When to Hold Them...
When to Hold Them… (and When to Fold Them)
Summary: Homer and Tessa's excursion into the big, wide world comes to an abrupt end when they witness a brutal confrontation.
Date: PHD 021
Related Logs: None.

It's early morning - very early, as the sun can barely be considered 'risen' - and seated cross-legged just outside where they set up camp the night before, her hands and face covered in dirt, Tessa is humming quietly to herself. There is a mound of soil disturbed and overturned, and she's sifting through more of it, using a piece of dried wood to dig through the soil. Every now and then, she lifts a handful of dirt and tucks it into a fabric bag beside her. She's been at this for a while, from the looks of it.

It's early and thusly Homer is still asleep, face down in the dirt, no less. The mossy spot he's using as a bed is serving him well. Til he starts trembling in his sleep. It's a whimper, to begin with, which rapidly becomes a groan. And not the good kind. It's not too long before he jolts himself awake, sitting up and peering around blearily.

The sound draws her attention, and Tessa whips her head around to peer at Homer curiously - first when he whimpers, eliciting a vaguely sympathetic little smile from her before she turns away, then again when the whimper becomes a groan. Brushing some hair from her eyes, consequently getting a new streak of dirt across her forehead, Tessa unfolds her legs and turns to face him more properly. "Morning, sunshine," she chirps all too brightly, considering their predicament.

"And reality comes crashing back down around my ears," Homer mutters, offering Tessa a brief smile before levering himself up onto his elbows. "Digging again? Explain to me again exactly why you're collecting the worms?" He also notes, touching a fingertip to his own nose, "You have a little something…" She doesn't. Yet.

Pulling the fabric bag into her lap, Tessa turns her eyes down to it so she can tie it closed. "So I can start a self-sustaining indoor gardening system," she replies in a rather matter-of-fact tone, as if it were plainly obvious all along. "That way I don't have to worry about radiation seeping down into the soil and contaminating the plants." She raises her arm to her face, trying to use the sleeve of her shirt to brush the marks from her face with little success. "And it's easier to keep away from scavenging wildlife. Or people, I guess. If we're worried about that."

Blinking twice, Homer let's his gears turn over on what Tessa's shared. "So, it'll do veggies… that'll be extremely useful." Pause. "How about chamalla?" he asks, grinning widely, anticipating her reaction, and says, "C'mon now. Everybody deserves what happiness they can get these days, right?"

Rolling her eyes at the suggestion, Tessa throws her hands in the air, letting them fall back into her lap with a thud. "If I'm going to grow hallucinogenic plants," she says, brushing her hands down on her pants to free them of some of the dirt, "I'll pick something with actual medical value. Chamalla's useless." After a second, a quirky smile slips onto her face and she says, "But I'll give you a couple worms if you want to try."

Wait for it. Wait for it. YES. Homer pumps his right fist. "Thank you. Suddenly I feel more optimistic about the future." Pushing up slowly to his feet, he stretches. Then he heads over to the nearest tree, unzips with his back facing Tessa and (using one hand to steady himself against said tree) pees. "So. You can't tell me you haven't been enjoying the quiet away from the rest of the looney bin, am I right?"

If this fazes Tessa in the slightest, she doesn't show it. Instead, she turns her back to him and tucks the fabric bag, fashioned from one of her shirts, into the front pocket of her backpack. "I haven't heard a gunshot in a couple days. That's a plus. And no one's lectured me on how I'll have to start eating meat if I want to survive," she says, raising her shoulders in a shrug. "It's nice out here. Quiet, you know? Sometimes I forget… everything."

"Ha. A vegetarian, even." Something about that has Homer chuckling. He ducks his head and goes about his business. "We'll all have to be eventually, I'd imagine. Pretty much every species is an endangered species now. It'll be on us to make sure there's still animals around for when this is all over."

That would be enough to make Tessa gloat, if she happened to be the type. But she isn't the type, opting instead to flash a bright smile in Homer's direction. It fades a moment or two later, however, replaced with a more pensive expression. "I keep hoping it's not as bad as everyone's been saying - that we'll get down to Osprey and find out it's business as usual. I know that's not going to happen. I just like to think it will." Rising to her feet, she stretches her arms up over her head, letting out a yawn. "You make a lot of sound when you're asleep."

