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Brave

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The mood around the campfire was tense. After Jake, Dwight, and Bill came back without David following them, everyone had automatically assumed the worst. Though they were glad the three had managed to escape without too much wear and tear, David had a habit of staying back to protect the team and it always hurt when he didn’t make it back. This time was no exception.

The survivors spoke in groups quietly, but Jake didn’t bother trying to speak to any of them. In fact, he didn’t even look up until the murmuring stopped at the sight of David limping back to the campfire. He was bloodied and beaten but still grinning, and the survivors were keen to know why. Evidently, he’d taken more than a few hits, but had he escaped? From beside Jake, Claudette rushed forward to help the man sit down so she could tend to his wounds.

“Did you make it out?” Dwight spoke up first, eyes glinting beneath his glasses. The rest of the campfire survivors collectively held their breaths for his response.

David looked up and smirked, nodding an affirmation to Dwight’s question. “Course I did! You expect anything less?” He joked loudly and the mood of the campfire brightened considerably. Feng Min was the first to ask how exactly he’d escaped with the Huntress right up his ass, and David launched into a thrilling story about how he’d figured he’d just find the hatch rather than try to use the gates considering the Huntress would’ve had too much time to throw her hatchet at him. He gestured wildly throughout his story, Claudette having to calm him down several times so she could work, and by the time he’d finished the whole campfire was singing his praise. Their worries were unfounded it seemed. Not to mention, it’d been a while since anyone had achieved such a daring escape and stories about them always raised group morale. However, there was one who seemed unaffected by the story spun by David.

Jake glared into the fire, trying not to clench his jaw when Kate said something about how brave David was in her southern accent.

“Brave is by far the kindest word for stupid…” he muttered, and the campfire was plunged into silence. They’d all noticed Jake’s bad mood after the trial but none of them thought he’d still be pissy after finding out David had made it out. David narrowed his eyes at the saboteur, no longer sated by the praises of the others.

“An’ what’s that supposed to mean?” He asked. Jake stared him down.

“You should’ve just left, there was no reason for you to stick around and look for the hatch if both exits were open.”

“I was busy distracting the Huntress from you and the others, I didn’t want to lead her back to you!” David responded angrily, standing up as he spoke.

Jake huffed and turned away. “So? I had the nearest hooks down there was no reason you couldn’t have made it back to us and we could’ve all left together.”

David smirked coldly. “So that’s it, is it? You wanted to point out how you were a hero for taking down all those hooks? Sorry I didn’t catch the message, mate,” He said and Jake stood up suddenly, his fists clenched. For a second there was only silence, and part of David was praying for Jake to throw a punch. It’d been a while since he’d had a good real fight. Another part of him didn’t want to hurt the lone wolf that he - and the other survivors as a whole - had grown to love.

Jake didn’t throw a punch though, didn’t even answer David’s jab, and instead turned to walk into the woods. He was quickly eaten up by the fog. The others watched him go uneasily, but no one stopped him. He wouldn’t wander too far from camp, and eventually, he would return, but he likely needed his space for the time being. Jake, of all people here, was more prone to needing alone time. All those years alone in the woods didn’t fade away easily.

David watched him go for much longer than the others, however, his eyes staying on the spot that his figure had disappeared too even after Claudette was quick to pull him down once more with a quick tug to finish one last thing. She was frowning as she worked, though, and David felt a spark of guilt rise up in him. He knew Claudette especially hated when the survivors fought, but he’d let himself get carried away that time. He was glad he hadn’t thrown a punch though. Claudette and the others would’ve had his hide if he had.

Once she let him go, she offered a tired smile, before heading off to sleep. Meg followed her, but Feng Min and Nea stayed sitting just a little longer while Ace taught them card tricks. Quentin and Laurie were both off in the distance as well, though it looked like they were still awake, and Bill was leaning against a tree sleeping. Kate and Dwight were the only two next to David.

The three of them sat in silence for a few minutes, but eventually, it seemed Dwight’s altruistic nature broke out and he spoke up.

“Jake didn’t mean to offend you, David,” He bounced his knee as he talked, but he didn’t stutter so David counted it as a win for Dwight.

“Well he should work on his people skills then,” David muttered, though most of his anger had dissipated by now. Kate chuckled from beside David.

“He certainly does, but I wouldn’t blame the boy. He’s not used to caring so much. It was easier when he only had himself to worry about,” she said with an easygoing grin, and David turned to her with a question in his eyes. Kate frowned for a second when she realized he didn’t quite understand.

“Oh, David, honey. Jake’s hard on ya because he cares of course. We were all worried, sure, but Jake didn’t say a single word till you showed up. I’m almost certain he was anxious,” she spoke softer now, and David wondered if she could hear his heartbeat speeding up just a bit. He hadn’t thought of it that way. He felt another pang of guilt when he realized how cruel he’d been to accuse Jake of simply wanting to be the hero.

She observed his face for a second before standing up. “Well, I think I’ll head to bed, boys. I’ll catch ya later. David, try not to hurt your head thinking about what I said too much, will ya?” She winked, and then she was off.

David and Dwight watched after her, David silently staring into the fire.

“What do you think she meant?” David asked after a minute, more due to the fact that he wanted someone else to say it rather than himself. Dwight just shook his head.

“I think that’s for you to find out yourself, man. I didn’t sign up for this shit,” Dwight responded tiredly, waving David off. “But I’m taking first shift so get some sleep. You’ll need all the energy you can get if you wanna pull off what you did today again.”

David didn’t have the energy to argue with Dwight and stumbled off a few feet, quickly finding a suitable tree to settle down on. He fell asleep quickly, mind already dreaming of hatchets, hooks, and saboteurs.