The Other Side

Ophelia

Cadet
*author's note* Jack's part in the series finale, my way! :D

*Author's note* The series finale, my way!

THE OTHER SIDE

“Nadia, no!’ Don’t leave me!”

Nadia gave her father a sad smile. “There is nothing I can do for you. I can, however, help another.” She turned her back and disappeared.

* * *

Jack opened his eyes at the throbbing sound of a helicopter as it landed nearby; then he heard the voices of the medevac team, distant and distorted, as they worked on him.

“BP 80 over 30. Pulse 120, weak and thready. He’s shocky and he’s lost a lot of blood. We’re losing him!”

* * *

“Mom and dad!” Jack came running into the kitchen, waving a sheet of paper. “I got an A on my physics exam!”

His father, standing in the doorway leading into the living room, smiled.” Would this be the same physics exam you’ve been sweating blood over for nearly two weeks now?”

Jack grinned proudly. “Yes.”

“See? I told you you could do it. Son, come into the living room. There is someone here who wants to talk with you.”

A tall, muscular man in his thirties was sitting in the large overstuffed armchair next to Jack’s mother’s antique curio cabinet. He rose and shook Jack’s hand.

“Hello, Jack. My name is Stephen Chandler. I am a recruiter with the Central Intelligence Agency.”

Jack gave his father a curious stare, and noticed that his mother, seated on the sofa, didn’t look particularly happy.

* * *

“So, Jack, what are your plans after high school?” Chandler asked a little later as Jack’s mother served coffee. “College, I assume?” He smiled. “I couldn’t help but overhear about your physics exam.”

“I want to go to college, and I’ve been filling out applications, but I still have another semester of high school left.”

“Time to start planning, though, isn’t it? We can help with college.”

Jack frowned. “You mean join the CIA? I never much cared for those James Bond movies.”

Chandler laughed. “It isn’t like that, I promise. Do you remember those standardized tests your class took a couple of months ago?”

“Yes. We never did get the scores back on those.”

“Well, those tests were actually administered at our behest.”

“I did think a lot of the questions were kind of weird. We all did.”

“Weird or not, there was a purpose behind them – to find out if you have any aptitude for our line of work. And you scored very high. We are interested in you. Would you be interested in serving your country – and going to Georgetown University?”

* * *

TBC
 

Faela

Cadet
oooooo interesting...

Can I please get a PM when you update, this looks like it could be an interesting read.
 

Ophelia

Cadet
That night, as Jack was lying in bed, he heard his parents’ voices coming from their room. Assuming that he was asleep, they had neglected to close their door.

“Are you really so sure we should be encouraging this, Joseph?” his mother was asking.

“Ellen, it’s either this, or sooner or later he winds up in Nam. A student deferment will only last so long. What happens when he graduates?”

“But the war can’t last forever.”

“True, but we don’t know how long it will last. And we sure as hell can’t afford to send him to a place like Georgetown. Jack’s too smart for a state college. He deserves this chance.”

* * *

“Hey, Jack! Come over here – someone wants to meet you.” Larry waves as his friend appeared in the entrance to their favorite coffee house, Pete’s. It was a popular student hangout.

Jack started toward the table near the back where Larry was sitting with his girlfriend Margie and stopped short. Another woman their age was sitting with them, wearing jeans and a bright red sweater. She was tall even seated, with long chestnut brown hair and brown eyes with a feline slant to them.

Larry, amused to see his normally cool-headed friend so caught off-guard, waved again. “Get over here.”

Jack shook his head slightly, as if coming out of a slight daze, and sat down next to the woman.

“Hello, Jack, she said. “I’m Laura Andrews.”

“Hi, Laura. Are you a student at Georgetown too?”

“Yes. I’m majoring in English literature. I’m going to be a teacher. And you?”

“Math major.”

Laura gave him a playful smile. “Funny, you don’t look like a math major.”

“Oh? And what does a math major look like?”

“You know – spiky hair, thick black glasses with white tape on the bridge piece, black pants, white shirt, pocket protector.”

Jack laughed. “I didn’t know we had a uniform.” But if pressed, he realized, he would have had to admit that Laura had just given a fairly accurate description of many of his classmates. He himself favored corduroys and flannel shirts.

