Rough Start, Great Finish

Jack shook his head and groaned. The pain shot through his temples and down his spine. He looked around. Erica stood next to him, her face pale. Jack suddenly realized she was holding his hand in hers. He looked at her with widening eyes, "What, what is going on? What just happened?"

Erica, her voice shaking quickly answered, "You were Blissed. Somehow Anna managed to Bliss everyone." Erica looked down, "I have been trying to bring you around for an hour." Her hands gripped his tighter, "I didn't think you would ever come out of it." Jack suddenly noticed the other people around. They were walking around in a daze. Most people looked pale with a couple of them vomiting in the bushes. He saw a person lying on the ground in a fetal position, blood coming from his eyes and ears. For the most part, people were going about with a very relaxed look, as if they had just had an amazing experience. The silence seemed to press down. People looked afraid to talk for fear of disturbing something.

Jack turned to Erica again, "How did you get here?"

Erica shrugged, "It's a long story, more than I can digest myself right now." She frowned, "I need to go. Where are you staying?"

Jack glanced around. "Well, since Hobbes has left I think I will be staying in a hotel for now. I'm not really sure actually." He managed a wry smile.

Erica looked down, "How about you stay with me? I could really use the company."

Jack's eyes narrowed and his jaw tightened, "I think I'd better not." Erica looked away. She should have anticipated that answer. She remembered the look Jack gave her when she had come into the basement earlier that day.

"Alright, whatever you want. But please keep your phone on. I really need to be able to get a hold of you." Jack looked at her curiously. "I...I can't talk about it right now." She dropped his hand and walked away slowly.

Jack watched her for a moment. He turned his attention to the man on the ground. He felt for a pulse, finding none he carefully removed the man's jacket and gently put it over the man's head. No one else seemed to have noticed. Jack grabbed a policeman that stumbled nearby. It took some doing, but he was able to convince the man to call an ambulance.

Jack looked around for other victims. The crowd had mostly broken up and the street looked semi-deserted. He shoved his hands into his pockets and trudged towards a bus stop.

Erica decided she was too tired to return to the Aries headquarters so she took a taxi home. She walked into the dark house. A wave of cold air greeted her. She turned on a light and checked the thermostat. It was working, but she cranked it up anyway. She instinctively rubbed her arms and walked upstairs. Donning a sweatshirt and her favorite lounge pants along with heavy socks she walked downstairs. She saw her cellphone lying on the table where she had dropped it. She picked it up and opened it. She stared at the lighted display, who was she going to call anyway? Jack was still mad at her, Hobbes was gone, Ryan and Tyler were not answering earlier, and Chad probably had his own problems.

She dropped it back on the table. She walked into the kitchen and proceeded to make some coffee. She set out her mug on the bar and turned quickly upsetting a small ornament. She grabbed it. She looked at the small round object, not recognizing it. She shrugged and put it on her bookshelf where it would be safe. Her phone began to ring. Erica strode over to where it lay and picked it up, not looking at the display. "Hello? Tyler?"

"Um, no," Chris's uncertain voice came over the speaker.

"Oh, hi," Erica tried not to sound too dejected.

"Erica, we need to talk to Jack Landry. Do you know how to contact him?"

Erica smiled at the irony; The FBI not being able to find someone? Didn't happen often, but they were human after all. "You could try his cell phone. I'll send you his number."

"Okay, thanks." The agent hung up abruptly.

Erica got her coffee and brought it into the living room. She turned on a movie and curled up on the couch. She felt so cold and empty. What was left? What is going to happen now?

Jack's phone went off. He opened it, "This is Jack."

"Jack, this is Erica's partner, Chris. I need to talk to you."

Jack rubbed his forehead, "About what? Are you going to drag me into your office for more questioning? Or are you just going to arrest me and you are giving me a head's up?" His voice had an uncharacteristic edge to it.

"It's something that will significantly affect Erica. We know you two are friends and since you were once a priest, your skills will be very useful."

