Title: Don't Tread on Me

Summary: During the long hours spent in Beck's custody, Jake is having trouble holding onto consciousness as well as hope. Who knew that the fifteen-year-old memory of a rattlesnake encounter would give him the courage he needs? Twoshot. Clean

Rated: K+ (PG) for mild peril

Feedback: Really? Wow, this is like Christmas in July! You're so thoughtful... honestly, any kind of feedback you want. Especially flames, they're so amusing! But praise and criticism are great, too. ;)

Disclaimer: I don't own any part of the show, but as it's been discontinued, I don't suppose the copyright police will mind so much.

Don't Tread on Me

He couldn't move. That was odd, wasn't it? And if he couldn't lift his head, how would he know what time it was?

But that was silly. Time and feeling were nonexistent now.

The room was so quiet but the inside of Jake's head was full of noise. The buzz of the blinding light over head, the drip of pipes behind the wall, the scrape of his shoe against the floor. Even his own breathing was tinny and shrieking, like a bad-quality recording turned up too loud.

Mismatched words jumbled together, trying to form a train of thought that escaped him every time he managed to grasp it.

And the memories.

Echoes proceeded a sudden memory that he snatched up quickly, just so he could have a clear thought to hold onto.

Careful - care- Jake! Fall… Jake careful - fall! you'll fall!

"Jake, careful, you'll fall!"

"No, I wont! Look, there're four different hand holds. Come on!"

"No thanks. Please, Jake? Dad'll kill us if he knows we're out this far. Just come back up!"

"Alright!" Jake sighed. "You're no fun, Eric."

He flashed a fourteen-year-old grin up at the face leaning over the edge. The land sink he was climbing down, was about twenty feet in diameter and ten feet in depth. Jake had wanted to climb the steepest part. No particular reason, it just looked crazy and impossible, which were two of his favorite things.

Eric shook his head irritably and his face disappeared from view. When he spoke again, he sounded farther away. "I'm going back home, it's getting dark. Are you coming?"

"Yeah, yeah. Just let me get back up. You go ahead."

So he hadn't managed to talk Eric into trying it. So what? Honestly, he preferred it if Eric didn't want to do the daring things he did.

Jake decided that, as long as he was alone in his endeavors, he was special and no one was quite like him.

He never thought "superhero"… but the idea remained a tinkling itch on the bottom floor of his mind.

Jake found a good foothold and pushed himself up far enough to get both elbows on ground level. Eric was already a few yards away.

He pushed his right knee up onto the hard soil, and began pulling the other up next to it.

And then he froze.


It was the biggest one Jake had ever seen. He'd only seen two and they'd been from far off. So the fact that this one was only three feet away possibly made it seem bigger. But the diamonds on its back glistened in the sun, every detail standing out as a sharp testament to the trouble he was in.

"Eric…" his voice barely made it past a whisper.

Eric turned back and the irritated look abruptly vanished. "Oh my gosh." His mouth fell open. "Jake -"

Jake bit his lip. He was losing feeling in his left leg from letting it hang there so long. The rattle snake bobbed it's head up and down as though sizing him up and it rattled loudly.

What was he supposed to do? He couldn't just sit there.

He moved his left leg up so slowly, he could barely feel it moving himself. But the snake noticed. It hissed, exposing the white inside of its mouth and a forked red tongue.


"Hang on." Jake muttered.

He slid back just a little and his left foot finally drew beneath him to meet his right. He froze again. The snake hadn't moved but it flexed its thick, olive-colored body as if winding up to strike.

He couldn't slide away, and the idea of sitting here a second longer made his head spin. He would just have to bolt. Slowly gathering his feet under him so he was crouching, he took a deep breath, and launched.

Jake had always been fast. In Phys-Ed, he could complete twelve sprints in the time it took all the other kids (except Jeffery Lake) to run five.

But the snake was faster.

There was a sting on the back of his ankle and he felt fangs dig deep in his flesh.

He cried out, squeezing his eyes shut and didn't see the ground rushing up to him. Somewhere at the end of a long, empty tunnel, he could hear Eric shout his name and start running towards him.

He kicked his leg hard and the fangs released, sending the snake tumbling toward the cliff. It disappeared over the edge .

Eric reached him and grabbed his arm, dragging him a little ways away. "Jake? Jake! Are you okay? Jake, c'mon!"

