A/N: This will be the final chapter of No Sound, Please, except for the epilogue. I don't really count epilogues as part of the main story since they are optional. Anyway, it's been an awesome journey writing this fic, and I will miss it. I'm sure you will, as well. I greatly appreciate all my reviewers, readers, favouriters, and followers. I hope this chapter doesn't disappoint and please enjoy this last chapter of No Sound, Please.
Jason woke up with a weak moan. His head was aching, and he had trouble remembering the events of the past two days. Darkness enveloped him, except for the dying embers of a small fire off to his left. Trees stood tall and silent around the fire, and stars twinkled through the canopy. Jason vaguely remembered being forced to march at gunpoint after he had woken up the previous day, but it was all hazy. They had rested for a while, and then it was back to walking. The dark-haired boy didn't remember much, just trees, trees, and more trees.
The boy focused his eyes on his immediate surroundings. His wrists had been cut free and of course his legs were also mobile. There were a few men snoring as they slept around the fire, and Jason made sure they stayed asleep as he got up into a crouch. His legs felt like lead after walking for the whole day. He gauged the position of the moon above him and judged it was about four or five o'clock in the morning. The sky was beginning to lighten ever so slightly. Although he was exhausted, the boy knew this was his only chance to escape. The nearby rushing of a river reached his ears, and he remembered they were a couple of miles west from Jackson County. Dale had reminded his little army that they attack in the morning.
When Jason thought of Dale, he simultaneously thought of Riley. She had lied to him, betrayed his trust, and now she was off in Jackson County, probably holding Tommy hostage. Bitter anger at the both of them welled up inside him, but he pushed it back down. Losing his temper and waking up the guards wouldn't be a good idea right now.
The dark-haired boy crept around the sleeping members of Dale's militia, and had to incorporate all of his previous stealth training to keep from making a sound. He lithely jumped over any people he couldn't get around, and it occurred to him just how many people were in this group. He estimated about three of four dozen people in the little army, but this was small in comparison to Jackson County. Only in Jackson, a good percentage of the citizens were children, those who couldn't fight.
Jason reached the boundaries of the militia's camp, and knocked out any sentries that stood propped up against the trees. He was almost free when he heard a familiar sneering voice that grated on his nerves.
"Going somewhere, boy?" Dale asked as Jason turned around, a hateful look on his face. If he had his switchblade on him, which he had unfortunately left behind at Dale's house, he would have stabbed the man in the heart then and there.
The boy instead slugged the black-haired man across the face a few times, hearing a satisfying crunch as his fist impacted with Dale's nose. The older man stumbled back with a yell, and Jason kicked him in the head as he hunched over, clutching his bleeding, broken nose. Dale fell sideways, but he wasn't unconscious. Jason took the moment of distraction to bolt, sprinting into the dark woods towards the sound of the river. He heard yells and the pounding of men's feet as they ran after him, but the boy soon heard them fade into the distance as he urged himself to run faster.
Jason vaulted over fallen, rotting logs and boulders, slipping a few times over the damp, mossy ground. He almost fell as he tripped over a tree root, but scrambled back onto his feet in seconds. It was merely the pounding of his heart in his ears, the loudening sound of the river, and his footsteps now. Owls hooted in the trees above him, and there were other animals of the night that called to each other beyond his field of vision, but Jason paid them no mind as he ran. Branches whipped past him and cut into his skin, sending stinging pains throughout his body.
When he reached the river bank, the dark-haired boy glanced around frantically for any sign of Jackson County. He felt exposed in the open, like a rabbit out of its hole. The river was a roiling mass of black in front of him, reflecting the moonlight here and there in the rapids. He could see faint spots of light in the distance, like a beacon beckoning to him in the darkness. Jason ran in that direction, knowing in the back of his mind that the sources of the lights were the giant floodlights turned on at night in Jackson County. He tripped and slipped on the wet rocks of the riverbank, but he never slowed his pace.
Jason reached the front gate of Jackson County, and knew that if he had to run any more his legs would give out. His muscles and lungs burned from exertion, and he stopped dead as the sentries pointed their guns at him.
