Hi All! Well…..I've read all the Walking Dead comics and I'm…..I'm…I'm (don't hate me) I'm almost torn between loving Merle and Negan. Is it horrible that I want Negan to ping pong all over my ti**ies like he said in the comic book? Negan or Merle? Merle or Negan? Negan does make Merle look like a housewife…..but Merle is redeemable. Gaa! Give me advice in your reviews! OK, here's the next part of our story!

In all the confusion only two vehicles followed the SUV from the mill, the inhabitants still operating under the belief that Negan was alive and that they were under orders to retrieve the escapees. Luke drove quickly while Merle hung out the window to trade shots with the trucks behind them. Beth and Susan sat on the floorboard catching the empty clips that Merle threw into the back seat and reloading for him. After some harrowing decisions involving blocked roads and near vertical ditches Luke was able to lose their pursuers.

After declaring the road safe Beth and Susan rose from the floorboard and sat in the back seat. Susan hung her arms around Luke's neck from behind, laughing and kissing his temple. Beth looked up in shock at Merle who could see something wasn't right with her. His arm snaked out to touch her and she leaned forward hesitantly to let him cup her chin. "Little girl," he rumbled. Beth suddenly felt sick. "Pull over!" she said, fumbling for the door handle. The SUV was barely stopped before she fell onto the ground retching. Susan darted through the door and was at Beth's side while Merle still fumbled with the door handle with his right hand.

"OK baby, it's OK. I know it sucks but you had to do it. Get it all out now," Susan crooned as Beth heaved and cried. Susan looked up at Merle who was crouched at Beth's side with a flashlight, looking concerned. "She's got half a bottle of rum in her," said Susan softly. "He made her. She's going to feel rotten for a while." Merle's expression hardened and he got up to get a bottle of water out of the truck and brought it to Susan. Susan brushed Beth's hair away from her face and helped her drink. She looked up to see Merle furiously pacing in the dark, cursing under his breath. He had a really good idea of the type of shit Negan had forced Beth into and he had no idea how to deal with it. Beth had told Susan a lot about Merle and as Susan watched him rage she knew that the couple had their challenges cut out for them.

Susan helped Beth stand unsteadily and supported her while Beth wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Merle looked up and pulled the rag out of his back pocket as he walked towards Beth. He used a little of the water to wet it and gently wiped her face off. Beth looked at the V of his shirt, unable to meet his eyes. "Thank you," she whispered. Merle took in her bruised cheek and bleary eyes and silently ground his teeth in futility. Susan put her hand on his arm and said, "We need to keep moving even though it's dark. Merle, would you mind sitting in back so I can sit with Luke?" Merle nodded and helped Beth get into the back of the SUV. Once in he took off his prosthetic and reached for her with his good arm. "Come on," he said gruffly. "Ya need ta sleep."

Beth hesitantly scooted over and as they got on their way Merle was able to coax her into leaning against his chest. Beth's stomach roiled and her head pounded. Her heart hammered at the unwanted feeling of hands on her. She didn't think she had any more tears to cry and she was suddenly disoriented and panicked. She shoved the fear down and leaned against him, shaking. He looked down at her and slowly slid his arm around her. "Just you and me," he said against her hair. She buried her face under his arm stiffly and tried to breathe, sure that she would never sleep again.

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Hours later Beth opened her eyes. She was stretched across the back seat with her head in Merle's lap. She was nauseated and there was a sharp drilling pain behind her eyeballs. She closed her eyes again to avoid the sunlight. Her mouth was dry and tasted terrible and her body was tacky with stale sweat. This is what a hangover feels like, she thought. Why do people drink? This isn't fun at all.

She could tell by the way Merle was sitting that he was asleep too. It was early morning and she could see that the interior of the SUV was dark blue. Luke and Susan were talking softly in the front seat and Luke was driving much faster than he was able to at night. Beth sat up stiffly and Merle's arms tightened around her. "Where are we?" asked Beth. Luke turned his head briefly to her. He smiled. "Thank God, I was hoping you two would wake up. I really have to pee."

