Characters: Beck, Heather and Others
Disclaimer: No, still don't own Jericho. I see they're going to be doing a comic book continuation (or graphic novel - I haven't read the article yet). That makes me both happy and worried (don't do anything to Beck!!). Oh, I of little faith! Anyway, just having a little fun - not profit. No characters or fluffy plot bunnies were harmed in the creation of this fic. Non-fluffy plot bunnies, on the other hand, are on their own. ;)
Unbetaed. All mistakes are my own.
Tomas, Heather saw when he and his men arrived, was tall, dark and handsome, an expatriated American in his late thirties, a flirt and a charmer, with the cocksure personality and self-confidence of an action movie hero. Heather wondered how much of it was truly him, and how much of it was a persona he had created to survive in this new world. His brown eyes were intelligent and shrewd and saw much more than he shared, and when he saw Heather, he approached her with a charming grin and compliments that didn't fool her for a moment, even as she found herself alternating between laughing and preening at his extravagant praise.
Beck pegged him just as quickly as Heather had, but that didn't stop him from gritting his teeth as he watched Tomas charming Heather. When Tomas finally turned his attention to Beck, Tomas gave a rueful grin at the expression on Beck's face, but he was open and friendly with Beck. Unfotunately, he didn't have any information to add about Beck's family, but he promised to see what, if anything, he could find during his circuit to the north.
Tomas' circuit was short - he generally took two weeks to go from his home in Mexico to his stops in New Mexico then back to his home, where he spent at least a week. He usually spent a couple of days at each stop, and at least four days in Antelope Wells. Sometimes he took longer, sometimes shorter. This trip to the north was going to be faster than normal, and that night, at a town meeting held in the town square, Manny and Frankie laid out the reasons why he would be returning sooner than normal, and their plans for the next few weeks.
They were ready to build, to create more permanent buildings than the tents, and they used the meeting to lay out their plans to the town and to start to coordinate the work force.
"Tomas will be bringing refined lumber from the north, " Manny said. "We will also be logging in the mountains to the west. We've scouted the area, and we've found no sign of settlements in the area. We should be able to harvest logs and bring them back to town without fear of ambush, but we'll be working with Booker to ensure we have a guard detail at all times. At this point, we're hoping to build at least ten houses."
"They're not going to be much," Frankie warned, "but they'll be better than the tents. If we build them right, they won't blow away in the first big windstorm of the year. We'll get started immediately, but we won't get into high gear until Tomas returns. He and his men have agreed to stop on their way back and help by taking over guard duty on the roadblock and at the ranch, so we can focus on the harvesting of logs and the building. That means if all goes well, we'll have the ten houses built in the next three weeks."
For a moment as the crowd cheered and applauded, Heather couldn't help feeling awed by the resilience of the people in the square. These people were creating a new home for themselves from basically nothing, with no ties to this place and these people other than the ones they chose to claim. They had lost everything, and were creating a new home and a new family, even those who were far too young to be making those types of decisions on their own. It was inspiring, and gave Heather hope that they would all survive what had happened, as well as the war that was still to come.
The next day, Beck was with Booker on the roadblock when a new group of four refugees arrived, three men and a woman. Beck and Booker shrewdly assessed the group and knew they had a potential problem. The woman was young, in her early twenties, blonde, slender and from the way she cringed when the leader of the group put his hand on her shoulder, they knew she wasn't happy to be travelling with those men.
Booker confiscated the weapons the group was carrying, and sent them down the road to the town. He then radioed to let Frankie and Manny know that a group was coming and it appeared the woman was a captive.
By the time Beck and Booker arrived back in town that night, Adrienne was bunking at Frankie's trailer, while the men were at Manny's, and Beck no longer had a place to sleep.
"I want you to stay in the trailer with us," Frankie explained, "but until we know for sure what's happened to Adrienne, it's best if we have only women sleeping here."
Beck nodded. "Makes sense. I have a tent; where should I pitch it?"
"How about right outside the door?" Frankie suggested. "That way you're still close by if anything should happen." She frowned as she watched the men who had arrived with Adrienne - Vic, Frank and George - walking around the town. "They don't strike me as the types to let go very easily," she added.
