Title: The Fortress
Characters: Beck, Heather, OCs
Rating: PG? Probably not even that.
Disclaimer: Don't own Jericho...If I did, it would still be on the air; Beck would have had his shirt off at least once (or for most of the show), and Beck, Heather, Jake and Hawkins would have had at least one scene together. My TV would have exploded, but it soooo would have been worth it. I also don't own "I am a Rock" - that belongs to Simon & Garfunkel. I've only borrowed these creations, and I've returned them mostly unharmed. And if anyone can remember where the last line of my story comes from, I would be most grateful!
Unbetaed, all mistakes are my own.
A/N 1: I am completely new to LiveJournal, so any mistakes in etiquette are through ignorance, not intent. This is a long "chapter" so if it is more appropriate to split it up, just let me know. I'll figure it out as I go along!
A/N2: I am completely new to writing fanfiction as well. This is not the first story I've written for this couple, but this was the one that best suited my mood for the last couple of days. I have several light and fluffy pieces - if I ever find my notebooks again...and once I'm feeling light and fluffy enough to type them up and edit them.
A/N3: This story was inspired by the facts that, to my recollection, Beck was never out of uniform, and he never physically touched anyone. If I'm wrong just let me know (I don't have season 2 yet in order to double check, although I could rummage through my tapes (yes, tapes) to find out). Won't change the story, but good to know for future reference!
I am shielded in my armor.
Beck stood, fresh from his shower, a towel wrapped low around his waist, and stared blankly at his uniform, laid out ready for wear.
He couldn’t remember the last time he had worn something other than his uniform. And that bothered him.
He knew it was before his last deployment to Iraq, and it was with Lisa and Jilly – but what they had done…he couldn’t recall, and he was suddenly desperate to remember, to clearly see their faces, hear their voices, remember what it felt like to be with them.
But his mind remained stubbornly blank.
For the first time since the Attacks, he felt strangely reluctant to put on the uniform, to put on the mantle of Major Beck, to don the barrier that stood between him and the civilians he was responsible for protecting.
It was more than a symbol of his rank, and his job. It was a shield, something to set him apart from the civilians. If he lowered that barrier, it meant realizing they were human –no, it meant realizing he was human, and it would force him to acknowledge what he had lost. And what it meant to him.
So he put on the uniform and became Major Beck – apart and aloof.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
Beck watched Heather through his office window. She was dealing with a civilian who seemed quite unhappy about something. She eventually stood, and put a soothing hand on the man’s shoulder, and the man’s face crumpled as he began to cry. Beck watched as Heather soothed the man and walked with him to a place outside of Beck’s immediate line of sight.
Beck couldn’t remember the last time he touched someone.
Again, he knew it was before his last deployment to Iraq, knew it was Lisa and Jilly – but the specifics escaped him. Had he kissed some small hurt better for Jilly? He knew he hadn’t kissed Lisa – she had left months before. Had he hugged Jilly good-bye before they left for Santa Fe, and he left for Iraq? Had he been man enough to shake Rick’s hand, and ask him to take care of both his girls, even if Lisa wasn’t his anymore?
But his mind remained stubbornly blank, and he frowned as Heather and the civilian came back into his view, Heather’s arm supportively around the man’s shoulders, as she sat him down on a chair and then went around her desk to the computer.
Beck couldn’t remember the last time he touched someone. Except in his dreams.
I’ve built walls. A fortress deep and mighty.
He didn’t know when he started thinking of Heather as a woman as opposed to a coworker. He certainly hadn’t been consciously aware that he was watching her until one day he glanced up to see her bending over at her desk, and he found himself standing to get a better view of her sweetly rounded ass.
He sat down abruptly, appalled both by his leering and by this crack in the fortress he had built around himself. And he was ashamed to – even if only for a moment – think of Heather in any other way than that of a colleague, and a civilian under his protection. She was not a woman – not to him. He had a responsibility, a duty – honour-bound to both his role and his wife.
His dead ex-wife.
And Beck resolutely closed his mind to the voice that whispered that he was still alive, although you wouldn’t know it from his actions.
And he also resolutely closed his mind to any thoughts of Heather as a woman. As a person. When he found himself tracing the lines of her face with his eyes or appreciating the soft curve of her breasts, he would draw himself up short and usually send her away, or leave himself.
But each time, the crack in his fortress grew larger and others began to form.
