Chapter Twenty – Moving Forward is the Only Direction
Following Leo's instructions, they walked south and as always, Jason led the way with her behind him. Kermit trotted next to her, sniffing at the ground. Jason had his gun drawn but it hung at his side. To the casual eye, it would seem as if he was relaxed but they both knew better. At the slightest hint of movement not made by any of them, Jason would have his gun drawn and aimed faster than a person could blink. She walked behind him at a slower pace but still keeping up, studying the full map of the country in the atlas. She then turned to the page of New Mexico and finding the tiny dot of Errol, she drew her finger down the path they were walking.
Before sunset, they arrived outside of a small desert town – deserted of all people – and white sheets flapping from doorways and windows left over from the plague. They moved slowly, carefully, checking into stores and the empty homes. They had all of the supplies they needed so they didn't stop to forage for anything. They moved on and climbing over a small hill that overlooked the valley in which the town laid in. It was decided between them without speaking that this is where they would bunk down for the night. They were both exhausted and the instant they took their packs off, they both sank down onto the ground. Jason leaned back against his pack, using it for support, and he closed his eyes. A soft breeze blew, rustling his black hair, and he looked so young when he was on the verge of sleep. She had always thought so and she watched him now.
She took out her canteen of water and poured some into a dish for Kermit, who lapped at it thirstily and she took her own greedy chug as she went back to studying the atlas, now spread open in her lap. The sun was setting, the last of the light fading, and they weren't going to start a fire or even flip on a flashlight. They hadn't seen a Walker since leaving Errol but they weren't going to push their luck. They were attracted to light and they needed their rest – not an attack.
"If we start heading east again, we'll cross into Texas and then into Oklahoma," she said quietly, not sure if he was sleeping or not. His breathing was deep and even and she hated to disturb him – he desperately needed rest – but they needed to have a plan, too. "Getting to Savannah will take us a while. We have a long way to go," she told him.
Jason didn't respond for a minute and then slightly, he nodded. "We'll get there."
"You don't have any other brothers you didn't tell me about, right?" She teased. "No other settlements we're secretly heading towards?"
His lips quirked in a smile, his eyes remaining closed. "It's just you and me, Jules."
She sighed, partially with relief, the rest with content. She really loved the sound of that. It had been just the two of them for so long, she couldn't imagine it any other way. She couldn't help but lean over and brush her lips lightly across his.
"Get some sleep. I'll take first watch," she whispered to him and she knew that he was truly exhausted because he didn't argue. He simply nodded again and within minutes, she knew that he had drifted off.
The sun was almost completely gone now, the last remaining streaks of pink and purple fading into dark blue and the black of the night sky. Stars twinkled overhead and she was grateful to hear the familiar sounds of the desert. Fluttering of bug wings, soft rustle of the wind, Jason breathing next to her.
So much had happened over the past day that now, when it was just the two of them again, comfortable to be out in the open desert again, her mind began to whirl, catching up with everything. She looked to Jason as he slept. Just a few days earlier, she hadn't known anything about him and now, perhaps, she knew too much but she wanted that. She wanted to know everything about him. He hadn't been a good man – not in the least – but then the world had ended and he had seized his second chance and truly changed. There were hints of the old man – the man who could kill without hesitation or conscious – but that was the world now. A person had to learn to kill if they wanted to survive it.
She looked down to her hands in her lap even though the darkness of the night stopped her from seeing them clearly. She had killed a man today. Not a Walker but an actual man. She had plunged her knife into his back and had gotten his blood on her hands. She didn't know if she would ever be okay with that even though she knew that killing Adam had been necessary in a way. He hadn't been a good man. What he was doing to the women in Errol, the world was already an awful place. Why make it even worse? All she could think of was herself and Erica and her mom being in a place like that and how she couldn't bear the thought of anyone living like that. Killing Adam had to be done and she knew that everyone in Errol had been too terrified to make the move. So she and Jason had done it for them. Killing Adam, taking that man's life, it had been the only way.
She told herself all of this and the majority of her brain completely understood. But the smallest part wouldn't let her forget that despite all of that, Adam had been a man. Not a Walker. He had been a man. And she had killed him.
Feeling anxious, she stood up. There was nothing but silence. Over the past three years, she had taught herself to rely solely on her hearing when it came to the darkness. Forget about her sight. Her ears, when trained properly, would never betray her. Walkers made that shuffling sound of their feet when they moved and right now, she heard nothing except the sounds of the desert around her. Kermit was also asleep and the dog would pick up any noises out of the ordinary. Still, she remained standing, as if she was waiting.
She let Jason sleep through the night. He, and his shoulder, needed the rest more than her. When the sun began to peek its head above the eastern horizon again, she left where he slept just long enough to gather enough sticks for a fire. By the time Jason stirred and opened his eyes, waking up, a small fire was blazing and she was eating a piece of bread from the several loaves that Leo had given them before they had left. Jason gave her a look but she didn't say anything and neither did he. They weren't going to argue about it. There had been plenty of nights when he had let her sleep the whole time without waking her. It was her turn to return the favor. She handed him a piece of bread and they sat side-by-side next to the fire, feeling the warmth of the flames and settling into a comfortable silence that had been entirely theirs for the past three years.
