The Desert Ch. 06

byHillbilly_one©

The air seemed to still as the man on the ground contemplated his options. He was hopelessly overpowered, outgunned and he damn well knew it. Sure there was a possibility he would survive if he crawled off into the scorching desert, but most likely he'd be dead in a matter of days. The two of them that had come here were the last of his crew, and he hadn't really been in the business of making friends enough to have any hope of getting help from anyone who might find him. More likely they'd just kill him and steal his clothes, just like he'd have done to them if the roles had been reversed. Finally he looked up at Joe with the cockiest look he could muster.

"Shoot me then, if that would make you feel like a real man."

Jackie heard the shot. She flinched and grabbed her crossbow, ready to shoot anyone who came in the door. When nobody came for a good few minutes, she got worried and started to get up from the bed, but Trudy grabbed her arm and gave her a pleading look. She sat back down, her free hand gently stroking Trudy's head while the crossbow was still aimed at the door. When the door finally opened she almost fired from pure reflex, but managed to hold her fire long enough to see that it was Joe who was entering the room. She instantly put her weapon down on the floor and jumped up at him, hugging him as tightly as she could and kissing him all over his face.

As much as he did love having Jackie all naked and clinging to him, Joe just wasn't in the mood for any kind of affectionate displays at the moment. But he did his part, kissing her and hugging her before gently setting her back down on the floor where he kissed her again, as much to remind himself he still had feelings as anything else.

He walked over to Trudy, who lay on her stomach with her head buried in a pillow. She jerked a little as he put his hand on her back, but it was more out of surprise than anything else. She kept still and very patiently let Joe examine her wounds and bruises, not uttering as much as a whine or whimpering, even though it hurt like hell every time he touched her.

"I don't see anything here that won't heal by itself within... a week at most." He managed to find his most assuring and caring voice, but inside he was still seething with anger over what had happened to her, and wallowing in self loathing over what he had just done. "Jackie, I don't think she's in shock anymore, so if she asks you for water it's okay to give it to her. Other than that, just keep her company and talk to her. You know better than anyone what she's been through. I'll be back as fast as I can."

Jackie wanted to ask where he was going but she didn't. She wasn't sure she really wanted to know the answer, so she just kissed him again and gave him a big, strong hug, whispering in his ear that she loved him.

"I know; I love you too." He gave a deep sigh as he forced himself to deal with what had to be done. "Lock the door when I'm out. I'll knock on the backdoor when I get back."

Jackie nodded in silence and followed him as he exited the store. She locked the door behind him as instructed and resisted the urge to look through the windows to see what he was doing. Something told her it would be better if she just didn't know. She had pretty much figured out what he was going to do anyway but it wasn't something she really wanted to think about, so she did her best not to.

As soon as she returned to the bedroom she lay down next to Trudy, letting her snuggle in as close as she could before laying her arm across the battered woman's shoulders and stroking her hair with her free hand. There wasn't any talking between them for a long while, they just lay there, comforting each other by their closeness.

"I'm sorry," Jackie said at last, after a solid three hours of complete silence. "I'm sorry. All this happened to you because of me."

Trudy did her best to roll over so she was facing Jackie, but it hurt like hell every time she tried. Finally, Jackie had to help her, which kind of made the whole undertaking redundant, but she went ahead with it anyway. If nothing else, it would be nice to have a different part of her body ache for a while, sparing her all too tender breasts and stomach. When she was finally on her side, facing Jackie, she raised her arm and gave her a light slap across the face. There wasn't enough force behind it to hurt, but it got the point across.

"Don't be an idiot." Trudy's voice was really husky and coarse. It sounded like she had sandpaper for vocal cords. "They would have done this no matter what. In fact, you're probably the reason I'm still alive at all." She swallowed hard and made a painful grimace. "They thought they could trade me for you or kill Joe and have us both. Guess that didn't quite work out for them."

She tried to laugh but the pain in her throat was just too bad and it turned into an even more painful coughing fest. It seemed to go on forever, and by the time it was finally over, Trudy was in tears.

"Could I get something to drink, please?" Her voice was not nothing more than a low whisper. "I don't think they've given me water today. My throat is killing me."

"Then just shut up already." Jackie winked and gave her a kiss on the forehead before she got up and grabbed a bottle of water from the shelf by the door. "You know, this might be a horrible thing to say, but I'm actually glad they brought you here. I've missed you."

As Jackie sat back down on the bed, she handed the bottle over to her friend who began to drink as if she'd never seen water before. She made it to three big gulps before it backfired on her and she started coughing again, as her unaccustomed stomach cringed at the touch of all that water. When she'd settled down she tried again, in much smaller and calmer swallows.

"I never imagined plain water could taste this good," she said as she dried some drops from her lips.

Jackie smiled and bent down and kissed her. Trudy responded willingly and before they knew it they lay beside each other, arms wrapped around each other and just shared their company.

They must have dozed off for a while, because Jackie was startled awake when she heard three loud knocks on the backdoor. It took her a while to realize where she was, but as the shook the remnants of her dreams from her head the knocks on the door were repeated and she rose, as quietly as possible, and went to open it.

