|The Strong Will Survive
Author: dolphingirl375 PM
This story takes place several days after "See Ya". It follows the adventures of our intrepid explorers who split off from the main group at 'Club 29 Down' looking for civilization, a way off the island, the others, anything...Rating is more T than M.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Jackson & Melissa - Chapters: 14 - Words: 63,167 - Reviews: 139 - Favs: 41 - Follows: 29 - Updated: 09-23-07 - Published: 07-15-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3658111
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Strong Will Survive
Disclaimer: I do not own Flight 29 Down nor any of its characters (If I did there'd be no chance in Hades of Taylor EVER getting Jackson!) but the plot is my own. I used some of the background information from the F29D books and expanded on it.
Author's Note: This story takes place several days after "See Ya". It follows the adventures of our intrepid explorers who split off from the main group at 'Club 29 Down'. This is my idea of how the series should have continued (for the most part) if it was moved to cable and only followed one group.
It's rated T for some violence and 'intimate' scenes later on. (It may need to be rated M later). Read with caution!
I confess to using poetic license with some facts for the sake of the story.
Suspend disbelief to fully enjoy.
This is my first fanfic ever and I started writing it back in February. I have it almost complete but every time I read it I change it which is frustrating and makes me feel like I'll never finish.
I welcome all comments and constructive criticism. Hope you enjoy!
"Come on, wake up! We need to get going!" Abby yelled into the tent.
"Wha?? Huh? Whasswrong?" Eric said groggily. "Didn't we just lay down?" He rolled over and immediately started snoring again.
Melissa sat up rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "Abby, it's still dark. What time is it, anyway?"
"It's 5:30," Jackson said sleepily, checking his watch's lighted dial and rubbing his eyes.
"It won't hurt to wait another hour when it's light out," Melissa said stifling a huge yawn. "And anyway, we can't pack up camp in the dark."
"We have a lot of ground to cover, we need to get moving!!" Abby snapped.
"Abby!" Jackson yelled from his corner of the tent. He sat up. "Chill! Mel's right. We need to wait until it's light out. We can't pack our gear in the dark, we may overlook something important, something we need."
"Fine! I knew I should have come by myself," Abby grumbled as she stalked out of the tent.
Melissa was next to Jackson and could just make out his face in the dark tent. They exchanged glances of surprise mixed with 'what was that about?' "Should we go back to sleep or get up and start getting ready?" she asked.
"Let's get a little more shut-eye," Jackson said. "We're gonna need all we can get."
They both lay back down in their sleeping bags. Jackson closed his eyes and went right back to sleep. Melissa lay there for a few minutes thinking about what had just happened. She listened to Jackson's rhythmic breathing and was soon sleeping herself.
At 6:30 the alarm on Jackson's watch started beeping. He turned it off and slowly sat up wiping the sleep from his eyes. He leaned over on one elbow and looked down at Melissa. She looked so peaceful and carefree. He watched her for a few seconds and couldn't help smiling. He hated to disturb her but he could hear Abby banging around outside and knew she'd be impatient to get started. "Mel," he said softly, gently nudging her. "Time to wake up."
Melissa slowly opened her eyes. There was Jackson's face hovering above hers, those beautiful blue eyes looking into hers. "Am I dreaming?" she asked sleepily.
"Afraid not, it's time to get up," he said.
She smiled at him and wiped the sleep out of her eyes for the second time that morning and stretched. "What?" she asked when she noticed him staring at her.
Jackson was looking at her with a big grin on his face. "Nothing."
"You're staring at me, what's wrong? Oh God, is there something hanging out of my nose?" she asked, her hand flying up to cover her nose.
He laughed softly. "No, it's just…" he said.
"What?" she asked.
"It's just that you make the cutest face when you stretch," he replied.
"Oh," she said. She felt a little self-conscious but she smiled at him to cover her embarrassment.
Jackson sat up straight and kicked Eric's big foot. "Hey!" he yelled. "Time to rise and shine, sunshine!"