I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died; if I never loved, I never would have cried.
Beck did not consider himself a fanciful man. He dealt in grim realities, in cold numbers and hard facts, in unyielding causes and effects.
But sometimes he thought he could see the remnants of the man he used to be, struggling to break free from the prison he himself had built.
The remnants of the man he used to be…
He knew he had played with his daughter, romping with her in the yard. He knew he would sleep with her on his chest when she was a baby, holding her close – and safe.
He knew he would book romantic trips with his wife, and make love to her for three days straight whenever he came back from deployment. Even after Jilly was born, he would send Jilly to her grandmother’s so he and Lisa could re-discover each other.
He knew he would entertain friends, barbecuing, laughing, joking, dancing. He knew he had done all that, and more. He had been a serious soldier but a happy man. At least until 9/11. Until Iraq.
But he couldn’t remember. He couldn’t remember how it felt to hold his daughter close. He couldn’t remember how his wife tasted, or what it felt like to laugh and joke; to sing or dance.
But sometimes, when he was fanciful, and thinking about those remnants trapped behind the fortress walls, he could hear his past self whispering that he remembered. He remembered everything – if Beck would just let the walls come down.
And if he let the walls down, the whisper would continue, the voice persuasive, he may find there was still a future, a future worth reaching towards.
Most of the time Beck turned away from that voice. Ignored it. Stopped it.
But every now and then, he would whisper back, saying that those remnants were all he had left, and he couldn’t take the chance that he could lose everything a second time.
And he would turn away from that voice, just as he would turn away from Heather’s puzzled eyes when she caught him watching her.
Don’t talk of love. But I’ve heard the words before. It’s sleeping in my memory.
Mary gave Beck a smile as he sat down at the bar for his usual lunch.
"Be with you in a sec, Major," she said as she took two plates to the two women in one of the booths by the windows. She spoke to them for several moments, and Beck glanced over as all three burst into loud and raucous laughter.
Mary was grinning and shaking her head as she came back to the bar. She put a cup of coffee in front of him, and gave him a cheeky grin. She leaned across the bar. "I’ve been asked to give you a message," she said, her voice low and amused.
Beck raised an eyebrow as he took a sip of his coffee. "Oh?" he replied.
"The two ladies in the booth would like you to know they’re both available for dancing, dinner and long walks in the moonlight."
Beck stared at her, feeling a dull flush creep up his cheeks. "Uh," he said, speechless for once in his life.
Mary laughed at his obvious embarrassment. "It’s okay," she said. "They know you’re a recent widower – they just wanted you to know that there are women in this town who are interested once you’re ready." Mary’s voice was kind.
Beck stared at her, his eyes cold, his face stoic. "What makes them think I’ll ever be ready?" he found himself asking, instead of the coldly harsh rejection he intended to say.
Mary gave him a warmly sympathetic look. "Because love, and sex, are the most fundamental affirmations of life – and in these times of great loss and death, we all need a human touch more than ever."
Beck’s expression didn’t change. Mary moved to touch his arm, then hesitated, and settled for putting her hand on the bar surface next to his arm.
"Nobody’s rushing you, Major," she said softly. "It was meant as a compliment. Both those ladies have lost their husbands since the Attacks, and they’re only just starting to notice the world around them."
Beck glanced at the two women, both of whom were busy eating and chatting. Neither were watching him, or at least not obviously watching him.
"Everyone needs to come back to the land of the living eventually," Mary said softly. She straightened up. "I’ll go see what’s taking your lunch so long."
Beck watched Mary leave, thoughtfully sipping his coffee. He glanced again at the two women, then stared at the shelves behind the bar, and thought about what Mary had said.
He could feel the remnants of the Edward Beck he used to be listening quietly at the growing cracks in the fortress walls he had built. And then the remnants whispered only one word: "Heather."
Beck closed his eyes, not wanting to acknowledge that voice, or that truth. He envied the women in the booth for being willing to continue living; willing to – perhaps – love, and possibly lose, again.
He wouldn’t do it. He wouldn’t take the chance. One dead wife – one dead child – was enough for him. Let the others keep working towards a personal future; he would keep working to make that future safe for them. Or as safe as possible.
And when they no longer needed him? What then?
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain, it’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
It was Heather who created the cracks in the walls surrounding the remnants of Edward Beck, but it was Hawkins who widened them. Hawkins, of all people.
