It had been five years, five years since Jake had left Jericho, leaving behind pain, memories and regrets. The memories had been the clichéd good, bad and ugly with some having more prominence than others. During those five years, he had come to add more regrets to the ever growing pile and was the foremost in his mind as he drove down the old familiar highway towards the place he called home. In his mind that word brought a lot of implications as he spotted a familiar truck and old friends.
Stanley Richmond hadn't changed a bit in Jake's eyes as he greeted his old friend. Stanley's greeting was a little more enthusiastic. Stanley asked, "Jake, where've you been?"
Jake looked at Stanley and gave a shrug, "Around."
"Jake, no one's been around for five years," Stanley looked at his old friend. Jake Green and he used to have the best of times. They always hung out together growing up and then five years ago Jake left. Now he was back.
Jake knew that more was expected out of him. After all this was Stanley. Trouble was there were some things that he wasn't ready to share. He gave the first response that came close to the truth, "The army."
The conversation was a little stiff after that but Jake made it through. He did take notice that there was someone in a suit that looked very out of place. He learned that she was from the IRS. He felt bad for Stanley since the Richmond place was one of the largest and oldest ranches in Jericho. Bonnie had grown up in the five years that he had been away. It was a testament to how much things had changed since he left.
He bid Stanley farewell and headed towards town. It was inevitable that he would meet Gracie since she owned the store. Jake couldn't help but give a wry smile as he pulled up in front of the store. Things had changed but there were some that didn't. That was evident when he went in and bought a few things and was standing right in front of Gracie.
"So Jake, what have ya been doing with yourself?"
Jake remembered how much of a gossip Gracie could be. There were a few times he had gotten in trouble for buying certain things and Gracie blabbed about it to his parents. Looking back, some of those times were misunderstandings and actually fun to laugh at. Knowing Gracie's tendency to gossip, Jake decided to have a little fun. He smiled and whispered, "I've been playing minor league baseball."
The reaction was worth the fact that he started the rumor. It didn't matter anyway since most people thought him to be a screw up. He smiled as he collected his purchases and headed back to the car. He took a moment to take a breather since the moment of truth was coming.
It had taken a series of incidents as well as the pile on of regrets that pushed Jake to the point of making the decision to return home. His departure left a mess that his father had to clean up and he regretted that but he was also angry then too. He was the rebel bad boy and looking back, it was hard for him to figure out why. That was in the past though but it was bound to come up since that seemed to be the thing with the Green family; they never let you forget anything. Oh well, it was time to bite the bullet.
It was easier to sneak into the back. Hell Jake had plenty of practice in that department. The family dog was the first to see him and came to greet him as he saw his mother through the screen. She was just as he remembered and that was one of the regrets he had when he left. At least he could attempt to make some of it right. He opened the door and set the box of sweets on the counter and tried to anticipate his mother's reaction.
Gail Green went through each day as best as she could, however that was hard when she didn't know how her eldest son was. When he left five years ago, it was like he slammed the door shut on his life in Jericho. No calls, no nothing was the norm to live with. She never gave up hope that he would one day walk through the door.
Something told her to turn around and she obeyed the impulse. Seeing Jake, it was like a dam had burst. "Oh Jake. Oh you're home!" She grabbed her son in a hug and squeezed, not wanting to let go.
It felt good to be hugged by his mother again. It was like five years ago didn't happen. It did say something though when he felt like the air was rushing out of his lungs. "You're choking me Mom."
Gail lessened her hold but still held onto Jake. She kept hugging him and stepping back to look at him. After five years of worrying… she was glad that he was home.
"I thought I heard an annoying voice."
Jake looked up from his mother to see his younger brother Eric. He could still sense some tension between them. Five years did nothing to erase that. Still Jake could afford a smile and the honest truth was that he did miss his brother. He gave Eric a hug and let his mother take in the both of them. He was distracted by footsteps running.
"Mrs. Green, do you need help with…"
Jake couldn't believe it. Staring back at him was a girl roughly twelve years old. She had dirt blonde hair, more brown than blonde and dark brown eyes. He remembered spindly legs and scabby knees but here was a young girl who had gone through a growth spurt. He stood there looking at her, unable to form a coherent thought.