Eric yelped and rolled over rubbing his eyes. "Oww! Easy there, chief," he said. "You'll break my foot!"
"Then get up!" he replied, aiming another kick at Eric's now exposed shin.
Eric saw Jackson getting ready to kick him again so he sat up fast and pulled his legs into his chest. "Chill, man!" he said. "I'm up. I'm up. No need for violence." With that Eric grabbed his shoes and hat and crawled out of the tent.
"About time!" they heard Abby say crossly.
Jackson and Melissa exchanged glances again. Melissa shrugged. "Guess we better get out there before there's blood shed." They picked up their shoes and went outside.
"Finally!" Abby said. "Are we going to have this late of a start everyday?" She had already boiled more water and filled all of their canteens and extra water bottles. There was fruit waiting for breakfast and her pack was all ready to go.
"Calm down, Abby," Jackson said. "The sun is just starting to rise. It would be stupid to move before it's full light. We'll have plenty of daylight. We'll cover a lot of ground today."
"Whatever!" she said rolling her eyes. "Just hurry up and eat so we can pack up and get going."
"Sheesh!" Eric said quietly.
Abby glared at him.
Eric ducked his head and avoided her eyes. He pretended to be tying his boot again.
While Eric, Melissa and Jackson ate their fruit Abby dumped their backpacks and sleeping bags out of the tent and started rolling it up.
"Abby, we'll help you with that in a minute," Jackson said.
"I've got it," she said angrily.
Eric walked by Melissa and said quietly in her ear, "Well, we can see who's not a morning person." Melissa put her hand over her mouth to stifle a laugh.
Jackson, Melissa and Eric rolled up their sleeping bags and tied them onto their packs. Jackson went over and helped Abby finish rolling up the tent and put it away. Soon they had all of their gear packed and ready. They kicked dirt over the fire and made sure it was out.
"Well, let's go," Jackson said.
Abby was already walking rapidly down the beach. Eric grabbed Jackson's wrist and looked at his watch. It was 7:00 on the dot. The sun was just above the horizon of the ocean. "Geez, what's her hurry?" he asked.
"I guess she's just anxious to find Ian, Jory and Captain Russell," Melissa said as she hurried after Abby's quickly retreating back.
"We all are but come on! This is earlier than I get up for school!" Eric said as he strolled after the group. He was anxious and excited to finally be moving, doing something to hopefully get off this island, but his inherent laziness won out in the mornings. Guess I'm not really a morning person either, he thought. But at least I'm not a total grouch!
The group walked along the beach all morning. It was getting hotter and hotter. They had to walk fast to keep up with Abby's relentless pace. She wouldn't stop for anything. They were all dragging by 11:30. The sun was beating down on them and Jackson called for a stop. Melissa and Eric gratefully dropped their packs on the sand and plopped down beside them pulling their water bottles out. Eric started fanning his face with his hat. Abby continued walking.
"Abby! Hey, Abby!" Jackson yelled. "We're stopping for lunch!". She appeared not to hear him. She kept right on walking. Jackson sighed and dropped his pack. He got out his water bottle, took a long pull on it then set it down and went sprinting down the beach after Abby. When he caught up to her he was out of breath. "Abby, come on. We're stopping for lunch," he panted.
She kept right on walking. Jackson caught up to her again and grabbed her arm. "Abby! Stop!"
She stopped and stared at him. There's something wrong with her eyes, he thought. "Abby, you can't keep up this pace without a break. In this heat you're gonna keel over!" She just kept staring at him. "Abby!" Jackson slapped her. Abby closed her eyes for a minute and shook her head from side to side. She opened her eyes and glared at him. Now someone's home, Jackson thought.
"What?" Abby barked.
"It's 11:30 and we've been walking hard since seven without a break. We're stopping for lunch and a little rest," Jackson said.
"Oh, fine, whatever," Abby said somewhat dazedly.
They walked back to join Melissa and Eric who had moved up into the shade of the trees and Melissa had gotten out the fruit and passed it around. "Make sure you drink plenty of water, we can't risk dehydration or heat exhaustion in this weather," she said.
