A friend is someone …..
He was pacing. He needed to stop pacing; it was doing any good. He'd had hard days before but this seemed to make the others pale in comparison.
Earlier in the day Jack had watched with relief as Erica led the hostages to safety, but the relief which had flooded him had crumbled along with the walls of the building. The explosion rocked the earth, scattering bricks and debris in all directions. Staccato gunfire erupted and the whine and ping of bullets whistling through the air and ricocheting off concrete brought more chaos and confusion to the gathered crowds. For those few long moments he had mostly kept his head down, vibrating with the fear he'd known as an unarmed chaplain during his last tour in Iraq. He understood only too well that fear didn't stop you from doing your job.
He watched as one hostage was hit by a round of gunfire and saw that deadly familiar arc of the man's back as the force of the bullet threw him down. He knew the man was dead before he hit the ground, but Jack did not realize the profound impact this man's death would have over the coming weeks.
The gunfire had stopped as suddenly as it had started and after seeing Erica safely behind cover, Jack's first instinct was to assist the paramedics with the wounded.
As he turned his head a few minutes later to again check on Erica, he saw with confusion that she was back out in the debris field. She was cradling the head of the dead man in her lap. She was dazed, uncomprehending. Lost. Jack started towards her, but it was not until he saw Tyler crouch beside Erica that he realized that the man he just watched die had been Joe Evans. He could not go to Erica with Tyler there. He stopped, frozen in shock as the heart-wrenching scene unfolded before his disbelieving eyes. He saw the horror spread over Tyler's face and Erica's face twist in anguished as she drew her son to her. Watching Erica struggle to avoid touching Tyler with her blood covered hands clawed his emotions.
Jack's phone vibrated in his pocket giving him a jolt back to the present. He stopped pacing and slid it out.
"Erica" he stated quietly into the phone after seeing the call display.
There was no sound at the other end.
"Are you all right?" he continued in the same voice. Dumb question.
There was an almost inaudible sob at the other end, but no words.
"I'll be right there," his husky voice soothed and hung up after he heard her disconnect.
In dramatic contrast to the calmness of his voice, Jack exploded into activity, reaching for his leather jacket on the back of the chair and snatching keys from the hook almost simultaneously. The rapid slapping of his feet echoed off the walls of the church hallway as he ran to the garage beside the rectory. This would be one of the last times he would ever drive a church vehicle. He probably shouldn't take it, but this was no time to worry about it. Jack drove swiftly, his jaw set as his teeth clenched.
This is what he did. What he was good at. He gave comfort to those who needed it. He had learned that empathy could eat him up, so always maintained a wall around the deepest parts of his heart, but compassion and understanding were his gift and he knew he could help.
Although he might show composure on the outside, right now his insides were in turmoil. When he'd seen Erica earlier today she was happily off to spend time with her family. How had this day gone so wrong? In the aftermath of the explosion, he had not been able to get in touch with Hobbes and when Jack questioned Chad Decker at the scene, Chad shook his head, baffled and visibly upset by all he seen. He said they'd talk later.
So Jack had returned to the church where his bottled frustrations had manifested themselves in lip chewing and pacing over the last few hours. He started collecting up his personal belongings to fill the time. Two duffle bags full. Hard to believe this was the total extent of his life as twelve years in the Church drew to a close. Chad did not call.
Jack had been on the verge of going for a much needed run to relieve his stress when Erica called. Finally all that pent up worry was going to have an outlet.
As he drove to Erica's, Jack continued to replay the bloodbath on the street in his mind. He had remained behind the barricade watching as Chris, Erica's partner, and Paul, her boss, went over to the bereft pair and knelt beside them. He watched as the men tried to move them away from Joe's body. He watched as Erica refused to leave until Joe's body was removed by the coroner. He watched as Chris drove Erica and Tyler away. He watched. That was all he could do. Now, at last, he could take action.
Jack wished Tyler would realize he was not responsible for the continuing conflict between the Visitors and humans, but this was no time to be explaining the reality of the situation to him; in fact, there was a real chance Tyler might even blame him for causing his father's death. Great. He was deeply concerned about coming face to face with Tyler, especially right now, but if Erica was calling him to come, she was willing to cope with any confrontation.
The house appeared empty as Jack pulled up outside. It was late and the neighborhood was quiet. Jack rapped gently on the front door and then tested the knob. The door swung open and he stepped inside. The light in the front entrance was lit, but the rest of the house was dark, as though she and Tyler had come home and not left the foyer. The smell of baking still clung in the air - the birthday cake Erica had made for Tyler. Her self-deprecating story of the step by step creation of that sad looking cake had brought an amused smile to his face as she had shared the photo on her phone. It was hard to believe Erica didn't do everything well... Now the scent which should have brought a smile and a happy memory to a family seemed horribly misplaced.
His eyes fell immediately on Erica's body draped over the stairs where she had collapsed, her hair cascading over her face. She was clad in the same clothes he had seen her wearing earlier. The extended hand cradling her phone was still caked in her ex-husband's blood.