Gail saw the look on Jake's face. Out of all the people who knew about Jake, there were two people in his life that never though bad of him no matter what he did. It was an awkward moment since she was sure that Jake was remembering the seven year old that would beg him for a piggy back ride and had pigtails instead of curls. She smiled and said, "Jake, you remember Ryan."
Of course Jake remembered. He replied, "Yeah. Hey Ry."
Ryan stood there looking at the man that left when she was seven. She thought that she would never see him again and she cried the day he left. She was never mad at him for leaving but she kept hoping that he would come back. Now he was back and it was a surprise, probably the best that came her way. When he called her by the nickname that he gave her, she couldn't help it. She smiled and ran towards Jake and gave him a hug. "Jake, you're back! I missed you."
I missed you too kid and your sister. Jake took the hug in. If Ryan was here that meant her sister was nearby. That was a meeting he wasn't sure if he was ready to go for. Hell when he saw Emily again, that was awkward. He smiled though, genuinely happy to see his Ry again. "I missed you too Ry. You've grown since I last saw you." Jake took her by the shoulders and stood back to get a good look at her.
"I hit a growth spurt after you left," Ryan replied pleased. "You did say that I grew bigger when you weren't around."
"So I did," Jake replied. He felt regret come again. He was going to break her heart since he had to get back. She would probably hate him for that. He knew he would.
More footsteps sounded and as everyone turned to look, Jake noticed Ryan's expression become somber. It was no secret that people thought he was a bad influence on Ryan but as Jake saw it, she would never be like him. Everyone told her to stay away but she kept coming anyway. Jake figured that she felt that she was in trouble for even hugging him. Jake looked up at the source of that expression and looked at his father's face for the first time in five years.
It felt like he was a kid again sitting in the living room, facing his father. Jake knew though that he was going to have to bite the bullet and take it. If he was going to make his life work, he had to present his case. He looked at his father and said, "Look Dad, I'm not here to interfere with your campaign. All I want is your signature, then I will visit Grandpa…"
"After five years Jake, that's all you have to say to Dad…"
Jake looked at Eric. The familiar look of self righteousness was making itself known. He replied, "That's none of your business Eric…"
Johnston Green sat there looking at his eldest boy. He could admit that he was glad that his son was alive and well but there were some things that were hard to let go. All he could see was the lies and broken trust in Jake. It was time to play tough love. "It is his business. It's all our business. What you put this family through…"
"Johnston for God's sakes."
Johnston looked at his wife. He knew it was hard on her just as it was on him. Yet he couldn't allow her to coddle Jake. His son had to grow up. "Well he could have been…"
Jake knew where this was going. He interrupted, "We could spend a week talking about what I could have been alright, Dad. I've apologized and I've made amends." Mostly. "I have a plan but I need my money to make a clean start."
"It's not your money. It's your grandfather's money," Johnston countered.
"I know Dad but Grandpa gave it to me for a reason."
"And he gave me authority over it for a reason. You convince me that leading a more productive life."
"That's right Jake. Maybe you can do the right thing and leave Ryan alone."
For Jake it was a lot of restraint to not punch his brother in the face. He controlled his features and looked at Eric, slightly narrowing his eyes and replied, "We were both born on third base. Quit pretending that you hit a triple and leave Ryan out of this."
"It's hard to since she alone seems to think that you're the best thing next to her sister," Johnston replied. He really couldn't see how little Ryan Harrison would just unconditionally accept Jake. She had seen the results of his actions.
"Maybe she is a better judge of character than we give her credit for," Jake replied. He often wondered that himself.
"I think it's best though that you kept your interaction to a minimum."
"Dad, when are you going to realize that I'm thirty-two years old?" Jake looked at his father. His father was seriously suggesting that he not see Ryan? That was the plan since he needed to head back but he wasn't going to leave her crying like he did when she was seven.
Johnston looked at his son. There were a hundred things he wanted to say but he couldn't. Jake had to learn what it meant to be a man. "When you do." He then got up and walked out of the living room.
Jake realized that his appeal wasn't going to work. He had a feeling it wouldn't work but he followed the advice the same person gave him every time she bailed him out of trouble. He tried and he had been rejected. It was his fault though and five years hadn't been enough. He stood up and let out, "Can I talk to my Mayor then?"
