His father's slight touch once he'd been released from Roger's grasp was just what Jake Green needed to help ground him. It's not as though Jake didn't have intimate knowledge of more dangerous situations before; he had experienced any number of dangers overseas that had potential life-ending consequences. He hadn't really feared for his life as Roger used him like a shield as they left town hall. Jake knew that Roger was a good person, a good person who had allowed his emotions to take a front seat to reason. Jake had his own familiarity with feeling – and acting – like that in his past. No, it wasn't his welfare that concerned him so much during this standoff. But with a gun being waved around, his family and friends in the path of its bullets – a sniper ready – the situation had devolved to the point of seriously endangering a lot of people. Johnston Green's touch was a simple reminder that, this time, things had turned out all right.
Jake sensed himself coming down from his adrenalin high, but this feeling didn't seem quite the same as he'd experienced in the past. Something was…off. He had been tired when the day began. Though he had been recovering from the frustrating lingering remnants of injuries from the accident, he seemed to feel more tired now than he had the day after it happened. The emotional toll that all of the Greens had suffered watching April die, and then standing by, helpless, as Eric left for New Bern, had messed with Jake's sleep of late. His mother had warned him to rest, that his constant running to help everyone was going to cost him, eventually.
Jake reached out and gripped his father's arm.
"You okay, son?" Johnston asked worriedly.
"I'm…um…feeling kinda woozy," Jake admitted. Johnston took quick action, spotting the nearest sidewalk and then supporting his son in their brief walk over. The elder Green helped the unsteady younger one to sit, though Jake's downward momentum meant that Johnston had to hold him steady so that he didn't hurt himself on the descent.
"Put your head down," Johnston instructed, placing his hand on his son's neck as he looked around the area for his wife. "Gail!" he called. She turned from the small group of refugees she had gathered around her to see her husband kneeling beside her seated son, Jake's head leaned down between his stretched out legs. She ran across the street to get to her family.
"Jake, honey? Let me see," she said as she lifted Jake's chin to get a good look. His face appeared flushed over the paleness that had lingered there for some time now.
"I just felt dizzy. It's nothing," he insisted.
Gail touched her hand to Jake's forehead. "Well, it's not nothing. You're kind of warm. You may have a fever." Jake sighed and put his head in his hands. "Sit here for a few minutes and we'll take you home."
"No. I need to see what they're going to do about Roger," Jake insisted, his head snapping up to look at his mother. The movement proved unwise in conjunction with his already shaky state; Jake closed his eyes and sat as still as possible, hoping the downtown would stop spinning around. And soon.
"I'll go with him and see what happens," Johnston told his son. "You realize that his chances of staying here are pretty remote?"
Jake opened his eyes and looked at his father sadly. "I know." He turned to his mother. "Thanks for rallying the troops, Mom. Maybe you should have been voted Jericho's new mayor."
"Hey!" Johnston said in mock offense.
Gail smiled as her son and her husband bantered back and forth. "What Gray wanted to do was wrong." She looked at all of the people milling around and then added, "Our sacrifices seem never-ending anymore."
Johnston gave his wife a compassionate look and then asked his son, "Are you ready to get up?" Gail gave the senior Green a hand up.
Jake nodded faintly. "I guess." His parents went to either side and helped him to his feet; Jake leaned into his dad as he found firm footing. "You'll come home as soon as you know anything?"
"Of course," Johnston promised. "Do you need my help getting home?"
"No. I'm okay. Plus, Mom's pretty strong."
"You don't need to tell me, I've got the bruises to prove it." Jake laughed as his mother playfully slapped her husband's arm.
"Stop that. Jake doesn't want to hear about what goes on in our bedroom," Gail said, surprised that she could find it in her to joke about anything right now. She reveled in her good fortune to have Jake and Johnston with her; she could always count on them to somehow help her keep, or in this case, locate anew her sense of humor.
Jake groaned. "I really don't." Johnston smiled as his wife and his oldest son headed home.
"You might be coming down with the flu," Gail said as she made her son comfortable on the couch.
"I might," Jake admitted. "Or maybe it's not a fever but just my body complaining about all of the abuse and not enough sleep."
"Maybe," his mom answered. "Open your mouth and we'll find out." Jake sighed but did as he was told. He started talking around the thermometer. "Hold that thought for ninety seconds," Gail warned. Her son rolled his eyes at her, but then he closed them tightly, a slight moan escaping at the pain between his eyes and the unpleasant feeling the movement caused. "I thought you were smarter than that," his mother chastised.
"Tylenol?" Gail asked.
"Mm-hm," Jake replied tiredly. His mother left the room to get the pain medication. Jake lay back into the pillow, exhausted. He needed to face the fact that their hard times were going to continue for the foreseeable future, that he would be in scramble-mode indefinitely, putting out fires, both physically and literally, it seemed, always playing catch-up, and hoping that more people didn't go off the deep end as Roger had done today.