"Who the hell are you? What do you want?" One of the sentries demanded, and Jason recognized the man's voice as his neighbour's from across the street. Their response to him confused the boy, but then he tried to look at himself from their perspective. His hair must have looked like a rat's nest from not being brushed for a week and sleeping on the ground for two days. The wild, desperate look in his eyes didn't help his case any, either. Jason's shirt was falling off his shoulder, exposing the dog bite mark. He wouldn't be surprised if it looked like an Infected had bitten him.
"It's Jason. Let me in." The dark-haired boy pleaded in a hoarse whisper, looking at the man and the other sentries. They shot each other wary looks, and Jason recognized another sentry as Maria. She was narrowing her eyes at him, looking as if she was trying to match his name to his scratched up face. "Maria, please!" The boy begged, gazing imploringly at her.
"Let him in." The blonde woman stated, and when the guards hesitated she barked, "Open the fucking gate!" The other men quickly scrambled to do as they were told. The gate creaked open and Jason rushed inside. He was immediately captured in someone's arms, and he realized Maria was hugging him.
"Oh my God, Jason, what the hell happened to you?" The blonde woman demanded as she released the boy. He cracked a tiny smile at her. The woman never hugged anyone unless she was extremely happy or relieved to see them.
"No time. They're coming." Jason choked out, panting hard. He rested his hands on his thighs, trying to catch his breath. Maria rubbed his back soothingly, and waited until he was breathing normally again.
"I know, a friend of yours came by this morning and told us about the little rag-tag group you have trailing behind you. Don't worry about them; it's the leader of that militia that we have to be concerned about. She said she would take care of him, though. I've got double the number of sentries on the walls and heavily armed guards patrolling inside and outside the perimeter. Tell me, what happened to you?" Maria took Jason by the shoulders, forcing him to look at her. Her eyes were full of a worry that he had never seen before.
"Dale tortured me. Riley lied. I escaped." Jason briefly summed up his experience, not wanting to damage his already burning vocal cords further. He walked with Maria to her house.
"I'm sorry. We tried everything we could to get you back, but you disappeared without a trace. On the other hand, Riley's quite the character, isn't she? She and Ellie hate each other, and Tommy and I talked her out of doing anything dangerous. They were both worried sick about you, you know. If you want, I can wake Riley up so you two can talk things out. She doesn't want things to end like Dale planned. She's also sorry for how things ended up." Maria explained as Jason sat down at the table. She poured him a glass of water and he gratefully gulped it down. His throat was as dry as sandpaper.
"Sorry? It was her idea, too." Jason spat, coughing a couple of times.
"I know, but you have to believe me when I say she's realized the error of her ways. Dale's people aren't loyal to him, and they won't fight if given the choice. Riley's not the one to be angry at, Jason. It's her father that made the poor girl the way she is. Familial bonds are always going to be stronger than hate. Riley hates her father and what he's done to you and her people." The blonde woman tried to convince the boy, but the look of skepticism remained on his face.
"I don't want to see her. Not now. I want to see my family and Ellie." Jason said between coughs, standing up and heading for the door.
Maria caught him by the shoulder. "Go clean up first. You look terrible." She said bluntly, steering the boy towards the bathroom. After a few minutes, Jason looked like his old self again, his short fringe combed back and his scratched face clean of dried blood.
They walked down the familiar dirt path to his house, and Jason knocked on the door. It felt strange knocking on the door of his own house, but he wanted to surprise his parents without scaring the living daylights out of them by waking them up himself.
After a minute, Shane opened the door, groggily rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He stared dumbly at the boy in front of him, blinking a few times. He couldn't tell if it was one of his dreams or if his lost son was actually standing on his porch. The older man reached out and cupped the boy's cheek. His cheekbones were a bit more prominent than he last remembered, and Jason's exposed collarbone stuck out more than usual.
"Jason? Are you really here?" Shane wondered aloud, still convinced he was dreaming. Jason furrowed his brow, but nodded. His father stared at him with shimmering eyes for a moment longer, and then embraced his son tightly, sobbing in relief. Jason was as tall as his father, and hugged the man back just as tightly. The boy noticed another shape materializing from the dark depths of the house, and smiled at his mother.
