(no subject)

Edward shifted yet again, grateful to Gail for finding the new bed. It wasn’t any softer, but it was wider, originally designed for the obese that no longer existed in Jericho. It fit two skinny people fairly well. He managed to slowly move his leg to a position where it would wake up and Heather would stay asleep. It was so easy to wake her these days. That was why he was here, leg going numb, and why Gail had brought the new bed.

Aside from the first twelve hours of exhausted unconsciousness, Heather had had trouble sleeping more than two hours at a stretch due to the nightmares. As a result, neither she nor Edward had any real rest for two days, until after comforting her yet again, they had fallen asleep together. They had woken up five hours later, feeling better for the rest but worse for the contorted positions they had slept in. Within a day, Gail had located the larger bed for them. And while Heather had yet to make it through the night, she could at least get some decent sleep before she woke from the dreams.

Beck had taken to sitting on the bed even when he wasn’t sleeping, so that Heather could. Her unconscious knowledge that he was there delayed the inevitable, and softened the blows when they did come. He would sense her tensing, hear her mutterings, and then speak softly, cajoling her awake as he held her hand.

He learned quickly not to restrain her, even as she struck out at the figure in her nightmares and bruised him instead. Never to hold her wrists without warning, or grab her suddenly. He memorized the places he could caress her without irritating cuts or bruises, and the places that caused her to flinch though there was no injury there. He relearned Heather in the space of days.

He’d had her bedding and pajamas brought in to help her sleep. He’d been flattered when she chose his arm over her teddy bear, even if it meant his arm felt the numbness of pins and needles with alarming regularity.

He’d taken to reading to her. She’d tried to read on her own, but most of her books were trade paperbacks, making them hard to hold with broken wrists. He read her her favorites, sci-fi and fantasy, of places that were far away and extraordinary, as far away from this hospital room as he could take her. He sang her soft lullabies to help her drift off.

He ate with her, he slept with her. And in those hours where she slept – or tried to – he read reports, trying to keep up with what was going on with his men. They were going to need to move out of the camp soon. Those tents were on their third tour of duty and would not survive the coming winter…

Dating the General's daughter

“Hi. I’m here to pick up your daughter.”

John Green held his hands behind his back so his white knuckles wouldn’t show. He was the first guy, so far as he knew, to actually ask Alex out on a date. And as he looked at General (ret.) Beck, he was hit again with the reason why. Despite the fact that Alex’s father was shorter than John, he was still intimidating as hell. He looked John over, evaluating him. After evaluation, he made a noncommittal noise – apparently nothing had impressed him, but nothing offended him, either – he turned back to the house.

“Alex! Your date is here!”

The only response was a squeal and a slammed door.

“I guess she’s not ready yet.” He said mildly, which made John all the more wary. “Why don’t we wait out on the porch?” He gestured to a chair. “Have a seat.”

John sat on the edge of the chair as Beck settled comfortably in his.

“So.” He said abruptly. “This is the traditional time to scare the crap out of my daughter’s date.” John nearly fell out of his chair at the abrupt bluntness. His father had given him some advice about this situation, but none of it covered this. He simply did his best to stay in his seat and not say anything that would get him in trouble.

“Most fathers would tell the prospective date that he’d better have her home by curfew – or else. A shotgun is the typical prop.” John simply stared at him, surprised at how relaxed the general was as he spoke. He wasn’t even trying to stare him down, instead looking out at the sunset as he talked. “But I’m not going to do that.” He rocked back and forth in silence for a few seconds, then looked over at John. “What, you thought I was going to give some big speech?”

John finally cracked a smile and began to relax.

“Well, yes, actually. Something about ‘removing elements from the equation’ or somesuch.”

The general chuckled at that.

“Well I’m not. Alex is almost seventeen years old and I trust her judgment.”

“Uh…thanks.”

They sat on the porch for perhaps another minute, simply waiting. The general perked at some sound John had missed and rose from his seat.

“I believe she’s ready now.” He paused just before he turned away, and dropped his voice so that Alex couldn’t hear him as she came out the door. “Just know that if you go any further than Alex wants to, I won’t need a shotgun.”

“John!” Alex cried out, throwing her arms around him, oblivious to his sudden discomfiture. “See, daddy, I told you he was a good guy.”

“Seems decent enough. Have a nice time, kids.”

 

 

(no subject)

Edward Beck didn’t want to let Captain Dunne in. Not because he had anything against Karin, but because he knew why she was here. He didn’t want to force Heather to relive that, even though he knew, logically, she had to. That she would whether they asked those questions or not. But in the end, he let her in, returning to Heather’s side.

