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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Comfort and Joy"

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.


Jake Green walked home from the medical clinic. He had tended to the burial of Victor Miller, but he wasn’t satisfied. Something was wrong. He didn‘t believe Robert Hawkins, didn‘t trust him. Jake had driven Emily home, to her big empty house in the Pines, her SUV still abandoned somewhere on the road to Wichita. She had seemed okay, despite her shock at finding the refugees dead in the woods. Then he’d rigged up a generator for the Green house. Gracie had found him the generator -- it was a small one, but it wouldn’t take much to keep a few lights on at night, and his dad the Mayor needed the power for his home office during the day.

All these things he had done, but his mind was on Heather, and her house.

The Lisinski house. It had gone up like so much dry tinder, the Jericho fire department hopelessly unable to cope with all the residential fires sparked by the power surges. Eric and April were hit too, Jake recalled, and many others, but he was most worried about Heather.

It was the first time he had seen her vulnerable. She’d stood there, watching, not quite in tears, but brimming with them. He’d taken her hand, held it tightly, and she’d tried to return a smile, without much success.. There was no time to rescue any belongings, nor was there anybody at home to save. Her father had been busy tending to the sick and the dead in Jericho, and still was. Her mother had flown to L.A. to visit Heather’s younger sister at college just before the attacks occurred, and there had been no word from them. Jake strongly suspected that there was no more L.A. for any word to come from.

There was no boyfriend in her life, at least none of which Jake was ever aware. She had no other siblings. Except for her father, the Reverend -- a man of few words, austere, not at all like his daughter, yet desperately needed in town at the moment -- Heather was alone, and Jake was worried about that.

Emily had offered to take Heather in until she could sort things out. They’re probably together by now, Jake thought, the only two women in town, or the world, whatever was left of it, that really mattered to him -- not counting his Mom, of course. The thought disquieted him -- he hoped Emily was safe in that huge, isolated house of hers, with her fiancé still missing -- but after the incident at the Richmond ranch, he had decided Emily was able to take care of herself, and Heather, too.

He was walking up the stairs, having finally finished working on the generator, when he heard the car door close, and then a gentle knock at the front door.

It was Heather.

“Hey,” she said, tentatively.

“Hey.” Their usual exchange.

She was trying to act nonchalant, but Jake knew she wasn’t. There was an awkward silence before he finally said, “Come on in.”

Heather sat down on the couch. Jake sat down beside her, concerned. He hadn’t seen her like this, not during the house fire today, not even when he’d had to leave her behind at the mine, to rescue Emily. She was pale and nervous. This wasn’t the Heather Lisinski he knew -- strong, silent, in control.

It took her a minute to find the words. “Emily and I…we talked about you,” she started, and Jake immediately wondered what Emily had said. “She knew what I wanted to do, but I thought I should talk to her about it, since after all, you two…” Her voice trailed off. She didn’t want to talk about that.

“There’s not much left of my house. I found this,” she said, as she fingered a Jericho High School ring that had managed to survive the fire. Was it hers, or her sister’s? Jake didn’t know. She clutched it closely to her. “I keep thinking of all those…people we found in the woods. And my sister, Jennie…”

She looked at the ring. Jake gently placed his hand over hers.

When she looked at him again, her eyes were wet, and her voice was filled with emotion: sadness, heartbreak, longing, and all the feelings she had for him that were still unspoken, except in her heart.

“Oh, my God, Jake…”

And in that moment, the last walls fell. Jake put his arms around her, and she cried softly, her face against his chest, muffling her words.

“It’s finally getting to me,” she sobbed. “All the people, all those places…gone. Now my home is gone, too. Jennie’s in L.A.” She stopped herself, and looked up at him, horrified. “She was in L.A. My mother was there, too. I don’t know if L.A. is still there. All of my friends from teacher’s college. They were all over the country. How many of them? How many were…”

Jake felt her rising panic. He wished he had the answers. “Heather, it‘s…”

“How much of the country is left? Are we ever going to get the electricity back on? The phones? Television? Even a radio? And if we can’t, what are we going to do?”

She wiped her face, makeup running from her tears. She felt and looked like a mess. Jake was not bothered.. So she isn’t Supergirl after all, he thought, she‘s real. He put a hand on her shoulder.

“Heather, you’re strong -- stronger than you think. I’ve been watching you.” In more ways than one, he smiled to himself. He thought of the smiles, the looks she had given him, so many times. And he recalled what he had seen on the school bus on that first, awful night, and had heard about her actions in the mine. “You’re making a difference. Helping people. Holding things together.”

