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            Rook’s head was pounding. Her eyes flickered open slowly, adjusting to the dim light in the room. She tried to lift her hand to her head but found that it was attached to the chair with zip ties she was currently sitting in. Her fight-or-flight instincts kicked in and she tried kicking her legs but found they too were attached to the chair. Her throat was currently a desert due to lack of water. She tried to calm her breathing as she glanced around the room. She had gotten used to the last place she was kept. This made the fourth building she was placed in. Or was it fifth? She couldn’t remember at this point. Still, she always at least tried to escape whenever she found the energy. She could hear faint voices from somewhere in the building that were steadily getting closer. She stilled. The doors burst open and in walked two men that she immediately glared at.

            “Still feisty, huh? Even after all this time.” One of the men laughed.

            Rook continued to stare but eased the glare she was giving him.

            She normally would have some choice words, some snarky comeback for the man. But she had learned her lesson in talking back long ago.

~~~

            “You think you guys are tough shit? I’ve spent time in Jacob’s cages. I’ve done his trials. This is nothing compared to that.” Rook goaded the men on.

            She had made it her mission to make these men’s lives a living hell for getting the jump on her.

            “How many times do we have to beat you before you just shut the fuck up, bitch?” One of the men growled out before slapping her across the face.

            “You’re all talk and no bite.” She spit out her blood onto his face.

            “Fine.” The man laughed as he wiped his face clean. “Just know that you brought this on yourself.”

            He turned to the other man in the room and grabbed something from him.

            “Maybe this will help you learn.”

            Rook struggled in her seat as the men approached her. One behind and one in front. The one behind her placed one of his hands on the top of her head and the other kept her jaw in place, preventing her from opening her mouth and moving her head. Lack of basic necessities had begun to make her weak. She wasn’t as bad off as she had been that first time Jacob had captured her. But it was enough to make her not bother fighting the man off. Her eyes blew open wide as she saw just what the man in front of her was holding. A piece of fishing wire and a needle.

            She whimpered.

            “Now, this is going to hurt, ain’t gonna lie.” He brought the needle to the corner of her lip. “And you don’t want it to hurt even more so you’re gonna keep still, right?”

            The needle pierced the thick skin at the corner of her mouth and she cried out as much as she could with her mouth held shut. She started yanking her shoulders, doing anything she could to get them off of her. The man holding her head yanked it back, the whiplash causing Rook’s eyes to blackout for a moment. She was crying now, surprised that her body could even make any tears at this point. The man with the needle lifted her upper lip and pierced the skin from the inside and pulled the string tight before piercing it through the bottom lip. Five piercings up top, and five on the bottom. Rook’s fairly certain she passed out as when she woke up she was alone once more. The previous trauma to her face rushed to her memory as she choked out a sob beyond the tension of her lips. The line was loose enough to allow her to open her mouth a small amount, but tight enough that any attempt to talk would cause the fishing wire to cut the already tender wounds. Tears were staining her cheeks as she tried to calm down.

~~~

            “Got some news for ya, deputy!” His smile made Rook’s stomach churn. “Turns out that soldier of yours is a stubborn man. Doesn’t matter how many times we move you to a different location, he always seem to get close. Though, he seems to be giving up. Just like all your other friends gave up.”

            Rook’s heart felt like it was going to explode. She wasn’t sure how long she’d been with these men but she knew it was more than a few weeks. The possibility of someone – especially Jacob - finding her had been extinguished long ago. She’s not sure when she gave up. Weak. That was the word that rang out in her mind every day. She wasn’t sure she even wanted Jacob to find her anymore. She was weak. Weak for getting captured? Or weak for giving up? She wasn’t sure anymore.

            When she didn’t give a reaction to the men they left the room, feeling accomplished she supposed. She wouldn’t say they had broken her. She was just tired. No point in getting her hopes up, right?

            BANG.

            There was the unmistakable sound of a gunshot from outside. It wasn’t possible. It could be anyone. She kept her eyes glued to the door directly in front of her. There was a loud crash right into the door and she heard someone yelling from behind it. She knew that voice. The door suddenly opened, almost breaking the hinges, and Rook tried to stop herself from crying more but it was no use as Jacob stood in the doorway. A part of her was overjoyed. Finally, freedom from this hell. But there was still that voice in the back of her head reminding her that he shouldn’t see this weak version of herself. Jacob was flanked by two of his chosen who were holding her captors in the hallway at gunpoint. He stepped closer, approaching her like an injured animal.

            “Gotta admit, ya look like shit.” He smiled softly, but there was a hint of something behind his eyes.

            Rook’s eyes wandered all across his face, soaking it in. She had thought she’d never see him again. He looked more tired than the last time she saw him. His already dark circles seemed darker, if that was possible. She couldn’t help the small chuckle at his attempt at humor in this situation. He kneeled down in front of her, his large hands engulfing her cheeks as he examined her face. Normally she’d be excited at the feeling of his hands on her. But now she could only imagine what she looked like. Starved, dirty, and whatever mess they had done to her face. She didn’t deserve his hands.

            “We’re gonna have t’ take you to John so one of his doctors can look at ya.” He mumbled, rubbing his thumbs across her cheekbones gently.

            She tilted her head in confusion. Surely he could just cut them and pull the wire out, right? Sensing her confusion Jacob started cutting at the zip ties that kept her to the chair.

            “The wire’s embedded into your skin. Do you know how long it’s been since they did it?” He asked as he cut her free.

            Rook looked over his shoulder at the men still sitting on the floor at gunpoint. She had no idea. She wasn’t sure how long it had been when they had taken her, and how long it had been since they had done it. Her sense of time was disorientated.

            Sensing her panic, Jacob helped lift her out of the seat. As soon as she was out he pulled her up into his arms. She knew she was lighter than before this all happened because he didn’t even need to strain. As they approached the men there was a fire that seemed to light inside Rook. She tapped Jacob’s arm that was around her waist, telling him to stop. The men were currently cowering behind the business end of the guns pressed to their heads. Rook squirmed her way out of Jacob’s grasp. Though she was still being assisted by Jacob, she managed to stand in front of the man who had sewn her mouth. The man who was the first to capture her however long ago. Rook knew she only had so much energy to expel. But she also had rage. And rage is a powerful motivator.

            Using whatever energy she could muster, Rook clenched her fist and pushed the chosen out of the way. She’s not sure how many hits she got in, but by the end of it she was panting hard with difficulty and the man before her was no longer recognizable. Her knuckles were broken open and there was blood all over the wall, her face, and on the other captor. Her eyes scanned over to him. He had wet himself it seemed. Rook managed to grab the pistol from the other chosen’s hand and before anyone could say anything she had fired a shot right between the man’s eyes. She handed it back to the chosen. She took one deep breath before her knees gave out. That’s all the energy she seemed to have left.

            She knew Jacob must have caught her because instead of landing on the concrete floor of whatever factory she was in, all she could feel was the warmth of his arms as she was carried away from this nightmare. She could finally rest. So she did.

Chapter Text

            By the time they made it to Holland Valley it was fairly late in the afternoon. Pulling up to the ranch Rook could see John pacing the porch near the front door. As Jacob parked the truck John ran to the door, eager to help Rook out of the vehicle. She gave him a smile, as much as she could, hoping her gratitude was shown in her eyes. John halted in his steps, obviously surprised at her appearance. John helped escort her inside, with Jacob following closely behind, where a doctor was already waiting inside the ranch.

            Her relationship with the Seed family was…not what she expected when she arrived in Hope County. Dealing with a cult was not exactly what she had in mind when she left the police academy but here she was. However, ever since the fateful night that this whole mess began, there had been a part of her that couldn’t help but listen in every chance she got to Joseph’s words. She wasn’t a particularly religious person, she’d admit that, but the things he talked about did ring true – the world was indeed in chaos. She constantly found herself stretched between the resistance and their growing reliance and pressure on her, and the members of Eden’s Gate trying desperately to bring her into their flock. Sometimes she wished someone would just make the decision for her.

            It was during one of her many nights in Jacob’s cages that her relationship with the family changed. Her and Jacob had already built a kind of respect for one another – though neither would admit it. She loved the challenge he provided. To many it would seem a torture, and some days it was, but she needed the structure. She enjoyed the fact that when she was focusing on training for his trials she didn’t have any other pressure on her back. She didn’t have to worry about the others of Hope County who relied on her so much. She needed someone to take the reins from her for a bit, and Jacob being in charge provided that necessity. They’d never admit it to one another – stubbornness works both ways – but their respect showed in subtle ways. He would check on her during her conditioning, and when need be she provided as a distraction for when he couldn’t sleep and ended up walking the grounds in the middle of the night. On the night Joseph decided to pay her a visit he had told her the story of his wife and child. She felt compelled to stop him as he started to walk away. She asked if she could talk to him again some time, and the smile that formed on his face would be something to remember.

            Rook wasn’t fully paying attention to what was going on around her in the ranch. She tuned out the doctor and the questions. She had grown used to the silence of being a prisoner not allowed to talk. Jacob squeezed her shoulder, pulling her out of her head.

            “Doc says it’s definitely going to hurt to take that out.” Jacob glanced down at her lips. “We don’t have any anesthesia lying around, but we’ve got bliss.”

            Her eyes darted up to his. He ran his hand up and down her arm.

            “I know you hate the shit but you’ve been through enough pain already, don’t you think? You’re strong though, it’ll be fine.”

            Her eyes flickered between his before she nodded her head. If he said she was strong then she could trust his judgement. Right?

She never liked giving up control to the Bliss. Faith had been understanding at least, when they talked about it. She never popped up out of the blue anymore to bring Rook into her little world. If she wanted to talk, she called. One of the benefits on easing herself into Joseph’s good graces.

            The doctor stepped closer, murmuring something that Rook didn’t catch. After being away from it for so long it wasn’t even that close to her and she could already see the sparkles in her eyes. With a quick blow, everything began turning hazy. The last thing Rook could feel was Jacob’s squeeze her shoulder one last time before everything turned white.

            Perhaps it was the trauma, but the scene conjured up by the Bliss brought her back to the day this all began. The day of her kidnapping.

~~~

            “Ah, Catherine. I wasn’t expecting to hear from you so soon.” Joseph’s voice lilted from the radio.

            “Yeah, yeah.” She laughed back. “I have some plans that might take a while so I knew we wouldn’t be able to have our little chats like we usually do. And how many times must I tell you to just call me Cat before it sticks?”

            It had been a month since that incident in the cage. Every chance the two could get they would talk. It was like having her own sibling that was always there to listen, no matter how mundane the topic. Sometimes it would be small-talk, other times it would just be Rook simply listening to the Father as he prepared a sermon. Usually though, it would be a game of questions back and forth, both parties eager to engage.

            “I understand, and you know I’m old-fashioned.” Joseph laughed. “So, what are we discussing today then, hm?”

            “Actually,” Rook replied sheepishly. She walked around the corner of the outpost she was currently at, getting farther away from any prying ears. “I was wondering if you might be able to get me the frequency Jacob uses?” She mumbled the last part, a part of her hoping Joseph wouldn’t think too much of it.

            There was a moment of silence. Rook used the time to hop into the back of a nearby truck. She hoped it was far enough away, didn’t need any rumors.

            “You two are becoming close.” There was a hint of a question behind it.

            “I wouldn’t say that, but, I’ll admit I find myself curious about him more than before. And he doesn’t exactly plan out ‘conversation time’ when we’re together unlike your other siblings – it’s very hard to get them to NOT tell me about themselves.” She added with a lighthearted laugh.

            “Jacob’s had a hard life. I think it would do him some good to have someone close.” Joseph hummed, seeming to insinuate something. She didn’t correct him.

            “Although, he won’t exactly be happy about this, I believe.” He laughed.

            Rook nodded her head, a smile on her lips.

            “Yeah, I suspect that much. But, someone’s gotta keep him on his toes.”

            “That is true. Well, he typically uses frequency twelve when he talks with me. You can use that one until you two settle on your own channel. Is there anything else you need from me, child?”

            “No, but thank you Father.” Rook found herself calling him that absentmindedly lately, but she never thought too much about it. It was just easier.

            “Try not to destroy too much of our property, yes?” He let out a chuckle.

            “No promises!” Rook replied before putting the radio down.

            She let out a large huff of air as she pulled her arms up over her head, stretching out the muscle and causing a few joints in her spine to crack. It was mid-afternoon and she was getting ready to do some work with some of the Whitetails in the area. There were two members coming with her who were currently packing up the truck they would be using. They were new to the Militia and Rook was “asked” by Eli to help out with showing them the ropes. Part of her thinks it was just so that she was out of the bunker and away from Tammy when she was in a mood.

            Rook fiddled with the radio, tossing it between her hands. She wasn’t exactly sure how she would even begin a conversation with Jacob. Normally it was the other way around after she bothered him enough times. Her time spent with Faith and John allowed her some insight into their lives – although, at the beginning she tried anything and everything to get them to stop dumping all of their issues on her – but Jacob was an enigma. She truly just wanted to know more about the man. It didn’t help that she also found herself attracted to the old soldier, but that was beside the point she told herself. She kept hovering over the channel buttons but before she could send anything out a man jogged up to her.

            “Hey Deputy, we’re ready to leave when you are.” The man pointed over to the other man waiting by the truck. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

            “Nice to meet you as well …?” She waited for his name.

            “Ah, it’s Johnson. Just joined up the other day.” He shook her hand, his grip was tight.

            “Alright, nice to meet you Johnson. Let’s get going.”

            Rook jumped off the back of the truck and made her way over with Johnson following behind. After meeting the other man, also with the last name Johnson – Rook realized they were brothers – they set off on the road. Rook made a mental note to make a Johnson & Johnson joke to Sharky later.

            Their goal was to gather supplies from a nearby factory that Rook had recently liberated but didn’t have time to loot and help set it up for occupation. When they arrived it was quiet. The other militia members that were stationed there were swapped with their group and sent back to the Wolf’s Den. After gathering as much as they could the three started getting ready to settle in for the night after securing the perimeter and deciding the watch schedule. One of the brothers agreed to go first, Rook was thankful because of how tired she was. Rook decided to take one of the offices that was still near the front door, just in case. She hadn’t seen where the other Johnson brother went off to, she figured he was either in his own space or out with his brother on watch. As she set up her “bed” – a blanket on the ground and her backpack as a pillow – she made a note to learn their first names to ease the confusion. She laid on the ground, fidgeting with her radio once more. Could she risk trying to talk to Jacob with the others nearby? Fuck it.

            She looked out the nearby window, spotting the brother on watch. She still didn’t know where the other was but she didn’t hear anything nearby. Tuning the radio to the channel Joseph gave her earlier she took a deep breath before pressing the button.

            “Jacob?”

            Silence. Rook took the time to turn the volume down on the radio.

            “Do I even want to know how you knew this channel?” Jacob drawled on the other end.

            “I may have asked Joseph? He was more than willing to assist in my operation to annoy you.” She said with a laugh.

            “Of course he did. What do you want?”

            “What? A girl can’t just hit up her buddy for a little chat?” Rook teased.

            “So we’re buddies now, huh?” Jacob let out a huff. “Alright, I’ll bite. Chat.”

            Rook paused. Honestly she wasn’t even expecting to get this far.

            “Uh, haven’t quite figured that part out yet. But, I’m in the area so I figured I’ll give ya at least a little warning in case things start blowing up out of the blue. You know how I get.”

            “You know if you’d just stop escaping when I bring you back you’d be allowed to blow things up, right?” She could tell Jacob was smiling.

            “Yeah but where’s the fun in regulated explosives? It’s all about the surprise.”

            “You’ve been hangin’ out with that Boshaw too much.”

            “Probably.”

            There was a lull in the conversation. It had been a while since they had talked. It also didn’t help that between the two of them, Rook did most of the talking since Jacob tended to be a rather reserved individual. Rook sighed. It was getting dark.

            “Well, I suppose I should probably get some rest. It’s getting pretty late.” Rook bit her lip.

            “Yeah. Need your beauty sleep.”

            “You suggesting I need more?” Rook mocked offense.

            “I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.” Jacob laughed. “Get some rest though. You’ll need it for wreaking havoc. Make it a big one so I know where to come get ya.”

            “We’ll see what happens. You get some rest too, I know you don’t get nearly enough.”

            Jacob just hummed in response.

            Rook wasn’t sure if “goodnight” was the right response or not so she settled for just turning the radio off and getting comfy. It didn’t take her long to fall asleep.

           

 

            She wasn’t sure what time it was when she heard a small thump in the night. She opened one eye. Nothing at the door. She waited to listen for anything else. Silence. One of the men moving around, she thought. As she closed her eyes again she couldn’t help but feel a presence next to her. Just as she opened her eyes she saw the butt of a gun headed right for her, knocking her unconscious.

             When she came too she was in the main floor of the factory. The room sparkled with dust lit by the rising sun beaming through the windows near the ceiling. Unconscious all night it seemed. She let out a groan as she moved her head to look around. Her arms were tied behind her back in the chair she was sat in. She could see the brothers out of the corner of her eye, both of them holding their guns out.

            “Somebody care to explain what the hell is going on?” She let out with a sigh.

            “You know, everyone thinks you’re some kind of hero.”

            Johnson #1, as Rook decided to call him, came forward.

            “But you’re a liar. A fraud.”

            “The hell are you talking about?” Rook stared up at him in confusion.

            “I heard your little conversation with Joseph back at the other outpost, and imagine my surprise when I hear you talking to Jacob when we get here! We’re out here fighting for our homes against these assholes and you’re on familiar terms with them?! You’re supposed to be helping to lead us out of this mess!” Johnson punched her in the gut, hard enough to knock the wind out of her. “Eli is a fool for letting you wander freely around the Wolf’s Den. Tammy’s right, you’re a liability to our safety. For all we know, you’re giving them a direct line to our information and families.”

            Johnson #2 chimed in with his agreement.

            “Alright listen,” Rook rolled her eyes. “I don’t know what you think you heard, but you’ve gotta be some kind of stupid to think I’d put everyone in danger like that.” She pulled at her hands, the rope chafing her wrists.

            “They are the enemy!” Johnson #1 added with a backhanded slap.

            Rook sucked on her teeth, spitting out some blood onto the floor.

            “So, what? You’re gonna kill me? Just like that? You don’t think that’d look bad for the Whitetails?”

            “We should.” Johnson #2 piped up.

            “No, not yet.” Johnson #1 walked back to his brother. “We’re gonna make her regret her decisions first. Let’s see if we can’t break her of her loyalty to those fucks first.”