“Ma’am – Heather – I need to ask you some questions. I – well – ” She shrugged. “Do you remember anything that might help us find him? What he looked like, any names that were said, anything at all?”

“I never saw him.” That Karin could believe. “He snuck up behind me.” Then a flash of memory. “Oh god. Elly. I have to talk to Elly.”

“Later. I promise.” Edward murmured in her ear.

“He was taller than me – taller than you, too.” She said, looking at Edward. “He had a beard.” She thought hard. “I think – I think he worked in the factory.”

“Why?” asked Karin.

“A couple of comments –and he smelled like – paint thinner, one time. WD-40, another. And I think that’s where he got the acid for the lock.”

Karin paused, taking notes.

“And I’m pretty sure Constantino was there.”

“He was there?”

“They never used names, but yeah, I recognized Constantino’s voice. But it was another guy who…I think he was training him or something. Ow!”

“Sorry.” Edward forcibly relaxed his hand. He hadn’t thought about how hard this interview would be for him.

“I don’t think he was from here. Not recently, anyway. He didn’t know much about me.”

“How do you know that?”

“From some of the things he said. Also, he seemed really surprised when I picked the handcuffs.” Despite himself, Edward smiled. “And he was really pissed when I took off the zip-tie cuffs” Edward kissed her forehead.

“That’s my girl.”

“Heather, why did he hit your head so many times?” She looked at Karin, who had asked the question. “I’ve seen captives before. That many blows to the head is… unusual.”

“I – I goaded him into hitting me, into knocking me out.” She admitted.

“Wha – why? Why would you do that?”

“So I wouldn’t have to be awake for  - he was usually done by the time I woke up.”

Edward had been holding a cup of water in his hand. Now it was just shards of broken plastic in his white-knuckled fist. Usually. The word stuck in his head. Usually. Meaning that at least once she’d waken up to…­ He forced himself to let go of the mangled cup as Karin looked on sympathetically.

“Go on.” He said, his voice a little too level.

****

Gail was startled, to say the least, when she saw a tanned fist come through the wall of the nurse’s break room. She quickly deduced who it was and hustled out to calm Beck. She found him sliding down the wall onto the floor. She glanced down the hall to Heather’s room; she was mercifully asleep. Probably sedated.

“Major.”

He just looked up at her with tears in his eyes, ignoring the cuts on his hand. She sighed, and gingerly lowered herself to sit next to him.

“Major, I – ” Words failed her, so she put her arm around him. He resisted at first, but then relaxed, letting his head fall forward and the sobs out.

“I’ll kill him. I’ll take him and I’ll – I’ll – ” he faltered, not able to think of a fate grisly enough. Gail hugged him. Then, in a small, pained voice, he added. “Assuming I ever find the bastard.” The admission clearly pained him.

“They’ll find him. You just take care of Heather. Don’t worry about anything else right now.”

They sat there for a few minutes, passersby noticing and then studiously ignoring them.

“I should go back to her.” He slowly stood.

“Alright. But now you have to help an old woman off the floor.”

“Of course. And… thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” She gave his hand a final squeeze. “And if you need anything – for her or for you, just ask.”

(no subject)

“How’s the baby?”

It was the first thing out of Heather’s mouth when Kenchy walked through the door the second time.

“I – I don’t know.” Heather was visibly upset. “I’m sorry, but we don’t have an ultrasound machine. We were on the waiting list, of course, but we were way down that list.” He shot a glance at the major, hoping that he –

“My detachment wasn’t large enough to receive that kind of medical support.” Beck said sadly.

“Miss, the best way we can take care of the baby is to take care of you. So we’re going to take care of you as best we can.”

“That’s right.” The major stepped in, taking Heather fully into his arms. “And if that baby is half as stubborn as you are, it’ll be fine.”

“Promise?”

That was when Nurse Green entered the conversation.

“Honey, that baby is just as stubborn as you are, if not more so.” Heather looked at her, wanting to believe in the certainty on the older woman’s face. “Remember, he’s pretty stubborn himself.” She said, pointing at the major. She was rewarded with a ghost of a smile on both of their lips; Beck’s face also showed gratitude for her encouragement. “Now, do us a favor and let us take your vitals. And then eat something. We have some milk and some applesauce to start with…”

 

The setup

“How do you think it’s going?”

Lieutenant Sorey looked over at Lieutenant Goodman on the front step.

