Cold Comfort by dponice
As grateful as Jake was for their help, he was going to be happy to see the backs of their three new friends from New Bern. It was time to get his little group home. There had been too many close calls in the past few hours. He just wanted his dad, Dale and Heather back in Jericho, safe in their beds. So after shaking everyone's hands, he turned to get in the car with a sense of relief, it was only a few more miles.
Why the hell was Heather just standing there? Why isn't she getting in the car?
The answer was not what Jake wanted to hear at this moment. This was not good. She was supposed to be going home. She was supposed to go back to being safe. She was supposed to be in Jericho, not some town with people he hadn't known for more than a few hours. Certainly not men that kept doing things that were just too helpful in Jake's opinion. And not to spend most of her time with someone she greeted with such joy.
‘You don't tick that way," ends her description of herself - and him.
Even as she rejects his denial, all he can think is, "Yes, yes I do. Do you know how much I would like to be seated in a big chair cuddling you in your flannel pajamas as we do the crossword together? Teasing you with silly and suggestive answers to the clues. Sure, I might be drinking an actual beer, but other than that it sounds like a slice of heaven." But they aren't anywhere near a place where that could happen, so all Jake can do is listen to her list her reasons to go - none of which sound good enough to him at this moment. And then let her go.
So he makes her promise to come back. As he reaches to hug her goodbye, he thinks of kissing her as soundly as she kissed him the last time they had that conversation. He knows he has lost the right to do that - for a while. He also knows that the hug they are having lets the three men at the truck know she is family, loved and cared for. Despite his desire to put a big sign on Heather saying she is taken, he has to hope that hug is enough to say DO NOT TOUCH. Not that he could hug her any differently, because for all his thinking his body was taking its cues from his heart, and so he was holding on for dear life.
He waves as the truck drives off, before falling back to lean on the car for a moment. He is no longer as eager to get in and drive off. There is an empty spot in the car, in his life. He didn't know if there was or ever had been a future for them. All he knew was that even though he ran from starting anything now as they battled vigilantes, starvation and freezing to death daily, she had been part of the dream of better days. The dream that made all of this bearable - of smiles across a table, morning kisses and meaningless arguments about toothpaste and towels on the floor, Sunday dinners, day to day jobs, the rhythm of spring planting and fall harvest, early morning fishing, and teaching children to ride bikes, the dream of comfort and home, of crossword puzzles and flannel pajamas.
Please, God, let her come back.