"Only when I'm dreaming of beautiful women." It just rolls off his tongue, natural as a dog walking on four legs. Homer zips his pants back up and turns back around, eyeing Tessa. "You know, if you're serious about not eating animals, you might need to talk to some of the others when we meet up with them again… I think I heard that the warrior woman and her folk were gonna be catching them for domestication and, later, devouring." He waits, obviously so, to see her reaction.

Her immediate reaction is a childish one: scrunching her nose and shaking her head as if to free herself from some unpleasant substance. "Right," Tessa says, once she's regained some of her composure. "Slaughtering them. Fantastic. I'll stay away from that part of the camp." With a strangely impish look on her face, she turns her eyes back to Homer. "And if a few animals go missing? I had nothing to do with it."

"Hey, I'll help you," Homer declares with a decidedly crooked smirk. "I mean, we're creating a new society here, right? Best to start off getting all our ducks in a row. I can deal with vegetarianism. I grill a mean forest mushroom sandwich that you wouldn't be able to tell from a hamburger." Moving back over towards their little camping area, he starts to gather up his belongings such as they are.

"Can I make a suggestion?" Hefting her pack up from the ground, Tessa swings it over her shoulder and slips her arms through the straps, settling it against her back. "Stay away from forest mushroom sandwiches for a while. Mushrooms pick up radiation easier than most things." Tipping her head to the side, she adds in a more teasing tone, "Unless you really want that life experience."

"I dunno. Maybe I'd look with no hair, sores and bleeding gums," Homer says, laying the sarcasm thicky in his voice. Tugging on his pack, he pends for the little fanny pack with ammo in it and tugs that on. Last, but not least, he grabs the rifle off the ground, shouldering it. "No mushrooms. Check… I don't. Can we /grow/ forest mushrooms in a basement?"

"Not sure," Tessa replies with an apologetic look, shaking her head. "I mean, I can. I could try. But I would kind of need a mushroom to start with, and the only place to get that is in the forest, where it might be contaminated but we have no idea, so I— " She sucks in a breath and lets it out in rapid succession. "— basically? No, probably not, unless we know for sure they aren't going to poison us." Pausing, she adds, "That's the OTHER reason why we shouldn't domesticate animals. Radiation seeps into the soil and will get into the grass, right? And those animals are going to eat that grass, and then we're going to eat them, and— you see where I'm going? I guess they could dig up the soil deep enough that all the radiation is buried where the grass can't reach it, but…" Pausing for a breath, realizing at once that she's rambling, Tessa feels her face flush with colour. "Risky. Nevermind. Ready to go?"

Off in the distance a soft thudding can be heard. It comes in quick threes and fours. The sound is more felt than heard. But it slowly grows in volume, and its getting closer. Somewhere off in the direction of the 606/214 Intersection.

"So, no meat. No mushrooms. Here's hoping we can at least get some squash." The man just shakes his head and glances towards the highway. It's right about then that the noise is heard and he cocks his head, "You hear that?" Homer looks at Tessa, eyes just a little wide.

"Um." That's Tessa's way of saying yes, she most certainly did hear it. Tugging at the straps of her pack, she looks back to Homer with a frown. "Yeah. I heard it," she adds, instinctively lowering her voice as she turns back in the direction of the sound. "Should we…?"

As the volume grows, it becomes apparent what it is. Everyone's heard it in movies. Automatic weapons fire. The three-round bursts sound heavy, too. Its close enough now that one could almost feel it in their chest. And there's something else with it.. a pair of engines racing.

"Hide. Hide!" Homer growls and starts moving through the forest, closer to the highway so he can SEE whatever it is that's coming. The rifle is unslung from his shoulder and held in his hands while he tries to move stealthily towards the edge of the forest.