“Well, she hasn’t broken them out yet, and they’ve stopped yelling for help. I’d say they’ve settled in to wait for rescue.”

“Good. We should check on them in an hour.”

They were referring to Major Beck and Heather Lisinski, whom they had ‘accidently’ locked in the mechanical closet downstairs. It was a completely inappropriate thing to do to your CO, but they were at their wits’ end. They’d first noticed Beck losing focus over a month ago, which would have been expected after so long without any kind of leave. But they noticed that his distraction came and went, most often going during meetings. After a while, they noticed that he only seemed to be distracted when Heather was present. While they all agreed that it was about time he moved on, his current state was driving the staff bonkers. What was really bad was that Beck didn’t acknowledge what was so obvious to the rest of them. What was worst was that Heather also was oblivious.

Having had enough, the staff connived to put them together somehow. They tried having the lock on his office door ‘malfunction’ at the end of the day, trapping them inside. But Heather, apparently related to MacGyver, had gotten them out in about fifteen minutes by removing the hinges. So they had to get more creative. Someone had suggested cutting the power in an elevator, but the only elevator in town was in the hospital, and that was out of the question. Then Corporal Rainey suggested the mechanical closet in the basement; he’d been locked in there once, for three hours. And the door opened outwards, so Heather couldn’t attack the hinges like last time. The staff had seized on the idea.

Getting Heather down there had been dreadfully simple; all they had had to do was tell her the backup generator was on the fritz again. Getting the major there had required imagination. In the end, they’d decided to play the ‘damsel in distress’ card – even if Heather was nothing of the sort. They’d arranged for the power to go out while Heather was down there, then mentioned to Beck that she was downstairs working on the generator, alone, with no lights, and how would she ever find her way out of that maze without tripping and falling?

 

“Heather! You ok?”

A flashlight shined directly in his face: blinded, he put his hands up in front of him.

“Of course I’m ok. I haven’t been afraid of the dark since I was ten years old.” Just then they heard the door slam shut behind him. “Shit. You had to knock out the doorstop.”

“I didn’t!”

He couldn’t actually see her face, but he could feel her glare anyway.

“Right. The tooth fairy did it.”

“Look, I’m sorry.” (he was almost certain he hadn’t done it, but…someone must have done it, and the list of suspects was pretty short) “I was just worried.”

Heather snorted. “I told you, I’m not afraid of the dark.”

“Yeah, but the power went out…and you’re working on the generator…I thought maybe…”

“Maybe what?”

“I dunno, that you’d been electrocuted or something.”

Heather laughed.

“The two systems aren’t even connected to each other.”

“Oops.”

She sighed.

“Well, thanks for caring, I guess. Now help me find a way out of here.”

“Hinges?”

“No dice. This door opens the other way.”

“Pick the lock?”

“It’s a closet. There is no interior lock to pick.”

“Credit card trick?”

“I don’t have a credit card, or any reasonable facsimile thereof. Do you?”

“A knife?”

“Hand it over.” He did, and she flicked it open with ease. “Here, hold the flashlight.” She probed the crack of the door. “Nope.” She flicked it closed and handed it back to him.

“You handle a blade pretty well.”

“Got one like it at home. And I had a lot of free time during the winter.”

“Huh?”

“I was bored, so I sharpened all my knives. And then I was still bored, so I played with them.”

“You throw?”

“Alas, my collection does not extend to throwing knives.” She pounded on the door. “Anyone out there? We need you to let us out!”

“Collection?” Beck was intrigued.

“Yeah, I inherited my dad’s collection and kept adding to it.” She raised her voice “Hello out there!”

“They’re all outside. No lights, remember?”

“Dammit. Looks like we’re stuck here for a while.” She turned her back to the door and slid down to a sitting position. Beck joined her.

“What kind of knives do you have?” Beck was fascinated. He knew Heather carried a swiss army knife in her purse, but he’d chalked that up to her mechanical handiness.

“Folding knives, mostly, because I’m a sucker for a multitool, but I have some straight blades too. One of my favorite straight blades is my dad’s survival knife.”

“How many do you have?”

“About thirty.”

“I’d like to see them sometime.”

 

“ – I’d like to see them sometime.”

Sorey repressed a chuckle and snuck back upstairs.

“So?”

“They’re talking about Heather’s knives.”

Captain Dunne let out a grunt of frustration

“Figures. Trapped in a closet, and he talks about weapons.”

“Not necessarily a bad thing.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I can’t necessarily speak for the major, but a chick with a knife collection… well, that’s kinda hot.”

“I hope so.”