"Who is it?" She tried keeping her voice low, as not to wake up Trudy.

"It's me, honey." Joe's voice came through the thick wooden door, and she felt her heart leap of joy.

She quickly unlocked the door and let him in. As soon as he'd shut the door behind him, she jumped on him and started planting little kisses all over his face. This time he couldn't help but give a small laugh as he carried her to the bed and put her down on it. He kissed her tenderly and caressed her beautiful face with his hands.

"You go back to sleep, my love." He whispered into her ear, and the warm air from his breath made her shiver slightly. "I'll be out in the store."

"But there's room for you in the bed with us, if we just squeeze together a bit." Jackie's voice was sad and disappointed.

"I don't think Trudy wants to squeeze anything of hers right now." He winked at Jackie, and she nodded slowly back at him. "And I don't think I'll be able to sleep much tonight anyway. If you want to, we can talk about it tomorrow when it's light out again. But right now, I think I just need to be alone for a while." He saw the sadness on Jackie's face as he spoke and hurried to kiss her once more. "Don't worry about me okay? Take care of Trudy and get some sleep. I'll be right outside if you need anything, I promise."

Jackie understood, but that didn't mean she liked it. She wanted so badly to be with him tonight, but she also knew that Trudy needed her more. Though it pained her, she agreed to stay in the bedroom with her friend and let him be alone, though she doubted it was really the best thing for him.

"Just so you know," she spoke with unmistakable irony. "I'm still mad at you. But we'll talk about that in the morning. You go sleep on the couch!"

She winked at him when she had finished, and he couldn't keep from smiling. Just seeing her made him feel so much better, and to hear her actually make a joke was like manna from the heavens. It didn't wash away the guilt and pain from his actions, but seeing her made him remember why he had done what he did, and that made it all a bit more bearable. They shared another kiss, a deep, long, wet, passionate kiss, before he tucked her in and left the bedroom.

Out in the store he gathered up some blankets and a crate, which he then placed against a wall behind the counter. He put his shotgun down on the floor, padded the crate with a couple of the blankets and pulled the last one up over his shoulders. He wasn't planning on sleeping, but he wasn't planning on freezing either, and the nights out here could get pretty cold, especially now that they didn't have the electricity on.

"I'll have to remember to fix that tomorrow." he muttered to himself as the last conscious thoughts drifted from his mind and he fell asleep.

The following morning he was awakened by a gentle hand on his shoulder. As he looked up, he saw a smiling Trudy looking down on him, and when she saw he was awake, she leaned down and kissed him right on his unsuspecting mouth. He didn't really know how to react so he didn't. He just sat there, eyes wide and mouth open, as she stood back up and offered him her hand. He took it and she helped him to his feet, and then hugged him as tightly as her bruised body would allow.

"Thank you Joe," she said when she finally let go. "Thank you... for everything."

He just smiled at her and nodded while he was trying to form a good response in his head. Before he had the chance, though, Jackie appeared and threw herself at him. He held her, kissed her and gave her a light slap on the butt before he released her and set her down next to Trudy.

"Can we keep her this time?" Jackie smiled her biggest, most adorable smile, and she looked at him with those damn puppy dog eyes of hers. He could never refuse those eyes.

"Yes. If she wants to, she can stay for as long as she likes."

Jackie practically started bouncing with joy and she threw herself around Trudy's neck. When Trudy started to whine and moan from the pain, Jackie let go and stood back, a guilty expression replacing the happy one. Not until Trudy grabbed her by the collar of her t-shirt, pulled her to her and kissed her, did Jackie even dare to breathe.

"I'm not that fragile," Trudy smiled and winked at her friend. "It just hurts a bit to have a bouncing girl landing on me."

Both girls laughed at what hadn't really been a very funny joke. But the moment itself, together with the tension, made a laugh necessary. When they settled down a bit, they kissed again and when they broke away from each other, Jackie set off to the backroom to start up the generator, while Trudy stayed with Joe.

"I know what you did, and I'm so sorry you had to." There was deep pain in her voice and Joe could feel how sorry she actually was. "But you have to know this. I'm not staying with you out of gratitude, nor am I offering you my body as such. I'm staying because I like you and I must admit I am quite smitten with your girl. But more importantly, you have to know that if you hadn't done what you did I wouldn't be here, and neither would Jackie... or you for that matter. You did what you had to do to protect your family."

Joe tried to steel himself but he couldn't. The mention of his family was the last straw, and he broke down in tears, sitting by her feet. She sat down next to him and put her arms around his shoulders. When Jackie came back, she joined them, in silence, as they all sat there on the floor. Joe finally let everything out, and he cried into the arms of the woman he loved, and of the woman he'd saved. This time, he had done everything he could, and he had protected his own.

*

Author's note: Any and all comments made in this story by its characters are the opinions of those characters and not to be taken seriously in any way, shape or form.

This is not the end of this story, but it is the last chapter to be posted for a while. A lack of inspiration and a shortage of time mean that further installments in the series will have to wait. If you want more of Joe and Jackie and their travels and adventures, be sure to let me know! Nothing says "I want more!" like stars and comments!

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