Pairing(s): Jake/Heather; Heather/Eric (friendship)
Rating: PG-13 (for references to violence and slight language)
Summary: Take place during episode 2x01 (Reconstruction), at the end of Jake and Heather finding each other again. Inspired by the song Broken & Beautiful by Suzie McNeil.
Five Weeks Earlier
Eric’s voice came out in a breathy, horrified whisper as he surveyed the supply room at the east wing of the factory. Shelves of crates, each containing two dozen mortars apiece, lined the room. All in all, he guessed it was about a total of twenty crates. Maybe a few more than that.
“Eric,” Heather whispered urgently, touching his hand with her shaking fingertips.
He turned and looked in time to see a light bobbing down the far end of the hall. His fingers laced with hers and he pulled her down to the ground with him, dragging her to the far wall where they hid out of sight.
Three men came walking passed, their excitement filling the air with a nervous sort of tension.
“So we’re really doing this,” the first one with the cowboy hat announced with something akin to glee.
“Try not to sound to excited, Ken,” the second with the flashlight snapped. “We’re talking about killing hundreds of innocent people.”
“You’d destroy the town with mortars until there wasn’t anything left,” Ken laughed. Their voices began to fade as they walked passed.
“Let’s just get this meeting over with,” the second cut in sharply.
“Easy, Jesse,” the third chuckled. “It’ll be all over soon enough.”
They disappeared around the corner, leaving Eric and Heather still hidden. Eric turned and looked at Heather’s ashen face, paled even more by the silvery moonlight that cast dark shadows across the cement floor.
“Is this a bad time for an ‘I told you so’?” she asked weakly.
Eric realized he was still holding her hand in his and squeezed it with what he hoped conveyed reassurance. He slowly stood, pulling her up with him, but keeping them tight against the wall. He turned to her, their heads close in the darkness. “I’m going to follow them.” He let her go and took a step away.
Her eyes widened. “You’re what?” She grabbed his jacket and stopped him.
“I need to know what they’re planning. So I can go back and tell my dad and the others.” Eric’s lips pursed into a thin, grim line that was nearly obscured by his beard. But there was no mistaking the stubborn resolve that gleamed in his eyes. Heather was sure it was an inherited Green trait.
“Well I’m coming with you,” she sputtered.
He frowned deeply. “No, Heather. You’re safer here.”
She leaned away from him, setting her hands on her hips. “I’m not letting you go by yourself. So if you’re going, so am I.”
He could have throttled her for using his own words against him. He drew in a deep breath and stared at her before slowly shaking his head. “And they say chivalry’s dead,” he deadpanned.
She couldn’t hide the grin that curved her lips up despite the gravity of their situation. She shrugged and followed him quietly down the hall, following the sound of voices. Keeping to the shadows, they came upon the old locker room, illuminated by kerosene lamps. Heather could distinguish at least a dozen different voices, and finally one rising above them all.
“OK, let’s get this meeting under way,” Phil Constantino bellowed above the buzz of the crowd.
Heather could hear chairs scraping against the cement and noises as everyone settled. They had a slight view of the room through a four inch crack between the door and its frame. She could make out what she assumed was Constantino’s shoulder and then a chalkboard as it was wheeled out.
Her breath caught as someone turned the chalkboard around and revealed the map of Jericho that had started this whole ordeal. She felt Eric stiffen beside her, his tension palpable. They were only able to see part of the map, but it had been reconfigured and drawn over with angry red lines. She could vaguely make out the middle of Constantino’s name stamped over the land that was designated ‘Richmond Farm.’
Constantino began the meeting: “This is the revised plan. Once we’ve secured the farms of Jericho and ensured that the people are sequestered into the center of town, we’ll begin moving our people over. Between the three farms New Bern has and the ten we’ll assume command of in Jericho—”
Eric turned to Heather, horror in his eyes. She gulped and shivered hard, suddenly freezing.
“I don’t see why we don’t just take them all,” someone called out.
Constantino chuckled. “The point of our mission isn’t annihilation—just taking what we need to survive.”
“You know that Jericho isn’t going to just sit by while we take their food, their farms,” someone else hollered.
“They won’t have a choice. If they fight, they die. They can stay in town and utilize the resources of the remaining farms we allow them to use, or they can leave.” Constantino hesitated, for what Heather was certain was for dramatic effect.
“We don’t want to hurt the people of Jericho,” he continued in a more somber voice. “Sure, they wronged us by sending Ravenwood here while protecting themselves. But we aren’t the monsters they are. And I don’t want to risk a war with them that would cost our town the lives of our citizens. This is why we’ll strike hard and fast.”
