Authors: X_tremeroswellian and did_it_once
Spoilers: Some stuff from the season two premiere, "Reconstruction."
Dedication: To isisizabel for her birthday! Hope you like it!! :D
Word Count: 2,809
Heather found herself wandering on Jericho's Main street, stunned by the damaged buildings and roads. She was startled by how many people were milling around--mostly military people, but some townspeople whom she recognized but didn't notice her presence. She tucked a lock of dark hair behind her ear, feeling uneasy as she headed toward Town Hall.
She headed up the steps, slightly dazed by the change since she'd last been here. Had it really been that long? She felt small and out of place and thought momentarily that maybe she should've just stayed in Cheyenne. She stepped into the main office, looking around and not recognizing half the people there.
Her eyebrows furrowed a little as she tried to spot a familiar face, but it wasn't until she heard someone say her name did she see one.
It was almost as if he sensed her presence in the room, but didn't exactly know it was her. Until he turned around. "Heather? Heather!" He ran over to her, gathering her in a huge hug. "Oh my God."
Jake's arms were around her, one of his hands in her hair as he held her close and she shut her eyes tightly, hugging him back and almost shuddering with the relief she felt at his presence. Almost like the nightmare that had been the last few months had never happened at all. Almost.
Pulling back, he put his hands gently on her face, "Don't worry, Jake, I'll just be gone for a few days?"
His teasing grin made her smile despite everything else. His eyes were filled with warm concern. She covered one of his hands with her own, dragging in a ragged breath and blinking back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. God, she'd missed him. "Yeah."
"Thank God you're alive," he said quietly, leaning his forehead against hers.
"I'm good," she whispered. "Major Beck was nice enough to let me hitch a ride back on his convoy from Cheyenne..." She lost track of what she was saying when she spotted the familiar man seated in a chair a few feet away, glaring at her. Her face paled a little, the breath catching in her throat.
His eyebrows furrowed. "You okay?"
Heather dragged her gaze away from the man and looked back at Jake, forcing a smile. "Yeah. I'm fine." She shut her eyes for a moment. "I'm fine."
He put a hand on her shoulder. "Let’s get out of here."
She nodded quickly, letting him lead her out of the room and down the crowded hallway toward the exit. "Where are we going?" Her voice was a little rough.
She looked around, taking note of all the changes in town: the semi-permanent look of the Jennings and Rall tent set up outside on Main Street, the new flag flying high above the town hall, and most notably the fact that nearly everyone in town was smiling and happy. With the exception of Jake. She cast a glance at him, taking in his weary features as they walked. It seemed like he'd aged several years since she'd last seen him.
She knew from her reflection she looked older, too. And she certainly felt it. She remained quiet, a little surprised when she realized he was guiding her toward his house.
"Emily will be glad to know you're alive," He said, turning back to her as they walked.
It took a moment for her brain to catch up with his words. Emily. Emily was at Jake's house. She didn't quite meet his eyes, though her stomach knotted as she realized what that likely meant. He led the way into the house, and there she was, putting something into the oven. Despite the lump in her throat, she held her breath and waited for her friend to notice her.
Jake cleared his throat to get her attention.
Emily jumped and turned around. She was about to say something when she saw Heather. "Oh my God."
"Hey, Em." Her voice was quiet.
She rushed over to her. "I can't believe it."
Heather shut her eyes as Emily hugged her. "I'm happy to say that the rumors of my death were greatly over-exaggerated," she joked faintly.
Tears came to her eyes. "Don't joke about that."
"I'm okay, Em." She pulled away slowly, offering her friend a smile that didn't reach her eyes.
"You sure?" She asked, taking her in.
Heather nodded a little, falling silent.
Stepping back, she looked at the oven. "Okay, as long as no one goes near this...we should be fine, and we'll be able to eat."
She glanced over at Jake, then back at Emily. "I...I can't stay," she said, suddenly feeling trapped. "But we should catch up soon."
Jake frowned. "Why not? What's going on?"
Heather backed up toward the door. "Well, it's just...I just got back and nobody really knows I'm even here except for you guys and I've gotta figure out what's going on with the kids at school and if I even still have a job and--"
"Heather. Take a breath. Sit down," he said slowly.
"Really, I should go. But....soon." She swallowed hard and without giving either of them a chance to respond, she turned, headed for the door and fled.
Stunned by the sudden exit, Jake turned slowly to Emily. "What just happened?"
Emily stared after Heather, her eyes filled with worry. "I have no idea."
* * *
Heather stepped into Bailey's, cringing inwardly at the sight of all the military men lingering around. She hesitated momentarily, then headed up to the bar, catching sight of Mary Bailey--the only person there she recognized.
