"Mhm," Jay said, coming up beside her. He put his hand under the barrel, making sure she was holding it steady and straight. He observed how it was against her shoulder and he noticed she wasn't holding it flush against her. "It's gonna have a hell of a lot more kickback than a pistol. And to counteract that you need to make sure you're standing firm and have the butt of the rifle in the crook of your shoulder. Like you ain't gonna let it go nowhere."
He moved behind her and took her shoulder, pulling it back a little. Then he pulled the rifle against her so the recoil wouldn't surprise her as much.
"Now line up your sights," he said, pointing down the barrel.
She was so close. His heart was pounding and he wasn't sure what to do. But he couldn't let her know. So he continued to coach her like he would anyone else. Her stance was off. She needed to be at an angle. "Like this," he said low, unaware he was right in her ear. He moved her hips slightly. "This leg back a little," he said, patting the one he meant.
Aurora followed every single instruction she was given while they were out hunting. Jay was really knowledgeable and he was a good teacher and she picked up some things quite easily but other things were quite difficult and she knew it would take them a few times before she got the hang of things but she just wanted to be able to help out and feel like she could contribute more than bread.
She was quite pleased with herself when they came across the deer but then it dawned on her that she was supposed to kill animal and she didn't think that she could do it. Aurora couldn't find the words. She had asked him to bring her hunting and the first chance she had she was shying away from it but she was surprised when Jay scared the animal away. Instead he handed her the rifle and told her to aim for the tree. Target practice before the kill she guessed.
Aurora took a deep breath and held the gun up and pointed at the tree. "Like this?"
Jay watched her walk away with a bad feeling in a gut. He had no reason to deny her. Most of the perimeter had been cleared and King and his men went out every so often to make sure a crazy hadn't wandered too close to camp. So it wasn't as if it wasn't safe for them. He just didn't know how to be alone with her. Not now... Not after he knew his feelings hadn't gone away. Would probably never go away.
Jay went to find King to tell him he was taking Aurora out to hunt. They they wouldn't go far. He explained the situation, how she felt useless. How she'd been unable to pull the trigger before and this might be a good way to ease her into that if the thing she was shooting wasn't human. King of course allowed them to go, as he knew he would. And after an hour he was standing by the gate with a pistol at his hip for emergencies and the rifle in his hand.
"Hey," he said when she turned up, ready to go. They opened the gate for them and they left. Jay first led the way to the snares he had set up. Three rabbits was better than nothing and he set the snares up again so he could come back and check on them the next day. He showed her how they worked before moving on a little deeper into the woods.
"Step with the outside of your feet first," he explained to her. "It helps to quiet your steps." He knelt to the ground and showed her hoof prints. He showed her the other signs as well. Kicked up leaved. Chewed underbrush. Things that would take an inexperienced hunter much longer to find, he found in seconds. But he explained everything to her.
He let her take the lead, wanting her to try to track further. He helped when she got lost. And then they looked up and about thirty feet away, there it was. He had known it was a baby deer while tracking it. The size of the prints were small. But it wasn't until he saw it that it hit him that he didn't want this to be Aurora's first kill. Even if they found the mother nearby.
Aurora was a mother. And a strong one. But asking her to kill something like this... leaving the mother without her baby or even the other way around... Jay didn't think like that. Food was food. But Aurora... He glanced over at her. He would find something else tomorrow. Something better than a baby deer to feed the camp.
He looked back up made a hissing sound. The fawn looked up, ears pointing right at them. He waved his arm at it and it turned and ran through the trees away from them.
He didn't look at Aurora for a moment. When he did and he met her eyes, he said, "Wouldn't have been enough meat on it," as if that was the reason he let it go. He wondered if she knew the truth.
He handed the rifle over to her then took a few steps away. "You see this skinny tree?" he asked. "I want you to try to hit it. A rifle like that is a hell of a lot different than a pistol."
Aurora expected Jay to put up a fight against her when it came to this. The last time she had said that she wanted to go with them on the supply run he did not seem to like the idea one bit. She figured that this would be the same case and she might find herself arguing with him in order to convince him to take her with him.
She waited for him to reply, fully expecting him to refuse but she hoped he would see how much she needed this. A girl from LA was never going to be prepared to deal with the end of the world. Luckily he seemed to agree and she felt relief.
"Thank you." She didn't really need to say anything else. She left Jay's side for a moment and asked Jack if he could look after Harrison for a few more hours but he didn't seem to mind at all. Honestly, Jack had sort of adopted Harrison as a little brother and it seemed these days he would do anything for him.
An hour later she met Jay by the gates and was more than ready to go.
