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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Destiny

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. posted for Clarke.

“DESTINY”


Another day dawned in Jericho. Most of the days following the bombs had been the same, but this particular day was different for one person, and Jake Green was one of the handful of people who knew it. It was the day he would face his duty.

Five years had led him to this, half a decade of near-total secrecy, rugged training, and being alone as hell -- not being able to share what was happening in his life with anyone, although his Mom had figured it out. Mothers were odd that way; she‘d somehow had a sixth sense about what he was doing, and had become his confidante in the process. She was the only one.

Jake sure as hell hadn’t expected to deal with the aftermath of the apocalypse, but if this was the enemy, he would face it down, as he had all of the others. He was no longer the man who had left Jericho five years earlier. There would be no more running away.

Heather had packed a bag for him that morning, quietly, without him knowing. She’d found his dark greens and grays in the closet, thinking they were military, and tucked them all away in his big duffel bag along with the last of his toiletries, and a handwritten note of her love for him that she felt he might read, maybe even need, on the battlefield. When he’d walked upstairs that morning and been surprised by seeing his bag on the bed, ready to go, she’d given him a tearful look, rushed into his arms and held him, not saying a word, pressing all of her emotions into him with her tight embrace. He’d held her tenderly in return, cradling her head gently with his hands.

Jake recalled her words the previous evening, something about feeling like a war wife, and thought that she certainly seemed like one today. His feelings were achingly parallel.

She hadn’t been able to say much to Jake that morning, sitting across the table from him over what passed for breakfast. Heather had made her peace with it, as best as she could -- he’d made a promise, he had an obligation, he was going. She couldn’t talk him out of it, and she was trying hard not to think of herself, and especially of herself without him. It had left her choked her up, speechless, and there was so much she wanted to say. The inner conflict frustrated her nearly to tears.

She reached across the table, placed her hands on his, and looked at him. There were no words.

Jake caught her look, and it said all that needed to be said.

Do what you have to do, her eyes told him, and come back to me.


* * * * * * * * * *


Johnston Green was sitting in what was the mayor’s office these days -- his upstairs den, since the daily commute to Town Hall was proving to be entirely unworkable without transportation -- when Jake walked in. If he’d had a uniform other than his greens and grays, he would have worn it to this particular engagement.

“Dad,” he started. “You’ve heard the announcement on the radio ordering all military branches to service.”

“Yep,” Johnston said, not thinking much of it.

“It applies to me. I’m here to report for duty.”

So that’s what he’s been doing for the past five years, his father thought, something to do with the military. But then, why the long absence, the complete secrecy, the long, furtive looks between Jake and his mother whenever he did come home? There had to be something more he didn’t know about.

“Sit down,” Johnston ordered. He did.

He looked at Jake. “I knew you’d been somewhere. I didn’t know where, other than in San Diego. Now I know it was military. But I always got the impression that you had some kind of special training, covert operations, something secret, undercover, whatever the hell it was. Am I right?”

He nodded. Perhaps his Mom had hinted at things. The guess was close enough.

“You reporting specifically to me for a reason?”

“Dad, you’re the last authority left around here. The federal government is history.. The state isn’t functioning -- not yet, anyway. The county seat at Rogue River is a ghost town. San Diego is gone -- I probably couldn’t get there even if it wasn’t. When it comes down to who’s in charge here, you’re the end of the line. Did you expect me to report to the deputies?”

Johnston decided he had a point there.

“Jake, the National Guard units at Goodland and Great Bend, I haven’t had any contact with them at all. I suspect they’ve been fully deployed. Nobody home. Where they are and what they’re doing, I don’t know.”

Jake didn’t know, either. If it had been meant as a question, he didn’t have the answer. His dad went on.

“There haven’t been any other military contacts, no Army, no Navy, no Air Force, nothing. For all I know, there may be no more military, at least not the way it used to be. We’ve got a handful of deputies here in Jericho, some volunteers, and me. That’s about it.”

He got up and paced around the room a little.

“The world’s different now,” the mayor said. “If we were fighting a war overseas, an enemy we were sure of…” He turned. “We don’t know who caused these attacks, or if the second wave, the EMP, even came from the same place. We’re fighting blind, there. Some of our worst enemies are right here in the streets, creating havoc, vandalizing our town. They may not have started the war, if that’s what it is, but they may finish it -- or finish us.”

Johnston came to a decision.

“I think your place is here, right here,.” he told Jake. “If you’re expecting me to send you off to some distant shore, well, I can’t really see the point of that. Hell, I wouldn’t even know where to send you -- or how to get you there.”

Jake smiled inside. He’d thought of that problem, too.

“Shep never came back from Denver,” Johnston sighed. “You saw his truck. He’s probably dead. We’ve got refugees coming across the Colorado border -- walking, most of them, poor devils, until they drop. The medical clinic is being overwhelmed by the people that make it here. We don’t have enough medicine left to take care of them -- not even anything to kill the pain, most of the time. The Ravenwood boys and Jonah Prowse’s gang are going down I-70, taking what they want, doing what they damn well please.” He shook his head, feeling like he was presiding over anarchy.

“I’d seal off the borders if I could,” he said. “That’s impossible, but I need to know what’s coming our way. We‘ve been to the north, east, and south. West is our vulnerable direction now -- that’s where Ravenwood is coming from, and Jonah’s compound.. I’ve got no intelligence from over there. We need some short-range reconnaissance. Is that old boat of Heather’s still running?”

Jake nodded. Her car, an ancient Plymouth, hadn’t been affected much by the EMP; no electronic ignition, no computer chips. She’d replaced the spark plugs, some wiring, and a few other parts and it ran like new -- one of the handful of vehicles in Jericho that was running at all.

“You did a hell of a job in Rogue River, or so I’m told. Thanks to you, we have some antibiotics and another doctor in town. I’m not going to risk both of my sons again -- not at the same time. Eric has done something really stupid” -- Jake knew about that -- “but April is going to need him when that child comes due. I think he’ll do the right thing, when the time comes, and I don’t want to lose him. You seem to be the man for this job.”

Johnston paused. “That girl of yours. You’re obviously pretty important to her, and I know she’s pretty important to you. I also know she doesn‘t want you to leave.”

Jake nodded. He hadn’t expected his father to consider it, or even mention it.

“Are you up for this job?“ he asked him, hard. “Are you ready and willing to go?”

Jake thought of Heather and the look she had given him: Do what you have to do.

“I’m ready.”

“Will she let you have her vehicle?”

Jake said yes. He knew she would.

“All right, then,” Johnston sighed. “Take a full tank of gas from the fuel stores, and if I were you I’d throw a couple of extra gas cans in the trunk. You might need them if you run into trouble. Take your rifles and more than enough ammo -- I want you armed. Head five or ten miles down I-70 to the west and tell me what the hell is going on out there. I want you to head out first thing in the morning.”

Jake nodded his assent. He’d turned to walk out when he heard his father say one more thing.

“Son,” Johnston said, “Jericho’s lucky to have you back. You’ve already saved our ass more than once. And you’ve turned into one hell of a man.”

He looked at his prodigal boy, finally home.

“I’m proud of you, son.”


* * * * * * * * * *


The first thing Jake did was hurry home to tell Heather he wouldn’t be leaving Jericho, at least not very far or for very long. She was emotional, girlish, throwing her arms around his neck, resting her head on his chest, utterly contented. He wouldn’t be in Iraq or China or North Korea or somewhere across this devastated land, whatever was left of it. He’d be here. He’d be hers. She’d kept him.

She smiled at Jake, convinced that as long as he was with her, somehow he would never come to harm.

“Dad told me to head west down I-70 first thing in the morning,” he told her. “He wants to know what’s happening out there.”

“How far?” she asked.

“Couple of miles. Five or ten. Just far enough to see what’s heading our way.”

“Refugees…”

He nodded. “Probably, unless they’re all coming down the two-lane highways. It’s not safe on the interstate these days.”

“You’ll be careful,” she admonished him, tenderly.

He put his hands on her shoulders to reassure her. “I’m taking rifles and ammo, and I know how to take care of myself. San Diego taught me that. Heather,” he added, “I’m going to need a vehicle.”

She knew there was only one vehicle he could have meant.

