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With Dylan, Wade and Jesse's help, Sue Ellen's Exchange was ready by the next Saturday. Tables were set up all around the walls of the empty interior of the courthouse with a few outside on the grass, as well. Skye knew it was going to go well the minute she saw everyone loading up their tables.

It wasn't only people who wanted to trade that showed up. A couple of people used the outside tables to serve grilled hamburgers and deerburgers, while someone else made small fried pies. The savory and sweet smells made her stomach growl, which competed with the sound of a happy fiddle and the people who clapped along to the music.

Skye smiled. While she often wondered how the rest of the world was faring, this community had made real progress. The whole mountain had come together for this, and their happy chatter surrounded her. Holding her plate high, Skye made her way through a group of people and wondered if the disease had really changed this mountain and it's people all that much.

They had fallen in with this idea as if it were the most natural thing in the world. When she questioned Dylan about it, he assured her that Exchange or no, this was the way his people had been for decades, and he had no doubt, would continue to be.

Before living here, Skye knew she would've found it a quaint and out-of-date way of socializing. But now she saw it was a sound way to build relationships, friendships and more.

She turned her head to Dylan when he tapped her arm with a bottle of moonshine. She raised an eyebrow at him before taking a sip.

On top of that, it was fun.

They chatted away about the fun they'd had as they made their way back home that evening. Jesse had met some other boys and wanted to share the events of his day of playing football and makeshift basketball with his new friends.

Wade had over-indulged, just a bit, on both food and drink. His singing competed with Jesse's stories. Every so often, Jesse would send him a sigh and an eye-roll before raising his voice just a little more.

Sue Ellen proudly showed off her music player. It had a number of songs already on it, and she said, Bre was going to download some more from a computer they still owned. It was, as Skye had promised her, been the first exchange the family had made. Skye had allowed Sue Ellen to make the trade herself and knew she must have got a good deal. Sue Ellen had used hardly any of the trade goods they had brought to the exchange.

Dylan threw an arm around Skye. "You didn't want anything for yourself, darlin'?"

Though they had gotten a few items for the house, neither had picked up anything for themselves. Skye's eyes glowed with happiness as she answered him. "No, I have everything I need right here with all of you." She wrapped an arm around Dylan and asked, "What about you?"

"Me. Nah. I don't need nothin'." He slipped a hand under her chin and lifted her lips to his. Giving her a quick kiss, he looked into her eyes. "Except you" is what his gaze said. Skye smiled and ducked her head, laying it for a moment on his arm.

As they walked into the yard, Skye said, "Oh, hang on a minute. I want to get a couple things from the garden for breakfast." She picked up her pace as she made her way to the mini-greenhouses. Lifting the lid, she found the garden empty.

Skye stared at the naked ground for a moment, her fingers to her parted lips. Then she moved to the second greenhouse and lifted its lid. Nothing.

Her eye wide, she turned to Dylan. "Someone took everything from our garden. There's not even a plant left in here." Dylan rush to her side, scanning the ground for any sign of trespassers.

Wade became silent for the first time since they left the gathering. His happy mood instantly turning somber. "What kinda low-down--"

"I took 'em," Sue Ellen said.

They all turned to her in shock. Skye would rather have seen a look of apology on Sue Ellen's face then the sly look she was currently wearing.

"Why, Sue Ellen?" Skye asked.

"For my music player."

"But we had trade goods for that."

Sue Ellen shrugged. "They didn't want them. They wanted vegetables."

Skye stared at the girl, speechless. Sue Ellen either didn't understand what she had done or didn't care.

Dylan started to pace and throw flinty looks at Sue Ellen. "Have ya got no sense, girl?"

"It's okay Dylan. I must not have explained properly. She didn't know."

"Didn't know what? That we need to eat? Ya think she doesn't see us all strugglin' to put food on the table? The girl contributes to nothin', and then, she does this?"

Skye hesitated. "Maybe that's the problem."

Skye pulled Dylan's arm, practically dragging him across the yard. Wade followed. This was something they should talk about as adults. Behind them, they heard Jesse say, "Man, you really screwed up!"

Dylan ran a hand through his hair. He leaned toward Skye as he spoke. Skye knew he was trying to control himself, but this was against everything he held dear, both now and before the AgFlu. He punched his finger toward Sue Ellen. "That girl doesn't know nothin'! All this coddlin', waitin' for her to get used to us and this place, that's done now."

Wade agreed. "She needs to learn the value of somethin', what it takes to survive now."

Skye nodded. 'Okay, so where do you want to start?"

Dylan's tone had been rough at first, but as he saw the others agreeing, he mellowed. "First, she's gonna be findin' some seed to replant your garden. She sure needs to learn that. Doesn't she know ya don't take the plants?"

"I can always use help cleanin' out the gutters," Wade said. "A little hard work will be good for the girl."

"She isn't going to like that." Skye said as she imagined Sue Ellen's reaction.

"I don't like that she gave away my dinner." Dylan crossed his arms until Skye agreed.

Dylan turned to make his way back to the kids, and Skye grabbed his arm. "Dylan, don't yell at her."

"That's up to her."

"Dylan."

"The girl needs some instruction, Skye."

"Yes, but with less volume and force." Skye tipped her head at him, a little smile curving her lips, as she willed him to remember one of their first conversations.

Dylan snorted but agreed.

Instructing Sue Ellen didn't go as well as they hoped. Dylan told her that she could listen to her music player tonight, but then she would turn it over to them. She would have to finish replanting before listening to it again. While Sue Ellen fumed about this, Skye felt it was a nice touch. Then Sue Ellen would have a taste of what she was missing, and perhaps, it would encourage her to work quickly.

It was when Wade told her she would be helping with the gutters that she really got angry. Seeming to feel as though he had betrayed their friendship with what she considered an outrageous demand, she told Wade she wouldn't do it.

Wade told Sue Ellen she was going to help him on the roof tomorrow, if he had to haul her up there over his arm. With that, Sue Ellen stomped off into the cabin.

The three adults looked at each other.

"Wow," Jesse said, "she's gettin' more like grandma every day."

Skye grimaced. She hated to see what tomorrow would bring.


A/N: Thank you so much for continuing to read Sanctuary's Aggression 2! All your votes, comments and adding this book to your reading list means a lot! :) 

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