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Don't Look Down

Written by: Tara
Words: 3236
Summary: Ram/Trudy. He cared about her, the sudden realization struck her.
Notes: Set in season 1 as an AU. When Dal and Trudy left the mall, instead of leaving Brady behind, they took her with them. I might have messed with the timeline a little, especially with Jay and Ved’s history. I’ll admit right now that I didn’t watch much of season 4 so most of what I know has been gleamed from summaries and pre-tribe from Tribeworld.

oOoOoOoOoOoOo

Brady cried all through the first night.

It was enough to make Dal wonder if they were doing the right thing, leaving the relative safety of the mall to try and find something better.

They made camp in an abandoned house; one that was still in decent shape for the years it had been left untouched. There had even been a few cans of food in the cabinets, so they didn’t have to touch what they had brought with them.

Trudy shook her head when he brought it up. “This is for the best. For everyone.”

If her words hadn’t convinced him, the fact that she seemed happier, more alive, than she had been back at the mall did.

oOoOoOoOoOo

Dal was the one who caught sight of the tribe.

It was a mishmash of tents and people that they caught sight of as they ducked behind a tree. They could smell the food cooking by the fire, reminding them just how long it had been since they’d had a cooked meal. Dal pulled her back out of sight as a little girl playing with a ball glanced over in their general direction.

She wanted to go up to them, to introduce herself. Trudy had been running, scared, for so long, this seemed like the perfect time to prove to herself that she wasn’t that person anymore. But she had a baby to look after. It wasn’t an option.

Dal looked at her and shook his head. She nodded and shifted the sleeping baby against her shoulder.

They continued by, out of sight.

Surprisingly, Brady stayed silent through it all.

oOoOoOoOoOo

The baby formula was running low and it was starting to get dark when they caught sight of the building through the fence.

Trudy faintly remembered it. She had passed the military base several times back when she went to school. It seemed like a lifetime ago but it had been bustling with activity before, as it was now. The uniforms were the only things different.

“We should get out of here before they see us,” Dal said, his hand on her arm.

She nodded.

“Too late,” a voice from behind them called.

They both spun around, coming face to face with several of the tribe members. Their black outfits were skin tight and they all had metal masks over their faces. Dal moved in front of Trudy protectively and Trudy tightened her grip on Brady.

“We don’t like trespassers.” The one who spoke was shorter than the rest, probably not that much older than Dal himself.

It was Trudy who replied. “We’re not trying to. We just want to go our way.”

“Well,” the boy smirked, “You probably should have thought about that before you came here.”

“We don’t even know where we are.” Dal moved forward, only to be stopped by a restraining hand on his shoulder. Trudy pulled him back.

“That’s your problem.”

“Ved! That’s enough! Leave them alone.” A taller boy appeared from the woods.

The shorter boy, Ved, glared at the taller one.

“Go back to the base. Ram wants to speak with you.”

Ved growled something before stomping off.

“The rest of you, too.”

The few others who had been with Ved followed the boy, dejectedly.

“Thank you,” Trudy said, gratefully. From her shoulder, Brady babbled something incoherent. She smiled and patted her daughter on the back. “I’m Trudy and this is Dal.” She motioned toward Dal, who glared at him, arms crossed.

The tall man just seemed amused. “And the little one?”

“Brady, my daughter.”

The tall man reached up and pulled off his mask, revealing a red circle with a T on his forehead. “I’m Jay.”

oOoOoOoOoOo

Jay showed them to a room they could use for the night. It was small, sparse, but there were two beds that looked more comfortable than anything they had slept on the past couple of days.

But the best part of all was when Jay flipped a switch on the wall and the lights came on over head.

“You have power!” Dal exclaimed, excited. He was grinning from ear to ear.

Jay nodded. “We usually don’t have guests but Ram said you could stay.” From the expression on Jay’s face, Trudy could tell that it was out of character for this Ram person to do so.

“Ram is… your leader?” Trudy asked.