When Heather returned from the ranch that night, she discovered a tent in the front yard of Frankie's trailer, a fragile blonde in the third bedroom and Beck eating supper at Manny's. She understood the reasoning, but she still felt uneasy about the arrangements.
Beck knew he was in trouble when he returned from Manny's to find Heather sitting with Frankie on the steps to the trailer, enjoying the cool of the evening after the heat of the day. He didn't quite know why Heather looked unhappy; he hadn't even seen her that day since he had been up and gone before the women had been awake.
Beck looked at the determined set of Heather's chin and turned to Frankie. "Anyplace we can go to fight in private?" he asked.
Frankie laughed. "Sorry - you're on your own there! Just try to keep your voices down - you don't want to scare the neighbours."
"We're not going to be yelling," Heather protested.
Frankie only laughed again and went into the trailer, leaving them alone.
Beck sighed and glanced around. "I guess we should go into the tent. It's not much privacy, but at least it's something."
The tent was small with barely enough room for two people. Neither Beck nor Heather could stand fully upright in it. Beck lit the camping lantern and then turned back to Heather. He sat down on the sleeping bags he had placed in the tent earlier, and invited her to do the same.
"You look pretty pissed - what's the problem?" he asked, leaning back on his hands and cocking his head to one side as he observed her. Heather marvelled that he was still able to have the air of calm command about him, even when sitting on the ground in a too-small tent, his legs stretched out in front of him. She tried not to notice the length of his denim clad legs as he stretched out in front of her.
Instead, she gave him a mock glare, but let his comment pass without a challenge. They really didn't have much privacy, she thought, as a group of people walked by, their voices carrying clearly to where they were sitting.
"I'm not too happy that you're camping out in front of Frankie's by yourself," she said.
"Well, it makes sense. Adrienne needs a safe place to stay, and a man in the place is likely going to cause more problems than it solves."
Heather looked mutinous. "I don't care," she replied. "We're supposed to be looking out for each other. How can I do that if you're out here and I'm in there?"
Beck quirked his lips. "Do you want to bunk out here with me?" He cast a speaking glance around the tent. "Pretty close quarters," he added, his voice smooth, his eyes dark and amused.
Heather glanced around, met his eyes and flushed. "Well..." she said, shifting uncomfortably, but without a ready response.
"I'm just outside the door," Beck said, his voice soothing. "I don't expect I'll be attacked in my sleep." He paused, then added, his voice very deliberate, his gaze steady on hers, "I'm not going to leave without you."
Heather stared at him, her eyes wide and surprised. "That...that's not - "
"Yeah, it is. You think I'll get a lead on Simone and Maggie's location, and I'll leave you here while I go find them. You don't trust me to take you with me."
"Well, I did until now!" Heather blurted.
Beck gave a short huff that was almost a chuckle. "Sorry for putting that thought into your head, then," he said, his eyes warm and amused.
Heather blinked at him, then reluctantly smiled. "That wasn't it, you know," she said quietly.
"No?" he asked, and cocked his head. "Then what was it?"
"I had hoped to be able to talk with you - in private - about..." Heather hesitated, and looked behind her as another group walked by. She turned and met Beck's gaze, raising her eyebrows.
"About...William?" he guessed.
"Among other things," she agreed. "There are a lot of things I still don't understand. About you and your actions, your reasoning," she clarified when he frowned. "And I'd like you to explain things to me." She shrugged at his skeptical look. "I'd like you to explain yourself."
Beck shifted to a more comfortable position and watched her carefully. "If I agree," he said slowly, "can we call a truce? Just for the duration of this trip? You can go back to hating my guts when we get back to...when we get back."
She cocked her head and leaned back on her hands in turn. "Will you promise to answer any question I ask you?"
"If I can," Beck nodded. "Or else I'll tell you it's none of your business," he added with a quirk of his lips.