“Aren’t they going to give you a police car or something?”

Jake shook his head. “They can’t. Bill and Jimmy have their hands full trying to keep up with the trouble in town and most of the police cars still aren’t running. The newer cars, the electronic ignition, the EMP fried them all. My car isn‘t running, either.” He looked at her.

“Heather,” he said reluctantly, “I need to borrow your car,” thinking it was a line straight out of an old sitcom like “Leave It to Beaver.”

She looked thoughtful. Jake thought he could see the gears of her mind turning

“You get my car on one condition and one condition only,” she told him evenly.

Jake gave her an exasperated look, waiting for what he knew was coming next.

“You’re taking me with you.”


* * * * * * * * * *


A few miles down I-70, with Heather riding shotgun, Jake knew that she had been right. If the car broke down, Jake might be able to monkey with it, but Heather knew it inside and out -- and they couldn’t exactly call Triple-A for a tow. Jake thought she could handle herself if anything went wrong. She was willing and able and capable. And, maybe most important of all, she was not afraid.

He took her hand and smiled at her. Heather smiled back. They were in agreement. By his side was where she wanted to be, and where he wanted her to be. Now, and always, as he had told her.

Jake hoped she’d be as handy with a rifle as she’d been with the spark plugs. She had never held a rifle in her life, and he’d only had time to give her the most basic of instructions.

The day was overcast and gloomy and they traveled down the dark, empty interstate as if they were the only vehicle on the road. They were. A few abandoned, overturned cars greeted them on the shoulder, mostly from the opposite direction -- people who had tried to get from Denver to Jericho, Oakley, Colby, anywhere -- fleeing from the nuclear nightmare. They’d gotten so far and then run out of gas, he figured, but the condition of some of the cars -- windows broken, tires removed, hoods up and engines stripped -- spoke of something more. Ravenwood, he thought to himself, or Jonah’s boys.

They rounded a turn -- and suddenly, unexpectedly, hit a roadblock. An old truck, blocking both lanes. Jake swerved, sideways, the car spinning to a stop. He got his bearings and looked at Heather, a probing look that needed no words. She nodded. She was shaken, but okay.

“Jake Green, you son of a bitch,” rang out a familiar voice.

It was Mitchell Cafferty, armed, staking out new territory.

Jake got out of the car, grabbing his rifle. Heather followed not far behind, also brandishing hers, but it was one on one. Jake and Mitch. As it had been before.

“And who gave you title and deed to the damn interstate,” Jake opened.

“No one. We just took it,” grinned Mitch, holding his rifle.

“I see you brought us a little present,” he added, looking squarely at Heather.

Jake turned, protective. If she was afraid of him, she wasn’t showing it. He hadn’t misjudged her at all -- unless he’d underestimated her strength of character.

“You’ll have her over my dead body,” he told Mitch.

“That could be arranged,” Mitch said coldly.

He sauntered up to Jake, both of them holding their rifles at the ready, but neither of them ready to fire on an old friend, even a former one. Not yet.

“Every now and again, a car comes down this road,” Mitch said, as if he were narrating a story for Jake‘s benefit. “I’ve been stopping them for the past couple of hours. Sometimes there’s worthwhile stuff in the back -- food, water, supplies. Sometimes nothing. But I’ve got a bundle in the back of my truck to take back to Jonah.”

“A regular Robin Hood, you are,” Jake spat at him. “Steal from the rich, give to the poor bastards at your compound.”

He glared at Jake. Jake returned the look.

“I could have killed you when I saw you hauling ass up the interstate, shot you dead, taken her -- he motioned at Heather -- “and whatever the hell else is in your car, and headed out, but I didn’t do that. I figured you and I owed each other a little something more.”

“You should have done it when you had the chance,” said Jake, fingering his rifle.

He thought he saw his old-friend-turned-enemy weaken, but only for a moment.

“Jonah wouldn’t like it,” Mitch said. “His daughter. He said she wants you alive.”

Emily, Jake thought. Maybe this time he actually had something to thank her for. Another debt he owed her -- as if he didn’t owe her enough already.

“What the hell do you want,” Jake said, impatiently.

“Here’s the deal, Jake,” Mitch ordered. “We’ve been living in that compound out on the fringes of Jericho for a long time now, kept out of town by people like your dad. That was fine when the world was civil and we could get by, but as you may have noticed, it’s not so damn civilized these days.” He spat on the ground.

“We’re moving into town. All of us. There’s plenty of space for our merry little band of patriots. You’ll welcome us into the community, give us food, water and shelter, and room to survive, or we’ll kick your asses into the next county and take whatever the hell we want anyway.”

“There are five thousand people in Jericho,” Jake intoned, “and they’re all against you.”

“They won’t fight,” countered Mitch. “They’ll let us in, rather than risk their own safety. All you have to fight with is a couple of Dukes of Hazzard deputies and your old man. You think they can stop us?”

He smiled -- that smarmy smile Jake had come to hate.

“Hell, you can help,” Mitch sarcastically added. “Tell the town to take us in. You‘re the big hero now. They‘ll listen to you. Negotiate. You did it before.”

Jake was growing angry, and showed it.

“You’re not welcome. You’ve been nothing but trouble, and you’re proving it again right now.”

“We’re going to own this little corner of the country, “ Mitch sneered.

“Like hell you are,” Jake growled, his eyes as hard as marble.

It was more than a promise.

That cinched it for Mitch. His anger got the better of him, and he hoisted his rifle and jammed it into Jake’s chin, knocking him to the ground. Jake’s rifle flew out of his hands, and Heather tensed as she saw it skid along the pavement. She felt her own rifle, still uncertain of herself.

Jake was stunned for a second, but quickly got back up and landed a roundhouse punch to Mitch’s jaw, and then a second. Mitch reeled, but held his ground. He pulled his rifle up into position, aimed it squarely at Jake, and cocked it. Heather looked on, frozen in place, horrified.

“Don’t make me do this, Jake,“ Mitch said. “We go back a long way.“

“You’ll never get a piece of Jericho,” Jake said icily, going for Mitch.

Mitch pulled the trigger.

Heather suddenly saw a part of Jake explode, and at that moment, something changed in her. She raised her rifle, and without more than a moment of thought, shot Mitch Cafferty squarely in the leg.

Only her religious upbringing stopped her from shooting him dead on the spot.

Mitch dropped to the ground, clutching his injured calf, the blood running through his fingers. He looked up at the girl -- this schoolmarm he‘d heard about -- not having expected anything like that from her. She still had the gun on him, and this time she wasn’t aiming at his leg.

“Get back in your truck, and get out of here,” Heather said, in the most menacing voice she could manage, a voice Jake never would have recognized. She kept her rifle trained on Mitch, who’d lost his when he fell -- he didn’t dare reach for it now. He continued to look at her, incredulous.

“Now!” Heather yelled, with an anger she didn’t think she owned.

He was dumbfounded and more than a little scared, but not because of Heather or the gun. He had shot Jake Green, and when Jonah found out, there would be hell to pay. He found himself hoping against his own wishes that Jake was still alive; if not, his own life was on the line.

Mitch got up, limped towards the truck, got in the vehicle, turned over the engine, and started back down the interstate toward the compound, near Jericho.

When he was out of sight, Heather dropped the rifle and fell to her knees, shaking, disbelieving all that she had seen and done, and thinking of one thing -- the only thing in the world that mattered to her at that moment.

Jake.

He was laying on the ground with a bullet in his chest. She could see the blood beginning to pour from his wound. Heather scrabbled over to him, still on the ground herself, trying to stand up and run but never entirely succeeding. At last she leaned over his bleeding body.

“Jake…oh my God, Jake…”

She couldn’t tell if he was dead or alive.

Her whole world hung in the balance for one eternal moment.

Then, Jake looked up at her through glazed eyes, half-conscious. Thank God, she whispered under her breath.

“Heather…try…stop the bleeding,” he said with an effort.

Think, Heather, think, she told herself. She’d had some basic medical training in college, in case it was needed in an emergency for her schoolchildren. She recalled the day Lucas had cut open his hand in class and she’d tended to him until April got there. But nothing in her experience had prepared her for anything as life-threatening as this.