“Yes.” Jay smiled softly as Brady babbled something back to him in response. Then he seemed to catch himself and frowned. “I wouldn’t wonder too far away from the building if you go outside. Ram let you be here, so they won’t touch you, but accidents can happen.” It wasn’t a threat from him, just a fact. “If you want to leave, just ask for me. I’ll escort you to the fence.”

This gave them a start but Dal was the first to recover. “We’ll be sure to remember that.”

“Make sure you do,” he said, seriously. Jay gave the room a once over and nodded. “Well then, good night.”

“Night,” Trudy called after him as he left the room. She turned to Dal, worry evident on her face.

He wrapped an arm around her and gave her a hug. “Don’t worry. We’re going to be all right.”

oOoOoOoOoOo

Trudy stumbled on the area completely by accident. One wrong turn and she had been completely lost in the maze of hallways and identical doors. The hall she was down was completely silent. She opened a door, hoping to at least find someone who could point her in the right direction.

Instead she stepped outside.

Well, close enough anyways. It was an enclosed garden, walls on each side and a net over the top, obviously trying to keep bugs and animals out. The grass was soft and sunlight streamed in overhead.

She had thought that after spending days wondering around outside that she would be happy not to see the sun again for a while but this… This was something different.

Trudy wondered if Brady would like it.

oOoOoOoOoOo

She went back the next day.

Brady seemed to like it. Staring at the flowers with a kind of wide-eyed enjoyment that only a child could have. Trudy realized that this was the first time Brady had seen a flower.

She plucked a flower and watched with amusement as Brady swung it around in her fist.

Dal had been offered a tour of their infirmary when Jay had learned that he had an interest in medicine. She had been welcome to join them but she turned them down.

Instead she sat curled up on a patch of grass, relaxing with her daughter.

“What are you doing here?”

Trudy jumped and spun around. She hadn’t even heard the door open, much less anyone enter. A guy in some sort of wheelchair sat in front of her. He was wearing a mask around his mouth. “I’m sorry. I didn’t… No one told me I couldn’t be here.”

He just watched her curiously.

“We’ll just be going then.” Trudy got up, hefting Brady onto her hip.

“I don’t like going outside,” the guy said, his voice cause her to stop. “But everyone tells me that fresh air and sunshine is good for a person so they built this.” There was a look of distaste on his face.

“Well,” Trudy pulled Brady’s hand away from where she was trying to stuff the flower she was still holding into her mouth. “I’m sorry we intruded.” She made to leave but he placed a hand on her arm, stopping her.

He stared up at her with indiscernible expression. Then he tilted his head to the side and nodded. “You can stay. I don’t spend much time out here. Someone should get some use out of it.” With that he turned his chair to leave.

“Wait!” Trudy called as he reached the door. “I never got your name.”

He just shrugged. “I never gave it.” And disappeared out the door.

oOoOoOoOoOo

Dal was absorbed with a medical text when she returned to their room. “You look happy,” he announced.

Brady yawned and curled up against Trudy.

Surprisingly, she was.

Trudy just wondered how long it would last.

oOoOoOoOoOo

The next morning a bassinet showed up for Brady.

Even Jay couldn’t say where it came from.

oOoOoOoOoOo

It was a few days until Trudy saw the guy again.

She was sitting in the grass again, feeding Brady in her lap. Trudy had some fruit for herself off to the side, leftovers from breakfast that she’d saved. Dal had returned back to the infirmary, obviously having found a place where he could be useful.

There was slight rustling that caught her attention this time and she turned with the strange feeling that the guy with the mask had made noise on purpose this time.

“Are you the one I have to thank for the bed for Brady?” She asked.

He just shrugged.

“Thank you. I appreciate it.” Trudy smiled up at him as he rolled up beside her. “I’m Trudy.”

“I figured that much out,” he replied, raising an eyebrow. “I know every Techno here and you,” he looked her up and down, making her shift self-consciously, “you really don’t look like one.”

She glanced down at herself, wondering if there was something wrong with her outfit. He was right though. Her brown tank top and green pants were a far cry from the skin tight techno outfit that they wore. “I guess you’re right.”

“I’m not complaining,” he replied.

Trudy blinked as she realized he was flirting with her. Well, that was new. “If you don’t mind me asking, what’s with the…” She motioned toward his mask.

