You woke up to one hell of a headache and a deep pain in your ribs. Your hand instinctively lifted your shirt to inspect them. You weren't surprised when you saw the dark bruises covering half of your side. You inspected the other side but noticed it was untouched. Your vision was still relatively blurry out of one eye. After feeling around, you determined it was swollen as well as the side of your face and down your jaw.
Panic set in and you looked around, taking in your surroundings. You were in a large metal cell with thick bars replacing one wall. There were no windows or furniture of any sort other than a single mattress thrown in the corner. You immediately ran for the door, pushing through the shooting pain and frantically fighting against the bars in vain.
"Sit the fuck back or I'll lay the boots to you again. Understand?" You recognized him instantly as what the locals called a "Peggie". They weren't hard to pick out for the most part. Rage seeped into your veins when you realized your beating had come from his hands. You pushed yourself further into the bars and spit in his face.
"You little bitch," he screamed while he wiped the spit from his cheek. Immediately, he was unlocking your cell and grabbing you by the wrist. You reached out and gave him one hell of a crack to the jaw before he threw you down and kicked you again in your injured ribcage. You immediately curled into yourself, trying to shield yourself from the majority of the damage.
After a few minutes, he must have decided you'd had enough and with one last kick to the thigh, he spit back at you and walked out, leaving you locked inside your cage. When he had finally left the room, you allowed the tears you had pent up to flow down your swollen cheeks. You gave yourself a minute to cry before composing yourself and started brainstorming how you would get yourself out of there.
"Where am I?" you asked him. The Peggie had come back awhile later. You assumed he was in charge of guarding you because he did nothing else bit sit around and stare at you menacingly.
"That's none of your concern."
You thought that over for a minute and studied his attire. Most of Jacob's guys wore the usual long hunter's jackets and masks so you were almost certain you weren't in the Whitetail Mountains anymore. You didn't remember crossing the Henbane so... you must be back in the Valley. A sense of relief washed over you. Once John realized you were here, he would clear this up.
"When will I find out?"
"Again.. not your business," he spat. "You'll find out soon enough."
You obviously had to change your tactics with this idiot. "John won't be happy when he knows what you did to me."
He snorted at that. "Little girl, after he's done with you, you'll be praying for my company instead."
That confirmed your suspicions: he was one of John's followers.
"Please tell John his flying buddy is here and see if he can find some time to visit me," you said smugly as you smiled innocently up at the Peggie. He blinked at you but then turned with a growl and huffed down the hall. A couple of minutes later, you heard him on the radio. His voice was low so you couldn't hear the entire conversation but you did pick up on him repeating your words from earlier.
You heard him walk back hurriedly to your cell before informing you that John was on his way and that you better keep your "fucking mouth shut". You rolled your eyes at that, only to have him throw his radio across the room and curse under his breath. It paid to have friends in high places, you thought to yourself.
Roughly an hour had passed, you estimated. You remained seated on the floor after noticing the dried blood covering the mattress in your cell. It hurt to breath but you did your best to let out long exhales and try to calm yourself. You kept reassuring yourself that once John arrived, everything would be fine. Still, you grew more impatient by the moment.
When you heard John's voice from down the hall, you wanted to jump up and run to the door but you knew your ribs wouldn't allow you to now that the adrenaline had worn off. You chose to remain in your spot on the floor.
The footsteps quickened down the hall and John turned the corner, two guards following closely behind him. When he saw the state you were in, he gave them a nod towards the Peggie who had given you the beating and they immediately grabbed either of his arms before dragging him down the hall. He screamed for John to give him mercy the entire way.
John opened the cell quickly with a key he fished out of his pocket and knelt down in front of you. He gently put his hand under your chin, turning you face to one side and then the other. He glanced down your body before bringing his eyes back to yours.
"Anywhere else?" he asked quietly.
He pulled up your shirt without asking and ran a gentle hand down your side. The feeling of his skin sent a brief shiver through you. He smiled briefly when he noticed, before his face fell again.
"My brother's been looking everywhere for you."
"How long have I been here?" you asked as you took your shirt out of his hands and let the hem fall back down.
"Apparently they brought you in last night. The bliss bullet they used knocked you out for awhile... It's nearly night time again."
You thought about Jacob and the panic he must be in after you disappeared. He would have sent his hunters out, if not going himself but the trail would have gone cold after you were picked up.
"Can you please radio Jacob for me?"
"He's already been told. I imagine he'll be tearing through here at any..."
"Move the fuck out of my way," you heard Jacob's voice boom from down the hall. Speak of the devil. You knew you should feel relief at knowing he was here but a part of you was ashamed at how you acted and worried at what he would say. You listened while his footsteps made their way down the corridor and he finally came into eyesight. He didn't stop to assess the room before running over to you, nearly knocking John off his knees.
Jacob reached down for your face and laid a palm over your bruises. His face was full of worry.
"Jake, I'm so sorry."