Gail sat by silent. She knew that it must have taken a great deal of courage for Jake to come home and face his father. He had changed and she could tell. For one thing he held his temper. Jake was like his father and grandfather: stubborn, proud and impulsive when their tempers got the better of them. Plus Gail suspected that Ryan's unconditional acceptance held Jake firmly on the ground even when things went as far as they did; that and her sister. This had been hard on everyone and she hoped that Jake would see that his father was doing only what he thought was best. She stood up and placed a hand on Jake's shoulder, knowing that it would temper anything he was about to say. She said, "Let's go see your grandfather."
Jake looked in the direction his father went and then glanced at his mother. He looked at Eric before turning towards the way he came in. It only seemed fitting after that. He was used to going out the back. He was kind though to lessen his stride so his mother could keep up.
Five years and in that time that passed and he was gone, Jake had seen his little Ry shoot up like a weed. Bonnie had grown taller too. Jericho as a town didn't change much and yet one of the few people who understood him was now gone. He stared at the headstone that had his grandfather's name on it. It was something that just seemed surreal and yet part of that pile of regrets.
Jake couldn't help it. "I… I just…"
"You would have been here if you could," Gail replied. She knew how close those two were and the scrapes that they would get into. Oh the elder Green was a sweet talker and Gail was sure that he taught Jake all his tricks.
Jake appreciated the gesture from his mother. It said a lot with few words. Hindsight was definitely 20/20 at best. He looked up and scanned the horizon. Aside from him and his mother, there was one other person at the cemetery. The person was too far away to see details but he could make out the figure of a woman.
Gail saw him staring. She could tell him but then again, Jake was the kind to make the first move when it came to her. She waited.
"Did someone else… pass away Mom?"
Gail could tell him now. "Just a week ago. Car accident."
Jake watched the woman staring down at the grave she was looking over. "Who was it?"
"Paul and Rachel Harrison," Gail replied. When Jake turned to look at her, she nodded and replied, "Ryan's parents."
Jake couldn't believe it. "What happened?"
"They were heading to Denver to spend some time together. You remember the marriage was a little rocky. They decided to try and rekindle it. They left Ryan with us." Gail paused. It was a terrible thing. She remembered Ryan and the tears that followed and the ordeal that went through trying to contact her sister. Still Jake had to know. "It was a semi. The driver fell asleep. Paul and Rachel didn't have a chance. The driver died later of his injuries."
"What happens to Ryan?"
"Well it was decided that she be placed with us until her closest living relative was contacted. It took three days but we were able to contact Sari and she came. Sari will be looking after her." Gail studied the expression on Jake's face.
Jake couldn't believe it. Ryan's parents were gone and Sari was left to raise her sister… well half sister. He knew that she would do it. She was always the responsible one. Then something occurred to him. "It took three days to find her?"
"It's not easy Jake to find someone in the middle of nowhere doing whatever was asked of her."
"So she finally did that Peace Corps thing she always wanted to do?"
"Not exactly," Gail replied. "When she stopped by the house, she was a little quiet about that. She was more concerned about Ryan."
"Sari always was responsible. She tried to get me into those habits and never quit trying," Jake replied as he looked at his mother. "She kept at it up until the day I left. I'm guessing she was the one to tell Ryan not to be mad at me?"
Gail wasn't sure of what to say. Should she tell Jake that Sari was the one who comforted Ryan until she decided to leave or rather Paul took advantage of the situation and drove her out of Jericho? Gail knew that Jake didn't like the fact that Sari bore the insults out of love and devotion to Ryan and her mother. Did Jake know that he was Sari's shield from Paul's verbal abuse?
As it turned out, Jake didn't require an answer. He just looked at the solitary figure staring at the tombstone. She was wearing a black coat, a duster or some sort. In fact she was dressed like she would be for a funeral. The surprising thing was that she was wearing dark sunglasses, like she was trying to hide her emotions. "When did she get here Mom?"
"Today actually," Gail replied. "Sari was coming from Europe I think. I can say though that Ryan was glad to see her."
Jake listened as he watched Sari. They had been friends once. Why she picked him to be a friend, he would probably never understand but she always had his back. No matter what he got into, she always found a way out. Jake couldn't even count the times she kept him out of serious trouble that his father didn't know about. Then five years ago that changed but she stuck by him still.
"You should go talk to her."
Jake snapped out of his thoughts to look at his mother. "What?"