Abby sat down and accepted the fruit Melissa offered. She seemed more quiet than usual. Jackson kept watching Abby. She drank a little water and ate her fruit. After a while everyone went their separate ways into the trees to relieve themselves. Jackson and Melissa were the first ones back. They walked down to the ocean to wash their hands and splash cool water on their faces.
"What's up with Abby?" Melissa asked. "She seems more distant than usual and I noticed you keep watching her."
"I'm worried about her, Mel. When I went after her, her eyes were vacant. She was totally out of it. I had to slap her to bring her around. I noticed she hadn't been drinking her water during our hike. She didn't drink more than a few sips just now."
Melissa looked at him with a concerned expression. "You think she's gonna get heat exhaustion?"
"Yeah, I do. But I know how much of a fight it's going to be to stop her. I don't know what to do, Mel," he said running his hand back and forth through his hair.
"What are you two talking about?" Eric asked walking up. He leaned over and scrubbed his hands with sand in the ocean then removed his hat, scooped up water with it and poured it over his head. "Aahhh. That feels so good!"
Jackson looked over his shoulder to make sure Abby wouldn't hear him. She hadn't come out of the trees. "Abby's on the way to giving herself heat exhaustion," he said quietly. She hasn't been drinking her water and she's already out of it. If we try to make her stay she's gonna go off big time."
"So what do we do, chief?" Eric asked.
"I have an idea," Melissa said.
"We're all ears," Jackson and Eric said in unison.
"Well, it's a little dangerous but I think it'll be okay." They looked at her expectantly. "We'll just let her go. We'll watch her very carefully and when she finally collapses, we'll be ready. I have some salt tablets in my pack and we still have plenty of water. We can set up camp, boil more water, get cool water from the ocean. We know the drill…"
"That sounds a little too risky," Jackson said shaking his head slightly.
"What other options do we have?" Eric asked. "You know how stubborn she is".
"I'll tell her we're stopping here, now, for the day and if she puts up too much of a fight, we'll go with Mel's plan. Agreed?"
"Hey, Abby's not back yet, she has to be done with her uh, you know, business," Melissa said, blushing a little.
They all looked at each other then took off running for the trees. They found Abby passed out on the ground. Jackson picked her up and carried her back to their packs. Melissa ran ahead and already had Abby's sleeping bag rolled out. Jackson laid Abby on it and they all sprang into action. Jackson put up the tent while Eric started the fire. Melissa was putting wet cloths on Abby's face and neck. She fished the salt tablets out of her pack and mixed them with water. Eric helped hold Abby's head up while they forced the liquid down her throat.
Abby finally came to but she was very disoriented. "What's going on?" she murmured.
"You have heat exhaustion, Abby. But you'll be okay," Melissa said. "You just need to rest now and drink as much water as possible."
"How's she doing?" Jackson asked.
"Not bad. We caught it in time. I think she'll be fine by tomorrow. We'll need a lot more water, though."
"C'mon, Eric," Jackson said. "We need to find more water."
"I'm right with ya, chief," he said grabbing the empty water containers.
Jackson and Eric took off into the trees. Melissa watched them go. She smiled to herself. Wow, Eric really comes through when the chips are down. He hasn't complained about any of the work, yet.
Melissa kept forcing water into Abby who was somewhat lucid. She replaced the cool cloths often to keep her body temperature down. Lucky for us there's a nice breeze here.
Soon, the boys returned with full water containers. "There's a stream about one hundred yards from here," Jackson said. "I'm going to see if I have any luck fishing. How's Abby?"
"Not bad," Melissa replied. "She's regained consciousness, I've gotten a lot of water into her and she doesn't have a fever. She's very lucky."
"No kidding," Jackson said, shaking his head slightly. "And she has the best nurse in the world," he added. Jackson smiled at Melissa.
She smiled and ducked her head to hide her blush. "Oh, go catch some fish. I'm tired of eating fruit and the protein will do Abby good." Jackson walked into the trees grinning.