Hide. Okay, Tessa can do that. Instantly, she moves in the direction opposite to the one Homer took - straight for a nearby tree with a wide trunk. She circles around to the back, hopefully out of sight from the road, and drops down behind the trunk with her eyes closed. "Why does it have to be guns?" she murmurs to herself, slanting her head back against the trunk, waiting for the inevitable bellow of pain from Oh-So-Fierce Homer.

The engines roar past, just out of vision. The gunfire quickens its pace as the vehicles approach the intersection. One of the vehicles can be heard to downshift. Then there's the sound of a scream between the gun fire, a woman's, followed by the hollar of tires losing grip on pavement. For a brief second the skidding tires vanish to be replaced by the other vehicle's. Then there's a horrendous crash - once, twice, three times. Everything falls deathly silent at the intersection.

Moving back into the woods, Homer calls out, "Tess!" in a breathy whispered yell. More follows as he gets closer to where he left her. "Might have some casualties. Tess?" He hasn't spotted her behind the tree just yet. "We need to check it out, but you've got to be ready to run."

Clamping a (dirty) hand over her mouth at the sound of the crash, Tessa closes her eyes tighter for a few seconds, just until she hears Homer call her name. She scrambles to her feet, peering around the trunk as she listens for any more gunfire. "Okay," she accedes with a curt nod, coming out from behind the tree to meet up with him, testing the weight of her pack. "Alright. Let's go." Her voice is a little shaky, but to her credit, she's already creeping in the direction of the intersection, careful not to keep her eyes in any one place too long.

Homer moves with Tessa towards the intersection, keeping himself in front. He picks and chooses where he steps carefully. Dry, brittle foilage? No. He sticks to the greenery. Before they get close, he checks the bolt action on his rifle and brings it up to his shoulder. Under his breath, he says, "This is going to be messy. They were going real fast."

"It's usually messy," Tessa replies, flicking a glance in Homer's direction briefly before looking back to the road. "If it wasn't for the whole shooting-at-will thing, this would almost be like a regular day for me." She keeps her thumbs jammed into the straps of her pack, ready to slip it off her shoulders and drop it if she needs to run somewhere fast. "When we get there, do what I say. Don't… don't move anyone, alright? Just check if they're breathing or bleeding."

Out in the middle of the median is a blue pickup truck. Its obviously rolled a few times. There's camping supplies and dry goods strewn across the pavement. But even more prominent is the still-upright rattlecanned black pickup truck and the occupants. There's a guy standing behind the cab with a belt-fed machinegun, aiming it at the cab of the overturned truck. Meanwhile there are half a dozen guys with military grade rifles scrambling to pick up the scattered supplies. A few are standing near the cab of the overturned truck, shouting something indiscernable. Somewhere over there, a baby cries.

Before they clear the forest that is their primary cover, Homer draws short and drops slowly, tucking himself behind a tree. The look he gives Tessa indicates she should do the same. The look also communicates one other thing. It's in his eyes: rage. The boy is angry and his jaw is set, much the way it was when the hillbillies came out of the forest at them not that many days ago.

Ultimately, it's the baby crying that gets to Tessa. Maybe it's a female thing - maternal instinct and the like. She freezes when instructed to do so and drops behind a tree, but she's still craning her neck to see around the trunk, scanning the scene as best she can for that baby. Not that she really can see much of anything, given that she's behind a tree. She flashes a glance over to Homer, her frown ever-present and much more profound this time. 'What now?' she mouths, as exaggerated as she can so that he might actually understand what she's trying to say.

There's more movement from the front of the overturned truck. A couple guys move to each side. Slowly, a man and woman appear. Both are bleeding from the head and the man's arm is twisted at a painful angle. But sometimes people don't know when to quit. The injured man reaches behind his back and wheels on one of the gunman with a small pistol. Before he can even fire the fleeing driver is cut down in a hail of gunfire. His female passenger screams and falls to the ground. There's another flurry of movement and someone calls out "Get her ass in the truck and lets get out of here!" The stores strewn on the road are already loaded. The baby wails on.

