DISCLAIMER: The name “Jericho” and all character names and trademarks associated with the television program are the intellectual property of Junction Entertainment, Fixed Mark Productions, CBS Paramount Television and/or CBS Studios, Inc.. The following story is a work of fan fiction intended solely for the entertainment of the writer and a very small circle of friends.. No infringement of copyright is intended or should be implied. If anyone at CBS happens to read this, please permit me this (very) brief sojourn in your sandbox. Author: C.
(continued from "Comfort and Joy")
The sun was high and streaming through the bedroom window when Jake Green finally awakened. It must be nine…no, ten o’clock, he thought. He wasn’t far off.
Heather was still there beside him, sleeping, apparently dreaming, judging from the wisp of a smile on her lips. Was she dreaming about him? He had seen so much anguish on her face over the past four days; it was nice to see her in reverie.
An old song ran through his head. Her young face was like that of an angel… Jake brought that to mind from the lyrics, but not much more; it was before his time. Like a picture, she was laying there…
A pretty picture, indeed.
Jake hadn’t meant to wake Heather, but his movement and attention had stirred her, and she finally opened her eyes.
“Good morning,” she murmured sleepily, still smiling.
“Good morning,” he returned, and for the first time since the attacks, he meant it. He leaned over and kissed her. Emily would already have gone home by now, he thought, a little ruefully. He didn’t want to think about Emily. Not at this moment.
Heather let his kiss linger. So, what happened last night wasn’t a dream after all.
“You looked like you were dreaming,” Jake said, as if he’d been reading her mind.
“I was,” she smiled, impishly.
“And what were you dreaming about?”
Impulsively, she pulled him closer and kissed him again, harder. She could do it, now. Before last night she wouldn’t have dared, but now the spell was broken. Or, perhaps, it had just begun.
It was a little while before they coaxed themselves to stop. Jake brushed Heather’s hair away from her eyes and grinned. “We have work to do today, you know.”
Heather glanced at the clock. Quarter to eleven. “My God, Emily must think something awful has happened to me. I told her I’d be back in the morning.”
Jake brushed it off. “Don’t worry. She knows you’re here. And we can’t just pick up the phone and call her.” Another drawback of this new world. He wasn’t really worried about Emily. “She doesn’t have her car. Stanley and Bonnie are driving over to her house today to take her some groceries and check on her. I’ll make sure she knows you’re okay.”
Heather was thoughtful. “I think we’d better find my father, and let him know that, too,” she said. “I know what he’ll be doing.”
Jake knew she was right on both counts.
* * * * * * * * * *
At the trailer park where Dale Turner lived -- had lived -- they were still sorting through the ashes. It was a charnel house. The flimsy structures had gone up in a minute; most of the residents hadn’t even made it to the door before the flames took them. There were too many dead for the Jericho police and fire departments -- what was left of them -- to handle. The Reverend Stanislaw Lisinski, a rugged man who seemed like part and parcel of the scrubbed Kansas prairie, was digging the graves. No more room in the town cemetery. He buried them right where they had lived.
Heather had no idea where her father (it had always been “Father” for her -- she never dared to call him “Dad”) had spent the past night. Probably here, she figured, or doing the same duty in another part of Jericho. The sick and the dead were an endless task in their world after the attacks. Radiation, infection, lack of medication , all of it had taken an awful toll. And now the fires. As much as Heather feared her father, she knew he would be here, helping the people of his town.
The minister saw Heather coming, and looked at her, hard.
“Reverend,” said Jake, doing his best to sound deferential.
“Where the devil have you been?” he asked sternly. At first Jake thought the question was aimed at him -- another meaningless question about his missing five years. But the preacher’s eyes were locked on Heather, as if she had come home too late from the senior prom.
Jake didn’t like the query, and realized she would have been with Emily, if it hadn’t been for him. He rose to her defense.
“You know, it’s not as if she could have come home to your house,” he said, a little irritated
“Yep. House is gone,” said the Reverend, in the flat Kansas drawl Jake had heard a hundred times from the pulpit. “My wife and Jennie, gone too, most likely. Lots of folks I know.” He kept on digging. “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. What’s gone is gone. Can’t cry over it.”
That’s easy for you to say, Jake thought; you weren’t the one crying over it last night. He looked at Heather and remembered how she had been the evening before. What kind of home life had she lived? How could he discount her emotions like that? The conversation was making him angrier by the minute. He stood his ground.
“Where have you been, girl?” her father probed again.. Heather looked more than a little nervous. Jake had heard enough.
“Heather was with me last night, Reverend. I invited her to stay with us.”