Eric boiled water and refilled their canteens and water bottles. After that he took over for Melissa. Abby was awake now and sitting up drinking water. We so dodged a bullet, he thought.
"I'm going to take a little walk to stretch my legs and maybe look for more food," Melissa said. "Will you be all right alone?"
"Yeah, fine," Eric said. "Take your time."
I can't believe how sweet and helpful Eric is being she thought. Melissa walked into the trees and started looking for fruit. She stopped and started stretching. She had been sitting over Abby for a few hours and was stiff. Suddenly she smiled as Jackson's comment from this morning came back to her 'you make the cutest face when you stretch'. All of a sudden, Melissa felt warm. She headed in the direction of the stream to splash some water on her face. Along the way she spotted a heavily laden banana tree. Score! There's plenty of ripe ones for now and a lot of green ones we can pack for tomorrow. Melissa went to the stream and splashed water on her face and neck. She looked upstream and thought she saw something or someone in the distance.
She walked toward it quietly and soon realized it was Jackson. He was totally unaware Melissa was approaching. She stopped when she heard something. He was singing softly. She couldn't remember the name of the song or the artist but she recognized the tune. She would never forget that tune. It was playing the first time she danced with Jackson, back at the plane when Lex and Abby had set up a dance to 'make happy memories'. Melissa smiled to herself. I hope this means he's thinking of that night, too. She then made some noise as she slowly walked toward him.
Jackson heard something and stopped singing. He looked to his left and there was Melissa headed toward him. He smiled a greeting and she smiled back. He felt a little flutter in his stomach. "How's Abby?" he asked.
"She's awake now and drinking a lot of water. Eric's watching her . How's the fishing going?"
"See for yourself ," he said, nodding toward the bank. Melissa saw several good sized fish speared on a stick.
"Wow!" she exclaimed. "Guess I know what's for dinner! Do you think Eric will clean them?"
They both laughed. "I thought I'd try and get one more before calling it quits," he said. At that moment his line pulled against his hand and he yanked it back. A big silver fish came sailing out of the water and landed right at Melissa's feet.
"Whoa! Looks like that one's mine!" she said laughing. Jackson was laughing too. Melissa looked at him and said, "You have a nice laugh. You should do it more often."
He looked a little embarrassed and concentrated on taking the hook out of the fish's mouth. "Uh, thanks," he said awkwardly.
Oh great! Mel thought. Way to say something dumb and embarrass him! God, I'm so stupid sometimes! Arrgh! "Well, I'm uh, gonna go get some bananas I saw earlier and um, check on Abby. I'll see you back at camp," she said before turning and walking away as fast as she could, trying not to call too much attention to herself. Laugh more often! We're stranded on a deserted island and there's sickness and danger around every corner! Yeah, a real laugh riot! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! I wish the ground would just swallow me up right now!
"Yeah, see ya," Jackson called but when he looked up Melissa was already gone. No one's ever told me I have a nice laugh before, he thought. Nice of someone to notice. But then, I guess I don't laugh much. There hasn't been much to laugh about here. Or back home…
Melissa gathered as many bananas as she thought they could use. She stumbled out of the trees with them and barely made it to the camp site before dropping them all. Jackson was already cleaning the fish. Surprisingly, Eric was still boiling and filtering water. "Where's Abby?" she asked. "In the tent, sleeping?"
"No," Eric answered. "She's been doing really well so I moved her down near the ocean." He saw the shocked look on Melissa's face and before she could utter a word he said, "Don't worry! She's fine. She just wanted to sit by the water for a while. You know, change of scenery. She's in shade and has plenty of water with her and I've been checking on her like, every fifteen minutes. She even ate a mango and two bananas. Her walking was pretty steady too. She wouldn't let me help her."
"Are you sure she's okay?" Melissa asked.
"Yeah, go see for yourself!" Eric said. "She's fine. You know how I know? Because she's acting the same way she did this morning. Don't expect any gratitude for saving her life and taking care of her all day."