Within a half hour, they had killed the fire and slinging their packs onto their backs, they began walking again – this time, towards the sun.
East. Always east.
"Jason," she finally spoke after nearly two hours of walking in silence. He immediately stopped and turned to look at her, his gun drawn up, ready to be aimed. She shook her head and pointed. "Ahead. Prickly pears," she said and he nodded, understanding.
For the countless time since their journey began, she threw a silent thanks to her dad for teaching her things like this.
Large, colorful blossoms appeared usually in shades yellow, pink, red or purple and grew from the tips of the flat paddled shapes of the prickly pear cacti which then later ripened into delicious red fruit. Anytime she and Jason passed the cacti and saw the fruit cultivating from it, they tried to harvest as much of it as they could while she made sure that they left plenty behind so more could grow and the animals that relied on it could still harvest their own supply. That was something else her father had taught her. Besides survival and taking care of yourself, you also had to respect nature.
"Be careful," she warned him as she always did, weary of the sharp needles of both the cactus and the hair-like spine needles of the fruit.
Jason pulled his sword from the sheath on his back and was able to cut three down from the cactus, letting them fall to the ground. The needles on the fruit were so fine, it was difficult to remove from the skin – as both of them had discovered over the past three years from trial and error. She gathered them carefully, storing them in a small bag for now. When they stopped for lunch, they would light another fire and pass the fruit through the open flame to remove the needles. They had to eat them soon. Once the fruit was removed from the cactus, it was quick to spoil.
They began walking again, this time, side by side. She felt Jason glancing over to her.
"What?" She had to ask.
He shook his head and slid his sword back into the sheath on his back. "You never thought we were on equal ground," he stated and she remained quiet because it wasn't exactly a statement she could argue with. She had always thought herself to be a burden on him. She still did. "But you realize that without you, I would have never survived, right? You realize that, don't you?" She shrugged and didn't say anything. He stopped walking and curled his fingers around her elbow, stopping her, too. He looked down at her and she tilted her chin up, looking at him. "I'm serious, Jules. You've never thought you were strong but you don't think about everything we've been through together. Everything in the past three years, what I've been through, you've been through, too, and we're both here. That means something."
"I'm only here because of you, Jason," she told him for the countless time.
"How can you still think?" He sighed, sounding frustrated. "Especially after Errol? Without you, I never would have been able to cross this fucking never-ending desert. And I probably wouldn't have gotten out of Errol alive."
That made her pause and she kept staring up at him as his eyes remained locked with hers. It amazed her how much she loved him. She had always loved him. In the past few days, she had realized just how much and now, there was no reason to hide it or question it. He was Jason and everything about him, she loved. She took a deep breath and reached up and touched his cheek.
"Well, then, we're even because without you, I wouldn't be alive either," she answered.
He didn't say anything to that. He took her hand from his cheek and kissed the inside of it. She smiled and they began walking again.
Within two more hours, they reached another desert town. This time, they stopped and she found a rack of postcards in the general store – Joliet, Texas. They were in Texas now.
She slipped the postcard into her bag like she did with every other one she came across and Jason gathered paper notebooks and old paperbacks – cheap mystery and romance novels. She followed him through the back of the store and there, they lit another fire, using the paper as kindle. Jason watched as she carefully took the pieces of fruit and guided them across the flames, able now to shed the needles from the skin without hurting her own flesh. When one was done, she handed it to Jason so she could work on the others and Jason took his own hunting knife, cutting the fruit in half and ripping it open.
They both froze when Kermit began growling lowly and the fur on his back stood up. Jason immediately dropped the fruit and drew his sword, standing and taking a stance. She stood up as well, pulling her gun out. They heard the shuffle and her heart began to hammer. She was wondering where the Walkers were. They hadn't seen any since they left Errol and although she knew Leo and Adam went on hunting parties, she doubted that they had driven this far to kill Walkers.
The Walker had smelled their scent and the smoke and it came shuffling around the side of the building. Kermit began barking. There was only one – that they could see. She used to be a woman but most of the side of her face had long since decayed and they could see the bones of her jaw and the teeth of her mouth. Her hair was long, black and stringy. Everything else about her – her skin and her eyes – were pale, milky white.
Jason didn't wait for the Walker to shuffle closer. He met her halfway and quickly, he brought his sword around in a circle, swiftly cutting the Walker's head from its body. The body fell to the ground with a thud that was all too familiar and the head rolled a few feet away. Kermit trotted up to it and sniffed at it but Jason quickly yanked the dog away when the black blood seeped from both the body and the head, slow rivers seeping through the dusty ground, almost coming in contact with the dog's feet. Even if the dog didn't have any open cuts on his feet, it wasn't something to risk.
