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Lost Sheep - Ch. 16/??

Title: Lost Sheep
Characters: Beck, Heather and Others
Rating: PG
Chapters: 16/??
Disclaimer: No, still don't own Jericho. Just having a little fun - not profit. No characters were harmed in the creation of this fic, although their hearts may be breaking a little bit...  :(

Unbetaed. All mistakes are my own.

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They arrived at their destination in the early afternoon. They left the vehicles and followed a narrow animal path, carrying everything on their backs, although they took the time to stash most of the sacks of salts in a small niche before starting the hike to the caves. As they walked, Beck told Gregory Beck's true identity. Gregory nodded without much surprise.

They eventually came to the mouth of a long, narrow valley with a shallow river meandering through it. From the safety of the treeline, they stopped and surveyed the valley. They could see the cave dwellings in the cliff face to their right but there was no sign of movement.

Gregory frowned, looking around. "Something's wrong," he said quietly.

Beck and Heather looked at him sharply. "What do you mean?" Heather asked.

"I mean there're usually two sentries here, where the path comes out of the trees and you enter the valley. I mean you can usually see people bustling around. I mean you can usually see and hear children. I mean, there's something wrong."

Beck frowned. "Heather, stay here," he said, gently pulling her deeper into the treeline. "Stay out of sight." He handed her the gun that Hawkins had given them when they left Jericho. "This is how you take off the safety," he showed her, his eyes intent on hers. She nodded, her eyes wide, her face pale. "Only use it as a distraction; don't expect to actually hit anything you're aiming at. Do your best not to hit me, or Gregory, okay?" He looked at her, his eyes rueful. "I've told you once before that if I go down, you run. I'm telling you that again."

"I won't leave you," she said simply.

Beck sighed, closed his eyes and shook his head. "I know." He glanced over at Gregory. "Ready?"

Gregory nodded grimly.

With one last glance at Heather, Beck moved out with Gregory. They walked towards the dwellings with their guns in their hands. No gunshots rang out, but no one answered their calls, either. Heather crouched low in the trees, and shivered as she listened to the echo of their voices.

Gregory spoke quietly to Beck as they approached the dwellings. "There are twenty cave dwellings, and about four large habitable caves located behind the outer dwellings. If they're in the caves, they may not hear us."

They climbed to the dwellings, and Gregory showed him the location of the entrance to the caves. They kept calling for James, the leader of the settlement, but there was no answer. They quickly worked their way through each dwelling and the caves until Beck finally stood at the opening of the last dwelling and looked out onto the empty valley. He looked towards the trees where Heather was waiting for them.

"Now what?" he muttered in frustration.

Gregory shook his head. "I don't know."

They climbed down from cliff and walked back to where Heather was waiting for them.

They stood in the shadow of the trees and discussed the situation.

"Could they be anywhere close by? Further up the valley? Or in a side canyon?" Beck asked.

"Possible," Gregory conceded. "There's a maze of small canyons off this valley, about a dozen in all, but only three with water holes. If they're still in the area, then they'd most likely be in one of those three, or they'll be camped in a canyon that's close to the river or a water hole."

Heather turned to Beck. "We need to search as many of the canyons as we can," she told him earnestly. "Maybe they left a message or a sign about what happened, where they've gone."

Beck breathed deeply, trying to control his frustration and anger. So close, he thought, cursing viciously but silently. He nodded curtly. "You're right. We'll search the area as much as we can." He looked over at Gregory. "Do you think it's safe enough for us to stay here?"

Gregory shrugged. "I don't know. Three months ago, this was the only settlement for miles and I can't imagine that's changed. It's so isolated, I would be greatly surprised if anyone stumbled on it by accident, although it's possible."

Beck shook his head, baffled. "If they left because somebody attacked them, we should find signs of a battle, and I can't see any."

Gregory nodded. "I can't imagine they would have gone quietly, unless they were completely outnumbered."

"How many people knew about this place?" Beck asked, picking up his pack and leading the way back to the dwellings.

"Hard to say. I knew, of course. I led the first group here, after all, and others since then."

"Is that how the Becks got here?" Heather asked curiously. "You brought them?"

He nodded. "I was on the road when they left Antelope Wells. I ran into them at one of the other settlements shortly after that. They weren't happy at that settlement, and they told me about their need to be somewhat hidden, but not totally inaccessible. I dropped them off here on my way back to Antelope Wells."