Melissa walked toward the ocean. She saw Abby sitting under some shade carefully sharpening her knife. She stopped only to take an occasional swig of water. Melissa walked up and sat down. "Hey Abby!" she said cheerfully. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," she said coldly looking out at the ocean.
Melissa studied Abby's face. Eric was right. The same hard expression was back, the same mean look in the eyes. The same cold voice. "Do you need anything?" she tried again.
Still, Abby did not take her eyes off the ocean. "No. I'm fine. We've wasted a whole day here," she said.
"Well, not the whole day, Abby," Melissa started.
"As far as I'm concerned it was a wasted day. I told Eric a few hours ago that I was ready to go but you and Jackson were nowhere to be found. What were you doing? Playing kissy-face in the jungle?" Abby said finally looking at Melissa with a sour expression on her face.
Melissa was dumbfounded! Then she became angry. (Well, angry for Melissa). I can't believe Abby is talking to me like this! she thought. "That is so not fair, Abby!" she said. "We took care of you for several hours then I went to gather bananas and Jackson caught a bunch of fish for our dinner!"
"Whatever!" Abby snapped back. She was looking out across the ocean again. She seemed to have dismissed Melissa.
"I'll call you when um, dinner's ready," Melissa said weakly. She started to walk away but then changed her mind. She turned and took a few steps toward Abby and addressed her back, "You know, you were in serious trouble today. You could be at least a little bit grateful!" Melissa turned and walked back to the camp fire. The nerve! she fumed.
"So, how's Abby?" Jackson asked. He and Eric were now cooking the fish on sticks over the fire.
"Eric's right. She's back to the charming Abby she was this morning. She told me we've wasted the whole day sitting around here. She. She said…" Melissa was so mad and embarrassed she couldn't get out that Abby had accused her and Jackson of making out in the jungle all afternoon. "Ooh! I just can't believe her attitude! I'm taking a little walk!" Melissa said as she stormed off toward the trees.
"I tried to tell you!" Eric called to her.
"Hey, Mel! Don't be gone long, the fish is almost ready!" Jackson called after her. Melissa gave a half-hearted wave over her shoulder to show she'd heard him. "C'mon," he said to Eric, she can't be that bad."
"Okay, chief." Eric replied. "Just wait. You'll see."
Ten minutes later Melissa emerged from the trees looking and feeling much better than when she'd left. She had walked to the stream and washed her face. She'd also found a piece of bamboo and beat it against a tree that she pretended was Abby's face until the bamboo broke in two. No one needs to know I did that, she thought. She smiled at Eric and Jackson as she approached. "Is dinner ready?" she asked.
"Yep, we're just taking them off the fire now," Eric said.
"Good. I'll go get Abby," Melissa replied. She walked down the beach to where Abby was sitting. "Dinner's ready, Abby," she said. "Do you need a hand?" She looked at Abby hoping to see a little gratitude, attitude change, anything on her face. Abby had the same cold look she'd worn earlier.
"I'm fine. I'll be there in a minute," she said.
Melissa turned and walked calmly back to the fire.
"Well?" Jackson asked.
"No change," Melissa replied.
They all sat in silence eating their fish. As their stomachs filled with something other than fruit, the mood relaxed a little. The sun was going down and the sky was taking on a myriad of beautiful colors. There was a fresh breeze blowing off the ocean. Eric was the first to break the peaceful silence.
"Oooh. Ummm. Jackson," he said with a mouthful of fish. "This tastes soo good after all that fruit! I'm never gonna complain about eating fish again. Props to you, chief!" He gave Jackson a thumbs-up.
Melissa laughed. Jackson snorted, "Yeah, right!" He looked over at Abby. Her appetite seemed to have returned. She was matching Eric mouthful for mouthful. "How are you feeling, Abby?" he asked.
"I'm fine!" she said rather harshly. "I wish everyone would stop asking me that."
"Oooh-kay," he said under his breath glancing at Eric and Melissa. "I think there's enough fish left that we can dry some to eat in the morning and we may have enough to take with us tomorrow," he announced.
