Title: Lost Sheep
Characters: Beck, Heather and Others
Disclaimer: No, still don't own Jericho. Just having a little fun - not profit. No characters were harmed in the creation of this fic, and even the fluffy plot bunnies felt safe enough to come out and play.
Unbetaed. All mistakes are my own.
The next two days passed in a haze for Heather. Beck's story disturbed her greatly. She had thought New Bern had been brutal; that Constantino had been a monster - but it had been nothing compared to what Beck's story implied - what it told her about life outside of her narrow world of Jericho and New Bern. She didn't know what to say to him, or even how to look at him.
She remembered his eyes after he had told her about life before the ASA, after he had told her about California. She hadn't wanted to take his hand - she hadn't wanted to touch him at all. At least not until she had had time to process what he had told her. To make sense of it.
But she had seen his face - a mixture of wariness and vulnerability and loneliness - expecting her rejection and resigned to it, and she couldn't bring herself to hurt him. So, she took his hand, and she hugged him and told him she was sorry. And she was sorry. She was sorry for him, for what he had had to face and the decisions he had had to make. She was sorry for the people he spoke about, for the suffering of the country. She was even sorry for her lack of knowledge and understanding of what he had seen and done before the ASA, before Jericho. But everything was jumbled in her head, and she needed time to sort things out for herself.
She told herself she wasn't deliberately trying to avoid him, but she admitted that she was relieved when she woke each morning to find that he had already left with the logging crew. She spent her days working hard at the ranch, which was still where their garage was located, thinking about what he had told her; thinking about all that he had seen and all that he had done before he came to Jericho.
Thinking about the things he didn't tell her.
On the second evening, Heather was sitting at Frankie's kitchen table, staring at nothing, worrying away at what Beck had told her and what Beck had done in Jericho and to Jake. She hadn't seen him at all for the last two days. She told herself she wasn't avoiding him - but it was harder to convince herself that he wasn't avoiding her. Especially when he was at Manny's each evening when she came back to Frankie's and she never saw him return to his tent.
She was startled out of her brooding when the door opened, and Frankie came in with Camilla and two other women Heather didn't know well as they were on logging detail and she seldom saw them. The four women were laughing - hard.
"What - ?" Heather asked, giving them a puzzled smile as they tumbled into the trailer and towards the kitchen.
"Just came from Manny's," Frankie said. "We were checking on the men - God knows you have to when Manny's cooking!" She shook her head ruefully as she rummaged through the kitchen cupboards, pulling out cups and glasses as the women pulled up chairs at the table. "It's degenerating into a boy's night out - Manny's starting to share stories of past conquests, and the others are pretending to believe him. They were just starting to share their own tall tales of loves won and lost when we left. I'm pretty sure the stories will be much raunchier now that delicate female ears have left the building."
Heather stared at them. "B...B...B...Sam, too?" she stammered, so surprised she almost let Beck's real name slip out.
"Well, Sam's listening," Frankie replied, placing beers on the table. Heather took a sip as Frankie made herself comfortable, "but with a rather skeptical - although utterly adorable - look on his face. You know, Heather, you really should just jump him already."
Heather choked on her beer as the other women laughed and hooted at the look on her face.
"He looked mighty fine in that bed," Frankie gave Heather a teasing look. Heather felt like her face was glowing; it certainly felt like her bruises were pulsing with colour like a strobe light.
"He looks mighty fine in the woods, too," one of the other women quipped. "I keep trying to lure him away from the others, but so far, no luck."
"What?!" Heather sputtered.
"Now, Heidi," Camilla said, "you'll be making Heather think that her Sam isn't working at all. Although, in case you haven't noticed," Camilla teased, turning her attention to Heather, "the man is hot. I'll bet he has a few past stories I'd love to hear."
"I don't care about his past stories," Heidi sighed, "I just wish I could be one of his future stories. But he's nothing but work, Heather, and nowhere to be found in the evenings."
