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(Contains: sexual themes and strong language)
Seated at the empty bar, Maggie looked up from the Day-Planner laid out in front of her to check the clock. 4:45 PM. ‘Almost.’  As if on cue, the front door swung open and her relief breezed in. “Fear not! I’ve come to save you from this monstrous crowd!”

Maggie laughed. The woman who’d entered the room was a few years her senior, with brown hair cut pixie-short and a flair for the sarcastic. “Oh, I don’t know what I’d do without you, Liz,” the redhead said, playing along. “It’s just been a madhouse all day!”

Liz dropped her over-sized purse behind the bar, grinning widely. “You know you love me,” she said, hand on her curvy hip. “I even came in early so you can go beautify before your new boy-toy gets here!”

“My what?” ‘Damn it, Alan…’ “He’s not – and who says I need to –”

“Oh, please,” the brunette waved a hand at her dismissively. “You know you want to. You’re going to be playing tonight, right?”


“You should wear the white sundress – ooh, pair it with some cowboy boots! Super cute! He’ll be all over you before you even finish your song.”

Maggie rolled her eyes. “Take it easy, all right?” She closed the Day-Planner (next month’s event schedule could wait) and hopped down from her stool. “Is this town so boring that my pseudo-love life is all anyone can talk about?”

“Of course it is!” Liz said with a hearty laugh. “Seriously, we need to take a long weekend and go into Anchorage before this summer is over. I need some skyscrapers and Starbucks like nobody’s business.”

The redhead smiled and shook her head, curls bobbing. “We’ll see if we can’t arrange that,” she said. “For now, I’m going upstairs. And for the record – ” She poked a finger in her friend’s direction. “Just because I’ll probably wear that white sundress does not make you right. So no gloating.”

Liz crossed a finger over her chest twice. “Wouldn’t dream of it. Now get outta here.” She put a hand on the smaller woman’s shoulder and shooed her off.

Maggie took the fire escape steps two at time. She couldn’t even feign being indignant with Liz. Mostly because her friend would see right through it. And she did have impeccable taste when it came to clothing. It was hard to argue with her recommendations, which we nearly always right. Maggie sifted through her closet and extracted the white dress. It was embroidered with rustic-style lace and a few layers of ruffles along the hem of the skirt, which fell just past her knees. She didn’t go ‘girly’ very often, but if she had more dresses like this one, she might be tempted more regularly. Smiling, she hung it on the back of the closet door and began shedding clothing.

As she wrestled to get her skinning jeans off, she paused to turn on her radio. B*witched’s “C’est la Vie” came wafting through the speakers and she laughed. Nick was apparently feeling punchy – or maybe someone had called it in. Whatever the reason, she couldn’t help but sing along as she balled up her clothes and tossed them in the hamper.

She was still humming as she started the shower running. As she waited for the water to heat up, she cast a glance at the mirror above the sink. ‘Not bad,’ she thought, smirking. Generally, she didn’t get too down on herself, body-image wise. There were things she didn’t think were perfect, of course. She sometimes wished her breasts had grown beyond the A-cup of her initial growth-spurt, but she’d come to terms with it. Plus, the upside was she could get away with not wearing a bra in the colder months when she was always in layers.

She hopped in the shower, letting the running water soak her hair. That was another thing. In her tweens she’d begged every birthday and Christmas for a straightening iron to no avail. Her mother had told her that someday she’d love her curls, and her mother had been right. She couldn’t imagine herself with straight hair now. She finished washing and almost shut the water off before stopping short. If she was going to be wearing a dress, that meant she needed to shave her legs. Even though she’d done it yesterday. Stubble and sundresses didn’t mix. Once she was sufficiently smooth, she shut off the water.

She dried herself, then twisted the towel around her head. The less she needed to use the hairdryer, the smoother her hair would be. Next, she took longer than was really reasonable choosing her underwear. ‘What’re you doing? No one’s going to see them, what does it matter?’ she chided herself. That was true. Even if she did invite Josh upstairs later, it would barely qualify as a second date. She settled on a skin-toned pair of briefs that she could count on not to ride up. The dress had spaghetti straps so that meant she needed a strapless bra. The only one of those she had was a push-up. ‘That’s not sending the wrong message, right? Nah…’ She pulled the dress over her head and scrutinized herself in her bedroom mirror. “Damn, I look good!” she laughed.

She dried her hair, then picked out a few choice pieces of jewelry – pearl-drop earrings, a silver Ankh necklace and wrist cuffs made of well-worn brown leather that matched her cowboy boots. Lastly, she swiped on a touch of lip-gloss. She smiled at her reflection. “Perfect.”

She turned off the radio, the lights, grabbed her guitar case and headed back to the bar.

* * *

When Jesse entered the bar, the dinner crowd was just beginning to filter in. After an afternoon tagging along with Blake and the other kids, he was tired yet energized. He ambled up to his corner seat and hopped up, smiling to himself. That smile faded slightly though, when the woman who approached from behind the bar was not the redhead he was expecting.

“Hey there Blue Eyes,” the stranger said, smiling at him. “What can I get’cha?”

“Uh, the pale ale?” he answered, “And um, a menu, please.”

“You got it,” she said, plucking a glass from the drying rack and filling it with a careless ease. “Let me guess, you’re Josh, right?”

“Yeah,” he nodded. “And you are?”

The brunette set the perfectly topped glass in front of him. “Liz Banks,” she said. “Nice to meet’cha.” She pulled a menu down from a shelf and set that down as well. “When you’re ready to order, just give me a holler.” She then turned away to greet another patron.

“I will, thanks.” Jesse picked up his glass and barely had it to his lips when he heard someone calling his new name. He turned and saw an older man in a pressed white shirt and bolo tie approaching him from across the room. “Uh, yes?”

The gray-haired man clapped a hand down on his shoulder, smiling widely. “I just got a call from my daughter-in-law – she says you saved my grandson from a bull moose earlier today!”

Jesse was caught off-guard by the statement. “Huh? Oh, Blake is your – it wasn’t really, I mean, um, no big deal?” He put his beer down and extended his hand. “Sorry, I don’t think we’ve met, sir.”

“Ah! You’re right, you’re right! Name’s Wyatt Jackson. I own the place.” His handshake was the firmest Jesse had felt yet and the man’s hand still hadn’t left his shoulder. “What’re you drinking tonight?”


“Liz!” Wyatt bellowed. “This young man drinks for free tonight! Pulled Blake out of the path of a stampeding bull moose, he did!”

“Oh no, it’s wasn’t–”

The brunette bartender drew nearer again. “Didn’t know you were the heroic type, Blue Eyes,” she said with a smirk.

“N-not really,” Jesse stammered, ears burning. “Kids exaggerate stuff.”

“Nevertheless,” Wyatt said. “My grandson is an excellent judge of character and Anna says you’re all he could talk about when he got home. Whatever you did, it made an impression.”

The older man’s brown eyes had a warmth to them that made the tension is Jesse’s shoulders ease. ‘He really must love the kid,’ he thought. “I’m just happy nobody got hurt,” he said. “To tell the truth, I was probably more freaked out than any of the kids were.”

Wyatt clapped his shoulder again. “Well, I’m glad you were there. If you ever need anything, you come on by and see me, alright?”

“Sure, yeah. Thanks.”

With that, the older man strode off to mingle among his clientele. Jesse found himself smiling as she turned back to his beer, only to find Liz grinning at him.

“You’re making quite the impression, Blue,” she said. “Hope you plan on sticking around, because I don’t think these people are gonna let you leave.”

He let out a short laugh. “Nah, I’m staying.” He was just about to open the menu when he felt a tap on his shoulder. “Hmm?”

“Hey you!”