"I don't- I don't know…" his head felt odd and the bite stung horribly. "Help me up."

Eric nodded and took his hand again, pulling him upright. Jake tested his feet. They felt sturdy enough, but he let Eric take his arm. "Do you think you can get back? Where'd the snake go?"

Jake wasn't sure about the first one so he answered, "Over the cliff. He's gone."

"Okay. Come on, we need to get back so dad can -"

A strange swirling sensation suddenly started from Jake's foot and seemed to bubbled up his leg and straight to his head. Before he knew what had happened, the world did a graceless summersault and his knees buckled

Eric's hand slid up his arm, latched again on his shoulder, then slipped off altogether.

"Jake!" Jake felt his brother drop down next him, panic returning in his younger voice. "Are you alright, what happened?

"I can't… Eric… help - Dad…" Jake could sense his fingers going numb and stiff fire shot up and down him. His leg was already beginning to swell.

"What do I do? Jake? Jake, answer me! Come on, get up. Get up! Get up!

"Get up! You heard me, up now!" Jake opened his eyes.

The glare of the ultra-bright light had been replaced with a dim 60 watt, and Beck was standing across the room with his arms folded. "Get up!"

One of the soldiers who'd come in, walked over and gave Jake a hard kick in the chest, forcing him to double up and screw his eyes shut again with the pain.

"Up!" The soldier shouted.

"I can't." Jake ground out exhaustedly.

Beck studied him a moment, then nodded at the two guards. They each took one of Jakes bound arms and sat him up roughly against the wall.

Beck drew up a chair and straddled it, leaning his arms coolly on the back. "How long you gonna let this go on, Jake? You know we're going to find Stanley Richmond eventually. Why not save yourself and your friends the extra hardship and just end it? You can end it, Jake."

Jake licked his dry lips and rolled his head to the side. "End what?"

Beck squinted at him. "You know very well wha -"

"How is getting Stanley or any of them… going to end it?" He coughed and closed his burning eyes. "You fight a little crime, catch a few criminals… do exactly as your told. You're not ending anything, your building it up. And you can't even …" he coughed again. "Can't even explain it to yourself… 'Cause deep down you - you know… you're just the middle man, letting murderers like Goetz run around free."

"This isn't about me, Jake, it's about -"

"You don't want to make it about you! But every s-soldier in the country is being strung along by the same lies. You know it's all wrong, but you blame it on so-called criminals and say you're…you're doing some kind of… duty to your country. Now it's just a bunch of well-acted mercenaries with guns… confusing everyone till their willing to believe anything. You're not a Major anymore, you're a puppet for Jennings and Rall, designed to not ask any questions."

"Stop it," said Beck under his breath.

"You think you're fighting for what you believe in… but you… you believe in a ghost. A lie fed to scared little kids to keep them calm."

Beck stood up suddenly, nearly knocking over the chair. He inhaled sharply through his nose. "Fine. You don't want to cooperate…" He jerked his head at one of the guards. "No food or water 'til he talks. And I want a double guard put on this room."

The guard nodded and left.

Beck watched him until he was gone, then abruptly crouched down and grabbed Jake's chin in one hand, his voice lowering threateningly.

"You listen to me. That "ghost" you're talking about is still my country. A country that was knocked off it's feet and I'm trying to do my part to stand it up again. And it's people like you and your gang of vigilantes who keep tearing it down again. Now you can get up on your soapbox and accuse me of misconduct and negligence, but while you're pointing your finger at the law, consider this: America is in a civil war and the only thing we have to stand on is law and order, and if anyone stands in the way of that,"

He gritted his teeth and gripped Jake's chin harder. "It is my duty, to bring them to justice. That's all any of us have anymore, and I will not stand by and watch the people of America crumble, for anyone. Not for lawyers, not for lawbreakers, and certainly not for the likes of you!"

He released Jake with a shove, stood up, and marched out of the room without looking back. The second guard followed and locked the door behind him.

Jake stared at the closed door for a long time. He'd said everything he'd been saying for the past four days. From Beck's reaction, he could tell the man was wearing down.

But Jake felt himself was wearing down faster. And he didn't know if he could hold out much longer.

The light buzzed on again, burning into Jake's already red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes.

He slid down the wall till his sweaty forehead touched on the cold, cement floor. The numbness took over again, blotting out thought and feeling.

Nothing but the white light filled his eyes.

Get up…