"Oh, chief, that'd be great!" Eric said patting his stomach contentedly. "I'm so wanting something other than bananas, mangoes and coconuts for breakfast."
Abby finally spoke. "Is there enough water for tomorrow or do we have to waste time in the morning boiling some?"
"Nope, it's all been taken care of milady," Eric said in a bad British accent. He pointed at the line of canteens and extra water bottles. "All filled and ready, mum. There's even a whole pot to use for our morning constitutionals," he said, still with the bad accent.
"Good, then I'm going to bed and I suggest all of you do the same," Abby announced and with that, she stood up, walked into the tent and pulled the flap shut.
"Well I'm not going to waste such a gorgeous sunset. I'm going to take a little walk on the beach," Melissa said.
"Want some company?" Jackson asked.
"Sure," she replied. "What about you, Eric? Wanna join us?"
"Nope. I'm fine right here. As a matter of fact, I think I will join Abby and turn in. See you in the morning!" he said. He stood up slowly groaning a little and went into the tent.
"Good night, then," Melissa said. "Shall we?" she said turning to Jackson.
"After you," he said bowing.
They walked down to the ocean. The sky was gorgeous. It was all pink and purple in the waning light. Melissa sat down in the sand. She couldn't believe how beautiful it was here. Jackson plopped down next to her. He was watching her as she watched the ocean. She had the most serene look on her face. "What are you thinking about?" he asked.
"Oh, um, I don't know," she said. "I guess I was just thinking how beautiful it is here and it's a shame we can't take the time to appreciate it. It's kind of a waste, you know?" she said.
Jackson looked out at the horizon. "I guess it is beautiful. I never really stopped to think about it. I've never had much time in my life to 'stop and smell the roses' or 'take in the scenery'," he said.
"I'm sorry, Jackson," she said.
"Oh, no, it's okay. I mean, it never bothered me because I never knew I was missing it because I never had the time to notice. Does that even make sense?" he asked.
"Sort of, I guess," she said. "I think I know what you mean." Melissa sighed loudly and said, "Do you know how much people pay for a view like this? But as beautiful as it is, it would be a thousand times more beautiful if there was a rescue ship or plane out there." Melissa heaved another big sigh.
Jackson looked at Melissa. Her eyes were shiny and she had two large tears rolling down her face. "Mel!" he said suddenly worried. "What's wrong?" Jackson moved closer until their shoulders were touching. He turned to face Melissa. She wouldn't look at him.
"Nothing. It's nothing, just stupid," she mumbled turning her head away.
"Mel, c'mon, it's me," he said. He put a finger under her chin and pulled slowly until she was facing him. "Mel, look at me. Tell me what's wrong?" I can't stand to see her so unhappy, he thought.
Melissa raised her big brown eyes and gazed into Jackson's blue ones. He used the back of his index finger to gently wipe away her tears. I can't believe this! she thought. A perfect sunset on a beautiful tropical island with the most amazing boy I've ever known and I'm crying! What is wrong with me?
"Mel, shh," he soothed while gently stroking her cheek. "Come on, tell me."
"Oh, I don't know!" she sighed. "I guess it's a lot of things…just build up, you know? Being stuck here, fighting for survival, praying for rescue, wondering how Nathan, Daley, Lex and Taylor are, worrying about Abby and Jory, Ian and Captain Russell, missing my family and pizza and ice cream and going to the movies and driving my car, just everything." And sitting next to you and wanting to kiss you so much and not being able to, she thought. "I guess I'm just overwhelmed. Sometimes, when I see something this beautiful," she gestured toward the ocean and the sunset that was now mostly dark purples and blues as the moon was slowly rising, "it's like a release valve just goes off and all my pent-up emotions come tumbling out. God, that sounds so crazy!" she said and tried to turn away again as fresh tears flowed down her cheeks.
"No it doesn't!" Jackson said. He took Melissa by the upper arms and pulled her around to face him. "Mel, that's like, the most sane thing I've heard around here in a long time. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed to have and feel emotions. That's one of the things I like best about you. Be happy you can feel them! Do you want to be like Abby?" God, I want to kiss her so bad right now, he thought.