"Oh, like Devon would let you flitter off that easily!" the other woman, Steph, laughed. "I, on the other hand, have been tempted to sneak into Sam's tent, just to see how well he can escape in that situation!"
"Oh, and your Gabe would like that!" Heidi shot back. Steph shrugged off the comment with an airy wave and a wink.
Heather relaxed as the banter continued, realizing that the women were simply teasing each other - and her - but there was no real intent behind the words. She was still disconcerted, however, and she wasn't sure if it was because she was listening to "girl talk" for the first time in months, or because the "girl talk" was about Beck. She couldn't have this conversation in Jericho...at least, not with her circle of friends. There he was Major Beck, remote and authoritative, cold and disciplined behind his uniform, and not a subject that her friends considered worth their time - even if the situation hadn't been complicated by Bonnie's death and Jake's imprisonment.
Although if they could see him now, they might think differently, she admitted to herself as she listened to the conversation flow around her. Out of uniform, he looked dark and dangerous and sexy as hell, she admitted to herself, and sometimes what was burning in his eyes when he looked at her knocked the breath right out of her.
She quickly closed off those thoughts and tuned back into the raucous conversation around her. Adrienne had come out of the back bedroom to join the women around the table while Heather had been distracted, and Heather realized the conversation had now turned to Camilla and Manny. For the last few weeks, Manny had been rather shyly, but with utter charm, "courting" Camilla. It was currently the hottest topic of conversation in Antelope Wells.
"How long are you going to let him chase you before you finally catch him?" Steph asked.
Camilla gave her a severe look. "The poor man isn't ready for me to catch him yet," she replied, trying to achieve a haughty look and failing miserably. She dissolved into a happy grin, and leaned forward. "As soon as I can get him alone in his trailer," she whispered, "he's in for a big surprise!"
"Or you are," Frankie quipped, and Heather couldn't remember the last time she had laughed that hard.
But that caused the conversation to turn to Frankie.
"What about you and Tomas?" Heidi asked. "He's always finding little extras, just for you."
For the first time since Heather had known Frankie, she saw Frankie blush. "It's payment for room and board," she replied with a smile and a shrug. "Sorry - nothing exciting there, I'm afraid."
"But you'd like something exciting to be there, wouldn't you?" Adrienne asked shrewdly.
Frankie laughed and shook her head. "Not right now," she replied, and steered the conversation back towards Heidi and Steph's relationships.
And so the evening progressed. Although Heather drank enough to relax, she didn't want to forget herself and inadvertently let Beck's identity slip out. She listened to the banter and the stories, but didn't participate much in the conversation. Just listening to the women around her soothed her soul, and distracted her from her thoughts about Beck and the story he had told her, and Heather basked in the sense of normalcy and acceptance that the situation evoked in her.
Much later, after the other women had left and Adrienne had drifted back to her bedroom, Frankie and Heather sat at the table, drinking one last beer in companionable silence before heading to bed as well.
After a few moments of silence, Frankie sighed and said, "What's going on, Heather? You've been...distracted ever since you guys went out of town." She tried to catch Heather's eye. "What's wrong?" she asked gently.
Heather avoided eye contact with Frankie, although she knew it was a lost cause. Frankie was nothing if not a master at getting people to share their secrets.
"You know resistance is futile," Frankie teased. "Beside, maybe I can help."
Heather blinked back a sudden rush of tears. She couldn't remember the last time she had heard a woman say that to her. Beck never asked if he could help; he just did it, and while she...liked him for it, she still had a fundamental need for female companionship and friendship and support.
"You may as well tell me," Frankie urged.
Heather sighed. "It's...it's complicated."
"What isn't, nowadays?" Frankie sighed. "Come on, tell me."
"He's done...terrible things, Frankie," she whispered.
"Because he wanted to, or because he had to?" Frankie calmly asked.
Heather glared at her. "Because he had to!" she snapped, her tone defensive. "He wouldn't - he's not - " she trailed off, surprised at the vehemence of her tone.