“He did ask to see her collection. Maybe that’s not all he sees.” He said, lewd grin on his face. Dunne threw a rock at him.

“No need to go there.”

 

“So how much longer until the power comes back, do you think?” Heather asked.

You’re asking me?”

“Point taken. But then, I usually have some idea of what the problem is. I hope it’s s-soon.”

The stutter on the last word caught Beck’s attention.

“Heather, you ok?”

“F-fine”

He held the light up to look at her. She was sitting with arms around her legs, shivering quietly. He touched her arm for confirmation. It was cold.

“Heather – ”

“What? I don’t have a jacket with me. The heat was on.”

He sighed.

“You never tell me when you have a problem.”

“It’s not your job to – ”

“So?” He put down the flashlight and shrugged off his jacket. It was chilly in here, but he’d dealt with worse in Afghanistan. “Here.”

“I – ” Heather was reluctant to accept, but conceded. “T-thank you.” She  sat there in the oversized jacket for a minute as she began to warm up.

“An officer and a gentleman. I guess chivalry isn’t dead after all.”

He chuckled.

“My mother would be so proud.”

Heather shifted slightly, hearing paper crinkle. Her hand brushed the inside pocket it came from.

“Construction paper?”

“You can tell?”

“School teacher, remember?”

“Right.” He shrugged. “Maria drew it for me.”

“May I?”

“Sure.”

She took out the paper and unfolded it. It was a crayon drawing of a girl, a dog, and a woman. At the bottom ‘We Miss U, Daddy!’ was scrawled in pink.

“That’s so sweet.” There was no response from Beck. “Major?” he merely grunted in reply. “You must miss them terribly.”

“Yeah.” He voice was hoarse. She gently folded the paper and put it back in the pocket. “Sometimes I think I’m over it, and then I look at that drawing – ”

“You’ll never be over it.” Heather replied quietly.

“What?”

“You’ll never be over it.” She repeated. “You just have to move past it.”

He paused to digest that, reminded that Heather had had reason to know.

“Yeah, but how?”

“Realize they would want you to be happy.” She chuckled to herself. “My subconscious was not exactly subtle when it figured that out.”

“Oh?”

“I dreamed where my mom chewed me out for moping. Dad just sat there behind her, nodding quietly in agreement, like he always did.”

Despite himself, he chuckled at the image.

“Parents never lose that ability, do they?”

“No, I still hear her voice sometimes, telling me what I should do.”

“I still hear my dad’s voice – and it still sounds like he’s talking over a phone.”

“A phone?”

“He was deployed a lot. Somehow the static made his voice more threatening, not less, when he was chewing me out over the phone.” He paused, remembering. “God I miss him.”

“How old were you?”

“Sixteen.”

He realized as he said it how unusual this was. He hadn’t had a conversation like this in years. He wondered if it was the darkness, the freedom of not worrying about the expression on his face, that made it so easy to discuss this.

“How old were you?” he asked.

“Twenty. My third year of college.”

They sat there for a minute as silence conveyed more meaning than words. Finally, from some perverse need to break the companionable silence, Beck spoke.

“You warm now?”

“Yeah, thanks.” She replied. “You’re not cold?”

“Not yet. And unless a sudden breeze develops, I think I’ll be okay.”

“You sure?”

“If I get cold, I can just do some pushups or something.”

“Didn’t think of that.”

“Deal with it often enough, and you learn to cope.”

“What’s the coldest place you’ve been?”

“Well, I was posted in Germany for a year. Most recently it was the mountains in Afghanistan – but what was really bad was the temperature swings. It could go from cold to hot and back again in record time.”

“Sounds awful.”

“Yeah, especially when you were packing for a mission. You had to pack ten pounds of gear that you’d only need for half the trip - maybe.”

“How many pounds of stuff do you usually carry? There must be five pounds in this jacket alone. I’m all for pockets, but this is ridiculous.”

“Seven pounds, actually. I weighed it once. A full load averages about ninety pounds of gear. More in the winter, less in the summer.”

“Yeesh. I could never be a soldier. I’m too much of a wimp.”

“Bet you could.” His quick reply startled Heather, who shifted suddenly. “What, you think any of us started out that tough? It takes training, that’s all. And you’re no wimp. You could do it.”

“You really think so?”

“Yeah. All you need to start with is mental toughness. And you’ve got plenty of that. I know New Bern was … not pleasant… but if you can survive that, you’d survive basic training.” He noticed the flashlight shake in Heather’s hand. “Heather, are you still cold?” He reached out to see if her hand was cold and was thwarted by the long jacket sleeve.

