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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Wounded

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The conclusion to the events of story number five -- a little Christmas present from me to you, and to Jake and Heather fans everywhere. Remember that I write in a universe where the series canon is not always observed, but I try to stay true to the characters. You might see the slightest hint of Scrooge and Marley in this episode. Merry Christmas to all -- and as Tiny Tim once said, God bless us, every one. Clarke

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.


The wind seemed to be blowing even harder than usual on the hillside on this cold Kansas day, the overcast skies as dark and gray as the feelings in Heather’s soul. She found herself wishing she’d worn something warmer, but she wasn’t sure that anything would truly warm her -- not on this particular day.

She looked over at Johnston and Gail Green, who had brought her here. They seemed to be talking, whispering about something. Every now and then, they looked at her. She didn’t like the implications of their look.

Others she knew were among the crowd: Bonnie, Stanley and Mimi, Dale and Skylar, even Robert Hawkins and his family. It seemed to her that half of the town of Jericho had come, but that was merely her imagination.

Her father, the minister, preached about something she wasn’t hearing.

Heather glanced at the stone again. Even now she could not believe it.

1974 - 2006

It didn’t seem real. It couldn’t be real.

She looked at Emily, who had been so close to Jake across the years. To her, Emily was ice. Her cold eyes seemed to cast their glare over at Heather and accuse her.

You let him die, they said.

Had she?

If so, she had not only lost the man she loved, she had lost her best friend as well.

Cold comfort, on an already cold day.

The ceremony was over. Heather was numb. She took a single rose she’d held in her hands -- one she’d frantically looked for, surely the last fresh red rose in all of Jericho -- and laid it on Jake’s grave. She kneeled for a moment and kissed his headstone. Then she walked away, her tears building, and slowly climbed into the back seat of Johnston’s car. She sat there, empty, alone, desolate.

For her, the brief ride home was long and silent.

* * * * * * * * * *

Back at the Green house, Heather saw Gail approach as she sat on the couch.

“Honey,” Heather heard her say, “I’m sure you did everything you could.”

She nodded, unmoved.

Heather saw Johnston walk over to join his wife. “Jake and I talked about you -- more than once. He loved you. He would have married you, in time. I thought you’d want to know.”

She tried to smile, but couldn‘t. It’s a little late for that, she thought bitterly.

Johnston’s look seemed hard to Heather. Did he blame her, too, like Emily?

The feeling unsettled her.

“If you’ll excuse me,” she managed, “I think I’d like to be alone for a while.”

She walked up the stairs as if the weight of the world were on her shoulders.

The door closed softly behind her.

* * * * * * * * * *

Heather sat down on the bed, in the room that had been Jake’s, and now was hers. Even though she’d tried to make the room her own, remembrances of Jake lurked everywhere -- on the walls, in the closets, by the windows -- a million little things that seemed to take Heather back to a time she had never known.

She knew that she couldn’t stay here, in this house, even though she had nowhere else to go. The memories of Jake would, over time, tear her apart.

And yet, she had no desire to let go of him.

Heather looked around the room, seeing everything as if for the first time.

I barely knew him, she realized.

Her tears welled up again. We were only getting started, she thought. We hardly had the chance to know each other, love each other. We never even…

The thought made Heather close her eyes, regretfully.

I wish we had, she decided, breaking for a minute with her religious beliefs. I might have had his child. I could have brought a part of him into the world…kept him with me, in a way, always…

Now, that chance was gone. Everything she had hoped for with Jake, all that she had wanted, was lost. Irretrievably, forever. My life that might have been, she thought.

She put her face in her hands and wept, uncontrollably.

And suddenly Jake was there with her, as if in a dream.

“Heather,” he spoke.

She looked up, and saw him standing in front of her.

“How could you let this happen,” his lips said softly.

Tears streamed down Heather’s cheeks. “I’m sorry,” she cried. “I didn’t know what to do. I froze. I was scared. I -- I couldn’t save you by myself…“

“Couldn’t you?” he gently questioned.

It was more than Heather could bear. He was the one person who could bring her comfort, any comfort at all, but he offered her none. She broke down, her defenses gone.

“Forgive me, Jake,” she sobbed. “Dear God, please forgive me. I loved you so much. You know I loved you.”

Jake nodded, a little too calmly.

Heather’s eyes pleaded with him.

“I’d do anything, anything at all -- “

“Would you?” Jake asked.

His question startled her.

“You know you can,” he said.

Heather didn’t understand.

This time Jake leaned over.