Mary caught sight of her immediately. "Heather!"
The shock on the other woman's face was obvious and she wondered exactly what everyone had thought happened to her. Clearly they thought she'd died. "Hi," she answered.
"Come over here!" She motioned to the counter. "Do you need anything? Food? Beer?"
She slid onto a bar stool. "I'm starving," she admitted.
"What would you like?"
"Anything with a lot of grease," she said with a faint smile.
She smiled back. "I can do that."
Heather looked around again. "This is weird, huh?"
Mary nodded. "Very."
Moments later, Mary set a large plate with a hamburger and French fries on it in front of her. She was a little surprised when she watched the other woman ask someone to cover for her and came around to where Heather was sitting. She was even more surprised when Mary took her by the arm and guided her over to a table where no one was around. "How bad was it?" Heather couldn't help but ask.
She let out a breath. "Not good."
She looked down at the plate and picked up a French fry, munching on it absently. "There's a lot of damage to the town," she murmured.
"You can thank New Bern for that."
She flinched involuntarily, not looking at Mary.
"I'm glad you're home and safe though," she said.
Heather managed a very faint smile and picked up her hamburger. "Thanks," she said quietly before taking a large bite. A soft groan escaped her at the taste. She couldn't remember the last time she'd had actual meat. Since before the bombs sometime. But that was so long ago.
Mary chuckled softly. "Like that?"
She couldn't help but grin, a little embarrassed at her involuntary reaction. "It's great," she mumbled, setting it back down on the plate and then taking a long drink of her soda.
Heather caught sight of movement behind Mary and lifted her gaze to see Major Beck approaching, his gaze locked on her. She swallowed hard and picked up her napkin, wiping her hands off.
"May I have a word with you, Ma'am?" He asked.
Mary glanced up in surprise and then looked at Heather, who nodded slightly. She gave her friend a wary look before moving away from the table and heading back over to the bar.
Heather watched as Major Beck sat down across from her at the table.
He took a breath. "I noticed back at the station, you knew the gunman."
She quickly dropped her gaze to her plate. "He was one of Constantino's deputies."
"And how bad was he?"
Heather was silent for a moment, then she drew in a breath and looked up at him once more, her gaze steady. "When I found out what New Bern was planning to do to Jericho, Constantino ordered one of the deputies to take me out of the city and..."
"Kill you?" He guessed.
She nodded slightly and pushed a fry around on her plate absently.
He took a breath. "That's unfortunate. But I have a request of you."
"You don't understand," she said quietly. "I got lucky. The deputy that was supposed to kill me refused to take those kinds of orders. He let me go." She gazed at him. "But there were other deputies who did follow orders. And that man at Town Hall? He was one of the worst."
"I understand that, but you have connections in Jericho and New Bern. I need you to be the liaison."
Heather started, her eyes widening a little. "What?" She couldn't have heard him correctly.
"The liaison between the two towns," he repeated, gazing at her evenly. "We need you."
"Why would I do that?" Her voice was flat, emotionless and she leaned back in her seat, trying to determine if he was joking.
"Like I said before, you have connections in each town."
She was still and silent for a long moment. "I just came from a town where men with guns and uniforms made life very...unpleasant."
"Just think about it, okay?"
Heather watched as he rose to his feet and headed out the door. Then she looked down at the uneaten food on her plate. She'd suddenly lost her appetite.
* * *
After Heather left abruptly from his house, Jake gave it a few hours before he went looking for her. He finally found her at home after looking at the bar and at Town Hall. Walking up to the door, he knocked softly and waited for an answer.
She appeared at the door a few moments later, opening it a crack, only to reveal the chain lock was still on it. Her face was pale and weary, her hair back in a loose ponytail. "Jake?" Her eyebrows furrowed a little.
"Hey," he said quietly, smiling a little.
She hesitated a moment, then shut the door and pulled the chain lock off before opening it once more.
He slid his hands in his pockets. "Just wanted to make sure you were okay. You rushed out pretty fast."
"Right." She looked at the floor momentarily. "Just...it's all kind of...overwhelming."
"Want to talk?"
Heather swallowed hard and stepped aside to let him in. She shut the door quietly behind him and flipped the lock.
"What happened, Heather?"
"What do you mean?" She avoided his eyes, slowly heading for her kitchen. "You want something to drink? I don't really have anything but a couple bottles of water."
"I'm okay," he followed her into the kitchen.
She opened the mostly-empty fridge and grabbed a bottle for herself, nervously twisting off the cap.