His heart took a little leap in his chest as he recognized the voice and spun his stool back around. “Whoa! I-I mean, hey, Maggie. Long time no see.”  She was stunning, like something out of a magazine. Her dress was simple and suited her, the white making her vibrant tattoos stand out. “You look great,” he said, hoping he hadn’t been staring for too long.

“Thanks,” she said, smiling. “This seat taken?” she asked, nodding at the stool next to him.

“N-no, of course not,” he said. “You’re not working tonight?”

“Nope!” she said brightly, hopping up on the stool and positioning her guitar case between her legs. “I’m all yours for the evening.”

Now that was an appealing prospect. He glanced down at her case.  He’d never been jealous of an inanimate object before and he had to work to keep his mind from wandering, imagining what it would be like to have her legs wrapped around him. Feeling his face grow hot, he cleared his throat and forced his eyes back to her face. “You, uh, you playing tonight?”

“Singing too,” she answered. “Gotta say, it’s the first time in years I’ve been a little nervous about it,” she added, ducking her head a bit.

“What, because of me?” he asked, incredulous.

She shrugged but he could see the color rise in her cheeks. “Well, right now I’ve got you thinking I’m pretty cool. I wanna keep the illusion going, you know? ‘White Girl with Acoustic Guitar’ can be kinda cheesy.”

He shook his head. “Nah. Besides – not like it’s a ukulele or anything.”

She laughed. “True.”

“Can I buy you dinner?” he asked.


Happily, he cracked open the menu.

As Liz took their order back to the kitchen, Jesse noticed Nick setting up his station in the opposite corner of the room. The DJ gave him a wave which he answered with a nod and Maggie noticed the exchange. “Oh that’s right! You chickened out of being on the radio this morning,” she said, poking him in the arm playfully.

Jesse hunched his shoulders. “Didn’t chicken out. He just sprung it on me without asking,” he mumbled. He picked up his beer. “Honestly, I don’t know why everyone’s so interested. I’m not special or anything.”

Her expression softened and she put a hand on his upper arm. “I know people can get a little over-enthusiastic,” she said. “But they don’t mean any harm. Things are pretty tight-knit around here. Hell, the last time they had someone new come to town it was me, and that was five years ago.”

“Really?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at her.

“It’s not like there’s a factory or something to bring jobs or anything,” she said. “And not much of a down-town to attract people either. People get old and pass away at about the same rate that people have babies, so our population has been pretty steady for decades.” She twirled the straw of her soda between forefinger and thumb. “Needless to say, we don’t get a lot of excitement. You and I are what qualifies up here.”

He had to laugh at that. “Gotta say, that wasn’t what I was expecting when I decided to move up here.” Seeing her smile fade, he reached out and put a hand over hers. “I think I can live with it though.” Her smile returned and before he knew what was happening she leaned in and pressed her lips to his. His heart gave another lurch in his chest and when they separated it was all too soon. “W-what was that for?” he asked, keeping his face inches from hers.

“Just ‘cause,” she said. Then she did it again. He made sure to kiss back and when she pulled away, he found himself leaning forward to keep the contact going for just a few seconds more. “Easy tiger,” she said softly, putting a hand on his chest. “Don’t want to give them too much of a show, do we?”

‘Shit…’ He’d actually forgotten where they were. Face on fire, he dared a glance up at the bar. Everyone was looking overly-interested in their drinks. “Damn it. Sorry…” he mumbled.

“Don’t sweat it,” she said. Her hand hadn’t left his chest. Instead, she deftly unbuttoned his top button, exposing the collar of his t-shirt. “It’s only a big deal if we make it one, right?”

Her fingers grazed his collar bone and it took all he had not to lose the smidge of composure he had left. With a concerted effort to appear casual, he reached up and took hold of her hand, pulling it away from his body though every nerve was screaming at him to let her continue. ‘Don’t get carried away, man!’ “You are so much cooler than me,” he told her, giving her hand a gentle squeeze.

She let out a quiet laugh. “You’re sweet,” she said. “But you haven’t seen my act yet.”

He nodded conciliatorily, but he knew nothing she could do would change his mind.
The Last Frontier - Chapter 8
After a day apart, Jessie and Maggie are reunited at Open Mic Night!

Previous: The Last Frontier - Chapter 7

Jesse (c) Vince Gilligan, Aaron Paul, and AMC
Everyone else (c) me
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: strong language)
Jesse found himself down at the docks, pacing among the recreational boats up on trailers, kicking at the gravel. He didn’t know what to do with himself. His plan had always been just getting this far. He hadn’t thought further ahead than that. He ran a hand through his hair, trying to clear his head. If he was going to make it and not drive himself crazy, he needed a plan more detailed than ‘survive.’ ‘God, I need a hobby,’ he thought sardonically.

He used to have interests, didn’t he? Somewhere, a lifetime ago, before he’d become too strung out and abused to care, who had he been? Surely some part of that long-past self could help identify this new one. He sat down on a nearby piling, mulling it over. He thought of his old wooden box; that long ago shop class. ‘I should’a picked a different last name,’ he thought with a smirk. ‘It’d be pretty cliché to get into woodworking with a name like Carpenter.’ Still, maybe. He pushed his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose and thought of Maggie. He was suddenly struck by the urge to go see her, but he stayed put. ‘Don’t be clingy, man. Be cool.’ It was hard to be cool, though, when he could still taste her on his lips.

He let out a low, frustrated growl and put his face in his hands. ‘God, you’re such a fuckin’ yo-yo, Pinkman.’ His head was such a mess; would he ever feel right way up?

“You ok, new guy?”

He jerked his head up, startled. A lanky man at least ten years his senior was standing in front of him, eyeing him over orange-tinted sunglasses. Jesse knew he’d seen him before, but where? ‘Wendy was sitting on his lap that first night at the bar.’ “Y-yeah, I’m fine,” he said.

“Josh, right?” the tall man said. “I’m Dale.” He didn’t extend his hand, but rather kept them both in the pockets of his jeans.

Jesse was stumped. What now? “Is this, uh, your pier?” he asked, feeling stupid the moment it came out of his mouth.

Dale chuckled. “Nah.” He pulled his hands out of his pockets to adjust his cap, revealing a deeply receding hairline underneath. “I own the bait & tackle.” He pointed and Jesse followed his gesture to a small store positioned across the street. “I was cleanin’ my windows and saw ya out here. My wife’s always sayin’ I’m not ‘personable’ enough.” He made air-quotes as he said it. “And seein’ as how she’s due any minute, I knew she’d chew my ear off if I didn’t come over here and check on ya.”

‘At least he’s honest.’ Jesse couldn’t help but grin. “Thanks, but I’m ok. Just, uh, just doing some thinking.”

“Ain’t that just the worst?” Dale shook his head.

“What?” Jesse asked.

“Thinkin’!” Dale said with a wry smile. “I avoid it if I can.”

Jesse laughed. “Yeah, it usually gets me into trouble,” he admitted.

The older man shifted his weight, adjusting the too-large buckle on his belt. “All right, well, I’ll leave ya to it then. But you’ll back me up if my wife makes a fuss about me not being ‘neighborly’, right?”

“Sure, you got it,” Jesse said.

With a parting nod, Dale strode off back across the street.

Jesse shook his head. ‘Even the people who’d rather leave me alone can’t leave me alone.’ He got to his feet, deciding he didn’t need to still be there when Wendy arrived. He guessed the General Store had to be open by now, so he started the short trek back to the main drag.

Sure enough, the sign on the door had been flipped to ‘OPEN’. He stepped inside and craned his neck, trying to spot the proprietor among the over-stuffed shelves. “Yo-er, hello?” he called out.

A head popped up from between two aisles but it wasn’t the old man from the first day. It was a woman, with graying once-black hair pulled back in a loose ponytail. “Oh! You must be Josh,” she said, smiling at him as she walked over. “I’m Amy – Paul’s wife.”

