Sleep was not an option. Her body were too tense and her mind was too wired for her to even consider it. Or maybe she was too scared. Heather could feel memories and nightmares circling around the edge of her consciousness. It was hard enough for her not to flashback while she was awake. When she didn't have her precious hot chocolate to ease her body and a trashy romance novel to distract her mind, Heather knew that things she would rather to forget would come out to play.
A knock on the door startled her and had her reaching for one of the three guns she had hidden in her apartment. After what happened to Bonnie and Mayor Green, Heather couldn't afford to be without protection. Before the bombs, she understood guns and why people had them, but was a too nervous to get close to them herself, let alone shot anything. Nervousness was a luxury she could no longer afford.
"Heather, it's me," a voice called from the door and caused a whole different set of feelings to rise up within her. And made her much more conscious of the silk top and flannel pajama bottoms she had chosen to wear.
Heather took another drink of her hot chocolate for bravery and eased off the couch. She opened the door and smiled at the man in front of her.
"Jake," she said. Then she saw the shadow of someone coming up the street. She grabbed the lapels of Jake's jacket and pulled him inside.
"Hey. What's the…"
She shut the door.
"Jake, what are doing here?" she asked agitated.
"I came to—"
"Don't you know you are still a wanted man?" she asked with worry slipping in her voice.
"What if one of the J&R people saw you? Or one of the ASA troops not under Beck's command? You know, not every in Jericho is apart of the resistance."
"Heather. Stop!" Jake exclaimed and put his hand up to placate her.
"Sorry," she said suddenly aware that while what she said was true, she yelled at Jake for no reason. Or at least, nothing that was actually his fault. She looked at him and took a breath to calm her nerves.
"I'm just a little on edge," she said.
"I know," Jake replied softly with a hint of tenderness in his voice.
The softness in his voice caused Heather to look at him and see the concern reflected in his eyes. She sighed.
"Eric told you, didn't he?"
Heather laughed, "I swear, you Green men."
Heather smiled, "You're always trying to protect someone. Me, the town… hell, the entire country."
She walked up to Jake, "I'm fine. No one is threatening to kill me. And Beck has Constanino in custody. You don't have to protect me, Jake Green."
Guilt flashed across Jake's eyes, but it quickly replaced with a tenderness that worried Heather a little more. Jake reached out and touched Heather's upper arm.
"And you don't have to be brave all of the time, Heather Lisinski."
Some thing inside Heather cracked. She recovered and decided that Jake had to go. She could break down after he left. A smile crossed her face again, but not nearly as a strong… or honest.
"Brave, me?" she laughed and walked out of Jake's space, back to her hot chocolate.
"It's only bravery if you have a choice in the matter," she said into her mug. She looked up at Jake, "Otherwise, it's just survival."
"I survived New Bern and ASA. I survived nearly being sold as a sex slave. I survived a bounty," she stated, her eyes slowly watering up with unshed tears and her hand slightly shaking. She grinned, "I even survived you. If I remember that, I'll be okay."
"You're almost as bad as liar as me."
Heather put her cup down, "Jake, listen…"
Jake came up to her, "No. Now it's time for you to listen… I'm so sorry about New Bern."
Jake grabbed her hand, "You're listening, remember?"
Heather glanced at their clasped hands and nodded.
"I never should have let you go. If I would been a better man, I wouldn't have."
"Jake, that was my choice. It wasn't your fault," Heather replied.
"Wasn't it?" Jake questioned, touching an aspect of their relationship that hadn't been dealt with since Heather kissed him oh so long ago.
Jake looked down at her hand, "When Eric told me you died, that last month and your last words… haunted me. I treated someone so… special like she wasn't worth my time."
Jake locked eyes with her, "You haven't talked about it, but I know you've been through hell. And you had nothing, but your wit and strength to get you back home. Now that Constanino's in town. I'm not going to let you go through it again on your own."
Heather slipped her hand out of Jake's grasp and step away from him.
"I don't have choice. You and Emily have each other. Eric and Mary just got married. It's not my place to bog everyone down with my problems," Heather walked to her door and opened it.
"Thank you for checking in on me, but it's time for you to go."
"Please. Don't make this harder. I do this better without you worrying about tripping over my feelings," Heather stated.
Jake didn't move.
"I wasn't sure about coming here tonight," Jake said cryptically.
"Like I said, thank you for your concern, but you have to go home."
Jake continued as if Heather hadn't spoken, "I would have been okay with Beck being here, as long as there was someone taking care of you..."
"I knocked on your door at midnight, Heather. Why weren't you asleep?"
Heather shook her head, "It doesn't matter."
Jake walked to Heather and closed the door, "It matters. You matter."
Heather turned her head away as tears started to come down her face. Jake gently turned her face to look at him.
"You matter," he repeated. Heather closed her eyes, trying to keep her head clear and push down all of the emotions Jake was bring up inside her. It wasn't fair. After everything that's happened, after he used her to steal from Major Beck, she thought that whatever felt for Jake was gone. Telling her that she mattered to him didn't change the fact that he had betrayed her trust, but as much as she wanted to deny it, it did make her feel better.
Suddenly his lips were on hers. He held her to him and she clutched him back. Fear, worry and all the things she didn't say were drowned out by the warm feeling of Jake in her arms. His hand on her back brought her out of her passion-induced haze. She backed up from Jake.
"We can't," she said.
Jake held her face in his hands.
"I'm here, now. We can feel guilty in the morning," Jake replied. Before she could back away again, he held her tight. Heather couldn't remember when she felt safer. She knew that she had no rights to Jake. She shouldn't ask him to stay and chase away the nightmares that haunted her, but she couldn't help herself. Later that night, Jake held her as she slept and, after a night of chasing the ghosts in her own head, she couldn't bring herself to feel bad about it. Just this once, she let herself feel special, loved and protected by Jake Green, she'd feel guilty in morning.