He took a breath. "Heather."
"Talk to me, please."
She was silent for a moment, then glanced up at him. "I'm guessing you know most of the story. Eric and I found out what they were planning and tried to destroy the factory, but we got caught." She drew in a breath. "Constantino didn't need two hostages and Eric was worth more because he had family in Jericho. So he ordered one of his deputies to take me out of town and deal with me." She shrugged.
"God," he whispered, running a hand down his face.
"Lucky for me the deputy happened to have been my eleventh grade chemistry teacher. He let me go."
"Good," he murmured.
Heather nodded a little, avoiding his gaze again.
Wordlessly, he stepped forward, gathering her into a tight hug.
She shut her eyes, slowly winding her arms around him in return and resting her head against his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Jake," she whispered.
He shook his head, confused. "For what?"
Heather slowly pulled away to look at him, her hands resting on his arms. "About your dad."
He looked down. "Oh. That."
She hesitantly reached out and touched his cheek.
Closing his eyes, he leaned into her touch. "I need to go after Constantino."
She drew in a breath and let it out slowly, shaken by the admission. "Jake, I don't think that's...that's a good idea."
She pulled her hand away and let it drop to her side. "Because...for one, Major Beck has every mile between here and New Bern crawling with military personnel. And even if you did manage to get to New Bern, Constantino will be heavily guarded. And it's not like it is here in Jericho," she whispered, slowly turning away from him.
"I can get by," he said, gazing at her, determined.
Heather shut her eyes, leaning against the kitchen counter. "It's a suicide mission."
"He killed my father," his voice dropped. "I will avenge him."
She was quiet for a moment. "You should know that Major Beck has asked me to be his liaison between Jericho and New Bern."
"And what are you going to do?"
Turning, she met his eyes for the first time since he'd shown up at her apartment. "I don't know," she said honestly.
He nodded slightly. "You should do what you think is best."
"I wish I knew what that was." She let out a slow breath and looked away once more. "How's uh...how's your mom?"
"She's...dealing the best she can."
"I talked to Mary earlier. She said...that she's been at the ranch since..."
He swallowed. "Yeah, she has."
Heather nodded slightly and turned the bottle cap over in her hands over and over.
"Eric and I don't know how to talk to her," he admitted softly.
"Do you think that maybe..."
She hesitated. "That it might be okay for me to go see her?"
He nodded. "Yeah, actually. I think it would."
Heather managed a small, faint smile as she glanced up at him. "Okay."
"Good luck," he said quietly.
"You too," she said just as quietly.
She nodded slightly, then hesitated again. "Jake?"
Jake looked up at her. "Yeah?"
Heather didn't meet his eyes, and her tone was strange when she spoke next. "The shooter from New Bern. Is he still in Jericho?"
She swallowed hard, leaning against the kitchen counter. "Oh."
"He'll be transported back tomorrow, though."
"So they're letting him go."
Heather turned away from him once more, staring blankly at the wall, her hands resting on the sink.
He hesitated for a moment. "Did he do something to you?"
Her body tensed a little, then she shook her head. "No. But he'll be back."
"Can you be sure?"
"He was one of Constantino's most loyal deputies," she said dully.
"Damn it," he whispered.
Heather drew in a breath, her shoulders still tense. "You should...probably head home. Emily's probably wondering where you are."
"She's at the hospital volunteering."
"Oh," she murmured.
"I'll, um, leave...if you want me to," he jerked his head toward the door.
She slowly turned to look at him. "It's okay." She wrapped her arms around herself, her face pale in the faint light coming from her kitchen window. The military had managed to get most of the electricity restored in Jericho, but so far her apartment hadn't been among the lucky ones.
"How about we go sit down on something more comfortable?" He suggested, looking around.
Heather nodded a little, leading him out of the kitchen and into the living room where she perched nervously on the sofa.
Jake lowered himself slowly beside her, keeping his gaze on her. "Try to relax?"
She forced herself to take a deep breath, forcing a smile on her face as she nodded again. "Right." She reluctantly leaned back against the couch.
"I won't let anything else hurt you," his voice was barely audible.
She hesitantly curled her legs up on the sofa beside her and leaned over to rest her head on his shoulder.
He shifted, taking her in his arms and laying gently down on the sofa with her. "Rest. You deserve it."
Heather closed her eyes at his words. She could feel the warmth of his hand resting gently on her back and a soft sigh escaped her. "Just for a few minutes," she murmured sleepily.
As she drifted off, Jake began stroking her hair, thoughts on how horrible it must have been for her in New Bern.
Because this was not the Heather that left him.