~~~

            Rook isn’t sure how long she’s been out when the Bliss finally wears off. It’s still darker outside, so some time has passed. She immediately feels the throbbing of her lips which causes her eyes to widen. She sits up, her hands shakily reaching up to feel her face.

            “Careful.” Jacob’s voice rumbled next to her.

            She glanced over at him.

            “Doc said not to irritate them too much.”

            Rook nodded. She took a deep breath through her nose and then slowly starting opening her jaw. She winced at the initial pop and flare of pain that followed. Jacob was attempting to soothe her, telling her to take it slow. She eventually got it open again and proceeded to work out the kinks. It had been so long. She forgot how simple the feeling of just being able to open your mouth felt. She let out a silent sob prompting Jacob to pat her on the back.

            “It’ll take time, but you’ll get through this. You’re strong.” He gave her a quick smile.

            She still couldn’t quite believe him. But she didn’t argue. She found that she couldn’t find it in her to reply at all, actually. How long had it been since she’d last spoken to someone? Every time she did while in the hands of the Johnson brothers earned her either a punch, kick, or slap. She supposed that her brain just decided it was better for not to speak at all. Noting the worry on her face, Jacob spoke up.

            “Can’t speak?” He asked quietly.

            She shrugged.

            “It’ll take time. You know how I am with mine – the dreams.”

            Rook nodded in understanding. She knew his troubles with PTSD very well.

            Suddenly the quiet room was filled with sounds from the hallway. Voices that Rook recognized. With a quick knock, the door to the room opened and in walked the rest of the Seeds. John was the first to enter with Faith and Joseph following. Faith hopped over and enveloped Rook in a hug. Rook quickly realized it was going to take a while to get used to people once more. And this family was certainly an interesting choice for her foray back into society.

Chapter Text

            “It’s nice to see you awake, Catherine.” Joseph spoke softly.

            “You had us worried sick!” Faith held onto Rook’s hand, squeezing it.

            Rook simply gave them a smile, hoping it conveyed ‘sorry to worry you.’

            “The doctor said that you shouldn’t have any issues, just keep your wound clean to prevent infection. Other than that,” John sighed, “it’s just going to be a matter of time for…everything else.”

            Rook noticed John was looking at everything except her. She knew he was sweet on her, he all but shouted it when she first arrived to Hope County. But he knew her feelings were more on the platonic side when it came to the youngest Seed brother. She’d admit he was nice to look at, but she liked someone a little more…subdued. She couldn’t help but feel a knot form in her stomach at his obvious avoidance. Did she really look that bad? She wasn’t much for caring about her appearance if she could help it, but it didn’t mean she wasn’t affected.

            Letting a sigh out, Rook mimed for a piece of paper and a pen. She still couldn’t find it in herself to speak, but she had something important to ask. Faith quickly moved to a small desk in the corner of the room, shuffling around for a notebook and grabbing a pen. Rook nodded in thanks. She scribbled out her question, making sure her penmanship was at least legible.

            What happened? How long?

            Joseph looked up and over at Jacob, who was seated in a chair next to the bed.

            “John, Faith, why don’t you two go get dinner ready? Something light, for our dear Catherine.” Joseph calmly led the two out of the room before closing the door.

            “Where do we even start?” Joseph looked to his older brother.

            “For starters,” Jacob sighed, “let’s get this out of the way. I think next week would have been a month? Maybe a little more. Did they grab you after we ended our call that night?”

            Rook nodded, but her eyes were busy glancing between the two brothers. A month? She knew it had been a while, and quite frankly it had felt like an eternity. She had broken within a month?

           

            Weak.

           

            No, Jacob said she was strong. He wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.

            “Cat? We can wait, if you’d rather not know everything right now.” Jacob was watching her closely.

            Rook shook her head. She needed to know. She waved her hand, telling him to continue.

~~~

            “Jacob?”

            The last thing Jacob expected while he was trying to relax after what amounted to a very shitty day, was the quiet voice of one Catherine Rook coming through his radio.

            “Do I even want to know how you got this channel?” Jacob ran a hand down his face.

            “I may have asked Joseph? He was more than willing to assist in my operation to annoy you.” He smiled when he heard her laugh.

            “Of course he did.” Jacob rolled his eyes. “What do you want?”

            “What? A girl can’t just hit up her buddy for a little chat?”

            ‘Gonna have to work out the teasing next time she’s here.’ Jacob said to himself.

            “So we’re buddies now, huh? Alright, I’ll bite. Chat.”

            There was a pause. The voice in Jacob’s head told him he may have sounded a little rude. He mentally shoved that voice back into its hole.

            “Uh, haven’t quite figured that part out yet.” Jacob smiled, she was ridiculous. “But, I’m in the area so I figured I’d give ya at least a little warning in case things start blowing up out of the blue. You know how I get.”

            “You know, if you’d just stop escaping when I bring you back you’d be allowed to blow things up, right?”

            Jacob was sat down on the edge of his bed. It had been a while since her last stay at the Veteran’s Center. She was spending a lot of time in John’s region lately.

            “Yeah but where’s the fun in regulated explosives? It’s all about the surprise.”

            “You’ve been hangin’ out with that Boshaw too much.”

            “Probably.”

            Jacob didn’t know how to reply. He was never much of a casual conversationalist. Rook usually ended up being the one to carry them. But even she was being quiet. He’d ask her next time he saw her.

            “Well, I suppose I should probably get some rest. It’s getting pretty late.” Rook’s voice was quiet again.

            Jacob could imagine her curling up to get ready for bed. He wasn’t sure how she managed to sleep as the human pretzel she turned herself into when she was in the cages.

            “Yeah. Need your beauty sleep.” Jacob teased.

            “You suggesting I need more?”

            “I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.” Jacob laughed. “Get some rest though. You need it for wreaking havoc. Make it a big one so I know where to come get ya.”

            “We’ll see what happens. You get some rest too, I know you don’t get nearly enough.”

            Jacob hummed. Even when she was away from him, she was still looking out for him. He shook the thoughts from his head. He knew he was attracted to her – not just physically, though he wouldn’t deny that she was nice to look at – but her strength was what drew him to her. When faced with the cages and the conditioning she took to it like a champ. She almost seemed to enjoy having Jacob be the one to tell her what to do. He knew she wasn’t exactly thrilled with being the one everyone in the county looked up to for guidance. She had told John that much during one of their sessions.

            Neither of them said anything else. When he heard the tell-tale click of her radio shutting off, he figured that was his cue to lay down. He might not be sleeping any time soon, but he could at least rest a little.

 

 

            Three days. Three days and not even a whisper of noise from the Deputy. Jacob tried not to think too much on it. She may have been joking around with the part about the explosives. Maybe she had already did what she needed to do and left? Still, he couldn’t help but keep his ears tuned to his radio for any sign of her.

 

 

            On the fifth day Jacob’s mood was beginning to be affected. He was pushing his soldiers more, Peaches was getting more shit than necessary, and the Judges even seemed to be antsier. He called both Faith and John to see if Rook was in their regions, both said no. He called Joseph later that night.

            “You heard from Cat?” Jacob asked a little too forcefully.

            “Well hello to you too, brother.” Joseph sighed. “But, no, I haven’t. She didn’t get in touch with you? I gave her a channel.”

            “She did. But that was five days ago, almost six now. And nothing since.” Jacob ran a hand through his beard. “John and Faith haven’t heard from her either.”

            Joseph hummed.

            “Worried about our little lamb?”

            Jacob gripped the radio a little tighter, a hint of possessiveness clouding his mind at his brother’s use of the word “our.”

            “Just don’t want any surprises if her and her lot are up to no good is all.” Jacob droned out. He can’t lose focus. The Project comes first.

            “It’s okay to be worried, brother.” Joseph paused.  “I’ll keep an ear out, and I’ll tell our family to keep tabs as well.”

            They said their goodbyes but Jacob was still itching. He flipped the radio to channel twelve, the channel she called him on and pressed the button.

            What if she was with the resistance? What would they do to her if they heard his voice coming from her radio so casually?

            He released the button.

            “I’ll give her another couple days.”

 

 

            When a week of Rook’s silence had passed, Jacob was ready to send out search parties himself. Something had to have gone wrong. His Rook was strong. She was a soldier. Something very wrong must have happened for her to be missing. John informed Jacob that the people of Fall’s End were beginning to get desperate, sending parties out to search for their lost deputy. Even Rye was starting to risk flight into the Whitetails. Jacob didn’t want to ruin Rook’s friends’ chances of finding her by fighting off his soldiers so he held back on sending out teams. He’d wait, and with luck they’d find her for him.

 

 

            By the end of the second week, Jacob was fuming. According to his siblings, much of the resistance had stopped sending parties out. The only people who were still really out searching were a few of Rook’s closest friends. Rye had stopped flying around, caring for his family most likely. The Cougars had spent their time trying to fortify the prison since their protector was out of commission for the unforeseeable future. And Jacob hadn’t heard anything from tapping into Eli’s radios that told him he was even bothering to look for Rook. The only people still at least trying whenever they got the chance was Boshaw, his cousin, and Jess Black. Although, Jacob wasn’t sure Black was actively searching so much as just wandering around the Whitetails in her usual fashion.

            Jacob had given up on calling for Rook on her radio at this point. Joseph had tried as well with no luck. Jacob had to know what happened. It was the unknown that bothered him. If they found her dead, then he’d at least know.

 

 

            The third week ended; the first week of searching by the Project ended. There was some success. One of the groups sent out had caught wind of someone they thought could be the Deputy in a warehouse near the Lumber Mill, and spotted again briefly near the Ranger Station. There were only so many places to hide someone in the Whitetails and by the beginning of the fourth week, Jacob had a pretty good trajectory of where she could be. Jacob sent out scouting parties with the order to simply find her, don’t interact unless absolutely necessary, and to keep track of her if found. He wanted to be the one to rescue her.

            He once again ignored the voice in the back of his head that suggested that he was selfish and just wanted her indebted to him for rescuing her.

            When he got the call from two of his Chosen that they had confirmation on the Deputy, Jacob couldn’t gear up fast enough. The Chosen had informed him of everything they could gather – Rook was definitely kidnapped, there were only two kidnappers for now, and she would most likely need medical attention. Jacob rushed his way through the Veteran’s Center, barreling through people who didn’t move out of the way fast enough. Peaches, ever the obedient man, was already waiting with a truck ready for Jacob when he arrived. He could tell the man wanted to come along, he knew Staci and the Deputy were close, and that selfish part of his brain once again took over as he left Staci behind in the dust. As he drove he radioed John to get ready with a doctor for Rook. Faith technically had most of the medical teams due to her Bliss productions, but John’s ranch was significantly closer to where Rook currently was.

            By the time Jacob reached the building he had to pry his fingers from the steering wheel after white-knuckling it for so long. He met up with the two Chosen and the three readied their weapons. Jacob was the first one in the door, kicking it down. He’d feel it in the morning but adrenaline allowed him to forget it for the time being. The two captors were quick to try and fight back, firing off pot-shots, but when they saw just who was coming at them they began to back down. The two Chosen were quick to subdue the men, Jacob halting them from executing them just yet. If he knew Rook, he was damn sure she’d want to deal with them if she was able. If not he’d do it.

            It didn’t take much questioning to get the men to tell him where they were keeping her. Running down the hall, Jacob ended up slamming the door open with his shoulder before he could stop himself.

            He had to remind himself to breathe.

            There she was. His perfect soldier, Catherine Rook. Broken. He was proud of her though for making it this long. His gaze was immediately drawn to her face. Her once baby-faced cheeks were starting to sink in, her cheekbones more noticeable in the dim light of the room. Her face was red and blotchy from tears. She whimpered, and his heart just about shattered. He closed the distance between them slowly; he didn’t know what those fuckers had or hadn’t done to her and he didn’t want to frighten her.

            “Gotta admit, ya look like shit.” He said lightly. He smiled, hoping she knew he was trying to make a joke as he cringed at himself.

            Thankfully she did let out a laugh, easing his mind. He knelt down in front of her, allowing them to be at eye-level. Jacob gently brought his hands to her face, absentmindedly rubbing her cheekbones and rubbing away any stray tears. He examined her mouth in detail now that he could see it clearly. Her lips were inflamed, but there didn’t seem to be any infection that he could tell. He could see that her skin had already healed around the wires, making this much more difficult for her he imagined.

            “We’re gonna have t’ take you to John so one of his doctors can look at ya.”

            Her head tilted in his hands. As she processed the information he took out his knife, cutting away at the ties on her limbs.

            “The wire’s embedded into your skin.” He looked back up at her. “Do you know how long it’s been since they did it?”

            He could see Rook lean over to look through the door he came from. His Chosen had the men sat on the floor with their guns to their heads. Rook started breathing heavily. Her sense of time must be completely fucked, he thought. He knew that feeling. He helped pull her up out of the chair but felt her begin to sag as her legs got used to the sensation. He lifted her up into his arms, something he had done only a few times in darkened corners, and noticed she was much lighter than before. She was certainly smaller than when he had starved her. He walked her over to the door, intending to go put her in his truck, when he felt her tap at his arm. She started squirming in his grasp and he helped her down, keeping a hand on her back to steady her. She was shaking. Jacob watched in awe as she mustered whatever strength she had left in her to push his Chosen out of the way and begin beating the absolute shit out of one of her captors. Blood was sprayed all over her and the walls.

            Jacob had to force some rather inappropriate thoughts from taking over his head.

            When she was finished with the man he had already been dead quite a few hits before. Instead of giving the other man the same treatment she instead snatched a gun from one of the Chosen’s hands and shot her other captor between the eyes. She gave the gun back and it seemed that was all the energy she had in her as Jacob saw her knees buckle. Before she could fall too far he was right behind her, lifting her back up into his arms. Jacob walked back to his truck, ordering the Chosen back to the Veteran’s Center. He placed her gingerly into the passenger seat. His chest tightened at seeing her this way. He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. Her hair was dirty, and whatever braid she had it in when this all started was falling apart. He buckled her in, hoping it would keep her at least a little stable on the bumpy roads. Before he pulled back he placed a quick kiss to the top of her head.

            “You’re safe now.”

~~~

            Jacob finished his retelling of what had happened – leaving out certain parts of his story to maintain his reputation in front of his brother.

            Rook just sat there in the bed. She had tucked her knees up under her chin as she processed everything.

            The resistance just…stopped? She knew it wasn’t that far-fetched. They had to continue to defend themselves of course, they had done it before she showed up. Still, it didn’t make the truth any easier to swallow. Assuming it was truth. They wouldn’t lie to her, right?

            “We never gave up hope, Catherine.” Joseph took one of her hands, clasping it between his.

            Rook glanced up at him. She knew what Joseph was doing. Using this situation to curry favor. She nodded her head, hoping that was enough for Joseph. She knew he meant well, in his own particular way. The three of them were drawn out of their silence when Faith called out for dinner from downstairs. Joseph squeezed Rook’s hand before going to grab her notepad and pen.

            “Do you think you could eat? Just a little to get your body back on track?”

            Rook shrugged. She would try at least. She started scooting herself to the edge of the bed. Jacob stood up quickly, holding a hand out to help her. Rook shook her head vehemently. She could do this. She could do at least this much. As if reading her thoughts, Jacob lowered his hand but stood nearby just in case. She appreciated it nonetheless. Her bare feet hit the wood floor and Rook wiggled her toes. She hadn’t realized it when she was in the bed but she had been changed into a pair of pajamas – she really hoped it was the doctor. Using her arms to push herself up, her first step was shaky which caused both Seed brothers to stand a little closer. Rook took a deep breath before her next step. She stumbled a small bit but caught herself in time.

            Weak.

            ‘I can do this.’ She scolded herself.

            Rook managed to get out of the doorway with no help but when she reached the stairs she knew she would need help.

            Weak.

            She clenched her fists and glared at the stairs. Jacob came up behind her, placing a hand gently on her arm.

            “Come on.”

            He gripped her arm, helping her take the first step down. She leaned into him. She hated that she needed the help, but she’d be lying if she didn’t enjoy getting help if it was from Jacob. Each step after the first got harder and harder. By the time they reached the bottom she was breathing heavily and ready to lay down.

            

            Cull the weak.

Chapter Text

            By the time they reached the dining room the smell was enough to cause Rook’s head to spin. She had grown used to musty factories, dirt floors, and whatever smell was coming off of her. She made a mental note to take a shower the minute she could. On the table was a spread of vegetables, roasted chicken, and a bowl of salad. There was also a bowl of what appeared to be broth which Rook assumed was for her and some bread rolls. Jacob helped her to her seat before going to sit in his own across from her.

            Joseph said a prayer of thanks for the food, the family, and for Rook’s return. A chorus of “amen’s” were said as everyone began digging in. Rook picked up the soup spoon next to the bowl. It shook in her grasp. The broth was chicken based and still rather hot. Taking a cautionary sip, Rook almost let out an obscene noise from the flavor alone. It wasn’t much, but it was better than whatever rations the Johnson’s had been forcing her to eat. Rook was blocking out much of the conversation going on around her, instead focusing on not spilling anything. After a few spoonfulls she tore off a piece of bread and soaked it in the broth. She wasn’t sure how her body would handle solids yet so soggy bread would have to do. Every now and then she’d catch the eye of one of the siblings. They give her a smile, she’d give a small one in return. It was too….comfortable.