“You?” He whirled to look at Jake.
Heather knew that look all too well.
“Father,” she hurried, “nothing happened. Nothing. We --”
The Reverend stopped and leaned on his shovel. “You were a hell of a lot of trouble in this town.” He almost spat the words at Jake. “Was a time when I wouldn’t have let you near my daughter. Glad to see you go, when you left. Didn’t miss you one whit.” His tone changed. “But I hear different since you came back to Jericho.”
He motioned at Heather. “You saved her life, or so she says. The kids on the bus.. Others, too.” The minister looked at her. “That the truth, girl?”
She nodded, meekly.
The Reverend was making sure of things. “Did he do anything to you?”
Heather shook her head. Nothing she hadn’t wanted, she thought shyly.
The preacher leaned down and looked at Jake, dead serious. His gaze pierced Jake’s façade. “You take care of my daughter, now,” he told him. To Jake, it sounded like a warning, or perhaps the Eleventh Commandment. “She’s alone, now, except for me, and I won’t be around forever. She’s a strong girl, but she needs somebody.” He glanced sidelong at Heather, who didn’t argue with him.
“Might as well be you,” the Reverend said to Jake, looking him up and down as a potential suitor. “Looks like you learned a lick of sense while you were gone. Turned into a decent man.”
He moved away, and picked up his shovel again, ready to get back to work.
“Besides which,” he added, “from the way she talks, I’d say she loves you.”
Heather looked down, blushing, and prayed that -- just this once -- Jake wasn’t noticing her.
The Reverend resumed his digging, not realizing or really caring that he had caused his daughter to turn several shades of red. Jake caught her embarrassed look and took her hand, smiling, that disarming grin of his. Heather felt better. He knew how she felt about him. She knew, too. She knew that he knew. It was okay, it would be fine, it was going to be all right.
Had her father just given the two of them his blessing?
Jake suspected that he had, but he wasn’t entirely sure.
* * * * * * * * * *
After offering to help with the burials -- the Reverend told him no, he would carry out God’s work on his own, if that was indeed what this was -- Jake walked Heather from what was left of the trailer park back to the Green house. Her car was parked by the curb, a portent of unwanted farewells.
“I guess I should get back to Emily’s place,” she said quietly.
Oh, God, she didn’t want to leave.
Jake didn’t want her to leave, either. He thought she knew it.
“Heather,” he said, thinking quickly. “You don’t have to be with Emily. Stay here. Stay with us. We’ll make room for you.”
Heather felt her heart miss a beat, as if she were still in junior high.
“But…Jake…how? Where? You already told me, you’re in the extra room. Your brother and his wife, they’ve moved in too. There’s not going to be any room for…”
“Yes, there will. You can have my room. I’ll move downstairs and…”
“The basement. The garage, if I have to. I don’t care…”
“Heather,” Jake said, taking her hands, as earnest as he’d ever been in his life. “We’ll make room for you, somehow. I need you. And I think you need to be here, with me.”
His eyes looked into hers. She lost herself, and knew he was right.
“My dad knows your dad, Heather. Your family…” Damn it! He could have kicked himself for saying it. Her family was gone. If Heather had thought of that, it wasn’t evident in her face. Thank God. Jake caught himself and went on.
“I’ll talk about it with my dad this afternoon.”
Heather was teary-eyed, happy, almost giddy..
“We’ll have to get you some new clothes. What’s the name of that store downtown, Sweet Petite? They must have something in your size.”
Heather laughed inside. She’d bought almost every outfit she’d owned at the darn place. Jake was a tonic for her -- a release, an escape valve for all of her emotions.
Girlishly, she threw her arms around his neck, practically lifting herself off the ground, and kissed him. “Jake,” she whispered, “Jake Green…where have you been?”
Jake thought of where he had been for the past five years, but that wasn’t what she wanted.
She smiled at him. “Jake…where have you been all my life?”
Jake wasn’t sure what to say.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t here before, Heather. But I’m here now.”
She drew strength from that like a deep breath of autumn air.
* * * * * * * * * *
After Heather joined Stanley and Bonnie, on their way to Emily’s, to explain what was happening, Jake took on the task of convincing his father to allow Heather into the household.
Johnston Green was nonplussed. “Come on, Jake, you know we have Eric and April in this house already. There isn’t room for another person.”
“If this were a refugee from another town, you’d find room for them,” Jake said. “This is Heather. How many funerals have you and her father held together?” Jake didn’t make a habit of going to funerals, nor did Heather -- they had good, but very different reasons -- or they surely would have met before that fateful day on the school bus. It wasn’t until Jake had learned her last name was Lisinski that he’d made the connection between his father and hers.