He laid his thumb over your lips before you could say anything else. He turned to John and asked where the person was who did this to you.
"He'll be taken care of," John replied. Jacob nodded. "I'll take her back with me to the Ranch. With her ribs in that condition, a long car ride probably isn't the best thing for her right now."
"No. You won't." Jacob said. He kept his eyes on yours the entire time. "I'm taking you home."
You weren't sure if it was an order or a question but you didn't care. You nodded up at him. You wanted nothing more than to be back to the place you ran from.
He stood and thanked John before scooping you up gingerly in his arms, taking care to not put too much pressure on your side. You mind raced back to the first time he carried you. He hadn't been so gentle then.
The halls seemed to go on forever while Jacob carried you through the bunker. Peggies were everywhere and everytime you passed one, they stopped to stare at the sight of you. Jacob kept his eyes forward, not paying attention to any of them.
After a few flights of stairs, you finally made your way outside and to Jacob's truck. He helped lower you down into your seat as you bit the inside of your cheek at the pain shooting up your side. He stopped with his hand on the door before closing it and looked you over.
"What is it?" you finally asked.
"Nothing," he answered before closing the door and taking his place next to you.
It was a long drive back, especially since Jacob took his time and tried to avoid every bump and pot hole. The silence between you was driving you insane but it also helped lull you to sleep. You felt so exhausted and your body gave in quickly.
When you woke up, you were laying in bed with a blanket loosely wrapped around you. The room was dark but you could see Jacob's outline at the foot of the bed. He sat quietly, stroking your leg.
"Lay with me?" you asked him. You were tired, sore and absolutely starving but all you wanted was to make things right between you two again.
He moved under the blanket with you and let you come to him on your own. You curled up against his chest and let him bring a hand to your shoulder as he continued to touch you.
"I won't force you to stay," he said after a few minutes.
"I know what you were trying to do. And I always love having you here to protect me... but, I just can't stay cooped up whenever you're not around," you tried to explain again. You felt him nod against the top of your head but he didn't say anything.
You tried to push yourself up so you could look at him through the shadows of the room but he pushed your head lightly back to his chest.
"Joseph thinks something big is going to happen soon. Things are getting worse by the day. I... I just want you to be safe."
"I know. I'm sorry I ran off. I guess this kind of proves I can't be off on my own, huh?"
Jacob laughed. "Just a little."
You both laid in silence for awhile, your head still on his chest and his hand stroking your hair and then your back. Every once in awhile, he would kiss the top of your head. You were so relaxed that you felt yourself start to drift off to sleep again.
When you woke up the next morning, Jacob was already gone. You hoped he would stick around, especially after not seeing him for so long but you knew things were worse for him now more than ever. You debated whether to go back to sleep but when you looked at the clock and noticed it was already close to 10:00, you decided you better get up.
Pushing yourself out of bed was a chore but after a couple tries, you managed to stand and get yourself to the bathroom. On the way back, you stopped when you noticed Jacob walking back to your room with a tray in hand. Your stomach growled in response.
"I hope that's for me!" you hollered down to him. He nodded and quickened his pace until he was in front of you.
"Let's get you back to bed. Here, just a minute." He left you in the hall briefly while he placed the tray on the bed side table. By the time he came back to help you, you were already halfway to the bed.
"Stubborn," he muttered as he helped you back into bed. He sat next to you and grabbed for the tray.
"We're back to oatmeal again?" You asked as you stared down at the bowl of pale slop. He had at least brought you up some fruit with it. Jacob scrunched up his face in an apology.
You devoured the whole bowl and all the fruit as well as two big glasses of water. After breakfast, Jacob helped you into the tub but refused to join you as much as you pleaded with him. He wanted you to rest up.
After a nice warm bath, he left you alone to nap. And that was pretty much your schedule for the next little while. Jacob spent a lot more time with you, making sure you were fed and getting lots of sleep. At night, he kept you in his arms while he slept; something he had never done before.
Roughly a week later, the swelling and bruising had gone away and your ribs only really hurt when you moved a certain way. Jacob explained they mustn't be broken and you should be back to normal soon.
"I'm going to go back to helping with meals again," you informed him early one morning. Jacob was going to ask if you needed some extra time but knew better than to argue with you.
The radio let out a low buzz suddenly and a familiar voice came over the channel.
"Jacob?" It was John. Jacob picked up the radio and replied quickly, asking if everything was okay.
"Yes, yes... Everything is good. Just checking up on our patient."
"She's feeling better apparently. I'm getting some of the usual sass mouth." he explained while he flashed you a quick smile.
"Good, I was speaking with Joseph and he wants..." he paused. "Are you alone?"
Jacob held a finger out to you quickly as he exited the room and closed the door behind him. You wondered what all the secret squirrel stuff was about.
A minute later, Jacob returned with a serious expression on his face. It sent a wave of panic through you.
"What is it?" you asked.
"Arrangements have been made," he informed you. "We'll be doing your atonement this evening."