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Author’s note:

I was writing this and found this fic taking me in a different direction. A decidedly darker, hurt/comfort direction. But if that’s not your thing, I didn’t want to leave you hanging, so I wrote an alternate ending to wrap things up for you. Enjoy!

 

Heather rubbed her wrists, now free of the rope that had held them. She hadn’t known if she would survive the standoff, but she had. Mainly by sheer luck,  she thought to herself. The tension had been thick enough to cut; a gun pointed at her, several pointed at her captor. Her luck had come when she passed out; her sudden weight had distracted her captor, and in the process of trying to grab her, he’d dropped his gun. Recognizing that Beck’s men now had the drop on him, he had surrendered.

Where was Edward, anyway? She thought as she looked around. She knew that his men had been on the radio over ten minutes ago calling it in. He should be –

She heard the squeal of a humvee as it skidded to a stop, and her heart leapt when she saw Edward step out of it. Their eyes locked, and they drifted closer together. An observer would disagree, saying they snapped together instantly, like two magnets. Whatever the actual speed, they found themselves together, holding each other as if they’d never let go. Heather was vaguely aware of body armor poking her in various places, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was his arms around her.

“Marry me.” He breathed.

“Absolutely.”

They held each other for a full minute, finally becoming aware of the stares. They leaned back to look each other in the eye. It was obvious to each of them that neither had planned what they had said…or had any intention of retracting it.

“Well, are you going to kiss her or not?”

“Yeah, kiss her!”

The major looked up to find which of his men had made the comments – but Heather yanked him down by his chin strap and kissed him soundly, causing general laughter. Surrendering, he kissed her back, only peripherally aware of her other hand searching for him under the armor. Well, until said hand found his six. He was startled when she grabbed his ass, but she didn’t release him from the kiss, ignoring a fresh wave of laughter. Finally, the kiss waned and he looked around.

“Happy now?” he asked the crowd.

Another bout of snickers answered in the affirmative.

“Let’s get out of here.”

“Yeah, I’m starving.”

“Here, I’ve got some jerky…”

Heather gagged, retching as her held her hair. Not much came up, as she hadn’t been fed much recently.

“Sorry. Forgot about that.”

“Well,” she said, wiping her mouth “I’m sure Bailey’s has something…not disgusting. Like bread.”

“Bailey’s it is, then.”

As they left, neither of them noticed the looks of sheer terror on the face of her former captor as he realized he had just held a gun on the major’s girl.


 

The first thing they did at Bailey’s was go to the bathroom to clean Heather up. She washed her face and pulled her hair back (washing it would have to wait). She finished by rinsing her mouth out several times.

“Well, that’s as good as it’s gonna get this side of a toothbrush and a bath.”

“You look wonderful.”

“Might not want to kiss me for a while, though.”

“Nonsense.” He replied, and immediately kissed her soundly, ignoring her token resistance for a few seconds and then he retreated. “I always want to kiss you.” She wiped her mouth again, glaring at him.

“Eddy, that was disgusting. Sweet, but disgusting. Don’t ever do that again.”

“Do what?” a new voice said.

“Mary? How did I miss you coming in?”

“I was in the storeroom.” She said, coming in for a hug. “God, you stink.”

“Yeah, I just threw up few minutes ago. Which apparently doesn’t bother some people.”

“What?”

“Would you kiss someone who’d just thrown up?”

“No…I don’t want to get sick.”

“Well, this idiot will.” She said, pointing.

“Hey, it’s not like I’ll get sick. It’s not contagious!”

“How do you know?” Mary asked, ignoring for the moment who was kissing who in favor of following the conversation.

“I gave it to her.”

“Wait a minute.” Mary paused, considering the two contradictory statements. “How can it not be contagious if you gave it to her?”

“It’d better not be contagious.” Heather said. “If you give it to anyone else, the wedding’s off.”

“Wedding? What wedding? What’s going on?”

The look on her face was so confused they burst out laughing. Finally, they relented.