“No, I’m okay, really. I just… ”

“What?” he asked gently.

“New Bern…”

“Sorry.” He squeezed her hand through the cloth. “Didn’t mean to…”

“I know.”

“You ever talk to anyone about it?”

“Tried to, but Eric didn’t want to discuss it. Not with me, not with Mary, not with anyone. ‘Course, he had it worse off than I did.”

“That’s not healthy. For him or for you.”

“Well, it never came up with anyone else. Nobody else wanted to bring it up, I guess because it was awkward. And I don’t think Jericho has a therapist.”

“We don’t have a therapist in the ranks, either, but there’s definitely people you can talk to. Some of us have been held prisoner, so…” he shrugged, still holding onto her hand. Heather digested that.

“Have you?” she asked quietly.

“For a couple of days, a few years ago. I still have nightmares about it.”

“That’s…oddly reassuring.”

He chuckled softly.

“Thought it might be. You’re not alone, Heather. Don’t ever think otherwise.” Heather was suddenly very still. “Heather?”

“I – ” Her voice was shaky, and she sniffed loudly. She was obviously trying not to cry. The next thing he knew, he’d gathered her into his arms as she cried quietly. He just let her cry as he held her. He wasn’t sure how long it lasted, but eventually she ran out of tears. Finally she spoke.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

They stayed like that for a bit longer – and then they heard footsteps.

“Heather! Major! You still down here?” They made no immediate move to get up, strangely reluctant to leave. “Hello?”

“We’re in the closet.” Beck called out. “Would you go get the spare key?”

“Sure.” Replied the faceless voice, and the footsteps receded.

“Well, I guess it’s time to get out of here.” Beck told Heather, releasing her.

“Yeah.” She sat up and scrubbed her eyes. “Now that I look terrible.”

“Nonsense.” He took the flashlight from her to look at her. “You look great. Just -” He reached over and wiped her cheeks. “There, now you’re perfect.”

“You are such a liar.” She told him, smiling. “But thanks anyway.”

Then the door opened a few seconds later to Lieutenant Sorey, who apparently found the sight of Heather in the major’s jacket amusing.

“Chilly down here, huh?” he asked.

“A bit.” Heather replied. “Fortunately, chivalry isn’t dead.” She smiled as she shrugged off Beck’s jacket to return it while walking up the stairs. At the top, she handed it back to him and kissed him on the cheek. He blinked in surprise and watched her walk away with new eyes. He was not aware of the others watching him with smiles of relief.

Why I love you

It was the first Christmas since the war, and Heather had insisted on hosting. That, and Jericho’s central location among the family made it a no-brainer. She’d outdone herself; the house looked amazing. He’d tried to tell her to take it easy; morning sickness was not kind to her, but she was irrepressibly cheerful. She’d had a smile seemingly stuck on her face like it had been affixed with superglue.

Which is why, when he spotted Heather over in the corner, sipping her eggnog without that smile, he was immediately concerned.

“Heather!” he called. It got her attention, but she didn’t reply, just gave him an odd look. He hadn’t gotten a look quite like that from her before, and he quickly crossed the room to her.

“What is it?” She made a little noise, trying to dismiss it. It was as close as she ever came to the clichéd ‘nothing.’ He turned to face her squarely. “Heather, what is it?”

“How much do I remind you of Isabel?”

“Wha-?” he asked, blindsided.  “Why -?”

“Nevermind.” She downed the remainder of the eggnog in one gulp and went into the kitchen. He didn’t miss the glance she gave his aunts Frannie and Ethel, however, who were cheerfully chatting over cookies and brandy. He immediately walked over to them and interrupted their conversation.

“What did you say to her?”

“Excuse me, I thought Maria had raised you better. We were in the middle of a conversation.”

“Sorry.” He said, momentarily chastened. But he pressed on. “I just wanted to know why Heather’s – ” he broke off, unable to come up with the right word. Their chiding manner had disappeared when they got a good look at his expression.

“Heather’s what, dear? And why would we have anything to do with it?”

“Well, she asked me how much she reminded me of Isabel.”

“That’s… ooooooh.”

“ ‘Oh’ what?” he demanded.

 “We didn’t actually speak to her… but she might have heard a comment out of context.”

“Which was?”

“We were discussing how you boys have always gotten the beautiful women. It’s possible she may have overheard a snippet of conversation and misinterpreted it.”

“Oh, god.”

“Sorry, Ed. You want us to talk to her?”