The woman was dressed in a simple pink nightgown, stifling a yawn. Her long, dark brown hair tumbled down her back, and her brown eyes were laced with sleepiness. She stopped as she laid eyes on her husband and son standing on the porch. She signed the boy's name, cocking an eyebrow in question. Jason nodded in answer, and she ran over to the pair, throwing her arms around the boy's neck. After a few seconds, they broke apart. Jason noticed Maria was gone, but it didn't matter. Her work was done.
"I can't believe you're back. How did you escape?" Shane asked as he ushered the boy inside. He turned on the light in the kitchen, and blinked rapidly at the sudden brightness. The trio sat down at the table, and Jason explained his whole experience in sign language so they could both understand. Julia could lip-read, but it was too much to say for Jason's healing vocal cords.
After his son finished explaining, Shane's expression grew worried. "This man Dale is coming to take over, right now? Why aren't we out there fighting the mongrels? They probably have us surrounded by now!" He banged his fist on the table, standing up.
Julia forced her husband to sit down again. Jason shook his head. "They won't fight. This is Riley's battle." His whispering voice was uncertain, but Maria seemed pretty convinced the girl wanted to fight for them, not against them. He still wasn't sure.
"I see. Riley didn't say much about her father, and I don't even know the man. By the way, I'm glad to see you're using your voice again. What made you change from sign?" Shane queried, crossing his beefy arms.
"Riley's friend. She's pretty persuasive." Jason said with a small smile. "We'll see what Riley does. I want to go see Ellie." He stood up and his father gave him a knowing smile as he left the house.
Jason contemplated the ways he could surprise Ellie, and he certainly didn't want to face Joel if he could avoid it. The man would probably beat him to a pulp for making his daughter worry so much. Jason settled on crawling through Ellie's bedroom window, and did so without a sound. The wooden floorboards creaked as he landed on the other side, and he froze as he noticed a shape move in the bed. The boy caught a flash of red hair and smiled.
Silently standing up, Jason crossed the small room in a couple of steps and sat on the edge of the bed, gazing down at Ellie's peaceful, sleeping face. He hated to wake her up, but it was necessary. Moonlight bathed the room in a ghostly blue-white light, and Jason tucked a strand of hair behind Ellie's ear. She shifted in her sleep, a small smile playing on her lips.
"Ellie. Ellie, wake up." The boy gently shook the redhead's shoulder, and her brow furrowed.
"It's the middle of the night, Joel…" Ellie groaned, still asleep. Jason chuckled quietly. She probably mistook the hoarseness of his voice as Joel's gruff tone. It was the only thing she could relate it to, since she had never actually heard Jason's voice before.
"Ellie, wake up. It's me, Jason." The dark-haired boy shook her shoulder again, and the girl's green eyes fluttered open. They rested on him, and she scrunched her brow in confusion.
"Wha-? Seriously?" The young girl asked, yawning. The boy's figure was half-bathed in moonlight, making him look surreal, like something out of a fairytale. She stared at him, trying to decide if this was real or not. Jason smirked as he reached out to stroke her cheek with the back of his hand.
"I'm here. You're not dreaming." The boy whispered, cupping the girl's cheek. He didn't expect what was coming next. Ellie suddenly threw herself at him, flinging her arms around his neck. As gravity pulled her back down, she brought Jason down with her. Ellie pressed her lips to his, putting all of her relief, joy, and passion into the kiss. Jason made a noise of surprise in his throat at the redhead's sudden vigour, but smiled against her lips as he kissed her back. He cupped her face in his hands and she ran her fingers through his hair, sending shivers down his spine at her touch. They broke apart for air after a few seconds, panting.
"Glad you're happy." Jason chuckled as he rested his forehead against Ellie's, looking deep into her eyes. They were filled with nothing but joy.
"I don't care what Riley says. You're mine." The red-haired girl purred, pecking his lips again. Jason smiled, and he gave a light laugh. His expression became serious, however, as he sat up. Ellie did the same, giving him a concerned look. "You still care about her, don't you?" She guessed, and he nodded.