Hawkins – superspy, black ops –the man who had walked away from his family for years, to answer a higher calling, a larger need – much like Beck, in Beck’s own way.
Except Hawkins risked it all to get to his family and get them to a safe place.
Over the months, Beck and Hawkins had forged – well, not a friendship. That would involve an emotional connection that Beck could not – would not – risk. But they had each established a mutual respect for the other’s skill, experience and mind. And they had had to learn to trust and help each other.
Hawkins was still searching for John Smith – without much hope at this point. But John Smith was planning to finish what he had started and Hawkins was sure all three presidencies (for lack of a better term) were targets. Beck helped where he could, but their reach and influence were still limited, and Texas could only help so much. They needed to get to Columbus. They needed information from east of the Mississippi, and they needed it while the truce with Cheyenne still held.
It was after a late-night strategy session, with Hawkins, Gray, Jake and the Rangers, and Heather, that Hawkins, watching Beck with those far-too-observant eyes, stayed behind after the others had left. Beck assumed it was to talk about John Smith. Instead, it was to talk about him.
"You’re losing focus," Hawkins told him, in his coolly factual way.
"I’ve been nothing but focused," Beck responded, puzzled.
"I’m not talking about the job, Beck. Or the mission."
"You’ve lost sight of why you’re doing the job, why you’re willing to sacrifice your life and the lives of your men for the mission."
"I’m doing it for my country."
"No. You’re doing it for the people of your country. The people of this town."
"Of course I’m doing it for the people," Beck snapped coldly.
"Are you? Do you know the people in this town? Or are they just some faceless, abstract concept? Something to rally around but you never actually face?"
"I face them every day."
"But you always face them from behind your rank and uniform. Do you know anyone other than your men?"
"Of course. I know you, Jake, Heather, Gray – "
"But you don’t know us. You’ve never sat down with any of us and had a drink. Have you ever set foot in Bailey’s for anything other than a quick meal?"
Hawkins leaned forward, his eyes intent on Beck’s, willing Beck to hear and understand his message.
"I know what it’s like to sacrifice everything for the job you do. I walked away from my wife – my children – because there was a greater good that needed to be served. But I never lost sight of why I was doing it, or who I was doing it for. You can’t lose sight of your humanity, Beck, and the basic human need to connect with other people."
Hawkins stared at him for a long moment.
"There are good people in this town, Beck. People who would be willing to let you make a home here. To welcome you at their dinner table, have a drink in celebration, comfort you in sorrow. Watch your back when you’re in danger, and save you when you’re in trouble. Defend you when no one else will. But you have to let them in. You have to become more than a...a symbol to them, just like they have to become more than a symbol to you. Otherwise..."
"You’re not going to survive the coming war. You’ll find a reason to sacrifice yourself for the greater good, without remembering that sometimes the greater good is the personal things in life, and those aren’t abstract symbols.
"It’s easy to find something worth dying for. The hard part is finding something worth living for."
"My family is gone," Beck said, his voice clipped.
"I know. And I’m sorry. But these people – these people are willing to be a new family. They won’t replace the ones you lost, but they will make the winters less dark, and the nights less lonely. And they’ll let you mourn. They understand, Beck."
"What do they understand? How can they understand?"
"Stanley raised Bonnie. She was as much daughter to him as sister. Mimi’s entire family – and all of her friends – were in Washington. Jake and Eric lost their father, and Eric lost his ex-wife and unborn child. Heather is all alone – no family at all left, or none she talks about. Emily – "
"I see the point," Beck said.
"Another reason to connect to the people around you. You’re not going through this alone. You’re not the only one."
"I know," Beck said softly.
Hawkins stood. "It’s sometimes too easy, in the work we do, to lose sight of our humanity." He paused. "I have had to kill people in cold blood, Beck. But I have never once taken a life without...feeling, I guess you could say. And if I lose sight – if I lose the connection – to why I do the things I do, well...then I’m just a cold-blooded murderer, no matter what my orders. And you?" Hawkins moved to the door.
"And me?" Beck asked.
"You’re just a dead man walking."
And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.
Heather created the cracks in Beck’s fortress he had built around the remnants of the man he used to be. Mary pushed against the foundation. Hawkins widened the cracks.
But it was Constantino who brought the walls down.
Heather had gone out with Dale and his men to inspect some machine parts and negotiate a price for them. If they failed here, Dale would need to send word through the black market, and he and his men needed to know exactly what was needed and how to inspect the parts before making a payment.