Jesse extended his hand automatically, but the woman spread her arms and hugged him instead. He let his arms go limp at his sides and just stood there awkwardly until she released him. Then the awkwardness lingered for what, while realistically was probably only seconds, felt like days to him as he tried to remember why he’d come in the first place. “Um, yeah, ok,” he managed. “Uh, so where’s Paul?” he asked, trying to buy himself time.

“His back was bothering him more than usual, so I made him take the morning off,” she answered. “He can be a stubborn jackass, but so can I.” She laughed. “So, what can I do for you today?”

With relief he remembered what he was looking for and she pointed him back upstairs to the loft where he found a modest selection of timepieces on a rotating stand. With dismay, he couldn’t find a single one that was digital. ‘Oh, don’t be a baby,’ he chided himself. ‘You can tell time.’ Besides, it was his old self’s habit to always look for a shortcut. His new self would work with what he was given. He plucked a nondescript black-leather banded one from its spot and trotted back down the stairs.

Amy had moved behind the counter. “All set?”

“Yeah, thanks,” he said, setting the watch down in front of her. “How much?”

“Ten bucks,” she said.

He slapped down the cash and began tugging the timepiece from its packaging. “Thanks again,” he said, struggling to work the band one-handed. “And, um, tell Paul I hope he feels better.”

Without the slightest hesitation, Amy reached over and strapped the watch on for him, twisting the dial to bring it to the correct time. “I will, hon. You have a good day now.”

He pulled his hand back, feeling his face and ears burn.  “Y-yeah, you too.” He took a few hesitant steps backwards, and bumped up against an endcap display of canned goods, knocking a few to the ground. “S-sorry.”

She put a hand to her mouth, and he knew she was trying not to laugh, to spare his feelings. Which only made him blush harder. “No worries, hon,” she said, coming out from behind the counter. “We’ve got pretty cramped quarters here. Happens all the time.”

She crouched to pick up what had fallen, and he hurriedly dropped to his knees beside her. “N-no, I got it.”

“You’re sweet, hon, thanks.” She patted his shoulder and then stood.

He gathered up the fallen cans and replaced them with care. “So is it, uh, just the two of you working here?” he asked.

“We’ve got three sons,” she answered. “Our oldest, Jason, is awaiting the day Paul retires so he can take over, but he’s got a little one at home with a summer cold today.” As he stood, she gestured at the wall behind the counter, where a number of photographs were pinned. He scanned them as she spoke, trying to determine which dark-haired man was which. He supposed the wedding photo would be the eldest. “Brian, our youngest is a sophomore at the University in Anchorage – he just got back for the summer, but we’re pretty sure he won’t settle here when he’s finished with school.” The one in the high-school cap and gown, no doubt.  “And our middle boy, Richard, will be here for the afternoon shift.” Jesse’s gaze settled on the last photo and was surprised to recognize the redhead who had a tattooed arm around the stranger’s shoulders.

‘Wha…?  But Big John said…’  He shook his head. One photo didn’t mean anything. But he couldn’t help the jealous twinge in his stomach. He did his best to ignore it and said, “Guess I’ll be meeting them all soon enough.”

Amy stepped back behind the counter. “I’d hope so. You’re sticking around a while, right?”

“Yeah, I was planning on it.”

“Good,” she said. “Don’t be a stranger now, got it?”

“Sure,” he nodded. “I’ll see ya around then.” He turned and, careful to avoid the endcap, exited the store. He debated internally about where to go next. To the bar to see Maggie? Back to the hotel to be alone? It would be nice to go back up the mountain and find that clearing, but he didn’t want to risk getting lost.

He was so caught up in his thoughts that he didn’t notice the gaggle of kids careening down the street until one of them ran smack into his legs, nearly knocking him over. “Oof! Sorry, Mister!”

Jesse steadied himself and looked down. The urchin who’d hit him couldn’t have been much older than eight, and was looking up at him through a mop of shaggy blonde hair, baring a smile that revealed missing front teeth. Charmed despite himself, Jesse asked, “What’s the rush, kid?”

“Billy said there’s a moose raiding Ol’ McMillen’s garden!” the child told him, breathless with excitement. “Wanna go see?”

‘Well, what the hell else do you have to do?’ he asked himself. He shrugged. “Why not?”

* * *

Sure enough, after jogging a few blocks to keep up with the excited grade-schooler, Jesse stopped dead in his tracks as the pavement turned to gravel and the house at the end of the street came into view. It was small, but it sat in the middle of a large lot that was overflowing with vegetation. And happily lunching on a row of greens was the biggest animal he’d even seen. It was close enough to the fence that he could see it stood a good three feet taller than the posts. “Holy-!”  Instinctively, he reached out and caught the boy who’d led him there by the collar of his shirt. “Hold it, hold it! What’re you doing?”

“I wanna get a closer look!” the boy replied, trying to wriggle loose. He pointed, and Jesse spotted half a dozen other kids clustered at the end of the driveway.

“Oh shit…” Jesse stood, frozen in place, head spinning. How was he supposed to get them away from it? Any shouting or sudden movement would surely disturb the animal. ‘Those fucking things get hit by cars…and win!’ The boy was still squirming. Jesse crouched down and wrapped his other arm around the boy’s shoulders. “Are you crazy?” he hissed. “That thing’s dangerous!”

The child turned and gave him a quizzical look. “I wasn’t gonna throw rocks at it or anything,” he said, whispering as well.

At that moment, the moose raised its head and turned to gaze at its audience. At the sight of the span of its antlers, Jesse felt his stomach flip-flop. At the end of the driveway, the group of kids started collectively backing away. The moose gave a loud snort and they broke into a run, scrambling past Jesse, who needed no additional motivation to start moving himself. He scooped the boy up under one arm and hurried off after the others, not stopping until he caught up to the pint-sized group a few blocks away.

He set the boy down and then clutched at his chest, feeling his heart racing inside it. A small tittering sound emitted from the group, and to his surprise, soon all of the kids were laughing!

“Oh man,” said the tallest of the group, a black-haired boy in a Nintendo t-shirt. “That was awesome!”

Next to him, a girl with frizzy brown hair pulled back in pig-tails asked, “So who ran first?”

A chorus of “Not me!”s sounded. Then the blonde-haired boy turned towards Jesse. “You OK, Mister? You look like you just ran a marathon or somethin’.”

Jesse took a deep breath and straightened up. “Is that…” he panted.  “What you guys…do for fun around here?”

“Doesn’t everybody?” the pig-tail girl asked.

“Oh!” an Inuit boy said, grinning. “You must be the new guy! My Uncle Duke told me about you!”

“He did, huh?” Jesse said.

“Yup,” the boy nodded, then held out his hand. “I’m David. Your name’s Josh, right?”

‘It must be something in the water,’ Jesse mused as he shook the boy’s hand. ‘Or maybe they teach this shit in the school.’ “Yeah, nice to, uh, meet ya.”

And just like everywhere else he went, the kids practically lined up to introduce themselves. The tallest boy was Billy. The pig-tail girl was Julie. There was another girl with red hair and freckles named Katie. And the boy he’d first met was Blake. “Thanks for the ride earlier,” he said with a laugh.

“Heh, yeah. So do, like, your parents really let you wander around town looking for wild animals?” Jesse asked, surveying the group.

“Weeelllll…” Blake rocked back and forth on his heels, hands behind his back. “Maybe?”

“It’s summertime,” Katie said, twisting the hem of her yellow sundress in one hand. “Mostly they just say go play outside.”

“They don’t usually get too specific,” Julie added.

“Right.” Jesse crossed his arms across his chest. “But if I told them, they probably wouldn’t be too cool about it.” The worried expressions that settled over the group almost made him feel bad for teasing them. He bent down, leaning over with his hands on his knees. “On the other hand, maybe you promise not to do crazy-dangerous stuff and I forget I saw anything?”