"I don't understand," Jack's adrenaline started to surge. What now? "Where do you want to meet?"

"We actually have a fix on your location. We will be there shortly." Chris hung up quickly.

Jack stood on the street, and rubbed his forehead wishing he had taken some ibuprofen. He was getting too old for this. He didn't know why he felt this way. Maybe it was a residual effect of the Bliss or he was just plain pissed off. All he wanted was to just go to bed.

A dark blue Honda pulled up next to Jack, and the passenger window came down. Chris stuck his face out the window. "Jack Landry? Hop in." Jack stepped in the car. The car quickly pulled away. Jack just sat with his head down. Chris turned around in the front to face him. His sharp voice interrupted Jack's thoughts. "Jack, we found Tyler." Jack looked at him startled.

"And?" Jack's mind immediately focused on what he was saying.

"He is dead, actually mutilated. We need to tell Erica and we need you there."

Jack put his head down. "Oh dear God!" He felt as if he had been hit from behind. "Erica…she…I…" he couldn't finish the sentence. He just stared at the floor of the car. He said a silent prayer as the car pulled into her driveway.

The knock on the door woke Erica with a start. She brushed her hair back out from her eyes and blinked. She looked at the door as if she could not figure out where the sound came from. The knock came again, quick, sharp. Erica untangled herself from the throw and plodded to the door. She opened it to see Chris and Jack standing on her porch. ''Hey," she managed a weak smile, "come in." Noticing the grim expressions she asked, "Is something wrong?"

Jack glanced at Chris. "Erica, it's Tyler…"

"Oh no…"Erica sobbed collapsing.

Jack grabbed her just in time. She felt like dead weight. He managed to get her to a chair and held her up so Chris could talk.

Erica just covered her face with her hands, only hearing certain words, "dead…body on a shuttle…Joshua…Lisa." She just rocked in the chair, causing Jack to struggle to keep her upright.

"I'm taking her upstairs to bed, okay?" Jack scooped her up and carried her gently up the stairs to her room. Erica just quietly sobbed on his shoulder. He gently laid her down and covered her with a blanket. Jack turned to Chris, who had followed them up the stairs. "I have some medication in my bag, but it's not here. Do you have any tranquilizers?" Chris nodded quietly and went downstairs.

"Jack?" a whisper came from the bed.

"Yes?" he crept over to her.

Erica sat up and threw her arms around him. "Oh Jack…my son, is g-g-gone…" she sobbed.

"Shhh…shhh…" Jack just held her. She clung to him with what strength she had. Jack just held on, tears falling down his cheeks as well.

Chris entered holding two pills and a glass of water. Jack took them and gave them to Erica as soon as she took a breath. She didn't even seem aware of what she was doing. Jack laid her back on the bed and held her hand while he waited for the medication to take effect. Her eyes closed and her ragged breaths were soon replaced by slow even breathing. Jack sat on the bed. He put his head in his hands.

Jack heard his name and turned to Chris who beckoned him out of the room. Jack covered her up and made sure Erica was still breathing. Finding her somewhat peaceful, Jack felt safe enough to leave the room. Chris stood outside the room with his hands shoved in his pockets. Jack just stared at the opposite wall. "So what do you want to talk about?" Jack was feeling worse than he had felt in a long time and didn't want to drag things out.

"Were you outside earlier when that bliss thing was going on?" Chris jumped right to the point.

"Yeah I guess so. I don't remember anything." Jack shrugged.

"Really? Absolutely nothing?" Chris was very interested.

"No, I just felt very relaxed, but it felt like hell when I came out of it. I think it even killed one guy." Jack was feeling worse by the second.

"I see," Chris just nodded.

Suddenly Jack to stand it no longer, "Excuse me!" He ran to the nearest bathroom and deposited what was left of his lunch in the toilet. He retched harder than he thought possible. His head felt like it would split open. The spasms kept coming.

Chris tapped on the door, "Jack?"

"Yeah," came the weak reply.