For a moment she didn't speak. And then he felt a weight from his shoulders when she finally did. He didn't know what he had been expecting, but it wasn't this.
He opened his mouth, about to try to talk her out of it, but she seemed to know him too well and continued. He could tell was feeling rather frustrated with her situation and he tried to put himself in her shoes. If the only thing he knew how to do was bake bread, he would probably be feeling a little useless, too. He knew Aurora better than to think she would be okay being stuck in the kitchen.
He looked at her for a moment when she was through. Thought hard. And then he finally nodded. "Yeah, okay," he mumbled and gave a small, defeated shrug. "Okay. I was gonna head out in about an hour anyway to check some snares. You're welcome to come along if you want."
She thought for a moment that he wasn't going to follow her but he did. They didn't go too far, just far enough so that the others couldn't hear them, not that it mattered because this wasn't exactly private.
"I want you to take me hunting. I want you to teach me." She said simply. It was something she had been thinking about a lot over the last couple of days. "I'm going crazy here Jay. I can't keep sitting around waiting for someone else to bring food home or someone else to fix a fucking car." She sighed a little and put her hand to her face for a minute. "I need to [I feel] useful or I'm going to fall apart and I can't afford for that to happen when I have Harrison to think about."
Jay listened to the exchange between the children and Aurora with amusement, but he couldn't let his eyes linger on her for too long. Since he realized his jealousy he was having an extremely difficult time looking her in the eye. Sometimes he could swear she could see right into him and he was afraid she might realize.
But he couldn't avoid her, it seemed. She asked to speak to him as he was wiping his hands on an old cloth. He squinted against the sun and nodded, tossing the cloth in the toolbox and following her away from the others. He glanced back at Jack who watched them with a strange look on his face. Like he was hopeful about something.
"What's up?" he asked, a bit worried about what she had to say.
It was the celebratory cheering that drew her attention to where her son was and she glanced over to see him with Gabriel. Aurora was grateful for the fact that he had a friend at a time like this, it meant that he could have some essence of a childhood even if the world had gone to shit. She watched for a moment and then allowed her eyes to fall on Jay and Jack. Apparently they had managed to fix up the motor thay hadn't been running since they got here.
She made her way towards them and smiled. "Morning." Harrison looked up and ran to her and hugged her.
"It's afternoon silly."
"Well good afternoon then. Hello Gabriel." She smiled warmly towards Harrison's friend and there was a shy wave towards her. "Are you two helping them fix cars?"
"We were watching!"
"And handing them tools...so we technically helped."
Aurora chuckled and ruffled Harrison's hair before looking back up again. "Jay...do you have a minute?"
Working on the cars the next morning, Jack informed Jay that they had let Aurora sleep in as late as she wanted. She was still getting over being sick and needed the rest, and Jay agreed, though he wasn't sure why Jack was telling him in the first place.
A couple hours later after some hard work, Jay managed to get the trouble car going. He smiled and gave Jack a high five. "Hell yeah!" Jack shouted in excitement. It had taken them a long time to get this one running, but the rewarding feeling in the end was well worth it.
Harrison and Gabriel were both sitting nearby, watching them work or handing them tools when they needed them, so they celebrated too by getting to their feet and dancing around in circles, laughing.
Jay looked at them, smirking, and did a double take over their shoulders when he saw Aurora coming out of their apartment building. Even from this distance he could tell that she was wearing some of the new clothes they'd been offered. And she looked good. He let his eyes fall away.
That night she slept better than she expected. She thought that she would be consumed with thoughts of Jay and they would occupy her mind to the point that she wouldn't be able to fall asleep but, while there were thoughts of him, she was far too exhausted to let those thoughts keep her awake. Aurora didn't even wake when Jack and Harrison came back to the apartment regardless of the fact thay Harrison snuck into the room to kiss her cheek and whisper 'I love you' before he went to sleep himself in the other room.
When she woke up, the apartment seemed quiet. She stretched out and sat up and gave herself a minute to adjust to being awake before she made her way through the apartment to check on Jack and Harrison. However, when she got there, they were already gone and Aurora frowned a little. It was clearly later than she realised and they had left her to sleep in.
She gathered herself and changed her clothes, finding a pile that Monica had left for her since she neither had the care or energy to sort through clothes herself before now. She had to admit that it was so much nicer having something other than one change of clothes. Once she was washed and dressed she made her way out of the apartment to find everyone else. She just hoped that the managed to avoid Kris on her way because she really didn't have the patience to deal with him.
They walked in silence and Jay couldn't tell if it was awkward or not. With the world gone to hell, he didn't know if it really mattered anymore. They climbed the stairs to where their apartments were and when they reached them he looked over at her.
