CEASE FIRE

It was a fragile peace. Both sides still looked upon the other with distrust and doubt, but it was holding. The first overtures to Daniel's confused and recently jaded forces by the triumvirate of Jeremiah, Kurdy, and Mister Smith had opened the way for more intense discussions. Hopefully the cease fire and the peace in its wake would continue to hold while Markus and the Council conducted their negotiations. Whatever happened, there was no denying that the entire world seemed to be breathing a little bit easier.

Jeremiah could see it beginning to manifest on the streets of Milhaven. Only a few days before the small town had been a war camp for the Alliance's forces. Now it was trying to resume a semblance of normalcy. The baker had reopened his shop and was selling his wares to both the citizens of Milhaven and soldiers from the other side with equal good cheer. Frank had the presses running again, producing the first newspaper since the cease fire was called. In it was an unbiased account of those first tentative meetings between forces that gave the readers reason to hope. Citizens were walking the streets again and cautiously greeting the strangers who drifted into town from the other side. Trying to prove that force wasn't always the answer. That there were better ways than the world according to Daniel.

"It might even work," admitted Jeremiah as he looked out the livingroom window. "Damn me, but it might actually work."

It brought to mind a discussion he'd had with Kurdy, centuries ago. Since that time, they'd both learned from personal experience that one man could make a difference. Markus with his vision of an Alliance. Kurdy and his belief in freedom and understanding. Jeremiah's own crusade for fairness and justice. And Smith . . .

Yeah, even Smith. The odd little guy who acted with his heart first and never seemed to worry about the consequences to himself.

Jeremiah's gaze drifted to the man in question, sitting on the front steps. Out of the way. Quiet and alone and all but forgotten in the excitement. He'd worked just as hard as anyone else to make the Alliance a reality. It was Smith who'd overheard the final plans for a surprise attack and managed to get the word to Kurdy in time to avert disaster. Nearly getting himself killed in the process. Again.

"Enough of this shit," said Jeremiah and, letting the curtain drop back into place, turned away from the window.

Mister Smith didn't look up at the sound of the front door opening. He seemed completely self absorbed, his attention focused on the pocket watch in his hands. Ticking softly. He felt rather than saw Jeremiah sit down on the step beside him.

"You got it working."

"No," said Smith with an almost childlike wonder. "It started on its own. When the world changed. When every thing moved forward."

"Uh-huh." Jeremiah looked from the watch to Smith. "So. Is it going to keep ticking? Or do we start ducking when it stops again?"

"I honestly don't know."

"I wouldn't forget to wind it, then. I don't like surprises." When Mister Smith looked up at him in astonishment, Jeremiah offered an apologetic smile. "Yeah, I know. I've got a rotten sense of humor. Just ask Kurdy." He rubbed his palms nervously along the legs of his trousers. "Look, Smith . . ."

"It's okay."

"No, it's not okay! And let me finish what I'm gonna say while I'm in the mood to say it, will ya?"

Mister Smith nodded, his expression solemn.

"Like I was saying . . . I didn't give you much of a chance. Haven't since the beginning. I usually don't go judging people right off the bat like that."

"You had a lot on your mind. A lot of things to worry about."

"I was being a prick," said Jeremiah bluntly. "I was jealous of your friendship with Kurdy. And not to put too fine a point on it –"

"You thought I was crazy."

"Yeah." He shrugged. "Still do. I mean, you do some pretty crazy shit."

Mister Smith nodded, unoffended. "Kurdy says the same thing."

"I rest my case. But," continued Jeremiah. "It wasn't fair to you and I'm sorry."

"Thanks. I know how hard it must be for you to say that. It means a lot." He sighed. "We kinda got off on the wrong foot, I guess."

"Pretty much." Jeremiah thought about that for a moment longer then suddenly extended his hand. "The name's Jeremiah," he said sincerely. "Welcome to Milhaven."

The prophet looked at the offered hand with surprise then glanced up to meet Jeremiah's gaze and the promise it conveyed.

"Mister Smith," he replied with a grateful smile as he accepted the hand of friendship.