scare the shit out of him. He stops pacing and turns to agent Prescott. "You two understand this won't work, right? I can't go undercover in this state. I was sheriff here. Yeah, King County is small, rural, but I'm known. I don't get up to Fannin, Union or Gilmer much, but people travel. All we'd need is one person from here to see me and my cover is blown just like his was." Rick gestures to Ford.
"We don't want you to become someone else," agent Ford says.
Agent Prescott smiles again and Rick is right back to that urge to promise her anything. "On paper, deputy, you read like someone who might be one step away from saying fuck all this and becoming a complete degenerate."
Rick snorts without humor. "Is that right? Good to know."
"Look," she continues, "I don't know you. You could be the salt of the earth, the most honorable person to ever walk upright. The fact of the matter is, looking at your file, it wouldn't be hard for anyone to believe that you got yourself fired, said fuck the police, and took up with a biker gang. That's why I wanted to meet you in person. My gut would tell me if you really were a loose cannon or someone who would work well with me."
He meets her eyes. "And?"
"And my gut is telling me that you and I will work well together."
He feels warm all over, even though he knows she doesn't mean it how he wants her to mean it. Still, there is something bothering him. "So,"—he begins to pace again—"You want me to get myself fired, then make it seem like I've gone on some kind of downward spiral where I toss out everything I believe in and take up with a biker gang?"
"Yes," she says. "And no one can know the truth."
"Nobody's gonna believe that."
Agent Prescott watches him for a long moment. She's weighing something. It's crazy, but Rick feels like he can already understand this woman's expressions, or lack thereof, and he's known her for a whopping twenty minutes.
"You've recently come back from a 30 day suspension, right?"
"How'd you know about that?"
"We're the FBI, remember."
"Yeah, I've just come back. So what of it?"
She reaches out and almost touches his forearm, but seems to change her mind at the last minute and lets her arm drop. "The new sheriff—"
"Interim," Rick interrupts.
She inclines her head. "Of course. The interim sheriff is sleeping with your wife."
"How the fuck—"
Agent Prescott hold up her hands to halt him. "I'm good at my job, deputy. My point is you put that man out there in the hospital, didn't you? He's been sleeping with your wife and smiling in your face, day in, day out. You mean to tell me that it would be so unbelievable for you to do something to get yourself fired then do a complete 180 and embrace the dark side? Cause from where I sit, it seems perfectly plausible."
Rick is fuming. How the hell had she found out about Shane and Lori. She's right, though. It won't be so far-fetched. That scares him. There has always been something that keeps him from fully embracing the darkness inside of him. It's his kids and it used to be Lori too. Now she might just be the catalyst. The reason for his downfall. No. He could never do that to Carl, to Judith. But he can make them think so. He begins pacing again. He is not the type of man to stand by and wait for trouble to knock at his door. He would never forgive himself if this gang, this Walking Dead, showed up in his town, gets Carl hooked on drugs, or makes him sell them…or worse.
He turns to the two agents. "Okay. I'm in…under one condition."
"No conditions," Ford says.
Prescott puts a hand on her partners arm. "Let's hear him out."
"I'll do this. Get myself fired, make everybody believe that I've turned into a total fuck up…if I can tell my son the truth."
"No," both agents say at the same time.
"Then no deal." Rick sits on the corner of the desk like he doesn't have a care in the world.
"No one outside of this room gets to know the truth," Prescott says.
"I get it, but if you want me to turn my back on everything I believe in…I don't just believe in the law, I love the law. I've raised that boy out there to respect the law, respect others. I walk the walk so he can walk the walk. I will not make him think the one person in his life who has never lied to him, 'cause his mother sure as shit—never mind that." He bites down hard like he needs to literally chew the vile words he wants to speak about Lori and swallow them. "I won't let him go for weeks, months, or however long this thang lasts thinkin' I lied to him all of his life about who I am, who I want him to be. And then, when it's all over, tell him, 'no son, I wasn't lyin' to you all your life, I was just lyin' to you these last few weeks'. No. Not gonna happen. Find somebody else or let me tell my boy. Truthfully, he'll take one look at me know I'm full of shit. So tell him now, or worry about him poppin' up somewhere we don't want him to be. He's gonna figure it out."
There's a long moment of silence. The agents glance at each other and then Prescott jerks her head down in a quick yes. "I have to meet him, talk to him," she says. "I need to make sure he gets the seriousness of this case."
"Not a problem." Rick stands. "So I just need to go out here and get myself fired, right?"
"Yeah," Prescott says. "Think you can handle that?"
This time it's Rick's turn to smile. Prescott seems to stumble backward as if she trips over an invisible object. He wants to think it was a reaction to him, but it happens so quickly that he isn't sure he saw what he thinks he saw.
He licks his lips and gets back to the subject at hand. "Can I shoot him?"
"No!" Prescott looks at him like he is insane.
Ford bursts out laughing. "I think I love this guy!"
"Wasn't talkin' bout killin' him, just a flesh wound," Rick says.
"I cannot authorize you discharging your firearm. Hand it over if you can't control yourself."
"I'm fine." Rick strides over to the door, pauses to stretch his neck side to side, roll his shoulders. He yanks open the door and makes a beeline for his former best friend. "SHANE! You motherfucker! You called the FEDs on me? Can't take a beatin' like a man?"
Shane looks genuinely shocked and a little terrified as Rick closes in on him. Before Shane can deny the accusation, Rick's fist slams into Shane's left eye. Rick lands five blows before Shane can even raise his hands to fight back.
"Dad! Don't!" Rick hears the panic in Carl's voice and it nearly stops him in his tracks. But…the bigger picture.
Rick shoves Shane away from him, rears back and kicks Shane in the balls so hard the other man doubles over and vomits. Rick leans over Shane and his puddle of sick, and whispers, "Good luck fucking my wife tonight."
Rick doesn't get a chance to land another blow. Agent Ford grabs him, holds him. Prescott has Carl by the arm, holding him, but not forcefully. She says, "Sheriff, are you okay?"
Shane, spits a few times on the floor and manages to stand. He looks at Rick like he is a complete stranger. Kind of like Rick feels he must've looked when he found out about Shane and Lori.
"That's it. You're done. I forgave the first time, but no more."
"You can't do this," Carl shouts. "Don't fire him. He needs this job."
Shane hobbles over, stops in front of Rick. "Ain't my fault, Carl. Be mad at your father." He disarms Rick, unloads the gun and places it on the nearby desk. "I didn't call the FEDs on you," Shane says.
"Yeah," Ford says. "We told him the accusation didn't come from you, but he doesn't believe us."
"What accusation," Shane asks.
"That's classified." Ford sounds like he might laugh, like he doesn't even believe the bullshit he's spouting. "We'll take him home, let him cooldown before he comes back to get his things." He frog-walks Rick out the station.
They head to a black Explorer parked at the curb. Ford shoves Rick into the back seat. Prescott, holds the door open for Carl to climb in with his dad. When they drive away, and turn the corner. Rick pulls a visibly upset Carl to him.
"Dad, are you getting locked up?" His eyes glisten with unshed tears. "You can't arrest him," he says to the agents. "He's…he's just been through a lot lately. He—"
"We're not arresting him," agent Prescott cuts in.
"Carl," Rick says. "We have to talk."