            Rook couldn’t help but feel the room start to shrink in on itself. The sibling’s laughter seemed to grow louder until the noises in the room became too much. A scrape of a fork on the ceramic plate here. The setting down of a glass there. The mumbles of voices that Rook couldn’t pick out. There was a high-pitched ringing that grew louder and louder.

            It was too much.

            Too much.

            She felt a hand reach out and touch her own and Rook shot up out of her chair. It scraped loudly against the wooden floors, clattering behind her with the force. Her breathing was erratic and all she wanted was for the noise to stop. She ran, as much as her legs would allow her to, towards the nearest door. She stepped outside onto the patio overlooking the forest behind the ranch. Rook took in a large, shaky gulp of air through her mouth and let it out as slow as she could. Her hands gripped tightly onto the railing. The small ledge between her and the ground was only about two feet but to her it seemed like an abyss. She didn’t know she was crying until she felt a drop land on the back of her hand, loosening the grip. Her knees buckled beneath her as she fell to the floor with a heart wrenching sob.

 

            Weak.

 

            Rook was broken out of her thoughts by the sound of wood creaking behind her. She knew who it was. The man was a giant but he had a way of sneaking up on people that she never understood.

            “Cat?” It was quiet, making sure she knew he was there.

            Rook hummed in response.

            “Can I join you, or would you rather be alone right now?”

            Rook smiled at his consideration. She felt small, like a child, as she nodded and reached out her hand to him. He grabbed it as he maneuvered his way down to the floor, his knees popping in the process. Normally Rook didn’t crave attention or touch, but at this moment all she wanted was to be grounded. Jacob’s hand squeezed hers gently as she moved to sit closer, resting her head on his shoulder. There was a companionable silence between the two of them. The only noise being the raspy breath of Jacob and the occasional sniffle from Rook.

            Rook felt her eyes starting to drift shut when Jacob moved around, causing her to sit up again. From behind him he pulled out the notebook and pen, offering it to her. A small part of her was appreciative that he thought to grab it in case she walked to talk.

            “You don’t have to, but, just in case you want to get something off your chest.” He placed it on the floor in front of her.

            Rook stared at it. Her crutch. The only other physical sign of her weakness aside from her scars. She hated that she needed it. She could talk. She knew she could. So why wouldn’t the words just come out, she berated herself. Her breathing was picking up again. Was she hyperventilating? She had never done it before herself but she knew the signs from her police training. She felt a grip on her shoulder, softly shaking her.

            “Cat? Cat, look at me.” Jacob urged her softly.

            Her grip on his hand tightened, clinging to him like an anchor. She took a deep breath, calming herself some degree. She nodded her head as she glanced up at him. His face was emotionless, but she could see the worry in his eyes. She was his soldier. She wasn’t supposed to break down.

            “You gotta at least give me something to work with.” Jacob brushed some stray hairs from her face. “I know you’re hurting, and I’m not expecting you to be better any time soon. But I want to help, so I gotta know what I’m dealing with, alright?”

            Rook closed her eyes, nodding slowly. She reached for the notebook but changed her mind at the last second. She could get this out. She had to try at the least. Jacob moved his hand so that their fingers interlocked. Rook focused on the dog tags hanging from his neck. She needed something to focus on that wasn’t his face.

He isn’t Johnson. He won’t hurt you for talking.’ She reminded herself.

            Rook was thankful that Jacob was a patient man, allowing her all the time she needed to try to push through this roadblock. Her mouth opened and closed multiple times. A whimper left her throat at one point and Rook chastised herself for the noise. She decided not to try for anything lengthy. He could figure out what she was battling with one word. Steeling herself, Rook squeezed her eyes shut.

            “W-weak.”

            Her voice was small. Scratchy. She didn’t recognize it.

            When she didn’t hear anything from Jacob she began to worry. After a moment of silence that felt like eternity, Rook felt Jacob’s fingers grasp her chin lightly so that she’d look up at him. She wasn’t sure what she expected. Anger? Understanding? Confirmation? But what she didn’t expect was the confusion, and the sadness that seemed to be there.

            “You think you’re weak?” He asked.

            Rook nodded, her eyes never leaving his despite how much she wanted them to.

            “Oh, kitty Cat.”

            Jacob’s hand moved from her chin to her neck, pulling her into his lap and her head into his chest. She moved her hands to rest on his chest, fidgeting with his tags. She felt drained, but his nickname for her blossomed a warmth in her chest she hadn’t felt in a long time. He hadn’t called her that since-

            “You aren’t weak.” Jacob’s voice broke her out of her memories. “Not many people could have gone through what you did for as long and come out of it alive and strong.”

            Rook scoffed.

            “You know how I know you’re still strong? Even after being starved, beaten, and tortured and who knows what else, what did you do immediately after being freed?” Jacob’s hand squeezed the back of her neck. “You used whatever strength you had left in you to kill the bastards that did this to you. That right there? That’s strength. That’s you culling the herd, just like I taught you. And I was so, so damn proud of you that moment. You got that?”

            Rook’s hands snaked their way around Jacob’s torso, holding onto him for dear life.

            “You’re not weak. Each of us had our trials. I’d like to think that this was yours. And you came out on top. You made it through. Now all that’s left to do is see what happens next. And when you feel like it, we can pick back up your training and-”

            Rook cut him off, shaking her head. She wasn’t ready to think about that kind of stuff yet. She didn’t want to think of the future, she just needed to focus on getting through this day-by-day.

            The two sat outside for the time being. Listening to the sounds of their breathing and the chirping of crickets. Jacob was running his hand through Rook’s hair, getting the knots out as much as he could. After a while, Jacob spoke up again.

            “Think you’re ready to head back inside? You need to get some more food in ya to build up your strength.”

            Rook took a deep breath, giving Jacob one last crushing hug before sitting up to face him. She was going to nod her head but then her stomach growled loudly, breaking the quiet peace between the two. They both started laughing. The rumbling of Jacob’s body caused Rook to fall out of his lap and onto the patio, earning even more laughter. Rook couldn’t remember the last time she had actually laughed and she felt as though a dam inside of her had been opened.

            “Come on, let’s go feed that beast.” Jacob chuckled, earning a swat to the shoulder by Rook.

            Rook helped Jacob back up to his feet, though he protested that he didn’t need the help. When they walked back into the dining room the other siblings were currently cleaning up the table. They all turned to face them.

            “Are you okay?” Faith asked gently. “Sorry if this was all too much too quickly.”

            Rook shook her head. John walked over to her, a sad look in his eyes. He hadn’t spoken to her much since she arrived and she didn’t know what was going on in his head. Before she could react he had his arms around her neck, pulling her in tight. It shocked her for a moment, but she eased into it.

            “I’m glad you’re okay.” He mumbled into her shoulder.

            She could hear Jacob huff behind her at the display. She looked up and saw Joseph and Faith smiling at the interaction. She didn’t know what the future would bring her. But right now she knew she at least had this odd family to help her along the way.

Chapter Text

           

            What was left of the night was spent finishing up the rest of her dinner and saying goodnight to the siblings. Everyone was going to be staying in the ranch for the night since it was fairly late. Rook had to fend off all of the siblings who each insisted that someone stay in the room with her to make sure she slept okay. In the end they all agreed to leave her be, though she could still hear Jacob prowling around the area before she eventually drifted off. Sleep did not come easily to Rook. She spent most of the night tossing and turning, her body unused to the softness of a mattress and pillow. Every creak and groan of the ranch startled her and despite Jacob’s good intentions, his pacing didn’t help either. Eventually her body could no longer keep itself awake and she simply passed out from exhaustion.

 

 

            She had no idea how long she had missed the smell of bacon first thing in the morning. But when the smell wafted through her room Rook was quick to wake up, quickly sitting up straight in bed despite the headache it brought on. If she could run, she probably would have ran down the stairs. Instead she scoots herself over to the edge of the bed, hesitantly reaching her feet down to the floor. She didn’t want a repeat of her tumbles from yesterday.

            She immediately was hit with a smell that was decidedly NOT delicious.

            ‘Shower. Now.’ She thought to herself.

            She made her way over to the closet nearby and wasn’t sure if she was surprised or not that there were already some clothes inside. The options were limited and the sizes varied but she managed to put together an outfit from a black sleeveless dress and grabbing an over-sized green flannel to wear over it. She was hesitant to check to see if there were any underwear in the room as well, but she knew she’d need some. She really hoped it was just that John was thoughtful enough to keep clothes in the rooms for guests but she had a feeling that wasn’t quite the idea. She pulled out a rather plain looking set of black underwear and its matching bra – the first step to getting better was feeling comfortable, she told herself.

            As Rook made her way over to the door she stopped as she passed the standing mirror. She still didn’t know what she looked like at the moment. She turned her body to face the mirror, her gaze at her feet. She was wearing pajama shorts and as her gaze drifted up her legs she could see the bruises and cuts along her thighs. She vaguely recalled the times the Johnson’s would take their knives to her. The shirt she had on was a little baggy, but she didn’t need to see her stomach to know that she had some bruises there from fists and that her ribs were probably visible. Her arms were also covered in bruises and cuts, her wrists were wrapped to help the healing from the zip ties. Her gaze stopped at her throat, passing over the ‘wrath’ tattoo on her collar – she’d gotten used to it. She clinched her fists, taking a deep breath, and looked straight into her own eyes.

            Her black hair was disheveled, poking out here and there and greasy from not being washed in so long. She had dark circles under her green eyes which seemed less vibrant than they once were. Her nose was slightly yellow, healing from a bruise given to her long ago. When her eyes drifted down to her lips she sucked in a breath. The open wounds were just starting to heal over but they were still red and inflamed. She brought her fingers up to her lips, moving her face closer to the mirror. Her fingers shook as they prodded at the dots surrounding her lips. She could feel the pinpricks of tears forming in her eyes once more. She couldn’t let herself cry anymore. She’s not weak. She reminded herself. Not. Weak.

            Her sin showed through as she was suddenly overtaken with rage and pulled her body back, slamming a fist into the mirror. A few shards stuck to her knuckles while others fell to her feet. Her breath came out ragged. She could hear someone storming up the stairs, no doubt drawn by the sound. She saw Jacob in her peripheral burst through the door in the reflection of the now broken mirror. Her eyes were still staring down at her mouth. She could feel the blood dripping out of her hand.

            “The hell happened?” Jacob rumbled, closing the door.

            Rook didn’t respond.

            “Cat.” He stepped towards her.

            Jacob must have figured out what was wrong as he let out a sigh. He placed a hand on her shoulder, pulling her away from the mirror. He brought her over to the bed, forcing her to sit down as he walked over to the nightstand to grab the first aid box. He was silent as he began cleaning up her hand. Despite the situation, Rook couldn’t help the blush that crept up her face at the tenderness he was using. She also enjoyed how big his hands seemed in comparison to her own. She was drawn out of her thoughts by the sound of the first aid box closing. Jacob moved to sit next to her, the bed dipping.

            “They aren’t bad, and they aren’t ugly.” He said quietly. “And I’ll keep reminding you until you believe me.”

            Rook’s head snapped up to look at him. Those were the same words she had said to him so long ago.

 

~~~

           

            The cages weren’t exactly the best place in the world. Rook would admit that much. But unlike the others around her, despite how much her stomach protested at the hunger, she tried not to let it get to her. She learned after her first trial run that she found that she took to the situation rather well. Not ideal, and certainly not sane, but she found that she liked the training in a way. It reminded her of her time in the police academy. She never liked to admit it, but she always was kind of a teacher’s pet in a way. She always strived for praise, to know that she did well. So when she heard Jacob’s praises during her trial, she knew she was in trouble. When she came out of the haze that night she found that her blood was pumping and she wanted to run through it again. She knew it wasn’t right. But none of this was. Sufficed to say she was a little disappointed the first time she met Eli and the Whitetails. She had wanted the validation of doing well for Jacob, not three strangers hovering over her on a couch.

            When she got the call that Jacob was sending out more hunters for her after freeing one of the Militia one day, she was conflicted. She wasn’t sure why she didn’t try very hard to fight them off, but there was an itch created by Jacob Seed and she knew he’d be able to help her scratch it.

            So here she was, a week into being captured once more and sitting in the mud, her back resting on the bars and her hands folded neatly on her legs. It was night and she was trying to get some rest. It was a little hard to do here with the bonfires, the Judges, and the crying in the distance but she tried nonetheless. She was at least gifted what she considered to be a cage in the “nice” part of the neighborhood per say. The only other person in the area was about two cages away and usually kept quiet – Rook wasn’t actually sure if they were alive most of the time.

            It was no longer surprising to see Jacob roaming around the compound during various hours of the night. He usually stopped by to check on her or taunt her. She always had a witty remark to give back. She liked to think she was getting through to his gruff demeanor since he was starting to speak to her more often. The last time he caught her they actually had a full conversation which Rook congratulated him on – that earned her no food for the night, but it was worth it. She heard the tell-tale sound of his boots getting closer to her cage. She kept her eyes closed.

            “Do you ever sleep?” She mumbled.

            Silence.

            She opened her eyes, ready to say something else when her words were caught in her throat. He looked rougher than usual. His hair disheveled as if he’d been running his hands through it. He was looking at her but his gaze wasn’t focused. She slowly pulled herself up to her feet, moving towards him.

            “Jacob?” She asked quietly.

            Once again, silence. She looked up at him, her head only came up to his sternum which made it a little awkward. He looked around briefly before heading towards the door of the cage and stepping inside. Rook was a little apprehensive. She had unfortunately discovered her actual feelings for the soldier thanks to a few comments from Adelaide so the close proximity had her heart going. Plus the natural reaction to the man closing in on anyone would have them hesitant. He closed the cage and walked back into one of the darkened corners – didn’t want anyone to see him in there Rook guessed. She wasn’t quite sure what to do and opted to stand awkwardly, waiting for an order. Jacob huffed.

            “Sit.” His voice was rough.

            She wasn’t exactly sure where to sit, but he apparently made the decision for her when he patted the dirt next to him. There was a pause and neither of them spoke until Rook couldn’t stand the silence.

            “Nightmares?” She guessed as she sat, crossing her legs.

            He hummed.

            She knew about them, having been told by Staci during one of his visits. She also put it together just based on how tired he seemed all the time.

            “Do you…want to talk about it?” She was unsure what to do in the situation.

            Jacob sighed, letting his head fall back against the bars, his eyes closed. She waited patiently. She’d be happy either way if he told her or not, she was still trying to process the fact that he came to her about it in the first place.

            When he finally spoke he told her about his time in the Army and the Gulf War. He told her about his unit, the 82nd Airborne, and about how he got his scars. Chemical burns were no joke. He told her about Miller, and what happened with that particular scenario. Rook picked at her nails for that part of the story – she’d process how she felt about that later.

            “Every time I close my eyes it’s either reliving the bombs, the fire, the burns, or that fucking desert.” He ran his hands through his hair.

            Rook looked up at him. His eyes were still closed so she took the time to look over his facial scars. They weren’t that bad. Even up close like this Rook could tell that they had healed nicely at least, unlike the ones on his arms. They didn’t take away from his good looks she’d admit. Her eyes drifted down to his neck and then down to his arms, following the scars. His arms were obviously the main source of contempt he carried she imagined. They weren’t that bad, she thought. They definitely needed to be better taken care of. Bites from wolves and his proximity to Bliss probably didn’t help with the healing. It also wouldn’t surprise her if he absentmindedly irritated them a lot.

            When she glanced back up at him he was watching her. She gulped.

            “Pretty damn ugly, huh?” He mumbled.

            Rook shook her head.

            “Nah.” She moved to put her hand on his arm but stopped herself.

            He nodded his head and if she hadn’t been looking she probably would have missed it. Gently, she placed her hand on a part of his arm that didn’t look like it would be painful to touch. She heard him take in a deep breath. She could only imagine how touch-starved this man was. Rook knew this opportunity would never come again any time soon, if at all, and so with her other hand she slowly reached up to his face.

            ‘If he stabs me,’ she thought, ‘it’ll be worth it I suppose.’

            She watched his reaction as her hand made contact with his bearded cheek. She felt the muscle of his forearm twitch under her palm.

            “They aren’t bad, and they aren’t ugly.” She whispered.

            Jacob scoffed but his gaze was soft. She was looking him in the eyes so he knew she was serious.

            “And I’ll keep reminding you until you believe me.”

 

~~~

 

            It had been months since that night and Rook was surprised that Jacob had remembered it. He had never mentioned it after that incident.

            “Cat, darlin’, you gotta stop being so hard on yourself. It’s gonna take time.” He glanced down at his arms. “When I first got these I knew that I’d never get over them and that it would most likely ruin any chances I’d have with anyone so I refused to give myself the benefit of the doubt.” He chuckled to himself. “So you can imagine my surprise when years later some girl I’m keeping in a cage, not being a gentleman toward whatsoever, tells me that this part of myself isn’t ugly.”

            He looked over at her.

            “If I’m not allowed to be hard on myself about my scars, then you aren’t either.” Jacob ran a hand down his face. “I’m not exactly…the best at comforting people, but I hope you get what I’m trying to get at here.”

            She shrugged her shoulders.

            “It’s only been a day since you’ve been out of that mess. I’m not saying you aren’t allowed to be upset at what happened, but just know that…that you’ve got someone who’s been dealing with something similar for a lot longer.”

            Rook sighed. She knew what he was saying was true. He’d been dealing with the anger over his scars for years, she’d only just gotten hers and they would most likely heal over nicely. Any anger she felt towards her scars was now directed towards herself for being selfish. She shook her head, puffing her cheeks in frustration. Jacob simply breathed a laugh through his nose.

            “Alright, come on. John’s got breakfast going.” Jacob stood up. “Though, don’t say I didn’t warn you about his cooking.”

            Rook looked up at him and stood to follow, grabbing the clothes she picked out. When they got in the hall she pointed towards the bathroom and made a motion to let him know she was going to shower. He nodded and headed downstairs. Rook watched him as she walked into the bathroom, leaning back against the door when it closed.

            ‘That man makes it too easy to fall for him.