There was no point in trying to remove the bullet; it would take a doctor or surgeon, and the two of them were laying on a stretch of interstate highway five miles from anywhere. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket, pressed it tightly against his wound, and watched it quickly turn from white to red as it soaked up the lifeblood of the man she loved.

It was not enough, not nearly enough. She hurried to her car, opened the trunk, found some small towels she knew were tucked in the back, and ran back over to Jake. Again, she pressed hard against him. Again, the blood kept coming.

“Hospital,” said Jake, fading. “Got to get…”

But there’s no way for me to do that, Heather thought, panicking. She looked at her car, a hundred feet away. I can’t get you there by myself!

She suddenly realized -- to her horror -- that she could have forced Mitch Cafferty to drive Jake to the hospital at gunpoint, had she thought more clearly, but now it was too late. You stupid girl, she railed at herself, you’ve cost him his only chance. Tears welled in her eyes.

In desperation, she threw herself on top of him, pressing the already red-soaked cloths against him with all the strength she could muster. His blood stained her hands, her clothes. She was close enough to hear him faintly whisper her name.

“Heather…”

He placed a hand on hers, as if holding on to her was life itself.

Minister’s daughter or not, she would have traded her life for his, prostituted herself, sold her soul, anything -- anything at all, to keep him from heading into the abyss.

She felt his hand slip away.

“Jake,” she cried, hopelessly.

It all spilled out of her now, all the emotions she had been holding back, the things she’d wanted to say when he’d told her he planned to report for duty, the things she wished she’d told him that morning at the breakfast table -- all the things she felt, as if the words themselves could bring him back.

She prayed he could still hear her.

“I love you, Jake,” Heather sobbed. “I’ve never loved anyone else, not in my whole life, the way I love you. I need you, I need you here, with me, for the rest of my life…the rest of our lives, together…”

It was almost a supplication. “Jake, dear God, Jake, I’m not going to make it without you,“ and as strong a girl as she was, she spoke the truth. It might have started out as a crush, but Heather had grown a woman’s heart, and it was breaking.

“Jake, hang on,” she wept, her tears falling on his shirt.. “Hang on, please, for me…for us…”

But Jake had drifted into unconsciousness. How much of it he had heard, she could never know. Heather held him tightly, feeling him slip away from her, frantically trying to figure out what to do next.

Her resourcefulness failed her. She had no clue. No ideas at all.

For the first time in her life, she thought her sanity would leave her. She could hardly think, barely breathe, her heart pounding, the world spinning around in circles before her as they lay on the pavement.

Dear God in heaven, she whispered, half praying, half pleading.

Hang on…

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Friday, November 24, 2006

TIPSY



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: Clarke

PREFACE: At the end of episode nine, Jake tells Emily, “I saw Heather, she was pretty wasted.” This is an imaginary Jake speaking, of course, but what if that scene had actually happened? This doesn’t retcon neatly into any of my other stories, so here it is as a stand-alone, just one little scene in the history between Heather and Jake. As they say about television docudramas, this is based in part on actual events, where an inebriated lady friend of mine did indeed need to be cared for by me.



“TIPSY”


Jake Green knew what day it was, and he didn’t like it at all.

He’d seen the invitation hanging on his Mom’s refrigerator almost as soon as he’d returned home to Jericho. He hadn’t known it, but Heather had helped Emily with the invitations.

“A new day, a day of happy beginnings,” it read, “to which you are invited, as Emily Ann Sullivan and Roger Albright Herman pledge their love to each other in marriage, on Sunday, November fifth, at two o’clock…”

Jake thought that it had certainly been a new day, but not one of happy beginnings. Instead, it had been the beginning of the end. Maybe not the end of the world, but possibly the end of hers.

He found himself torn by his feelings for Emily -- they were certainly still there, as he had quickly learned on his first day back in town, seeing her in the street like that -- feelings of empathy, now, of pity, of sorrow…and…love?

Put away that last thought, Jake ordered himself. What he’d had with Emily was a long time ago, and seeing her again was like watching his past life and mistakes stretch out in front of him. He wasn’t that man, not any more. He wanted to forget that life. But Emily lingered.

Her mother and brother were gone. Her father was no one she cared to speak about -- he knew that all too well. Had Emily invited her father to the wedding? Given the relationship, or lack of one, between them, he decided the answer was no.

Jake wondered who would have given her away. I gave Emily away, in my own way, he thought. Gave it all away. My life that could have been.

He was worried about her, despite himself. “Mom,” he asked, “have you seen Emily today? You know what day it is?”

“Yes, I know,” Gail Green chimed from the kitchen. “Heather said she had made some plans. She was going to take Emily out to cheer her up.”

He didn’t know Heather’s plans, but he did know what kind of cheer Emily would probably prefer. He headed out the door, making a beeline for Bailey’s Tavern.


* * * * * * * * * *


Jake never made it to the watering hole. A few blocks before he got there, he saw Heather, in the middle of Main Street, decidedly wobbly. She ambled up to him.

“You,” she piped up, a bit too cheerily, pointing a finger into his chest. “Mister Hero. You should have been here to save the day again. I got Emily drunk, and it didn’t make her feel one little bit better.” She paused, swaying a little. “I didn’t do such a bad job on myself.”

“Where’s Emily?”

“I think she went to church,” Heather slurred. “I’ve spent enough time in that church to last me the rest of my life.” She sort of waved her hand at him. “Didn’t want to go there. No way.”

Jake smiled. A tipsy Heather Lisinski. He never would have imagined it.

“Is she all right?”

“Aw, she’s fine,” said Heather with way too much enthusiasm. “I think she and the doctor, Doctor Do -- Doo-wah” -- she couldn’t quite come up with it -- “Doctor Doolittle, or whatever his name is, sort of hit it off. Doctor Ken,“ she decided. “Barbie and Ken. Perfect together.“

He shook his head. This was a side of her he had never seen.

“But enough about her,” she spouted. “I know it’s her wedding day, but I’ve never had one. Let’s talk about us.”

Jake almost choked on that.

Heather was hardly herself. She threw her arms around his neck, lopsidedly, and looked him right in the eyes.

“You know, when I kissed you, right there on the truck,” she burbled, “I wasn’t kidding.”

He didn’t doubt that, even given her present condition.

She leaned into him, the scotch still evident on her breath. “You are gorgeous,” she said, murkily, “and I am awesome. A great combination.”

Jake was intoxicated by her presence, but decided she’d be embarrassed about this later, hoping she wouldn’t remember -- at least not all of it. “Come on, let’s get you home.”

“Can’t go home,” Heather retorted, sounding a bit like her father. “Gone. Burned to the ground. I watched it.” She said it matter-of-factly, but Jake watched her mood begin to turn..

The thought disquieted her. “Burned to the ground,” she said again, more softly. Jake watched her face grow cold, and realized that she was thinking not only of her house, but of the whole world -- the world devastated by the bombs.

She leaned on him, finally starting to fade. Jake put an arm around her to prop her up. “You know where your home is now,” he said gently. She nodded at him.

“Let’s go.”

They started walking toward the Green house, Jake thinking this was more awkward than the time he had almost walked her home, both of them injured and limping. Heather could barely walk then, and it was even worse now, but for an entirely different reason.

He kept his arm around her shoulder, and as they walked, one of her arms went firmly around him. Heather stumbled over herself several times, then looked up at him with a certain self-realization.

“I’m not going to make it,” she said quietly. “God…I think I…”

Immediately, Jake’s hands were underneath her to break her fall.

He took her up in his arms and carried her. The Green house was only half a block away now, and he’d carried heavier loads in Iraq than the hundred pounds or so that was Heather.

When he got home, his hands full, he kicked at the door. His Mom looked at them for a moment. “Oh my God, Jake. Is she all right? What happened?”

“She’s drunk,” said Jake. “Guess she and Emily had a bit too much. I think she’ll be fine.”

He brought her inside, feeling a strange sensation in carrying her over the threshold. “Move those pillows off the couch,” he asked his mother, looking at where he had slept the night before.

He sat Heather down on the couch. She came to, for a moment, and suddenly put her hand over her mouth, but it wasn’t because of the things she’d said to him.

“I’m going to be sick,” she managed, weakly.