The tenseness in Homer's jaw doesn't go away. The sound of gunfire and the woman screaming has him nearly coming out from behind his tree. It takes a tremendous force of will for the young man to stay put, the fingers wrapped around his rifle are wound so tightly they're white. For all his fury, though, he stays behind his tree.

Flinching at the scream from the woman, Tessa presses herself against the tree as if it might make her more invisible, her eyes closing once more. She desperately wants to look, but at the same time, she doesn't want to imagine what she might see if she were to peer out from behind her hiding place. She looks sidelong to Homer, taking her lead from him. Not hard to convince her to stay put.

The woman is grabbed by her hair and pulled towards the waiting truck while the man with the belt-fed machinegun laughs. "C'mon Tony! No tellin' how long 'fore we see more of them bats again." He looks to the sky for a moment before his gaze falls back to the truck. The rest of the men pile into the bed of teh truck while the woman is shoved into the cab. She screams over and over about her baby but the men pay her no notice. The woman does he best to claw at the driver of the truck be she gets blindsided by a hard punch from the passenger getting in after her. She slumps to the side and falls quiet. As soon as the door is shut, the tires squeel and the truck speeds off, heading out Highway 214 to the West with a quickly-building haste.

Letting out a shaky breath, Homer doesn't stand up again and move out from behind the tree until the truck sounds good and far away. He stares after the vehicle almost a full minute. Finally, he starts crab walking, low to the ground, towards the blue truck. He calls, "Anyone alive in there?"

It's only when Homer starts to move that Tessa feels safe enough to leave her hiding place. Her thumbs still jammed into the straps of her pack, she appears from behind the trunk and starts to branch off from where Homer has gone. She doesn't stray too far, but she does start to circle around to the opposite side. While he's calling out, however, she's listening attentively for the sound of the crying baby to try and pinpoint where it's coming from. And, you know, any signs that people with guns might be heading back.

The only sound from the truck is the sound of the baby's crying. Outside it, next to the driver's side door is the dying form of the young man. Getting closer, he can't be much older than nineteen or twenty. A handsome man with a wedding band on his finger. He's taking a few last gasps of breath as he looks towards the approaching Homer and Tessa. He's riddled with holes across the chest and stomach. But the breathing stops as his hand falls limp, trying to reach for the truck's door. The truck itself is poked full of bullet holes.

Homer pauses when he spots the man, the one not that much younger than himself. As the man expires, he mumbles something under his breath and touches the little pendant he has around his neck. "Tess, find the baby. We're exposed here and we need to move."

"Got it." This is where Tess simultaneously curses beneath her breath and springs into action. When it becomes apparent that the baby is inside the car, she drops the pack from her shoulders and lowers herself to the ground, looking through the open passenger-side door into the overturned truck. Shimmying forward on her elbows, she creeps into the cab of the truck, looking for the sound of the crying and keeping attentive in case the supports should give out and let the truck collapse on top of her. Which she really hopes doesn't happen.

The baby is hanging upside down in a safety seat, strapped securely in. The back of the rear-facing seat looks to have taken some damage, too, but the baby otherwise looks okay at first blush. There's a small bag of spilled diapers laying across the roof, too. High overhead, the sound of engines can be heard approaching. Multiples.

"… I've got a really bad feeling about this." Homer stands 'guard' with his rifle while Tessa ventures into the truck. Bending down, he closes the dead man's eyes and then says, "There's an old saying where I'm from…" That's about when the sound of engines starts to fill the air. "You've got to know when to hold them. Know when to fold them. Know when to walk away and know when to run." Pause. "I think we're on that last one. Let's go!"

It's difficult to hear the sound of the engines from inside the cab. Or Homer, for that matter. There are some words, but they're distant. All Tessa can really hear is the baby - and that's where her attention goes, once she spots the child. "Found her!" Him. It. Whatever the baby might be. Flipping onto her back, she works to detach the straps holding the baby in while supporting the child with the opposite hand, so that once she's free, she won't just fall freely. It's Homer's warning that has her removing the child before doing a proper examination; life or death, right?