“Heather, “ he whispered in her ear.

“Don’t let me die.”

The words were as real as if he had actually said them.

And, in that moment, Heather returned to herself.

She looked around. She was still laying on the pavement, with Jake. Heather wasn’t sure if minutes or hours had passed. She didn’t know if she’d been dreaming, or hallucinating, or if her sanity had indeed left her for a moment or two, as she had feared.

She knew only that this was real, and not a dream.

Heather leaned over Jake, looking for signs of life, any sign at all. Her own heart was pounding so hard that she couldn’t tell if he had a pulse. She laid her face close to his, and finally felt his faint breathing.

He was alive. Dear God, he was still alive. There was still time.

A still, small voice spoke to Heather: Bring your car over here.

She didn’t know if it was the voice of God -- her father would have called it the prompting of the Holy Spirit -- or some sort of common sense that had suddenly just come to her, but she arose, her clothes covered with blood, ran a hundred feet to her car, turned over the ignition, and rushed the vehicle over to where Jake lay, wounded.

Somehow, she lifted him -- nearly two hundred pounds, limp and unresponsive -- and pulled him to one of the rear passenger doors, then moved him as gently as she could into the back seat of her car. It joined the list of things covered with his blood.

Then she clambered into the driver‘s seat, and sped away, tires screeching, in the direction of Jericho Medical. Heather looked back at Jake. He was pale, but still among the living. She had to hurry.

She pressed her foot to the floor. Her old car moved at speeds that would have been almost unthinkable on any day before the apocalypse -- ninety, a hundred miles an hour, a hundred and ten.

If there had been any pedestrians, they would have been in mortal danger from the reckless girl in the big car, but it was a quiet day in Jericho. Heather made the trip from the forlorn patch of I-70 to the medical clinic in under five minutes. She checked again to make sure Jake was still breathing, then ran into the hospital, a shock to those who happened to see her.

“April!” she called, looking for the one person she believed could save his life. “April!” she yelled again, more like a scream, attracting the attention of everyone.

April Green was tending to a patient in one of the examining rooms when Heather found her. The minute April saw her, almost all thought for her patient vanished. If it had been anyone but Heather, she might have thought her to be a madwoman: bloody, disheveled, bordering on hysterical.

“April,” said Heather, trying to compose herself. “It’s Jake. Outside. In the back seat. He’s been shot…”

Heather didn’t need to say anything more; Jake’s name set April into action. She motioned one of her assistants to look after her patient, and headed towards the clinic entrance, waving for the volunteers to follow her. “Outside!” she told them. “Bring a stretcher!”

They moved like lightning to Heather’s vehicle, and opened the doors, easing Jake out onto the stretcher. April felt his wrist as Heather looked on, distraught.

“He’s got a pulse,” she spoke, half to Heather, half to the volunteers. “Let‘s get him inside.” There was no electricity, and not much else to work with. They wheeled him into what had been emergency surgery in the time before the bombs.

April ripped off his red, soaked shirt. Heather gasped when she saw the wound.

“He’s lost a lot of blood,” said April, as if that wasn’t obvious. She addressed the volunteers again. “Someone run to the Green house and get Gail or Eric or both of them. We need a match for his blood type, and fast. Johnston‘s been sick, we can‘t chance it.” She paused, thinking, and then said it. “If Eric isn’t there, you might want to check Bailey’s Tavern. Go!” They did.

Heather spoke up. “I’d like to help, too.”

April was solicitous of her. “Of course,” she said. “Grab that oxygen tank in the corner and bring it over here. It’s one of the last ones we have. Help me get a mask on him, and then we’ll send you down the hall for a blood test. For all we know, you might be a match.”

She did as April told her. If she’d been frozen before, now she would help Jake in any way she could, determined not to allow her hallucination to happen in real life.

April adjusted his oxygen mask. “His breathing is pretty shallow,” she said, trying not to sound too concerned, for Heather‘s sake. “It doesn’t look like any major organs were hit. We’ve got to get that bullet out…”

“Allow me,” a British-accented voice said from the doorway: Dr. Kenchy Duwalia, the most recent, and highly unofficial, addition to the clinic staff. Heather was more than glad to see him again, especially now.

“I am not a surgeon,” he added, “but I have had some recent experience with removing bullets.”

Ravenwood, April remembered. She was competent, but glad to turn Jake over to him. This sort of trauma was not her forte.