“Come on,” said Jake, and quickly led her to the downstairs bathroom, closing the door. He heard her begin to heave, and he ran upstairs, dampening a soft cloth with cold water, then coming back down to rearrange the pillows on the couch for her.

He waited.

Five minutes later, Heather wandered back into the living room, her face pale, but more sober than she’d been for the past several hours.

“I think I’d better lie down,” she faltered.

“You’ll never make it upstairs,” Jake told her. He patted the couch. “Here.”

She did as he said, and he tucked the pillows under her head and pulled the covers over her, rather tenderly, or so Gail thought as she watched him. He began to dab at Heather’s face with the damp cloth, first her forehead, then her eyes, her cheeks, her lips.

“God, that feels so good,” she murmured.

Jake smiled. He had hoped it would.

Heather took his hand, the one that wasn’t tending to her, holding it gently.

“You care. No one else has ever cared,” she admitted to him, softly. “Why do you care?”

“Because I do,” he whispered, continuing to dab at her face.

Heather kept holding his hand. She smiled.

“Thank you for caring,” she said, deciding it sounded a little too much like a Hallmark card. She tried again. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

Jake smiled back at her.

“Always, Heather,” he told her, reassuringly, still cooling her down with the moist towel.

She held on to his hand until she slipped into sleep, blissfully, under his watchful eyes, feeling as safe as she had ever felt in her life, knowing she was loved.

Jake hoped she didn’t feel too badly in the morning.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Then and Now

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE!
Skeet U treat--
I've not seen the first two pictures before but these were taken probably during the Miracles time. (see more from the link below)
This was THEN....


This is NOW...
The hairstyle is similar but his face carries the maturity that the first two lacked. He looks much older but we can call that the rugged look now - still gorgeous!


The first two pictures were courtesy of www.skeetu.com

See more of these photos in their coppermine gallery.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Let's Do It for Jericho...

I thought Stacie's suggestion was a good one (to contact CBS and tell them that we love show, etc.).

To make it easy for you, here's the link to a feedback form (you'll find Jericho in a drop down menu):

http://www.cbs.com/info/user_services/fb_global_form.shtml

Check in here after you've sent your two-cents in!

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Jericho Discussion

All right. We're nearing the end of the 'fall season' of Jericho. The show will take a brief hiatus, then return in February with all-new/no-repeat episodes.

While we know that Skeet has been working extremely hard since the show's inception (and surely deserves serious Rest & Relaxation), we can always hope that the movement for a TMoOD sequel gathers steam. Several people have emailed Ms. Creel and while it appears most parties have positive thoughts, nothing definite has been decided.

So let's talk!

1. What do you think of Jericho so far?

2. Now that we've had a chance to 'get to know' the cast, who are your favorite actors/characters and why?

3. How do you foresee the 'cliffhanger'?

4. What changes would you make in the show?

5. Any other thoughts you may have about Jericho, the cast, or Skeet...

Remember, we managed to survive the long draught between "Into the West" and "Jericho" and while seeing Skeet on weekly TV has spoiled us, we'll get through this break together! ;)

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Futures

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.

“FUTURES”


Jericho Town Hall had never been so full. Not when the tornado had touched down between here and Rogue River, not when the floods had come from Bass Lake, not even when half the crops had failed and the town had wondered how it would feed its own, let alone anyone else. This time, the place was packed, and it felt a little like that last of meeting places T.S. Eliot had written about.

Johnston Green, feeling a bit more like his old self again, had a hell of a situation on his hands. In all his days as mayor, he had never expected to preside over the death of…well, it was time to tell these people, if they didn’t already know.

“Folks,” he began. “As you know, my son Jake reported in when he got back to town and told us about the message he heard from the radio station in Nebraska. Mr. Hawkins managed to get one of those hand-cranked radios going, and heard the same message, not only on that station, but on a couple of others as well -- one in Topeka, the other one in Omaha, we think. The message is repeating, and it appears to be real.” He took a pause before saying the inevitable.

“There is no more United States. The government has shut down.”

Jake and Heather sat quietly among the crowd, listening to the reaction, everything from hubbub to shock to stifled sobs. If there was any doubt among the townspeople that the two of them were a couple, it was dispelled by the way Heather held Jake’s hand. Nor was it lost on Emily, a few rows away among the sea of folding chairs. She suddenly felt very alone in the crowd. Why these feelings for Jake all of a sudden?, she asked herself. She’d had them buried for a dozen years.

“Now, you’re probably wondering what this means,” said Johnston, trying not to say what he was thinking: the end of everything. “It means we are on our own. We still don’t know where the governor is, and we have no communications with Topeka except for those intermittent radio broadcasts, so the state government is not functioning, yet. That means the responsibility falls to local government. In this town, that means me, the town council, and the remaining law enforcement authorities.”

Jake knew that mostly meant Bill and Jimmy, and his father. Hardly the fighting force to fend off the likes of Jonah Prowse and his gang, not to mention the mercenaries from Ravenwood.

“I want to make it clear that law and order will be enforced in Jericho,” Johnston went on. “The laws presently on the books will stay on the books, but we don’t have a judge or a court for ninety miles in any direction. We don’t even have a magistrate. So, I am appointing the town council members to hear court cases.” His voice hardened. “If you break the law, badly, you are in danger of summary judgment. That means that if you’re caught stealing, killing, raping, or committing any other serious crime, and there are reliable witnesses to your actions, you run the risk of a death sentence. Death by hanging.”

There was a gasp from some in the crowd, followed by a stony silence. Heather held Jake’s hand a little tighter.

“I realize that sounds terribly harsh,” said Johnston, “but you saw and heard what happened over in Rogue River when law and order broke down. That’s not going to happen here. We’re going to actively pursue wrongdoers -- and we’re going to try to take care of each other.“ He happened to look over at Dale Turner and Skylar Stevens. They were holding hands, too. Son of a bitch, he thought, is everybody in this damn town pairing off?

“What about money?” piped up a voice from the audience.

“Worthless, probably,” drawled Johnston. “No United States government to give its ‘full faith and credit’ to that. Now, they said the government was suspended, not disbanded, so we might hold out just a little hope for the future. But for now, you might as well use your dollar bills as toilet paper.”

“Gold, silver, coins, what about those?”

“Well, might be worth something, if you can get them to a dealer who can sell them overseas.” He paused to consider it. “No economy, the way we knew it. No transportation, that’s going to be a problem. You can’t eat gold or silver, and we’ve already got shortages in this town.” The conversation was going in the wrong direction. Johnston decided to turn it around.

“What’s going to be valuable now is what people need. Food, water, the other necessities of life. Land is valuable, too, if you know how to use it. You’re going to have to barter with what you have, or can do, or can make yourself. Most of you are going to have to learn new skills -- and just about all of you are going to have to learn how to grow your own food.”

The level of talk in the already noisy room rose. This was an unsettling thing, and Johnston was as unsettled as they were. “Folks, this isn’t the end of the world. Maybe we can regroup, maybe the country can come back. Kansas is still here, Fillmore County is still here, although we don’t know everything that is going on. But for now, we’ve got to find some way to survive, without any outside help, without any resources but our own. We have to be self-sufficient, and we have to keep our heads on straight.”

“I’d arm yourselves, if I were you,” he warned the room. “There’s already been trouble with those Ravenwood people. If you‘re in danger, shoot to wound, not to kill -- unless you have to -- and then call for us. Protect yourself, your property, your loved ones. But don’t take justice into your own hands.”

He caught a glance of Mimi -- the woman from the IRS -- who was sitting with Stanley Richmond, but distinctly not holding hands. That brought a hint of a smile to his face, and gave him his closer. “About the only good news I have for you is that, come next April fifteenth, I don’t think any of you is going to have to worry about paying your damned taxes.”

Mimi gave him a look that could have withered Jericho‘s fall corn crop.

Johnston grinned. His little bomb had fallen on target.


* * * * * * * * * *


It was a sunny afternoon that day in Jericho. To look at the world, one wouldn’t know that all was not as it had been, that there was lingering radioactivity in the air, craters where Philadelphia and Chicago and Washington, D.C. and so many other cities had been, fifty million people or so dead and gone, along with the modern life that had belonged to them for so many decades. Even a month later, it was hard for many townspeople to believe and accept.