“We don’t have an extra room in this house…”
“Yes, you do,” Jake argued. “You have my room. The one I’m in right now. She can have it. I’ll fix up a place in the basement for me.”
“Son, I don’t think it’s wise for --”
“Dad,” Jake argued, “she’s lost everything. She could have stayed with Emily, but she decided to come here. She’s…“ Jake halted “She’s someone special. And the Reverend is pretty busy right now. He asked me to look after her.” Jake had no intention of breaking that promise.
“We don’t know what’s happening out there, Dad.. We have to help each other. She’s all alone. She needs to be here with me.” A breath. “I need her here, too.”
There was a pause while his dad chewed on the evidence.
“You gonna marry this girl?”
Jake gave him a look that his father hadn’t seen since he’d courted Emily in high school.
Johnston stroked his beard. “All right,” he finally said. “I’ll have to take it up with your mother. But if she’s that important to you, she’s part of the family.”
* * * * * * * * * *
Jake couldn’t remember the last time they had set six places at the table. It must have been for his grandfather, long before he died. Now there were three couples -- Mom and Dad, Eric and April, him and Heather -- all in the same house.
He had never been comfortable at family gatherings, not during his time away -- sneaking in for an all-too-brief visit, maybe a meal, and then heading back to San Diego for…well, he and his Mom knew. He was alone, always alone, at every turn. He had to be. It was the life he had chosen -- a life now every bit as gone as San Diego was.
Tonight was different. He was home. Heather was here. And this was her home, too, for now, for the foreseeable future, or at least the only future anyone could foresee: Jericho’s attempt to survive in this radically different new world.
They made the usual small talk at dinner. Jake didn’t remember much of it later, only the genuine warmth of it all. A few introductions, some condolences, remembrances from Johnston of the years he’d known Heather’s father and how he was a good and decent man, despite his stoic behavior. And a sincere solicitousness toward Heather, going far beyond her loss. Almost as if she were his wife.
“You know you’re welcome as long as you want to stay,” Gail Green had told her.
“Thank you, Mrs. Green,” Heather had replied, almost overcome by her emotions.
Jake was pensive. He was thinking of a sermon Reverend Lisinski had preached years ago, before he left Jericho for good -- or thought he had. Not a fire-and-brimstone sermon, although he’d heard plenty of those in his adolescent years. This was something more hopeful, something from the Psalms. Jake was not especially religious, but circumstances conspired to bring the words back to him.
God sets the solitary in families, the Reverend had intoned, He makes a home for the desolate.
Jake thought about that. He looked at Eric and April, who had lost their house and were back here again, home, and he remembered Dale Turner, who had moved in with Skylar Stevens at her big house in the Pines, keeping watch over both her and the Stevens estate until her parents returned…if they returned. He smiled, thinking of those two, together; in a normal world it never would have happened. Dale was a resourceful kid. He had already gotten her sprinkler system connected to the artesian water wells. There would be no devastating fires at Skylar’s house. They would be okay, with or without her parents.
He thought of Stanley Richmond and the IRS woman -- what was her name again? -- who’d taken up residence at the Richmond ranch. Stanley had turned sweet on her. He’d told Jake so. Well, there was no telling where that was headed. But apparently there was no more Washington, D.C. for her to go home to, and it had scared the hell out of her, despite her tough exterior. Stanley had taken her in. She wouldn’t starve, for food or affection.
Heather. Jake permitted himself a long look at her. In all the world, there wasn’t another girl that mattered as much to him -- not even Emily, and that was saying something considering all that had passed between them. He’d thought Emily would be the one, then and forever. It hadn’t happened, and it was his fault, but he would settle that debt, someday.
How old would Heather have been when he had left Jericho? Eighteen? Nineteen? No wonder he hadn’t noticed her before, even in a small town. He was twenty-seven then, and she would have been just another teenage girl.
This girl is a woman now, another old song sang in his head.
Jake had absolutely no doubt about that.
Without the rest of his family noticing, he slowly reached his hand under the table, found hers, and grasped it gently. In spite of herself, Heather looked down, moved by his touch, and slipped into a smile, self-conscious and shy. It was the sweetest smile she’d ever given him. Jake thought it could light up the nighttime sky over Jericho. For the first time since he’d seen the explosion at Denver, he felt good, kind, hopeful about the uncertain future.
He pondered the Reverend’s words again, thinking that maybe there was something to all that talk about the Scripture being true just like her father always said it was.
God sets the solitary in families, he thought.
And there she was, a sweet miracle of a girl.
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