Melissa's expression froze. "I never thought about it like that," she finally said. "I don't want to be like Abby, EVER! No matter how bad things get, promise me you won't let me become like that!"
"I promise," he said. "But I don't think I'll ever have to worry about that. "You could never be like Abby."
"The scary thing is, I think I could," she said.
"No way!" Jackson protested.
"Yeah, well I never dreamed Abby could be like that and look at her now." she said. "I'm afraid the longer we're here, the more we'll all end up like Abby."
With that disturbing thought bouncing around their brains, they both fell silent and stared out at the ocean. Jackson snuck a glance at Melissa. Her cheeks were still wet but she had a big smile on her face.
"What are you smiling about?" he asked. God, I love her smile!
"You," she said.
"Me? Why?" he asked.
"I think in this one evening, you've said more than all the conversations total since I fist met you at Hartwell," she said turning to look at him.
Jackson smiled back at Melissa then looked around. Wow! he thought. It really is beautiful here. And I'm sitting next to this caring, sensitive, lovely girl, on a moonlit beach, a gentle breeze ruffling our hair. We're all alone. This is straight out of one of those chick flicks. Before he could stop himself, Jackson leaned in and kissed a surprised Melissa gently and sweetly on the lips. Melissa quickly recovered and kissed him back. He could taste the salt on her lips from her tears. Their lips parted and Jackson looked almost as surprised as she did.
"Wow!" she murmured. "What was that for?" Oh God, is he regretting kissing me? Was it a pity kiss? Stop, Melissa! Just breathe.
"I, uh, I just really wanted to kiss you right now." And earlier. And again tomorrow. "I guess the setting, our conversation, the way you look. It just felt, I don't know, right," he said shrugging. He looked her in the eye and thought, Careful, Jackson! Don't mess this up now! Don't say something stupid to upset her.
Melissa blushed and looked away. Calm down, Mel! Don't blow it. He just got carried away by the romance of the setting. She smiled to herself at this thought. It doesn't mean he's picked me. He would've kissed Taylor if she were here instead. Her smile disappeared.
"Hey, Mel, you okay?" he asked. "What're you thinking?"
She turned to face him. "Um, well…" Just say it and get it over with! she told herself. Melissa took a deep breath and said "Um, you don't have to worry, Jackson. I know this kiss didn't mean anything special. It's just like you said, the setting, everything we talked about, it just felt right. No big deal. I'm not going to go all drama queen on you."
"Oh, great, okay," he said as he tried to hide the look of mild confusion on his face. Damn! he thought. You did blow it! No, you didn't. Remember? You told her you didn't know how you felt about Taylor. She's just protecting herself. Taylor. He hadn't thought about her in a few days. Her face popped into his head. Her adoring expression as she watched him play the guitar. Her blonde hair blowing in the breeze. Her smile when she'd started the fire with the bow drill. She was certainly full of surprises. He smiled remembering all that was Taylor. Melissa's voice brought him out of his reverie.
"Jackson? What are you thinking about?"
"Oh, nothing. Look, it's getting late and you know Abby, she'll want to start as early as possible. We should turn in."
"Yeah, you're right," Melissa said. "Jackson?"
"Thanks for a great day. And thanks for being such a good friend."
"Yeah, you too," he replied. With that he stood up. Melissa extended her arm and he pulled her to her feet. They walked back to the tent together, holding hands. They crawled into their sleeping bags. Eric was already snoring. "Good night, Mel," Jackson whispered.
"'Night, Jackson," she whispered back. Melissa listened as Jackson's breathing slowly became steady and she knew he'd fallen asleep. She smiled as she matched her breathing to his and the last thing she thought about before drifting off was the feel of Jackson's lips on hers.
All too soon she heard the beep beep beep of Jackson's watch. Time for another day of trekking across the island. Maybe we'll find something or someone today. Melissa slowly opened her eyes and let them adjust to the dim light. Everything that had happened last night came back in a rush. Melissa smiled at the thought. Then she started thinking. Her smile disappeared. Oh God, what if he totally feels weirded out this morning? What if he's sorry he ever did it? What if it was a pity kiss? What if he's embarrassed about what he said to me? Oh crap!