Beck hadn’t known about it. If he had, he would have advised them to take some of his men along. Constantino and his guerrillas had captured an ASA supply convoy, including artillery ammunition, and Constantino was again making threatening noises against Jericho. Even as experienced as Dale and his crew were extra help on the road was always useful. And Beck would have simply forbidden Heather to leave the confines of Jericho.
Constantino was a wild card, but Beck did not expect any direct attacks on Dale’s trucks. He failed to take into account Constantino’s hatred of Heather.
The first Beck knew that Constantino was on the offensive was a report from one of Beck’s men about a garbled distress call from Dale, using the short-wave radio Beck had given him to maintain contact with Jericho when he was out on his supply runs. And Beck only received the report after men had been dispatched to rescue Dale and his crew.
Beck was angry with Constantino for breaking the uneasy truce that existed between Jericho and New Bern. It was time, he thought grimly, to put an end to the threat Constantino posed once and for all. Constantino had his uses, Beck thought, but the cost was becoming too high. The occasional raids were annoying, but could be forgiven, but they were becoming frequent, and Dale and his crew were supposed to be off-limits.
Beck was furious, but controlled – as always. An hour later Beck’s men and Dale and his crew roared back into town. Beck happened to be on his way to Bailey’s for lunch when the vehicles came to a halt on main street.
Beck walked over, his pace quickening when he saw Heather get out of the back of Dale’s truck.
"What the hell?" he demanded, coming up to them, glaring at Heather.
"Oh, hi, Beck," Heather said, her eyes wide in her pale face.
"What the hell?" he repeated. "What were you doing on the road?"
Heather stared at him. "We were heading to the trading posts. We need –"
"I don’t give a damn what we need! It’s dangerous out there – why were you there?"
"Because there was nobody else! We need those machine parts; nobody else had the desire to go and put their lives at risk for the parts."
"Then you ask for my men to do it! Nobody leaves Jericho unless they’re able to protect themselves! Dale!"
Dale snapped around.
"Why did you take her with you?" Beck demanded.
Dale blinked at him, looking petulant. "Because she asked. And she knows what’s needed."
"It’s not the first time," Heather snapped.
Beck took a deep breath, trying to keep calm. He maintained control, but barely, and he didn’t want to think too deeply about why he was so angry. He noticed that Heather was cradling her right arm.
"You’re hurt?" he demanded.
She shook her head. "I hit my arm against the truck wall when we were getting away. It’s nothing."
"Get checked out. We’ll continue this conversation later."
Heather lifted her chin and glared at him defiantly. He scowled at her, then turned and walked away, feeling her eyes burning a hole in the back of his head. He refused to turn and look back, until a sound broke into his angry thoughts. It was the sound of incoming artillery. He stopped, then whirled around, and began to run towards Heather. "Incoming!" he yelled, but his men were already breaking for cover.
Beck felt like he was running through molasses; a nightmare come to life. Heather looked at him, her face terrified, as he yelled at her to take cover, but where? He gestured at her to run towards the sheriff’s office, only to realize she was running towards him – and then the world exploded as the artillery shell hit the middle of main street and knocked Beck off his feet, with the sight of Heather being blown off hers burned on his eyes.
Beck desperately clung to consciousness, his ears ringing, his whole body aching, as he painfully raised his head, desperately searching for Heather. He saw her crumpled figure on the street, and he struggled to his feet and staggered towards her. He was dimly aware of people streaming out of the buildings, helping his men, Dale, and Dale’s crew, but he only truly saw Heather.
He fell on his knees beside her sprawled and bloody body. He reached out a trembling hand, and touched her neck, gasping with relief when he felt a pulse – weak, but there. He bowed his head, shaking, not realizing he was saying "Please, God, please, God," over and over again. He looked up as his men came running up to him.
"Sir! Sir – let’s get her to the clinic."
He nodded. At this moment he was not Major Beck; he was not a soldier. He was simply a man, and the woman he loved was bleeding in his arms. She was alive, but for how long, he wondered.
"Sir!" Commander Clark said, shouting.
Beck nodded. "Yes," he said. "Get her to the clinic." He glanced at Clark. "Sitrep?" he asked, his voice choked and harsh, his throat aching with the effort to speak.
"Sir – we have everything under control. Go to the clinic with Heather. You need to get checked out as well."