His thoughts turned to Eric. He hated that his brother was so far away. Knowing that Stanley would keep an eye on him calmed him some, enough that he was actually starting to doze when he felt his mother pull the thermometer from his mouth.
"Sorry to wake you, honey." Gail handed Jake the pills and then a glass of water. "Hm," she said as she read the gauge before her.
"Well, your temperature is only ninety-nine point one," she said with a frown.
"What, you wanted it to be higher?" Jake joked.
"Of course not," she defended, followed quickly by, "but if you'd had a fever at least I would have some leverage with you."
"Hey, I'm lying on the couch in the middle of the afternoon," Jake offered in a conciliatory manner.
"I fear that has more to do with you almost fainting than it does with any influence I might bring to bear on you," Gail admitted.
"That's not true. It's just that we have to show a united front and stay strong. Not everybody is equipped to handle adversity; a lot of adversity all at once. You and Dad are great examples for everyone here. These people need to continue to have something to look forward to; they need people around that they can look up to. They need people around that they can trust to make the decisions that they can't make for themselves. Gray has good qualities, but his actions today weren't really the kind that people are going to draw inspiration from."
"And you think it's important that you run yourself ragged in order to do your part?" Gail asked.
"No," he answered, frustrated that this was the perception his mother had of his actions. "That's just an unfortunate side-effect. Let's just chalk it up to bad timing."
"I'd rather not, but if that's my only choice…" Jake's mother answered, letting her thought trail off.
"It is until I come up with a better one," Jake replied lightly. Gail Green smiled back at her oldest son. There was no way that she could ever properly express how grateful she was that fate had brought Jake back to Jericho at just this moment in time. All of the rest, everything that had happened since that fateful day, every single event, except for losing April, had been worth it for that little bit of providence.
"Will you be okay here alone for a while?" Gail asked.
"Gee, I don't know, Mom. I'm thirty-two years old…"
"You think you're funny," his mother admonished.
"I can be funny," Jake returned with a smile.
"I'm going to go next door to the Moore's with some of the refugees," she said.
"We need to stop calling them that."
"I know we do." Gail shook her head as she looked out the side window to her neighbor's house. "I know I have to face the reality that they are probably dead. They were visiting Philadelphia…" she didn't need to finish the thought; everyone knew that the east coast city had been destroyed by one of the bombs.
"It's a good thing what you're doing," Jake said, looking into his mother's eyes. "They would want you to do this," he reassured his mother. She smiled sadly and then leaned over and kissed her son's forehead.
"You still feel warm to me." Jake raised his eyebrows and motioned with his hand over to the thermometer. She shook her head in frustration and said, "Whatever. Rest. I'll be back." Jake laughed as he thought of Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice coming from his mother's lips. "Stop that, I know what you're thinking," she said. Jake looked at his mother with a crooked grin as she rose from her seat. "Closing your eyes is a better way to rest," she advised.
"Closing my eyes," he answered, not able to help himself as his own inner Schwarzenegger came out. Gail rolled her own eyes and then watched her son. His head had settled even further into the pillow once he had followed her instructions.
Maybe her boys weren't too old to finally accept the inevitable: that mother really does know best.
Jake was dragged through town violently, catching just an occasional breath as his captor carelessly held tight, the gun seeming to make a permanent indentation just behind his ear. He could see Emily crying up on the steps of the town hall, and there were assorted other guns pointed his way – all Ravenwood men. A chill went through him as he realized the danger that the Jericho townspeople were in.
He looked around some more. There was his father, his mouth was moving but Jake couldn't hear what he was saying. The sound seemed…muffled somehow. He put his one free hand up to his ear – he felt wetness - and then positioned it in front of his face. Blood. That explained the hearing problem. That, and the near paralyzing fear that now Emily and his father could be in the line of fire.
Jake was in the process of being pulled farther into the street when he was suddenly jerked around to face in the direction they had just come from. His mother stood before him, talking, her eyes directed toward the man holding him hostage. She kept walking forward, toward him and the guy with the gun. He yelled for her to stop, but she kept moving towards him. And she kept talking. He could hear none of it, but he could sense the man holding him tense up.
She had to stop. Why wouldn't she stop?
Suddenly the pressure eased on his neck. The pain was still there, the residual ache from his carotid pumping thump-thump-thump hard against his neck and doubling back like a ricochet from the hardness of the gun. But the relief of the gun's absence was short-lived as he finally heard something, the loud report of the handgun previously aimed at his head. He looked at his mother: her eyes were huge and full of shock. The small hole in her forehead seemed a tiny dot from this distance, but that was a miserable illusion as the blood finally started to flow. Jake watched with morbid fascination, the entire event abruptly changing to a sick slow motion. He watched as the first drop of blood, and then the second preceded the third and the forth into a steady stream. He watched as the blood flowed between his mother's eyes, his mother's now lifeless eyes.