High overhead a pair of dark shapes pass through the clouds in the distance, their angular shapes framed crisply against the blue sky. Contrails stretch out like fluffy fingers as if pointing to their location. They arc quickly across the sky, apparently ignoring the overturned truck and head West in the direction the truck disappeared in. Meanwhile the baby wails and fights against the rescuing Tessa. It squirms horribly, trying to get loose but to no avail.

"Better pray they didn't see us," Homer mutters and runs a hand through his hair, glancing down at Tessa. "I think we're okay for the moment." There's a bitter smile on his face and he points up at the sky where the ships above are flying. "I think they're headed after the frakholes in the truck."

Cradling the newly freed baby to her chest with one arm, Tessa starts to slide backwards out of the cab of the truck. She's being particularly careful not to jostle the infant too much, lest she be injured, but her grip is tight enough that the squirming should ideally not be a concern. Her own hands and legs are no doubt going to be scratched and bloodied up from crawling around in the wreckage like this. Only once she's out of the cab will she start to push back up to her feet.

The sound of the Raiders fades away, the contrails floating across the sky with the high-altitude winds. The baby continues wailing. The whole intersection falls eerily quiet over the found bodies around the truck.

Not a complete knave, Homer does bend down to offer Tessa a hand to her feet again. "It's come down to this then. Killing ourselves off for what… food? Sex?" His bitter smile turns grim. "We're headed back to the Lodge. If we keep going towards Osprey, I'm liable to end up dead and you're liable to end up someone's bitch."

"Hang on." Ducking back down, Tessa leans into the cab to scrabble for the bag she saw inside, still holding the child with the other arm. "Come on, come on." Biting her lip, her finger snags on the bag of diapers and she pulls it out from the cab slowly, so as not to lose any if she can avoid it. "You said they, before." As she looks back up to Homer, rising to her feet now for the second (and final) time, she frowns once more. Above the sound of the crying baby, she asks, "Who's headed after who?"

"Into the forest," Homer says firmly, gripping the woman's shoulder tightly and then moving past her towards the forest himself. "Frakking ships I've never seen before. They weren't Vipers… Didn't look like the Cylon ships from the history vids. Could be anything at this point. But whatever it is, we need to get the hell back to the Lodge."

Hurrying after Homer with one last look behind her, Tessa calls, "Can you grab my pack? I can't— I don't have enough hands." And just like that, she can sympathize with how her father must have felt for… the last two decades. "We need to find somewhere to stop first so I can look the baby over. Might be that the crying is because she's hurt. Could be nothing."

"I'll get it." Bending down, Homer grabs said pack on the way back off the road and into the woods. Thankfully, he's somewhat sturdy. "Into the woods. Far enough that it can't be heard from the road, then we'll stop."

"Roger dodger." Tessa follows after Homer, particularly careful with her footing now that she's carrying the infant. She's quiet as she walks, aside from the occasional soft words she says to the baby to try and reassure it. Which is absurd, since it's an infant and likely has no idea what she's saying. Only when the crying has finally gotten to be too much - which is after several minutes of walking, to be fair - does Tessa throw her head back and say, "I can't take it. This has to be far enough."

Homer looks like, perhaps, he might disagree with Tessa, jawline tight. But the second his eyes hit her and the baby he just nods and tiredly sits down himself, all that adrenaline finally draining out and leaving him shaky. "That was a nightmare. Of epic proportions."

Pulling off her topmost shirt - don't worry, she has another one on underneath - Tessa lays it down on the ground in front of her. "I think that might be an understatement," she says quietly, gently moving the infant from her lap to the shirt laid on the ground. From here, she can set about examining the child for any obvious signs of injury. And change her diaper. "At least we know that there are people out there with machine guns, right? And you saw those ships. That's something." Glancing sidelong to Homer, she asks, "Any good at drawing?"

"Stick figures," Homer answers, giving his head a shake. "I remember them well enough. Looked kind of crescent shaped. Vipers are more pointy. Kind of like giant flying penises with wings." Pause. "Kind of like every Viper jock that's ever existed." Zing! Though, he's wearing a very sober expression. "That woman they took off with. The baby's mom. She's as good as dead."