The instant shift from frowns to smiles was remarkable. They all began nodding.

“Alright then.” He straightened up again. “So – anybody know where a guy can get some ice cream in this town?”

“But it’s lunchtime!” David said.

Jesse smiled. “Sounds like a good lunch to me.”

Blake reached out and grabbed the cuff of his shirt. “There’s a gas station that has a cooler full of Mr. Goodbars and stuff, c’mon!”

Grinning widely, Jesse let himself be led away by his new pint-sized posse.
The Last Frontier - Chapter 7
Jesse continues his wanderings around town, meeting a number of new faces and getting his first taste of the local wildlife!

Previous: The Last Frontier - Chapter 6
Next: The Last Frontier - Chapter 8

Jesse (c) Vince Gilligan, Aaron Paul, and AMC
Everyone else (c) me
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: strong language)
Jesse dried his hands on a dish towel, rolled his sleeves back down and stepped back from the sink proudly. “Done!”

Josie stepped out from her office. “Well look at that!” She clapped him on the back, roughly. “You saved me quite a bit of time this morning. Thanks.”

“Sure,” Jessie said, draping the towel over the edge of the sink. “Anything else I can do?” he asked, looking up at her.

She shook her head. “Nah, you’ve done enough. You go on now.”

With a twinge of dejection, he nodded. “Yeah, ok. See ya later then.”

“I’m sure you will,” Josie said. She put a hand on his shoulder and steered him towards the double-doors. “Feel free to grab a cookie on the way out.”

That cheered him some, and he savored the shortbread biscuit as he emerged into the bright sunlight. ‘What now?’ He looked at his wrist only to remember he had no watch. ‘Well, that’s something I can fix.’ He wandered down the street towards the General Store. The ‘Closed’ sign was still on the door and without a timepiece he couldn’t tell how long he’d have to wait for opening time. Not wanting to go back to the hotel, he meandered up and down the main drag, looking for something open. As he passed a non-descript storefront, the sound of a fist rapping on Plexiglas made him pause. From the other side of the large window, a man around his age was waving at him.

Puzzled, Jesse pointed at his chest to confirm the stranger was indeed trying to get his attention.

“Yeah you!” came the muffled voice from behind the glass. “C’mon in!”

Bemused, Jesse did as he was told, pulling open the glass door and stepping into a room the purpose of which he couldn’t quite pinpoint. The walls were lined with records, CDs and tapes, with a desk stacked with players and a soundboard in the center. And behind the desk was the man who’d waved him in. He was tan, with blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail and big headphones draped around his neck. His t-shirt was screen-printed with the cover of Abbey Road. He was grinning as Jesse approached the desk.

“New guy!” he said, extending a hand jovially. “Nick Dio, nice to meet ya.”

“Josh Carpenter,” Jesse said, shaking yet another hand. “Likewise.”

“Have a seat!” Nick said, gesturing at the pair of chairs opposite his station. “Can I get ya anything? Coffee?”

“Uh, I’m good thanks,” Jesse said, settling into one of the chairs. “What’da you, uh, got going on here?” he asked, gesturing around vaguely.

In response, Nick placed his headphones over his ears and leaned in towards a microphone directly in front of him on the desk. “How’s it going out there, Bear Creek? We’re looking to have another fantastic day weather wise – little cooler than yesterday with highs in the mid-sixties but clear skies all day so let’s get out there and enjoy it! And to you guys out at sea, hope you can hear us! As always, text requests to the station at 34256! We’ll be rockin’ out here until quittin’ time and then I’ll be broadcasting live from Open Mike Night at the Last Stop Bar & Grill, so those of you out there that can’t make it can still appreciate all the talent our little town has to offer!” He paused and took a deep breath. “And that’s not all that’s exciting today folks! I’ve got our very own resident number five-five-five here in the studio with me!”

The color drained from Jesse’s face and his eyes widened. ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake!’ He shook his head frantically, scooting his chair away from the desk.

Nick grinned and kept speaking into the microphone. “Yep, I’ve got the new kid in town here with me, but I’m sorry to say it looks like he’s just a little bit shy. Let’s listen to another block of awesome 80’s Wake Up Jams and we’ll see if we can’t get this guy to come out of his shell a bit for us when we come back, eh?” He pressed a few buttons on his console, adjusted a dial and then pulled his headphones back down around his neck. “Not afraid of public speaking, are ya, Josh?”

“I-I didn’t realize what this all was,” Jesse stammered, standing up. “I-I’m not, like, I mean, that’s not cool, man!”

“Hey, relax!” Nick said, leaning back in his chair. “Sorry, bro. Most folks are excited to be on the radio – even if it is a dinky little AM station in the boonies. Didn’t mean to put ya on the spot there.”

Jesse’s mind was racing. How was he supposed to keep a low profile if everyone kept giving him special attention? And didn’t AM stations reach farther than FM? Had he heard that somewhere? The last thing he needed was someone recognizing his voice. ‘Stop it,’ he chided himself. ‘You’re being paranoid.’ Still, caution seemed best. “Look, I-I’d just rather not,” he managed.

“Hey, no problem,” the DJ said, shrugging.  “No pressure or anything. It didn’t even occur to me that ya might not be cool with it. That’s my bad.”

“Yeah. N-no, I mean, it’s cool. Sorry,” Jesse mumbled, feeling his heartbeat slowly return to normal.

“Nah, no worries,” Nick said. “Sit down though. You don’t mind chatting off the air, do ya?”

Jesse hesitated a beat, then retook his seat. “No, sure.”

“Alright, so let’s start easy. How’re ya liking the place so far?”

“Uh, fine I guess,” Jesse said. “It’s different. Like, it’s crazy being able to see from one end of town to the other from my hotel room. But it doesn’t make me feel, like, claustr-claustrophobic? I guess it’s all the open air and stuff.”

“I hear ya,” Nick said, nodding. “I went to school in LA, and can you believe I missed this place? I guess it’s hard to take the country out of a guy, am I right? Or are you a former city boy?”

“City,” Jesse said before he could stop himself. “W-well, suburbs really. But that can get even more suffocating than the cities, ya know?” ‘That was vague enough, right?’

“Sure, I hear ya,” Nick said. “That’s one thing I can pretty much guarantee you won’t have to worry about up here. At least until Winter. Then you better hope you’ve got a good book to curl up with. Or, ya know, something else.” He raised one eyebrow in a ‘ya-know-what-I’m-sayin’?’ kinda of way.

“Right, Maggie says it’s dark most of the time then. And I guess you get a lot of snow up here too, huh?”

“We do alright for ourselves.” The DJ leaned back and put one sneakered foot up against the desk. “So Maggie was giving ya the tour yesterday, huh?”

“Yeah,” Jesse nodded, smiling at the memory. “She really seems to love it here. It’s almost, like, contagious, right?”

Nick laughed. “Yeah, she’s a true-blue convert, that’s for sure. And it looks like she’s bringing you right into the fold.”

“Guess so.”

“Well, I hope you stick around Josh. Will I be seeing you at the Open Mike tonight?”

Jesse stood. “Yeah, it sounds like it’s the place to be.”

“All right then.” Nick rose as well. “Thanks for the chat and I’ll see ya later.”

“Later.” Jesse stepped outside, not quite sure what to take away from the exchange. Nick was a little nosy, but so was most everyone in town, he was realizing. He just had to focus on keeping his story straight in his head, and give enough bits of truth so as not to arouse suspicion. It had worked with Maggie so far. Her face flashed in his mind, her sad smile as she’d touched his arm in the clearing yesterday, and he felt a sudden pang of guilt for lying to her. ‘Not exactly lying,’ he told himself. ‘And who the hell would believe the truth anyway?’ His whole sordid history sounded so outlandish when he tried to put it in simple terms, anyone who wasn’t there to witness it would think it had to be fabricated.