Jake and Heather left Town Hall hand in hand. They had hardly let go of each other since the time they’d heard the sobering statement on her car radio. In fact, they’d barely been apart at all.

She looked up at him. It was the same look he had seen in the car, but the fear had faded, replaced by concern, inquisitiveness, sincerity.

“So, Jake…what do we do now?”

“I’m not sure, Heather. I think one of the first things we have to do is plant a garden. Getting to the ranch is going be trouble, without transportation. We need something closer to home, with potatoes and some other vegetables that are rugged enough to survive. We can get the seeds from Stanley. If we can just grow enough food to meet our own needs…” With six people in the house, he thought, that’s going to have to be one hell of a garden.

“I should start working on some mechanical things,” she said. “This town goes back to before the Great Depression, there has to be something we can salvage. Anything foot-powered or hand-cranked will still work. Old sewing machines. Meat grinders. Victrolas! I bet I could fix those,” she offered brightly.

“Do you know what you’re going to get if you fix a Victrola?” he laughed. “Old 78 RPM records with scratchy songs that your great-grandparents listened to. If you can find any.”

“I know. I miss…hearing music,” she said, disheartened.

The town had indeed been awfully quiet that way. Jake saw her need. He thought of the catchiest song he could, and for one of the few times in his life, tried to sing -- with decidedly mixed results.

“There she was, just a-walkin’ down the street, singing…”

“Do wah diddy, diddy dum, diddy do,” she eagerly joined in.

“She looked good,” Jake sang at her.

“Looked good,” Heather came back.

“She looked fine,” Jake kept going.

“Looked fine,” Heather sang, with a huge smile on her face.

“Looked good, looked fine, and I nearly lost my mind,” sang Jake, Heather joining him on the last line, and he thought that all of it was true with respect to her. The song was older than both of them, and he didn’t get to the chorus about falling in love, but he knew that was true, too.

They smiled at each other. Jake had eased her pain a little.

He leaned down and gently but passionately kissed her. I really don’t care if the townspeople are watching, he thought. She happily returned his kiss, but when she opened her eyes, she saw just a fraction of a glance from Emily, who quickly looked away and walked off in the other direction. Heather thought she looked sad, envious.

Jake was preoccupied. She squeezed his hand.

“Hey,” she said, “we’re going to be okay.”

She’d said it to him once before, that day on the school bus, when he had driven the patients from the medical clinic to the fallout shelter. She had been right, that day. Jake earnestly hoped that she was right again.


* * * * * * * * * *


In the middle of the night, Jake heard a sound coming from upstairs. He couldn’t make out the words, but he knew the voice. It was Heather, and she was in trouble.

He padded up the stairs, quickly but softly to avoid waking the rest of his family, and stood beside her room, the room that had been his. Heather was clearly upset about something. “No,” he heard her say, then a more anguished “No!”, and finally what sounded like the start of a scream.

Was someone else in the room with her? Jake barged into the room, ready for action if necessary, and scanned the darkness as best he could. He thought of the Ravenwood gang, who knew his address now, thanks to Eric‘s carelessness. They wouldn’t be above raping a woman -- or worse. But there was no sign of anyone.

Heather was distraught, moaning. Jake sat down on the bed beside her. Nightmares, he thought. He caressed her softly on the shoulder, not wanting to frighten her, but hoping to give her an escape route from whatever was troubling her dreams. “Heather,” he whispered.

She awakened, reacting to his voice, not saying a word at first, just looking right into his eyes and heading straight into his arms.

“Jake. Oh my God, Jake. Hold me for a minute.”

He did, tightly. There was no cotton nightclothes between them this time; she was wearing a sheer nightgown that allowed all of her assets to be felt almost unhindered by Jake. He took her all in. She was warmer than usual, flustered, breathing heavily, pressing her face against his chest. He held her for a long time, until she was ready to tell him whatever had happened..

“I was in Denver, Jake. When the bombs went off.”

That’s an understandable nightmare, Jake thought..

“It was like when I was in the library -- fires everywhere, only a thousand times worse. Buildings falling down, people running, trying to escape, but there was nowhere to run. Me, too. I couldn’t run, and I couldn’t help anyone.”

Jake knew that not being able to help would have been one of Heather’s biggest fears. He thought of the piece of video they had all seen over and over again in the bar, the clips of people running for their lives. Heather hadn’t wanted to watch it. Perhaps viewing an endless loop of bad news wasn’t such a good idea.

“About the time you got here, it was all going to come crashing down on me,” she said, holding him a little tighter.

“Well, I’m glad I was able to come to your rescue,” he smiled. He hung on to her for a minute, the two of them clinging to each other in the pale blue moonlight.

She looked up and smiled back at him, her strength and confidence starting to return.

“I’ll be all right,” she said..

“Do you want me to stay?”

Heather didn’t have to think about that. “Yes.”

Jake took her into his arms again and they laid down on the bed. She held him close, and he gently stroked her hair. We always seem to end up in this situation, he mused to himself, thinking that one of these days, he’d have to do something more about it than just lay next to her….pleasant though that was.

He didn’t think of himself as a hero -- there was plenty wrong in his past for a lifetime of regrets, if he chose to dwell on it -- and the past five years had merely taught him to do what needed to be done. But he always seemed to be coming to her rescue, first on the school bus, then in the salt mine, now here in his house -- no, their house, and…

Wait a minute.

“Heather,” Jake asked, “did you say something about being in the library?”

“Yes,” she remembered with a sigh. “It was awful. Between the fire and the smoke, I couldn’t see where I was going.”

Jake’s heart stopped.

“You were in the fire? How -- why did you -- “

“Ashlee had run in there. One of my students. I had to go find her. Eric came in after us. Didn’t you know?”

He didn’t. Jake couldn’t believe Eric hadn’t told him. That bastard brother of his. If he didn’t know how much Heather meant to him, he was the last person in town who didn’t.

She saw the puzzlement on his face. “We were all trapped. Eric kept us safe until the fire was put out. If the sprinklers hadn’t come on when they did…” The thought made her shiver.

Jake retracted his earlier thought. Eric wasn’t such a bastard.

“Heather, I was there. Stanley and I got the water pressure back on again. I had no idea you were in the building. We just did what we had to do to save the library.”

“Then…you saved my life,” Heather quietly realized.. “And Ashlee’s. Your brother’s, too.”

“You saved my father’s life,” he said, remembering how she had broken his fever.

She kissed him, in gratitude. Jake was still dumbstruck. He shook his head.

“You’re something, “ he said, imagining her running into the burning library to rescue one of the children in her care -- as indeed she had -- without a thought for her own safety.

What a woman.

“You could have been killed in there. Don’t you ever think of yourself?”

Heather gently traced a line on his chest with her finger. “Only when it comes to you, Jake,” she said, tenderly. “I want you all to myself.” She looked up at him. “You might want to talk to Emily. I saw her looking at us today, outside Town Hall. She seemed upset.“

“I don’t have anything to say to her,” Jake mumbled, thinking of the day before at Emily’s house.

“Jake,” Heather insisted, “she’s so alone right now. She cares about you. And she’s my friend. I don’t want her to be hurt.”

“I know, but I already tried to comfort her. She wouldn’t take it. Besides, there’s nothing between me and Emily,” he replied. “That was a long time ago.”

“Maybe she’s not so sure of that,“ Heather told him gently.

“I am,” said Jake, looking into her eyes.

She looked thoughtful for a moment.

“You know, Jake, I don’t think I want to sleep alone any more.”

He kissed her fervently, she rose to his embrace, and at least for the moment Emily was forgotten, and they lost themselves in each other, innocently, for a very long while.


* * * * * * * * * *


The next day, Heather handily took up gardening. Taking Jake’s suggestion seriously, and looking and dressing like the farm girl she had never been, she had driven up to ask Stanley and Bonnie for advice (and seeds), stopped at the library and 4-H office for the proper books, and gotten to work that very same morning, in the Green backyard.. Heather was, as her teachers in school had always said, a self-starter.

“Potatoes, soybeans, canola, oats,” she smiled, lining up the seeds in rows.

Jake didn’t find any of that particularly appetizing, except for the potatoes.

“Canola? What the hell is that?”