“Don’t worry,” Laura was saying, looking directly into Jack’s eyes. “I think you look just fine.”

* * *

A few hours later, they were in bed together in Jack’s apartment, and he realized, not for the first time that evening, that Laura Andrews was no shrinking violet.

“Where did you learn that?” he asked, lying back on the pillow to catch his breath.

“It isn’t so difficult. You just have to learn to give yourself over to the moment.” She gently caressed his cheek. “You can’t control everything, Jack. Believe me, I know.”

He raised himself up on one elbow and caught a glimpse of a reflection in the mirror over the dresser. It was Nadia, dressed in a radiant white slip dress.

“You don’t belong here, Jack. You have to go back,” she said quietly, her voice a ghostly echo. “You have to go back.”

* * *

He heard a groan, and realized it had come from himself. He felt strong arms lifting him onto a stretcher, then he was being carried toward a helicopter.

“Take it easy, buddy,” he heard an unfamiliar voice say. “We’ve got you. We’re gonna get you out of here.”

* * *

TBC
 

Faela

Cadet
Oh nicely done... snippits and bits and pieces of his life and day dreaming Nadia, very nice, very interesting... must have more! up date soon please.
 

Ophelia

Cadet
Joseph Bristow brushed a bit of lint off his son’s tuxedo coat and straightened his tie. “There. I guess that will have to do.” He backed up a step, his hands on Jack’s shoulders, and smiled. “Do you have any idea how proud I am of you?”

Jack gave a nervous little laugh. “Thanks. I’m not sure I’m ready for this, though.”

“No one ever is. But you’ll get over it. Listen, son, Laura is a lovely young woman. She’s had difficult life, what with losing her family at such a young age and all. But she’s got a strong spirit in her that you rarely find in a person, man or woman. She reminds me of your mother that way.”

“I often think the same thing.”

“See? You’ll be fine.”

There was a knock on the door, and Jack’s mother stuck her head in the room. “Laura is ready. Everything all right in here?”

“Yes,” Jack replied firmly. “I’m ready.”

* * *

As the organist struck up “Here Comes the Bride,” Jack turned to see Laura enter on the arm of a white-haired gentleman she said was her favorite instructor from the English department. She had asked him to give her away. She was dressed in a simple white gown that accented her shape and her height. She looked as though she had just stepped off the cover of a bridal magazine. Jack’s breath caught in his throat at the sight of her. Larry, his best man, noticed and smiled to himself.

As they said their vows, Jack’s mind swirled. He was the first of his friends to be getting married. Some said that maybe it was a little too soon, that it would do no harm to wait, especially since they were both going to graduate school. But as he looked into Laura’s eyes and kissed her, all doubts vanished. Didn’t the Bible say that love covered a multitude of sins?

* * *

“Jack’s let’s not go out tonight. I have something to tell you.”

Jack set his briefcase down and took Laura into his arms. There was a look on her face he couldn’t quite identify. She was excited, nervous, and distracted all at once. He had never seen her quite like this before. “What?”

“I went to the doctor today.” Laura swallowed hard. “Jack, I’m . . . we’re . . . pregnant.”

For a moment, Jack wasn’t sure he had heard correctly. “Oh, my God,” he breathed.

“You’re upset?”

“Upset? I hardly know what to say, I’m so happy. This is incredible.”

“But what do we know about being parents, Jack?”

“What does anyone know about being parents? As my father would say, if everyone waited until they thought they were ready, no one would ever have a child.” He kissed her gently. “Relax, we’ll be fine. You’ll be a great mother.”

* * *

“Mr. Bristow, if you’ll come with me, please.”

Jack jumped up from his chair in the father’s waiting room and followed the nurse into a nearby delivery room. Laura was sitting up in the bed, looking exhausted but happy, holding a squalling bundle in her arms. She held it up to him. “It’s a girl, Jack.”

He took the baby into his arms and lifted the blanket, counting fingers and toes. She stopped crying and gazed up at him with big, solemn brown eyes. “Sydney Anne Bristow,” he murmured. “You’re perfect.”