“Come on, we might as well explain it to everyone at once.”

Gail went to the sheriff’s office after her evening shift at the hospital. It was virtually empty, as she’d suspected it would be at this hour. She sighed when she saw the expected exception to that emptiness, indicated by the light leaking out from the blinds.

She walked to the door of Beck’s office and the sentry offered no resistance, even though they both knew that ‘he’s expecting me’ was a complete lie. She’d hoped he would bury himself in paperwork, but instead he had cracked open a bottle of something. Apparently he’d passed the denial stage and was in the wallowing phase.

“You know, you should save that for when you can really enjoy it.”

His head snapped up; apparently he was so deep he hadn’t heard her enter.

“How many does that make?” she asked.

“Two.”

She looked at the bottle, noting the level.

“How big were those two?”

“Relax. I started about here.” He pointed. “I first cracked it open when…”

“When what?” she asked. When he hesitated, she spoke again, gently. “Were you sharing it with Heather?”

He snorted.

“I offered. She wouldn’t touch it.”

That got a wry chuckle out of Gail. He gestured to a seat.

“Speaking of which, would you like some?”

“A small one. Save some for when you find her.” She took a sip of the proffered drink. “No wonder she beats you at scrabble. This stuff fries your brain cells.”

“That is its primary use. It never seems to find the exact brain cells I want it to, though.” He looked morosely at his glass. “I had managed to hold onto the bottle, unopened, for five years. Until I got to Jericho. Until Heather.”

“Until Heather?”

“Well, it’s never anything she does. It’s what she says. She has a way of pointing out uncomfortable truths. But she sticks around when the chips fall, god bless her.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. The first time, she called me a coward. Told me I couldn’t see the truth – and then threw the truth in my face. I arrested her.”

Gail sat up in surprise. Heather had never mentioned that.

“’Course, her words stuck in my brain, just as she intended. I let her go about two hours later. She chose to sit with me as my men decided whether to support me or arrest me, and almost certainly re-arrest her.” He took another sip. “I should have sent her away, just in case. Fortunately, they didn’t arrest us.”

“Then there was the night she watched me get drunk. Let me ramble on for the longest time before she cut me off. It’s like… she shoves you over a cliff or something, because it needs to be done, but then she catches you at the bottom. Or perhaps being shoved into a pool of cold water, to bring you to your senses, and then she fishes you out.”

“And tonight…she’s not here to talk to, or listen, or even cut me off. And this is the biggest fucking cliff I’ve ever seen.”

They simply sat there for a bit, sipping their drinks. When Edward moved to refill his glass, though, she stopped him.

“Save it for when you get her back. There’s just enough in there for that.”

“Cutting me off, eh?”

“Well, I’m not Heather, but I can at least do that much. I’ll even hold onto it for you until then, if you like.”

“That would probably be a good idea.” He looked on as Gail secured the bottle in her bag. “Why did you come here, anyway? I appreciate the company, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t come for the drinks.”

“Well, I knew you could probably use the company, but you’re right, that’s not the only reason I came. I…well I ran that test. And I didn’t know if you wanted to know the results or not.”

“Does she know?”

“I don’t know.” He looked at her, confused. “She wanted to wait until you were together, so I wrote it down on a folded piece of paper. I don’t know whether she peeked or not.”

“She did put a bunch of names on the scrabble board.”

“Doesn’t mean she peeked. She may know anyway. Women can tell, you know.”

“Yeah, I suppose I do.”

“So, do you want to know?”

He pondered for a moment. He’d wanted the answer to be yes. Before. But now… to possibly lose Heather was bad enough. To lose her and their unborn child would be… but he couldn’t change that. All he could change was the knowing. And he’d discovered not knowing didn’t make it hurt any less.

“Tell me.”

“She’s pregnant.”

He nodded.

“Thank you.”

“Good night, Major.”

“Good night, Mrs. Green.”

