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 3: Love
What a night.
Over the course of several hours, Tyler had received a no-holds-barred account of the past few months, from the moment the Visitors arrived to Erica’s safe return from the mothership after her attack. Everyone had spoken, sharing their roles in the resistance movement, explaining how their lives had all become entwined. There had been anger, tears, regret, and apologies.
On the one hand, Tyler now understood that the Visitors were the enemies and had agreed to join the resistance movement. On the other, he was understandably upset about being duped for so long – by his mother, by his girlfriend, and by the Vs themselves. He felt like a fool, like he had been betrayed by everyone, and he did not hesitate to let anyone know it. That had been devastating for Erica to hear, but as much as he wanted to comfort her, Jack remained rooted in place, watching helplessly.
Hobbes and Ryan did a lot of the talking when Erica could not, and Tyler seemed to respect their accounts. They were logical and direct, and they lacked the emotion that Erica and Lisa conveyed. But he ignored Jack for most of the evening and never made eye contact.
He wasn’t as concerned with what Tyler thought of him as he was with how Tyler treated Erica. He was angry and hurt, that much was obvious. But he was also indifferent to her apologies, and that bothered Jack the most. From what Erica had told him, Tyler didn’t care about the truth, even when she had tried to warn him. Maybe he was the one who should be apologizing. Then again, if Jack had found out that everything he believed in, everything and everyone he trusted, was a lie, apologizing would be the last thing on his mind.
After a heart-to-heart conversation with Tyler, Erica appeared in the kitchen, exhaustion lining her face. When she saw Jack at the sink, she looked startled but managed a genuine smile. If the day’s events weren’t still fresh in his mind, he would have thought everything was okay. He could tell she was trying to hide the truth, even going so far as to put on a fresh application of makeup, but even the strongest person could break.
“I thought you would have left with the others.”
“And leave you with a pile of dirty dishes? Nonsense.” He rinsed the soap from the final dinner plate and placed it in the drying rack.
“Thank you for cleaning up – and for cooking. It was delicious.”
While that may have been true about the chicken parmigiana and garlic bread that he had prepared hours ago, it had mostly been picked at instead of consumed. He had cooked to calm his nerves and to imitate some sort of normalcy, but it had been awkward nonetheless: two aliens, a priest, a mercenary, an FBI agent, and a teenage boy did not generally eat meals together. “You’re welcome. The leftovers are in the refrigerator.” He dried his hands on a nearby towel. “How’s Tyler?”
“He’s okay,” she replied, sounding only partly convinced. “Lisa is going to spend the night. Can’t believe I’m actually letting a girl sleep over but-” She shrugged. “He needs someone, and he’s still a little cool toward me.”
“He’ll come around. He just needs some time to process everything.”
“Yeah. I know how that is.”
“Are you all right?”
She waved a hand dismissively. “I’ll be fine.”
“You’ve had a rough twenty-four hours. Are you sure?”
“Uh huh.” But she refused to meet his gaze.
“You don’t have to hide anything from me, Erica.”
“I’m not,” she said as a smirk tugged at the corners of her mouth. “You know me too well for me to be able to hide anything from you.”
Jack reached out his hand and curled his fingers around hers. “Then let your guard down. Let me be your strength.”
She nodded repeatedly, her mask beginning to crack. “I-” He brought her into his arms. Almost instantly, he felt her heavy sigh, heard a muffled sob against his neck. He stroked her hair, rocked her gently, even pressed a chaste kiss to her temple.
“You don’t have to do this alone. I’m here for you, Erica. For anything, everything.”
She went still, and for a moment he wondered if he had said the wrong thing. Then she looked into his eyes, her nose brushing against his, and he realized it wasn’t the wrong thing that he’d said.
It was the right thing.
Jack released a shaky breath. He drew his thumb along her cheekbone before cupping her face in his hand; she nuzzled against his touch in response. His outward calm shocked even him, considering the avalanche of emotion rumbling through his body. There was no logic, no fear, no guilt. Just love.
“Will you stay with me tonight, Jack?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. “I don’t want to be alone.”
“Yes,” came his husky reply.
She took his hand and gave him one last questioning look for confirmation, one last chance to change his mind. He didn’t, wouldn’t. At his nod, she led him silently up the stairs.
End of chapter three