“Forceps,” Dr. Duwalia called. Heather handed them to him, and he perceived her obvious concern. “It is not as bad as it looks,” he reassured her, “but we have to close the wound, stop the bleeding, and give him a transfusion as soon as possible.”

He worked deftly with the forceps, reaching inside the wound in a knowing way, and it wasn’t long before he pulled the bullet from Jake’s bleeding chest. It made a metallic clank as he dropped it into the receptacle at his feet.

“We must sterilize and pack this wound,” he told April. “I need gauze. Do you have any alcohol? Antibiotics of any kind?”

“No,” she sighed. “Even the supplies we got from Rogue River are gone now.”

“You have a veterinary clinic in the back. I have seen it,” Dr. Duwalia said. “Is there any wound powder left in the infirmary?”

April thought for a moment. “Yes!” she said. “I’m sure there is.”

“Bring it,” Dr. Duwalia told her. “We will pack the wound with that, and the gauze, and then we will bandage him. That will have to do. As soon as one of his family members arrives, we will try for a match of his blood type.”

Heather recalled April’s earlier instructions. “Where do I go?”

“Down to the lab,” April pointed her. “After that,” she said, looking her up and down, “you probably should get cleaned up.”

One look in the mirror told Heather why. Jake’s blood was everywhere -- in her hair, on her face, her hands, her clothes, as if she were a refugee from some horror movie. She was, indeed, horrified by the sight of it.

“We still have water pressure,” said April. “You can take a shower in the back. Let me give you a hospital gown to wear. Best I can offer.”

Heather took the gown and a towel from her, but stood there, reluctant to leave. Her eyes were on Jake. She couldn‘t let go.

April laid a hand on her shoulder. “Heather, there’s nothing else you can do here. Go get tested, and then take care of yourself. We’ll take care of Jake. I promise.”

Again, Heather came back to herself. She nodded, gave April a nervous but hopeful smile, and headed down the hall.

* * * * * * * * * *

Heather luxuriated in the hot shower. The Green house no longer had running water, and she’d gotten used to sponge baths and an occasional long, lukewarm soak in the tub. It wasn’t enough. She let the warm rivulets run like a river down her body, scrubbing herself hard with the soap -- another little luxury -- like she might never have another chance, since she truly wasn’t sure when she would.

She looked at the pile of bloody clothes she’d left sitting on the floor. Jake’s blood.

If she lost him…

But she would not save such a terrible souvenir. She’d read in college about how someone had decided to keep Jacqueline Kennedy’s dress from the day her husband was shot, storing it in an attic somewhere. Heather had thought it was a horrible idea. She pulled a few things out of her pockets, gingerly picked up the clothes, and deposited them in a trash bin in the corner.

She tucked the hospital gown around her -- it tied in the back, and it was too big. Heather tied the knots tightly, thinking that the people in the clinic would get an eyeful if the gown slipped, since she had discarded her underclothes. She found herself blushing at the thought of wearing nothing underneath.

She felt half-dressed, almost naked. She felt vulnerable.

But most of all, she felt so helpless, worried about Jake.

* * * * * * * * * *

Heather wasn’t a match for Jake’s blood type -- though she’d hoped she was -- but Gail Green had been rushed to the clinic, and was a match, and the transfusion had immediately taken place. By the time Heather returned from her shower, Gail was sitting in a big chair, her feet up, recovering. Feeling awkward in her oversized gown and bare feet, as if she were at home walking around in her nightgown and pajamas, Heather sat down beside her.

“Hello, dear,” Gail smiled.

Heather was too self-conscious to answer.

“They told me that you brought him here after he’d been shot -- that if you hadn’t done what you did, he’d be dead.” Gail placed a hand on hers. “Thank you, sweetheart. For all of us.”

Heather smiled through her worry, remembering what she had dreamed earlier.

Gail’s eyes grew harder. “Who did this?”

“Mitch,” Heather said. “Mitch Cafferty.”

“Damn him,” cursed Gail, the first time Heather had heard her do it. “Damn him and Jonah. How Jonah Prowse could have brought such a sweet girl as Emily into the world, I have no idea.”

Heather didn’t reply. She was Emily’s best friend, but she knew enough about her dark side to realize that, in some ways, Emily was her father’s daughter. She wasn’t always sweet.

As if her thoughts had been a cue, another figure came running through the clinic’s entrance.


Heather rose to her feet.

“I came as soon as I knew what was going on,” she said to Gail and Heather. “Someone came into Bailey’s, looking for Eric. He wasn’t there, but I heard…” She paused, thinking perhaps she shouldn’t have said it. Now they knew what she had been doing all morning.