‘Maybe that’s how I oughta start thinking about it too,’ he thought. If he could tell himself if was all fiction, just a horror story written for a schadenfreude-hungry audience, maybe he’s start to believe it. Maybe that would finally bring the nightmares to an end. He felt a shiver run down his spine and he hugged himself instinctively. Then, realizing he was still standing outside the radio station, he hurried away down the street.

* * *

As 11:30 rolled around, Maggie heard the front door of the pub swing open and waved to her friend. “Hey!”

“Hey girl!” Wendy sing-songed. She breezed into the room, big blonde hair piled high in a loose bun on top of her head. “A little birdy told me you might’ve been ‘entertaining a gentleman caller’ yesterday evening!”

“Is ‘little birdy’ what we’re calling Alan these days?” Maggie asked with a smirk.

“Oh hush,” Wendy said, hopping up onto a barstool. “And spill it – you really took Josh upstairs last night?”

“Nothing happened!” the redhead said. The blonde gave her an incredulous stare. “Ok, maybe we kissed.” Wendy let out a tiny excited gasp. “Maybe twice,” Maggie said. “But that was it! I wasn’t about to go jumping into bed with some guy I barely know. And I don’t appreciate the insinuations I’ve been getting all morning to the contrary,” she added huffily.

“Oh, you know we don’t mean nothin’ by it,” Wendy said. “Things get so quiet around here, that’s all. This is excitin’!” She bounced in her seat and leaned forward, her elbows on the bar. “So how was he?” she asked, voice lowered.

Maggie darted a glance towards Wyatt’s office. The door was closed. She leaned in as well, and said in a hushed tone, “Good. Like, really good.”

The older woman covered her mouth to stifle her giggles. “Really?”

“Really,” Maggie nodded. “I mean, he seems so quiet and chill, right? But there’s like…this intense undercurrent. I don’t quite know how to describe it.”

“Well, you’ll obviously have to do more investigating to figure it out!”

Maggie gave the older woman a soft shove. “Oh, stop it. Not that you’re wrong. But stop it. I really want to approach this carefully. He’s kind of…broken, I think.” She turned her gaze to the bar, drawing circles on the lacquered wood with her index finger.

Wendy straightened up. “Oh, oh no sug, don’t go at it like that. He’s not a project that needs fixin’. He’s just a person like anybody else. If you go into this thinkin’ you need to change him – I mean, remember what happened with –”

Maggie held up both hands. “I know, I know, Wendy. You don’t have to remind me. I know I’ve been attracted to messes before. But Josh isn’t like David. At least, I don’t think so. I have to find out.”

The blonde regarded carefully, pursing her lips. “Alright, sug. You just be careful alright?”

“I will. I promise.” The redhead leaned back against the shelves of liquor behind the bar. “But on the other hand, I don’t want to spoil things by overthinking them, especially so early in the game. I mean, I like the guy. Can’t we leave it at that for now?”

“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Wendy said. “I didn’t mean to get’cha all worked up.”

“It’s all right.” Maggie brushed a few errant curls out of her eyes. “You hungry? Can I get you anything?”

“I actually told Dale I’d bring him lunch at the shop today. Can I get two BLTs to go?”

The bartender moved towards the kitchen. “Promise you’ll be taking him just lunch and not gossip?”

Wendy laughed. “He’s my husband, sug! He’s no fun to gossip with.”

Maggie smiled. “Two BLTs coming right up then.”
The Last Frontier - Chapter 6
Another update, another new person for Jesse to meet! And Wendy stops by the bar to grill Maggie for juicy details about the night before!

Previous: The Last Frontier - Chapter 5
Next: The Last Frontier - Chapter 7

Jesse (c) Vince Gilligan, Aaron Paul, and AMC
Everyone else (c) me
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: sexual themes)
Sleep came less easily for Maggie.  She cleaned up the take-out in a giddy haze, and found herself humming as she changed into her PJs and brushed her teeth. She flung herself onto her bed with a happy sigh. When she closed her eyes, she could see his face, backlit by the light from her open door, but she could make out his smile – the biggest she’d seen from him yet. Remembering it made her heart beat faster.

‘And that kiss!’ The first had been as awkward as she’d expected, but nice nonetheless. The second one though. She hadn’t been prepared for the intensity. She put a hand to her cheek – she had felt his hands tremble as he’d held her face. Had that been from fear or passion? Both maybe. She rolled over, hugging her body pillow close. She hadn’t been kissed like that in…She’d never been kissed like that. She smiled to herself. The morning couldn’t come soon enough.

* * *

‘C’mon…time to cook.’

Jesse woke with a choked scream, gripping the blankets so tight he could feel his nails digging into his palms. Panting, he clutched at his head, willing the gruesome faces behind his eyelids to vanish. With a groan, he sat up, rubbing at his eyes.  Without sheer exhaustion to knock him out, would he ever have a good night’s sleep? Maybe finding a job in manual labor was the answer. If he worked himself ragged, he could just pass out at night, and then the demons of his past would be smothered.

He looked at the clock on the nightstand. 5:28 AM. He didn’t want to go back to sleep, so he showered, dressed and headed out to Josie’s on his own.

The diner was full this time, and the atmosphere was not unlike the bar had been his first night. The crowd, mostly men ranging from teens to seniors, filled the booths and the barstools, and the room was filled with the din of conversation. From behind the counter, Josie looked up from refilling coffee and waved at him. He nodded at her, and hung back by the entrance.

The older man who was the recipient of the refill turned around, spotted him, and smacked the young man seated next to him on the arm. “Get up, Jr. Let the newcomer have a seat.” The younger man frowned, rubbing his arm, but rose from his seat. “Come on, son, have a seat.”

“Ah, n-no, that’s ok!” Jesse stammered. “I can wait, really.”

“Don’t be silly. Sit!” The white-haired man patted the seat. “We’ve been wanting to officially meet you.”

Resignedly, he crossed over to the bar. “Um, thanks I guess.”

“Name’s Jack Wallace Sr.” He stuck out his hand.

Jesse wondered if he’d ever run out of hands to shake in this town. ‘There’s only 550-some total…gotta get through ‘em all eventually.’ “Josh Carpenter,” he said. It was getting easier, this new name, the more he said it.

“This here’s Jack Jr.” The older man jerked a thumb at the younger, who also offered his hand. Once it had been said, Jesse could see the resemblance.  Both men had the same square jaw, and light green eyes.

Jack Jr. held the handshake a bit longer than Jesse felt comfortable with, and said, “Was that you we spotted sneaking out the back way of the bar with Maggie last night? Alan wouldn’t tell me nothin’ when I asked.”

“Uh, I–”

He was saved from having to answer as a new hand came in and smacked Jack Jr. upside the head. It belonged to a large man with red sideburns growing down out of his John Deere cap. “Lord, boy, what’d I tell you ‘bout manners? You’ll have to excuse him, son, some people just ain’t got no decorum, I tell you what. You can call me Big John.”

Jesse shook the man’s hand. ‘I oughta just start a receiving line.’ “Nice to meet you, sir.”

“See?” Big John glared at Jack Jr. “Calls me ‘sir’ and everything.” The young man rolled his eyes and strolled off down the bar. “I gotta tell you, son. Every boy that’s come through this town in the last five years has made a run at Maggie, but ain’t none of ‘em had the luck that you’ve got.”

Jesse felt his face grow hot. “No way, huh? Well, luck’s gotta be it, but I figured I’d run outta that years ago.” Josie put a full mug of coffee in front of him and he snatched it up. “She’s, uh…she’s really something though.”

“That she is,” Big John said. Beside him, Jack Sr. nodded. “Go on then, eat. We gotta shove off soon.”

“You all fish, huh?” Jesse asked.