He nodded once at her and he watched her step inside. "Goodnight, Rora," he said softly just before she closed the door. He didn't know if she heard him.
He turned to his own door and stepped inside. He sighed heavily as he headed for his room and laid down in bed. He had to remind himself almost nightly that if he let himself become close to Aurora, that was just more for him to lose.
Besides... Kris was muddling things up. He was friendly toward her and so far she didn't seem put off by him. He was intelligent. Had to be with what he did for the camp. Not like Jay. And he was sure he was better looking, too.
When that jealous thought crossed his mind Jay rolled over and buried his face in the pillow, wondering where the hell these thoughts were coming from.
He had no right to feel jealous. If Aurora and Kris wanted to be together, then so be it! Let them! And yet he felt like his heart was sinking at the mere thought. He closed his eyes and willed sleep to come.
Aurora felt someone close and she thought Kris was following her and she was about to lose her patience but when she glanced over she saw Jay and her shoulders relaxed a little, although she wasn't quite sure what he was doing. They walked in silence until they reach their apartments and she stopped at the door and turned to look at him.
Maybe Monica was right she should have said something to him and get everything out because then she might have stopped feeling so frustrated but it only took for him to look at her for her to lose her nerve.
"Goodnight Jay." She said as she turned from him and placed her hand in the door handle and pushed it opened.
Jay leaned back on his hands after eating. He hadn't felt full in a long time and he savored it as long as he could. Sharing the cake among themselves was perhaps the most bittersweet Jay had felt since the start of all of this. He refused his portion at first, wanting Harrison to take it since it was his birthday after all. But Harrison insisted. Jay never had much of a sweet tooth, but on that night... That cake tasted like heaven.
His mood was spoiled though when he saw Aurora go to turn in for the night. It wasn't that he was opposed her doing so, he just didn't like the look Kris gave her on her way. Or that he seemed to feel the need to stop to talk to her every time he saw her.
Jay got to his feet and brushed off his pants. "I'm turning in, too," he told them. Monica gave Scarlett a knowing smirk, but said nothing. By the time he caught up to Aurora, she was only just finishing her conversation with Kris. She was telling him to stay and enjoy the fire. What was the other option? Going with her back to her apartment?
Kris gave him a small smirk as he passed him and then he had locked his steps in time with Aurora's. He wanted to say something, but couldn't think of anything that wouldn't make an ass out of him, so he just let the sound of their footsteps take over.
Food was far beyond anything any of them had since all of this happened and the bread was actually something that made a substantial difference to the meal. By the time she had finished eating it, she was actually full. She was already rather lean but she had shed a little bit of weight from being sick and it showed in her face. Maybe a few more meals like this and she would be looking better as well as feeling better.
When she finished she pulled her backpack around and pulled out the cake and shared it between their small group and she made sure to break a bit off for Gabriel too. Harrison was so happy and that's all she could have hoped for. He ran off to play with Gabriel again after they all ate cake and sang some rendition of the birthday song.
Aurora looked to Jack then. "You sure you don't mind?"
"Course not. I'll stay out until he's ready for bed. You get yourself off."
She was so grateful. She hugged him tight and rose from her seat.
"Leaving?" Kris came up behind her and she tried not to roll her eyes.
"Yes, I'm going back to my apartment."
"Let me walk you there."
"Oh! No...no it's alright. It is just there and I'm...going straight to bed anyway." She could almost see the glint in his eye but she held her tongue. "Stay, enjoy the company and the fire." She said goodnight to the group and started to walk towards the apartment.
Jay could have helped prepare the deer. He knew how. Was more than happy to. But he knew that the others needed to feel productive, too. So he waited with the rest of them.
Harrison climbed all over his lap, excited. Then he spotted Gabriel and ran over to his friend to play as they waited for dinner. The sky was almost dark at this point, but Jay could see Aurora over the light of the fire. He let his eyes fall away.
Monica scooted closer to him so that they couldn't be overheard. "I hope you know you're being an idiot," he said flatly. His eyes narrowed and he looked at her with a question in his eyes. "About Aurora. If one of you would just say something..."
Jay looked away and shook his head. Maybe he should go see if they needed help with the deer after all. "Say what, exactly? [i Hey, i like you, don't get ripped to shreds?] It ain't the way it used to be."
"And that's why it's even more important."
Jay shook his head. "You're awful invested in this, aren't you?" His glare was enough to make her give it a rest. At least for now.
It wasn't long before they were bringing out the cooked deer meat and the bread that Aurora had made. It was the closest thing to a full meal any of them had had in a long, long time.
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