"She might not be," Tessa argues, shaking her head as she returns her attention to the baby before her. It isn't much liking being examined in this manner. "If we get back to the lodge, maybe we can get a group together to go after her. We don't know where they went, but we know what way they were headed, and… and they might have other people, too. We have to find her. The baby's not that old, Homer. She needs her mother."

"They were going to rape her." Homer states this bluntly, burrowing into Tessa's head with his eyes. "Those ships I saw went in the same direction them… Either she's been enslaved or blown up from above. She's as good as dead." He lowers his eyes to the ground and says, "Those weapons of theirs. Those were military."

Without looking up from her task, Tessa again shakes her head in stubborn argument. "You don't know that the ships were hostile. I… maybe they were some new tech we've never seen. Maybe it's help. They could be saving her right now." Even she knows, as the words are coming out of her mouth, just how unlikely this is. Falling silent now, Tessa fishes a tattered stuffed bear from the bag she took from the car, handing it to the baby while she redresses her. Several sniffles later, she says, "The baby's fine, from what I can tell."

"I didn't mean it as harshly as that. I just…" Homer swallows hard, pausing a moment before speaking, "I couldn't do anything to help her parents. All we can do to help them is take care of her." He let's his eyes close briefly before glancing skyward. "If we hadn't been here, she'd have died alone on the side of the highway."

Wrapping the baby up in the shirt, Tessa manages a smile at Homer's latter remark. "You're right," she says quietly, lifting the baby from the ground to set her against her shoulder as she rises to her feet. "I just think we shouldn't be so quick to assume people are dead." With the baby rapidly calming down, the tears and wailing stopped, Tessa looks back to Homer. "There we go. Ready to get going."

"Assumptions have nothing to do with it. I'm going by the odds. How do you think I made a living before all this went down?" Homer eyes Tessa as she rises with the child and steps closer, presumably to have a look for himself. "I think it's safe to assume that not everybody left on Scorpia is a kind and honorable sort… If whatever that ship was doesn't kill those bastards, I'll do the deed myself." Pause. "Y'know, when I have a big gun too. And like… four or five more people with me who actually might shoot a gun." There's a teasing grin.

"If you're expecting me to apologize," Tessa says stubbornly, lifting her head with a self-assured expression, "you'll be disappointed." She too is teasing, however. "I'd be lying if I said I was okay with anyone wanting to kill anyone else. I save lives. I don't stop to think about if I think they're worth saving, because that's not my decision to make. But I'm also not going to stop you from doing what you think you need to do." More careful now with her step than she was before, Tessa holds the child tightly. "You think they'll be happy to see us?"

"As long as you don't expect me to apologize for taking all those men's lives when the time comes," Homer states pleasantly, grin intensifying. Almost crazily, really. Turning away, he starts walking, generally in a northern direction. "I doubt it. In fact, Angelica is likely to keep us away at gunpoint. Harkins will let us back in though."

"Guess we'll just have to make sure we run into him first, huh?" That one isn't a joke. Tessa falls silent, considering his words with a lingering frown. She's following his directional lead without question, spending more time watching the ground than she otherwise would. "At least they'll know about the ships before they go off on their own salvage. And hey!" Looking to Homer with a smile that is all to bright, she says, "You didn't get shot, fall into a ravine, or eat anything poisonous. Next time you won't even need me to tag along."

"What, you aren't scared of going out again, are you?" Homer fires back as he picks a path through the forest. "Just step where I step." Reaching into his pocket, he tugs out a cigarette (regular old cigarette, even) and lights it. "I imagine the baby will help our case."

In a moment of honesty, Tessa hunches her shoulders and admits quietly, "Um… yeah, a little." After a few steps in silence, she amends her previous statement. "A lot. I'm a lot scared of going out again." She says nothing when he pulls out the cigarette, though she does make a face behind his back to suggest she disapproves. "I don't know if I like the baby being around so many people who carry weapons. I— I mean, I don't have a right to say who's going to take care of her, I just… I don't like it."

