Prompt: nbc_revolution's Halloween Bingo-A-Thon. The rest of the table is HERE
Characters: Tom, Julia, Jason
Summary: After the Blackout, Tom tries to teach Jason how to use a knife, but Jason doesn't want to hurt anyone
Also on AO3
It's been two days since the Nevilles packed their belongings and started travelling, with no clear destination in mind; two days since they left their previous life and home behind them with a corpse lying in a pool of blood on their kitchen floor. They've been traveling by day, keeping mostly to main roads and to themselves, veering off the road whenever they had company. Jason has been extremely quiet for the past two days, glued to Julia's side and occasionally sneaking glances at his father. Tom paid him no attention, too focused on the map in his hands, the road ahead and his surroundings; making sure that nothing bad happened to his family on his watch.
They stopped for the night in a clearing in the woods, off the main road. Julia started to set up camp, so Tom took Jason aside to continue teaching him how to wield a knife. "Show me how you grip the handle," Tom crouched next to him, handing him the hilt of the knife.
"We did this yesterday, daddy," Jason fidgeted.
"And we're going to do this again today and the next day and the next, until you're an expert."
"But I don't want to," Jason pleaded, looking up at his dad. "Please don't make me."
"I told you- we can't show any weaknesses, because if we're weak, we're dead," Tom said in a steely voice. "Do you want to die?"
"No," Jason said quickly with a shaky voice.
"What about your mother? What if something happens to me and it's up to you to protect her? Do you want her to die, because you weren't strong enough to protect her?"
"Tom!" Julia admonished, walking up to them. "You're scaring Jason."
"He needs to learn how to defend himself," Tom argued, turning to Jason. "Take the knife, son. Don't make me repeat myself."
"You told me that we only punch the bag and not people," Jason argued, tears stinging his eyes. "You told me we don't hurt people."
"I was wrong," Tom said resolutely. "The world's changed and we've got to change with it. So wipe those tears and show me that you're a man now."
"I hate you!" Jason cried, tears streaming freely down his cheeks. "You're not my daddy- you're a monster! You killed Rob- my dad would never do that! I hate you!" He yelled and ran away.
Tom made to go after him, but Julia raised a hand to stop him. "I'll go after him. He's only seven, Tom and he's your son- don't forget that," she reprimanded, before turning her back on him and going after her son.
Julia managed to find Jason and calm him down, though how exactly Tom wasn't sure, since one look from Julia was enough to tell him to give them some space. They ate dinner in silence, Jason sitting across from him, next to his mother with the fire and a chasm between them. The flames and shadows danced across Jason's face and made him look both much older and incredibly young. Tom swallowed his feelings of remorse and self-hate, convincing himself that he's doing it all for the boy's own good. Jason never once looked up at him.
After dinner Julia tucked Jason in; Tom watched as she told him a bedtime story, while he whittled a branch with his knife. She stayed with Jason until he fell asleep, before coming over and huddling together with her husband.
"How's Jason doing?" Tom asked her, as he continued his carving.
"How do you think he's doing?" Julia countered. "Tom," she rested her hand on his, stopping him.
"I get it," Tom said, putting down the knife and stick. "My son just called me a monster; do you think I don't know that I'm scaring him? That he's just a child? I wish I could let him stay a kid, let him have a childhood- but I can't. It's a different world now, Julia, a cruel and savage world and if he doesn't grow up fast, if he doesn't learn how to protect himself- he won't make it."
"You can protect him, we can protect him," Julia argued. "He'll learn, eventually, just give him a bit more time."
"What if something happens to me? Or to you? Who'll protect him then?" Tom said passionately. "It's my fault. I was weak and afraid; I couldn't even stand my own ground with Rob and his damn music. I got fired, you know, the day that everything turned off."
"What? Why didn't you tell me?"
"I was ashamed," Tom said with disgust. "All my life I tried to do the right thing and what did it get me? I never once stood my ground and if Jason is weak, it's because of me, because I raised him to be just like me."
"I may have had a hand in raising him as well," Julia said with a raised eyebrow.
"And all his good attributes can be traced back to your good work," Tom said with a small smile.
"Nice," Julia said appreciatively. "I always did love your silver tongue. Among other things," she added with a flirty smile, before sighing. "You're right, we need to learn how to defend ourselves and survive, but Tom- Jason needs his father, not a drill sergeant."
"I am his father, but I can't be that man I used to be, the man that couldn't protect his family from a looting neighbor. That man died that day on the kitchen floor; I will do whatever it takes to keep you two safe."
"Well, could this new man that you've evolved into make sure Jason knows that he's loved?" Julia implored, grasping his hand. "And maybe ease up a bit on all the death talk and scare tactics?"
"I'll try," Tom conceded. "But Jason needs to respect me, to follow my orders without question. I'd rather he hate me and live, than love me and die."
"Are those really the only two options?" Julia asked wryly.
"I'll do my best to… Ease up on him a bit," Tom agreed, wrapping his arm around her. "But if I can't be as good a father to him as I'd want to, at least he'll still have you to be there for him. You're a wonderful mother, Julia."
"I know," Julia grinned as she cuddled closer.
"I love you, more than words could ever describe."
"I know that too," Julia quipped, causing Tom to chuckle. He tilted her chin up and kissed her, vowing to himself that no matter what, he would keep his family safe, no matter the cost.
Even if it meant becoming the monster Jason believed him to be.