Warnings : Spoilers for pretty much everything that's ever happened in the series may lie within. Since this was completed LONG before the comic was released, any similarity to the events in the comics is purely coincidental.
Disclaimer/Claimer: I do not own nor am I affiliated with Jericho or CBS or any of the other PTB in relation to the show (although if anybody has a Major Beck just kickin' around with nothing to do, looking lonely...send him my way!). No infringement is intended. I'm just taking the characters out to play, and will do my best to show them a very, VERY good time. ;)
A/N: For those of you who've read For God and Country and Heather Lisinski, this is going to seem like deja vu all over again :D . That's because this story was the very first one I wrote that was relatively complete (the ending still seems abrupt but I honestly can't think of another way to end it (then again, maybe it just needs a sequel...).
Where was I? Oh, yeah. This was the first one I wrote that was relatively complete and that I thought actually showed potential - that is, I enjoyed reading it almost as much as I'd enjoyed writing it. However, when I began to edit it (in my notebooks at the time which meant re-writing it completely), it quickly morphed into For God and Country and Heather Lisinski which turned out be darker and more complex than this one.
The Fortress was the first story I wrote where I read it and said, "you know...this is actually kinda good". This one was the first one I wrote where I read it and said, "this actually has potential..." I'm incredibly fond of this story for that reason alone if nothing else.
So...the following story has Half-naked!Beck, Interloper!Anita, Drunken!Heather and is really pretty crack-ish when it comes to characterization and situations. I hope you enjoy it anyway!! :D
PS - Faline, I kept thinking of you as I was editing this. I think you'll understand why.... ;D
The late summer sun beat down heavily on the heads of the people in the fields. They were harvesting the grain by hand, using scythes and an old thresher that had been restored. Beck and his men were the first wave, wielding the scythes in an orderly row. An equal number of women, mostly townspeople, followed behind, raking and loading the cut wheat into the threshing machine which they also pulled into place as they worked their way through the field.
The men were stripped to their waists and Heather found her eyes drawn again and again to Beck's strong, muscled back as he moved ahead of her, rhythmically swinging the scythe. Sweat gleamed on each muscle, making tracks through the dust that layered his torso with a fine covering of grit. Heather found the smooth interplay of his muscles mesmerizing, almost hypnotic and she found herself attempting to memorize every flex and flow.
She was working hard as well; harvesting by hand was backbreaking work, but there really was no choice. Even with the truce between the ASA, Texas and Columbus in effect, gas was still in limited supply and they couldn't afford to use it, not even for harvesting food, when they had no idea when the next shipment was coming in. More importantly, they needed the fuel to ensure the security of the area because even with the truce, Ravenwood was still around and just as dangerous as ever.
Harvesting by hand was going to take a lot of time and manpower, but it was the best solution to the problem of getting the crops off the fields. Heather tried not to let Beck's naked back distract her as she worked since they couldn't afford for even one person to fall behind. She was fascinated nonetheless and hoped he would be working in the fields with her until harvest was completed.
“That Major Beck is something else, isn't he?” a low, sultry voice said behind Heather.
Heather started and turned. It was Anita, in the water wagon. Anita was the former vice-president of the bank and a strikingly beautiful and elegant blonde. Even in the August heat, in the dust of the field, she looked beautiful and cool.
Heather stared at her, wondering how to answer and then realized Anita wasn't speaking to her but to the other woman on the water wagon.
“That he is,” the other woman answered, her tone appreciative. “Who knew that was what was hiding under those uniforms and that stoic face?”
“Let's see what else was hiding under there,” Anita said and clanged the bell to call people to the wagon.
The men ahead of Heather put down their scythes and walked to the water wagon. Heather hung back, suddenly shy at the sight of a half-naked Beck walking towards her wiping sweat from his forehead and giving her a quick half-smile when he met her eyes. She returned his smile with a bashful one of her own and then found herself watching him from the corner of her eye, admiring the grace with which he moved as well as taking in the well defined chest and abs. Heather felt rather faint and wondered if she was getting heat stroke before she realized it was just a hormone rush.