“Pollen,” was all he said.

“Then I guess you don’t want…” Trudy lifted up the plate beside her, offering him a piece.

There was a pause and for a moment she thought he was going to reject the offer, but he snatched a piece of apple off the plate.

She left the garden a few hours later, realizing she still didn’t know his name.

oOoOoOoOoOo

“I recognize that look.”

Trudy looked up from the pad of paper she was doodling on to look at Dal. “What look?”

He just frowned and crossed his arms. “That dreamy yet completely miserable look that you have on your face. It’s the same one that Amber and Salene would get when they would talk about Bray.”

There was a pang sent through her at the name but it wasn’t anywhere as bad as it she thought it would be. “Do you miss them?” Trudy asked, sitting up.

“Of course I do,” Dal answered, sitting down beside her. “Especially Amber. She was like my sister.”

“If you had a chance, would you go back?”

“I don’t know.” Dal frowned, tilting his head to the side. “Why?”

“We can’t stay here forever, Dal.” Trudy fiddled with the pencil. “After we leave, you can go back.”

“What about you?”

“All I want is somewhere safe for Brady.” She sighed. “I don’t know if she can have that in the city. But you shouldn’t have to worry about us.”

Dal realized what she was doing. He felt pride bubble up in his chest at the selfless act. She was trying to give him an out. “But I do.” He slipped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her closed. “I’m not going to abandon you.”

The tight feeling Trudy had in the pit of her stomach uncoiled and Dal could feel her sigh in relief.

oOoOoOoOoOo

“Where are you from?” He asked her, sans mask, the next day. “You don’t seem the kind of person who would enjoy wondering around the countryside.”

Trudy paced back and forth, trying to calm the crying baby. “Dal and I both came from the city.”

“You had a tribe there?”

She opened her mouth to say something, but then seemed to rethink it. “Dal did… Me… I’m not so sure.”

That received a snort in response. “How do you not know if you had a tribe?”

Trudy bit back the temptation to snap back at him. “I wasn’t exactly the nicest person. I don’t think they were upset to find out I had left.”

“Somehow I doubt that.”

A smile graced her face, happy that someone thought so, but she still shook her head. “You didn’t know me back there. I was… angry and selfish.”

He didn’t say anything in response.

“Do you want to hold her?” Trudy offered, as she caught sight of him watching her with Brady again with something akin to fascination.

The look on his face was a strange mix of startled and panicked.

She slipped Brady into his arms, watching amused as he awkwardly held her. It was obvious he’d never held a baby before in his life.

Brady stared up at him wide-eyed.

The two engaged in a bizarre version starring contest before Brady blinked and started to wave her arms and babble, obviously approving of this strange man holding her.

“She likes you,” Trudy said, hovering.

He seemed amused by the thought.

oOoOoOoOoOo

“I’m going to miss this place when we leave,” Trudy announced to him, watching as Brady squirmed around on a blanket in the grass.

“Leave?” He asked, as if startled by the concept. “Why would you leave?”

“It’s not as if we can stay here forever. And really, would your tribe want us to?”

A frown crossed his face. “Whether they want you to or not is irrelevant.”

Trudy laughed, shaking her head. “I wish it was that easy.”

“It is,” he said seriously. She almost believed him.

“Dal might be able to find a place here. He has something to offer.” She thought of Dal pouring over the medical texts, talking about all their medical equipment excitedly and smiled. “All I have is Brady.”

“So?”

“You’re sweet.” Biting her bottom lip for a few seconds, watching as he grinned. “I’m going to miss you too.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Suddenly embarrassed, blood rushed to her face as his eyes widened and she averted her eyes, choosing to look at Brady instead.

He didn’t say anything and when Trudy turned back, he was touching his cheek with a gloved hand, looking thoughtful.

oOoOoOoOoOo

There was a knock to the door of her and Dal’s room early the next morning. Trudy blinked blearly, groaning as she was dragged back to consciousness.

From the bed on the other side of the room, Dal did the same thing.

She saw him grab his blanket and pull it over his head. The knocking came again, more insistent this time.