Jake was in the Sheriff’s office, talking with Beck. His mother had defended the major’s decision to delegate the investigation, but he still didn’t understand it. So what if Beck felt guilty about Heather being kidnapped? Felt that he had screwed up? Jake shook his head in disgust. In his mind, those were reasons to go in and personally fix your screw-up, not shuffle it off on someone else.

 “Jake, I can’t lead this investigation.” Beck paused for a moment, suppressing something Jake couldn’t quite put a name to. “I fucked up – if I had done my job, she’d still be here.”

“What? You fail once, so you give up?”

“ - That’s not - ” Beck said angrily, but Jake kept going. He’d been mad enough when his mother had told him Beck was delegating the investigation. Dammit, Beck was the reason they took her! The least he do was do his best to get her back.

“I thought she was your friend! Don’t you want to find her?”

Beck turned fully towards to file cabinet to cover his breaking expression. More than you’ll ever know. He heard a gasp from Jake. Shit, he’d said that out loud.

“My god – you love her.”

He spun around, mask destroyed, really glad that the blinds were closed.

“You can’t tell anyone.” He grated out menacingly. Realizing it had come out as a threat, he softened his voice. “Please, I’m begging you.”

Jake blinked, stunned silent for once in his life by the emotion Beck was showing. He’d seen the major pissed; he’d seen him mourn – he’d never seen him terrified. It was a full five seconds before he found his voice.

“You really do love her.” Jake paused. “You know she likes you too.”

Beck looked sharply at Jake – Jake still didn’t know that they were together, and he wanted to keep it that way. Jake meant well, but he wasn’t the best at keeping secrets. He sighed, giving an answer that was truthful but incomplete (he knew he couldn’t lie successfully in his current state.) “I know.”

“Then why - ?”

“I didn’t want to give the ASA reason to go after her, too.” Seeing Jake’s puzzled look (god he could be dense), he explained. “The ASA’s is not above using loved ones to control people.” His tone was harsh with the pain of memory on top of it all.

“…I thought your family died of the virus.”

“They did. However, the ASA told me differently. They showed me ‘proof’ that they were alive. But they were always one step behind them, so I could never make contact with them, never let them know I was alive and where to find me. I was always waiting for the latest word, hoping that the next report would tell me - ” He broke off, taking a deep breath. He realized that he was holding his dogtags through his shirt, and forced himself to let go. “It wasn’t until I got the letter – through Texan channels – that I knew the truth. And that I should be glad they died of natural causes, not – ”

 “Oh.”

“So you can’t tell anyone. You need to lead the investigation with Dunne. I can’t. It would only put her in more danger. Just act like you’re reporting to me.”

Jake paused in thought. The revelation he’d just received explained why the major hadn’t made a move on Heather. But his original concern remained unanswered.

“Why aren’t you leading the search yourself? I would be. I’d do anything to get her back.”

“Because I would do anything. That’s why – It’s too dangerous. I’m not objective enough. If I thought someone knew something – well, what I did to you would seem like a cakewalk. And that’s not what Heather would want.”

After an uncomfortable silence, Jake cleared his throat.

“Does Dunne know?” She knows more than you, actually. A point I need to make to her.

“Yes.”

Jake didn’t quite to know what to say next, so he excused himself.

“I’ll go find Captain Dunne, then.”

“She’ll be back in from patrol at 1800.”

Colonel Beck glanced at Heather’s empty desk and had to hide a smile. It really wouldn’t do for his staff to think he was glad she was sick. But he was happy anyway; even without any medical confirmation, he cherished his suspicions. The timing might not be convenient, but somehow he was warming to the idea. And he thought Heather was, too, based on a couple of comments she’d said before he’d left.  Another couple of hours and he’d go check up on her on his lunch break. He was working his way through a stack of status reports when the radio on his desk crackled.

“Colonel Beck! Come in please.” The voice was urgent.

“Yes?”

“Someone’s taken Miss Lisinski.”

Beck paled, frozen by the news.

“Sir? Are you there?”