"Would you mind coming with me for a while?"

Jack splashed some water on his face. Was he serious? Here Jack was sicker than he had been in ages and a hysterical woman was in the next room. How was he supposed to go anywhere?

"Actually I think that you won't have to go anywhere. We can do this here."

Jack smiled for the first time that day, "Good."

He walked very carefully out of the bathroom and made his way into what he hoped was a guest room. He lay on the bed fully clothed and drifted to sleep. The next thing he remembered he was on a table in a dark room. He was strapped down. And a man who Jack hoped was a doctor was probing around his body. "What the hell?" Jack fought against the restraints.

"Don't worry, we are just going to check on you." The gruff voice answered. "We are from Project Aries and we want to know what the effect of this Bliss is on certain people."

Jack reluctantly stopped struggling, Aries? He had been in this position before, and he woke with horrific nightmares about being turned into a lizard. He was not going to let that happen again. "Don't worry we are on your side." The sound of Chris Bolling's voice reassured him a little, but not much.

Then he jumped "Wait, what about Erica?" He did not want her to be alone right now.

Chris's voice spoke again, "She is being taken care of."

Jack was not sure how to interpret this news, but he was exhausted. He sank back onto the table. For the first time he realized that he was covered with wires and sensors. He felt another wave of nausea coming over him. "I think I am going to be sick again," he moaned. A woman in military garb walked over and injected him with what he hoped was an anti-nausea agent. The urge finally left him and he allowed sleep to take over again.

Erica opened her eyes. She couldn't believe it, Joe and Tyler were there in her room. Joe grinned and Tyler threw his arms around her. "Tyler? Joe?," she returned Tyler's embrace, "what are you doing here?"

Tyler leaned back, "Just wanted to tell you we are doing fine. It's going to be alright."

Erica blinked, "What?"

Joe leaned closer to her. Erica could smell the leather from his jacket. "It's okay, we are on your team and we want you to win. Everything is going to be okay."

"Wait, wait!" Erica suddenly started to panic.

Tyler stood by his dad and Joe threw an arm around him. "It's okay Mom. Give the V's what they deserve. I love you," he smiled. Then there was a flash of light.

Erica's eyes flew open, "NO!"

"Oh, I am so sorry mam." The young nurse holding the pen-sized flashlight jumped back, "but the doctor insisted I check your eyes and I thought you were awake. You were thrashing about so much."

Erica blinked at her, not sure how to respond. "Where am I?" Then the crushing feeling in her chest returned, Tyler was gone. She sank back onto her bed and closed her eyes.

"I can answer that." Erica turned towards the now familiar voice. Lars Tremont appeared in the door way. "You are back in the Project Aries bunker Mrs. Evans."

She just moaned in response. "What day is it?"

"Uh, Wednesday," Lars answered, not sure where she was going with this.

Three days. It had been three days since everything went down. Erica's eyes widened in alarm, "Where's Jack? I WANT TO SEE JACK!" Reason and professionalism went out the window.

Lars put a hand on her shoulder. "He is here, next door actually," an uncharacteristically soothing voice came from him.

Erica gently laid back down. "Can I see him?"

Lars nodded at a nurse who left the room. Jack entered shortly, clad only in pajama pants and a t-shirt. He walked directly over to her and sat down. Erica quickly sat up and embraced him. She held him tighter than she had held anyone in a long time. Jack just stroked her back and whispered in her ears. Erica pulled away and looked at Lars. "Okay, what's going on now?" She felt some hidden strength, possibly from the dream, emerging and she wanted to get started.

Lars nodded, "Okay, this way."

Erica jumped up and followed him. Jack excused himself, he was still not 100% and Lars had previously briefed him.

Erica followed Lars into a sparsely furnished room. Lars motioned for her to sit, and she complied. "Well?" Her eagerness was almost palpable. She just had to keep busy, it would help things.

Lars sat and took a long look at her. "Are you sure you are ready?"