Homer sucks on the cigarette and puffs it out, smirking knowingly. Maybe he realizes just how much Tessa doesn't like it. "I think none of us have a choice. If you want to live a long life, pop out a bunch of babies and keep the human race alive, we're going to have to take measures to protect ourselves… now, if you'd rather just sit in the forest and sing songs around a campfire until the last of us our found by the Cylons and exterminated… well, I guess you're entitled to that."

Letting out a huff of disapproval, Tessa carries on, resisting the urge to roll her eyes at Homer's back. "We still don't know it was them," she notes in her very best optimistic tone, clinging to some futile hope that it might have been … humans? That's better? "I know we have to protect ourselves. I get it. I'm not… I'm not stupid, Homer. I just wish it hadn't come to that, you know? I like to think people are better than the ones we saw back there."

"Most of us are. It's just that most of us also got wiped out with the big cities. We're not the majority anymore." Homer glances over his shoulder at Tessa, cigarette dangling from his lips and sighs. "Look, I wish the world was rainbows and unicorns, too. Unfortunately, it's more hobgoblins and dragons."

"Oh well," Tessa says with an exaggerated sigh, shrugging her shoulders. "As long as there's still one rainbow in my future, it isn't all bad. Maybe that's what we'll call you until we find your mama." Using her free hand, she taps the baby on the nose lightly. "Rainbow. How would you like that?" Suppressing a mischievous snicker, she looks to Homer expectantly.

"I'd prefer Unicorn," Homer states dryly. "I'm not saying it's going to be crazy fun times all the time, but there will be fun times. How about this: when we get back, we can start up a wood fire and sing a camp song. Just for you."

"I've been thinking," Tessa begins, her tone shifting to a more sober one than before. "You saw ships, right? And you think they might be hostile. I know the lodge is pretty tucked away and everything, but shouldn't we maybe keep the obvious signs of life to a minimum if there are ships flying around above us looking for survivors to hunt down? I mean, unless we want to light a beacon for them to follow…"

"Spoilsport." The man lets three footfalls follow before finishing with, "Smart, though. Our chances increase the less attention we draw to ourselves." Homer stops to lift a branch a little higher so Tessa doesn't have to duck. "We could light a candle and sing your song, though."

Flashing him a grin, Tessa passes beneath the branch easily, though she still ducks her head a tiny bit out of instinct. "I can live with a candle," she replies with a definitive nod. "I don't really know very many camp songs, though. But I think I know a couple." Adopting a faintly sheepish look, she glances to Homer before continuing. "Maybe I'll learn how to play Triad. Since… there's no good place to play Pyramid around the lodge, I think I need a new hobby."

"I know a little bit about Triad." Heh. Heh. Heh. "I could teach you." Homer let's the branch down and then resumes leading the way. "I'm starting to rethink this needing to branch out thing. I mean. Yes, creepy weirdos come out of the forest and try to take our stuff, but… there were only three of them. And it's the middle of a forest, so it's not like they can just drive up.

"Well…" It's clear that Tessa is conflicted about this, as she's at a loss of words, at first. "I don't know anything about this stuff. I came with you because I wanted to make sure you didn't get killed. I'd go with you again for the same reason." She's quiet for all of five steps, then she starts speaking animatedly once more. "I just think maybe you were onto something. It's not like you can see very far from the lodge, right? You have no idea if anyone is coming until they're pretty much at your door. But see, on our way down, I saw a handful of places where we could see the approach. Maybe see if anyone was coming, you know? Or if anyone else is camping in the woods, to know if there's other survivors out there, or… or maybe I just think too much."

"No. It'd be a good idea to set someone up on the hills. … Maybe Harkins has a flare gun." Homer finishes off his cigarette then and holds it to let it burn out, rather than drop it on the tinder that is the dry forest floor. "Always wanted an interesting life. Looks like the gods have a sense of humor."

Well, that certainly gives her pause. Tessa doesn't quite know what to say in response to his remark, staring at the back of his head with a sad expression for a few seconds. Drawing in a deep breath, she shakes her head and says in a quiet voice, "I liked my life just fine. It was plenty interesting."

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