It took a few seconds to recover his voice.

“Yes, I’m here.”

A few more seconds passed.

“Sir, perhaps we should secure the area and gather evidence?” the voice on the radio suggested.

“Yes. Yes, of course. I’ll be right over.”

 

He drove up to Heather’s place. He found his men talking to a nervous little girl holding a mewling kitten. The door was ajar; he was suddenly afraid to go in. He knew he had to keep his composure, not give away the secret they’d kept for the past few months. He didn’t know if he could do that. Well, he was here now. It would look odd if he didn’t review the scene. He took a deep breath and walked over to the lieutenant.

“Status report.”

“The scene is secure. It appears that they used the child and the kitten to gain access.” 

“The kitten?”

“Elly found the kitten with a broken leg not far from here. She says a man suggested she take the kitten to Miss Lisinski. It was a setup – once the door was open, a masked man came out from behind the corner of the building and grabbed her from behind.”

“Does she remember what the man who talked to her looked like?”

“No, she’s still in shock – we had to drag her out of the closet. And, honestly, I don’t think she was really paying attention to him – not with the kitten in her arms.”

“Of course. When was this?”

“About half an hour ago.”

“Any other leads?”

“Not yet.”

Beck nodded, dismissing the soldier. He looked at the door once more. Well, here goes. He walked over to the door. There was a shoe at the entrance and an overturned umbrella stand, which caused a bitter smile. She would put up a fight. He went inside, which was undisturbed. There was a bowl of soup on the table, which Gail had probably brought over. He noticed that they had been playing scrabble, although – hmmm, that wasn’t right. The words were all parallel. He walked over to the table to get a better look.

They were names, divided into columns. Boys’ names on the left, girls’ on the right.

His composure broke. This was too much. He turned on his heel and strode to the bathroom, where he could break down in private. He sat on the edge of the tub, head in his hands, and cried quietly.

Several minutes later, he heard a knock on the door. Capt Dunne’s voice spoke.

“Sir? Are you ok?”

No.

“Yes. What do you need?”

“Nothing, sir, just wanted to check on you.” The concern in her voice was obvious. “I know you two are close.”

You have no idea.

“Just give me a minute, ok?”

“Yes, sir.”

He tried to clear his thoughts. It wasn’t easy. I really should tell someone. I can’t oversee this investigation. I can’t even think straight. He wiped his eyes and took a deep breath.

“Captain.” He called quietly. He knew she’d still be standing by the door.

“Sir?”

“Come in.” She did. “Close the door.” She looked at him, saw where the tears had fallen. He saw her face soften in sympathy. “I need you to oversee this investigation. I can’t. But I need it to look like I’m still in charge, simply delegating it.”

“Sir?”

“Did you see the scrabble board?”

She was surprised at the non-sequitor.

“Yes.”

“Those are baby names.” She paused, putting two and two together.

Whoa.

“Sir – I didn’t know you’d –”

“You weren’t supposed to. I was afraid that the ASA would use her against me if they knew, like before.” His voice was bitter. “Didn’t seem to do much good, did it? All that worry over the ASA, and I let Constantino’s men take her.”

“I hope they still don’t know, that they just took her because she works in the office, because she was the easiest to go after. I don’t want them to hurt her to get to me. I don’t want them to know how much power they have over me right now. And I sure as hell don’t want them to find out that she could be…”

“You don’t know?”

He shook his head.

“Mrs. Green came by, took a sample…but no results yet.”

He finished, burying his face in his hands. The sight tore at Captain Dunne’s heart. Déjà vu all over again, she thought to herself. Poor bastard falls in love and this happens.

“We’ll find her, sir. I promise.”

Edward had showed up a bit early to escort Heather to the office. He’d discovered that showing up early and having to ‘wait for her’ was a sneaky way of stealing a few more precious minutes alone with Heather. So he was sitting at her kitchen table, holding her left hand while she ate with her right. It was silly, he supposed, but he didn’t care.