"Riley's important to me, and always will be. You are, too. I just…have to figure things out." He whispered hoarsely, taking her hand in his.
"Choosing between girlfriends is tough, huh? You don't want to let go of your past, but you've become attached to the present." Ellie giggled, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. Her face was flushed in the half-darkness, but was gradually returning to its normal colour. It turned pale as the distant sound of gunshots reached their ears. "Jason…what was that? We haven't had bandits come along in weeks…"
"These aren't bandits. They've come for me and Riley. Get your gun." Jason ordered as he stood up, making it to the door in less than four steps. Ellie threw him a perplexed look, but dug her revolver out from her backpack nevertheless.
"They've come for you and Riley? What the hell are you talking about?" The redhead asked as she loaded her weapon and shoved extra ammo in her pocket. She was still wearing her jeans, having been too tired from mulling over her conversations with Riley to change when she went to bed. Ellie's voice had now risen from a whisper to a fraction over her normal volume, enough to wake Joel up. The man shuffled out of his room, and did a double-take as he came face-to-face with Jason.
"Jason, what in God's name are you doing here?" Joel demanded angrily, but became even angrier as he noticed the boy had come out of Ellie's room, his hair was messed up, and Ellie followed in the boy's wake.
"No time. Get your gun, Joel." Jason said curtly as he shouldered past the man in the narrow hallway. Joel looked in no condition for fighting, however. He was in his gray sweatpants and torn white t-shirt.
Joel gave the boy a glare. He didn't like being told what to do by people half his age, unless they were Ellie. "Since when do you talk? What makes you think-?" He started, but was cut off by Ellie's shout.
"Do what he says, Dad! We've got trouble!" The young girl snapped as Jason passed Joel his rifle. The man caught it and went back into his room to get extra ammunition for the weapon. The trio walked quickly out the front door, Jason in the lead. They heard more gunshots, and Joel didn't question the boy further as they headed towards the front gate. People came out of their houses in their nightwear, confused and concerned expressions on their faces. Bandit or Infected attacks weren't uncommon, but the time of night was unusual, even for an attack. Jason glanced to the east and saw that the sun was beginning to rise. It cast it yellow rays across the horizon, bathing the tops of the trees in gold.
"Are you sure you don't have anything to do with this, Jason? You did seem like you were expecting these bastards." Joel drawled as the exchange of gunshots along the north wall became more frequent. Jason swore under his breath, suddenly realizing he had no weapon of his own.
"I haven't got a gun. Any place I could get one?" The boy asked instead of dignifying Joel's comment with an equally sarcastic response.
"You could get one at the armory, but they're probably handing guns out at the front gate. C'mon, I'll take you." Ellie said as she made to jog with the boy, but Joel held her back.
"You're not straying out of my sight. We'll get there when we get there." The older man ordered curtly, not letting go of Ellie's wrist. She didn't try to struggle out of his grip. They strode in silence to the front gate, and all the while Jason could only wonder one thing: where was Riley in all of this?
When they reached the front gate, they were greeted by an anxious Tommy. Noticing Jason, he clapped the boy on the back and gave him an extra shotgun. "Good to see you, Jason. I wish I could be happier at the moment, but unfortunately we have some undesirables trying to get in. Dale isn't taking no for an answer. He hasn't shown himself, though, the fucking coward." Tommy briefed the boy, and Jason sighed through his nose as he cocked his shotgun. Joel's younger brother handed him a dozen extra bullets, and the boy shoved them in his pocket.
"Where's Riley?" Jason queried, and Tommy shrugged.
"Haven't seen her since this afternoon. Sorry kiddo, I can't help you there. You three feel free to join the guys on the wall or on foot. All of those assholes are hiding in the forest." The light-haired man said, and then turned to the sentries on the wall. "Keep at it, boys! Don't let them get through!" He shouted, grabbing his own sniper rifle and joining the fight.