Heather gritted her teeth. She would not make the Jake-Mistake again, she vowed. She had a closer, friendlier relationship with Beck than she'd had with Jake at the time of their ill-fated kiss, and she enjoyed her job. More than that – she needed her job. It gave her purpose and focus. She couldn't – wouldn't - jeopardize either her friendship with Beck or her job just because she liked how he looked with his shirt off.
She watched as Beck smiled at Anita and her friend and thanked them for the water. Anita smiled flirtatiously back and gave Beck a second cup when he asked. Heather sighed, turned away and stretched her sore back muscles as she waited for the line to shorten before heading to the water wagon herself.
“Here,” Beck said, coming up beside her and offering her a cup of water.
Heather looked up, startled, and met his dark gaze that seemed both amused and wary. She reached out for the water. “Thank you,” she said diffidently and tried not to stare at Beck's bare chest gleaming with sweat. Heather decided she seriously needed to get a life if the sight of a half-naked man always sent her into a hormone-driven tizzy.
“Come on,” Beck said, gesturing towards where the others were sitting under a temporary tarpaulin shelter that had been set up to provide momentary relief from the hot Kansas sun, “let's get into the shade for a minute or two.” She nodded and fell into step beside him.
“How are you holding up?” he asked.
“I'm fine,” Heather replied quickly. “Exhausted, stiff and sore, but otherwise just fine.”
Beck gave her a half-smile. “It's only the first day. By the third day, you'll be numb.”
Heather flexed her fingers. “Even the blisters?” she joked.
Beck stopped in his tracks. “Let me see,” he commanded and frowned at the angry blisters forming on her hands. “I'll have the medic give you some salve and I'll have the supply sergeant find some work gloves for you.”
“Enough for everybody?” Heather asked drily.
“That's what I thought.” Heather shook her head. “No work gloves, but I would be grateful for salve or bandages or something like that so long as there's enough for everyone.”
Beck nodded reluctantly and they resumed their walk towards the others. Before they got to the tarpaulin, Heather saw Anita coming towards them, her eyes locked on Beck.
“Major Beck,” Anita called as she approached.
Beck frowned, concerned. “Anita,” he greeted coolly.
Anita smiled charmingly at him. “I was hoping to have a chance to chat with you on your break,” she said.
“Oh? Well, Captain Clark can help you with any official business that can't wait until harvest is completed. He'll consult with me if it's necessary.”
Anita shook her head. “Not official business,” she laughed and gave him a look from under her lashes, “just an opportunity to get to know each other.” She put a hand on Beck's arm and began to gently lead him away from Heather and the others. If Heather hadn't felt so forlorn, she would have laughed at the look on Beck's face.
“Know each other?” Beck echoed, and he sounded so flabbergasted Heather couldn't help the small bubble of laughter that escaped her.
“Outside of our respective roles as town guardian and banker,” Anita clarified with a meaningful look and a smooth stroke of her hand up his upper arm. “We've known each other for months and we've never actually...talked.”
Is that what the kids are calling it these days, Heather thought sourly even as she reluctantly admired the other woman's courage and technique in pursuing what she obviously wanted. It was perhaps a bit heavy-handed but there was no mistaking Anita's interest or her intentions.
“That's true,” Beck said briskly, stopping in his tracks. “Perhaps we can get together on our next break, but right now, I have things to discuss with Heather.” With a charming smile, he reached out and grasped Heather's bare arm as she was edging past him. Heather came to a halt, self-consciously aware she was hindering Anita's plans, but even more aware of the feel and heat of Beck's hand on her bare flesh. She was also dimly aware of the interested looks they were receiving from the others under the tarp.
Anita gave Heather a quickly assessing look then met Heather's eyes with a look that clearly dismissed her as a rival, which made Heather feel even more grimy and sweaty, her tank top already filthy and soaked with perspiration.
Heather burned with embarrassment as Anita turned her charming smile to Beck again. “I'll hold you to that,” she purred. “I'll find you at the next break.”
Beck nodded. “I look forward to it,” he said politely.
Heather and Beck watched Anita gracefully stroll back to the water wagon, flashing a flirtatious smile over one shapely shoulder.
“She's very beautiful,” Heather said helpfully after the silence between them went on a beat too long.