He looked over at the bed and saw not Laura, but Nadia, lying there.

“You still don’t get it, do you?” she asked sadly. “You can’t stay here.”

* * *

Jack opened his eyes, blinking in the harsh glare of overhead lights. He’d lost consciousness again, apparently for quite a while this time. A woman in scrubs stood over him.

“Jack? Can you hear me? I’m Doctor Kramer. We’re taking you to surgery in just a minute. Just relax, we’re going to take care of you.”

He felt the sting of a hypodermic needle, and closed his eyes again.

* * *

TBC
 

Faela

Cadet
This is awesome! truely inspired! hehehehe I love that Jack was nervous on his wedding day hehehehe I love that nadia keeps insertng herself into his memories trying to snap him out of it.
This is turning into something really fantastic, keep up the great work! Keep the PMs coming.
 

Ophelia

Cadet
“This is felgercarb and you know it.” Arvin Sloane glared at the two FBI agents, Henderson and Springsteen, seated across the large table in the conference room from him. Jack sat rigid and silent beside him.

“Nevertheless, we are taking him into custody,” Springsteen said. “Mr. Bristow, you are under arrest for espionage and treason against the United States. You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you desire an attorney but cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you by the court. Do you understand these rights?”

Jack nodded numbly.

“Now, you mentioned you have a six-year-old daughter,” Springsteen continued. “You will have to appoint a guardian for her.”

“Jack, Emily and I will be more than happy to do that,” Sloane said. “And I’ll get you a lawyer.”

“Thanks, Arvin.” Jack’s voice was just a hoarse whisper.

“Here are forms to that effect, then. Sign at the bottom, and Mr. Sloane will sign as well.”

With a trembling hand, Jack filled in the proffered forms and signed. As Sloane took them, Henderson and Springsteen stood Jack up and placed shackles on him. As they started to lead him out of the room, Sloane shouted out so forcefully that even these veteran FBI agents stopped in their tracks.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! What are you doing?” Sloane angrily pointed to the door in the back of the room. “That door leads out to a stairway that will take you directly to the parking garage. You don’t have to drag him out of here in shackles in front of God and everybody. What’s the matter with you?”

He stood there, pointing and glaring, until the two FBI agents finally decided that one picks one’s battles and left by the back door, their prisoner in tow.

* * *

Jack picked listlessly at the unappetizing breakfast they had brought him. Rubbery eggs, greasy hash browns, lukewarm coffee so strong it could almost walk out of the Styrofoam cup – no wonder he estimated that he must have lost about twenty pounds since his arrest.

He still remembered that day as if it had just happened. He remembered leaving the ops center in shackles, walking through the parking garage, and being shoved into the back of a waiting van. They took him to the Thrall Federal Building on Moorpark. They interrogated him for hours once his lawyer once arrived, then finally took him to a safe house for the night. The next day he was transferred to Lompoc Federal Prison outside of Los Angeles and placed in solitary confinement. Guards brought him food and took him to the showers, but other than that he saw no one unless someone came to interrogate him, which happened fairly frequently. It was always the same questions, asked in different ways. He, of course, always had the same answer: He had no idea what they were talking about.

They took great delight in filling him in: His wife’s real name was Irina Derevko, and she was a KGB operative. Since before their marriage she had eavesdropped on his phone conversations, planted listening devices in his clothing, and rummaged through his briefcase. She had also assassinated twelve CIA operatives along the way. The FBI could not believe that a ranking CIA officer like Jack Bristow could be so blind, and he had to admit that he really couldn’t blame them. He had asked himself that same question more times than he could count.

And so it went – sitting day after day in a chilly, windowless cell with only a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling for light, trying to make sense of what had happened. Most people didn’t realize what solitary confinement could do to a person, he thought. There was good reason why it was a time-honored technique for breaking someone. He was never beaten or starved, but it took its toll. The days ran together, his sleep cycle became erratic, every sound became amplified, and the walls didn’t actually close in – they vibrated.

Lately, though, the questioning had become less frequent and less insistent. He wondered what, if anything, that meant . . .