Beck nodded, feeling dazed. His priorities – his world – had shrunk to the small brunette in front of him. He pressed his hand against the bleeding wound in her side, only relinquishing his place when his field medics arrived, although he kept a tight hold on her hand.
"Go with her, sir." Clark repeated. "We have things under control."
He nodded numbly, watching as the medics worked on Heather and the others injured by the attack. He used his sleeve to wipe sweat from his forehead and cheeks. If she died, he thought, if she died...but his mind shied away from finishing that thought as he followed her into the clinic, still holding tight to her hand. He was gently shoved out of the way by Gail Green as she assessed Heather’s injuries.
"Get Kenchy! Now!" she barked, and another nurse scurried off. She pulled out scissors to begin cutting away Heather’s clothes. "I have to ask you to leave, Major," she said, her voice cold, her eyes even colder.
"Wh...what’s the damage?" Beck asked, his voice sounding lost and vulnerable to his own ears.
Gail glanced at him, startled, but her face neutral. She had not forgotten what he had done to Jake.
He used his sleeve to again wipe the sweat from his cheeks and only then realized he was crying. His eyes were dark and vulnerable as he met Gail’s gaze, his hands covered in blood, his face and uniform dirty and blood spattered. Gail stared at him. His heart was in his eyes, the feelings so intensely vivid that Gail had to look away.
"We’ll have to wait for Kenchy," she said, her voice not quite as cold as before. "You need to be checked as well, Major."
He glanced down. "The blood isn’t mine," he whispered, his voice choked.
"Please – sit down over there, Major," Gail said, her voice kind. "We’ll let you know as soon as we know something."
He nodded, numb, and he went to the lobby where his medic was standing.
"Sitrep?" Beck asked, looking around the clinic.
"All of our men have minor injuries, sir. Dale and his men are the same. Heather – " they turned to look to where Kenchy was now bending over her.
Kenchy straightened. "Surgery – now!" he barked. He glanced at Beck. "Who can make decisions for this girl?" he asked.
Beck stared at him, then shook his head. "I don’t know," he said.
"We can’t wait," Kenchy said. "We’re taking her into surgery immediately. Find out who’s next of kin."
Beck stared at him, trying to make sense of what he was hearing. "Are you suggesting – " he began.
"I’m not suggesting anything," Kenchy said, reassuringly. "It’s precautionary. She has shrapnel in her side; with any luck, we’ll have her out of surgery in no time. But her family needs to be told."
Beck nodded. "I don’t think she has any, but if she does, we’ll find them," he said.
Heather, they confirmed from her personnel file in Beck’s office, had no family. After equally fruitless conversations with Emily and Jake, and hours later, Beck found himself beside Heather’s bed in the clinic waiting for her to regain consciousness. She had come through the surgery with flying colours, and now, all he wanted was to see her open her eyes before he was forced to leave her again.
He dozed off, scrunched in the chair, and began to dream. He saw again Heather crumpled on the ground, but as he ran towards her, he could see Lisa and Jilly standing to the side, their eyes sad and accusing.
"I’m sorry," he said. "I wasn’t here."
Sadly shaking their heads, they turned and walked away, as Beck reached out to them. Then he turned and looked towards Heather, to find her standing, watching him; shaking her head as well.
"You couldn’t protect them. You couldn’t protect me." And she, too, turned away, and Beck knew he had lost her, too.
He jerked awake, breathing harshly, staring wildly around him. Heather was there, breathing quietly, and his panic subsided.
His walls were well and truly gone, he thought ruefully, watching Heather sleep. And the remnants of the Edward Beck he used to be were exposed, cold and shivering, in the harsh world – the harsh Beck he had become. But he couldn’t pretend he didn’t love Heather anymore, at least to himself. He would never let her know – she didn’t think of him like that, after all, and never would. But so long as she was alive, he could accept that. And he could gladly dance at her wedding, so long as she was happy.
But the fortress he had built was gone, so much rubble at his feet, and he had to learn to live with the exposed and bloody remnants of his former self. Somehow.
Sitting in a darkened hospital room, watching Heather sleep, Beck thought that learning how to assimilate the old and the new was going to be an even greater battle than the one he needed to fight against the ASA and Constantino. And to do it all without letting Heather know what he felt.
He sighed, adjusted his position and tried to get some sleep.
And the world turned towards morning.