She stared at Heather, wondering why she was wearing a hospital gown.

“What happened?” Emily asked her. “How is he?”

Heather, already highly emotional, finally lost her composure.

“Oh, God, Em…”

The two women held each other. Heather looked up in tears.

“Mitch Cafferty shot him. They took the bullet out, but…”

She lost herself for another moment.

“He’s unconscious. He lost a lot of blood,” Heather said, swallowing hard. “I don’t know if he’s going to be all right or not.”

Emily tried to reassure her. “I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Heather thought there was something else Emily wanted to say, but the conversation stopped as April approached from the end of the hallway.

She watched April’s expression closely, looking for clues.

No bad news. Not yet, at least.

“We’ve done everything we can for him,” April told the three women. “We packed and bandaged the wound. Now we wait. He’s on oxygen -- that’s all we have to give him. Our medical equipment is no good with the power out. We don’t even have an extra person to stay with him and keep track of his vitals.”

“I will,” Heather volunteered without a moment’s thought, innocently pre-empting Emily.

“Okay,” April said. “We’ll need to take his pulse regularly. I’ll show you how to use the cuff for his blood pressure, and what to look for in his respiration. And we’ll need to take his temperature every hour, minimum. If there‘s an infection, it’ll start to rise. Come with me. I’ll show you what to do.”

Heather looked at Emily. “April…give us a minute, okay?”

April nodded to them, then slowly began to make her way back down the hall.

Emily turned to Heather. “Mitch Cafferty’s dead,” she said. “Dale Turner shot him -- or at least it looks that way. They‘ve taken Dale into custody for murder.”

The news startled Heather. Dale, the quiet, conscientious kid from Gracie‘s store? She had heard about what had happened to Gracie. For Jericho, it was the beginning of the end of its innocence.

At the same time, another feeling confronted Heather. I’m glad he’s dead after what he did to Jake, she thought. But she was ashamed of herself -- nobody deserved to die like that, not even someone like Mitch -- and she pushed the emotion aside.

“There’s something else I have to tell you,“ Emily continued, reluctantly. “I…I still have feelings for Jake. I know I told you it was a long time ago, and I thought they were gone, but he has a way of bringing them back.” She looked down. “You and Jake have something going on. I don’t know what it is. I don’t want to get in your way…”

She just had, Heather thought, probably without meaning to. This was the end of the world, or something close to it. Emily was turning inward, even backward, trying to recapture what she‘d had with Jake -- or so Heather thought. She didn’t blame her.

“I don’t have any exclusive claim on Jake,“ Heather said, wishing desperately that she did. “Not yet, anyway,” she added, just a little self-defensively.

She grasped Emily’s hand, putting on her best face. “Em, we’re friends. Best friends. No matter what. And we both care about him. That’s a good thing, not a problem. Okay?”

Emily gave Heather a smile. Heather truly was her best friend. She hoped that “no matter what” would never have to be put to the test. Certainly not here, not now.

“My place isn’t here,” Emily decided, turning to leave. “You’ll be with him. I’m going home to sleep off what I’ve been doing today. You’ll come and tell me if something happens? Anything?”

Heather nodded.

Emily walked out of the clinic, thoroughly disquieted. As Heather finally moved to follow April, Gail stopped her.

“Honey, I know how worried you must be,” she said softly, “and I‘m sure that conversation you just had with Emily didn‘t make things any better.“

She was right about that, Heather thought.

“Jake is strong, “ Gail said, with the conviction of someone who had watched him drive away a thousand times, never knowing his fate. “If anyone can make it through this, he will.”

Heather smiled at the reassurance.

“And I know my son pretty well. I’ve been watching him for these past few weeks. If it means anything -- I’m sure that he loves you.”

It meant everything. Gail’s words were like a gift from above. Heather leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, and it quickly turned into a hug.

“Go home and get some rest, whenever you feel up to it,” Heather told her. “I’ll stay with him.”

“Come on,” April called to Heather, from down the hall. “Time to turn you into a nurse’s aide.”

* * * * * * * * * *.

Being a teacher, Heather proved herself to be a quick student. She learned how to read Jake’s vital signs, and took his pulse, blood pressure and temperature well into the wee hours of the morning, when only the moonlight and a single candle saved the room from utter darkness.

Nothing had changed. He wasn’t any better, but he wasn’t any worse. He hadn’t yet returned from wherever Mitch Cafferty had sent him. He looked pale, almost like a corpse…

Don’t let me die, Jake had whispered from her subconscious.