Big John chucked. “On good days, we do.”

“Any of you guys, like, hiring?”

The two older men exchanged a look. Big John patted his shoulder, smiling. “Put a little meat on those bones, son. Then come see me.” With that, he lumbered off back to his booth.
Jesse frowned, climbing up on his barstool at last. Josie set a plate of pancakes down in front of him. He looked up at her, confused.

“I took a guess,” she said, giving him a small smile.

“Thanks,” he mumbled, and picked up a fork.

“How come you’re looking for work so soon?” Jack Sr. asked. “Word on the street is you’ve got more than enough money to last you a good long while.”

‘That’s what you get for flashin’ your cash around, idiot.’ He stuck a forkful of pancakes in his mouth and mulled over his answer while he chewed. “I like to work,” he said at last. “I don’t do so good with nothin’ to do all day.”

“Sounds like my son,” the older man chuckled. “But work out on a fishing boat can be back breaking, and not always rewarding. Take the time you’ve got, with the money you’ve got left, and look around. There’s quite a few businesses in town that could use an extra set of hands. If you’ve got the option, don’t settle for the first thing, is all I’m saying.”

Jesse swallowed another mouthful and nodded. “Yeah, sure, uh, sir.”

Jack Sr. patted him on the back. “You’ll be fine.” He finished his coffee and set it down. “See y’round, son. At the bar tonight, most likely!”

“Not really any other nightlife, huh?” Jesse asked with a smirk.

“Nope,” Jack said. “But it’s Wednesday! That means Open Mic tonight! Wouldn’t wanna miss that, even if there was someplace else to go.” He stood, as, Jesse noted, were most of the other patrons. They pulled jackets down from hooks on the walls and filed out. Big John gave him another pat on the shoulder and Jack Jr. waggled his eyebrows in a way Jesse didn’t really like. And just like that, it was just him and one elderly couple left. He turned back to his pancakes, which he was able to finish without interruption. Josie gathered up tray after tray of dirty dishes around him, and then vanished into the kitchen. When he’d finished his coffee, he set a twenty dollar bill under the mug and got up to leave.

As he did, he heard the sound of dishes clinking behind the swinging double doors and paused. Then, with a decisive nod, he hopped up and over the bar. “Hey Josie? Need any help with those?”

* * *

“So Alan was pretty tight lipped about it, but I thought I saw you duck outta here last night with that newcomer in tow.”

Maggie looked up from the glasses she’d been washing to see the owner of the establishment leaning over the bar, eyebrows raised. “Yeah, Wy, you did,” she said, trying to look put-upon. She couldn’t help but smile though, and the gray-haired man slapped a hand down on the bar, as if he were proud of his deductive skills.

“I knew it!” he said, grinning, his teeth bright white against his weather-worn skin. “Now, I know it’s not my place.” He straightened his bolo tie. “But don’t you think that’s a, uh, a bit, er hurried?”

“Don’t get your panties in a twist,” she said, one hand on her hip. “And no, it’s not your place. And also no, I don’t think I am rushing things. I wanted to have dinner with an interesting guy – away from all the yahoos. Is that too much to ask?”

“You’re right, you’re right.” Wyatt raised his hands defensively. “Sorry to step on any toes there.”

She pursed her lips, eyeing him. Didn’t hurt to make him sweat a little. “You’re forgiven. Honestly, I know Alan and Wendy can be gossip hounds, but I expect better for you, Wy.”

He turned his gaze away, abashed. “Call me old fashioned if you want to, but I can’t help but worry about you,” he said.

“You’re not my daddy and even if you were, I’m twenty-six years old,” she reminded him, “I’ll worry about myself thank you. And he’s a nice guy. You should talk to him.”

“I plan on it.”

“And don’t go trying to scare him off.”

“I wouldn’t think of it,” he said, flashing her his best innocent smile. Then he turned on his heel and returned to his office.

Maggie shook her head. She knew generations of sexism, even in the well-meaning over-protective type, was hard to fight, but that didn’t mean she had to like it. She leaned back against the shelves of liquor, arms folded across her chest. She also didn’t have to like the implication that her judgment wasn’t reliable. It might have been true when she was younger, but only Wendy knew that. And she wasn’t a dumb kid anymore. ‘Still…he is a recovering addict…’ The admission had been a huge gamble on his part, she knew, and she respected that. Especially doing so right off the bat.

Her phone beeped and she pulled it from her apron pocket. A text from Wendy read, ‘I’ll be over for lunch. Be ready to spill!’ Maggie stuffed the phone back in her pocket. This was the main problem with a small town. It was nearly impossible to keep your business to yourself, which made it tricky when you were still figuring out your business yourself. At least Wendy would have a better attitude than the men.

Wanting to think of something else for a bit, she pulled her phone back out and shot a text to Alan. ‘Planning to do ‘I Wonder’ at Open Mike tonight – can I count on an assist?’

Her answer came back almost immediately. ‘You got it!’

Grinning, she pocketed her phone and set about rearranging the tables to clear a space in the corner for the evening’s performers.  
The Last Frontier - Chapter 5
A bit of a short one this time!

Previous Chapter - The Last Frontier - Chapter 4

Next Chapter - The Last Frontier - Chapter 6

Jesse (c) Vince Gilligan, Aaron Paul, and AMC
Everyone else (c) me
Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: sexual themes)
The town tour took most of the morning, not because there was a whole lot to see, but because Maggie knew every shop owner and spoke to them all as if they were old friends who were catching up after years apart, though it had to have been more like days. Jesse shook dozens of hands and was given one too-tight hug by the woman who owned the bakery. That was his own fault, truthfully. He’d nearly moaned in ecstasy after trying one of her signature chocolate chunk cookies. He was careful to temper his compliments a bit with any other free samples he was offered.

The abundance of samples helped him dissuade her from a sit-down lunch at the taco stand. Instead, they picked up a small carton of blueberries from the grocer and shared them as they walked along the docks and toward the edge of town.

“So how long does it take to get to know everyone in town?” Jesse asked.

“I don’t know everyone,” Maggie said. She was walking along the edge of the piers, as if on a balance beam, and he marveled at the ease with which she did it. “But being a bartender at the only bar certainly helps.”

“Oh, yeah, that makes sense.” He popped the last blueberry into his mouth and deposited the container, basketball style, into the trash can that he spotted along their route.
“Nice shot!” She grinned at him.

He was finding it easier to smile the longer he was in her company. “So where to next? I think we’ve seen every square inch of this place.”

She hopped down from the thick wooden post she’d been perched atop. “The town’s only half of it. Follow me.”

So he did, along old railroad tracks and into the woods. The pine trees were so tall he could barely make out their tops, dark against the bright blue sky. The train tracks faded away and he was thankful for the workboots he’d bought, as the trail grew rocky and full of exposed roots. She was a few paces ahead of him, not hurrying but moving purposefully and silently through the trees. After a morning full of introductions, and the crowded bar the night before, the quiet was a welcome one. By the time she stopped, at what looked like a break in the trees, he was tired and sweating. He came to a stop next to her, panting, and dismayed to see that, aside from a slight sheen on her forehead, she seemed unaffected. “You make this trek often?” he asked.

“As often as I can,” she said. “Wouldn’t you?”

She was staring out ahead of them. He turned his attention in that direction and discovered they were standing at the edge of a clearing chock full of wild flowers. “Whoa…” he breathed. “Yeah, I guess I would.”

“Let’s take a breather,” she said, and jogged out into the middle of the field before flopping down on the ground. Her tattooed arm rose up above the flowers and tall grass, waving at him. “Come on, Josh!”

He was too winded to jog, but he ambled out to her spot only to find her beaming up at him behind her aviators. “Don’t you get, like, bugs all over you doing that?” he asked.