Erica nodded, "Yes. I am ready. I am ready to take down the V's myself, right now."

The door shifted and Chris walked in. He sat down on the desk and looked at Erica.

Erica managed a half smile. The last time she had seen him had not been the best of moments for her. Lars spoke, "Well, we have some news, good or bad you can take your pick. Lisa and Joshua are on their way now. They have some important information that we need about the mother ship and their current connection to the other vessels surrounding the Earth." He paused, watching Erica carefully.

Chris jumped in, "Basically since all our informants are no longer viable, we need to find one. Someone who has no connection to the 5th Column as it presently stands."

"We need to go in search of someone who would willingly risk everything to infiltrate the V centers as a spy." Lars finished.

Erica thought long and hard. They had had little or no luck doing this in the past. "What will my part be?"

"Right now," Lars answered, "Nothing. We need to gather all intelligence that you have and make sure that we don't duplicate intel."

She bit her lip, "Okay." Erica then felt she needed to lie down again. "I really need to go somewhere and lie down. I think those meds did more to me than I thought. Where…" she trailed off.

Chris jumped down from his perch, "Right this way." Erica followed Chris down a narrow hallway. The computers and crowds thinned as they traversed down the corridor. Doors with small windows at the top appeared. Chris opened one up and let Erica in. Two military style cots and two footlockers met her eyes. Erica's eyes widened with curiosity. Chris cleared his throat, "Yeah, they're not exactly the Ritz, but these are what we have for now. Since your home has been compromised we want to keep you safe. "

"Where are my things?" Erica weakly asked.

"Put in storage. We went through the house and moved everything across the country to put off the trail. Your clothes are close by though, but we cannot retrieve them tonight. Until then we have some looovely military issue clothing." Chris smirked as he nodded towards a stack of neatly folded clothes.

Erica managed a weak smile, "thank you Chris." He nodded, exited the room, and closed the door. Erica had just managed to put on a pair of ACU cargos and brown t-shirt when someone knocked.

"Come in," Erica said as she opened the door. "Jack," she smiled.

Jack smiled back, "Hey neighbor." He walked in surveying the surroundings. "Nice digs. Who's your decorator?" Erica laughed, the first time in weeks it seemed.

"Not sure really, I think FBI or something like that," it felt good bantering around with him. Jack grinned. "I'd offer you some coffee, or a drink but it seems they did not put in a kitchen here. I'll have to speak to the landlord about that."

Jack chuckled. He looked good in the ACUs they had given him. He smelled like clean, like he had freshly showered. Erica wondered how long they had let her go without a bath. "Hey, where does one shower around here?"

"Two doors down, I think men and women share due to limited space." Erica looked down so Jack would not see her blush. Why did he have that effect on her?

"Okay, great. See you in a few!" Erica grabbed what she thought was a towel and headed down the hall. She went inside the bathroom and found a shower. It felt so good to wash off what seemed like weeks of grime, dirt, and pain. Pain…tears began to fill her eyes again. Well at least she didn't have to worry about make-up or anyone seeing her. She let the water run all over her. Hopefully the hot water would last a while.

Jack watched her go, noticing how great she looked in any clothing, even baggy ACU's. He sat down on the bed in her room, there was nothing waiting for him in his, no books, tv, or anything. So he lay down and looked at the ceiling tiles. One, two, three…

Erica returned and found Jack asleep on the other bed in her room. Rather than wake him, she carefully pulled a blanket over his torso, and laid down in what was to be her bed for she didn't know how long.

"Erica!" Jack was holding her shoulders. "NO! Please No!" Erica screamed again. She opened her eyes, Jack was there with a very concerned look on his face.

"Erica, it's alright," Jack lifted her shaking body up to a sitting position and wrapped his arms around her, "Shhh, it's alright." Erica just held onto him.

"I'm s-s-sorry," she sobbed. "I just had a dream that Anna … Tyler."

"Shhh, it's going to be okay," Jack murmured, rubbing her back. Erica shifted and tried to lie down, Jack stood to leave.