Without a word, she kicked at the fire with the dust, smothering it and killing it and she took the fruit, gathering it all up again. They left quickly in case there were more around. Once they were a mile outside of the town and hadn't seen or heard another Walker, they began to eat the pieces of fruit as they walked and sipped on their canteens of water. They didn't stop again until the sun began to sink and they set up camp beneath a low shrub tree. The desert was slowly melding into the prairie of North Texas and the scenery was subtly changing around them – more greens and tall prairie grass that rustled in the winds.
They leaned back against the trunk of the tree, watching the sun set and she rested her head against his arm. His hand slid onto her thigh, resting there comfortably. They didn't say anything and not sleeping the night before caught up with her. She drifted off, feeling Jason's strong body and his warmth and his hand on her thigh.
She felt completely safe.
They were near the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas and there was a small town they had stopped in to rest. There had been so many Walkers over the past few days – leaving the cities and wandering aimlessly out into the open space. They were both exhausted, barely able to sleep at night as they kept on constant guard, always killing or running.
This town seemed deserted though and miraculously enough, it still had running water. She took her shower first with Jason standing guard and now, he was in the shower, bathing himself as she stood at the sink, looking at her reflection in the mirror as she combed through her dark hair, listening past the sound of the steady rhythm of streams of water hitting the tiled walls, on alert for shuffling. Finally though, she heard nothing.
Jason's shower was quick and the water was turned off within minutes. The door to the bathroom was locked and the steam was thick, swirling around her, fogging over the mirror. There was a small window and she pulled herself up, kneeling on the edge of the sink to push it open, allowing fresh air to enter the small room. The shower curtain was pushed back and she handed him a towel they had found. He dried himself off and watched as she carefully lowered herself back on the ground in front of the sink.
Without a word, he stood behind her, towering over her, and his hands rested on her hips. She leaned forward and wiped at the condensation on the mirror. She looked at the two of them in the reflection and he leaned down, brushing his lips across the side of her neck. She closed her eyes. Over the past couple of months, they had been traveling slowly and carefully, making their way east, surviving from day to day as they always did and they had also been exploring one another. During one of their many times together, they had both found that her neck was a highly erogenous area for her and now, she felt her stomach clench and she bit down on her lower lip to keep from moaning as he gently fasted his lips and sucked on the pulse point. Her fingers curled around the sink's edge, holding on, as his hands grasped the sides of her towel and peeled it from her body.
The past few days had been so charged. Now, it was quiet and they both could breathe again. When he turned her around to face her, his own towel was gone, too, and she raised herself up on her toes, wrapping her arms around him, her fingers in his wet hair. Their mouths met, open and growing hungrier, and he lifted her easily onto the edge of the sink, her legs spreading for him.
"You're going to have your period soon," he said, out of breath, barely lifting his lips from hers to speak.
She shook her head, leaning forward, chasing after his lips with her own. She captured them and kissed him, slanting her mouth over his. Her fingers gripped his hair and she felt his hands running up her thighs, spreading them wider. She already ached for him.
"I haven't had my period since before Errol," she gasped as one of his hands cupped one of her breasts, his thumb brushing across a hardened nipple. She kissed him hard again.
But at the same, her words seemed to hit them both and they broke apart, staring at one another. Their chests were both heaving and their eyes locked together. Her fingers were still in his hair and his hands were grasping her thighs but they didn't move towards one another again. Her words hung over their heads. She hadn't had a period in two months. Errol had been two months ago. Two months ago, she and Jason had first had sex. Two months… no period for two months.
She opened her mouth to speak but no words were formed. What could she say? There was one glaringly obvious reason why a sexually active woman would miss her period.
Oh god… it couldn't be possible.
Of course it could be possible.
Jason's entire body was still, frozen in place. His chest even seemed to stop inhaling and exhaling with breath. She tried to say her name but her vocal chords seized in her throat. His dark eyes flicked down and he looked at her still flat stomach and then back up at her. She felt herself shaking her head. No, no way. It wasn't that. It had be stress. Yes, that had to be it. So much had happened over the past couple of months, it was natural for her body to react and be late on account of that.
But she knew, deep down, that in the past three years, she had never been late due to stress. She was late now because she and Jason had been having sex without protection and really, it could only be one thing that made absolute sense. Her heart thudded in her chest and she suddenly felt as if she was about to be sick.
She looked at Jason and Jason stared at her. Neither spoke or moved or breathed. She had gotten better at reading him over the past couple of months but right now, his face was completely blank and she had no idea what he could possibly be thinking. Even she didn't understand the thoughts racing through her own mind.
There was a lump in her throat she tried to swallow down. "I'm pregnant," she whispered.
A/N: I can't thank everyone enough for supporting me with this story. I was so nervous to return to FP after so many of my stories were stolen from me but to those who welcomed me back and supported me, I can never thank you enough.
- some didn't like everything I wrote in this story. Some didn't even like Jules. But I really loved writing this story and I hope to return to Jason and Jules someday. I hope to write a sequel from Jason's POV.
Please read and comment and thank you for reading!