Eric grabbed her hand again and tugged, pulling her away from the locker room meeting. They ran silently back the way they’d come, passed the supply room with the mortars and down the stairwell until they hit the door. Eric opened it slowly, checking for guards. Seeing it was clear, he pushed it open far enough for himself and Heather to slip through. They ran ten yards across the grass and into the woods they would cut through to get back to Hammond’s. It would take an extra fifteen minutes, but it would be safer.
Heather finally stopped, pulling Eric to a halt with her. Her eyes were wild, bright with fear and stress. “What do we do?”
“You get Stanley and the others and get out of here,” he ordered quietly, starting to walk.
She scrambled to catch up. “Me? What about you?”
“I’m staying here.”
Eric stopped suddenly and Heather nearly slammed into him. He turned and looked down at her. “You said it earlier: we need to stop that machine.”
Confused, she shook her head. “Then why didn’t we—”
“There’s too many of them in there. If we got caught…” he trailed off, not needing to explain why he’d pulled them out of there so quickly.
“Eric, I’m not leaving,” Heather said quietly.
He grimaced. “Look, I appreciate you wanting to help, but—”
“You don’t get it. New Bern was my home. I probably know half of those men in there. Truth be told, if one of us were to get caught, they’d probably go easier on me.” She shifted nervously on her feet. “Maybe.”
Eric looked at her sadly. “I wish that were true, but this is a different world. You heard Harry tonight. I don’t think ‘deal with’ you meant a little chat. I think they know you stumbled onto their plan and you might tell us.”
“Maybe you’re right. But it doesn’t change anything. I’m staying. I need to be the one who stops that machine. I helped put it back together. It’s only right that I destroy it.”
“Poetic justice doesn’t mean anything if you get shot,” Eric pointed out with a scowl.
“Poetic justice my ass,” Heather snapped finally. Her blue eyes flashed in the ethereal glow of the moon. “I’ve watched you mope around this town for over a week, not giving a damn about anything or anyone. Now all of the sudden you’re stepping up to play the martyr. It’s not what April would have wanted.”
His jaw went slack for a second before tightening with anger. “You don’t know a damn thing about me and April,” he hissed.
Her expression gentled, but she didn’t back down. “Then let’s just agree we each have our own reasons for wanting to get this done. Besides, it’s safer to do it together. One of us can act as a lookout for the other.”
They walked another ten minutes in silence, making their way through the underbrush and over fallen logs as best they could navigate in the dark.
Heather pushed a tree branch aside. “I’ve been thinking.”
Eric gave her a sideways glance.
“I can’t go back to town. I know of this abandoned cabin that’s out here in the wood. It’s about three-quarters of a mile into the woods east of the Town Hall. There’s a little creek that runs from the back section of Town Hall right passed it. I’ll stay there tonight. You can meet me there in the morning. I think it’d be better if you spent the night in town. Everyone should be getting home from the pub around the time you get into town.”
“Also, I don’t think you should tell Stanley and the others,” she said slowly.
He frowned. “Why not? They need to get out of New Bern and—”
“If they leave all of the sudden in the middle of the night,” Heather cut in, “they’ll know that we’re onto them. They would guard the mortars and the machine so heavily we’d never get in. That’s if they didn’t just move up their timetable and attack Jericho immediately.”
Eric digested that. “You’re probably right. So what do we tell them?”
“Honestly?” Heather huffed, straddling a fallen oak tree. She grabbed Eric’s offered hand for balance. “Thank you,” she remarked off-handedly as she found her center on the other side. They kept walking.
“I think that Constantino will push for you guys to leave New Bern—soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pushes to move you guys out within the week. Whatever they’re planning seems to be in the final stages.” She hesitated for a moment and thought.
“You need to give them a reason you want to stay. Something they’ll believe. Something that Stanley won’t see through right away and ask questions about.”
Eric thought for a moment. “April,” he said softly. So softly she almost didn’t hear him.
She gave him a quick look.
“I’ll tell Stanley that I’m staying a few extra days in New Bern because of April’s…” He sighed quietly and let the sentence die in his throat.
Heath stopped them with a gentle hand on his arm. “Eric, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for what happened to April and the baby. And for what I said back there. I had no right to bring her up like that.”
Eric shrugged helplessly. “You weren’t wrong. April wouldn’t want me to go in there recklessly and…” He sighed deeply and gave her a shrug. “Truth is I need you to help me dismantle the machine. We need to put it out of commission permanently. I don’t know enough about it to do that.”
She gave him a half smile. “I’m sure you could manage.”
“Maybe,” he conceded with a slight grin, “but it’s nice to have a partner.”
She nodded. “Partners. I can live with that.”