Beck turned his intense brown eyes towards Heather. “Yes, she is,” he agreed. “Now, I'm very rusty at this,” he continued, his tone neutral, “but do you think she was coming on to me?”
Heather gaped at him. “Are you serious?” she finally squeaked. “She did everything but throw you down and jump you right here!” Thankfully, she remembered to lower her voice.
Beck gave her a slow, masculine smile, his eyes never leaving hers. “That sounds intriguing,” he murmured.
Heather blinked at him, then raised her eyebrow and gave him a long assessing look, particularly at the well defined bare chest and shook her head sadly.
“What?” he asked, still smiling, but his eyes wide.
“Sounds intriguing except for the dirt, and stubble is bery painful.”
Beck leaned closer. “Depends on where and how it's used,” he murmured huskily in her ear. He straightened and grinned at her. “And now you're blushing.”
Heather glared at him haughtily, feeling her face burn. “What did you want to speak to me about?” she asked briskly.
Beck's grin widened and Heather blinked. He seemed so relaxed and open, and not just because he was half-naked.
“Nothing,” Beck admitted. “But I wasn't going to leave you standing here alone while I went off with her. Although if I had known she would have had her wicked way with me, right now, here in the stubble -”
“Oh!” Heather huffed and laughed at him. This was a totally different Beck to the cool, controlled Major she was used to. Heather didn't quite know how to react and she could feel hers attraction deepening. Useless, she thought with disgust, not to mention stupid.
After another ten minutes spent under the tarpaulin with the rest of the workers, engaging in a combination of idle chit chat and setting goals for the next few hours, they got back to work. Once again, Heather found herself sneaking peeks at Beck as much as possible, given her own tasks. She felt awash in her body's reaction to the sight of his bare back; his ass in his comfortable jeans; the smooth movement of his muscles under his gleaming skin. It was probably the most erotic and sensuous sight she had ever seen. After struggling with herself for several hours, Heather finally gave in and decided she may as well relax and enjoy herself. Harvest would be over soon enough and once it was done, she wasn't going to see Beck out of his shirt again any time soon. If ever. She had to get her cheap thrills while she could, Heather thought, and she might as well enjoy herself without guilt – she was only human after all. Besides, she was probably this fascinated only because she wasn't used to it yet. Once she was used to him working shirtless with her for hours and days on end, she probably wouldn't even notice anymore.
And she was pretty sure there was a bridge for sale in Brooklyn, too.
The water wagon returned about two hours later. Once again, Beck brought Heather a drink and she smiled shyly as she accepted it.
“Let me see your hands,” he ordered brusquely and he inspected first one, then the other, frowning fiercely. “Corporal Bernstein,” he barked. A young soldier shot up from where he had been sitting beside a young woman.
“Run back to Jericho and get the medic.” Beck glanced at the young woman the soldier had been sitting with. “Ask the medic to bring salve and gauze, or something else that can be used for bandages, to protect people's hands. We'll keep working as much as possible scything, but those who are threshing will stop until the medic has treated them.”
“Yes, sir,” the soldier said and started jogging in the direction of Jericho.
“Bernstein!” Beck called and the corporal paused and turned back to him. Beck glanced at the young woman and back at the corporal, raising an eyebrow. The corporal flushed, and then grinned and returned to the young woman. What he said was too quiet to overhear, but the young woman smiled at him and nodded.
Heather watched the interplay with interest, then turned her attention back to Beck, who was staring at her intently.
“I have to speak with Anita,” Beck murmured, his eyes never leaving hers. “I promised her.”
Heather nodded, her blue eyes clear. “I remember,” Heather said with a determinedly friendly grin. “She's a beautiful woman. You'll enjoy yourself and maybe it's the start of something new.”
Heather held onto her smile with an effort as Beck cocked his head and frowned at her. He opened his mouth but seemed to think twice before speaking. “Perhaps you're right,” he agreed mildly. “There's certainly the feel of something new in the air.” He glanced at the young woman who had been sitting with Corporal Bernstein and then smiled at Heather. “Enjoy your break.”