“Maybe. Lemme think about this one for a few minutes.” He ran a hand through his hair, as if that could jump-start his brain.

“As you wish.” They nodded. He’d always been one to think things through before discussing them.

 

A few minutes late, he walked into the kitchen.

“Heather.”

“Hmm.” She mumbled, attention on the cheese she was slicing.

“Give me a minute?”

She sighed and put down the knife.

“Thanks.” He steered towards the pantry for a measure of privacy.  “I wanted to – well,  you don’t look like Isabel and you don’t sound like her.”

“But?” she asked, sensing more to come.

“You do have one thing in common with her. And I hope you’ll forgive me for saying that it’s what attracted me to both of you.” She just looked at him. “Your spirit, your attitude towards life is the same. You’re optimistic, hopeful, maybe a little naïve, but you’re always sure you can make things right if you work hard enough.  And you’re stubborn enough in that belief to challenge my cynicism. And I love you for it.”

Heather looked at him as she absorbed that.

“So… you love me for my personality?”

“Well, yes. The fact that it comes wrapped in such a nice package is just a welcome bonus.”

A slow smile crept onto her face; he returned it. She giggled, causing him to grin.

“Now come on back to the party. Granddad’s about to make a toast, and that’s something you don’t want to miss.”

“Really?”

“They’re different every year, and always amusing. Last time it involved drunken elves. Now come on, or we’ll miss it.”

(no subject)

Edward sat on the side of Heather’s bed in the moonlight. His hand held her fingers, the only part of her hand that wasn’t covered by the casts for her fractured wrists. She was asleep, having been cleaned up, examined and treated. It had been quite an ordeal, people poking and prodding her when she wanted nothing more than to curl up and cry.

After it was all over, he’d held her as she cried herself to sleep. He’d wept with her, unable to stop himself even after she’d finally drifted off. He sat at her side, watching her sleep, her shaved head covered by his army cap.

He wasn’t sure when he’d nodded off; the first thing he heard was someone bursting in the door. He reacted on pure reflex, roughly throwing the intruder up against the glass window. It took a moment to recognize (a very terrified) Jake Green.

“Jesus, Jake, can’t you knock?”

“I thought I raised him to.” That was Gail, entering the room. “You really should listen to your mother.” She watched her son nod emphatically, backing away, hand on his head, still recovering from Beck’s utterly unexpected explosion. “Though, major, we’d appreciate it if you didn’t throw anyone else into the window. We’re a bit short on glass these days.” She pointed at where the impact of Jake’s body had cracked the window.

A whimper from the bed got their attention. Beck rushed over to Heather, who had been awakened by the sudden violence.

“Eddy…” Heather clung to him, grasping a fistful of shirt.

“Shhhh, it’s ok. It’s just Jake. It’s ok. He’s going to knock next time.” His glared at Jake. Jake looked properly abashed, although there was also curiosity at the scene before him. Clearly he hadn’t heard the whole story before he’d rushed over to see her.

“I’m sorry, Heather. I heard they’d found you, and I ran over to see you. I didn’t mean to startle you.” He paused. “Though I really don’t think anyone’s getting past the major.” He readjusted his shirt from where it had been yanked up short.

Heather nodded acknowledgment. Then she lifted her head to whisper in Edward’s ear. He nodded, moving to help her up.

“Why don’t you go get some ice for that?” Beck said. Gail took the hint and dragged Jake out as he helped Heather to the bathroom.


 

Jake shifted the ice on his head out by the nurses’ station.

“So is she going to be okay?”

“Well, physically, probably.”

“Physically?”

“She’s a pretty girl, Jake. What do you think they did to her?”

“Oh.” Jake deflated as it registered, looking through the blinds at a sobbing Heather, buried in Beck’s arms. It still struck him as odd that she clung to him so. “But if that’s the case, how can she - ?”

“How can she what?”

“Let him touch her.”

“She loves him. And I think he’s the only person she truly trusts right now.”

“Wow. I knew she had a thing for him, but I didn’t think it was that…” he struggled to find the right word.

It finally dawned on Gail that her son didn’t have the whole picture.

“Jake, it wasn’t a ‘thing’. They were lovers. For months.”

“But – but – he said he liked her, but he said that he didn’t want to put her in any more danger.”

“Which is why they were covert lovers.”

Jake stared at the scene through the window. Beck caught him and glared back before closing the blinds.

“Sucks when it happens to someone he cares about, doesn’t it?” he said, his voice suddenly acid.

The ER went silent. The silence didn’t last however, broken by the sharp sound of Nurse Green slapping her son.