“Oh, you must be a city boy,” she laughed. She sat up and took hold of his arm, tugging him down next to her. “A couple bugs won’t hurt ya. Especially not with you all buttoned up like that.” She plucked at the cuffs of his shirt, which were indeed buttoned. “Aren’t you hot? Why don’t you roll these up?”

Instinctively, he pulled his arm from her grasp. “I, uh, I’d rather not.”

“Sorry,” she said quickly, folding her hands in her lap.

“S’ok,” he muttered. He drew his legs up to his chest, wrapping his arms around his knees.
They sat in silence for quite a while. As they sat, Jesse wrestled with himself. It was going to seem strange to wear long sleeves all summer, even if the weather was mild. And he was trying to blend in, not stick out. And Maggie seemed to like him already. She might be a good test. Depending on how she reacted, he’d be able to guess how others might. He glanced over at her. She was braiding blades of grass together absently. ‘Well, here goes nothin’.’ Silently, he began unbuttoning the plaid shirt.

“Hmm?” Maggie looked up. “What’re you–?”

“Hang on.” He shrugged the shirt off of his shoulders and shook one arm loose, then pulled the sleeve off the other, leaving him in only his white Hanes t-shirt, which was clingy with sweat. Carefully, he folded the long-sleeve shirt and set it in his lap, folding his hands atop it. He waited, feeling her eyes on him.

“You came up here to get clean?” she said at last.

“I am clean,” he answered, not looking at her. “Almost a year now. But I knew I couldn’t stay that way if I stayed where I was.”

Her hand was on his arm then, right over the scars of all his bad decisions, squeezing gently. “Sounds to me like you made a good call. But I can understand why you wouldn’t want to have to explain that to every new person.” She paused, and then added. “I won’t tell anyone.”

“Thanks,” he said. “It feels good to tell somebody though. So, uh,” he turned a crooked smile towards her. “Thanks for asking, I guess.”

“That’s a weird thing to thank somebody for, but all right. You’re welcome for being nosy, I guess?”

She was smiling at him. She hadn’t backed away, or let judgment creep into her voice. She was just sitting there, the sun shining on her hair, smiling at him, and there were dimples in her cheeks as she smiled and he knew in that moment that he was a goner. Maybe it was a naïve reaction to the kindness she was showing, and maybe it was just a crush, but the same butterflies from earlier were going ballistic in his stomach and all he could do was smile back at her.

She reached up and ran a finger over his shoulder. “You look good in a white t-shirt.”

“Nah.” He shook his head. “But keep dragging me up this mountain and I will.”

She laughed. “Humble and cocky all in the same sentence.” She stood, stretching. “Now, as much as I could take a nap up here, I forgot sunscreen, and I gotta get these bad boys outta the sun.” She patted her arms.

“Oh, sure yeah.” He stood as well. “At least the hike back down will be easier.”

“That’s what you think.” She chuckled. “Your calf muscles might be crying in the morning, but a couple months of this and you’ll thank me!”

She was right about that. His legs were burning by the time they reached the edge of the woods at the base of the mountain. He was glad he’d kept the plaid shirt off. As they approached town again, he was able to slip it back on and hide the sweat stains that were forming on his t-shirt. “Thanks again,” he said, as they neared the main drag. “This was cool. Hanging out, I mean. Maybe we could do it again sometime?”

“How about we keep doing it right now?” she asked. She glanced at the time on her cell. “It’s only a little past two. We could have the foosball table all to ourselves at the bar. And I could use something cool to drink, how ‘bout you?”

“Y-yeah, great!” he said.

* * *

“Yoohoo, anybody home?” Maggie called as she pulled the heavy wooden door open.

“Yo!” Behind the bar, an tall, strapping Inuit man a few years her senior raised his dishrag in her direction. “Can’t stay away, huh, Mags?”

“You know it,” she said with a grin. She felt the weight of the door lessen and glanced back. Josh had one hand against it. He nodded for her to go ahead in. “Alan, this is Josh. Just came to town yesterday. I’ve been giving him the ten cent tour.”

As they approached the bar, Alan stuck out a hand. “You got swindled, my friend. Ain’t nothin’ in this town worth ten cents.”

Maggie pouted childishly, but her companion shook her coworker’s hand and said, without missing a beat, “Nothing but the tour guide, anyway. And she’s worth way more, so I got a bargain, I think.”

Alan laughed heartily. “Mags, you didn’t tell me your friend was such a charmer!”

She smirked. “Maybe because I didn’t want you setting your sights on him.”

Josh took a step back, mouth hanging open. Alan waved both hands in front of his chest. “Sorry, new guy, didn’t mean to blow your mind there. All in jest, I promise.”

“Uh…r-right, sorry,” Josh stammered. He looked to Maggie, eyes pleading.

She put a hand on his arm. “That’s alright. The tourists are always surprised to meet Alan.”

Alan shrugged. “I’m just breaking down stereotypes all over this joint. So what brings you in on your day off, hmm? Haven’t you got plenty of booze in your apartment?”

“I do,” she admitted. “But I don’t have foosball.”

“Touché. I’ll bring a couple of beers over then, shall I?”

“Please, thank you.” With that, she linked her arm around Josh’s and steered him off to the game room, which was separated from the main bar by a short hallway. “You ok?”

“J-just surprised, that’s all,” he said, and she could see his cheeks flush above his beard. “Hope that wasn’t, ya know, rude.”

“Nah,” she assured him, “He likes getting that reaction out of new people. Here we are.”
The game room wasn’t fancy, but was crammed with every form of entertainment Wyatt had been able to get his hands on. There were arcade boxes along one wall, dart boards along another, and in the center of the room both foosball and pool tables.

“Whoa…” Josh said for the second time that day, “Sweet set up.”

“I hardly ever get back here, but it’s not a bad way to spend an afternoon,” she said.
He moved around the room, peering at the arcade games. “Hardly ever get back here?” he asked, pointing at the screen of Arkanoid, which was displaying the tops scores. The letters ‘MAG’ sat in the number one spot.

She flushed. “Ok, so maybe I come back here when things are slow,” she said. “And things are slow a lot. It’s a tiny town.”

“No need to explain yourself,” he said, and she could hear the teasing in his voice. “Just, if I were that much of a badass nerd, I’d own up to it.”

She didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted. “Well, if nerds can be badass, then I guess I fit that description.”

He smiled at her. She was happy to see it seemed to pain him less than yesterday. “So have you mastered all of these games, or what? Did you bring me back here to school me?”

She returned the smile. “You’ll just have to find out.”

They made their way around the room, playing each game that allowed for two players, pausing for beers as Alan brought them. She was pleasantly surprised to find that, while he talked a big game, he didn’t quite have the skills to back it up, but he was a good sport, and seem to enjoy being beat as much as he did winning. By the time six beer bottles sat on the bar shelf along the lone empty wall, they had run out of games. Maggie sat on the pool table and polished off her forth bottle. “Well, I’m beat, how about you?”
Josh leaned against the table next to her. “Yeah. And hungry too.”

“How ‘bout this?” she said, gesturing with the neck of her bottle. It had gotten to her, a little, she had to admit, but she wasn’t concerned. “Let’s order something to go, and take it upstairs to my place? We can end the tour there, and watch a movie or something.”

“R-really?” Josh was staring down his bottle, blushing again. “I mean that sounds nice an’ all, but we just met and uh–”

“Oh relax,” she teased, punching him lightly on the shoulder. “Did I say I wanted to have sex? No. I just wanna have dinner and a movie, and we don’t have an AMC in town.”

“Uh, oh, r-right, sorry, I didn’t mean to, uh, I mean - not that you’re not hot, but uh, I–”

She put a finger to his lips. “Shush now. Take it easy. Maybe no more of these tonight.” She shook the bottle. “Let’s just go order food, ok?”

He looked relieved. “Ok.”