A giggle escaped Beth as Susan looked at her with her eyes dancing in laughter. Susan was glowing with happiness and Beth was so happy for her friend. Beth reached her arm out to Susan and Susan took her hand briefly and smiled. She heard Merle grunt and she turned her head. He was looking at her intently. Beth smiled widely at the sight of him and threw herself back into his arms. "I smell bad," she whispered, laughing and crying at the same time. "Yer beautiful angel," said Merle, holding her tightly to him. "Wanna see ya smile like that every day, hear?" Beth nodded sharply and tightened her arms around him as Luke pulled into an open area to switch drivers.

Everyone took the chance to relieve themselves, get some water and eat some granola bars. Merle and Luke spread the map out on the hood of the SUV to track their progress while Susan and Beth watched for walkers. When Beth went behind a tree and dropped her pants she was sickened to see that she still wore the underthings that Negan had forced on her. In the rush to get out of the mill they had just thrown their clothes on over their clothes. Tears stung her eyes. Merle deserves so much better, she thought. Why would he want me? The tops of her legs and parts of her privates were rubbed raw from the cheap fabric.

It took her a few minutes to compose herself and she tried to stand off by herself for a while but Susan approached her. "Beth what's wrong?" she asked, putting her hand on Beth's cheek. Beth looked down and fought the tears, she could feel Luke and Merle looking at her. "Please," she whispered to Susan. "Can we get clothes?" Susan pulled her into a hug. "First chance we get," she assured her. Susan looked at the men over the top of Beth's head and shook her head at them so they wouldn't question her.

When Beth went to the back of the SUV to get a water bottle Susan approached them. "We need to stop soon for clothes," she said in a tone that invited no questions and them men nodded. Merle growled in frustration when Beth got into the passenger side without raising her eyes from the ground. She had seemed so happy when she woke up and now she was just as sad as before. When he got in the drivers seat he handed her the map. "Ya know the route?" he asked. She looked up quickly and nodded. "Head southwest to keep up the diversion and at LaGrange turn northeast to get to the farm." She met Merle's eyes and looked back down at the map. "Yeah little girl," he said quietly. "Gonna get you back home." He popped the SUV into gear and they made their way through roadblocks and walker herds with no sign of anyone following them.

Beth drifted off a few times, the hangover and events of the night before draining her. She shook herself awake with resolve. Luke and Susan were wrapped up in each others arms in the back, sound asleep. Merle needed someone to stay awake with him. She began calculating distances on the map. She asked Merle some questions about the mill and was able to indicated it on the map with a pen. She continued to mark the prison, Woodbury, the farm, and places they had raided for supplies along the way. She kept an eye on the mile markers and road signs. "It's 28 miles to LaGrange," she said. "From there it's 49 miles by highway to the farm."

Merle snorted softly. "Gonna take a week easy," he said. "Need gas, food, water. Just about outta ammo." He looked at her. "Ya gotta weapon?" he asked. She shook her head. He motioned to the glove compartment. "Ya take that .38 there. Remember how ta use it?" She opened the glove compartment and looked at the revolver. Memories came flooding back to her of him teaching her to shoot at the prison, holding her close and nuzzling her neck. Gotta learn this little girl, aint wantin ta lose ya he had rasped into her ear. She bit her lip hard to not cry. "Yes," she said faintly.

At mid-afternoon they came upon a town with a large farm supply store. The walkers in the parking lot were light. "This is where we stock up," said Merle over his shoulder to rouse the sleeping couple behind him. Luke and Susan sat up. They parked on an overpass and assessed the lot for a while. "Piece of cake after what we went through earlier," said Luke. "We all go in."

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Overall the run inside was successful and they were able to load up on ammo, blankets, dry food, fresh water bottles, knives, clothes and toiletries. Beth donned the largest backpack she could find and cleaned out the candy aisle as well as packing sterno cans, vegetable seeds and batteries. She didn't care if the candy smelled like death, she was going to air it out and eat it.

By the time they were done loading the SUV it was approaching dark. "Damned good haul," said Merle. "Need ta find a place ta bed down for tha night." Luke scratched his head. "We can drive while you sleep," he said but Merle resisted. "Headlights and movement gonna draw every walker in the area. Best ta stay still." Merle drove them to a clearing near a small rise and they stopped. After Luke and Merle scouted and took out the stray walkers and the women scouted.