Chapter Text

Rook could have lived happily for the rest of her life inside that shower if given the chance. Washing away not only the dirt and grime that had built up, but also scrubbing away all of the memories did a wonder on her psyche. The dress she had picked out earlier landed right about mid-thigh. She rolled the sleeves of the green flannel up to her elbows. She sucked in a breath as she glanced into the mirror. She didn’t stare long, just enough to brush her fingers through her hair to make sure she didn’t look like a complete mess. She glanced down at herself, swooshing the ends of the dress playfully. It had been a long time since she wore something nice. Running around the county fighting peggies and camping for days on end made her fashion choices very limited. She wasn’t sure what to do with the pajamas she had so she opted to fold them and bring them back to her room before heading downstairs.

The stairs were a bit more forgiving this time. She held onto the railing and took each step one at a time. No rush. When she reached the bottom she could see Jacob, John, and Faith gathered around the kitchen. Faith was sitting on the island counter top, her legs swinging freely as she ate. Jacob, it seemed, was opting for a liquid breakfast of coffee as he leaned on the counter on the opposite side of the room. Rook didn’t see a plate anywhere near him. His head perked up when he saw her entering the room.

She gave him a smile and a little wave. He nodded back.

She made her way over to John who was currently fighting a losing battle against some scrambled eggs. They were looking a little dry.

“Ah, Cat. I do hope you’re….hungry.” He cleared his throat as he moved the eggs to a plate. “For you.”

Rook simply stared at the plate of eggs and bacon, raising an eyebrow.

“I get credit for trying.” John mused.

Rook laughed and shook her head, giving him a pat on the shoulder as she grabbed the plate. She walked back over to where Jacob was and sat on the counter beside him. She was already shorter than him, she was only about five foot six, and even up on the counter she was still just slightly below him. She wondered what he ate as a child to get this tall compared to his siblings. She wanted to ask if he was planning on actually eating but she realized she left her notebook up in her room. She told herself to get a pocket notebook at some point. She looked over at him to find him staring absentmindedly into his mug. She could tell he either got no sleep whatsoever or had a rough night in general. She leaned over, nudging his shoulder with her own. He glanced over at her out of the corner of his eye. She lifted her plate to him, hoping she conveyed her thoughts.

He stole a piece of bacon.

She stared up at him, slack-jawed.

I knew you were cruel.’ She glared at him. ‘At least he ate something, I suppose?

He let out a laugh through his nose, smirking down at her.

“You need the food more than me, but thank you for the offer.” He finished off his coffee.

After placing his mug in the sink, Jacob made his way into the living room and plopped down onto the couch, an arm resting over his eyes. Faith then hopped off the counter and turned to Rook.

“Joseph had to leave a little early to head to his compound to prepare, if you were wondering.”

Rook tilted her head.

“Right! Today is Sunday.” Faith sung. “I guess you didn’t know that.”

“Joseph would be delighted if you were to join us, but he also mentioned that it’s okay if you feel you’re not up to it.” John chimed in, finally done cooking.

Rook thought on it for a moment as she continued eating. She was scared, she’d admit it. It was certainly way too soon for her to be out and about. As if sensing her thoughts, Faith piped up again.

“If you’re worried about anyone noticing you, don’t be. The Father tends to be the one to grab all of the attention anyways.” Faith grabbed one of Rook’s hands between her own. “Plus, no one outside of us and those who found you know that you’re back. You get to decide when that time is.”

Rook nodded. She wasn’t ready. But she also knew she didn’t want to be alone either, and if they were all going to go then she really only had one option. She nodded once more earnestly, letting them know that was her answer. Faith clapped her hands happily, spinning around on her bare feet.

“I’m so glad! You’re really going to enjoy it, I promise.” Faith pulled Rook along by her hand. “I’ll help you get ready.”

Rook placed her unfinished plate on the counter as she was dragged out of the kitchen. As they passed by the couch she heard Jacob mumble a ‘good luck’ to her. They returned to the room that Rook was staying in for the time being and Faith pulled a chair up to the standing mirror for Rook to sit in. After deliberating with herself for a minute, Faith decided that she’d do Rook’s hair in a half-up-half-down style. Rook just shook her head, letting the girl enjoy herself. Rook found herself relaxing a small bit, listening to Faith’s humming and the feel of her fingers gently combing through her hair. She wasn’t sure where Faith had gotten them from, probably plucked them off of her dress, but Faith was braiding small white flowers into Rook’s hair as she went along. After a while Rook’s attention returned to herself, inevitably staring at the scars at her lips once more. She must have been making some sort of face as Faith was suddenly kneeling down to be eye-level with Rook.

“Do they bother you?” She asked gently.

Rook nodded.

“It’s normal.” Faith hummed. “But, everyone has their scars – whether they’re physical or not. One thing I’ve come to learn from my time with the Father is that our scars are proof that something bad happened, but that we came out on top. Alive. Whatever it was that caused them, didn’t beat us.”

As she finished she moved the sleeve of her dress, showing Rook the scars she earned as Rachel Jessop. The tell-tale scarring of years of needle use and other self-implicated trauma. Rook placed her hands on Faith’s cheeks in a silent thank you. She wasn’t as close with Faith before all of this happened, but perhaps there’s a chance for a friendship to form now, she thought.

“Now! Let’s get back to this. Normally we wouldn’t want to indulge in vanity, but for your first time with us at the Church I feel that’s a special occasion.” Faith pulled out a small makeup bag from the nearby vanity. “Besides, I think I know a certain someone who might enjoy seeing you a little dolled up?” Faith winked, earning a groan from Rook.

 

 

By the time the two girls stumbled down the stairs in a fit of giggles the brothers were waiting by the front door impatiently.

“You know I like a fashionably late entrance as much as the next person, but we really must be going now.” John moved to put his sunglasses over his eyes and opened the door. “You look lovely, by the way.” He added before stepping out.

Rook stopped in front of Jacob while Faith followed John out the door. Rook opted for her old combat boots to pair with her outfit. She looked up at Jacob, careful to make sure none of the flowers fell out with how far she had to tilt her head. Jacob was eyeing her slowly. Rook’s smile faulted a little. She fidgeted with her fingers at the intense scrutiny. As if sensing her discomfort at the silence, Jacob quickly pulled her close and pressed a kiss to the crown of her head.

“Come on.” He held the door open for her.

Rook snapped out of her daze, she could feel her face was hot and quickly walked out the door, heading towards the truck ahead. She sat in the back, next to Faith – who was quick to give a knowing smile at the redness of Rook’s cheeks - while John sat in the passenger seat. When Jacob got in the driver’s seat, the four set off to Joseph’s Compound.

 

 

It had been a long time since Rook had been to the island. The last time was when she was sent there to arrest the man. She still dreaded helicopters ever since and avoided them whenever possible. The last time she had been there it was night and her nerves hadn’t allowed her to appreciate the place fully. When it wasn’t filled with peggies glaring angrily at her and the sound of dogs trying to kill her it was actually quite nice. As they pulled off to a small lot in front of one of the many cabins in the area Rook noticed there was quite the variety of people here. There were the normal looking peggies – rags painted with the Eden’s Gate symbol and an overall messy exterior – as well as those in cleaner clothing, dressed for what appeared from the outside to be a normal Sunday church visit. Rook could have sworn she also spotted some children in the distance. She suddenly felt a pit in her stomach at the reminder that her main goal was eradicating all of these people. Though, she still didn’t approve of their methods, she could think on what the future held for her later.

Rook was helped out of the truck by Faith who continued to hold onto her hand as the four made their way to the church. When they reached the door Faith quickly made her way up to the front, stopping to say hello to those in the aisles as she passed. John placed a hand on the small of Rook’s back.

“I’d suggest sitting up front, if you’d feel more comfortable with us nearby.” He whispered.

Rook nodded and John made his way to the front, following Faith’s path and basking in the attention given to him. Jacob was now standing next to Rook. Rook was feeling overwhelmed already but took a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. They hadn’t really hit her until just now in this cramped space. Her hand instinctively went to grab Jacob’s which was dangling close to her own. As her fingers brushed against his he quickly pulled his hand away, crossing his arms. Rook flinched, bringing her own hands to clasp in front of herself. She risked a glance up to Jacob who was staring straight ahead. Someone went to walk passed the two of them, passing between them. Jacob leaned over.

“Not here.” He coughed before marching his way up to the front, taking the side aisle rather than the middle.

Rook didn’t have time to think too much on it as she watched him take his place in the corner of the stage. He was in full soldier mode, watching over the church goers. She squeezed her fingers together as she weaved her way through the people still getting to their seats. She understood – he had an image to maintain. And he had a job. He had to be ever-present to watch over everyone. He was their protector after all. Doesn’t mean it still didn’t hurt, but she pushed that aside.

By the time she made it to an empty spot in the front pew Rook was starting to panic. There were simply too many people crammed into this church. The air was stifling and thick. One of her legs was bouncing uncontrollably as she picked at what was left of her nails. She made eye contact with Jacob briefly. He nodded at her and that was enough to calm her a small bit. Knowing that he was nearby meant nothing would happen to her. The noise in the church began to die down as the last of the members filed their way in. Rook took a risk at looking around the room. The woman sitting next to her smiled briefly as their eyes locked. Rook’s heart skipped a beat before returning the smile.

No one knows yet.’ Rook reminded herself.

Most of the wanted posters that Eden’s Gate had put out for Rook in the past had her with her hair in its signature tight bun and she never wore dresses when out fighting so she was fairly safe in assuming that no one would recognize her as she currently looked. She let out a slow breath. Suddenly the room erupted in cheers as Joseph walked out from a room in the back of the stage. Rook found herself smiling as she politely clapped. She had talked with Joseph when he was practicing his sermons but had never actually been able to hear the final product. She didn’t need to be a believer to understand the appeal of what he preached.

 

 

By the time the sermon was over, Rook was more than ready to just go back to bed. This was more than enough social interaction for someone who had only just recently been rescued from a kidnapping. As everyone began filing out of the church, Rook wandered around the inside so that it didn’t seem so obvious that she was waiting around for the Seed’s to be finished greeting people. After what seemed like the millionth hug and forehead press, Joseph was finally free to let out a deep breath of his own. The church was quiet once more with only the sound of murmurs as people began walking away from the building.

“I hope you enjoyed your first time here, Catherine.” Joseph’s voice echoed through the empty church.

Rook made her way up to the podium where Joseph met her. He placed his hands on her shoulders and Rook instinctively flinched before relaxing once more. Joseph brought his head closer and Rook knew what he going for as she closed her eyes. Rook never understood the significance, but she had to admit it was a rather touching move.

“Thank you for coming.” Joseph whispered in their close proximity.

Rook separated her forehead from his to nod her head back at the man. Joseph then moved to give his siblings the same treatment before the five of them made their way to the door of the church.

“I believe it’s time for the three of you to return to your duties.” Joseph ordered. “The reaping doesn’t stop for any of us. We must be ready.”

Joseph turned to Rook.

“It is up to you whether you wish to continue to stay with us, Catherine. We would be delighted to have you join us.” Joseph smiled at her.

A part of her brain registered that she may not actually have a choice.

Rook knew she wasn’t ready to go back to the resistance. She had no way of explaining her absence as of right now with her tongue as tied as it was. And she had a feeling that many members wouldn’t be too happy at the part of the story that involved being rescued and cared for by the Seeds. She still needed to make sure she could continue to do her job and so the decision wasn’t that hard to make in the end. Rook looked back over her shoulder where Jacob was talking with one of the soldiers guarding the Compound. She returned her attention to Joseph, nodding her head in Jacob’s direction. Joseph smiled.

“Of course,” He placed a hand on her shoulder. “Take care, Catherine.”

She said her goodbyes to the others. Faith gave her a hug and a request to visit whenever she was up for it. John was quick to remind her that should she want to continue to sleep in an actual bed, she knew where to find him. This earned a laugh from Rook who gave his arm a gentle squeeze before heading over to Jacob. Jacob was now standing on his own, his arms crossed as he watched her walk towards him. She held her hands behind her back as she walked playfully up towards him. Her chest dangerously close to touching his stomach as she looked up at him, batting her eyelashes.

“What?” He glared down at her.

Rook pointed her finger towards herself and then towards him.

“You comin’ with me?”

Rook nodded, fighting the cheek-biting grin that was trying to form.

Jacob sighed.

“Of course.” Jacob’s lips twitched as if fighting a smile of his own. “You’re really planning on keeping that promise to annoy me, huh?”

The two of them walked towards the truck that had driven them there. The others had taken their own ways back to the Valley and Henbane. Joseph had just headed towards his own home on the island. Rook hopped up in the passenger seat. She couldn’t deny that she was excited to get some alone time with Jacob, but also to hopefully get back into training. Her muscles missed the push from a gun and the pull from a bow. The truck rocked as Jacob got into the driver’s seat. Rook looked over at Jacob as he let out a rather loud groan, his head hitting the headrest. Rook made a questioning noise.

“I just realized I might have to actually give you a room this time ‘round.” He teased with a smile.

Rook simply laughed, turning on the radio and prepared for the journey back to the Veteran’s Center. Her smile increased when she felt the tell-tale feel of Jacob’s hand enclosing her own.

Chapter Text

 

The drive to the Veteran’s Center was mostly silent except for the occasional humming of the Cult’s tunes – much to the annoyance of Jacob when it came to a particular song.

“I’m just saying. It isn’t as nice as you’d think to have a song after yourself.” Jacob grumbled. “It’s weird.”

Rook giggled, thinking about how Jacob must have reacted when the song was first made. She then had a burst of laughter which earned a confused glance from Jacob. Quickly pulling out a pen from the cup holder and a napkin crumbled on the floorboard, Rook sprawled out her thoughts.

I bet John is real happy with his.

Jacob laughed through his nose.

“I’d imagine so, he wrote the damn thing.”

Rook’s eyes widened. Of course he did.

 

 

Returning to the Veteran’s Center after so long was an interesting experience to say the least. The guards at the front gate were quick to stand at attention when they saw Jacob pulling up. Rook wished the seat would swallow her whole when the guards’ attention was drawn to her – she glanced down at their fingers which were hovering fairly close to the triggers on their guns. A quick glare from Jacob was enough to stop their staring for now.

Pratt was already waiting by the front doors when Jacob parked the truck. Rook promised herself she’d try and get him out of there since the last time didn’t work out so well. Though, she also knew how much he had been indoctrinated already, even if it wasn’t nice to see the person who helped train her in such a state. Their eyes locked for a brief moment before Pratt lowered his gaze.

“Peaches. Set up a room.” Jacob ordered as he walked past.

Pratt quickly made his way to a separate area of the Center. Rook watched him scurry off but her gaze was drawn to the words painted on the wall across from her.

Weak. Cull the herd.

Rook inadvertently shivered.

Jacob placed a hand on her shoulder, turning her body away.

“Follow me.” Jacob moved his arms behind his back, beckoning Rook to follow with his head. “We’ll get you some basic supplies and a new set of clothes to begin your training again.”

Rook began tuning Jacob out, just watching his back from behind. She stayed at least two steps behind him to draw less attention from anyone they passed. She admired how quickly he could switch from turning her away from something he knew bothered her to right back into a trainer.

As they continued down a long hallway they passed a room that had a slightly ajar door. Rook’s body shuddered and her knees locked up. Her head started screaming at her as the familiar tune made its way into her head.

Aw shit. I really hate this song.’

Rook tried calling out to Jacob but ended up only let out a pained groan. He quickly turned back around, just in time to see her fall to her knees, her hands clutching the side of her head.

“Cat!” Jacob dropped down next to her. “Cat, darlin’ gonna need you to try and stay calm.”

His voice started to jumble together, mixing in with the lyrics.

“You know what to do.”

Rook’s breathing became erratic.

“It’s nothing you haven’t done before.”

She barely heard Jacob yelling out to someone else.

“I’m right here.”

 

 

 

The red room was oddly comforting despite the odd feeling of having her actual body held in place. It felt more like an out of body experience but the familiarity was nice. Her conditioning shone through in her eagerness as she began bouncing on the balls of her feet, waiting for her targets to show up. Unlike her usual trials in here, the scenery this time was different. There were no Whitetails and this wasn’t the normal slideshow room. This was the factory she stayed in the night she got captured. She assumed her brain was pulling the strings now, giving her a new target to cull. She tried to suppress the part of her brain that was getting excited at the idea of getting back at the Johnsons again but when she heard Jacob’s voice echoing for her to begin, her instincts took over.

Each room was a slightly different version of the various buildings she was taken to during her kidnapping. Even buildings she didn’t quite remember herself her consciousness took control. Each room was filled with different copies of the brothers, each taken out with a quiet precision that sent a thrill through Rook’s body. Jacob’s constant praises also didn’t help with the shivers she was experiencing.

It was a system she was used to.

Grab the gun.

Check the corners.

Aim.

Fire.

Repeat.

Over and over. At one point she was convinced she was repeating rooms until she reached the one she was currently in. The last factory. The one Jacob found her in. She crept down the corridor. There were no other doors in the hall that she could see. It was quiet – even Jacob’s voice was muffled, though she thought there was a frantic tone to it. Rook’s eyes darted back and forth down the walls as she crept closer to the doors at the end. She took in a breath as she approached the door. Her final target would be here. The come down from exiting the trials was always worse than entering them. She always hated this part – you get used to the invincibility and control provided by the music box. Shaking her arms and stretching her neck, Rook slammed the door open and entered gun first.

She stopped when she saw who her target was.

 

Herself.

 

It was herself in her lowest form. Tied to the chair, her mouth bleeding from the stitches which seemed so new in this state. Her body was ragged and if she didn’t know better she would assume she was looking at a corpse. Her psyche was definitely upping the scare-factor she thought.

 

“Cull the herd.” The body before her whispered.

Blood poured from the wounds to her face as she spoke.

“We’re weak.”

Rook’s hand shook as the grip on her gun nearly faltered.

“You broke. You have to cull the herd. You have to!”

The body before her was thrashing in the chair as it continued crying out.

Rook could feel her real body being held down in the outside world – something was wrong.