“For cooking oil. We’ll need it.“ She brushed the dirt from her gloves. “It’s too late in the season to plant wheat or corn, and there’s not enough room here, anyway. That’ll have to wait until next year.”

“You’re presuming there’s going to be a next year, “ Jake replied.

Heather stopped. She looked at him.

“There will,” she said, softly, firmly.

Gail Green watched as Heather began to work the soil with the tools that were available to her. “That’s quite a young woman you’ve got there,” she smiled at her son.

Pioneer woman, he thought. Little House on the Prairie, after the apocalypse. He decided that he would join her later, but first he had something to tend to besides the garden.

Jake took a few moments to tune around with the hand-cranked radio. Robert Hawkins had given it to the mayor for whatever use it might be put to. Civil defense, Jake thought, except there was no such thing any more. They’d be damn lucky if a leftover FEMA truck pulled up with whatever was left of its supplies, and he didn’t expect even that to happen. The government was gone, and his father had brought the radio home, where they could spend more time searching for signals.

He found the Nebraska station again, broadcasting the same message he and Heather had heard in the car. Jake wondered if there was anyone at the station, or if the message was automated, being sent out from a building -- a town -- full of dead people, day after day, for hours without end.. He had no way of knowing.

The message had been repeated so many times it was burned into his brain. It droned on. “All of our government and military personnel in other countries are being recalled…”

Let’s see you get them back here, Jake thought. Maybe you can use canoes.

“All active members of the United States Armed Forces, the Navy and its associated branches…”

Jake heard those last words as if for the first time.

The Navy, and its associated branches.

My God. He hadn’t thought of that. Until now.

“…ordered to report to their local district commanders, or to their state and local authorities, and to take orders from them directly...”

Jake’s mind whirled around like Dorothy’s house in “The Wizard of Oz.” San Diego, he thought. But there was no more San Diego. The five years he had spent away from home suddenly stretched out before him like a long scroll, like a debt that had just come due, as indeed it had.

He watched Heather, the girl he had chosen -- she had chosen him, really, from the beginning -- as she selflessly toiled in the backyard, trying to make their future more certain.

How in the world was he going to tell her?


* * * * * * * * * *

He had to do it, and quickly. In the evening, he took Heather aside, saying they needed to talk -- not the wisest thing to say to a woman right after dinner. She looked at him, quizzically, as they sat on the couch.

“Heather,” he started, holding her hands. “There are a lot of things you don’t know about me.”

Emily had said the same thing. She gave him a confused look, not sure what to expect from this. Was he going to try to break up with her? She tried to put away that thought, replacing it with the certain knowledge that it would take a lot more than a few bad things in his past to push her away. She loved him, no matter what.

“I was away for a long time. Five years. A lot can happen to a guy in five years. You don’t know where I’ve been…all the things I‘ve done.”

“I don’t care where you’ve been,” she argued. “You haven’t been in jail, have you? You haven’t killed anyone?”

Jake didn’t want to address her last comment.

“You’re here, now,” she said, a bit more softly, at least in part to reassure herself. “Jericho needs you. Your family needs you.” A pause. “I need you.”

“Heather…” Jake swallowed hard. “The instructions we heard on the radio, to the military, to the various branches. They apply to me.”

She looked at him. Dear God, please. No.

“I have to report. I have to report for duty.”

A frightened look arose in her eyes. “Jake…”

“I’m not even sure who I’m supposed to report to,” he continued. “I was in San Diego. The city’s gone. There’s no communications. I don’t know who the next-in-line to my commander is. But essentially, I’m supposed to put myself at the disposal of the government…”

“There is no government,” she protested.

Even now, Jake couldn’t quite believe it.

He checked himself. “Well, whoever, whatever is still functioning, I have to make myself available to them for…“

“For what?” Heather interrupted. “To go out there, into the middle of who knows what, to defend the ruins of whatever is still….” She trailed off, her tears welling up.

“Heather,” Jake said softly, “Damn it, I took an oath.”

Damn your oath, thought Heather. She had lost her home, her family, everything she had, except for her stubborn father. For once she felt terribly selfish. She wasn’t going to lose Jake as well. Not now. Not after all they’d been through.

She placed her hands on his arms, and her next words were full of tears and anger.

“Jake, don’t do this.”.

“Heather…”

“You don’t have to go. There’s no more country. You don’t have an obligation to a place that no longer exists.”

Jake pulled her away from him and looked her in the eyes. “That’s like saying that my dad should forget about being mayor because there’s no more county seat, or because he can’t contact Topeka to get instructions.” He reacted as the man he’d been for the five years before he’d returned to Jericho; Heather thought she barely recognized him. There was a hardness to his eyes. “If there’s anything left out there, if there’s ever going to be a United States again, then I have to do what I gave my solemn word to do.”

“Then take me with you,” Heather asked, trying another road. “I’m not afraid of what’s out there, and I don’t mind being a war wife, or whatever they call it these days.” She stopped herself, startled, and placed her hand over her mouth, self-consciously; she‘d used the word wife.

The moment wasn’t lost on Jake, but he kept going..

“Heather, I’m not going to put you at risk -- ”

“You put me at risk every time you leave,” she cried, thinking of how scared she had been when he was heading for Rogue River, and how she had thrown caution to the wind, and herself into his arms, and kissed him -- the kiss that had changed everything.

Jake knew she was right. But he’d made up his mind.

“Heather,” he said gently, “I have to do this.”

She just looked at him, still crying.

“I’m going to talk to my Dad in the morning. He‘s the only real government authority we have left in this town. He’ll have some idea of what the hell I‘m supposed to do next.”

She nodded, not hearing anything he’d said.

Jake took her face in his hands and kissed her. She kissed him back, a bit reluctantly, but wanting the gentle reassurance of his lips on hers.

“Forgive me,” he said quietly.

She seemed to him to be better, but she was merely numb, and Jake didn’t perceive it. He got up from the couch and left the room, not seeing her head fall, or hearing her tears again after he had gone.

Of all the times she’d felt she was losing him, she thought this one was the worst.


* * * * * * * * * *


The night was a little chilly, not only in Jericho, but also in the Green house. Heather had said a soft good night to Jake, but nothing more. She hadn’t kissed him, she hadn’t invited him upstairs -- they typically talked before bedtime, and sometimes well past it -- she‘d crept up the stairs, quietly, and closed the door to her room.

I don’t blame her, Jake thought.

He thought of the two promises he had made -- one to his country, a country that no longer existed, as she had so rightly told him -- and the other, to himself, to protect Heather and keep her safe from harm. Now, he felt like he’d done her harm himself.

Jake desperately wanted to repair the breach, if he could. He headed up the stairs and knocked on her door.

“Heather?” he asked, softly, tentatively.

“Come in,” came the languid response from the other side of the door.

A single candle lit the room, dimly. Heather was in bed, looking sleepy. Jake sat down on one side of the bed.

She looked at him, a look full of sadness, pain, and longing, and just a touch of betrayal.

“I don’t suppose you want to talk to me,” he said.

Heather looked down. Jake reached out and took her hand, and for the first time it seemed like she didn’t want it.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” he said gently. “I could be going away, if that’s what they want me to do. Whatever it is, I don’t want to leave things -- leave you, leave us -- like this.”

It was breaking her heart. She turned away. Jake thought she was going to cry.

“Damn it, Heather,” he said, not quite as unkindly as it sounded. “There are times when a man’s got to do what he’s got to do. You know all the trouble we’ve had with the survivalists and the refugees and the people from Ravenwood. Somebody’s got to stop them.” His voice rose a little.

“Never mind if there’s no more government, or no United States, or even if the rest of the world is gone. You, me, this“ -- he clutched her hand, for emphasis -- “this is the only thing that matters. That’s what I have to defend. That’s the only thing worth fighting for.”

He thought he would indeed put a ring on that hand, someday.

For the first time since he had walked in the room, Heather heard his words. She placed her hand over his. Her eyes were suddenly tender.

“Come back in one piece,” she said, full of emotion.

It moved him, just as it had the last time she’d said it.. He went to kiss her, and she threw her arms around his neck, holding him tightly, then gave him a kiss several times more passionate than the one that was on his mind.

They held each other for a very long time. Jake pondered, and then he knew.

The only thing that’s going to save us from the apocalypse, he thought, is love.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Old Friends"

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. C.