“Johnston Jacob Green Jr.!”

The entire ER cringed as Jake stood in shock.

“I know what Beck did to you. I may never fully forgive him myself for what he did to you – I’m your mother. But – you’ve been through worse. The time you boys spent in New Bern comes to mind. AND, if you make another comment like that, I will never speak to you again.” Jake swallowed audibly.

“Sorry, mom.”

“Good. Now go home, get cleaned up, and rest a bit. You can visit later, when you’re not so crabby. And knock next time.”

“Yes, mother.”

“That’s better.” She said, turning away. “That boy, I swear…”

(no subject)

There was a stretcher waiting at the med center, but Heather resisted any attempt to put her on it.

“I won’t leave you, I’ll be right here. Just let me put you down so they can help you.”

The only response was a whimper. He sighed.

“Where’s her room?”

“Over there.”

He carried her over and sat down on the bed, settling her in his lap. Gail followed him in. Kenchy came in a minute later, having clearly just dragged himself out of bed.

 “All right miss, I need to examine you now. Major, you need to leave.”

“No.” His answer was quiet but firm.

“Major, now.”

“I’m not leaving.”

Kenchy was irritated now. He’d dealt with officers before, officers who thought their ranks meant the rules didn’t apply to them.

“Sir, despite your rank, you are not the one in charge here. I am.”

“Rank’s got nothing to do with it.” Beck said

“Then le - ”

“Doctor, it’s – ” Gail tried to cut in, but she was in turn cut off by Heather.

 “I want - ” Heather’s voice was hoarse, but firm. Everyone stopped talking to look at her .“ - I want Eddy here.”

“Who?” Kenchy said.

“I have a first name, you know.”

He watched comprehension –finally - dawn on the doctor’s face as he took in the scene before him.

“Oh.” Kenchy shook himself. “Ok. So, miss, is there anything that hurts in particular, other than your wrists and… the obvious?”

She shook her head, but then she spoke.

“ – Pregnant?”

“Miss, it’s a bit early to tell if – ”

“Yes.” Edward said, causing a small smile on Heather’s face.

“Wait, what?” Kenchy said.

Gail spoke softly in the doctor’s ear. “She’s a few weeks along. At least, she was a week ago.”

“That complicates things.” He pondered for a moment. “Well, for now, let’s go ahead and get her cleaned up.” He turned to the major. “Are we worrying about DNA evidence?”

Edward whispered in Heather’s ear. She nodded.

“We already have plenty of evidence.”

“Alright, I’ll be back in a bit.”

“Ok, now please let the nurses help you.” Edward pleaded

There was no whimper this time, so Gail spoke.

“Okay, honey, it’s me, Mrs. Green. I’m going to look at you now. I’ll do my best not to hurt you. I’ll start with your face.”

Even with the warning, Heather jerked at her touch. Edward pulled her close and caressed her cheek.

“Maybe – the tape – get rid of the tape.” He suggested. “If she can see – ”

Gail looked on at the pair, at the way she leaned into his caress and offered a suggestion of her own.

“How about you get rid of the tape?” She returned his questioning look with a pointed glance at his hand, which did not cause her to flinch.

Over an hour later, she was cleaned up. He’d ended up bathing her himself. Actually, he’d done almost all of it, Gail directing and assisting him. He didn’t know if she really looked any better. Yes, she was clean, but that only revealed her even-paler-than-usual complexion which in turn emphasized the cuts and bruises. Her hair was gone; huge hunks had been cut out with the duct tape and the clots of blood, so they’d gone ahead and very carefully shaved it, avoiding the bumps and cuts there, of which there were plenty.

Another hour and a half, casts were on her fractured wrists and her cuts had been dressed and stitched where necessary. The cuts on the soles of her feet – from kicking people, no doubt – would make walking painful for quite a while. There was nothing they could do about the bruises. She’d been hooked up to an IV. And then, finally, they’d let her cry herself to sleep.

(no subject)

In the back of the humvee, Beck bit back the urge to tell the driver to hurry up yet again. Heather was bundled up in his arms; he’d gotten her to drink a little water and she’d just finished a bit of bread. He looked out the window, seeing that they were still twenty miles from Jericho. The potholes weren’t helping their time, either.

Just then, he felt Heather go limp in his lap.

“Heather? You okay? Heather?” he patted her cheeks to rouse her. “Heather?”

Just then the medic reached over, putting her hand on Heather’s neck.

“Her pulse is regular, sir. She’s zonked out.”