"Mel. Hey, Mel! Where are you?" Jackson asked. He was leaning over her again, gently shaking her. She raised her eyes and looked into his. He smiled. She smiled back as she stretched and sat up. "Well good morning sleepy head," he whispered. "Where were you?"
"Oh, I was just wondering if we'd find something or someone today," she whispered back. Melissa looked across the tent. Abby was just starting to stir in her sleeping bag. Yesterday must have really wiped her out Melissa thought. Good, maybe she won't set such a killer pace today.
"Okay, everybody, UP!" Jackson yelled. Eric groaned but then quickly sat up, grabbed his boots and hat and shot out of the tent, nervously looking over his shoulder, remembering the threat of Jackson's kick yesterday. Melissa and Jackson exchanged smiles. Abby slowly sat up and rubbed a hand across her eyes. She didn't say a word as she grabbed her boots and left the tent. Jackson and Melissa followed suit. It was a quiet morning as everyone went about their morning rituals. They ate breakfast and packed their gear in no time flat. Abby started walking in the lead as usual. The others noticed she wasn't going as fast as yesterday. Eric wiggled his eyebrows at Melissa and Jackson as he set his hat firmly on his head and followed her. Melissa and Jackson fell in behind.
It was a pretty uneventful day. They walked for a few hours then took a short rest break. Abby called for the break so she must still be feeling the effects of her foolishness yesterday Eric mused to himself. They walked until noon and Abby called lunch. There were plenty of bananas and dried fish from the day before. Eric had divided the food up evenly among them then went to 'take care of business' before he sat down to eat. He came back from washing his hands and sat down ready to enjoy his fish.
"Hey!" he yelped. "What gives? Who took half my fish?" He looked around at the others. Jackson and Melissa stopped eating and looked at him completely surprised. He looked at Abby who was sitting next to him. She was stuffing her face with fish. "Hey, Abby! What's the deal?! That was my food! You have your own!"
Everyone stopped and stared at her. She finished chewing and swallowing before turning her cold gaze on Eric and said, "You left and I'm hungry. That's the deal. Get over it." With that she stood up, stuffed the last of the fish in her mouth, grabbed an extra banana and stalked away. She settled herself several yards away, pulled out her knife and started sharpening it again.
"Oh, that was so not cool!" sputtered Eric looking from Jackson to Melissa. He was dumbfounded. His mouth kept working but nothing was coming out. What the?!?!? he thought. Doesn't she remember who was on her side back at the plane? How could she do this to me?!? ME!?! Especially after all the work I did yesterday. For her. And I sat with her for over two hours making sure she was okay. What the?!?
Melissa couldn't believe Abby had just done that. She looked at Jackson and could see he was as astonished as she was. She stood up and walked over to Eric. "Here, have some of mine, I can't eat it all," she said pushing some of her fish onto his plate.
"No Melissa, you don't have to…" Eric started protesting.
Melissa cut him off. "No, really, Eric. I had too many bananas this morning and I don't want it to go to waste."
"Well if you're sure," he said. "Thanks, Melissa." Eric hungrily gobbled the rest of his fish then started in on several bananas.
Melissa finished her little bit of fish, ate two bananas then left to freshen up before they started their afternoon trek. She was back down at the ocean when Jackson came up behind her.
"Hey, Mel," he said. "That was a really nice thing you did for Eric but you can't do that if she pulls the same stunt again. Eric will have to learn to stand up to Abby himself."
Melissa stood up and faced Jackson. "I know." He handed her a mango. "Thanks," she said. "How'd you know I was still hungry?"
"A lucky guess," he said.
Melissa nodded her thanks then greedily devoured the mango. She didn't want Eric to see her and feel bad but Jackson was right. Eric had to learn to stand up to his 'idol' himself. And she couldn't give up her food every time something like this happened. She'd get too weak and then what?