"It's been five years Jake. After you left, she left."
"She left Ryan behind? She wouldn't do that Mom."
"Paul ran her off," Gail admitted. "You know that he was never fond of Sari."
Jake felt his temper start to rise again. He never did like Paul Harrison. The things that man did to Sari, most were unknown to everyone. Only he knew the whole truth and every time he tried to convince her to leave. She always said no and Jake knew why. One of the regrets he left behind was not squaring it between him and Harrison to make it easier for her. It was turning to guilt now since his leaving gave the bastard plenty of motive to get rid of her.
Gail watched the emotions flit across Jake's face. She remembered when he and Sari ran together. He was more impulsive but she managed to keep it in check. In return Gail saw the shy little girl come out of her shell and become more animated with people. They were a team and occasionally it included Stanley Richmond and that was another story altogether. "Go talk to her. Catch up."
Jake knew it was only right but he wasn't sure if he wanted to go that route. There was the slightest chance that she was angry with him for leaving her. Hell Emily was still angry at him. "No. I gotta go." He turned and started walking towards the car.
Gail followed after giving a glance at Sari. "Can't you stay for at least a day?"
"I gotta be getting back to San Diego," Jake replied as he opened the door. He paused to look at Sari. She was still standing there like she was waiting. It was one of the few things that got annoying but was sure handy. He could feel his mother's hand slide into his pocket and suppressed the smile.
"Just be careful," Gail said as she tucked in the money she had tried offering in the car before into Jake's coat pocket.
Jake looked over once more. He put his hands in his pocket and pulled out the money his mother slipped in his pocket. "Mom, you have clumsy fingers." He held it up and smiled.
Gail smiled as she took the money back. Jake was always too proud for his own good. Whatever Jake had to do, he had to settle on his own. She put a hand on his shoulder, "Just don't forget to call this time." She smiled and then started walking back to town.
Jake smiled as his mother left. He then turned and headed back up the hill. It had to be the stupidest thing ever but he had to make amends with her. She was his best friend. She had his back always. He should have had hers.
The walk up the hill seemed longer than it should have been. Yet he was there and she was there. Jake stood there watching her and he was sure she knew someone was there. He was drawn back to a time when he went to her for help.
Jake was in trouble again. This time it was serious and he needed someone who knew how to think. Someone who knew how to say the right things. There was only one person he trusted and could go to for help.
He found her staring out at the landscape. He wanted to get out of Jericho and half a dozen times he talked about skipping out but she always said that the beauty of Jericho was hidden. She always said things like that and it made him decided to stay just a little bit longer. Besides he couldn't leave, not with the way things were for her.
He approached her and had put his hand on her shoulder. He was rewarded by her grabbing his wrist and a fist coming towards his face. It stopped just before it hit and he grinned. "You're getting faster."
"I had a good teacher. He taught me that and had me practice on him till I got it right."
Jake couldn't help but laugh. He sobered though when she looked at him. He said, "Something's come up."
"I figured. The usual?"
The more Jake thought about it, the more he realized that scene was the same every time he had a problem. Sometimes though he would end up with a kick or an elbow; it depended on how he approached her. As the saying went, the same song, just a different verse. God he was a lousy friend since it seemed like he used her. He looked over at her standing there.
Jake looked on and then decided to head back. He started to move to walk away but inwardly he told himself no. He thought of Ryan and how they used to hang out together. He had walked away from her before. He couldn't do that to her again. He stopped and turned around. Taking a breath to prepare for the inevitable, Jake decided on speaking rather than touching. He put on a smile and said, "Stand still long enough and people will think you're a statue."
As expected she whirled around but the defensive strike Jake had been expecting never came. Instead she stood there looking cool and calm. With the dark glasses on, it was hard to gauge her reaction to seeing him. Jake wondered if he had been right in seeing her again.
Suddenly he was grabbed in a hug which made him think that Stanley had grabbed him again. He had his eyes wide open in surprise. He half expected her to slap him in the face and she would be justified in doing so. The hug was…
He gave a dry chuckle, "Um no punch or kick?"
"Now why would I want to do that Johnston Jacob Green?"
A/N: Well here is my first Jericho fic. Jake's come back to Jericho and meets old friends. Stay tuned for chapter 2 of Forces Collide...