The door to Jack’s cell opened, and he looked up to see his old friend Arvin Sloane. He was carrying a small duffle bag; and, incredibly, he was smiling.

“Jack . . .” He set down the bag and the two men embraced warmly.

“Is Sydney all right?” It was all Jack could think of to say.

“She’s fine. They didn’t tell you anything?”

“Not about her.” Jack’s mouth twisted wryly. No letters, no phone calls, and not even a photograph of his six-year-old daughter had been allowed.

“Listen, Jack, the FBI has completed their investigation. You’ve been cleared. I’m here to take you home.” Sloane chuckled at the bewildered look on Jack’s face. ‘Yes, it’s true. I take it no one warned you about that either?”

“No, they didn’t.”

“I’m sorry. I guess things were just moving too quickly.” Sloane indicated the bag. “I brought you some clothes from home. Get changed, and we’ll get out of here.” He turned to go. I’ll wait for you upstairs. Just let the guards know when you’re ready.”

* * *

“So what exactly happened?” Jack’s eyes were unaccustomed to bright sunlight, and he blinked as he gazed out the car window.

“Since your lawyer has been fairly useless, Thompson finally put his foot down the other day. He told the FBI to either file charges against you or let you go. After this long, if there was evidence against you, they should have found it, he said. He threatened to go public with this unless they moved.”

“How long has it been?” Jack asked.

“Six months. It’s August 20.” Sloane glanced sympathetically at his friend. “I guess it was pretty hard to keep track of time in there.”

“It was.” Jack hesitated for a moment, then asked, “What have you told Sydney?”

“Emily and I told her that you had to go away for a while but would be back,” Sloane replied. “Don’t worry; she knows you’re coming home now. She’s very excited. Wait till you see the new dress Emily got her. She missed you, Jack.”

‘I missed her, too.” Jack wondered if his daughter would ever know the debt he owed her. She was the only reason he hadn’t gone stark raving mad months ago.

Sydney was sitting with Emily on the front steps as the car pulled into the driveway of the Sloanes’ house. She was wearing a pale blue dress with matching ribbons in her hair. When Jack got out of the car, she jumped up and ran to him.

“Daddy!” She laughed as he picked her up and spun her around. “Do you like my new dress? I picked it out myself.”

“It’s beautiful.” Jack held her close, his voice husky with emotion. “I missed you, sweetheart.”

“I missed you, too, Daddy.”

After a long moment, he set her down; but she clung to his hand, gazing up at him thoughtfully.

“Daddy, are you all right?”

Jack smiled at her serious expression. “I’m fine, Sydney. Just fine.”

* * *

Jack and Sydney spent the day with the Sloanes. After dinner, Sloane drove them home.

“Arvin, tell Emily thanks again . . . for everything.”

“I will.”

“What was that all about, Daddy?” Sydney asked as he unlocked the front door to his own house for the first time in six months.

“Nothing, Sydney. It’s okay. Come on, it’s getting late. Time for bed.”

After a bath, Sydney settled expectantly into bed, waiting for her father to read her a story, just as she always had. How easy it was, he thought, to fall into the old, familiar patterns, even after everything that had happened.

He rifled through the books on the shelf above the bed. “Which one?”

“’Green Eggs and Ham,’” Sydney responded without hesitation. It was her favorite; and even though they had both long since memorized it, her father’s rendition of “I do not like green eggs and ham/I do not like them, Sam-I-Am” never failed to make her laugh.

As he placed the book back on the shelf and pulled the covers over her, she asked, “Daddy, do you miss Mommy? You haven’t talked about her at all.”

“Yes. Yes, I do, Sydney.” It was not entirely a lie, he told himself. He did miss her – or at least, he missed Laura Andrews Bristow. Irina Derevko, on the other hand . . . “It’s just hard for me to talk about her, that’s all.”

“It is for me, too, Daddy. But Aunt Emily says she’s in heaven, so we shouldn’t be sad.”

How do you explain something like this to a six-year-old, Jack wondered. With luck, he would never have to.

“That’s right, sweetheart; she’s in heaven. Now go to sleep. Tomorrow we’re going to the beach, like I promised.”

