Characters: Beck, Heather and Others
Disclaimer: No, still don't own Jericho. Just having a little fun - not profit. No characters or fluffy plot bunnies were harmed in the creation of this fic.
Unbetaed. All mistakes are my own.
The next day passed mostly in silence; Beck because he was still angry that Heather had tagged along with him, and Heather because she was still trying to decide if she believed what he had told her the night before.
If he was honest, Beck also felt a little guilty that he had been so harsh with Heather the night before. As much as her blind loyalty to Jake and Jericho might drive him crazy, he didn’t want to do anything to deliberately destroy that core of sweet naivete that was so disarming, not to mention charming. That sweetness was something precious in a brutal world, and he should be protecting it, not bruising it.
Not that that stopped him from arguing with her, he acknowledged ruefully, although they had been almost painfully polite to each other for the last little while. He was almost glad they had had the confrontation the previous night; it was the most emotion she’d shown him in three months.
They had left the safehouse early in the morning after filling the car's gas tank from the stockpile that was kept at the safe house and putting as many extra cans of gasoline as they could find and safely hold into the car. Beck wanted to get to Antelope Wells as quickly as possible; whether they would be able to find gas to get back to Jericho was anybody’s guess.
They left Kansas and made it through Oklahoma and into New Mexico without incident. They were avoiding the main roads and the major cities, and so were taking a less direct route to Antelope Wells. They found that the roads were clear, with no traffic, and the few towns they passed were deserted. Now, after about eight hours of travel, they came to Lovington, and Heather and Beck saw a road block on the outskirts of town. It was the first sign of life they had seen in the New Mexico countryside.
They approached the roadblock cautiously, acutely aware that not only did they have extra gasoline in the car, but also salt. They would be a tempting target if the men behind the roadblock decided to open the trunk or examine the contents of the back seat.
Beck slanted a glance at Heather, then turned his attention back to the upcoming roadblock. He had been riding shotgun all day after Heather had admitted that morning – reluctantly – that she didn’t know how to shoot a gun, and Beck admitted he didn’t have time to teach her. He sincerely hoped she was as good a driver as she claimed, because if this group was hostile, it may be the only thing that could save them.
Heather and Beck were careful to keep their hands in plain sight as two men approached the car.
"Where you headed?" asked the man beside Heather's window.
"South," Beck replied politely.
The man chuckled. "Any place in particular? Or do you have somebody after you?"
Beck gave the quirk of his lips that passed for a smile. "Sorry," he said. "Too used to being cautious. No, no place in particular. We want to escape the winter before it gets here. Hoping to find a place that will take us in."
"Good luck," the man replied. "Maybe it'll be easier farther south, but there's no place around here. We're barely making it as it is."
Beck nodded. "We're just passing through. Do you have any gas to spare?"
"Latest shipment from the ASA just came through, but we barely have enough for ourselves. Sorry."
"Okay. Would there be a place to stay? We have some supplies, so we wouldn't need food. And we have some salt to trade, for a bed and any supplies we can get."
Heather glanced over at Beck, but his expression gave nothing away.
"There's a hotel in town - you can try there. We're pretty stable here, and we intend to keep it that way." There was a warning tone in his voice.
Beck nodded again. "We'll be on our way in the morning."
The man nodded and stepped away from the car. "Ask for Mona. Tell her Harry said you were okay."
Beck and Heather nodded, and were silent as they moved past the roadblock and towards the town, which was much smaller than Jericho. They found the hotel without incident, and Mona only nodded disinterestedly when they introduced themselves as Sam and Heather, and gave her Harry's message. She was wary but not unfriendly and asked for any news about the rest of the country.
"Oh, we have TV," she said, "but sometimes I want to know what else is happening. We never really hear anything about what's happening in the east." She paused, and glanced away. "I have family in Florida. It would be...good...to know."
Beck and Heather couldn't give her much, and they turned in early. They shared a bedroom but Beck insisted that Heather sleep while he stood watch over the car and her.
"I can sleep while you drive tomorrow," he said simply, "and you can wake me if you see anything suspicious."
Heather was uncomfortable with sleeping while he was awake, but she couldn't disagree with his argument. She was surprised at how easily she fell asleep with him sitting vigil at the window.
They left early in the morning, with the goal of reaching Antelope Wells that evening. Beck slept peacefully in the passenger seat for the first three hours, and then woke when Heather slowed the car and pulled over to add gas. They worked in silence and were soon on their way again.
After another hour of silence, with Beck watching their surroundings and trying not to brood, he finally said, his voice carefully neutral, "We should make contact with Jericho before we get to Antelope Wells."
Heather nodded. "I'll try phoning in a couple of hours. Have you thought about how we're going to get home?"
Home. Beck gritted his teeth at the word. Jericho wasn't his home. But it was his sanctuary - and his best hope for safety for his family. He winced slightly at that word as well...and finally reminded himself that Simone was his ex-wife. He wondered if William had also survived those first days after the Attacks, and if he was with Simone and Maggie, protecting and caring for them the way Beck should have been.