She looked down, barely hearing his words, not believing them. She knew better, or thought she did. She was barely holding herself together.

Jake took her face in his hands and spoke to her softly, trying to get through.

“They’ll find Jennie, if she‘s still alive. Your mother, too. If they’re not…there‘s nothing anyone can do for them now.” It was true. “Hang on, Heather. Just hang on. Please. We need you. I need you.”

The last words caught Jake almost as much by surprise as they did Heather. He hadn’t meant to say it, but there it was, and it was true. It emboldened her.

“I need you too, Jake.” There, she’d finally admitted it. It wasn’t everything, but it was enough. It gave her the courage to ask him what she needed to ask. “I told Emily I was coming here. Would it be all right if…if I stay here tonight. Just for tonight. I can drive back to Emily’s house in the morning.”

“The whole damn town will be talking about it in the morning,” Jake deadpanned. “The minister’s daughter, sleeping over with the prodigal son.”

Heather gave him a teary smile. For a moment, he thought she might even laugh. She was coming around. Jake felt relieved. He realized she was sweet on him, and truth be told, he was sweet on her, too, despite his feelings for Emily. Damn those feelings, he thought. He wasn’t about to turn Heather away.

“We haven’t got our usual extra bedroom. I’m in it,” Jake said. “But you can have the bedroom. It’s upstairs. I’ll sleep down here on the couch.” He got up, meaning to grab some extra bed sheets.

“Um…that might not be…absolutely necessary,” Heather said, quietly.

She found that she had stopped whatever Jake had planned to say next..

Carefully, she reached for the right words, afraid of scaring him away, of seeming too forward, too brazen. Heather the hussy, as her father had once called her, quite incorrectly.

“I need to…be with you tonight, Jake. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to sleep alone -- I’m not sure that I could.” Her voice grew softer. “Emily is a friend…always a friend, but tonight is different. I want to be with you.”

Jake couldn’t say a word. To her, his silence seemed almost endless.

“Look, maybe you could just…hold me for a while.” God, she prayed she hadn’t crossed the line. He’d already been holding her, so that wasn’t much of a stretch. And she desperately needed to be held. By him. Tonight, and forever, if there was any kind of future.


“We wouldn’t have to do anything…”


“I mean, I’m not trying to…”


“I wouldn’t want you to think that I was a…”

“Heather…“ Jake smiled. “It’s okay.”

That finally disarmed her. She paused for a moment.

“Jake…” She faltered, looking down. “I’m so alone.”

Jake took her hands in his. ”No, you’re not.”

Heather smiled at him, a smile that could have melted the Polar Ice Caps..

And with that settled, the truth told, the boundaries laid, the smile engaged, Jake leaned over and kissed her -- a long, slow kiss she’d wanted for a long time. Not only because he wanted to -- he did -- but also because he thought she needed it.

She did.

And, truth be told, after the events of the past four days, he did, too.

* * * * * * * * * *

Heather changed into some nightclothes she’d brought with her just in case he said yes. The outfit was feminine enough -- a soft, pink, cotton number -- but didn’t reveal any skin. Jake thought it was just the sort of thing a minister’s daughter would wear to bed. The innocence of it made him grin. Had Emily given her this? If she had, it was like the punch line to a very old joke.

She sat down on the bed. Jake sat down beside her again, his arm around her shoulders. His grin was still evident. Heather seemed thoughtful.

“You okay?”

She looked at him. “Yes…no. I don’t know. I‘m scared.” She gathered herself. “I’ve been scared all day, but I’m better now that I’m here with you.”

“You said…hold you for a while?”

“Please,” she asked, in a whisper.

Jake leaned her back upon the bed, covers pulled back, his arm still around her, and turned out the lights, now that he had them working again.. Heather snuggled comfortably into him, surprising Jake with the gentleness of her embrace. Emily had always been aggressive in bed, rough and tumble, on and gone. This was…she was different.

“Mmm,” Heather murmured agreeably.


“Yes.” She had dreamed of it since the day she met him.

They held each other for a long while, neither of them making a sound. Jake pressed her softness and warmth against him like a calm against the storm, drawing strength from her quiet nearness. Heather finally broke the silence.

“Jake…who do you think did this to us?”