Heather gave him another reluctant smile. "Okay," she said, "we have a truce." She leaned forward and held out her hand. Beck slowly leaned forward, took her hand and shook it. "This doesn't mean I'm not going to yell at you when we do find a place to talk," she warned.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Beck replied solemnly, with a gleam of amusement in his eyes.
"Okay, then. I'll...let you get to sleep," she said, and he watched as she nodded awkwardly and made her exit from the tent.
He was startled when she immediately poked her head back through the flap.
"For the record," she said shyly, "I've never hated your guts." And then she was gone.
He stared at the tent opening, bemused, before he shook his head, chuffed out another chuckle and started getting ready for sleep. That was definitely not what he had expected when he had seen her waiting for him. Even if he had to answer her questions, being at peace with her - and knowing she didn't hate him - was worth whatever questions he had to answer. Well, almost.
As Beck got ready for bed, he resolutely turned his mind from Heather to thoughts of the next day.
He had talked to all the people who worked with Booker and all he had managed to discover was confirmation that Simone, Maggie and William had left with a group headed deeper into New Mexico - but no one knew where. The group probably hadn't known themselves which way they were headed or where they would end up.
Beck was scheduled to be on the roadblock for one more day, and then he was being moved to guard the building effort, and that was likely where he would stay until Gregory returned. He would continue to advise Booker, but during down time rather than while they were on guard duty together. He was also helping Booker with his Spanish.
Being moved to the building effort would allow Beck to talk to people he hadn't yet had a chance to meet. His mission had already filtered through the town, though, and people were coming up to him on their own to tell him they had known Simone or Maggie or William, but the stories were all the same. They had been in Antelope Wells; they had left, and nobody knew where.
Tomas might find something out in the next week or so while he was delivering supplies, but Beck had reluctantly reconciled himself to the fact that he needed to wait for Gregory to return from his hunting trip. Which meant that he and Heather were in Antelope Wells for another three to four weeks. With a resigned sigh, he rolled himself into his sleeping bags and waited for sleep.
The next day was routine. Tomas was at the roadblock with Beck and Booker, discussing what supplies the defenders needed and what was available to traded for those supplies. There was also the possibility that some of Booker's people could go with Tomas to provide protection as he travelled throughout New Mexico, and perhaps trade their knowledge and skills for supplies for Antelope Wells.
While Tomas was there, Frankie called on the short-range radio and spoke to Booker for some time.
"Frankie and Heather have managed to get the story out of Adrienne," Booker informed the other two when he returned. "Adrienne had joined Vic, Frank and George willingly. Like Frankie, she traded sex - to Vic - for transportation, but things haven't quite gone the way she expected. Vic's starting to get violent with her, and Frank and George are starting to circle around. She made the deal with Vic, not the other two. Anyway, she wants to stay here, at least until Vic and the others are gone."
"I've seen men like him before," Tomas warned. "He won't leave her behind without a fight."
Beck nodded. He'd seen men like him before, too.
"I know," Booker sighed. "We'll be escorting them out of town today. Frankie's a bit worried about it; she's left Heather with Adrienne for now. She'd like us - " he gestured to Tomas and Beck "to get back ASAP so we can be there when she breaks the news that Adrienne is staying here, and they're no longer welcome."
A car came up to the roadblock as Booker spoke. The car was a group from a town down the road, hoping to trade some vegetables for some meat. After exchanging news with the people in the car, people Booker had met before, Booker sent them on to the ranch. The three men then hopped into Tomas' truck and headed into town and went to the customs office.
"Thank God you guys have arrived," the young girl behind the counter said when they walked in, her eyes worried. "Vic and his two friends were in here about an hour ago, and they argued pretty loudly with Frankie when they found out that Adrienne didn't want to rejoin them. Frankie headed over to her trailer to check on Heather and Adrienne, but that was almost half an hour ago. Manny's out getting logs from the mountains along with practically everybody else, and I don't know where Vic and the others are. I was just about to go over there to check, but I'm really glad you guys are here."
The three men exchanged glances, thanked and reassured the girl, and headed to Frankie's.
