DISCLAIMER: Don't own Jericho or any of its characters. Pity…
AUTHORS NOTE: One of my many takes on how Jericho's Heather/Jake storyline can continue. I'm considering this as therapy for the effects of the Season Finale. Beware, this is un-Beta read. Just wanted to get it out there. And I also admit to knowing little about military or government structure, so bear with me. Hope to get another couple of chapters out this week.
Chapter One: The Return.
by Ann Pendragon
"Who's in charge of these men?"
All of Jericho that stood in the battlefield that was the Richmond farm turned to the houses top step.
Jake stepped down to meet their 'Calvary'. He could feel his men close rank around him as he came to a stop before the uniformed men.
"Me. Jake Green. I'm in charge."
Col. Hoffman sized up the ragged and bloody man before him somehow expecting these men's leader to be someone else. How old could this man be? Was he crazy for what he had almost led his men into? He watched the other townsfolk move protectively around their leader and felt the young mans fierce stare now focused on him. If he had not seen the devil himself already these past many months, the Colonel would have said he saw him in this young mans eyes. There was no question that this man was in charge and that these men would follow Mr. Jake Green into hell again and right now if need be.
"Are you an elected official?" Kid didn't look like a Politian.
Jake may have laughed on another day. "I've sent Mayor Anderson back to our town hall under armed escort. I'm in charge of these men." The officer nodded.
"I am Col. Hoffman of the United States Armed Forces stationed out of Fort Liberty, Nebraska. We got word from one of your citizens that a dispute was about to take place between the town of Jericho and the neighboring town of New Bern in this vicinity and we have come to end such hostilities….
"United States?" Jake broke in. Around them questions began to break out amongst the town folk. The Colonel raised his hands to attempt order.
"Yes, a new Federal Government has now been set up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As of right now our goal is to reestablish law and order among the cities and towns of our United States and proceed with rebuilding our country. We can give you more information as soon as we have dispatched your neighbors back to there town and I have spoken to your Mayor. I am asking you all to now go back to your town and await our arrival. Then we will discuss your new government and answer your questions."
The officer listened to the information sink into the town folk and brought his attention back to their leader. Did these men know how hopeless their fight had been?
"You know we counted nearly a hundred trucks loaded with men bumper to bumper coming in here. That doesn't include the train load of men 'a tank' stopped just over the hills from here. Where the hell did you people get a tank?"
Jake ignored the last question but answered the first.
"We knew. There was no other choice for us, but to fight." Jake looked to Eric and Stanley and then the rest of his men. "This is our home. We will defend it no matter who's to come to our doorstep."
The Colonel once again fell under the man's heavy stare. 'Kid wasn't crazy just had balls the size of boulders' the officer decided.
"When you are short on everything, but the enemy…"
"You are in combat." Jake finished for the Colonel. Both men gave the other a nod and then shook hands.
Jake wasn't sure who gave the first war hoop, but the sentiment quickly spread amongst the men. Jake let go of the soldiers grip and felt Stanley's hands jubilantly smack down on his back and shoulders.
'One of our citizen's….'
"Excuse me Colonel Hoffman. You said one of our citizens warned you?"
The officer gave a genuine smile.
"Yeah, a little thing, determined as hell to be heard. Wouldn't take no as an answer till we got moving. Some of my men are already an hour out from your town by truck. She snuck on with them before I became aware."
Jakes heart was now lodged in his throat. 'God. Please, I ask you to just give me this today.'
"Her name?" The officer sensed the young mans tone change exponentially when requesting this information, his stone eyes now almost glassy and wide.
Nearly an hour had passed before the majority of Jericho's citizens had made it back into town. Those who could went to check on their properties. Jake had yet to hear from Hawkins. The Colonel said that the tank was empty when they found it and the train. Jake had no doubt Robert Hawkins could take care of himself, but he was still concerned for his comrade. Stanley, Jimmy and Bill stayed at the farm to help Jake and Eric bring their fathers body to town. Johnston Green had been like a father to all of them at one time or the other.
Jake drove the truck back with his father's body. Emily and Eric sat in the seat beside him. When his mother had refused to get in the cab, wishing to sit with her husband on their last ride back home together, Jake only nodded and reached for his mother's hand.
"Promise I'll drive slow ma." Gail couldn't have loved her son more.
Jake hadn't told anyone about Heather yet. The crowd had been celebrating so loud at the time, no one else heard Jake and the Colonels exchange and it just didn't feel right to bring about this happy news just yet. His father was dead and his family was in pain. So no one questioned his silence on the drive back or how Jake nearly broke his promise to his mother and tapped the gas peddle the closer they got to town. They were all stunned and wanted this day to be behind them.
Coming into the center of town and up to the medical center, townspeople began to flow from the square and stand around the truck. Jake felt his throat tighten and his eyes tear when realization hit. They had come to say goodbye to their leader. Jake and Eric jumped from the truck and helped their mother down from the bed. Soon men from the crowd came to their sides and reverently helped carry the body of Jericho's fallen hero into a private room. With no words exchanged, the town along with Emily left the Greens to deal with their sorrow in privacy.
After some time had elapsed, Gail was the first to speak.
"He loved you boys so much."
"We know ma, he told us. He told us-he told us he loved you too."
Gail looked to her husband's body and began to stroke his beard gently.
"I knew that you old man. I love you too. Did the first time I made you smile that first day we met." She kissed his cooling cheek as she bit back her tears. Jake flinched with her pain.
"I'll have to tell our boys some day how we first met" she choked out. "A story for another day?" Gail began to cry.
Jake and Eric stood from their spots and kneeled at their mother's side, holding her between them trying to share whatever strength the two of them had left. The tears slowed and Gail pulled from her boys.
"I-I don't want to leave him boys, not yet. I just want to sit and talk with him a little while longer--- alone."