Obediently Sydney closed her eyes. Jack sat with her for a while, until he was certain she had fallen asleep, then went into the master bedroom. Like the rest of the house, except for Sydney’s room, it seemed different somehow – and not just because this was the first time he had seen it in six months. He imagined that he could still smell Laura’s – Irina’s – favorite perfume in the air, and he could see through the open closet door that her clothes were still hanging there. The Sloanes had warned him about that, explaining that they had been unsure what to do with them since they had been unable to communicate with him. He would take care of it, he had told them. Her jewelry box was still in its place on the dresser; he would keep it for Sydney. Next to it were a few framed photographs wedding pictures and a portrait of the three of them taken shortly before the accident – those would have to be put away. He was tempted to burn them; but that would be difficult to explain to Sydney later, when she was old enough to start asking questions.

He went into the bathroom, turned on the light, and studied his reflection in the mirror. Pale, gaunt face; haunted, red-rimmed eyes, clothes hanging from a frame grown much too thin – no wonder Sydney had expressed concern. I look like a POW, he thought.

He showered and slipped into bed. The sheets were freshly washed – Emily Sloane had been coming to the house regularly to keep it up – but still his wife’s scent seemed to linger. The pleasant memories that should have evoked seemed tainted now. She had never loved him. To her, he had been nothing but a mark – and an easy one at that. Maybe that was why he had been chosen.

How had she managed to avoid suspicion for so long, he wondered. And how was it he had remained so oblivious? As many times as he had asked himself these questions, he still had no answers and probably never would.

After a while he fell asleep, but not for long. He sat up in bed – he still kept to his side, he noticed – and saw that the clock on the nightstand read 2:13 am. He lay back down, but found himself merely staring at the ceiling. After about an hour of that, he got up with a sigh and went into Sydney’s room.

A streetlight shone through the window, and he realized that he had forgotten to close the blind. He stood there for a moment, gazing down at her. How innocent she was, he thought, lying there sound asleep with her arms around the teddy bear he had bought her for her fifth birthday. He kissed Sydney gently on the forehead. She stirred slightly in her sleep, murmuring almost inaudibly, then lay still again. Jack closed the blind and went back to bed.

* * *

“Daddy, you almost forgot this!” Sydney came running out of the garage toward the car in the driveway, clutching an enormous beach ball.

“Here, put it in the back.” Jack opened the back of the station wagon and Sydney tossed the ball inside. “Is that everything?”

“I think so, Daddy.”

“Then let’s go.”

He locked the garage door, secured Sydney in her seat belt, and they were off.

A few blocks from the house, they stopped at a traffic light.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“Don’t you wish Mommy could be with us?”

Jack closed his eyes and swallowed hard. “Well, she can’t be,” he said, more brusquely than he had intended. He reached out and fiddled with the radio dial. “Let’s find some music, shall we?”

* * *

TBC
 

Faela

Cadet
OK now that was fantastic!! truely awesome Ophelia! Wonderfully powerfull! I love little Syd, she misses her mom soo much you can tell. Poor Jack... wait... poor syd, she had to stay with Sloane! *shudders* well at least she was with Emily most of the time, thats ok i suppose. :D
Keep up the great work and Pm me!
 

Ophelia

Cadet
“Thank you.” Jack hung up the phone and turned to Elizabeth. “Are you ready? A car will be here in twenty minutes to take you to the airport.”

“I’m ready.” Elizabeth was gazing out the hotel room window, which afforded an excellent view of the Vatican. “Jack, come over here and look at this sunrise. It's beautiful.”

"It is, isn't it?" Jack came to stand beside her and put an arm around her shoulders, kissing her hair. “I’m so glad we got a chance to attend that concert last night. I’ve never heard Mozart’s piano concertos played like that. I know I certainly can’t.”

“Neither can I. But then, we’re talking about musicians who have devoted their lives to their art. They’re focused, and that’s what it’s all about, in any profession. Focus. And that brings me to something we have to talk about. Now.” Elizabeth swallowed hard. “Jack, I don’t think we should work together or see each other anymore.”

“Elizabeth, what has brought this on?”

“What happened yesterday . . . shouldn’t have happened.”