Her breathing was heavy as she stepped toward her screaming persona.

“I-I’m not weak.” She whispered.

The body stilled.

Then it laughed.

“Look at us! We broke! You broke! You have to cull the herd. You have to kill the weak, yes? That’s what Jacob wants us to do. You know it.”

Rook shook her head, raising her gun.

She couldn’t let this bother her anymore.

“I am not-not weak!” She cried out as her finger pulled the trigger.

 

 

 

Returning to her senses was much more frightening than previous returns from the red rooms. Being held down with someone’s knees pressed into your back will do that. Rook groaned as she assessed the situation. She could see a pair of boots in front of her that she faintly recognized. Glancing up over her shoulder as much as she could, she saw Jacob holding her body down on the ground, one of her arms locked behind her back as his knee held her still.

“You good?” He huffed out.

Rook nodded, placing her forehead back on the cool concrete.

Jacob sighed as he removed himself off of her, holding out a hand to help her off the ground. When she was standing she realized the boots in front of her belonged to Pratt who was looking much more worried than normal – and that was saying something.

Rook looked up at Jacob, giving him a face that she hoped asked what had happened.

Jacob pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Well, things were going pretty smooth for a while. I had to keep you still so you wouldn’t actually go run off on a spree. As it went on though, “Jacob’s hand moved down to rub his face, “you managed to reach my gun and pulled it from the holster. You almost got Peaches here when he showed up.”

Rook looked back at Pratt. She looked him over, looking for any sign of injury on her behalf, when she didn’t find any she tried to convey her apology in a glance before returning to Jacob.

“After that, things went a little hectic. You were trying to put the gun to your head, screaming about ‘culling the herd.’ I had to take you down, so if you’re feeling sore later now you know. Thankfully, you came too soon after, so.”

Rook’s eyes widened. She glanced down at Jacob’s gun which was back in its holster. Her knees were starting to ache when she realized she was still wearing the dress from earlier and her knees had probably hit the concrete rather hard. Jacob followed her gaze down and hummed.

“Let’s get you patched up.” Jacob placed his hand on her back. “Peaches, bring a first aid kit to her room.”

 

 

The room she was given was just down the hall from Jacob’s – she’d only been there once when she first tried helping Pratt escape but she remembered the route nonetheless. It wasn’t anything special. It had all the basics: bed, closet, a table and chair, and a small attached bathroom. Jacob helped her to sit on the edge of the bed. The first aid kit was already sitting on the table for them. Jacob grabbed the box and grunted as he lowered himself to the floor to get a better look at her knees. Rook could feel her face flush at the sight of him before her.

“Doesn’t seem too bad. Just some scrapes. Though, “Jacob cleaned the scrapes with an alcohol wipe, “they’re gonna bruise like hell I imagine.”

Rook gripped the edges of her dress.

“It-it was me.” She whispered.

Jacob looked up at her, quickly putting away the shocked expression on his face.

“The final target.”

Jacob sighed, nodding his head slowly. He groaned as he went to get up off the floor. He plopped down on the bed next to her, causing her to bounce a small bit.

“You alright?” He asked as he closed the kit.

Rook shrugged.

“I-I did it.” She sucked in a deep breath.

“Good.” Jacob’s hands clenched and unclenched. “Not good that it happened like that. But, I’m proud of you for completing it, despite how difficult it must have been in the moment.”

Rook nodded.

“Not weak.” She gave him a smile, though she knew it didn’t reach her eyes.

Jacob nodded back at her.

“Told you so.” He smirked, nudging her shoulder with his own.

Rook loved this side of Jacob. It didn’t come out often, but when they were alone it was as if she was shown the real Jacob. Not the man who has the lives of so many piled onto his shoulders with so many responsibilities for a cause he’s only partially believing in. He let out a deep breath as he stood up.

“I’ll let you rest, I’m sure you’re tired.” He made his way to the door.

Rook’s body reacted on its own as she shot up off the bed and made her way closer to him. She wondered if it was her feelings towards the man, or the effects of the conditioning that she hadn’t felt in so long. Either way she knew she didn’t want to be alone at the moment. She reached her hand forward, looking up for permission before grabbing his large hand with her small ones.

Jacob hummed curiously.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d be able to continue on this train of actually speaking for once but she’d use it while she could.

“I d-don’t want to be alone.” She glanced between his eyes, watching them soften.

Jacob nodded.

“Follow me then.”

Chapter Text

Jacob had kept up his gruff demeanor on their way there, giving anyone who glanced too long at Rook a harsh stare in return. She briefly wondered if that would change the longer she stayed there but was quick to shut that line of thought off – she’s their enemy, she can’t stay here.

This was the second time Rook had been in Jacob’s room but the first time she’d been able to actually look at it thoroughly. It was exactly what she expected of someone like Jacob. Only the bare essentials with little to nothing that showed his personality.  She spotted a pile of bloody rags and bandages sitting in a small container, waiting to be washed she assumed.  She figured they were for his arms. She wasn’t sure if she was surprised, sad, or confused at the sight of the beer bottles littering the area near his cot. After all, drinking was frowned upon by Eden’s Gate but if anyone was going to break the rules it’d be Jacob. She hoped he didn’t need them in order to get any semblance of sleep.

Jacob’s voice was barely registered as her eyes pulled away from the sight. If he had been watching her try to figure it out he didn’t say. He was sitting at his desk, the chair creaking as he adjusted.

“Not much to do in here.” He mumbled. “But I’ve got work to do so you can just…hang around?”

Rook smiled at his attempt to be casual.

As if he if just remembered something, Jacob quickly got up from the chair. He went over to a dresser in the corner of the room.

“Your new gear would be in your room, but for the time being, if you want something clean then, here.” He tossed a shirt her way. “I highly doubt any of my pants would fit you.” He looked over her but then huffed.

He pulled a pair of sweatpants out and Rook knew they would trail behind her because of her short legs. Before she could express her concerns, Jacob was already tearing at them, turning them into a pair of shorts.

Rook held a hand up to her mouth to stop a laugh.

“What? It works.” Jacob tossed them at her, smacking her in the face.

Jacob showed her where she could change and put her old clothes to be washed later. The shirt was gray, like the one he had on, but much cleaner. It was definitely baggy on her and she tucked the end of it into her shorts. The sweatpants-turned-shorts reached just past the end of her fingertips. She couldn’t help but wonder if Jacob intentionally made them rather short. Going with the cozy theme she had going on, she pulled her hair up into a bun, knocking whatever flowers were still left after her music box scare out. She kicked off her boots but kept her socks on as she left the small bathroom. She dropped her boots on the floor just outside, causing Jacob to turn around. Rook instinctively flinched at the intense gaze he was giving her. She crossed her arms over her chest.

Jacob coughed, returning his attention to his desk. He didn’t turn around when he spoke.

“Feel free to look around, just don’t move anything. There’s some books…somewhere.”

Rook nodded even though he couldn’t see it, wandering towards the nearest wall with a table shoved against it.

“If you want food, there’s some stuff in the fridge. Anything else, you can call Peaches.” He shuffled through a pile of folders on his desk.

Rook fidgeted. She didn’t like the idea of using Pratt to do that kind of work for her. He was technically her superior, or, he used to be. Looking around, Rook took the time to simply wander. Aside from the shuffling of papers, the rough breathing from Jacob, and the occasional scream from outside, Rook was surprised at how…peaceful things were. Perhaps it was just the company in the room. She had noticed it at the church. Jacob had become her anchor through this trauma. The minute he had been separated from her side was when she began panicking. And even just moments ago, the thought of him leaving her to her room was enough to have her bolting. Perhaps his conditioning had worked after all.

“Jacob?” Her voice was quiet and she wondered if he could even hear her.

He hummed.

“A-are we gonna do something about-about the music box?” She bit her tongue at her stutter. She’d work on it.

She turned her gaze from the articles and medals on the wall to the man in question. He was staring at her again.

There was a pause as Jacob thought it over.

“I suppose we’ll have to if you plan on hanging around here.” He let out a deep breath through his nose. “Just don’t make me regret it.”

 

 

Getting used to training again was hell on Rook’s unused muscles. Every day Jacob would take her to the training grounds at Stone Ridge Post to build up her endurance once more. When they weren’t there, they were at the shooting range out back of the Veteran’s Center. It had only been two weeks of being at the Center but she was beginning to feel much like her old self.

Sleeping had become easier. The first week was spent with her mostly sleeping on Jacob’s floor or his bed when he wasn’t using it – which was most of the time except for odd hours of the night. Slowly she had gotten used to sleeping in her own room but spent as much time as she could in Jacob’s until she couldn’t keep her eyes open.

Both her and Jacob realized her vocal ptsd was still strong, however. She was only comfortable talking to Jacob. If someone else was in the room at the same time, even with Jacob present, it still caused an issue getting the words out without a stutter. This discovery didn’t come easy. They were at the training grounds, and Jacob was rather busy that day and was hoping for someone else to be able to help Rook along when he couldn’t. That was fine with her, until Jacob went to have her update the solider on what all she needed to accomplish that day. He stood there, watching her face scrunch up in some form of distress as she struggled to even form a basic sentence. She couldn’t even maintain eye contact with the soldier for very long. Irritated, Jacob growled.

“Just tell him what we’ve been doing these past few days. Spit it out!”

Rook flinched at his harshness and Jacob had spotted it. He let out a sigh, calming himself down.

“Get out of here, soldier.” He dismissed the other, very confused, man.

“Cat?” Jacob looked down at her. “Didn’t mean to yell. You know, that.”

Rook nodded. Realizing they were effectively alone out in the corner of the field they were in, Rook found her tongue no longer felt like lead.

“I just – I just can’t do it. Unless it’s you, it’s s-so hard.” Her eyebrows scrunched together.

Jacob nodded slowly as he took in the new information.

“Well,” Jacob paused to gather his next thoughts.  “I suppose it’s better than you not being able to speak at all. Proud of you though, for getting this far.”

 

 

The two were returning from the shooting range this afternoon. Rook was beaming. A stark contrast to the grim surroundings but she didn’t care. She hadn’t been this light and genuinely happy in a long time. Her aim was back to as good as it was before the incident and it didn’t help that Jacob’s praising had been constant. They had almost reached Jacob’s room when his radio went off.

“Brother, there’s a predicament you may want to be aware of.” Joseph’s voice echoed through the hall.

Jacob sighed. It was always something.

“What is it?”

“The resistance knows we have their missing deputy.”

Jacob’s grip on his radio tightened. Rook glanced up at him, grabbing at the edge of his jacket on instinct. How did they know? Someone must have spotted her during their travel to the training grounds. Her brain was working on overtime trying to figure out how to salvage the situation. She hadn’t prepared to go back, but, how much longer could she hide out?

“Thanks for the heads up, Joe.” Jacob clipped his radio back to his belt.

He looked down at Rook, who had begun to shrink into herself. She was lost in her head.

“Cat. Look at me.” He whispered, placing his hands on her cheeks to calm her thoughts. “Nothing’s gonna happen.”

You don’t know that.’ Rook lamented to herself.

 

It was a few days later, out in the shooting range. Jacob refused to allow Rook outside the Center for the time being, fear of something happening if they travelled. Rook had tried voicing her concerns that they should be prepared for something to happen, even when she was there. Jacob only scoffed, exclaiming that the resistance would have to be crazy to try something at the Center.

Rook really wished she could tell him she told him so.

She had taken just one break. One small bathroom break had been all the separation from Jacob needed for someone to grab her. Her mind was screaming at her to just yell for help but her body panic and froze. She couldn’t deal with another kidnapping. She couldn’t. So when the hands clapped around her mouth, telling her not to be afraid and that they were getting her out of there, her body went into shock she supposed. She briefly had a moment of fight or flight where she bit her assailant’s hand, but the yelling brought on by it was enough to get her to stop from the familiar fear alone.

She doesn’t remember being put into the backseat of a car. She must have passed out or been knocked out. But watching the familiar, comforting trees of the Whitetail Mountains open up into Holland Valley was enough to make Rook’s stomach drop. The driver spoke up, causing Rook to deflate even more.

“It’s good to have you back, Deputy.”

Chapter Text

The car finally stopped outside the Spread Eagle. Rook wished she could say she was happy to see it. She wasn’t exactly upset at the prospect of seeing her old stomping grounds, she just wasn’t ready. She never expected to be kidnapped by the resistance once more and have to relive that same nightmare over again. She had wanted to return to her on her own time.

If she ever did.

She hated to admit it but, she had grown comfortable. There may be some dark part of her brain attributing that to either stockholm syndrome or her conditioning, but she ignored it. They didn’t have to take care of her. They could have left her to die. Especially Jacob. He didn’t have to come save her. And yet he did. Him and his family, they took care of her.

The driver got out, going around the car to open the door for her. She sighed before stepping out, giving him a tight smile.

“Everyone’s real excited to see you again, Dep. I hear the Rye’s are prepping a get-together as we speak.” He walked with her to the front door, holding it open for her.

Rook was immediately overwhelmed with hugs and cheers as she entered the bar. She tried to keep a smile with everyone that looked her way but after a while it got to be too much. Mary-May placed an arm around her shoulder, pulling her away from the crowd. When they got to the bar she hands her a beer.

“Sorry about all that, they’ve been having an early celebratory drink when they heard that you were out of there.”

Rook’s hands were shaking as she held onto the bottle. She tried willing herself to stop but it didn’t seem to work.

“You alright?” Mary placed a hand over Rook’s, causing her to flinch.

Rook nodded too hard.

“Did they…do that to you?” Mary glanced down to Rook’s lips.

Rook turned her head away. She didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t talk to her, and even if she did, she couldn’t exactly tell her “No it was the Militia.” But she also didn’t want to place false blame either. She opted to just ignore her and nod for the bathroom. Mary let her go, not without a pat on the shoulder as she walked by. Rook spotted Pastor Jerome near the bathrooms, she gave him a wave. He got up to go talk to her but she pointed to the bathroom door before he could take a step. Rook practically slammed the door shut behind her. She leaned back on it, letting her head thump against the wood. She considered jumping out of the small window in the bathroom but there was still that voice in her head telling her these people were her friends. She can’t just abandon them after everything she’s done for them. Everything they still needed her to do. That’s why they got her out, they need her. Right?

A soft knock was heard from outside the door.

“Rook?” Pastor Jerome’s voice was muffled. “Not to pry but, is everything okay? It’s been a while.”

She hadn’t realized it but when she looked out the window once more the sun that had been shining was now beginning to lower. Blue skies starting their shift into purple.

She felt like it had only been a few seconds.

Taking a steadying breath, she pulled herself away from the door and opened it. She gave him a smile. She was grateful that he came to check on her. He was always worried like that.

“The party’s starting to head over to the Rye’s. Wanted to see if you’d ride with me.” He started walking slowly to the front door of the Spread Eagle, Rook towing just slightly behind. “It’ll just be us. If you want to talk.”

Ah, so that’s what this was.

She stepped out the bar, looking at the various vehicles driving down the road of Fall’s End towards their destination. She spotted an ATV not too far away and for a brief moment she considered running off towards it when a hand was placed gently on her shoulder. She flinched but composed herself. Jerome had the door to his car open. The back seat was filled with various covered trays of food and drinks. At least the smell was good, she thought to herself.

 

 

Seeing the familiar “Rye and Son’s Aviation” sign was enough to put Rook at ease a small bit. She always loved visiting Nick and Kim. She wasn’t sure what it was about them that made her feel at home. Perhaps it was because they were the first people to not treat her like the savior everyone else did. They didn’t look up to her like some mythical hero who could do every little task for everyone else and defeat the enemy at the same time. They were just people, making the most of a bad situation, who treated her like a normal person.

The ride over had been silent save for the quiet radio chatter in the background. There was some news story that Rook could barely hear but she picked up enough to know that tensions were high around the world. She often forgot there was a whole world outside of Hope County that was dealing with its own shit. She briefly entertained the thought that everything going on outside was what Joseph was talking about when he told her about his vision of the Collapse. She shook the thoughts from her head as the car rolled to a stop outside the front of the house.

Stepping out, Rook could hear the blaring sounds of rock music coming from the hangar. There were various tables and chair of all styles scattered across the runway. People were milling about with drinks in their hands, some dancing, others playing games around the lot. Rook pressed her palm to her forehead, the music was already giving her a headache and all of the flashing lights from the hangar party weren’t helping. She helped Jerome bring the food from his car back and forth to the tables. She wasn’t sure if it was just instinct or not but she found herself already mapping out escape routes without thinking about it. There were people lining the edges of the property as guards, at least the front area that she could see, but that wouldn’t be an issue. If she can sneak past peggies unannounced, she could sneak by these guys.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard the familiar sound of one Kim Rye calling her name. Rook turned just in time to see Kim doing a sort of waddle-run, a hand holding her belly. Rook couldn’t help but return the smile, a real one for once, and met her halfway to give the woman a break. Nick followed shortly after, looking particularly haggard.

“Kim-! “ He caught his breath. “You shouldn’t be runnin’ around like this!” He placed a hand on her stomach.

“Oh hush, I’m pregnant not bedridden.” She playfully elbowed him, earning an over-the-top reaction from the man.

For the first time all day Rook was actually happy and laughing. She accepted the hug initiated by the shorter woman, bringing in Nick as well.

“We’re so glad you’re okay.” Kim muttered from her shoulder. “We thought the worst had happened.”

When they broke apart, Rook gave them a sad smile. She wanted to tell them everything that had happened. But she couldn’t. At least not in this environment.

She could tell Nick was trying his best to avoid looking at her mouth but she caught his eyes darting down. She placed a hand on his shoulder and gave him a soft nod, letting him know she’s okay and that it’s okay to look. She’d have to get used to it eventually.

 

 

By the time everyone had showed up the party was a noise violation already. Rook was nursing a drink of…something in a red cup. Sharky had given it to her with no explanation other than “You’re gonna love it, po-po. Made it just for you!” She stared down at the drink in question. It wasn’t bad, but she had no idea what it would do to her later so she took it slow.

