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The next morning Wade stumbled to the door as someone pounded against it. It had been a long night for him by the time he'd gotten the kids back to the cabin and all tucked away. His worry over Dylan hadn't helped him sleep. Sure, Wade thought, it seemed like everything was okay, but until Dylan is up walking and talking normally it isn't likely I'll be getting a good night's sleep.

Now here on the one day, as long as he could remember, that he slept in and someone needed something. And apparently fairly badly considering the racket they were making. Wade quickly pulled open the door as he yawned and scratched his butt cheek.

Curt stood at the door clenching his rifle. His dark eyes darted around the yard as he spoke. "Hey Wade, we got us a problem. Tom's at my place. Tricia was out in the far field at daybreak this morning lookin' for... I don't know, something. Anyway, there's some sick down there just wanderin' around. That is entirely too close to this settlement for my taste." Curt looked Wade over for the first time. No shirt and messed hair told him that he had woke Wade. "Oh man, I'm sorry. I forgot that you were up most of the night."

"No. No, it's fine." Curt had five children with a sixth on the way. Wade could imagine that one of the Sick anywhere on this mountain would be too close for comfort. Wade crossed his arms. "If there's trouble, you're not gonna leave me out. Give me a minute to get dressed, and I'll walk over with ya."

Curt gave one quick nod. "Sure thing." He squinted his eyes as he looked into the darkened living room. Jesse stood at the railing of the loft that served as his bedroom. "Hey, Jesse."

"Hey, Curt."

Jesse hurried down the steps and followed Wade to his room, standing in his doorway. "I wanna go with ya."

"I don't think that's a good idea, kid. Dylan and Skye would have my hide for takin' ya out there with it bein' a discussion first."

"We don't need a discussion. I can help. Ya know I can."

Wade pulled a shirt over his head. "I know that's true. And I know the times comin' where you'll be at our side, but I don't see that bein' today." When Jesse started to argue, Wade put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm proud, real proud, at how well you've come along. I know I ain't said that, but it's the way I feel. Last night— everything with Dylan—well, I was thinkin', there's things I need to say and that's one of them. You're a great kid—just great."

Wade teared up a bit and scrubbed at his face. "See this is why I don't talk like this. It makes me blubber like a tiny baby."

Jesse laughed and hugged him. "Skye says it's good for us, even if we don't think it is. You're a great uncle. When things were bad, I used to dream up what kind of family I'd want, and you're exactly what I thought of."

For a moment, Wade's face crumbled. He opened his mouth to speak but couldn't. The boy had completely undone him. He turned away and cleared his throat several times before turning back to Jesse. "Okay enough of that kind of talk."

Jesse nodded and patted Wade on the arm.

"Look, boy, with Dylan down and Skye with him, it leaves Sue Ellen by herself." Wade lowered his voice and whispered in case she could hear. "She ain't good at fightin' or nothin'. Ya need to keep an eye on her. I ain't sayin' this 'cause she's a, you know, girl, ya know it's true."

Jesse did. They were trying to teach her self-defense but she just couldn't get the hang of it. If the Sick somehow made their way up here, she'd be defenseless. "Ok, sure. I know you're right. But—"

"Yeah, I know. We'll put it on your ma's infernal discussion list, but don't be surprised if your mom hits the roof with what you're wantin' to do."

Jesse grunted. Hitting the roof would be a mild reaction to what he was expecting. But he wasn't a little kid anymore. He could handle more than a weapon or two and it was his responsibility to defend his home just like the rest of the men.

Wade pulled his rifle onto his shoulder and picked up his bow. "What ya can do is get your sister tucked up safe in here and make sure the immediate neighbors know the situation. Have one of them tell the next bunch. Then come back here. Okay?"

The boy nodded. He knew the drill. A communication relay had been set up so that anytime something happened the word could quickly go through the community. So far it had been used for news about the farmer's market, a lost cow, and a pregnancy announcement. "I can do that."

"Good boy. I know I'm leavin' everything in good hands." Wade smiled at Jesse, thumped him on the back and headed out the door with Curt.

If Wade couldn't have his brother, he was happy to have Curt by his side for this adventure. Curt was a good man, ready to fight to the death the save his family and friends. He'd already proved that more than once most notably at the Walmart when they were attacked by Gregory and his men. He'd taken a bullet there as he'd defended all of them.

As the woods thinned and they entered the cabin area, Wade looked from the group of men milling around in front of Aaron's cabin to the Doc's house. "Hey Curt, I think I'm gonna see D for a minute."

Curt nodded and continued as Wade took the stairs up the Doc's porch. Bre opened the door to him and pointed him down the hallway to his brother.

Wade turned the open doorway to Dylan's room. He'd tried to prepare himself but it hadn't worked. He felt sick to his stomach seeing his brother like this. They were both so strong they could usually do just about anything they set their minds to do. To see Dylan there, eyes closed, skin so pale, made Wade's insides feel like jelly. It reminded him of how easily things could go wrong in this life. He didn't like it.

His feet scruffed across the linoleum floor as he slowly made his way to Dylan's side. He stared at him as he rolled his tight shoulders before he looked up at Skye. She looked tired, real tired. "How'd he do?"

She blew out a breath. "He slept but not well. He would only eat a few bites this morning. But the doc says it's to be expected. So I guess he's doing well."

Wade grimaced. "I'm trying real hard not to be angry at the hunter that was out there bein' so irresponsible."

"No one has stepped forward yet?"

"Nope. The longer it takes the more bitter I'm gettin'."

Skye nodded then tightened her grip on Dylan's hand. If Dylan was right and someone was deliberately shooting at them, no one may ever come forward. They may need to be hunted down.

Wade changed the subject. There was nothing he could do about all that right now. "So ya know what's going on out there?"

"Yes, I heard."

"I have the kids hunkered down in the cabin. Just in case. If ya end up wanting them here, I'm sure someone will be willing to go get them. I wasn't sure—" Wade stopped and frowned. He was never sure what was the 'proper' way to do something in a given situation, and Skye always seemed as if she liked proper.

Skye saw his uncertainty. "That's fine, Wade. I always know they're in good hands with you."

Wade shuffled his feet and reddened a little bit. "Well, that's just fine then." He coughed. "I better get goin'. Tell him—tell him I was here when he wakes up."

"I will. You, all of you, be careful. We don't need anything else going wrong."


A/N: If you see any typos feel free to let me know, if you'd like to. I run Grammarly and listen to it on a voiceover but things can still get through. Thanks so much for reading and voting! I really appreciate it!

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