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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"After Rogue River"

AUTHOR’S NOTE: What might have happened at the end of episode eight, but didn’t -- an alternate take in which Emily leaves and Heather stays. Originally posted by me, as a much shorter version in screenplay format, on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Like “Tipsy,” this tale does not retcon neatly into any of my other stories, so please take it for what it is, a short but sweet stand-alone story about Jake and Heather -- and a tide-me-over until the conclusion of the cliffhanger in “Destiny.”

DISCLAIMER: “Jericho” and all characters, trademarks and storylines associated with the 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 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 brief sojourn in your sandbox. Author: Clarke


Johnston Green was going to live.

At least that was the prognosis from Dr. Kenchy Duwalia, the physician Jake and Eric had brought back from Rogue River, along with a fresh supply of antibiotics.

Heather had watched Jake rush into the house, carrying the medicine for his father. He’d run right past her on the stairs, without noticing, without even a word -- and she’d wanted so much to welcome him home -- but his actions were understandable. His father came first. She put away her selfish impulses.

Jake had come back in one piece. That was enough, for her, for now.

And she’d played a part in helping his father. The ice she’d made -- from a child’s science project, she thought, shaking her head -- had cooled Johnston’s fever and kept him alive long enough for help to arrive.

They were infusing the antibiotics into him now. He would be all right.

After what seemed like an eternity -- Heather could hear occasional snippets of conversation trickle down from the second floor -- Jake stumbled back downstairs and sat down at the bottom of the steps. He looked exhausted.

Emily and Heather stood next to him in the dim light. Jake looked at Heather as if for the first time.

“Thanks for staying with my Mom,” Jake told her.

“Glad to help,” Heather replied, quietly, sincerely.

“She’s being humble,” Emily told Jake, rather reluctantly. “She saved your father’s life.”

For the first time since he‘d returned, a light seemed to appear in Jake’s eyes. He reached over and touched Heather’s hand.

“Thank you,” he told her, earnestly.

Heather nodded.

She turned to leave, but Jake suddenly grasped her hand.

“I mean…for everything,” he said.

A sudden look passed between them. This was about more than saving his father’s life.

It was about the two of them.

He was thinking of her kiss, that morning, before he’d left for Rogue River. She caught it in his eyes. God, those eyes of his, she thought. Those marvelous eyes.

Heather smiled -- that shy, irresistible smile Jake had come to know. He’d seen it before, that day on the school bus, driving the residents of Jericho to the fallout shelter, when their eyes had met in the rear view mirror and she’d turned away, bashful. Jake had thought it was the cutest thing he’d ever seen.

They looked at each other for a long, tender moment.

Emily watched them, nonplussed, not sure what to think. There was something going on between Jake and Heather she didn’t know about, something strong, something more than friendship. It was more than she had with Jake, who was part of her past, or with Roger, who wasn’t there. She felt uncomfortable, and suddenly very alone.

It was her cue to leave. “Well, you guys get some sleep,” Emily said, making her way to the door of the Green house, wanting very much to get away from there as quickly as possible.

Heather remained. She was uncomfortable, too, nervous and self-conscious after the kiss she’d given Jake, wondering what he thought of her, but she wanted to be there for him, regardless of her own feelings.

She knelt down next to Jake and put her hand on his.

“What did you see out there?” she asked him, softly.

Jake was a million miles away.

She’d seen it before, what the military called the “thousand-yard stare,” the look of a man who had seen too much in too short a time. The haunted look in his eyes was almost more than Heather could bear. She had to do something. Surely he knew about her feelings, now; surely he was aware that she cared for him, after that kiss?

Heather decided to take the risk.

She sat down beside him on the stairs, reached over, and gently took his hand, looking at him with love and concern, trying to bring him back from wherever his trip to Rogue River had taken him.

Jake reacted to the touch of her hand, looking at her, but unable to make a sound. He was moved by her caring attention, he needed her comfort, but he was too far gone to ask for it.

Heather sensed this, somehow. She inched closer to him and laid her head on his shoulder, wrapping her arm around his. No words were necessary. Her tenderness spoke volumes.

She felt Jake‘s arm slowly reach around her.

He took in her sweetness, her kindness, her love, as if it were a balm for his wounded soul -- for indeed it was -- feeling the softness of her hair, her face, the fabric of her red sweater, the one she’d been wearing when he’d last seen her, and still was.

He pressed her body to his for a while.

And, finally, words came back to him.

“Hell,” he said.

“I saw hell out there.”

Heather put her arm around Jake and drew him a little closer to her.

“Ravenwood,” he told her.

She drew in a deep breath; she‘d heard of them. It made her shiver.

“I thought of you,” he confessed. “The whole time. It was the only thing that got me through.” His eyes softened. “That kiss…it was something to fight for, something to come back to.”

Heather smiled at him warmly, realizing that she’d been with him all along.

Jake turned to her. “They’ll be coming,” he said. “They know our address.”

She saw his alarm, but his concern was for her and his family. Not himself.

“It’s not safe for you here, Heather. You should go. Stay with Emily up at the Pines until this whole thing blows over.”

“No. Let me stay,” she said. “I’ll keep watch while you sleep.”

Sleep. The word sounded wonderful to Jake. He didn’t even know how many hours it had been. But he didn’t want to put Heather at risk for his own comfort.

“Do you know what they’ll do to you if they find you here? It’s just me and Eric now. We can’t hold them off by ourselves -- “

“Please let me stay,” she asked, “so you can sleep for a while.”

He looked at her, wearily but thankfully. She was a brave girl.

“Just lean on me,” she smiled, softly, as if she were a pillow on which he could rest his tired soul.

Jake cautioned her. “If you see or hear anything -- anything at all --”

“I’ll wake you up,” she promised.

Jake thought to himself, if there was going to be a future for Jericho, a future for mankind after the bombs, part of it was sitting right here, next to him.

He laid his head in her lap, at long last allowing himself to close his eyes, and let out a long sigh. Heather stroked his hair, and finally put her arms around him, protectively, almost possessively.

It was as safe as he’d felt since the bombs fell.

Her warmth lulled him toward sweet slumber.

“Heather…” he said as he faded.

“I’m here, Jake,” she whispered, “I’m here.”

She leaned down, and kissed him, tenderly.

“Welcome home.”