"No please," Erica turned to him, "Please stay with me." Jack nodded and lay next to her. He held her and carefully, gently kissed her head.

Jack awoke to find Erica gone, but he heard Lars talking in the hallway. Erica was there too. Jack rolled over and sat up rubbing his eyes. "Hey there," Erica was standing in the doorway with a cup of coffee. "Here you go. It's the best I can do. I guess Wawa doesn't deliver here." Jack eagerly accepted it. It was horrible, but he choked it down. "I wanted to thank you for being there for me last night."

Jack grinned, "My pleasure."

"You always have been my rock. I appreciate that." Erica looked down. "Well, there is a lot of work to do and I am ready to kick some lizard butt." She smiled at him, stood up and walked out the door.

After a much needed shower, Jack ran down the corridor to the main area of Aries headquarters. He found Erica who waved him over quickly.

"It's Chad, we found him." Erica solemnly related. Jack again felt that all too familiar feeling of dread.

"But there is good news," Bolling interjected, "Joshua has friends up there who are protecting him the best they can." Jack nodded numbly.

"Wait, where is Joshua? And Lisa? I thought they were coming with…" Jack drifted off when he caught Erica's face.

Bolling cleared his throat, "We have them in an undisclosed location. And their cargo has been taken care of."

Erica stared into the distance. "Tyler's remains were cremated, and I had them dispose of the ashes near Joe's grave," she flatly responded her face void of any of the other night's emotion.

Jack nodded, "Boy is she strong," he thought. "What can we do for Chad?" Jack eagerly asked.

"We have sent a team aboard the ship." Bolling stated matter-of-fact like they do this on a regular basis.

This did little to comfort Jack after the Georgie incident. "So I guess we just pray? That did little to help the others!" Jack's face contorted with rage. Erica placed her hand on the bulging veins in Jack's arms as he clenched his fists.

"Let's go," Erica tugged on Jack's arm.

"Where! There is nowhere for us to go! We're stuck here and people are dying!" Jack shook her arm off and stomped away.

Erica, just looked down and followed him. Jack walked into the corridor that they were staying in, and slammed the door to his room. He ran his fingers through his hair, clenching a fistful in frustration. He had to get out and do something. It had been three days since he had been blissed, and he was terrified thinking about what those on the surface had endured. How many more times had they been subjected to Anna's bliss? How many more had died due to the after effects? He lifted the lid to the foot locker, inside was his box with his gun in it. How they had retrieved it he didn't know, but he pulled it out, checked the chamber, tucked it into his pants and opened the door.

Erica stood in the hallway. Jack stopped when he saw her concern. How could she be so calm, she had lost everything, everyone, he had only lost his vocation. "Where are you going soldier?" Erica touched his arm again. It was like an angel's touch. He just fell into her arms.

"I can't do this, I can't let this go on anymore. First Georgie, then Val, Chad…" Jack moaned into her neck. Erica just nodded. Jack stood and looked into her eyes, the blue eyes that he first saw across a crowded warehouse. He touched her cheek, a single tear rolled down her face. He leaned into her and gently kissed her. She returned the kiss with a gentleness that surprised both of them. They both smiled in spite of the helplessness they both felt.

"Are you going to take them on alone?" Erica wiped the tears from her face. "Cause I am ready and willing to follow you into battle."

Jack grinned, "Well, I think I could take on new recruits. Are you sure you are up to this?" He winked knowing full well what the answer was.

Erica was ready, more so than she had been in the past. She was going to approach this in a more logical, and moral way than before. She knew that with Jack at her back and vice versa, they would be an able team. Erica laced her fingers into his, kissed him again, "Abso-LUtely." She then flashed her own gun at him.

Together they walked into Lars' office, Jack taking the lead this time with a power and strength that he rarely exhibited until now. "Chad is our friend and we are not going to let anything happen to him. What is our first assignment?"

Lars grinned.