Beck led the way to the trailer, and found the door locked. He glanced at the others, and with a nod, Tomas and Booker stood back as Beck kicked the door in. They piled into the trailer, and with a glance, they saw Frankie punching George and Heather pushing Frank away from Adrienne, only to have Vic's fist connect with Heather's face, knocking her down.
Beck's vision went red and he rushed across the room, grabbing Vic by the shoulder, spinning him around, and slamming his fist into Vic's face. Vic went down, and Beck pulled him back to his feet and punched him again. Vic hit the floor like a sack of bricks, out cold, and Beck glanced towards Tomas and Frankie, who had George down on the floor, and Booker, who had Frank under control.
Beck turned his attention to Heather, sitting in an untidy heap on the livingroom floor, her hand holding her face, livid bruises already forming on her cheek and around her eye. She stared at Beck with furious, tear-filled eyes as he crouched beside her, gently urging her hand down so he could assess the damage Vic had inflicted.
"I'm okay," she snapped, angry and chagrined and embarrassed all at the same time. She glanced at Adrienne who was sobbing on Frankie's shoulder while Tomas and Booker tied the three men's hands behind their backs.
"Let me determine that," Beck replied as he gently probed the bruises.
"I thought the other one was more of an immediate threat, but I guess I should have hit him first," Heather muttered, wincing away from Beck's fingers.
"Stop squirming," Beck commanded as he continued to examine her.
"Well, it hurts!"
"Oh, stop being such a baby," he muttered, and his lips quirked as she huffed angrily. But she stopped squirming. "I think you'll live," Beck said finally, meeting her eyes, his own dark and deep with some indefinable emotion lurking in their depths. Heather was suddenly very conscious of Beck's hands on her face, warm and calloused and soothing while at the same time sending bright electric shocks shivering through her.
He slowly dropped his hands from her face, then stood, pulled her to her feet, and placed his hands on her shoulders. She stared at him, her eyes wide and vulnerable, her skin pale beneath the forming bruises. He wrapped his arms around her, carefully pressing the uninjured side of her face against his chest, his hand tangled gently in her hair. He rocked her for a moment as she hesitated then relaxed against him, allowing him to comfort her, and she tried not to think how good it felt to be pressed against him.
"If you're going to insist on defending people," he sighed, "I'm going to have to train you in the art of self-defence."
She reluctantly smiled against his chest, listening to the sound of his rapid heartbeat. "I'd appreciate it," she replied, her voice muffled. In spite of the pain in her head and the humiliation of being punched by a guy like Vic, she felt...she felt...at peace.
With a small squeeze, Beck slowly released her, hoping she didn't notice his reluctance to let her go. He gave her a reassuring look, and then they turned to the others. The three men were tied up and sitting on the floor, and Adrienne had stopped sobbing, although she still looked frightened.
"Go clean up," Frankie urged Adrienne, speaking gently. "If you're not up to it, just go to bed, and I'll check on you in a bit."
Adrienne nodded, and shuffled away, glancing back at Vic and the others with a frightened look.
Tomas and Booker took the three men to the customs office, where they were locked in a storage room that was used as a makeshift jail cell when necessary. When they returned, Heather was holding a towel filled with ice against her face and Frankie, Beck and Heather were discussing next steps.
"Take them far enough out of town that they won't come back," Beck told Booker, his face grim. "Give them some supplies, and leave weapons about a mile or so away from them. Make sure they understand that if they come back, they won't be allowed past the roadblock."
Frankie opened her mouth to protest, then frowned and subsided.
"I'm sorry, Frankie - but you can't give them a second chance in this case. They were going to force Adrienne to go with them, weren't they? Try to head across the border with her?"
Frankie hesitated. "Yeah, that was their plan," she agreed. "I know you're right, Sam. It just...it just feels wrong. Even now."
Beck nodded. "I know. But it's the only way."
Booker and Tomas nodded, and headed out to escort the three men out of town.
After they had left, Frankie glanced in the direction of Adrienne's bedroom, then looked at Beck. "Do you think they'll stay gone?" she asked in a low voice.
Beck stared back at her for a long moment. "No."
Frankie sighed and nodded. "Didn't think so."