He knew that she was dead and he knew that there was no longer anything that he could do that would mean anything, but he yelled anyway. He screamed, calling for his mother, damning the man who continued to hold him and keep him from her. He screamed and he screamed and he screamed, his reality gone, his life shattered by what he'd just witnessed.
"Jake! Jake, son, wake up," Johnston Green called, entering his house to find not the peace and quiet he had expected, but his son in the middle of a terrible dream. Johnston grabbed both of Jake's arms and shook him and then shouted loudly, "Jake, damn it! Wake up!"
Jake's eyes snapped open and he sat forward, nearly butting heads with his father, Johnston's quick reflexes all that kept them from crashing hard into each other.
"Mom," Jake said, his voice scratchy from the yelling.
"She's fine. She's next door with some of the refugees."
Jake sank back into the pillow and took a deep breath. He rubbed his eyes and then his forehead and then said, "We need to stop calling them that."
"I know," Johnston agreed. He looked at his son worriedly, even anxiously and asked, "Are you okay?" Jake could see his father's concern and decided to come clean.
"Knowing that what I just saw was just a dream? Yeah, I guess I'm okay."
"Do you want to talk about it?" Johnston asked, remembering back to their conversation not so long ago, the conversation after they had brought Jake home following the hours that he lay outside on a cold Kansas evening, trapped under a truck. Jake hadn't wanted to talk after asking, pleading with his father to forget about what he'd told him out there. His disorientation had caused him to say things he'd never hoped to divulge to his family. Their disappointment in him had been obvious when'd he'd first shown up again after five long years; that disappointment would turn to something far worse if they found out about the things he'd had to do while he'd been away. No, Jake hadn't wanted to talk about anything that had happened these past five years.
He snorted a sardonic laugh. "You keep asking that and I keep saying no. I hope you're not taking any of this personally."
The senior Green patted his son's chest. "We Greens are all pretty thick skinned…" he started. Jake didn't think it was the right word, but he understood the point, and joined his dad for the next part when they spoke together, "except for Eric sometimes." Jake's version was 'except for maybe Eric'. They laughed together, though the mood turned swiftly serious once more, Eric's presence not here but in another town, and their pending deportation from Jericho of someone who had grown into one of their own utmost on their minds; neither topic held anything resembling humor.
"We're also more patient that we sometimes come across." Jake nodded his understanding with a sad grin, recognizing in the comment what his father had left unsaid. Jake put his head down, and then Johnston spoke again. "They've asked him to leave."
"It wasn't a decision anyone took lightly."
"I know. I just think…I don't know," Jake stopped, frustrated. "I just…I wish it hadn't come to this. They're all staying now. He stood up for them, yet he's the one who's being exiled." Johnston nodded his agreement with what his son was saying. "When is he leaving?"
"Within the hour."
"Wh…What?" Jake sat up, the blankets falling to his lap. "He needs stuff. He needs to be properly outfitted."
"The refug…well, they're gathering things for him," Johnston assured his son.
"I've got some stuff for him, too." He stood, taking a few seconds to get his bearings.
"You should rest up some more. You're still a little unsteady," his dad noted, knowing that he was pointing out the obvious.
"I will," Jake said as he headed from the room. "When I get back."
"Take Cedar Run first, it's clear," Jake told Roger, "and then head to New Bern. Heather, Stanley, my brother, they can help you once you're there."
"I know my way around."
Jake watched as Roger took one last look at Emily. Her pain was palpable, even this far away; it hurt to watch it. Jake turned away, not able to watch Emily's suffering any longer, and not wanting to think anymore about what they had been forced to decide about Roger. Johnston walked up to his son as he took one more look as the man who shot Gray Anderson headed down the street. He hoped this was the end of marching people out of his town. He placed his arm around Jake's shoulder and turned him in the direction of the house.
"Get everything you needed?" Johnston asked knowingly. He'd phrased the question purposefully; Johnston Green knew that his son hadn't gotten anything he'd wanted this day.
"Yeah," Jake replied as he walked with his dad towards home.
"Another lousy day, another two bits," Johnston joked.
"So it seems," Jake retorted, appreciating the humor but just too tired to manage a laugh. "We need to get the radio over to Bailey's," he added seriously.
"We'll do it later. Let's go home and see what kind of surprise your mother's cooking up for supper," the senior Green suggested.
"She's pretty creative," Jake commented admiringly, "considering what she's had to work with lately."
"And not just in the kitchen."
"Oh, god," Jake groaned as they walked out of the center of town. Jake turned to follow Roger's march away from Jericho. Johnston stopped him from getting far enough around.
"There's nothing more you can do," his father told him.
"I know." And Jake Green did know, but knowing that didn't make him feel any better.