“So how did it go?” Edward asked. He hadn’t been happy about the ‘date’, but Heather was right about appearances.

“Apparently you’re a better actor than I am.” The admission was grudging, given how he’d twitted her over it.

“Oh?” He tried not to smirk, and almost succeeded.

“Everyone knows I like you; you, however, aren’t ready yet.”

“I suppose that’s to be expected, Ms. I-have-no-poker-face.”

“I should point out that they also believe you’ve already sorta picked me. You just don’t know it yet.” She smirked at him. “Hey, do these eggs smell funny to you?”

He dutifully sniffed the eggs.

“Smell fine to me. Of course, I’m used to powdered mess tent eggs.”

“Thanks for the qualification.”

“Just being honest.”

She sat down to eat them anyway, since wasting food was practically criminal. Ed watched her choke down the first bite.

“That bad? Really?”

“You wanna try it?”

“Okay.”

“It’s not so bad – Heather?” Heather was retching, and running to the bathroom. He followed, pulling the hair out of her face. He waited until she was done, then wiped her face.

“Guess you’re staying home today. What else have you got?” He put a hand on her forehead. “No fever. Any coughing? Sneezing?”

“No.”

“Tired? Achy?

“Always.”

“I don’t suppose you ate any more egg salad?” She shook her head. He sighed. “Well, let’s at least get you horizontal.” He steered her to the bed, but then she tripped over the edge of the rug. Fortunately, he managed to catch her.

“Ow!”

“Did you stub your toe?”

“No, you just grabbed my boob.”

He chuckled.

“Sorry.”

She glared at him.

“Hey, I didn’t grab it that hard.”

“Well, it hurts.”

Something twigged in the back of his mind. He ran his finger over her other breast. She grimaced.

“That shouldn’t hurt, Heather.” He paused, thinking for another way to test the hypothesis forming in the back of his brain. “Lie down.” He went to the microfridge. Ah, he was in luck. A piece of raw venison. He brought it over to Heather, who was looking on in confusion. “Smell this.” He cracked the lid and held it up to her nose. She immediately gagged.

“Heather, when was your last period?”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“But – but – that’s not possible! You know I’m on the pill!”

“And here you are, showing symptoms.”

“It’s got to be something else.”

“I can’t think of anything else. Let me get Mrs. Green over here, have her take a look at you.”

She nodded consent, but she was still in shock.

“God, what if I am? What do I do?”

“Well, we sit down and discuss it like the responsible adults we allegedly are.”

“It would totally blow our cover.”

“Well, that’s getting pretty thin, as you’ve just discovered. We could just say the heck with it and announce it. It would mean a full-time bodyguard.”

“Ugh.”

“Sorry, but it wouldn’t just be for you.” He stood. “Of course, we may be getting worked up over nothing. You sit tight, and I’ll get her to come over.”

“You can’t just call her on the radio?”

“I am not putting this call over the radio.” He kissed her and pulled a trash can next to the bed. “I have to go now. I’ll be back soon.”


Oh, thank god. She’s already outside.

Beck went straight to the med center. He’d been trying to think of a legitimate pretext to ask for Mrs. Green, but had come up blank. His mind kept returning to the possibility of - . He broke off the thought and sped up to come alongside her.

“Mrs. Green?”

“Major.” Gail smiled at him, until his worried expression registered. “What is it?”

“I, uh, - you got a minute?”

“Sure. You want to go inside?”

“Not if we’re overheard.”

“Heather?”

“Yes.”

“She’s been vomiting?”

“Wha -?”

“Major, your jacket has a bit of – ” she pointed. “It has a rather distinct smell.”

“Oh.” He looked down. “Well, she’s been sick all morning.” Gail’s eyebrows went up as she caught the slight emphasis on ‘sick’ and ‘morning’ and made the connection.

“Really? I thought that she was - ” She broke off a someone passed by. Beck nodded; Gail had been able to discreetly supply Heather with the pill.

“She is. But the symptoms – ”

“House call it is, then.”