All of her friends had come, even Armstrong despite obviously being just as uncomfortable in the situation as Rook.  Everyone had their turn asking Rook how she was, where she’d been. After she’d entertained so many she started tuning them out, giving everyone the same courteous nods and waves like a robot. She just wanted to go back to her room in the Veteran’s Center and curl up under her blanket. She took an actual gulp of the offending drink when she realized what that meant.

There was the occasional conversation that she picked up on as she walked around the area. She could hear the mutterings about her face, about people talking about what else the Seed’s must have done to her for her to gain that. She couldn’t escape the voices even if she tried. At some point she wondered if she was actually hearing other people or just the voices in her head.

Another sip of the drink.

Even though she was outside it felt like she was stuck in a room. The walls slowly creeping in on her and all she could do was just there and wait and listen to the voices as they kept taunting her. Asking her how she felt as she continued feeling boxed in.

Another sip.

Every now and then someone would come up to her, telling her how they couldn’t wait for her to get back out there and “kick some peggy ass in retaliation.” It was the same sentiments every time now. “When are you going back out?” or “We could really use your help when you’re good to go.” The questions asking about how she was doing had stopped, though she wasn’t sure that these were better. Then the comments kept coming and coming.

“We never stopped looking for you.” That’s a lie, she thought. You did stop.

“We can’t do this without you, Dep.” But you did for almost a month.

“Which of the Seed’s did that to you?” It wasn’t them it was you. It was your lot-

 

Rook came to a stop, stumbling a small bit as she caught up with the momentum.

She realized that she was already calling the resistance “you.” Not “us,” not “we.” When had she separated herself from them? She dropped the cup from her hand, the ice in it had already melted. She glanced around, realizing that many people had actually already left. Time had passed once more for her without her realizing it.

She hated feeling like she needed him, but she realized at that moment that she needed Jacob. She needed his calming presence.

She spotted Kim attempting to grab various plates and cups from the ground and tables, trying to clean up despite the difficulties of bending over. Rook rushed over to help.

 

By the time everyone had left and the runway was at least somewhat decent, the Ryes and a few of Rook’s Gun’s for Hire were still hanging around. Sharky and Hurk had left and Rook briefly worried about alcohol induced flame throwing and rocket launching. Grace had apparently left not long after visiting with Rook, saying that this wasn’t exactly her scene. Jess had gone…somewhere. No one really knew. When the rest of them began milling off to their own homes, the Rye’s invited Rook to spend the night at their place. Mary-May offered her room at the Spread Eagle but Rook politely declined. With that, it was just Rook and the Rye family. She immediately felt herself calm down when they entered the cozy home.

“There’s a guest room upstairs you can use.” Kim walked into the kitchen, grabbing glasses of water for Rook and Nick.

Nick took his and after mumbling something about a headache, he waved them goodnight earning a chuckle from his wife.

“Sharky had him drink two cups of whatever he had made.” Kim shook her head with a smile. “He’ll be feeling that one tomorrow.”

Rook smiled softly. She could see Kim was tapping her hand across her belly, opening and closing her mouth.

“So, I don’t want to presume, but.” She looked over. “Can you not…speak anymore?”

Rook shrugged and smiled. She mimed for a pen and made a writing motion. Kim quickly pulled a notepad off her refrigerator, tearing a list from the first page and set it in front of Rook on the kitchen counter. She wasn’t sure how much to tell Kim. She loved the woman, but a lot had happened in a rather short amount of time. She also didn’t want to stir trouble in the resistance, despite her uneasiness about her place there. She opted instead for the abbreviated version.

It wasn’t Eden’s Gate who kidnapped me. It was. They’re the ones who found me. Got me back on my feet. Took care of my injuries, too. I’ve been with them this whole time. I wasn’t ready to leave yet.

She paused, wondering if she should write the next bit. She lowered the pen slowly.

This is all a bit much and…I kinda want to go back? If that makes sense.

 She hesitantly slid the notepad across the table. She avoided looking Kim in the eyes until she was done reading. She hummed as she thought.

“That is…something alright.” Kim slid her hand across the table towards Rook’s. “May I?”

Rook nodded, thankful that she had asked first.

Kim grasped her hand lightly. “I don’t know everything that happened to you. I can’t begin to understand the details. But I can tell it was a lot and I’m sure it was horrible. I also know that everyone here relies on you-“

Rook scoffed but Kim held up her free hand for her to wait until she was done.

“-and I also know that it weighs you down. You’ve told me how much pressure you were under in the past and I can only imagine what coming back to all these people wanting you to get back out there is like for you. So, while I don’t fully understand your feelings, if you want to leave…just know that I won’t try to stop you. Okay?”

Rook felt her chest tighten. Kim was going to be a great mother, she thought. Rook brought her other hand and placed it on top of Kim’s, squeezing gently. She nodded her head at the woman.

“You should get some sleep though, you need the rest. Perhaps that’ll give you time to think it over.”

Rook nodded and waved at Kim as she made her way up the stairs to her room. Rook looked around the living room for a moment. She briefly considered going upstairs to the guest bedroom. She knew she was tired and pent up from the stress of the day. But she needed out. Or fresh air at the least. She stepped out onto the front porch, leaning against the banister and simply listened.

The night was quiet. There was the distant sound of a gun firing somewhere alongside the chirping of crickets. “Peaceful” wasn’t the right word for it, but this was Hope County. This was about as peaceful as it could get. Rook looked over the airfield next to her. She knew what she wanted to do. Sure she could stay and give it a shot at getting back into the system of working for the resistance. She could at least stay for more than a day. But she couldn’t stop herself as she stepped down the stairs of the patio and starting walking her way across the field. Eventually that walk turned into a slow jog which turned into her sprinting through the woods outside the airfield and off into the direction of somewhere familiar.

 

 

 

When John’s Ranch finally came into view Rook allowed herself to stop and catch her breath. She was thankful for all the endurance training that Jacob had her doing but that didn’t mean running up and down hills through a forest in the dark was particularly easy.

She stared at the front of the Ranch for a while, just scoping the surroundings out. She was fairly certain just waltzing up to the front yard would be a pretty bad idea. These were John’s men, they hadn’t seen her training with Jacob up in the Whitetails like his soldiers had. They didn’t know that she could at least be partially trusted to not kill John. She glanced down at her watch, it was about two in the morning. There were a few guards posted near the front entrance as well as a scattered bunch just meandering the property. She decided to wait until she could figure out some sort of pattern.

Thirty minutes passed until she was confident enough to attempt to sneak in. It wouldn’t be her first time doing so and she hoped John hadn’t sealed up the window she had used in the past. Crouching, she made her way towards the building as quickly and quietly as she could. She was still in the uniform that Jacob had given her so she was at least somewhat camouflaged in the darkness. She wished she had a jacket to combat the cool night air. A thin tee-shirt was not the best choice for a late-night excursion in Hope County. She made it to the window with no issues and was happy to discover that the window still opened. The screwdriver she used to shimmy it open so long ago was still right where she left it. Prying the window slowly, she opened it just enough for her to slip through. Her combat boots squeaked against the wood floor until she adjusted her weight. The last thing she needed was John Seed to be startled awake and cause a frenzy because someone was breaking in while he was still half-asleep. She headed straight for the couch in the back corner of the main living space next to a bookshelf. She figured it was better than being on the one in the open living room for someone to see her through a window. She sat down, the fatigue hitting her instantly. She didn’t want to sleep, not really, but the stress of the day was wearing her down.

Just a little nap, she told herself.

Just a nap.

Chapter Text


Rook was startled awake by the sound of a scream and had pulled her knife from her boot before she had even opened her eyes. When she did she had to stop herself from laughing.

There was John Seed, a hand clutched over his chest, the other covering his mouth.

“Rook.” He said slowly, running his hand over his hair. “It is far too early in my life for you to be giving me heart attacks.”

Rook smiled, still slightly dazed, as she put the knife away and stretched her body out on the couch.

“Also, what the hell are you doing on my couch to begin with? Jacob’s been throwing a tantrum ever since you disappeared on him again. Took Joseph almost the whole day to tell him to wait to see if you’d show up before he went out hunting.”

Rook hadn’t even thought about how Jacob must have reacted to realizing she was gone once more. And this time right out of his own compound.

Rook stood, walking over to give John a pat on the arm. He was currently in just a pair of pajama pants and a matching robe. She briefly glanced to see if perhaps they were monogrammed. She wouldn’t be surprised.

John gave her a brief smile.

“Why don’t you go get cleaned up. There’s still some clothes lying around. We can wash…those.” He looked her up and down.

Rook followed his gaze. During his run through the woods it appeared she kicked up a fair amount of dirt on herself. She nodded at his suggestion.

“In the mean time I’ll call Jacob.” He yawned. “And whip up some breakfast I suppose.”

Before he could turn around Rook was already waving her hands in front of her, telling him no. She started pointing to herself.

You’re not going anywhere near that stove again.

John huffed in indignation.

“Fine.” He mumbled as he walked into his living room.

 

 

Rook had picked out another dress. It seemed John owned quite a bit of those. She wouldn’t judge. This one was rather cute, she’d admit. It was dotted with flowers. She also picked out a pair of flats she found in one of the closets since her boots were in desperate need of a cleaning as well.

When she finally came downstairs she spotted John sitting aimlessly at the dining room table, a mug of coffee in his hand. He held it up to her in greeting.

“He’s on his way.”

Rook smiled. She couldn’t wait.

In the meantime she got started on breakfast, making an extra serving for Jacob for when he arrived. She decided to go for pancakes, that way she wouldn’t have to worry about not having enough. She’d admit the reasoning for her wanting to cook was simply due to her wanting to actually eat something that tasted good. But, she also knew she just needed something to keep her mind occupied until Jacob arrived. She needed the distraction else her mind is filled with the thoughts of what her friends will think when they learn she left them once more.

 

 

Rook had a stack almost the length of her forearm when she heard tires squealing outside the front of the ranch. She all but threw the spatula as she ran towards the front door. She yanked the door open just as Jacob threw open his truck door.

They simply stared at one another.

It felt like an eternity had passed.

How could it feel like it had been a lifetime since the last she saw him when it had only been one day?

Rook sprinted towards him, Jacob took a few large steps before bracing himself as she threw herself at him. He wrapped his arms around her as she did his neck when he lifted her into the air. All the tension from the previous day instantly drained out of her as she relaxed in his arms, taking in his scent. His face was cradled in her neck. Rook thought she felt him place a few light kisses to her shoulder but she wasn’t entirely sure. When it was obvious he wasn’t putting her down any time soon, Rook wrapped her legs around Jacob’s waist. She leaned back to cup his cheeks in her hands.

“Missed you.” She whispered.

Jacob chuckled.

“Scared the shit out of me.” His hand rubbed up and down spine. “Let’s try not to make this a habit, yeah? I’m getting too old for this.”

Rook smiled at him, her nose crinkling.

“I make no promises.”

Jacob walked them both inside and puts her back on the ground when they reach the living room.

“Took you long enough.” John was muffled by the pancakes in his mouth. “I was worried I’d have to eat all these by myself.”

The three sat and ate their breakfast, Jacob turning it into some sort of eating competition halfway through. Rook and John didn’t stand a chance. By the time they were done, John had left to deal with his own work, leaving the Ranch in the care of Rook and Jacob.

The two moved to the couch for their inevitable conversation.

Jacob sat down with a huff and Rook sat next to him. It felt almost instinctual but she ended up laying her head down in his lap. Jacob didn’t say anything, Rook finally felt calm. She felt…happy.

“So…what happened?” Jacob leaned his head back against the couch, his hand running through her hair.

Rook sighed, her fingers playing with a small tear in Jacob’s jeans. She went over everything that happened after getting captured. Telling him about the party, her feelings about the situation, and how she got here. When she told him about Kim and that situation he hummed, not sure if he believed it or not. Word would get out, he told her. It took a while to get through the tale, she was still struggling with talking, but by the end of it she found she was no longer focusing on the stutters and instead her voice was flowing smoothly. Of course, the minute she realized this she got tongue-tied.

“I still don’t know how they got into the Veteran’s Center.” Jacob grumbled. “When I realized you weren’t there anymore, I didn’t know what to think. There was a part of me that thought you’d finally made the smart decision to get away from me.” He laughed to himself.

Rook sat up, leaning her hands on his thighs to make sure he looked her in the eyes.

“Jacob…” She saw him smile softly at her. “What in the world makes you think that? You…you make me happy, Jacob. You were the only thing on my mind when I was taken for that first month. A-and you were the reason I didn’t even think about staying any longer than necessary this time around.”

Jacob just stared at her, she couldn’t tell what was running through his mind. What she hadn’t expected, was for him to lean forward and press a chaste kiss to her lips. She was too shocked to return the kiss initially, but when her brain caught up with her she chased his lips with her own. She could feel him smile against her.

When they parted they rested their foreheads against one another.

Jacob sighed, “Let’s go home.”

Rook smiled, nodding her head. And she didn’t need to question it. It was true, it did feel like home to be with him.

 

 

 

It didn’t take much time for the two of them to return to the Veteran’s Center. This time when they rolled up to the gate, the guards didn’t react to Rook being the passenger seat. Most everyone there knew she had been training with Jacob once more. They bypassed Rook’s room, heading straight for Jacob’s. He went to lean against his desk, simply watching Rook.

He gestured outward to the room around him. “Home sweet home.” The sarcasm dripped from his speech.

Rook walked over to him, leaning her head against his chest.

“Jacob?”

He hummed, the sound reverberating through his chest.

“Doesn’t matter where I am. You’re my home.”

Chapter Text

 

 

“You’re my home.” Rook whispered again.

Jacob stared down at her, his expression hard to pin down but Rook was fairly certain there was a warmth to his eyes that wasn’t there before. He grabbed one of her hands with his own, gently pulling her towards his bed. They both sat down on the edge of it. Rook pulled both her legs up underneath herself, facing Jacob who had one leg up on the bed and the other still planted on the floor. His body tilted slightly her way, but enough to back off if necessary. He ran his thumb across her knuckles, his eyes staring down at their entwined hands.

“Jacob?”

Rook angled her face so that she could see his. He seemed, uncertain. She figured it was his insecurities rising to the forefront of his brain. She took her free hand and brought it to his face, his eyes locked on hers and she asked for silent permission. He nodded, it was subtle, but it was enough for her to place her hand on his cheek and angle his head to look at her fully. She freed her other hand from his grasp and brought it to his other cheek, her thumbs ran softly against his cheekbones. Neither said anything, just breathing in time, their eyes flitting between one another’s. Rook didn’t mind the scarring – his facial scars had healed much better than the ones on his arms. She could see the wheels in his brain trying to decide if he wanted her to continue or trying to figure out what she was thinking. Rook smiled and slowly brought her face closer. His eyes closed instinctively and she kissed one of his cheeks softly, earning a quick inhale from the man. When she moved to kiss the other cheek she saw that his eyes were still closed, she smiled again as she kissed that cheek as well. She kissed the tip of his nose next and he let out a soft chuckle. Her cheeks were beginning to hurt and his eyes opened briefly before she finally brought her lips to his own.

“Don’t be ashamed of your scars, right?” She leaned back a little.

Jacob brought his own hand up, running his fingers along her scarred lips.

“Right.”

 

 

 

 

Rook awoke the next morning feeling much more rested than she had in a very long time. She half expected Jacob “I wake at the crack of dawn” Seed to be gone, doing whatever he does this early in the morning. The sun was just beginning to crest the mountains outside the Center, bathing his room in a soft orange glow. Rook took a second to just enjoy the sounds coming from the open balcony before everyone else in the compound woke up.

She was pleasantly surprised to feel his arms still tucked around her, her cheek pressed to his chest. Their naked legs were still tangled together from last night. She could feel him softly breathing onto the top of her head. She didn’t want to risk waking him. She knew he struggled with his nightmares and didn’t sleep well. She didn’t want to think selfishly, but a part of her was happy that he was able to get a full night’s sleep – as well as sleep in – thanks to her presence. Granted, she thought, it also could be that he wore himself out last night. She held in a laugh at that thought.

She began peppering small kisses to his chest, her nose tickled every so often from his chest hair. As much as she didn’t want to wake him, she knew he had things to do. She could hear him rumbling as he began to wake up and she smiled as she continued her kisses, working her way up to his throat, and angling her head up to reach his mouth. Still half asleep, he grumbled incoherently, squeezing her waist almost too much. Rook chuckled and the shaking seemed to wake him as his eyes blinked open slowly, adjusting to the light coming in from the windows. His arms tensed for a moment before he looked down at her and recognition flashed behind his eyes. His arms relaxed and one of his thumbs began rubbing circles along her hip.

“Good morning, handsome.” Rook smiled onto his lips.

Jacob grunted, still waking up.

“Don’t you think we should get up?”

He shook his head, closing his eyes once again and rolled onto his back, dragging Rook to lay on his chest. She pressed another kiss to the center of his chest. She let her legs kick in the air lazily from between his own as she watched him fight to go back to sleep.

“Come on sleepyhead,” She ran a hand through his hair. “You got people to train, hm?”

Jacob sighed, almost dramatically. “They can wait. I’ve got other things to do this morning.”

Rook hummed in question but immediately knew what he was talking about when she felt him stiffen underneath her. She placed her forehead on his chest, shaking her head as she laughed.

“You’re insatiable.”

“Damn right, kitten.”

 

 

 

The next few weeks had been a whirlwind of emotions for Rook. On the one hand she was happy where she was, she was happy with Jacob. On the other, she was haunted by the understanding that she had abandoned the people of Hope County. She reminded herself daily that there was nothing wrong with her choice, even if they didn’t understand it. She didn’t want to be placed on a pedestal, she didn’t want to have the pressure of every victory on her shoulders and every defeat weigh her down. With Jacob, she had someone to help her carry that. It wasn’t that she wanted to work with the Project. She just wanted to be with Jacob, even if that meant joining people she once considered an enemy. She still hated what he did, however she’d admit she was becoming immune to it all over time.  