Joel followed his brother and Ellie did likewise, but stopped to motion a hand to Jason. "Come on, they need our help! You heard Tommy!" She said, and Jason reluctantly followed her. They settled themselves against the wall, and began shooting. Jason began feeling queasy; he knew these people were innocent, and he was looking for a familiar raven-haired girl. Isabelle didn't need to die in this battle.
"Don't shoot Izzy. She's your age with black hair. She's my friend." Jason told Ellie and Joel amid the gunfire. They nodded in understanding. Sweat beaded on Jason's forehead, and he winced every time he shot at someone. He wondered where Riley was again. He knew she wouldn't want to shoot her own people, but hiding and doing nothing didn't seem like her.
After about ten minutes, and a few casualties on both sides, the trio noticed someone emerge from the forest holding a struggling captive. Jason immediately recognized the captor as Dale and the captive as Isabelle. He snarled angrily. Only Dale would stoop so low as to use one of his own as a hostage. The people on his side ceased shooting, as if this was planned.
"Don't shoot, or the innocent gets it!" The black-haired man boomed, and the gunfire from Jason's comrades died down. Izzy struggled against Dale's iron grip, her face white as the cold metal of his revolver pressed against her temple. "That's better! Now, if you don't want this pretty young thing to get her brains blasted out, get the person that runs this joint out here! I want a little chat!" A tense silence enveloped the compound, and nobody moved. The man seemed to expect this, however. He cocked the revolver, and the sharp click made Izzy whimper in fear. Tears began falling down her cheeks, and Jason felt his heart wrench. The girl didn't deserve to die, not like this.
"I said get the coward that runs this place-!" Dale was cut off as a sharp voice interrupted him.
"Let her go, Dale!" Riley yelled, and Jason looked around for the girl. He heard the thundering of hooves as he saw the blonde gallop out of the trees, her chestnut gelding's coat shimmering like fire as the sun hit it. Dale didn't have time to react as Izzy wrenched herself out of his grasp, and ran into the cover of the trees. Riley nocked an arrow and shot it straight at the man. It punctured his shoulder, piercing all the way through. The man screamed in pain, and blindly pulled the trigger of his gun in Riley's direction. She was still far enough away that she couldn't trample the man as she passed, and gave a yell as her horse suddenly collapsed underneath her in mid-stride. Charlie tumbled to the ground, blood spurting out of a hole it his forehead. The horse was dead before it hit the ground, trapping Riley underneath its side.
The blonde tried frantically to wriggle out from under the horse's side, but her left leg was stuck securely under it. Nothing hurt except for her arms, which had almost been torn out of their sockets as the horse had fallen head first onto the ground. Dale came over, clutching his profusely bleeding shoulder.
The muscled man chuckled lowly. "Stupid girl. You would dare defy your own father to save your friend? Why would you try to kill me?" His voice was sickly sweet, but Riley saw through it.
"I hate you! You're not my father! You're nothing but a fucking tyrant!" The blonde grit her teeth as she continued to struggle under the weight of the horse on her leg. It was situated so that the stirrup prevented her leg from being broken by the impact, but a slight change of pressure could change everything. At the moment, a growing pain in her ankle was becoming apparent.
"Ooh, that's harsh coming from my own daughter. You wanted to save your little boyfriend and his town, didn't you? You love Jason enough that you would kill your own father to keep him safe? I know you better than you think, Riley!" Dale's voice rose to a shout at his last two phrases. Riley's face flushed, and not from the fury she was feeling. Even now he still managed to embarrass her in public. The man placed a foot on the dead horse's side, leaning on it. Riley screamed as she felt the pain in her ankle become excruciating.
Jason ground his teeth, hating the feeling of helplessness that enveloped him at the moment. He couldn't just stand by and watch his best friend be murdered by her father. The man deserved nothing more than a shot at point blank, and that was exactly what Jason planned to give him. He got up and started down the stairs. The boy felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned to face Ellie. It seemed like she read his mind, because she handed him her revolver.
"Take this, and finish that bastard with a bang. It's full, so don't worry." The redhead smirked as she pecked Jason on the cheek. He smiled and nodded, heading out of the gate. The dark-haired boy fired a shot into the air, getting Riley and Dale's attention.