* * *

The climb up the modified fire escape to her apartment was blessedly short, if not a bit treacherous, with both of them a little fuzzy-headed, but Jesse clung to the railing, and Maggie clung to him and the take-out bag and they managed. Once inside, she pulled two cherry sodas from her fridge and they spread out the food on her coffee table. Cheesesteaks and fries were just what he needed to sober up. She drew the curtains, to help it seem more like evening, then she perused her DVD collection and called out titles to him to ‘yay’ or ‘nay’.

“I need something dumb and fun,” she said, crouching in front of the bookshelf, “How about The Avengers?”

“Not the shitty remake of that British TV show, right?” he asked.

“No, the one with the Hulk.”

“Sold. Let’s do this.”

“Sweet!” She popped the disk in the player, switched off the lights and then settled down next to him on the couch.

They ate in silence and then, when there was no more food, sat in silence, apart from laughing at the appropriate places in the movie. Gradually, Jesse noticed Maggie inching closer to him on the couch. Then, as the characters on screen regrouped to collectively fight off their enemy, she reached out and took hold of his hand, interlocking her fingers with his. He felt his heart beat faster, but was relieved not to have a repeat of the morning’s humiliation. This was nice. There was no need to get overexcited or over-think it. One step at a time. That was the mantra, and he could apply it to all things, and especially this thing. It was only his second day; he was experiencing culture shock for sure. For the first time in years he was feeling safe, and that in itself was intoxicating. He couldn’t let himself get carried away. One day at a time. Keep breathing. Keep moving forward – but slowly, he amended. Slowly.

‘Still…’ He raised their joined hands and pressed his lips lightly against her fingers. There was nothing wrong with thanking her for her kindness. She’d never know what it meant to him. He couldn’t tell her, not with words. But maybe actions would get the message across.

He glanced at her, and she was smiling at him again. The light from an explosion on the tv screen lit up her face. “So, I was thinking I might kiss you. Just to see what it’s like. Would that be ok?”

He swallowed thickly. “Uh, ok.”

And just like that her lips were on his and his mind was racing. ‘Soft. Sweet. Cherry? The soda? And warm. Oh God, don’t stop.’ And just as quickly as it had happened it was over and she pulled away. She bit her bottom lip, grinning and…blushing? It was hard to tell in the dark. “I haven’t done that in ages.  Sorry if it wasn’t great.”

He balked. “Are you kidding?” he breathed. “I’m the one who should be saying sorry. I didn’t even, I mean, maybe we could try again?”

She nodded, curls bobbing, and he cupped her face in both hands. He marveled at the softness of her skin before lowering his mouth on to hers. He fought the urge to use tongue. ‘Go slow, dammit!’ Instead he focused on breathing her in. She smelled like fresh mountain air. When he pulled back, she sounded as breathless as he felt.

“Well that was more like it,” she said, and draped herself against him, sighing.

“Yeah it was,” he agreed. He licked his lips, trying to savor the taste of her. Part of him wanted to ask if they could try a third time. The rest of him was petrified. What the hell was he doing, getting attached again so quickly? Hadn’t he sworn he’d live the life of a hermit once he got away, so no one would ever get hurt again because of him? But this town wasn’t going to let him do that, he could tell already. They were ready to welcome him in whether he was ready to be welcomed or not. But he was safe now, wasn’t he? Everyone who could or wanted to hurt him was dead, and the only person who even had a clue where he’d gone was living his own new life in hiding as well. All the bridges had been burned. The chains had been broken. The only one stopping him from trying to find happiness again…was himself. And that fight was going to be a tough one.

He wrapped one arm around her and let the movie finish. As it did, he rose from the couch. She slipped as he moved, and he realized she must have dozed off. “Leaving already?” she asked sleepily.

“I think I should.” He reached out and ran a hand over her curls. They felt like silk beneath his callouses. “Listen, this was, this was awesome. Could I, uh, see you again sometime?”

She leaned into his hand. “You can see me all the time. It’s a small town. But I know what you mean. And yes. I’d like to do this again too.”

“Cool. Ok. Yeah.” He fumbled backwards by the light of the tv towards the door. “I’ll, uh, I’ll see you later then.”

“Have a good night!” She waved.

“You too.” His hand found the doorknob and, grinning like an idiot, he exited the apartment. Instantly he was blinded by sunlight. With a grunt of annoyance, he slipped on his sunglasses. “Way to kill the mood, sun,” he muttered.

As he reached the bottom rung of the fire escape, he found Alan standing outside the bar’s back door. A full trash bag sat at his feet, but he was apparently using the errand as an excuse to take a smoke break. “Look at you, being all gentlemanly and not sleeping over,” he said with a smirk.

“Yeah, yeah. What’re you waiting for me?” Jesse asked. He still didn’t know what to make of the man.

“Nah, just good timing.” He stamped out the cigarette. “Maggie’s a grown-up; she can do what she wants. Doesn’t mean she’s not like a little sister to me. So I’m naturally a little curious about this newcomer she’s so clearly taken with.”

Jesse shifted uncomfortably in his spot. “Not much to tell, really. As far as she goes, look, I’ve only been here two days. She seems like a cool chick, and I just wanna get to know her better, that’s all.”

The Alaskan native smiled. “Honest. Works for me.” He picked up the trash bag and trotted down the steps to the dumpster.

His path now cleared, Jesse hurried down to the street. “So we’re, like, cool, man?”

Alan heaved the trash bag into the dumpster with a grunt of exertion that melted into a laugh. “Yeah. We’re cool.” He brushed his hands off on his jeans. “Go on, ‘man’, get outta here.”

“Right,” Jesse nodded sheepishly. “Night.”


With that, Jesse turned and made his way back to the hotel. As he climbed the stairs to his room, he idly wondered if, along with this wardrobe, he should change the way he spoke. He realized dully that he’d hardly sworn out loud since he’d gotten off the bus. That was a good start. The rest would surely follow. He crawled into bed satisfied with that conclusion, and drifted off quickly.
The Last Frontier - Chapter 4
Previous Chapter: The Last Frontier - Chapter 3

The 'first date' continues! ^_^

Next Chapter: The Last Frontier - Chapter 5

Jesse (c) Vince Gilligan, Aaron Paul, and AMC
Everyone else (c) me
So remember this story?… What originally began as a one-shot, now has four chapters over at…

I'm about half way through Chapter 5 as well, so if anyone's intertested, please go take a look! I really am having fun writing it!!


Samantha Lynn
United States
Current Residence: Nowhere'sVille, PA
Favourite genre of music: All sorts - Alternative Rock, Country, Some J-Pop, most anything from the 80s ^_^
Shell of choice: Turtle shell, of course!
Favourite cartoon character: Discord (MLP: FiM), Raphael (TMNT), Beetlejuice, The Cast of FMA, Cast of Shaman King, The Chipmunks & Chipettes
Personal Quote: When you're rich, you're not crazy - you're eccentric!

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CassieMcFadden Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Why was I NOT watching you on DA!? You're amazing!
Invader-Sam Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2014
Ha, well thanks!
CassieMcFadden Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
No problem!!!!
AceOfStCanardKLy Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014   Artist
Happy, dear! :iconchampagneplz::icontigerplz::icontiger-plz::iconponyplz::iconhorse-plz::icondogplz::iconautumnplz:
Joeycool1210 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014
Happy birthday.
StarDestinyEclipse Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Happy birthday! :D
RueSinger Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I HOPE YOU HAVE AN EPIC ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :squee:
awesomemortalkombat3 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014  Student Digital Artist
Happy Birthday! :cake: :D
lovecharmmaster Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014
Happy Birthday!!!!!!
:tighthug: :party: :party: :cake: :party: :party: 
Crazy-Croc Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2014  Student General Artist
Happy Birthday!!! :party: :cake: :donut:
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