She tried to make herself put away the thought. It had been a long day, starting with the encounter on the interstate. Heather was tired. She didn’t want it to turn into hopelessness.

April peeked into the room. “You okay?”

Heather nodded. “I’d like to stay with him overnight,” she said quietly, “in case he comes to, and he needs anything, or if he…” She tried to put away the thought again.

“We can pull in one of those big recliners for you to sleep in,” April said. “I’ll go take care of that right now.”

“Thanks,” Heather smiled at April.

She sat on the edge of the bed, holding Jake’s hand.

“I know you’re there,” she said. “You’re in there, somewhere. I know you can hear me.”

She wasn’t at all sure of that, but she had to try.

“Please come back, Jake,” she said softly. “I need you. We all need you. Even Emily. I bet you never thought you‘d hear that again.” She tried to deliver those last words with a smile, like a punch line, but her attempt at laughter began to turn into tears.

The words “if only” fluttered through her mind. If only he would come back even part of the way, as an invalid, in a wheelchair, even if he was no longer the hero he’d been -- just as long as she could love him, and he could love her in return, it would be all right. Even if he came back insensate, she decided, just staring out the window for the rest of his life, she would still show her love for him in any way she could -- for the rest of hers.

If only he would come back.

Heather started to cry. She laid her head on his chest, taking care not to touch his wound, thinking maybe she could reach him in a way other than words, as she had before.

“Come back to me, Jake,” she whispered, her face wet on his nightshirt. “Dear God, please come back…”

She felt the touch of a hand. Heather looked up, expecting to see April with the recliner, or Dr. Duwalia making another check on the two of them.


It was Jake’s hand.

Reaching up to touch her.

Heather looked into his eyes. They were open.

She caught her breath.

“April!” she shouted.

The doctor was there in a moment. Heather looked up at her, eyes brimming, this time with tears of joy.

“He’s alive,” Heather breathed, then corrected herself. “He’s awake. Conscious. He’s…”

“Let me have a look,” April said to her. She peered into his eyes with one of the few instruments still at her disposal, at least until the batteries failed.

Heather, unnoticed, was offering a silent prayer of thanks.

Jake glanced at her. “You…” he started, unable to finish.

“She’s been here all day,” April told him. “She brought you here, and she’s been taking care of you ever since we took that bullet out of your chest.”

She put a hand on Heather’s shoulder, mildly aware of what had gone before.

“I’d say you’ve got him back,” she smiled.

“Please, find someone to go tell his parents,” Heather pleaded. “And Emily.”

April left the room. Jake, semi-conscious, gazed at Heather, freshly scrubbed, without makeup, still smelling of medical soap, wearing an old blue hospital gown.

She was the prettiest thing he had ever seen.

“You…” he tried again.

“Don’t worry about me,” she smiled, nearly laughing at him through her tears. She was utterly relieved. Her nightmare had not happened. The shadows of the things that could have been, had been dispelled.

“Here, drink something.”

She brought a cup of water to his lips. He took a sip, coughing a little.

“Cold,” Jake whispered.

She knew he didn’t mean the water, which was tepid at best. It was cold in the room. The heat in the hospital was no longer working, like so many other things in a world without electricity.

Heather was about to pull an extra blanket over him when she had a better idea. She gently climbed upon the bed and laid beside Jake, snuggling up to him, nestling her head against his arm, placing her hand on his chest. She would keep him warm -- now, and for the rest of the night.

She felt his arm cuddle around her.

“Heather…” Jake said.

It was all he could say.

She pressed her warmth against him, clutched his hand, and remembered a song, one that had been popular not long before the bombs fell:

If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me
And just forget the world

Heather wanted to lay here and forget the world, this world after the bombs, but it occurred to her that if it hadn’t been for the attacks, that terrible first day on the school bus, she would never have met Jake Green.

Something to be thankful for, she thought, in the middle of the end of the world.

She held him closer. The song in her head continued to play.

I don't quite know
How to say
How I feel

Those three words
Are said too much
They're not enough

“Heather,” Jake tried again.

She looked up at him.

All that I am
All that I ever was
Is here in your perfect eyes
They're all I can see…


It was just above a whisper.

“Love…you,” he managed.

Heather smiled, tearfully.

The song was wrong, she decided.

It was enough.

* * * * * * * * * *

(Lyrics from “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol, from the CD “Eyes Open,” copyright 2006, all rights reserved.)