"Look who decided to join us! Jason, c'mere boy! Help me say goodbye to this little traitor of ours!" Dale said as he let up on the pressure he was putting on the horse's side. Riley gasped in relief, the pain in her ankle dying down somewhat. As much as he disliked what Riley had done, it hurt the dark-haired boy to see her in so much pain.
Jason walked up to the man and slugged him across the face with Ellie's handgun. He intended to enjoy torturing this man before he killed him. Dale's own handgun went flying out of his hand at the impact, and landed a couple feet away from where Riley lay writhing in pain. Jason shot the man in the foot, and he yelped.
"I see…I expected as much. Want to play before you kill me? We can do that." Dale chuckled between winces. What did it take to kill this man? Jason wondered as he shot the man in calf, getting a sadistic pleasure out of his agony. He stumbled back with a hiss as Dale punched him across the face. Riley screamed Jason's name, but he ignored it. The black-haired man smiled as he pulled a switchblade from his pocket and unfolded it. He held it high, aiming for Jason's heart, savouring his victory. "I told you I'd kill you, kid." He smiled in triumph, and brought the knife down.
Jason expected an excruciating pain in his chest, but instead he heard a simultaneous female scream along with two gunshots. He felt no pain except in his jaw where Dale had punched him, and glanced around in confusion. Dale lay dead a few feet away on his left, blood gushing from two holes in his skull. Riley was on her knees, clutching her bleeding side to his right. She dropped the revolver that she had been holding. He also noticed that Ellie had acquired another gun, and the barrel of her shotgun was smoking. Jason's more immediate concern was Riley, however.
The blonde fell on her side, the blood stain on her shirt growing larger by the second. Somehow Dale had managed to slice a deep gash in the girl's right side before he had been killed by her and Ellie. Jason pulled her head into his lap as she whimpered in pain, and pressed his hand against her wound to increase the pressure. "I'm sorry; I'm so sorry Blue Jay…" Riley sputtered, gasping for breath. He pressed his lips to hers in a silent thank you, and she gave him a small smile as he pulled away before cringing in agony again.
"You saved me…you saved everyone else, too. Hold on, Rye Bread, you're not food for Infected quite yet." Jason said as he noticed Tommy and Maria coming toward them. Ellie and Joel followed, concerned looks on their faces. Tommy hoisted Riley into his arms and Maria pressed a bundle of gauze to the girl's side. Jason made to follow, but didn't get much further than a few steps before collapsing onto all-fours. He felt faint, and his head was swimming.
"Hey, take it easy. We'll get you back." Ellie's soothing voice reached Jason's ears, and he felt Joel help him up, letting him lean on his shoulder. Everything was spinning around the boy, and he fell unconscious before they reached the gate.
When Jason woke up again, he was in the infirmary. He looked at the clock on the opposite wall and it proclaimed the time to be 3: 42. Daylight streamed in through the open door at the end of the aisle. It was still day time, but he had no idea how many days had passed, if any. He felt rested, but still weak. Riley smiled at him from the bed beside him, her face pale but happy. Half a dozen others lay on beds nearby, sleeping or chatting quietly with visitors and nurses alike.
"You've been out since this morning. They stitched me up alright, see?" The blonde lifted up the hem of her shirt to reveal a neat line of stitches running diagonally along the right side of her torso. Jason averted his eyes, but not because of the wound. Riley noticed his discomfort and lowered the shirt back down. "Sorry…uh, about everything really. I didn't want to lie to you, but I guess I put my people's safety above you, huh? Now that Dale's dead, Izzy tells me they want to go back home. It is nice here and all, but it's a little small. Tommy's having trouble finding housing for all of us. I think we'll just go back. Since I'm Dale's daughter, I'm the leader now, anyway. I think I'll do a lot better than that old bastard, don't you think?"
Jason nodded, feeling a little dizzy at the motion. He waited for it to pass, and then whispered, "I get it. I forgive you." Riley nodded in confirmation, smiling again.