Trudy pulled herself out of the bed, quickly checking on Brady only to find her still sleeping, and opened the door. There was a techno on the other side that she didn’t recognize.

He frowned at her but didn’t say anything. There was a thoughtful expression on his face and she had the feeling that he was judging her.

“Yes?”

That seemed to snap him out of his revere. “Ram wants to speak with you and your friend.”

Dal appeared at her elbow. “Now?”

“Yes, now,” he snapped, as if he thought them to be supremely stupid.

They had probably worn out their welcome and their leader was ready to send them on their way. The idea shouldn’t have shocked her as much as it did. Trudy knew it was coming. She nodded numbly. “We’ll be right out.”

The techno nodded and she shut the door.

oOoOoOoOoOo

Jay was the first one they saw when they were ushered into the room. He grinned at them reassuringly and waved his fingers in front of Brady, laughing when she tried to chew on them. The techno behind them cleared his throat and Jay exchanged a look with him. “I hope Mega hasn’t been any trouble,” Jay told them. “He doesn’t have the best people skills.”

Trudy grinned and Dal rolled his eyes. “We can tell.”

“Where’s Ram?” Mega asked, interrupting them impatiently.

“Right here,” came a familiar voice to their left.

Trudy turned and froze. “You’re Ram?”

The man in the wheelchair, Ram, smirked.

“I take it you two have met,” Jay said, looking between the two of them, obviously confused.

“Yes,” was all Trudy said.

Comprehension appeared on Dal’s face as he realized that this was the person that Trudy had been acting strange over earlier.

“I want to speak to Trudy alone,” Ram said to the two technos. Jay didn’t move even as Mega nodded and began to usher Dal out, who was having none of it.

“I’m not leaving her!” Dal kicked Mega in the shin and slipped out of his grasp as the techno flinched and bit back a gasp of pain.

Reaching out, Mega tried to follow and grab him.

“That’s enough,” Ram snapped.

Mega moved back and glared.

“I’ll be fine, Dal,” Trudy gave him a reassuring smile.

The question was clear on his face.

“I’m sure.” She just hoped she wasn’t lying to him.

Dal didn’t seem to completely believe her but he nodded.

Jay just sent Ram a worried look, which didn’t seem to help with Dal’s anxiety if his expression was anything to go by but he followed them out the door just the same.

There was silence in the room as the door swung shut behind them.

“He really likes you, you know?”

Trudy avoided his gaze, choosing to watch Brady instead. She shook her head and went for the door. There really wasn’t anything to say. “I think we should leave.”

“Don’t go,” he called after her.

She paused. “Why?” Trudy spun around to face him. Brady started sniffling and for one moment she was afraid her daughter was going to start crying. But Brady just buried her head in her mother’s shirt. “Why should we stay?”

“Because I want you to. Both you and Brady.” Ram moved up beside her and reached up to slide a hand down Brady’s back. Brady just turned and stared at him curiously. He smiled and glanced up at her. “And your friend Dal,” he added as an afterthought.

Trudy shook her head.

“I thought you wanted somewhere safe for Brady.” His voice was cajoling. “Somewhere you wouldn’t have to be afraid.”

“I do!”

“You can have that here.” Ram’s voice softened. “I won’t let anything happen to you.”

That was manipulative, playing on her desires. “Why are you doing this?”

Ram froze and a thoughtful look crossed his face, as if he hadn’t considered this before. “Because I want you to be safe. And I know you can be here.”

He cared about her, the suddenly realization struck her. Sudden irrational panic swelled up in her. Martin had cared about her. So had Bray. They had all ended badly.

“Stay,” Ram said, grabbing her wrist. She froze, staring down where his gloved hand held her wrist gently. “Please,” he added.

Trudy watched him for a few moments, unsure. As sincere as Ram seemed, Trudy had been fooled before. Her taste in men had never been very good and she had no reason to believe now would be different. Except… he had been different.

His thumb brushed across the inside of her wrist.

“All right. I’ll stay.”

Ram lifted up her hand and pressed a kiss to her knuckles, a pleased smile tugging his expression when she blushed.