A look of relief washed over Beck’s face.

“Thank you.”

“No problem.”


“But I’ve taken my pill every day – never missed a dose - ever!”

A light bulb went off in Gail’s head.

“Well, the timing’s about right…” she murmured to herself

What!!?” Heather glared at Edward, who looked confused.

“What?”

“He told you when we - !?” Heather broke off, unable to continue.

Gail, realizing she’d been misunderstood, couldn’t help but laugh.

“God, no, I just meant that it’s been about a month since you had food poisoning.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Heather, what time each day do you take the pill?”

“With breakfast.”

“And what time of day did you get sick after eating that chicken salad?”

“About ten in th– oh. OH.”

“You took it, but it probably came right back up.” She explained unnecessarily.

“So I don’t need to smack him upside the head?”

“Not for this, no.”

“Whaddaya mean, ‘not for this’?” Edward cut in.

“I’m sure there’s something you need to be smacked over. I just don’t know what it is.” She began to pack. “I’ll get the results to you tomorrow.”

“And nobody will know the test is for me?”

“Heather, do you have any idea how many anonymous pregnancy tests I’ve run? Nobody will question it.”

“Thanks.”

As Gail gathered up her kit, she heard a smack.

“Hey! What was that for!?”

“General principle.”

He looked at her with a raised eyebrow, then attacked her with tickles, only stopping when he’d pinned her down on the couch. Heather mock-glared up at him. Gail thought they looked adorable. She actually felt a bit of a twinge; the sight of Beck grinning in his green army t-shirt reminded her of Johnston. But any resentment she felt quickly dissipated, and she smiled.

“Hey, general principal.”

“Alright. We’re even.” Edward relented, leaning back to let her up. Just then, Heather grabbed his dogtags.

“When?” she asked, holding up his wedding ring. It was on the chain with Ally’s ring and Jenny’s tags, not with his dogtags.

“When you went out on that ‘date’. I did a lot of thinking after I got over my initial jealous reaction. I realized – ” he shrugged, unable to articulate it. “It doesn’t bother you that I still wear it, does it?”

“No, Eddy, of course not! They’re a part of who you are.”

He looked at her for a long moment, running his fingers along her cheek.

“What did I ever do to deserve you?”

Gail smothered a chuckle as Heather pulled him in for a kiss and showed herself out the door.

Karin looked around the basement, seeing other shapes move out of their huddled positions in the dim light of a few flashlights.

“It’s over, right?” said a voice to her right

“Think so?”

“Yeah.”

Karin looked around. More flashlights were on, but she still couldn’t identify everyone.

“Roll call!”

“Posly!”

“Rainey!”

 “Sorey!”

“Goodman!”

“Smith!”

“Frankel!”

“Harrington!”

“…Green!”

“Hawkins.”

She went over the roster in her head. Heather had Saturdays off (lucky civilian!),  so she was at probably safely home. Beck had called in, telling her he was late but on his way. He should have been nearly here by the time the tornado hit, though. He must have been pinned down en route, forced to seek shelter wherever he could find it.

“Ok, let’s get upstairs and see how everyone else did.”

 

“Major Beck, come in please. Repeat, Major, please respond.”

“Beck here.”

“Are you ok?”

“We’re fine.”

“We?”

“Heather and I. I was on Second street when I heard the tornado.”

Karin rolled her eyes at Lts. Posly and Goodman, who sniggered into their hands.  Second street was a block from Heather’s place and less than half a block from the office. Moreover, the office door wasn’t locked whereas Heather’s was. None of them were surprised at this lack of logic in the face of impending danger. She waited for them to silence themselves before she keyed the radio again.

“Well, we’re going to need you here ASAP, sir. Heather, your help would be appreciated.”

“We’re coming.”

Setting down the radio, she shook her head.

“When is he going to wake up and smell the coffee?”

“I give it another three months.”

“Three months until he comes to his senses, or three months until she forces the issue?” Posly asked.