Even though they had been separated for almost a year, Beck had only agreed to the divorce before his last deployment six months before the Attacks. He had agreed to it for Maggie's sake. Ten-year-old Maggie, far too mature for her age. Too aware of the problems in her parents' lives.
Simone had cried so hard when she told him about William, Beck remembered. Looking back, he wasn't sure what had surprised him more - the actual ending of their marriage, or the fact that Simone - sweet, fragile Simone; shy, inhibited Simone - had left him for another man. With whom, presumably, she had sex.
Beck had to admit that William was more Simone's style. He was friendly and gentle, handsome in a boy-next-door kind of way, his blue eyes kind, even if afraid whenever they met. And William treated Maggie well, from what Maggie told Beck.
Maybe he still had some kindness left, Beck thought ruefully. He sincerely hoped William was still alive. Too much death, too much loss and for his ex-wife's and daughter's sakes, hell, for William's sake, he wanted to find them all alive and well, and get them to Jericho.
Jericho was not his home, and Jake might hate his guts, but he would protect the innocent. Even if they were connected to Beck.
"Have you thought about how we're going to get home?" she repeated, wondering what was going through Beck's head to cause that thunderous look on his face.
"If we find them in Antelope Wells, then we'll head to Texas - we may have to walk, but that would get us into allied territory in the shortest amount of time. I have some contacts, and we should be able to find and tag along with some black market trucks once we're there."
"Why can't we just ask one of your contacts to come get us?"
"Texas can't be seen to be helping us," Beck replied absently, his mind still occupied by thoughts of what he might find at journey's end.
"What do you mean?" Heather asked.
Beck blinked at her. "Sorry?" he asked.
"That Texas can't be seen to be helping us? What - "
"It's part of the truce. The ASA will leave Jericho and New Bern as a neutral zone, but we're on our own. Officially, Texas can't help us. Unofficially - well, the black market operates everywhere."
"So, if Texas can't help us, why doesn't the ASA simply attack us?"
"If the ASA attacks, Texas attacks. And the war is on."
Heather frowned. "So, they will retaliate if we're attacked, but they can't help us survive?" Beck nodded. "I suppose Texas agreed to that because of Jake and Hawkins. Because of what they did?"
It was the slight hesitation that gave Beck away. His "yes" was just a split second off.
Heather stared hard at his profile as he stared out the windshield. He glanced over at her when the silence continued too long.
He frowned at her expression. "What?" he asked. "And keep your eyes on the road."
Heather obediently turned her attention back to the road even as she said, "Texas didn't make that deal for Jake and Hawkins, did they?"
"Sure they did," Beck shrugged.
"Okay, let me rephrase. Texas didn't agree only because of Jake and Hawkins."
Beck was silent.
"Beck? Silence is still an answer."
Beck quirked his lips and gave her a sidelong glance. He sighed. "No. It wasn't just because of Jake and Hawkins."
"It wasn't for them at all, was it?"
"I'm sure they were a factor."
"So - why would Texas make that kind of deal?"
Beck hesitated, then sighed again. "Sam Travis - Ambassador Sam Travis - and I are old friends. I asked him for a favor. They were negotiating with the ASA anyway."
"And you asked him to make the safety of Jericho a condition of the truce."
"Because I refused to leave Jericho defenseless and at the mercy of the ASA when Travis asked me to deploy my men to Texas. I argued that the toehold we had in Kansas was too valuable to abandon. That the Rangers and the others would be valuable allies in the war to come - but only if they were protected now. I told him that if Texas refused to protect Jericho as part of the truce, then we would fight them as well. Not much of a threat, I know - but it worked. As conditions of the truce, though, I don't leave the area surrounding Jericho and New Bern. We don't attack the ASA troops. And Texas doesn't help us."
Heather sat back, stunned. "Why didn't you tell us?" she whispered.
Beck stared at her. "Tell you what, exactly? Besides, Jake and Hawkins know now, of course, as does Gray. They needed to understand why Texan support could only come through unofficial channels."
"You didn't have to stay," Heather blurted. "You could have been in Texas. A...a colonel or something."
Beck ruefully shook his head. "I followed one government that is corrupt to its core. A lot of good men still follow it. Travis is a good man, but he's not the leader of Texas. I won't - again - make my men take orders from a commander-in-chief or a government I don't know or trust. Our support and loyalty will be earned this time. Jericho - well." He shrugged.
"What about Jericho?"
"Gray may have his faults, but at heart he's a decent guy. The same with the rest of you. In other words, I know the government of Jericho isn't corrupt. The people aren't corrupt. I will trust and support this town and this government."
Heather was silent. "Was that the only reason you stayed?" she finally asked.
Now it was Beck's turn to be silent until he quietly replied, "No. I stayed because I owed it to you." He glanced at her. "Jericho, I mean. I didn't want Jericho destroyed. The people displaced at best; at worst - " he sighed. "You didn't deserve that. I didn't know if I could protect you but I had to try."
He turned and looked out the passenger window. This time, Heather let the silence continue, and Beck eventually drifted off to sleep once more.