Jacob had been wary at first to letting her out of his sight after what had happened before. Rook was fairly certain that after her leaving the second time that no one would be coming for her again. She was officially on the other side of that fight. Still, she didn’t want to be left to just wander the Veteran’s Center with nothing to do so after a bit of persuading, Jacob finally agreed to allow her to do work outside the Center.

She was assigned to a team that maintained the wolf beacons twice a week. It was simple work that would keep her away from much if any resistance half the time. She also knew that Jacob didn’t exactly like her going out there, hence, only checking them twice a week. Rook had never spent much time with the wolves in the Center before they became Judges. The process still irked her, but like with everything else, she got used to it. Her silent nature actually wasn’t actually an issue with her team. She’d learned some basic hand commands to communicate, and despite not actually being able to chat casually with the people on her team, they all seemed to get along well. There were six of them in total, four men and two women. The first few days were rocky, at best, but by now they were a well-oiled machine.  She was thankful that they didn’t treat her much differently despite her being “Jacob’s girl,” as she had been dubbed around the compound. She also found herself grateful to her team as they helped her get more comfortable around others that weren’t the Seed family. Things were looking up. She no longer stuttered when speaking with Jacob – she still couldn’t talk in front of others but, baby steps.

 

 

It was almost one month into her stay at the Veterans Center and Rook was surprised it had taken Joseph this long to come visit her.

She had been helping Pratt feed the Judges that day. Her and Staci had gotten off to a rough start when he realized she was deliberately staying this time. He refused to talk to her for the longest time and she didn’t blame him. Honestly she had been wondering how best to ask Jacob to just let the poor man go. It was still hard to see what had become of her old trainer. By now they simply worked together in silence when they had to. It was nothing malicious on either end, but they didn’t go out of their way to hang out – Pratt had become far too skittish to do so anyways, especially with Jacob around.

Joseph had been visiting with Jacob, getting an update on everything going on with his part of the Project she assumed. When he was leaving Jacob’s office the two came over to where she was. Jacob quickly sent Pratt off to do something else.

“I’m glad to see you doing well, Catherine.” Joseph smiled at her, his eyes crinkling behind his yellow glasses.

Rook nodded at him.

Jacob came to stand beside her, placing an arm on her back. Rook spotted the corner of Joseph’s mouth quirk at the gesture.

“I came to talk to you about your presence in the Project.” Joseph held his hands together, his rosary hanging loosely between his fingers. “If you’re planning to stay with my family, with my brother, then I must ask that you fully join us. My flock must see you as one of us for the coming Collapse.”

Rook didn’t need him to clarify. She had been wondering when he would ask, and she had been thinking about what she would answer him with. She would admit that she didn’t exactly wish to officially join the Project. That would mean solidifying her stance to the people of Hope County – they had officially lost their deputy. Still, she figured her chances of being welcomed back were slim to none if she ever decided to change her mind. She knew she didn’t want to leave though. She didn’t want to leave Jacob. And if joining the Project ensured her ability to stay by his side, then she’d agree.

Rook took in a deep breath and nodded her head once again.

“You agree to atone, to confess?” She nodded once more. “We’ll have to do your baptism over again as well, John did it without love for your first one. That must be fixed for you to remain at our side in Eden’s Gate, of course.”

 Rook could feel Jacob’s hand press into her back at the reminder.

“And how do you plan to have her confess, Joseph?” Jacob reminded Joseph of her condition.

Joseph thought it over a moment. “I don’t see why you can’t be the one to take her confession, Jacob. I’m sure John wouldn’t mind.”

Both her and Jacob scoffed at that. John would most definitely mind.

“I’ll talk with him.” Joseph placed a hand on both of their shoulders. “In the meantime, prepare yourselves and meet me at my compound. We can do it there.”

Before Joseph walked away Jacob told him to let John know that it would be tattoos only. They wouldn’t be bringing a knife to her skin any time soon after what had happened to her. Rook beamed at his care of her well-being.

 

 

The drive over had been mostly silent except for the occasional question from Rook about what all she had to do and talk about. Jacob had informed her that he’d try and make this go by as quickly as possible – he didn’t plan on drawing it out of her slowly like John did. He also promised not to torture it out of her as he’d already tortured her enough in the past.

“I already know what one of your sins is gonna be.” Jacob teased, winking over at her.

Rook gaped at him, smacking him lightly on the arm.

“You hush! ‘Sides, you’re just as bad. Why don’t you get a tattoo out of it in the end?”

“The day I let my baby brother put any ink on me is the day my baby brother gets a black eye.”

When they reached Joseph’s compound they could see John and Joseph already sitting outside the church. John didn’t seem extremely upset, but he also didn’t look happy that he didn’t get to do his job. His tattoo equipment was sitting on the ground next to his feet. The two stood as Rook and Jacob walked to them.

“Don’t mess this up now, Jacob.” John teased. “You need me to remind you what all the sins mean?”

Jacob huffed. “I spend enough time with you two, I’ve got it handled.”

He pressed his forehead to Joseph’s. Rook did the same.

“Let’s go.”

Jacob moved his hand to the small of her back and ushered her into the church. The room seemed to sparkle as the rays of sunlight streaming in from the windows caught the dust floating through the air. The building was much easier to breathe in when it wasn’t filled with people. Rook and Jacob walked to the front row of pews before sitting, putting as much space as possible between them and the other brothers.

“So…do I just start talking?” Rook wringed her hands in her lap.

“Yeah. Wherever you want. You just let it out and I’ll put the pieces together.”

Rook nodded slowly, thinking of where to begin.

She started with the obvious: Lust. Jacob smirked at that. There was no need for her to clarify with the present party, though she felt she probably would’ve if it had been John or Joseph. Thankfully, Jacob wasn’t too worried about the actual “confessing to a higher power” part of this whole thing. He had told her as much in the ride over. If confessing would keep Joseph happy and allow her to remain with them, then they just had to do it. He’d made his fair share of confessions to his brother to satiate his feelings. He might not believe, but that didn’t mean he was going to deny his brother the right to believe.

Rook then started on her second confession. The fact that she had abandoned the Resistance. Abandoned the people of Hope County to the fate of the Project. Just because she was joining them, she told him, didn’t mean she liked what they did. Her job as a deputy, as an officer of the law meant that she should be protecting these people, but she was failing to do the things she was supposed to and should do.

Jacob marked that down as Sloth.

Next came the fact that Rook had been selfish. She had placed her own impulses, her own desire to be with Jacob above the well-being of the Resistance. Jacob had held her close for this one. He didn’t say it, but Rook knew he was happy she had done so. And so was she, even if it was selfish in nature. She knew it meant betraying her friends but…Jacob made her happy.

Jacob marked it down as Gluttony.

Rook couldn’t think of anything else to confess. She could dig deep into her subconscious to find some deeds from college or her childhood to confess but, she just wanted this to be over with and she was certain Jacob did as well. Still, there was one thing she wanted to confess.

“It’s not exactly a sinful confession though.” She looked up into Jacob’s eyes. “See, there’s this guy. We haven’t known each other long, and quite frankly we met under the worst possible circumstances – he forced me to watch some weird slideshow while he gave a rather over-the-top speech.”

“Watch it, darlin’.” Jacob teased.

“Well, after a while I realized that even though we haven’t known each other long, I think…I think I love him.” Rook watched his face for a reaction.

There wasn’t one. Not at first that she could tell. She felt him take in a shuddered breath.

“That’s a hell of a confession, Cat.” He stared at her seriously.

“It’s true.” She whispered.

Jacob brought his hands up to her cheeks, cupping them gently and pulling her face to his. She hadn’t expected him to say it back, she didn’t know if he ever would be able to actually say the words and she was okay with that. Because he could show her that he loved her in his actions. In the softness of his hands on her face that contrasted with the harshness of the kiss. She pressed back just as roughly, an unspoken confirmation between the two of them.

When they parted they simply stared at one another. Jacob was smiling, it was small, but it was there. Rook placed another quick kiss to his lips before telling him to go get John. She was ready for the next part of her atonement.

 

Rook was thankful that John had taken his time when tattooing her this time around. She didn’t need a repeat of the pain that came with her “Wrath” tattoo. She ended up pinching John in the leg when he smirked while doing her “Lust” tattoo. He placed it on her right hip, wrapping it across the side. “Gluttony” was scrawled up the inside of her right arm, from her wrist to the junction of her elbow – he didn’t want her to be able to hide from that one. “Sloth” was placed similarly on her left arm.

When he was finished they both walked out of the church. Rook was trying desperately not to irritate anything as she walked. John at least had the decency to wrap the tattoos this time around since she was about to be dunked in lake water. Jacob and Joseph had been talking about something but stopped when the two approached.

“You okay?” Jacob looked over her, analyzing the work of his brother.

Rook nodded, smiling up at him. He rarely showed his care in front of others, preferring to keep it between the two of them.

“Now for the baptism.” Joseph spoke to Rook. “John.” His tone was firm, but not unkind.

John nodded, taking one of the Books of Joseph from nearby. Rook could tell he wasn’t going to mess this up again. He’d already been in the hot seat more than once.

Rook followed John down to the water behind the church. Joseph and Jacob trailed behind, murmuring amongst themselves. Rook figured they were continuing the conversation her and John had interrupted. Rook was thankful she had put on boots that were easy to slip out of when they reached the water. John stepped in first, going out about knee-deep. Rook followed. The water was shockingly cold at first but she adjusted quickly. John held the Book of Joseph in one hand and held the other out for Rook to grab. They stood facing each other. John spurted off his ramblings about atonement and Eden’s Gate and the importance of the Cleansing. When he was finished he placed his arm around Rook’s back, preparing to support her weight.

“I’ll try not to drown you this time.” John smirked as she lowered her into the water.

Rook was shocked by the water first, then she had to fight her instincts not to panic – Jacob was nearby, she reminded herself. She closed her eyes, willing herself to calm down. She felt John adjust his hand then she felt herself being lifted from the water.

Rook was never a very religious person. But that first breath of air she took when she was free of the water felt like a holy experience if ever there was one. She blinked slowly, the water trickling down her face. Her eyes found Jacob’s immediately. He seemed tense but eased when he saw that she was okay. John helped her out of the water and back to where her boots were waiting for her. She opted to hold them instead of getting them wet on the inside. Jacob was quick to give her a towel – she wasn’t sure where he had gotten it from. He placed it over her head, ruffling her hair causing Rook to squeak.

“Thank you, Catherine.” Joseph came over to her, placing both of his hands on her shoulders. “I’m so happy for you.” He pressed his forehead to hers, not minding the water.

Rook breathed in at the same time as him before he removed himself. Jacob placed his hand on her back once again.

“We’re gonna head home them, unless there’s anything else?” She wasn’t sure if he meant for it to sound so impatient.

“You can go.” Joseph smiled at the two. “I hope to see you two again soon. We need to get together for another family dinner again.”

The four parted ways at that, agreeing to meet soon.

 

 

 

When they got back to the Veteran’s Center, Rook could tell something was off with Jacob. He brought them both up to his room, but he hadn’t spoken to her the whole time. It wasn’t that big of a deal, he was a quiet man. But his mannerisms were what was throwing her off. He seemed to be itching for something to distract him from something. He began organizing his desk which was a sign something was obviously eating at him. In all the time she’d been there Rook had never once seen that desk neat.

“Jacob.” Rook spoke softly, placing a hand on his bicep. “What is it?”

Jacob turned to look at her. He was searching her face for something. Ultimately he ended up sighing before sitting down in his desk chair. He brought her closer to sit in his lap.

“You sure you could love an old man like me?”

“You’re hardly old, Jacob.” Rook brought her hand up to his cheek. Sure, the man was technically twenty years older than her, but still. “I love you, crazy as it sounds.”

It was still nerve-wracking to say it out loud. She had known for a while, she just was afraid to say it. She wasn’t sure how Jacob would respond. She was happy that she finally plucked up the courage.

Jacob nodded slowly. He sighed once more before his arms left her waist and went to his dog tags. He slipped them over his head and held them in his hands. Rook watched, transfixed.

“Don’t have a fancy ring, but these are symbolic enough to claim you as mine.” He glanced up at her, placing the tags in her hands.

Rook’s mouth was hanging open as she tried to process what this meant. Surely he couldn’t…

“Are you…is this a proposal?” Rook asked hesitantly. She didn’t want to scare him off if this wasn’t one.

“I know it’s probably not what you envisioned but, yeah. If you’ll have me.” Jacob was watching her for any sign of rejection. “You’re the only one who’s been able to bring some light back into my life and I’ll be damned if I let go of that.”

Rook didn’t know she was crying until Jacob wiped away a fallen tear from her cheek.

“Y-yes.” She whispered. “Of course!” She put the tags around her neck and threw herself at him, wrapping her arms around him and placed rapid-fire kisses to his face.

Jacob laughed against her lips as he picked her up. She immediately wrapped her legs around his waist as she continued to pepper his face. He tossed her onto his bed and Rook realized they would be sleeping in again it seemed.

Chapter Text

 

The next few weeks after Jacob’s proposal were a whirlwind of activity. When the other Seeds had found out they quickly took up the reins of getting everything set up for the couple – much to Jacob’s complaint. The man would be happy if it was just the two of them and Joseph but Joseph had insisted that it has to be a special occasion for his older brother. Especially during these trying times before the Collapse, Joseph had added. So for now it was simply up to Rook and Jacob to continue their work for the Project while the others handled the wedding.

Jacob was more than happy to let the others deal with it.

Rook was antsy, to say the least.

Growing up she had all these ideas of her perfect wedding – a big venue, the fanciest dress, her family and friends, a world-tour honeymoon. She knew she couldn’t get that, but it didn’t matter. The one thing she didn’t plan for as a teenager was a scruffy, somewhat psychotic, ex-military, pseudo-cultist to take a hold of her heart. And if that meant they spent the rest of their lives in Hope County for the foreseeable future, then she was happy with that. It didn’t matter if they had a big, extravagant wedding, or a small one where they just hung out with the rest of the Seed family for the day. She just wanted to be with Jacob.

She thought of inviting some of her closest friends in the resistance. She had picked up the radio a multitude of times. If nothing else, she wanted Kim there, the woman at least wouldn’t be too surprised since she was the first to know about Rook and Jacob. She wasn’t sure if Nick would allow her though because of her pregnancy. And the dangerous cult aspect. Sharky and Hurk would probably come just for the prospect of a good party – they’d certainly provide entertainment. She briefly considered Adalaide but quickly got rid of that idea. Everyone else though, they wouldn’t understand. And she didn’t blame them. Perhaps she could bring Cheeseburger, she certainly missed the big goof. She wasn’t certain that Joseph, or anyone really, would be thrilled with that though.

It was sad, Rook thought, that every time she’d leave the Veteran’s Center she had to look over her shoulder. She used to bulldoze her way through Hope County with no worries of anyone getting the jump on her. They had to worry about her getting the jump on them. Now, however, she was always paranoid that someone was going to kidnap her again – it was becoming a bit of a nuisance. She wasn’t sure if she was more upset about being scared of the kidnapping part, or the fact that if anyone did it’d probably be by people she once called friends.

Still, she had to leave. Especially with the wedding planning. She just couldn’t let the others handle everything. Jacob had insisted he come along to protect her but Rook had continuously turned him down. One, because she knew he didn’t want to sit for hours with Faith talking about fabrics for the dress and decorations, but also because she was planning a surprise for the man. If he had figured something was up he didn’t say, but he was smart. If anything, he was at least a little suspicious. Any time he asked why she had to go at least three times a week to visit with his siblings he was met with a variety of answers. “We’re choosing flower arrangements”, “we’re going over music”, or “Joseph just wants to go over some things.” They weren’t complete lies. She was doing those things – Jacob insisted he came along for the food tasting, though, much to Rook’s amusement.

She had something she needed to do with all of his siblings, and she wanted – no needed – it to be a surprise for Jacob. He had done so much for her these past few months, it was the least she could do.

 

 

 



 

 

 

Hope County was experiencing an eerie sense of peace this past week. Joseph wanted nothing to go wrong on the day of the wedding and so he had been slowly taking Project members off the roads in order to make sure his island was protected. Whether or not the Resistance knew why, there was no word. The radio chatter that Jacob and Rook did pick up was mostly the same, if not for a bit of confusion on the Resistance’s end.

Still, Rook didn’t want to think about that stuff at the moment. She was currently being pampered on by Faith and a few of her followers as they got ready for the big day. She was inside one of the houses in Joseph’s Compound while Jacob was in another.

They had kept her makeup simple – a light dusting of powder, some eyeliner, and a red lipstick. Faith’s followers were currently working on a crown of Bliss leaves. Rook was thankful that Faith was still understanding about her hesitance on the flower and instead was just using the leaves which would cause none of the effects. Another of her followers had lightly curled her black hair. Rook had been keeping it up in either a bun or a ponytail since she started officially working at the Veteran’s Center so she was thankful for the opportunity to, quite literally, let her hair down.

Faith had insisted on making Rook’s dress for her and she couldn’t complain, the final product was beautiful. The top half, which ended just above her waistline, was covered in the same lace as Faith’s dress while the bottom half was layered in chiffon that flowed behind her. It wasn’t too long, but dragged just a bit.

Rook smiled at herself in the mirror. It had taken some time, but she was starting to look past her scars. The holes had started to close up, like when you forget put your earrings back in for a few years. She imagined that after a while they’d end up just barely noticeable. She felt…beautiful. For the first time in a very long time. Jacob had told her many times in their private moments, but she had never believed it herself. At the thought of the man Rook’s smiled widened. She couldn’t wait to see what he looked like. Apparently John had insisted on dressing his older brother. Rook would admit she appreciated it as she was sure Jacob would have just worn his normal look, if not a bit cleaner. Bless him, she thought.

Faith walked up to Rook and they both looked her over in the mirror. She handed her the bouquet, it was a mix of the Bliss leaves as well as a few wild flowers from the area. The stems were wrapped in a piece of burlap and around that were Jacob’s dog tags. Rook fiddled with them for a moment.