"Did they..." Heather hesitated, shooting a quick look at Beck. "Did they think about going to Kansas and looking for Beck?"

Gregory nodded. "We discussed it. But we didn't know where in Kansas you were located or even if you were still there. We also didn't know how safe it would be for them to start asking questions about you or to try and get a message to you. I think if it had been only Simone and William, they would have headed for Kansas and taken their chances. But - "

"They had to think of Maggie." Beck said grimly.

"Yes. It was dangerous enough to still be going by their real names."

Heather nodded, and sighed with relief as she set down her pack in one of the dwellings. She looked around with interest. It was surprisingly spacious, with a door opening and crudely rectangular openings used as windows and a ledge along one side of the room. There was a depression in the corner next to one of the windows that had been used as a firepit. There was a spit set up over the firepit with a pot still hanging on it. Heather frowned as she looked at it.

"They must have left in a hurry," she said thoughtfully. The men looked at her questioningly. She nodded at the spit. "They left some stuff behind that they would likely need wherever they end up."

The men looked at the spit. Beck swallowed hard as he thought about her words.

"If they left in a hurry," Gregory said, "then they were taken away by force, or they were running."

Beck nodded. "But when? And where did they go?"

Gregory shook his head. "I wish I knew, Major. All I know is they were here three months ago. What's happened since..." He shrugged helplessly.

Beck sighed. "Will you spend the night?" he asked.

"I'll stay and help," Gregory said.

"Thank you," Beck said softly.

Gregory sighed. "It's not much. I wish I had some idea where they might have gone, but - I just don't know. They would have fought to stay here; this was going to be their home. At least for awhile."

They spent the next few days thoroughly searching the dwellings and the caves as well as scouting out the valley and the canyons that had water holes. In the debris left behind in the dwellings, they found three shovels, two frying pans, a knife, a plate and two and a half pairs of shoes - further evidence that the residents had left quickly. On the other hand, Heather pointed out, it indicated that whatever had happened, the residents had had time to pack what personal belongings they still had because nothing personal at all was left behind.

They searched as much as they could each day. But they found nothing. There was no sign of other people. No smoke, no noise, no movement - nothing. They decided to expand their search to the canyons that were closest to the river or the water holes.

Beck and Heather found the graveyard on the fourth day. In a small side canyon branching off from a larger canyon, were a dozen wooden crosses with a name and a date crudely carved into each one, all telling a silent story of loss and grief and love.

Heather walked slowly between the crosses on one side while Beck explored the other side, feeling her heart clench and hoping that they would not find what they were looking for. Not here.

She glanced over and saw Beck standing frozen at a pair of crosses, and her heart sank to her toes. She walked over and silently stood beside him. The name Simone Beck leapt out at her, the sun glinting off a silver locket draped around the cross. The grave next to Simone's bore the name William Wilder. The dates were the same - four weeks before.

"Beck - " Heather breathed, reaching out to him.

He shook his head sharply, slightly flinching away from her. He breathed deeply, absently rubbing his ring finger as he stared at the crosses. He slowly walked close then reached out and lifted the silver locket. He turned it over, read the inscription, and closed his eyes, pressing his lips tightly together.

Heather watched him, aching. She had been afraid of finding Simone, dreading what that meant for the future of Heather's relationship with Beck but this - this was not what she wanted.

"I'll...leave you alone," Heather said softly, again reaching out to touch him but pulling back at the last moment. "I'm going to find Gregory...we'll...we'll meet you back at the camp site," she added gently.

Beck nodded, not looking at her. She backed away, and then left him. She glanced back once. Beck was on his knees in front of Simone's grave, his head bowed, his shoulders slumped.

If Heather had any defenses left against him, they crumbled like dust at the vulnerability in his posture. She turned and continued on her way, her eyes blurred with tears.


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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
janiekins
Apr. 26th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
*Yeah* more fanfic but goodness, do you know how to drag out the urst!!! (G)

snowing? it's almost 90 today which is unheard of...

more please?
shirleyann66
Apr. 27th, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
{{Very big evil, evil grin}}

snowing? it's almost 90 today which is unheard of...

Yes, snowing...although it wasn't staying (which was the only consolation).

Summer (when it gets here) had better be HOT and SUNNY. That's all I can say... :(
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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