“Hmmm.” She saw the wheels turning in Goodman’s head.

“Guys, can it. We need to get to work. You can start the betting pool later.”

 ♪ Slow dancing, swaying to the music ♫

Heather watched the couples out on the dance floor. Well, what passed as a dance floor at Bailey’s.

Slow dancing, just me and my girl

 “Hey, you want to dance?” Heather was brought back to the situation by the voice of her ‘date’, a soldier who had recently transferred to office duty due to a broken arm. She’d been taken aback when he asked her out, but she came to her senses quickly enough that she hadn’t blurted out that she was seeing someone. But she hadn’t been able to think of any other excuse, so she’d accepted, coming to Bailey’s, where he’d been talking for about two minutes now with no response from her.

“What?”

“You want to dance?”

“No, that’s okay.” Not with you, anyway. “I just like the song.”

“All right. You want something else to eat?”

“No.”

“What do you want to do?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” She looked over at the couples again.

“You sure you don’t want to dance? I can’t do anything fancy, but - ”

“Yes.” She snapped, then immediately apologized. “Sorry. I just – ” she tried to come up with a suitable explanation.

“- Want to dance with someone else.”

She looked at him in alarm.

“Relax, Heather, it’s okay. The guys tried to tell me you had a thing for the major. I didn’t want to believe them.” Now she was truly alarmed. “Oh well. When the major comes around, tell him he’s a lucky man.”

Heather blushed in embarrassed relief. She wasn’t a very good liar; the assumption that Ed wasn’t ready yet was the only thing that had saved them.

“You want me to take you home?”

“Please.” Heather said gratefully.

Jul. 31st, 2010

Beck had to fight the impulse to follow Heather into the bathroom and hold her hair back. She was not the first to fall ill; over half the staff had eaten egg salad that Mrs. White had brought them. He’d been glad when Mrs. White showed up, food in hand. It was a definite sign that the citizens of Jericho were starting to warm up to them, even if Mrs. White had been insistent that it was nothing special, saying that she had had to use up the big CostCo-size tub of mayo all at once. Refrigeration was highly uncommon anymore; the electrical draw was just too great.

He’d put out the word to the town about it. The rest of Jericho had eaten chicken (Bailey’s), tuna (Base camp), fruit (the med center), and macaroni salad (city hall), all from the same mammoth jar of mayo. So far it looked like it was just the egg salad. Of course it would take out the sheriff’s office, the nerve center of the defensive force of Jericho. If Mrs. White hadn’t delivered it herself, he’d have suspected a low-tech form of biological warfare. However, it was more probable that being the last stop on her delivery run was the cause of the ‘targeted’ nature of the illness.

He picked up the radio and keyed the med center.

“Major Beck to the med center, over.”

“Med center here, Major. Got another one?”

“Yeah, Heather this time.”

“I’ll send the wagon.”

“Thanks.”

He knew that there was little they could do over at the med center other then mother-hen the poor, puking victims of food poisoning, but it would prevent the possibility of dehydration. Just as importantly, it would get them out of the office. Those who hadn’t eaten the egg salad were showing signs of sympathetic queasiness, and that was not something he needed.

He saw Heather coming out of the bathroom looking paler than normal. He stepped out of his office to call to her.

“Heather, get your things together. I’ve sent for the wagon.”

“Do I hafta? Why can’t I just go home?”

“You have to leave the office. You can fight with Mrs. Green about going home.”

“Wimp.”

“Better part of valor. Besides, she’ll take good care of you.”

“I hope there’s enough room over there.”

He looked around dramatically.

“It is getting rather empty around here. Maybe I’ll take the opportunity to play the music I like for a change.”

“You mean - ?”

“That’s right. Non-stop bluegrass.”

She put on a mock-horrified look.

“I’ll go. Hey, I think I see the wagon now.”

“That’s better. Remember to call for an escort when Mrs. Green lets you go.”

He chuckled as she left and went to hook his iPod to the speakers, hearing her mumble to herself as she left about his musical tastes.

