And Now These Three Remain
Written February 2011
Synopsis: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Erica’s abduction by a Visitor forces Jack to confront his feelings for her.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of The Scott Peters Company, HDFilms, Warner Bros. Television, and other corporations. No infringement is intended.
Chapter Two: Hope
The ride to Erica’s house was taking entirely too long, despite Hobbes’s incomplete stops and excessive speed. Jack drummed his fingers on the arm rest impatiently.
She was alive.
Thankfully, Hobbes hadn’t brought up anything from their conversation earlier. Conversation? It was more of a one-sided revelation into Jack’s feelings; Jack hadn’t trusted himself to speak, knowing that even if he had lied, his voice would have revealed the truth.
He had always been a master of self-control. The vows he took to serve God required restraint and discipline, but he knew the clergy was his calling. He had never questioned it or doubted it, and he had never wondered what kind of life he would have had if he had not entered the seminary. Chapter 3 of Proverbs states, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all things acknowledge him, and he shall direct your way.” And he did. It brought him peace. But then the Visitors arrived, and he felt confused, uncertain. Prayers for guidance had curiously led him to the Fifth Column, to Erica.
As much as he had tried to deny his feelings, they were growing stronger every day. He had prayed about it and gone to confession, hoping for a return to that inner peace he had felt before they met. He had even preached a sermon about lust, but it lacked conviction because he knew it wasn’t lust that he felt. His desire to be close to her had nothing to do with sex.
Then she had been abducted – and he had lost control. Control, his most precious virtue, gone in an instant and so easily, before he’d even had a chance to stop it. He had been so certain that she was dead: the blood in the warehouse, the things Hobbes had heard over the phone before their call had been disconnected, the fact that it was a Visitor who had done it. And his heart filled with rage and unbearable sadness, a terrifying mixture for someone who trusted God’s will.
He didn’t know what to expect when he finally saw her. Lisa hadn’t given them any information on her condition when Hobbes had spoken to her, saying only that she would try to get Tyler out of the house long enough for them to visit. Was Erica hurt? Bleeding? Broken? Dying? Oh, he hoped she hadn’t been permanently injured. If the Visitor had so much as broken a finger, there would be hell to pay, and any self-control that Jack had left would be gone forever.
He sighed heavily, tired of imagining the worst but unable to stop, and Hobbes looked at him out of the corner of his eye. “We’re almost there, Padre.” But that was it. No snide comments, no sarcastic remarks. For that, Jack was thankful.
When Hobbes pulled the car along the curb, Jack jumped out before it was even in park. They both jogged to the front door, tossing glances over their shoulders to see if they were being watched or had been followed.
Never one for impeccable manners, Hobbes opened the door and walked inside. Erica spun around at the sound, flanked by Ryan and Lisa.
“We don’t have much time,” Ryan said. “Tyler’s on his way back.”
Jack wasn’t even listening to him. The mothership could land on the front lawn, and he wouldn’t care. All that mattered was her. “Erica.” He broke out into a grin that he didn’t even try to conceal.
“Jack.” They closed the distance between them and embraced tightly. Over her shoulder, he watched Hobbes push both Lisa and Ryan into the kitchen, out of sight.
He remained silent for a long time, committing this moment to memory. The feel of her body against his, the smell of her skin, the rhythm of her breath. In case it never happened again, in case she was one day gone forever, he wanted to remember everything about her. “I’m sorry,” he whispered into her hair. “I thought you were – that you had…”
She pulled back and for a fleeting moment held his face in her hands. “I’m here, I’m fine.”
“Anna has requested that all suspected Fifth Column members be brought to the mothership alive for … questioning.” Questioning meant torture, and he blanched at the thought of harm coming to her. She noticed his expression and shook her head. “No. My role in the resistance is intact.”
“What about all the blood we found at the warehouse? The sounds Hobbes heard over the phone?” A quick once-over revealed no signs of any bruising, not even a bandage. He swallowed hard to quell the tremor in his voice. “Did he hurt you?”
“He smashed my face into the cement floor, broke just about every bone there.”
That shocked him. She seemed physically fine, no different from any other day – and certainly not like a woman who had suffered from that kind of violence. But the casual tone of her voice haunted him. She wasn’t fine, and they both knew it. “Oh, Erica…”
“Actually, I have you to thank for my life. If you hadn’t contacted Tyler, it could have been much worse. After he spoke to you, he told Lisa what had happened, and she took him to see Anna.” Erica’s lips curled into a small, sad smile. “Of course, any harm done to me by a Visitor would definitely push Tyler away, and she couldn’t have that. So she demanded that I be brought to the ship immediately. And while I was being patched up in the medical bay, the Visitor was being skinned.”
He pulled her close again. He couldn’t stop himself from visualizing what had happened to her, what could have happened to her. Anger ignited his blood like fire, and he had to remind himself that she was alive and safe; that was more than he could have hoped for.
“Jack … Tyler told Anna that I’d been following a member of Fifth Column to the warehouse and was taken by mistake. And by Fifth Column, he meant you.” Her eyes pleaded with him. “They’re watching you very closely. You need to be careful. If Anna gets desperate for information, she will torture you. She will probably kill you.” She took a breath. “We can’t lose you. I… I can’t lose you.”
He brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. He wanted to tell her the truth, to convey the depth of his feelings with something beautiful and poetic; she deserved nothing less. He parted his lips to speak, but no words would come, and his heart ached in the silence.
The front door opened again, and Tyler walked into the house with a large bag of Chinese takeout. Jack watched his expression shift from happiness to confusion to anger. And why not? His mother was in the arms of the man who he deemed responsible for her attack.
Jack didn’t expect what happened next. Tossing the food to the floor, Tyler lunged at him like a linebacker, and they went careening into the wall. He was stunned by the strength behind the blow, and he barely had time to block the first punch with his forearm. He braced himself for the second one, but it never came.
“Tyler, that’s enough!” Erica shouted, twisting her son’s arm behind him and holding him back. “What are you doing?”
“What am I doing? What are you doing? He’s Fifth Column!”
“He almost got you killed!” He wiggled out of her loosening grasp and backed away from her, panting. He focused his glare on Jack, but Erica stood between them to prevent another attack. Ryan and Hobbes appeared in the kitchen entryway; Hobbes had his gun drawn.
“Hobbes, put it away,” Erica ordered.
“Who are they?” Tyler demanded, his attention shifting between his mother and the men in the doorway. “What’s going on?”
Jack saw the pain on Erica’s face, so raw that he swore he felt it too. He knew she didn’t want him to find out this way, but she no longer had a choice.
“We’re all Fifth Column,” she said at last, hands clasped at her heart.
Tyler squinted at the men in the kitchen, as well as Jack, then looked back at Erica. “But … what are members of Fifth Column doing here?”
She hugged him, squeezing her eyes shut. “All of us, Tyler.”
He remained in her arms for a moment then slowly looked up, realization finally setting in. Lisa slid in beside Hobbes, her lips pressed together. Tyler’s voice cracked as he choked out her name.
“I’m so sorry,” Lisa whispered.
That was his breaking point. He stood motionless except for his trembling jaw, staring at Lisa in anguish, clinging to his mother like a child.
“Come on, Ty,” Erica said, guiding him to the kitchen. “We need to talk.”
End of chapter two