“I don’t know. Nobody does. Not yet, anyway. Hawkins knows something. I saw him talking to Victor Miller. The refugee from Denver. They knew each other, somehow.”

She gasped.

“Something’s not right. I helped bury Victor. Hawkins wasn’t even there. He knows that I know something. I’ve got to be careful with him from now on.”

There was another long pause before Heather spoke.

“My father…he’s been having a…crisis of faith, I guess. He thinks that God did this to us…or at least allowed it to happen.” The thought seemed to trouble her. She looked up at Jake in the shadows, the blue moonlight streaming through the bedroom window. “Jake, do you think God did this?”

Jake wasn’t particularly religious. He thought about it for a minute.

“Heather…you and your father know more about all this than I do. I don’t have the upbringing or the training or the background. You know that.”

She nodded.

“But whatever happened, God didn’t do this. We did it -- to ourselves. People did it. We have a free will, and someone decided to use it for this. Whoever, whatever God is, he’s still up there, watching, weeping maybe, I don’t know. But tell your father, God didn’t do it.”

Heather held him closer. “I believe that too. You know more about it than you think.” She smiled again -- a big smile this time. It warmed him. She laid her head on his chest, tightened her arms around him, and dropped her words to a whisper.

“Don’t ever let go of me, Jake. I feel so safe with you.”

Jake recalled what Emily had said to him about that, and it bothered him. He didn’t want to think about Emily. Not now.

He didn’t answer. He couldn’t find the words, and in the end, he didn’t need them. He pulled the covers over them, brought her lips to his and kissed her again, more passionately this time, having finally decided that whatever had happened to the world, this girl was one of the wonderful things still left in it.

Exhausted, they melted into each other, and sleep came.

* * * * * * * * * *

He didn’t take her that night, although he wanted to, and perhaps could have. He didn’t recall that Heather had been unpopular in school, although she had told him so, or that she had only recently budded from the awkward girl everyone in town had known for years into a smart, attractive young woman.

He would have been her first, though he didn’t know it.

He might still be.

But this wasn’t the time. There would be another night for that, and Jake realized it. He glanced at the sleeping girl, her brown hair hopelessly tousled, and allowed himself the luxury of stroking her hair, gently, not wanting to rouse her from the first sleep she’d had since the bombs fell.

For the first time he thought to himself, she‘s beautiful. Even more so than Emily, he decided, in a girl-next-door kind of way. And she needed him. No one else in Jericho, not even his own family (except his Mom) and certainly not Emily, had needed him for a very long time. It sustained him, nourished him, gave him hope in a world that desperately needed it.

How had he not noticed any of this before?

It has only been four days, he reminded himself for the thousandth time.

And he needed her. She had helped him with so many things. He couldn’t imagine her not being there. What was the line from that old movie -- he’d gotten accustomed to her face? Was that from West Side Story? He couldn’t remember. It didn’t matter. It had become so much more than that.

What mattered was that he’d been able to comfort her, and she’d brought him joy simply by being there, by needing him -- loving him? He would have to try to sort out her feelings, later. Had Emily ever really loved him? She was never anything…anyone like this.

Jake realized he couldn’t have stopped the Lisinski house from burning. He couldn’t have stopped the bombs and the fallout and the radioactive rain, but by God, he swore, he was going to protect this kind and sweet girl from whatever came next…no matter how terrible or deadly.

Heather let out a soft sigh in her sleep. Jake continued to watch her.

Comfort, and joy, in the face of the apocalypse, was no small thing.

Everything else could wait until morning.




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.

Heather was.

* * * * * * * * * *

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…”

“But, Jake…”

“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.


In his.



Friday, October 27, 2006

A Skeet Interlude

Skeet Ulrich in Jericho

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Jake and Heather, a beginning...

My urge to write has been fueled by Jann's recent posts, and SF's and lgl's video contributions. This a first--Jericho fiction--but I've been SO inspired by Skeet, er JAKE, the last five weeks! (big grin)

As the thunder from the missiles faded, Jake continued to track their arc across the sky. This changed everything and it was only going to get worse before it got better. If he could pry some information from Hawkins, he'd have a better understanding of where they stood. That 'pool boy' remark had elicited a definite reaction and they needed to talk. But right now, his concern was for Heather--he hadn't seen her since the fire this afternoon and he wondered about her absence tonight at Bailey's. He'd only known the girl (he couldn't help but think of her that way) a few days, but those days held a lifetime of trauma. She'd been shaken up yesterday. They'd been hoping to rescue people, only to find them dead from radiation sickness. Hell, they'd all been shaken.