“Weirdo. Picking bluegrass as a teenage rebellion. What was he thinking?”

Major Beck was walking back to his tent when Sergeant Jones hailed him.

“Yes, Sergeant?”

“Have you seen Private Olsen? He was supposed to be on my work detail this morning, but nobody’s seen him since last night.”

“Olsen is AWOL?” Beck pursed his lips, thinking. He had asked Olsen to do a task for him, but it certainly shouldn’t have taken him all night.

“Yeah, it’s weird, he’s never late.”

“Hmph.” He scratched his chin. “I’ll keep an eye – hey, there he is.”

Private Olsen was in front of Beck’s tent. Well, ‘in front of’ wasn’t quite the right term. He walked towards it, almost knocked on the doorframe, then walked away – and then walked back to repeat the process, muttering to himself all the while.

“What the devil’s gotten into him?”

“Olsen!” Jones called out, freezing the private with his hand in front of the door. He then slowly turned around to face them. Oddly enough, he seemed more terrified of Beck (who was more amused than annoyed) than Jones, who was decidedly on the peeved side. “Where were you this morning?” Jones asked.

“I, uh, was working on something for the major.”

“That shouldn’t have taken all night, soldier.”

“I, that is, there were some complications. I can brief you in private.”

The way he said it was odd – and he couldn’t think of any reason for the briefing to be private, but he was amused enough to play along, and gestured to his tent.

“Alright, private. I didn’t think that testing the security at Heather’s place would take all night and into the morning. So what happened.”

“Well, I picked the lock before she got home, and got in and hid. Then she got home and, well…”

Beck went pale. Last night Heather had practically jumped him as soon as he’d made sure they were alone. Or I thought we were alone. Oh god.

“I would have said something, but I never got the chance before…Sir, I won’t – I would never - ”

“Have you told anyone?”

“God no. I’ve been trying to forget it ever since.”

“Good. Don’t. Ever.”

“Gladly, sir.”

“Does Heather know?”

“I waited until she left to sneak out. That’s why I didn’t make it back till now.”

“Last night never happened. Do you understand me?”

“Loud and clear, sir.”

“One thing before you go, private. Just where were you hiding?”

“Under the bed.”

“Impossible. I checked there.”

“Did you look up into the box spring?”

“You were under -!?”

Private Olsen didn’t even wait for a dismissal, he just ran.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He could tell that Heather was keyed up on the walk home, shivering more than the chilly weather really justified. But almost before he could holster his sidearm after sweeping the apartment, Heather pinned him down with a passionate kiss. Although initially surprised, who was he to argue? She finally pulled back for air, panting.

“Sorry about that. Been wanting to do that all day.”

“Good lord, don’t apologize for that.” He said. “And while I probably shouldn’t question my good fortune, what brought that on? If it was something I did, tell me, and I’ll do it more often.”

Heather chuckled.

“I dreamed about you last night.”

“Must have been a good dream.”

“It was, though it could have been better.”

“Yeah? Do tell.”

“Well, we were walking along a tropical beach – ”

 “Mmm, sounds good already.” He shivered dramatically. “What were you wearing?”

“A bathing suit.”

“What color?” he pressed.

“Blue.” She said. “Now, we were walking along for a bit, then I started to feel like I was getting crispy – ”

“One piece or two?”

“Two, Eddy, now shut up.” She told him. “And lo and behold, there was a grove of shady palm trees. And in that grove, there was a hammock, cold drinks, and a bottle of sunblock.”

“Yeah?” Edward said, tightening his arms around her, liking where this was going.

“We drank the drinks – margaritas, by the way – and then you started to put on the sunblock.” Edward’s only response was a groan. “…and that was when the alarm went off.”

“God, that’s cruel.”

“Yeah. Today was torture. Spent the whole day not being able to think straight.”

“Well, now you’ve got me all riled up too.”

“Hey, if you’ve got the time…”

He decided he did.

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