"Thanks, it feels good to know that you don't hate me for what I did. By the way, Ellie came by a couple of times. We had a nice chat when you were off in dreamland, and she met Izzy. The two seem to get along quite well, more than she and I do. I guess it's expected, I mean we are kind of rivals because of you." Riley giggled, but winced as the movement irritated her side.
Jason furrowed his brow. "Don't fight over me…I love both of you, equally. Are you sure you can't stay?"
Riley closed her eyes for a moment, savouring his words. "Not the kind of love confession I expected, but it'll do. As I said before, Tommy doesn't have room. Not for this large of an influx of people, anyway. My people liked it better at our old place, though. The kids loved playing around in the mansions, and we fixed it up over the time I've been there. I'll come visit, don't worry."
"I'll miss you, then. Promise you'll visit?" The dark-haired boy asked, and Riley gave him a nod. He contemplated something for a moment, and then got out of bed. He didn't feel dizzy anymore, and took the blonde's hand. "If you're leaving, I've got a goodbye present for you."
"Tommy said I should stay in bed until tomorrow, but I can tough it out. I like presents." Riley said as Jason helped her up. She leaned against him as they walked to the barn, the blonde limping alongside him. Ellie was grooming Pixie, and she flashed the pair a smile as they entered. The horse pricked her ears at the sight of her master and gave a friendly nicker.
"Hey, I wasn't expecting you guys here until tomorrow. What's up?" She queried, throwing them a curious look.
"Help me tack up Pixie." Jason said, allowing Riley to lean against a stall door. Ellie furrowed her brow, but obliged. In ten minutes, the horse was tacked up and ready for riding. Jason slipped the reins over the horse's head and led her over to Riley. He handed her the reins. "Pixie's yours now. Take good care of her for me."
The blonde's mouth worked for a moment, but nothing came out. Finally she stuttered, "R-really? Are you sure, I-I mean you love this horse. You've had her since she was a foal." Ellie stared, disbelief plain on her face as well.
Jason nodded. "I do love this horse, but I want you to have her. You know, as a replacement for Charlie. Please, I insist." He smiled as Riley threw her arms around his neck.
"I can't believe you're giving me your horse. Thank you, Blue Jay. I'll take the best care of her, I promise." The blonde vowed, pecking the boy on the cheek and taking the reins from him. Pixie followed the girl reluctantly, and Jason and Ellie followed the pair to the front gate. Members of Riley's group stood around, looking extremely out of place in their new environment. She noticed one of them hand Dale's bugle, and she asked the man if she could have it. The man handed it to her, and she blew it. A clear tone sounded from the instrument, making Pixie shy away from the loud noise. Jason steadied the horse before Riley could lose her balance. He helped her mount as more members of her settlement crowded around, and eventually the whole population was gathered around her.
"We're going home, guys! Let's move!" The blonde commanded, and she could see the relief on their dirt-streaked faces. Riley glanced over to Ellie, who had sidled up next to Jason. She smiled at the pair. "I know I put you through a whole load of shit, Ellie, and I apologize. I realize now that if you love something, you need to set it free. Jason did that to Pixie, and now I'm doing that to him in return. You make each other happy, and that makes me happy. Take care of Blue Jay for me…I now know he was never mine to keep." Her voice held a bit of pain, but it quickly faded.
"That's really noble of you, Riley. I appreciate it. I'll take good care of him, so you don't have to worry about this guy. Go on, your people are waiting for their new leader. Good luck." Ellie said sincerely as Riley waved them goodbye. Her group followed the Paint horse and into the forest out of sight.
"I think I'll miss that girl. Just a bit. She was starting to grow on me." Ellie commented as she headed back to the barn. Jason slung an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close.
"I'll miss her, too. And Pixie, as well. Is your dad still mad at me?" Jason asked, remembering the argument with Joel.
Ellie shrugged. "Naw, he got over me having a boyfriend after you got kidnapped."
Jason raised an eyebrow and smirked. "So I'm your boyfriend, now huh?"
The redhead giggled. "Yup. This time, I'm not letting you go." She smiled as stood on her toes to kiss the boy.