When they found Lisa and Joshua, sitting together in a remote area of the stacks at a small library, the younger blond almost threw herself into Erica's arms. They embraced fiercely and it was a touching scene, made only a little awkward by the fact that Lisa refused to release Joshua's hand.

The expression on the doctor's face was so human that Jack nearly laughed, but restrained himself as brown eyes turned to him, clearly saying Oh, I am so very uncomfortable right now. Help. Help me please!

Immediately upon releasing Erica, Lisa implored her, "Tell him he can't go back!"

"Lisa," Joshua murmured, seemingly unhappy with this line of conversation, "I have to…."

"No, you don't," she insisted. "Mother will know you helped me and she'll kill you."

The young doctor was shaking his head. "You know I'm good with the computer systems. I've already set up some routines to alter footage and she believes that I…."

"You will stay." There was a note of finality in the girl's voice and she drew herself up to her full height, glaring up at Joshua. He seemed at a loss as to what he should say, mouth opening silently though he refused to break her gaze.

Jack exchanged a puzzled look with Erica who decided to intervene. "We should get back to Project Aires now," she said kindly, "There are folks who would like to debrief you both."

The trip back to the bunker was mostly quiet. Lisa crossed her arms and settled back in her seat, casting the occasional glance over at Joshua, who, if Jack didn't know better, appeared to be pouting. The doctor, a veteran member of the Fifth Column, a man who had been willing to lay down his life to ensure their cause could continue, was staring out the back window of the SUV, a particularly mulish look on his face.

He didn't seem to be at all pleased with Lisa's decree that he should remain on Earth with her.

And yet, once she'd made that statement, he hadn't said a word to contradict her.

It was Lisa who broke the silence. "I don't wish you to die, Joshua."

"It should be my choice," he replied and suddenly Jack realized what it happened.

The V's followed their queen with unquestioning devotion. No order Anna gave was ever contradicted by one of her loyal (brainwashed) subjects. For members of the Fifth Column, shaking off such an ingrained response was probably one of the more difficult aspects of rebelling.

In Lisa, Joshua had found a new queen, one he believed worthy of loyalty, one he was willing to die for. Though he wanted to return to the ship, to continue acting as their eyes and ears on board, if she iordered/i him to remain, he would do as she said. It was an act indicative of the depth of his devotion to her as his chosen queen.

As Jack was realizing this, Lisa seemed to be having her own epiphany. "Joshua," she said, trying to get him to look at her. When he refused, she reached across the seat and grasped his arm, shaking him slightly. "Joshua, of course it's your choice. I just, I don't, I wish you'd choose to stay."

Her voice trembled and whatever resolve the young doctor was holding onto crumbled. He looked over at Lisa and said, "All right. I will stay. Perhaps there will be something useful I can do here."

Lisa relaxed somewhat at his statement and nodded. Glancing sideways, Jack met Erica's eyes for a moment. She gave a slight shrug, which he returned. Joshua and Lisa were nice kids, but who really knew what was what when it came to be interpersonal relationships of aliens.

When they reached Project Aires, Tremont, Kendrick and Bolling were waiting for them as they stepped off the elevator. All three men regarded Joshua and Lisa with more than a little suspicion, quickly hustling them off to interview rooms. There had been a slight issue when Tremont had ordered them separated for questioning, but Erica had smoothed out over by telling them it was standard procedure and that she would accompany Lisa and Jack would stay with Joshua.

Many hours later, both young V's had been questioned to the edge of their tolerance and they were released into Erica's custody. Since both of them looked wrung out, they took them down to the commissary, got a quick bite to eat, and then installed them in the room next door to their own.

Neither made a fuss about the shared living arrangement, clearly glad that they would not be separated again.

"We are right next door if you need anything," Erica said, giving Lisa a quick hug as they headed towards the door. The young girl nodded and proceeded to peer around the room. It wasn't much. Two beds, a table, two storage trunks... Pretty much your basic, military issue quarters. "There should be a few changes of clothes in the trunks."

"Thank you," Joshua said, looking relieved. Jack had noticed him plucking at the thigh of his jeans occasionally, unused to the material and clearly not fond of it. He wasn't sure the younger man would like standard issue BDU's any better.

It was late by the time they finally enter their own room. Erica dropped onto her bed with a sigh and said, "It's good they're here."

Jack agreed. Many people at the lost in the fight against Anna, so the knowledge that Lisa and Joshua were safe, exploring the room next door, was one less burden. "It is," he said, settling himself onto the edge of his own mattress.