“OLD FRIENDS”


Shucking corn all day -- even just for one day -- was hard work. Harder than Jake had expected. Last night he had come home tired and achy.

He was asleep on the couch, or thought he was, when he felt a closeness, a scent of perfume that he recognized, a few locks of hair dangling at his cheeks.

“Jake,“ Heather said softly, about an inch away from his face. “It’s lonely upstairs. I thought you might like some company.” She was right about that.. Jake smiled. This was an extremely pleasant way to wake up, even if it was in the middle of the night.

The couch was too narrow for both of them, so Heather gently slid on top of him. Woman on top, he thought, thinking of some silly cable TV show he had wandered across one night, back when there was still television to watch.

She snuggled in, her arms around him, her head on his chest, the sweet fragrance of her hair in his nostrils, and the weight of her body pressed against his. Jake found himself suddenly aroused, but he was not going to do anything about that now. Not on the couch with the family upstairs, he mused reluctantly. Heather‘s considerable charms continued to work their combined magic on him.

He thought back to yesterday. They had harvested enough corn from Stanley’s farm, the biggest in Jericho, to feed most of the town for a while. He remembered the look Heather had given him. He’d seen her a few corn rows away, hard at work, stopping only when her eyes met his, and he’d waved at her, just a little wiggle-his-fingers sort of hello, and she had done the same thing back, smiled that irresistible smile of hers, and then looked down, shyly, shaking her head. Jake thought he could read her mind.

You silly girl. You’ve got a crush on him.

It was precisely what she’d been thinking.

The warmth and closeness was making both of them drowsy. Jake stroked Heather’s head, almost absent-mindedly. She was quiet, slipping back into slumber. Morning can wait for a few more hours, he thought, as the two of them drifted back to sleep in each other’s arms.


* * * * * * * * * *


When morning finally came, there was an attempt at breakfast. The Richmond ranch had its fringe benefits, and some of them had come home to Gail Green’s household. Potatoes, eggs, some milk -- not pasteurized, homogenized, or sanitized, just straight from the cow -- and an unopened can of orange juice someone had found on a back shelf at Gracie’s supermarket. It wasn’t exactly Bob Evans, but it was the best thing anyone at the table had tasted in days, thanks in part to Jake’s mom.

All the things we took for granted back then, Jake thought. “Back then” was becoming a tangible thing to him -- the world before the bombs, before everything had changed, stopped cold. He looked at Heather, determined never to take her for granted.

“We did our bit for God and country yesterday,” Jake decided. “This morning, perhaps we should do something for ourselves.” He knew what he felt like doing -- Heather’s sweet closeness still lingered with him from last night -- but he’d already decided that wasn’t happening this morning.

“I think we should go visit Emily,” Heather offered. “She seemed nervous yesterday, and I think she’d really like to see you.”

Jake was hardly immune to that suggestion.


* * * * * * * * * *


They pulled up to the Pines in Heather‘s car. Emily’s house wasn’t as spectacular as that of Skylar Stevens -- this was a house, after all, not an estate -- but Jake could see how it could have been a cozy and comfortable love nest, except that Emily’s fiance Roger was missing, and most of the furniture with him.

Jake was about to ring the doorbell when he realized that there was no electricity. He knocked.

“Hello, Jake,” Emily said a moment later. She sort of half-smiled at Heather. They were friends, but Emily was uncomfortable to see her in Jake’s company -- particularly now, when the fate of her own fiance was uncertain. His plane had apparently landed safely somewhere north of Kansas, but whether he was truly still alive -- and whether or not he would ever make it to Jericho -- were questions for which she had no answers, no comfort. She felt alone, because she was alone. Achingly alone.

Jake and Heather stepped into a living room full of boxes, some half open, others untouched, and barely enough furniture to get by. “I’ve been sleeping on the couch,” said Emily. Jake wanted to tell her she wasn’t alone in that, but remembered Heather‘s presence and the night before, and decided not to.

“The beds never arrived, they probably never will, now,” she fretted. “Most of the drawers and the upstairs rooms are empty. At least my clothes are here.” Emily looked around at a half-completed home life that was probably going to remain that way. “Roger was supposed to take care of all this,” she sighed, sounding vulnerable.

Jake knew that tone in her voice, and reacted to it. “Are you sure you’re okay up here? You might be better off in town with the rest of us.”

“No, no, I’m fine,” Emily dismissed him. “Stanley and Bonnie came up yesterday with groceries and some stuff from the farm.” She threw a glance at Heather, wanting to say something since she’d been with them in their brief visit yesterday, but that might bring more discussion of Heather living with Jake‘s family, and she didn’t want to hear about that again.

“I’m going to need a vehicle so I can get back and forth to town,” she sighed. “I don’t know what to do about that. Most of the cars are out of service. And the gas supplies are so low.”

Even the Richmonds were starting to run out of fuel. “I don’t know what to do about the gasoline situation,” said Jake, “but they’ve been retrofitting some of the older cars in town to get them to work, and so far that’s been working fine. Just a matter of replacing the solenoids, fuses, and some wiring.”

“Did a ‘75 Pinto yesterday,” Heather chimed in, cheerily.

Emily couldn’t think of anything she wanted to drive less.

She felt tired, hopeless. Nothing had worked out as she’d planned. Roger was gone, possibly dead, her house half empty, her life incomplete without him. She sat down on the stairs. Jake took a hard look at her -- he’d seen her like this before. Emily looked back. Something stirred in him.

“Heather, give us a minute,” he said, gently but firmly.

His request startled Heather for a moment, then she decided she should take his advice. “I’ll be in the car,” she said uncomfortably, not wanting to leave Jake alone with Emily, but not seeing any other option. She quietly walked out, flustered. The front door gently clicked shut behind her.

Jake sat down beside Emily on the stairs.

“You’re not okay,” he said, knowingly.

Emily looked at him. She was almost a cauldron.

“Damn it, Jake,” she said, half angry, half crying.

She held herself and rocked. Jake laid his hand on her shoulder, but didn’t put his arm around her. He wasn’t certain enough of their relationship for that. His uncertainty was well-founded.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen. This wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said, as if she could have stopped the bombs from falling. “We had it all planned. Me and Roger, here, in this house, our life -- our life together…or it should have been…”

“Em, you heard the tape from the flight recorder. It looks like he made it. He’s alive.”

“He could be five hundred miles from here,” Emily threw back at him. “We don’t know exactly where his plane landed. He could be in South Dakota, for all we know. How is he going to make it here to Jericho, if he even thinks I’m still alive? There’s no cars, no gas, no country, as we knew it.. What the hell is he going to do? Walk?”

She exaggerated, a little, but Jake tried to address her genuine emotion.. “He loves you, Em. If he can, he’ll find a way.”

“If he can,” Emily repeated with a touch of sarcasm, not believing even with Roger that this was a possibility. “God, I can’t believe this has happened to me.”

Emily hasn’t changed, Jake thought. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and everything is still all about her.

Jake lifted his hand from her shoulder. This was the opposite of the talk he’d had with Heather on the night her house had burned to the ground. She’d had it worse than Emily, and he’d wanted to comfort her, because Heather had been vulnerable, needed him. What Emily needed was a reality check.

“Em, you’re just going to have to deal with it,” said Jake with a curious lack of emotion. “A lot of people are worse off than you. You have a roof over your head, you have food, you have friends who care about you. I know a few people who lost it all.“ He didn’t mention Heather.

“If I add it up right, there are about fifty million dead people out there.” Emily hadn’t heard the number before. “You’re not one of them. Neither is Roger, as far as we know. That’s a start. You’re one of the survivors, for whatever that‘s worth.”

Jake raised his voice a notch.

“Sitting there feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to accomplish one damn thing. It’s not going to bring Roger here. It’s not going to fill the empty rooms in this house -- or the empty place in your soul.”

The last words caught Emily by surprise. She looked up, expecting compassion, but Jake was cold steel -- the man he had been in the five years he‘d been g6ne.

“When you’re ready to join the real world, the new world,” he said as he headed for the door, “the world that exists now, you’ll find plenty of people ready and willing to help you. You could help us, too. We need you.” He took the doorknob in his hand. “But as long as you’re living in the past, you’re of no use to anyone. Not even yourself.”