Frankie smiled at her. "Sam, I think, can be a ruthless and cold man. He will do what needs to be done, use whatever means necessary to achieve his objectives. But that doesn't mean he's cruel, or evil, or a monster."
"I never thought he was!" Heather protested.
"Then what's the problem?" Frankie asked.
"How..." Heather bit her lip, her eyes wide and swimming in tears, "how do you ever...move on from those things? How can he - "
"Do you pity him? Think he's something broken that can never be fixed?"
"No!" Heather buried her face in her hands. "I can't - my heart breaks for him, but I don't pity him. I don't think he's broken, or evil or a monster. I don't...I don't know what I think."
"Then don't. Don't think about it. Just feel."
"And if I can't put a name to what I feel - then what?"
Frankie drained her beer and stood up. "Then let it take care of itself," she said and headed for bed, calling a quiet good-night as she headed down the hall.
Heather slowly finished her beer and then headed for her own bed. As she changed into the boxers and t-shirt she slept in, she remembered the last few hours, and she couldn't help smiling. She couldn't remember the last time she had sat with a bunch of women and just...talked. About men, and life, about the past - and the future. All the things women talked about when they were together and there were no men around. As she remembered her conversation with Frankie, she realized that she also couldn't remember the last time she had received advice from a woman.
Her last thought, though, as she snuggled under the covers to ward off the evening chill, was of Beck - alone in the tent outside the door.
Whether it was a result of the girl talk, or the fact that she was a normal, healthy female who had to name a year for the last time she had sex, for the first time since they started this trip, she dreamt of Beck.
She startled awake in the pre-dawn, the dream so vivid she could actually feel the warmth of his hands, and the press of his lips against hers. She lay in bed, her eyes wide, her heart rapidly beating, her breathing shallow and quick. Her dreams about him in Jericho were never this vivid, but then again, he had never touched her in Jericho. She remembered the touch of his hands on her face after Vic had punched her; she remembered the feel of his arms around her as he hugged her to him, and the feel of his chest against her cheek. For a moment, she closed her eyes and savored the lingering effects of her dream before she resolutely opened her eyes and reminded herself that he was Beck, and, as she kept saying the night before, it was complicated.
She sighed and glanced at the clock, and realized there was no point in trying to get back to sleep. She was wide awake and she may as well get up and put the coffee on for the others.
She puttered in the kitchen, in her boxers and t-shirt, her feet shoved into a pair of borrowed fuzzy slippers. She felt...surreal. Somehow out of step - outside-of-time. Frankie and Adrienne would be stirring soon, and the day's work would begin again, but right now...it was just Heather and everything else felt suspended.
Heather sipped her coffee, savouring it, wanting to make it last, as she wandered to the livingroom window and looked out over Antelope Wells, including Beck's tent in the front yard. As she stood there, she saw Beck come out of the tent in his jeans and t-shirt, slowly straighten and stretch.
Perhaps it was the remnants of her dream, perhaps it was the lingering effects of the previous night's girl talk or the conversation with Frankie, but for the first time in months, Heather just...looked at him. She looked at him without the cloudy filter of all that had gone before and all she had learned, without the barrier of his uniform, or Jake, or any of the other things that always seemed to stand in the way.
She looked at him, and saw...just a man.
As she watched him stretching in the dusky half-light of the early morning, her coffee cooling, forgotten, in her hands, she allowed herself to see him through the eyes of the women from last night. She let herself see a good man who had done some very bad things for all the right reasons and felt herself softening towards him.
She half-smiled to herself as he finished stretching and stood, his hands on his hips, looking around as dawn began to break. She walked quickly to the door, and opened it.
"Hey," she said softly as he turned to look at her.
"Hey," he replied, nodding, his face wary, his eyes vulnerable.
"I've got coffee made," she said shyly, holding up her cup. "Would you like some?"
He stared at her for a long moment, then gave her a quirk of the lips. "Sure," he said, and followed her into the trailer.