“Zonked out? Since when is that a medical term?”

“It’s not. But…she’s not in danger, medically, really. It’s just… you know how, after thanksgiving dinner, when you’re warm and full and surrounded by family, you get really sleepy?”

“Yes…”

“It’s sort of like that, but on steroids. She just ate and drank and this is the first time in a week that she’s felt safe. Her body has decided it’s time to catch up on some much-needed rest.”

Beck considered the medic’s words. In the end, what convinced him was Heather’s regular breathing. He shifted slightly, kissing her cheek in a spot where he could find neither cut nor bruise, then cradled her head against his shoulder.

And silently urged the Humvee on.

(no subject)

Private Felser was not surprised when Major Beck’s humvee screeched to a halt down the block from where they had found Heather. He was surprised, however, that Beck wasn’t wearing either armor or helmet. They had not secured the area yet; to walk around like that was asking for trouble. To make matters worse, he focus was…off. He was clearly a man on a mission, but he was disregarding all protocol.

And that’s when he saw a man creep out from behind a corner to attack the major. Felser opened his mouth to call out a warning, but Beck took down the assailant with brutal efficiency and just kept walking. Well, that’s one less prisoner to feed.

 

Beck walked into the building where they had found her. She was in the back room of an old computer repair shop. He was intercepted by a female private, who tried to divert him, to no avail. He stormed in the doorway…and then stopped dead in his tracks. He felt himself retching at the obscenity in front of him. He looked for a trash bin, only to have it snatched away from him by another female private whom he had completely failed to notice.

He puked on the floor instead, regretting the alcohol. When he was able, he turned a glare to the private.

“What the - ?”

“Evidence, sir.” She told him, holding the wastebasket away from him

“Evidence?”

She held it up to him so he could see the used condoms, then quickly snatched it back as he heaved again until there was nothing left. When he was done, the private mercifully gave him a towel to clean up. Steeling himself, he turned back to Heather, noting the lime green duct tape.

He had used her own duct tape to blindfold her. That was the first coherent thought that went through his head, and he was shocked at the banality of it. That that was what he thought of when she was curled up in a ball, naked, bruised, and chained to the bed. He shook himself, and started to move towards her again.

“Sir – Don’t.”

 Heather suddenly tensed, raising one leg into a striking position, like a coiled snake

“She’ll kick you, sir. Hard. Knocked me over.”

He noticed a faint footprint on her chest to verify her claim.

“Heather.” He used his most cajoling voice. “Heather, it’s me. It’s – ” he choked up, unable to continue. He noticed her leg waver from its vigilance, and he stepped closer. It snapped back into position. “Heather, please.” He had to get through to her. She couldn’t see him, so she had no reason to believe it was him – she probably thought she was hallucinating his voice.

“Te amo.”

“Eddy?” she croaked.

“Si, mi amor.”

He went to her; she threw herself into his embrace, finally allowing the tears to fall.

 

Private Morales was shocked by the scene before her. Not by the abuse endured; she’d seen that before, far too often. She and Sergeant Henke, as the only females in their squad, were the ones who dealt with these situations when they arose. No, she’d seen this kind of abuse before. Which only made the scene before her more stunning.

Heather had held up through nearly a week of hell. Not just physically – mentally. She still had fight in her. And now, she was buried in the arms of a man. The fact that she allowed him to so much as touch her was amazing; many victims flinched from the slightest touch after being violated like that, even if the other person was a woman, or a close friend.

But then there was one more piece of data to factor in.

Private Morales spoke Spanish.

That little snippet of information – that simple exchange – would help explain the scene before her. How they had managed to keep a relationship this serious – with this level of devotion – quiet was beyond her, and yet they had.

A sob – or a moan, it was hard to tell which – cut through her thoughts, and she re-focused on the pair, hit afresh by the intensity. The quiet tears coming from the major’s eyes were enough to break her heart. The tortured sobs that wracked Heather’s body tore at her very soul. She suddenly felt like an intruder, invading an intensely private moment, so she turned on her heel and left to stand guard on the door, ignoring the blurriness in her vision.

Later – she wasn’t sure how much later – she heard the major call out quietly.

“Private?”

“Sir?” she poked her head in. He gestured for her to come in. She found a shivering Heather wrapped in the major’s jacket. Her tears had stopped falling, but only because she was exhausted, nearly passed out. There would be plenty more later.

“Is there a blanket? And some water?”

“I’ll check.”

“Also – a medic. And we’re going to need a bolt cutter.” He added, looking behind Heather at the chains around her wrists.