Emily stared at him in disbelief. She reached for words that never came.

“Roger may show up yet,” said Jake coolly. “I really hope he does, for your sake. But you’d better figure out what the hell you’re going to do with the rest of your life if he doesn’t.”

He didn’t see the stunned look on Emily’s face as he walked out the door.


* * * * * * * * * *


Heather waited behind the wheel of her big car, stock still but filled with emotion. She desperately wished there were a radio station on the air -- any station, anywhere, playing music that would take her to somewhere else, anywhere but this -- but she’d tried the car radio, twice, and the FM dial was as silent as death itself. The blank noise whined in the background.

She was a strong and capable young woman, but in the past week, she had developed a weakness, and her weakness was Jake.

Jake and Emily. It had been hanging over her head since yesterday, when she had come here with Stanley and Bonnie and seen Emily distressed, needing Jake, and now her worst fears were being realized in the house just a few feet in front of her.

They had been a big item in high school. Heather was only eleven or twelve in those days, but the stories had lingered long after. Jake, the troublemaker, and Emily, the most popular girl in town. They were the talk of Jericho. An unlikely couple, but one that many people thought would make it, until Jake had screwed up, somehow, and left town. Even now, Heather wasn’t sure what he had done -- she’d heard the stories, not really believing them -- but she knew that it had cost him his relationship with Emily, who had never truly forgiven him, as well as his place and his respect in Jericho.

And now they were reconciling, she figured. She saw them in her mind, Jake comforting Emily, just as he’d done with her two nights ago. Was he holding Emily, telling her that he needed her, kissing her? By now, maybe it was more than a kiss…

The thought unnerved Heather. She cared for Jake. She needed him. She’d thought she had won him -- without even trying! -- just by being there for him. And he had been there for her. Now…this. She felt like a sixteen-year-old with a crush who had just been handed a hard dose of reality, the girl she had been in high school -- junior high school. Unpopular, unwanted. The geek-girl who couldn’t get a date.

The memories of those years welled up in her, and began to burn her careful self-confidence like a bonfire.

You silly girl, she thought, for the second time in as many days. You’re in love with him, and you’ve as much as told him so, and now here he is, going back to the one girl he really loves, the girl he always loved, the only girl…

Old flames never really die, she decided.

You never had a chance, Heather chided herself, tearfully. Or maybe you did, and you spoiled it somehow. Maybe you tried too hard, went too far too fast. She thought of this morning, and the morning before, holding him close…maybe she should have left him alone, given him space, not intruded. Maybe, despite all they had been through together, he simply felt sorry for her, and was just being…friendly?

Suddenly, she hated the word.

It pierced to the core of her, the one place where she was truly vulnerable, and Heather was harder on herself than anyone else ever would have been. She’s prettier than you, she’s better than you, she told herself, sobbing, finally losing her composure. You weren’t enough woman for Jake Green.

The tears ran down her cheeks. Maybe you should stick to your mechanical contraptions, she cried, fixing cars and fan belts and television sets. They’re about all you have left.

Heather wept, bitterly, alone.

Her tears would have continued, perhaps in a torrent, but at that moment Jake came out of Emily’s house and walked toward the car. Heather quickly composed herself as best she could. She didn’t want him to see her like this. She grabbed a tissue and began dabbling at her face.

By the time Jake got in the car, she looked a little more like herself.

“Hey,” he said. “You ready to go?”

Heather nodded. She wasn’t in much shape to say anything to him. Jake saw her obvious emotion and the tender redness of her eyes.

“Heather…what…”

She gathered her words, and made the best speech she could under the circumstances.

“Jake…look…if you and Emily are getting back together, if you need each other, I…I’m not going to stand in your way.” It almost broke her.

“What?”

Heather forced herself to continue, staring at the dashboard, for once not wanting to look in his eyes. “I know you and Emily go back a long time, long before you and I ever met, and I know you still have feelings for each other, and the world has changed so much, and I…”

“Heather…”

“Roger’s probably dead. Emily’s alone. She needs you. I saw it yesterday when I was here.” She squeezed the words out of her as if they were the last drops of life’s blood from her heart. “I have no right to be with you, Jake. If you…if you two are…”

She couldn’t go on. She felt as if a part of her was empty, gone. Road closed. Dead end.

Jake took her hand.

He’s going to tell me about him and Emily, thought Heather, starting to cry again. She didn’t want to hear it. She wanted to be anywhere but here with him, and that was a first. She braced herself for what she knew would be the worst thing, the one thing in the world she didn’t want to hear.

But that wasn’t what she heard.

“Heather,“ Jake said softly, “Emily and I are not getting back together.” He paused. “I just tried to comfort her. She wouldn’t even accept that from me, let alone anything else.”

Heather was still looking down, her eyes moist, but suddenly hopeful.

“Her thoughts are all about Roger,” Jake said. “I tried to tell her she’d better be prepared in case he’s dead or never makes it to Jericho, but I don‘t know if I got through. I’m worried about her, but we’re just…old friends. She’s not…we’re not an item, if that‘s what you‘re thinking.”

Jake came to a sudden realization. “Is that what you thought was going on in there?”

Heather nodded, dumbly.

Jake couldn’t help but grin. “Well, I essentially told her to get over it,” he said. “She’s living in the past and we need her here, in the present. I think she needs to get out of that big house and come back home to Jericho. But the next step is up to her.”

He touched her face. “And us…”

Dear God, Heather prayed, please let it be.

“I thought you knew how I felt about you,” he said. “After all we’ve been through in the past six days and nights…”

Both of them were thinking of those nights.

She finally looked up at him, her eyes wide.

“I want you with me -- now and always, Heather.” He lost himself for a minute. “I can’t imagine any kind of life without you. That’s why I wanted you to come live with us. I care about you, damn it. I need you.”

She choked with emotion, but tried to say it.

“Jake, you have to know by now that I’m in…”

He stopped her words with a kiss. Her lips met his in blissful relief. She hadn‘t lost him. Not at all. Thank God.

The kiss went on for a while, long and real and passionate, until they were interrupted by a burst of static on the car radio. Heather had left it turned on. “Were you listening to something?” Jake asked her, suddenly intense. “Did you hear anything?”

“Not a sound,” Heather replied. “I couldn’t find an FM station anywhere.”

“Did you try the AM radio?”

“Who listens to AM radio any more?”

Jake flipped the selector to “AM” and started tuning around. The radios had been dead for weeks, ever since the EMP, but somehow her old car radio was still working. Must be the tubes, he thought. He looked for a signal, any signal. Surely one of the big, 50,000-watt stations in Colorado -- no, scratch that. Denver was gone. Nebraska, perhaps, or Oklahoma, or even Topeka or Wichita, which were still intact. Somebody had to be broadcasting, damn it. He kept searching for a station that was still on the air.

He found one.

“…the Emergency Alert System. We repeat. This is radio station KRVN in Lexington, Nebraska, operating under the Emergency Alert System. This is an Emergency Action Notification. This station has interrupted its regular programming at the request of the White House. All normal programming has been discontinued. Do not use your telephone. The telephone lines should be kept open for emergency use. Important instructions will follow.”

Jake and Heather shared a look. It was the first official word they’d had since the one they’d seen in Bailey’s Tavern, the podium where no one had ever appeared. They listened as the radio crackled and another voice came over the air -- not the President, but a voice they recognized, someone they must have heard on television -- perhaps a Cabinet member who had survived, but they weren’t sure who it was.

“…due to the present national emergency, the constitutional government of the United States has been suspended. All citizens shall consider themselves to be under the legal jurisdiction of their state and local governments, or any other legally mandated governing authority which has survived the attacks on our nation. All of our government and military personnel in other countries are being recalled. All active members of the United States Armed Forces, the Navy and its associated branches, the Air Force, the National Guard, and all other military units, are hereby ordered to report to their local district commanders, or to their state and local authorities, and to take orders from them directly. Let me repeat: the constitutional government of the United States has been suspended…”

Jake and Heather continued to look at each other, horrified, as the known but unknown voice went on, shattering the world they had known.

He saw the fear in her eyes, and again he took her hand. She grasped it tightly, trembling.

They really were on their own, now.

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