“You ready?” Faith whispered excitedly.

Rook nodded.

There was a knock at the door, quick but gentle. Faith answered it and Joseph was standing there. He had on his white shirt and jacket for the occasion. He smiled at Rook when he spotted her and she met him halfway for a hug.

“You look lovely.” He pulled back to press their foreheads together.

Faith’s followers followed her out of the house to head towards the church with a quick goodbye to Rook.

Rook took in a shaky breath.

“Nervous?” Joseph asked with a smile as he held out his arm.

Rook wrapped her free hand around his offered arm, holding her bouquet in the other. She shrugged.

“It’s okay if you need to change your mind, I can improvise.” He winked, causing her to laugh softly.

Rook looked around the compound. There were still some members of Eden’s Gate wandering around. If they weren’t here outside the church, then they were down closer to the water where the reception was being held. She could faintly smell the food being prepared from where they stood. The few people that were around smiled at her. She wasn’t certain if it was for her or the Father, though. She still got some looks and a few comments from some of the members that didn’t think her joining made up for the deaths she had created on their side. Mostly everyone in the Veteran’s Center respected her though so she didn’t mind if people outside had their questions. She looked back and saw that the wrought iron Eden’s Gate fence was locked and guarded by more soldiers than was probably necessary.

They were now standing in front of the church itself. Nothing much had changed on the outside except for a few garlands of flowers around the door to announce the occasion. Faith poked her head through the door quickly, letting them know everything was good to go and that they could enter when they heard the music begin. Joseph thanked her. Rook let out a shaky breath and she looked up at Joseph with a grin. She bounced on the balls of her feet, thankful for the low heels that Faith had given her so she wouldn’t injure herself.

She wasn’t nervous, she was excited.

Her nerves did, however, flare up when she heard the piano begin to belt out a familiar tune. Joseph placed his free arm over the hand she had wrapped around the crux of his elbow.

“It’s time.”

Rook nodded, taking in a deep breath as the door opened.

The first thing to hit her was the smell. Gone was the dusty, stale air of the church from the last time she was there. Instead the windows were open, allowing a draft as well as the many flowers that Faith had decorated the place with that gave off a great multitude of scents. The two members holding the doors open nodded at Rook who smiled back quickly. She was thankful that she didn’t really know many people in the Project which meant that the amount of people inside the church was rather small. She glanced over the heads that had turned around when the doors had opened. She spotted the members of her team from the Veteran’s Center. The largest man of her group, a normally stoic man named Tex, was currently fighting a losing battle with his watery eyes. The others were smiling, both at her and at Tex’s expense. Rook had tried to get Jacob to allow Pratt to show up if he wanted, but he had turned her down for some reason. The rest of the faces were a mix of familiar people from the Center as well as a few unknowns.

A small gasp drew her attention to the stage on the opposite side of the church. Rook’s eyes connected with Jacob and she couldn’t stop the smile on her face if she wanted to. He had a crisp, white button up shirt that was rolled to his elbows. Over that was a red waistcoat with black dress pants and shoes. She would have to thank John later for making her soon-to-be husband finally own some nice clothes.

Her eyes were brought back up to Jacob’s and she couldn’t remove them from the man as she got closer. Finally, after the short walk which felt much longer, Joseph released her arm and pressed his forehead to hers before leading her to Jacob. She passed her bouquet to Faith who was standing behind her. Both of her hands were now held within Jacob’s. She still loved looking at the difference in their hand sizes. Joseph was beginning the ceremony but her and Jacob were in their own little world as his voice became distorted. Soft was not a word she thought she’d ever use with Jacob, but right now that’s how he looked. They were both smiling at one another and she was certain her cheeks were going to hurt later but it would be worth it.

They were drawn from their little world by Joseph placing a hand on Jacob’s shoulder, causing the small crowd to chuckle a bit.

“Jacob,” Joseph smiled at his brother. “Your vows, if you will.”

Jacob nodded, coughing a bit as he was brought back to the moment.

“I, uh, I never believed in love. If I did it was a long time ago. Cat, you’ve believed in me when no one else would, and you’ve shown me how to love again with unconditional acceptance. I’m not sure a lifetime is long enough to return all you’ve given me in our short time knowing one another, but I promise to spend the rest of my days by your side. I promise to protect you, and I know you’ll have my back as well. I promise to be a home for you. A safe haven.” He smiled down at her and Rook could feel a tear slide down her cheek.

“I didn’t know I needed you, but once you came into my life, I knew it was always only you. For now and always.” Jacob let out a sigh as he ended.

Rook could only imagine the mess she looked with her tears streaming down her face. She couldn’t take a hand to wipe them as she was currently clutching tightly to Jacob’s to keep her from simply jumping the man. Jacob looked about ready to cry himself, she could see the tears forming in his eyes but could tell he was keeping them in check and not allowing them to fall.

Joseph turned to Rook who nodded at him, then to Jacob, and then to the crowd.

“Catherine has also elected to recite her own vows.” Joseph placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Jacob’s eyes widened and glanced between the two of them.

Surprise successful, Rook thought as she smiled up at him. She let out a nervous breath of air and forced herself to keep her eyes trained on Jacob’s. She had been spending the past few weeks practicing speaking with the rest of the Seeds. Small bits of conversation here and there in order for this moment. She wasn’t certain if she’d be able to talk to anyone else any time soon, but this was enough for now.

“T-they say actions speak louder than words.” Rook began, squeezing tightly to Jacob’s hands. She took a deep breath, steadying her voice. She could do this, she told herself. “You were there to bring me out of a dark place, and I promise to always be there to do the same for you.”

She gently squeezed his hands again, gaining the confidence to push out the last of her vows with what energy she had left.

“No matter what trials we encounter together, or-or how much time as passed, I know that our love will never fade. I know that we’ll always find our strength in one another, and that we’ll continue to grow side by side. I promise to love only you for as long as I am able. Yesterday, tomorrow, and today. A-always.”

When she was done she could feel her hands shaking like crazy. Jacob was running his thumbs over her knuckles soothingly.

“I’m so proud of you.” He whispered.

If he was controlling his tears before, he had given up as a few fell down his cheeks. He didn’t bother getting rid of his either.

Joseph spoke up again, gaining their attention. “Jacob, do you take Catherine to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to love, honor, cherish, and protect her, forsaking all others and holding unto her in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer as long as you both shall live?”

Jacob smiled down at her. “I do.”

“And do you, Catherine, take Jacob to be your lawfully wedded husband? Do you promise to love, honor, cherish, and protect him, forsaking all others and holding only unto him in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer for as long as you both shall live?”

“I do!” Rook grinned.

Joseph took the rings they had picked out earlier from his pocket. He handed the first to Jacob as they went over the words. The ring was a simple, thin, gold band. When he was finished he quickly brought it to his lips, kissing the ring on her finger. Rook was still smiling as she took the ring from Joseph and went to place it on Jacob’s. Her voice stuttered as she recited her part but she didn’t think anyone was judging her for it. When the ring was on his finger she did the same and brought his hand to her lips.

 “Well,” Joseph brought their attention back to him. “With the power invested in me as the Father by the grace of God, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Brother, you may kiss your bride.”

Jacob barely had time to react as Rook took the initiative and leapt into his arms, she could feel him laughing against her lips as she wrapped her arms around his neck. His arms instinctively held her up in the air and she’s so lost in the moment that she didn’t notice the applause from those inside the church until Jacob finally placed her back on the ground.

She was no longer Catherine Rook.

She was Catherine Seed now.

 

 

 

 

Cat couldn’t keep the smile from her face as they all walked down to the reception area. They stopped briefly for someone to take a few quick photos to commemorate the event, but not enough to seem vain according to Joseph. She could faintly hear music mixed with chatter from those who were already waiting. It was mostly just those who were staying in the Compound. Cat didn’t mind the crowd, besides, she imagined a few of them were happy to have a chance to party for a little bit. Her hand was linked with Jacob’s, her husband. It wasn’t as weird to think about as she thought it would be.  Any time she looked up at him he had a smile on his face. It was nice to see him show his emotions more, he usually kept it between the two of them.

As they got closer the guests there turned their attention and started clapping. Cat smiled in thanks but she was fairly certain it was mostly for Jacob and the other Seeds. Though, she thought, she was now a Seed too.

Joseph stepped into the cleared space in the middle of the tables.

“My Children,” everyone quieted. “I want to thank you all for coming and celebrating the union of our beloved brother, Jacob and his new wife Catherine. Before the libations begin, I’d like to invite the new couple to enjoy their first dance.”

As he left the space to join John and Faith and the guests clapped politely as Cat and Jacob stepped forward.

Jacob already had a suspicious grin going on.

“What are you up to?” Cat whispered, her eyes scrutinizing his face.

She realized what it was very quickly. The song began and Cat immediately let her face drop to his chest as she laughed. She had put his dog tags back around her neck and could feel them press into her own chest.

“Only you…”  She felt Jacob’s soft singing through his chest as they swayed to the music.

“You’re ridiculous.” Cat spoke. “Good thing you deconditioned me or this would be a hell of a party.”

She tuned out the people around her. She might not be comfortable talking with them, but she could at least talk to Jacob around them.

“I know.” He placed a kiss to the top of her head. “We really did it, huh?”

He brought her into a spin which earned a laugh.

“We really did. Funny how this worked out.”

“I never thought…” He brought her back close. “I never thought I’d have this chance, you know. I had given up on the idea of marriage as a possibility for me.”

Cat looked up at him, giving him her full attention.

“Didn’t think anyone would give me the chance, no one seemed to want to get past all of this.” He gestured to his face and arms. “And then there was you.”

“And I wormed my way into your heart with my stubbornness.” Cat pulled him down to kiss him quickly.

“That you did.” He hummed. “Though, I don’t think you would have considered marrying me back when we first met.” He laughed through his nose.

“Cages aren’t exactly romantic, but I still found you attractive, don’t worry.” She winked at him.

They continued dancing, mostly just swaying around the area as neither bothered to properly learn to dance for the wedding, until the song wound own. Everyone clapped once more as they made their way over to their table where the rest of the Seeds were sitting. They took the two seats in the middle. Faith was the first to make a quick speech, toasting to her new sister and wishing them all the love. John went next, teasing his older brother about finding a woman far too good for him to which Jacob agreed. Finally, Joseph. His speech, of course, was grand and filled with biblical metaphors and mentions of the Collapse but Cat didn’t mind. She was just thankful that he had allowed their union despite the trouble she had given them in the past. A few of her teammates also had some words to say though it was mostly just simple congratulations and then the party really began.

The food was rather good, simple but good. It was a lot of vegetables that had been grown in the compound as well as some of the supplies that could be spared from John’s bunker. There was a part of Cat that had wished for a bar at the party, but alas, that wasn’t allowed. She could tell Jacob and John were thinking the same thing and Cat couldn’t wait for the start of her honeymoon. She already knew what she wanted to do at some point: a simple fishing trip with her new husband and case of good beer. Smiling at that thought, she was brought out of her reverie by Joseph coming up next to her.

“Catherine, there’s something you should see by the front gate.” He whispered in her ear.

Cat looked over at him, confused.

“W-w-what do you mean?” She blindly reached for Jacob’s hand next to her to steady her speech.

“You’ll have to see for yourself.”

He stood and walked away slowly, allowing Cat time to follow.

She dragged Jacob along with her although she knew he would have followed anyways. Her confusion continued until she could see the still-closed white gate. The people behind it, however, were enough to cause her steps to fumble, knocking Jacob into her back. It was a bit of a shock to see Armstrong and Whitehorse, but what really caught her off guard was seeing Hudson, Burke, and Pratt as well. Joey was still in a bit of disheveled mess seeming to have been taken from John’s bunker rapidly. Burke was practically glowing from his time with Faith, literally. And Pratt was staring at her, or rather, behind her. His eyes were hard but still respectful as he stared at Jacob. The others though, Armstrong, Hudson, and Whitehorse, were staring at her. A mix of emotion on each of their faces. Confusion from Whitehorse, what looked like disgust from Armstrong, and anger from Hudson.

Joseph stood in front of Cat.

“When I originally ordered the capture of them it was to punish them, to punish you.” He said quietly. “But you are my sister now, and it would be cruel of me to keep your friends locked away. I understand if you want to say goodbye and so I had them brought here with their…escorts.”

Cat nodded slowly. She felt Jacob squeeze her shoulder and she melted into his touch. She turned to look at him.

“I-I don’t know if I’ll be able to talk to them.”

“I’ll be right here, unless you want me to go with you.” He whispered, brushing a loose hair from her face.

She took in a deep breath before walking off towards the gate. Her steps were unsteady but she held her head up. She stood far enough away from the gate to keep out of reach – just in case – but close enough to hear them.

It was silent for a while.

“What did you do?” Armstrong gritted through her teeth.

Cat turned to look back at Jacob.

“Hey!” Armstrong called out. “I’m talking to you, don’t look at him.”

Cat flinched and her head turned back.

“I-I-I’m sorry. I shouldn’t-shouldn’t have left like I did.” She twisted the ring around her finger. “But I’m happy here. I-I really am.”

“He kept you in a cage!” Joey cried out. “He tortured you, his brother tortured you. His brother tortured me! We were partners.” She growled out. She was holding her side, obviously still wounded.

“I k-know! It’s different-”

“You betrayed us, Dep. Look at you now.” Armstrong spoke up again. “A Seed.” She practically spat the name out.  

“It doesn’t – It doesn’t have to be like t-this. Just go.” Rook pleaded.

“Tsk.” Armstrong went to help Hudson to the van that was waiting behind them. “After everything you did for us, for the County. You’re just gonna give it up? For them?”

Cat’s shoulders straightened at that. “I did s-so much for all of you. I didn’t ask for a t-thank you. But you wouldn’t have gotten n-nearly as f-far without me. And you know it.” She grit her teeth. She was the backbone of that resistance for a long time. How dare they throw it back at her.

Armstrong just shook her head as she walked to the driver’s seat. Hudson kept her eyes forward as she sat in the back. Whitehorse helped Burke into the back before turning towards Cat. He gave her a small smile. She wasn’t sure if she was happy that he didn’t say anything, or upset. Pratt stood there for a while. His eyes flicked between her and Jacob.

“Y-you’re welcome to stay with us, Staci. I don’t t-think we’d be able to handle all that work without you.” Cat smiled quickly.

“I…” He hesitated.

“Pratt! Let’s go!” Hudson yelled out from the van.

He shrunk into his shoulders, his gaze drawn to the dirt as he walked back to the van. As he got in, he chanced a glance up at Cat and then Jacob again before the van took off, leaving a trail of dirt in the air.

Cat stood there a moment, watching the van as it drove quickly down the dirt path until it was out of sight. She didn’t realize she was shaking until Jacob wrapped his arms around her shoulders, tucking his chin on the top of her head.

“It’ll be okay.” He whispered.

Cat nodded, careful not to bump his chin. “Let’s head back. We’ve got a cake to eat.” She smiled, pushing the negative thoughts away for the time being. It could wait until they were alone.

 

The rest of the party was rather uneventful when compared to the shock of seeing her friends again. Still, Cat wasn’t about to let it get her down. This was a happy day for her, even if her friends didn’t see it that way. She briefly wondered if they’d even be considered her friends anymore.

John had somehow managed to get ahold of the most extravagant cake he could find. It was probably the most expensive thing there next to his custom Eden’s Gate buckle and earrings.

“Ah, Cat.” John sighed dramatically as she sat next to her with a piece of cake. “I still don’t know what you see in my older brother. It’s not too late to change your mind, you know?” He winked slowly, letting her know he was teasing.

Cat laughed, shaking her head as Jacob stole the cake from John’s plate in retaliation.

“Don’t worry, Johnny.” Cat bumped her shoulder with his. “You’ll find someone who can put up with you.”

 

As the party wound down the people there slowly began to trickle out. The Project couldn’t be put on hold for much longer and they still had jobs to do. Eventually all that was left was the Seed family, Cat included. She was currently sitting in Jacob’s lap, soaking up his energy as her social interactions for the day had been drained away. Joseph called for everyone’s attention.

“I heard from the Voice again last night.” He ran the beads of his rosary through his fingers. “The Collapse should be coming any time now. We need to make sure we’re prepared. Now more than ever.”

The four siblings nodded, discussing quietly everything they still had left to do. Cat was currently focusing on her new wedding ring. She still couldn’t believe it had actually happened. She hadn’t even met the man that long ago but, she supposed that when you knew you found the one it was always meant to be. Besides, she thought, if Joseph was right and the world was about to end, well, she at least picked the right man for the apocalypse lifestyle. Jacob then nudged her shoulder a small bit, drawing her attention.

“You ready to go?” He whispered.

Cat nodded, she was eager to get him alone. She felt the urge to scratch at her lust tattoo. They might not have been planning their wedding, but they had certainly been planning their honeymoon. They couldn’t exactly go on a vacation out of the county, but they did have a cabin hidden away in the Whitetails that they could stay at to get away from it all just for a bit.

They said their goodbyes to their family before heading off. Jacob’s truck was already packed with some things they would need so they hopped right in.

“I hope you know that my vows weren’t my only surprise for you.” Cat smirked over at Jacob.

He let his gaze fall away from the road for a moment to follow her hand as it pulled up the edge of her dress. The red garter around her thigh was enough of a hint for Jacob to press the pedal to the floor earning a whoop of laughter from his wife.

Chapter Text

Hey guys! Sorry for there not being a chapter in so long DX

Just wanted to let you guys know I'm not dead and that I haven't forgotten about this fic!

Life has been kicking my butt! I haven't stopped working on the next chapter, it's just going...very slowly and in batches.

HOWEVER, I think all the craziness in my personal life is going to be slowing down soon which means I'll have more time to work on writing <3

 

I'll delete this later and replace it with the next chapter as soon as I can and I appreciate all the comments and kudos I've received <3 they keep me going!

We'll get back to our Honeymoon soon I promise!