She reached out and placed her hand on her youngest cheek and squeezed her oldest hand.
"My boys." She smiled warmly at her reasons for living.
As soon as the brothers made it into the hall Jake reached out again to his brother and enveloped him in a hug.
"We can do this little brother, its how dad raised us." His brothers heart beat brought him needed strength.
"I know." Eric pulled from his brother but did not leave his space. "It just doesn't seem real."
"I know, I know." Jake looked away while unconsciously trying to rub bloody hands off on bloody jeans. A silence settled between them.
"Eric, the citizen that alerted the military was…"
"Heather." Eric finished. "I heard Col. Hoffman answer your question over the yelling. I figured you had your reasons for waiting to tell us the news."
Eric gave a sad but genuine smile. "Go find her Jake. She's gonna be looking for ya."
Jake gave his brother a questioning look before nodding and storming out the door past a frantic Mary.
Jake still could not express, even to himself, exactly what Heathers return meant to him. He simply wanted it to be true. He wanted to see her smile at him again. He wanted to see her back in one piece.
Before Jake could make it out to the parking lot, he felt Stanley at his side.
"Jake, Gray needs you at town hall as soon as possible. Some of the military trucks are starting to show up."
"The trucks…" Jake started out at a sprint that even Stanley's long legs had a hard time keeping up with.
"It's Heather, Stanley. They said she's the one who brought them to us. She's on one of those trucks."
"But you told me New Bern said…"
"When did New Bern tell us the truth?"
"Good point." Stanley slowed to a stop and watched his normally stoic friend run into the growing throng of trucks, soldiers and townspeople; taken by the amazing news and his friends reaction to it. He was gonna go find Gray.
Jake looked out to the crowd in the square and then he saw it, the flash of chestnut hair in the sun that made his heart beat quicken in spite of its self. She was alive and home.
Heather was speaking with Mimi and Bonnie. He watched her eyes close painfully with the information Mimi had just relayed to her. His breath caught in his throat, understanding what she had just been told.
Her head snapped around quickly to the sound of his voice, the one she had been longing to hear and dreading to at the same time. How was she going to face him after all that had been done? She wasn't able to warn Jericho about New Bern's plans and now she just learned she was too late to help the people she cared about the most. Jakes father was dead. Johnston Green was gone.
"Jake." Her eyes grew round with the sight of him. If she had not heard his voice she would not have believed the worn and hollowed man before her was Jake Green. Blood soaked much of his cloths; she could not bring herself to think of whose. His hair now fell over sharp and strained features. He looked diminished but it was more than weight he had lost.
Heather took one small step from Mimi's watchful eyes and looked heavily into Jakes wide eyed gaze, almost the same expression he wore when she left for New Bern what seemed a lifetime ago. The look of worry, care, warmth and now relief that emanated from his fathomless eyes momentarily outweighed her guilt and sparked her need to once again feel his arms around her.
She ran to him crashing into his embrace and became surrounded by him. Jake felt her begin to shake in his arms and once again felt his own tears resurface. He hadn't expected his own reaction to her presence in his arms, but it was her words that hit him the hardest.
"I'm sorry Jake. I was too late. I'm sorry-I'm sorry."
He let out an audible cry then pushed it back down; holding her tighter, shaking with her.
"This is not your fault, Heather. Don't you dare pick up this guilt!"
Jake pulled from her and held onto her shoulders in a bruising grip. She would not look into his eyes as he jockeyed for her line of sight.
"Heather, you did not do this. Damn it Heather look at me!" Heather startled at his voice and did as she was told.
"You saved us, this town. Col. Hoffman told me how they found you and how you fought like hell to get them back here to stop New Bern." He pushed a strand of hair from her damp face.
"Constantino told us you were dead" Jake paused. "But you made it back. You kept your promise and turned on all the lights for Jericho and now you've saved it." He gave her a smile he hadn't felt in months.
Heather sniffed loudly and drug her sleeve roughly across her face, disrupting his hold on her shoulder.
'They told them I was dead?'
"I got back" Heather continued to look away from him. "just a little late." She let out a sarcastic chuckle and another stream of tears.
Jake knew she had yet to forgive herself and pulled her to him once more, now adding her pain with his own. For all the loss of this day, he felt warm for the first time since she left. He felt hope.
"Ms. Linski, good to see you back with us."
Jake and Heather broke from their embrace to notice the small group of spectators around them. Gray stood beside Stanly, his arms across his chest. Mimi and Bonnie had walked closer along with Emily. Jake looked to the ground when Emily's questioning eyes met his.
"I was told of your earlier demise in the service of Jericho and just now your part in bring in the Calvary." Gray shook his head at the little school teacher. "The windmills and now this."
Jake noted her relief hearing the acceptance and lack of accusation in Gray's words and in the proud stares of those around her. He watched Emily walk up to Heather and gave her a small but genuine smile.
"I'm glad you're O.K. Heather. I don't think I could have handled your third graders if the school starts up again."
Heather let out a light laugh and hugged her friend back before the other woman stepped away and stood at the other side of Jake. It did not go past Heathers notice how Emily took Jakes hand possessively.
'I was gone...' Heather reminded herself. 'And he was never mine.' She felt ashamed for even assuming. Heather wasn't given much time to dwell on the thought as Stanly had broken from the group and had her in a twirling bear hug.
"Damn, kiddo. Are ya tryin to take Jakes title of town hero or something? Huh?"
Winded, she looked up at the tall yellow lab of a man and gave him a smile only Stanley was able to elicit from anyone who met him. Her smiled broadened a little more when she watched him pull Mimi and Bonnie to his side, but then could not help but think of Jake and Emily's joined hands and not feel a pang of loneliness.
Heather hadn't expected this to be the difficult part of returning home.