After giving Hawkins a look that spoke volumes, Jake turned and kissed his mom, telling her he'd see her in the morning. He'd taken to staying up at night, keeping an eye on things in town. Most all the men were taking a turn, helping out with security. As he walked down the street, people were returning to their homes, pondering the significance of what they'd just witnessed. When he got to Heather's, she was still standing on the front porch, arms across her chest, looking up at the sky. Jake went up the steps to stand beside her.
"April told me you were hurt today, playing SuperTeacher." He smiled, but she just looked away. When he reached for her hands, she quickly stuffed them into the pockets of her jacket, flustered.
"They're OK. Just kinda sore..."
"I just wanted to make sure you're all right. Can I come in for a minute?"
"I guess..." She turned, leaving him to follow her into the house.

The living room was dark but for the glowing logs in the fireplace. She sat on the couch, drawing her knees up, tucking her bare feet under her. She stared at the fire but said nothing. Jake sat beside her, silently waiting, finally holding out his hands. She sighed, and cautiously put her hands on top of his. She couldn't resist studying him as he intently checked her burns. She chewed her lip, wondering about this man. Who he was, where he'd been. He had such strong, capable hands, but now they were extraordinarily gentle. He examined each of her fingers, then carefully probed her tender, reddened palms with his fingertips.
"No blisters. The skin's warm--tight, but dry--that's good."

Reluctantly, he let go of her hands. Still she didn't speak. She looked exhausted. No wonder, with what she'd been through. He pulled a quilt from the back of the couch and draped it around her.
"It's going to be chilly tonight, and the fire's dying–"
"Dying. Seems like everthing...dying." She put her head down on her arms.
"You should go, Jake...please." This was not the feisty, fearless Heather he'd come to know and respect. But his previous experience made it easy to recognize her signs of shock and fatigue.
"Hey, it's ok–" he leaned closer, sqeezing her shoulder.
"No, it's not ok." She looked up at him, tears welling in her eyes.
"My parents have been gone. I accepted that. I came back here, to my gram's old house. I was making it...I was doing all right. But now what? What does it mean, those missiles?? I only had a little family left--aunts and uncles, cousins...." Her eyes widened as all the implications set in. "Oh my God, Jake, some of them had babies-- babies--"

She was sobbing now, and he pulled her across his lap.
"Heather, shhsh...ahh, sweetheart, I'm here..." All he could do was let her cry-allow her to grieve. She needed to release all of her pent-up emotion. He held her, rocked her until her tears were spent and blessed exhaustion overcame her.

He carried her into her bed and covered her with the quilt. There was no way he was leaving her like this, so he kicked off his shoes and lay down beside her. Instinctively, she curled against him, knowing even in her sleep that he was there and provided comfort. He sighed, softly kissing the top of her head, stroking her hair. They would talk in the morning...maybe in time, he could find out about her extended family. But for now, they slept.

Heather woke to the early morning sunshine peeking through her curtains. She groaned softly as she rolled over, head pounding, her eyes burning. She heard Jake in the kitchen. Oh dear God, she'd had a meltdown last night. When he'd come to her, had shown her compassion, the floodgates had opened. As if he didn't have enough troubles to deal with, his own family to worry about, she'd lost it and unloaded on him. She hurried into the bathroom, hoping to pull herself together before facing him.

When she came out, Jake was sitting on the bed.
"I made you some tea..."
She sat down beside him, feeling very shy and awkward.
"Thanks....about last night-" He gently tipped her face up to meet his.
"Listen to me. You have this town, my family...me. You have me. I'll always be here for you, Heather, always. Got it?" She nodded. He reached over to wipe the single tear from her cheek, and took her face in his hands. She was completely lost in his eyes, those deep brown eyes that held so many secrets. Her own eyes fluttered shut as his lips met hers--firm, warm, insistent. She held her breath as he gently tugged at her top lip, urging her to follow his lead, all the while pulling her closer. He kissed the corners of her mouth, her nose, her lips until she opened them to his gentle searching. He wanted to taste, to savor her sweet kisses. Finally, she exhaled and leaned into his chest, sliding her hands up his back to hold him. She gave up any doubts about him and realized she was quickly losing her heart. Jake was here, with her, and he was going to make everything all right again.



Friday, October 20, 2006

Squeaky Clean Skeet