Heather nodded and watched him walk away. With an inward sigh, she smiled at the young woman Corporal Bernstein had left behind and went over to join her.
And so the days went by. Heather's hands grew callouses, her body adjusted to the work and her muscles stopped aching after several days. Beck working shirtless in the sun became a daily sight and it never failed to make Heather sigh inwardly with feminine appreciation. It seemed to inspire Anita as well, since she made a point of having at least one private conversation with him per day. Heather suspected Beck was secretly amused by Anita's attention even as he seemed to enjoy it.
Who wouldn't, Heather thought, wiping sweat from her forehead and leaving a smear of mud. Anita was beautiful and very obviously attracted to him. She was working hard, like everyone else, but Anita always managed to look cool and feminine no matter what she was doing. Even Emily got dirty once in awhile, Heather thought sourly, watching Anita laughing up at Beck. She looked away quickly when Beck glanced over at her. With a sigh, Heather finished the water Beck had, as usual, brought to her and then she carefully laid down on the ground.
They had finished the wheat and moved on to the corn so Heather was effectively hidden and in the shade when she laid down between the rows. Heather put her arm over her eyes and listened to the sound of birds and the murmur of voices as the people working in the fields chatted quietly about the progress of the harvest. There were sometimes the low masculine tones and feminine replies of couples sparking, to use her grandmother's old fashioned term. Heather smiled to herself at the sound.
Even in the midst of death, destruction and crisis, people fell in love and planned – or at least hoped – for a future. Perhaps in some ways it was a reaffirmation of life; for Heather, it was a symbol of hope. Hope for the future. Hope for a better world. And then she wondered why nobody seemed to want to spark with her and quickly pushed the thought aside.
“What are you thinking?”
Heather started and moved her arm from across her eyes to see Beck looking rather spectacularly masculine standing over her.
“Is it time to go back to work?” Heather blurted, sitting up.
“No, no,” Beck made soothing motions. “If you'll move over a bit, I'll sit down with you.”
Heather shifted over and Beck settled himself on the ground beside her.
“Where's Anita?” Heather heard herself ask, her arm back over her eyes.
“She had to go back to town,” Beck replied idly, his arm folded beneath his head.
“I'm sorry,” Heather said.
“Well -” Heather hesitated and then plunged on. “She's a very beautiful woman and obviously interested in you. This is a great opportunity to get to know her.”
Beck was silent for long moments staring idly up at the sky. “Yes,” he said slowly, “she is a beautiful woman and obviously interested.”
Heather continued. “And she's charming, intelligent and witty.”
“So she is,” Beck agreed. “You seem very anxious for me to like her. Do you think I should pursue her until she catches me?”
Heather turned her head, acutely aware of him lying beside her, his bare shoulders lightly brushing her own. Beck turned his head and looked at her, and she felt herself drowning in the warm brown depths of his eyes. Heather was again dimly aware of the sound of male and female voices around them.
“I think...” she said slowly, her gaze locked with his, “that everyone deserves a little human comfort, especially in the world we now live in. If you are attracted to her; if she makes you feel...something, if she makes you feel alive, then I think you should follow the road wherever it leads. Everyone deserves to be happy.”
Beck rolled onto his side and propped his head on his hand while he held her gaze for a long silent moment. “Heather -”
Whatever he was about to say was interrupted by the clanging bell, calling everyone back to work. Beck sighed and scrambled to his feet, as did Heather.
“Here,” she said, “you have clumps of dirt on your back,” and she brushed the dirt away, willing herself not to linger over the task. She noticed the shiver run through Beck's muscles. “I'm sorry,” she said, “did I tickle you?”
“No,” Beck said, and turned to her. “Turn around; let me see if you need to be brushed down.”
Heather turned and he brushed her down, and it was her turn to shiver. He put his hands on her shoulders and leaned forward, warm against her back “You give good advice, Heather,” he murmured into her ear. “I'm going to do my best to follow my particular road – wherever it may go. If the lady is willing.” He released her and moved back, and she turned to face him, frowning.
“The lady is obviously willing,” she said, puzzled.
Beck simply laughed, making her even more puzzled, then turned to lead the way back to where they had left off the harvest.