There was a bubbling stream with a deep spot that was perfect for bathing. They set up a small fire nearby and all looked at each other. "Y'all go first," said Merle to Susan and Luke who looked up hopefully but Beth cleared her throat nervously. "I thought Susan and I could go together," she said quickly. Susan rubbed Luke's arm apologetically and said, "Of course, let's go."

The water was cool and it soothed Beth's naked body. She dunked her head and floated, trying to follow waterbugs without disturbing the water. Susan was scrubbing her hair with shampoo and Beth watched the suds float by in the pool. She ducked and savored the smell of the damp logs and water. She felt an ache deep in her body as she thought of the pond near the farm. Soon. Home.

She walked to the edge and retrieved the soap and shampoo, scrubbing every trace of the rum and the mill and Negan off of her. Except…, she thought. No, don't think of it. Susan was already climbing into her new clothes and Beth was eager to do the same. She left her jeans, tank top and old boots on the stream bank and climbed into the baggy new sweats and new hiking boots she had taken from the farm store. Perfect to sleep in she thought. She reveled in the feel of normal underwear. Nothing she was wearing could be construed in any way as sexy.

They smiled at the men when they returned and they switched off. Merle doubled back to check on Beth and watched her for a moment from cover of the trees. She had come back from the river with something dark clutched in her hand that she now threw in the fire. He watched her face as the flames leapt up to consume the object. Her eyes were hollow and her face was tortured. He watched as Susan rubbed her back in comfort then he turned back to the stream. He was grim and thoughtful as he washed and when they returned he stirred the fire and he found a scrap of red trimmed black lace.

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Merle reclined the bench seat as far as it would go and lay a sleeping bag down. "Get on up in there sugar," he said to a yawning Beth. He followed her in and locked the doors, checking his pockets to make sure he had the key. Luke and Susan were on watch and were looking forward to some alone time by the fire. Merle stretched out on his side and held up his arm expectantly and Beth scooted in. "I'm glad I brushed my teeth," she said. Merle chuckled. "You and me both." Beth gasped. "Merle!" she protested softly slapping his chest. He chuckled again and she settled into his embrace. She could feel his heart beat through his wife beater and that with his familiar smell soothed her.

"Ya gonna let me kiss you?" he asked with a gravelly voice. She moved her head back to look at him and he felt himself drown in her huge violet eyes. He slowly brought his lips to hers and kissed her gently. Her mouth, tense at first, relaxed with his touch and he pulled her into him, careful to keep his kiss light. Gradually her hands rose to touch his face, tracing the creases and ruffling his hair. She kept her eyes open so she could see him, not wanting to imagine for even a second that it was Negan. This is Merle, this is my love she told herself.

Merle's hand went up to stroke her face, then her hair and down her neck. This is where she belonged, here with him with the moon shining through the window making her skin glow. He deepened his kiss slightly, not wanting to spook her and her hands clutched softly at his chest. He drew away slightly. "I love ya," he said softly. She looked up at him and he saw the shame cross her face. She began to cry. "Why Merle?" she asked. "I'm not….." She bared her teeth and sobbed. "You should find somebody better."

Merle growled and gently grabbed her chin. "You look at me. Look at me," he repeated. She complied, her face twisted in agony. He continued, "Yer all I need. Yer all I want. Aint nothin' more in my life than you. You got that?" Beth sobbed and tried to look down but he wouldn't let her. "I'm gettin' ya home to ya farm. We gonna have them babies ya want and I'm gonna marry ya right on the front porch. And I aint never lettin' ya go." His eyes were burning into her and she moved her face to the side of his barely controlling her sobs. He clutched her tightly and she pressed the side of her face into his. "Merle," she cried plaintively into his neck. She felt herself coming undone. "Let it out," he rasped and he held her as she shook and sobbed.

"I'm so sorry," she cried and Merle shushed her. "Let it out," he murmured. He stroked her back and kissed her head until she passed out from exhaustion.

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