In short order, they'd begin their nightly routine. She'd gather up her sleeping clothes and head to the women's restroom to change and he would go to the men's. Upon returning, they'd read were simply chat until it was time to sleep. Some nights, the bed nights, she'd join him on his cot and he would hold her.

Tonight when she left, Jack stayed behind, as he'd use the facilities before dropping Joshua off at his quarters. Tossing his worn jeans and Henley into the laundry basket, he reflected that it would be time to do laundry soon and tugged on a clean pair of soft, gray sleep pants.

He was still fishing around in his trunk, searching for a clean T-shirt, when Erica reappeared. She wore a pair of black yoga pants and a loose tank top, her face washed free of her normal, minimal makeup.

Jack always thought she looked loveliest like this.


It had been a good day.

The occasions on which they could make that claim were few and far between, but Lisa and Joshua were alive and safely deposited in the room next to her own. No one they knew had died and even Sid had gone the whole day without annoying anyone to the point where they made threats against him.

Sure, no one was actually going to stick him into a FedEx box and mail him to Anna, but it was one of the more popular grumbles among the support staff that worked with him.

She felt tired, but in a good way, as she made her way back to her room, dirty clothes bundled under her arm. When she pushed the door open, Erik was surprised to find Jack standing there with his back to her, shirtless and wearing only a pair of low-slung cotton pants.

It was not an unpleasant or unwelcome sight, merely unexpected and she froze, barely a step into the room, and stared.

He noticed her arrival and turned to look over his shoulder with a smile. "Laundry day tomorrow," he quipped, pulling a faded, blue shirt from the depths of his trunk.

A part of Erica's mind wondered how he managed to maintain a light tan when they spent most of their waking hours underground. His chest and shoulders were broad, smooth save for a small patch of Golden curls between his pectoral muscles. She appreciated how his body tapered down to slim hips, appreciated the bunch and flex of his biceps as he fussed with his shirt, preparing to put over his head.

Acting on impulse, something she might not have done if she wasn't so tired, Erica tossed her close onto the footlocker and stepped towards him. Both his arms were in the shirt and he was preparing to tug it over his head when she grabbed, startling him as she pulled his arms down using the fabric to pin them between their bodies.

"Erica?" he said in a mildly startled tone, gazing down at her with wide eyes.

They been circling each other for months now, almost since the day they met, but for the longest time there had been the insurmountable fact that he was a Catholic priest. Even after he'd been laicized, it seemed like one thing after another happened, there'd been no time, they'd been to emotionally overwrought….

Tonight, she felt good. Her friends were safe and she was standing in the room she shared with the man she cared for more than any other. He was her friend, her partner, her confidant and much more. Until now, any physical interaction between them could have been explained away as comfort, as friendship, even though they both knew there was something else there as well.

"Am I out of line?" she asked simply, standing barely an inch from him, close enough to feel the heat radiating off of him.

Erica knew she needed to let him be the one to make the first move, given the fact that he was the one whose avocation had forbidden such things in the past.

She could see in his eyes that he knew she was waiting on him. For a tense moment, she thought he was going to step back, put some distance between them, then he let out a breath and relaxed toward her. Allowing his head to droop, he rested his brow against hers and said, "You know you're not."

He was so close that his lips brushed hers with a feather light caress as he spoke and she smiled, brushing her nose against his as he leaned closer. Leaning slightly forward, he captured her mouth with his own, sweet and tentative at first, but his confidence quickly built as she returned the attentions. With some judicious wriggling, he freed his arms from where she'd trapped them, dropping his shirt to the floor, and brought his hands up to bury them in her hair.

When he tilted her head back slightly, changing the angle, Erica let out a little moan and slid her hands up his sides, wrapping around his shoulders as she pulled herself flush to him. Through the thin layers of their pajamas, she could feel him, hot and half hard, pressing against her and she rolled her hips into him, drawing a choked little whimper from….

Bam! Bam! Bam!

This time they both groaned, but in frustration, no desire.

Glad for the door lock, Erica shouted, "What?"

"The fuhrer is demanding you two get you butts up to command. Some sketchy V stuff going on," Sid shouted and, as the door rattled, Erica was very glad for locks. "C'mon, guys, what the heck…uh, yeah, I'll be up in command."

It was pretty clear that Sid chose to flee then and Erica let out a sigh. "Well, the grapevine will be getting some news tonight."

Jack snorted. "They already think we're sleeping together."

Startled, Erica looked at him. "How do you know that."

"People still feel compelled to tell me things," he replied, glancing toward his clothes with a sigh. "I suppose we'd better get dressed."

It was the last thing she wanted to do, but really, what choice did they have?

TBC…

Comments, pretty please?