“What are you talking about? We make a great team. You were brilliant yesterday. Pretending to have a seizure to distract those guards worked perfectly, and we retrieved those documents just as we were tasked to do.”

“Yes, but that isn’t really the point. You hesitated, Jack. You hesitated because you were afraid they would shoot me. You wouldn’t have done that with any other partner. That can’t happen. Not ever. And it nearly got us killed. It doesn’t help that I would have done the same thing. And there is more. We have been seeing each other personally for nearly two years now, and yet we’re going nowhere. We go to concerts and plays, and talk about books and music – and I’ll never forget that week in Cancun – but we never talk about us."

“Just what do you mean?”

“I mean we converse together, we enjoy doing things together, but you always keep a certain emotional distance. That incident yesterday proves how you feel about me, and I feel the same way about you, but you’re basically afraid of that, and of me, and I don’t understand why. I’ve tried to talk to you about it several times, but you become so uncomfortable I just drop it. The only reason I know how you got this way is that I know the truth about your wife.”

“Elizabeth, you are not Irina Derevko. I know that.”

“Of course you do. You know that in your head, but your heart is still closed off – to me and to everyone else. I should venture to guess that your relationship with Sydney isn’t what you would like it to be.”

It was always Elizabeth’s way, Jack thought, to cut straight to the heart of the matter. She had never even met Sydney, for example, and yet she knew. It was one of the many traits that made her one of the best operatives he had ever worked with.

“You’re just not ready, Jack,” she said quietly. “And I don’t know that you ever will be.” She gently kissed him on the lips. “I should go. I’ll wait downstairs for the car. Good-bye, Jack. I will never forget you.” She kissed him again, picked up her suitcase, and was gone.

Jack stood by the window, staring out at nothing, until a maid, thinking the room vacant, came in to clean, awakening him from his reverie.

* * *


Jack entered through the rear doors of the high school auditorium, just barely making it in time to hear Sydney’s graduation speech. She had been chosen as the valedictorian of her class. He took a seat near the front of the auditorium as she gave her speech.

“We cannot know what lies ahead,” Sydney was saying, “but we don’t have to. We do know we can face it, just as we have faced challenges to get to this point. We don’t have to be afraid of anything.”

* * *

“Dad! You’re here.” Sydney looked more startled than happy.

“Of course I did. I know I haven’t been very good about attending things like this, but there is no way I would miss it. I’m sorry I was rather late. You gave a fine speech, though.”

“Thank you.”

“May I take you out to dinner to celebrate?”

“I appreciate it, but I’m going to a party with my friends. At Francie’s house.”

Jack smiled slightly to hide his disappointment. “Another time, then. Let me give you this now.” He handed her a gift-wrapped box that was clearly from a jewelry store.

Sydney tore open the wrapping to find a gold dress watch. She held it up to the light. “Dad, it’s beautiful. Really, it is. Thank you.”

She put the watch on her wrist and looked up at him, and suddenly he realized that it was not Sydney, but Nadia.

“This time,” she said in that determined tone he’d come to know while she was alive, “you are going to listen to me.”

* * *

TBC
 

Faela

Cadet
What can I say?? WOW!
I love that you gave Jack a relationship with someone else, that was truely awesome! Wonderfully written, very moving! And Nadia snapping at him hehehehe sounds like something she'd do.

"Alright buddy your going to listen to me even though im dead, now wake your arse up!" hehehehe loved it!

Keep up the great work and keep the PMs coming!! Update soon!! I cant wait for more!
 

Ophelia

Cadet
“Come on.” Nadia grabbed Jack’s arm and started pulling him toward the door at the end of a hallway that had suddenly appeared in front of them.

They were in a hospital, Jack realized. A group of five people stood in front of the door – Sydney, Vaughn, Marshall, and Dixon, plus a woman doctor in scrubs.

I’m sorry,” the doctor was saying. “We did all we could. I just wish it could have been enough.”

Sydney and Marshall were both crying. Vaughn and Dixon were holding Sydney, trying to comfort her.

“Who is in that room?” Jack asked, though he had a pretty good idea.

“Who do you think?” Nadia responded tartly. “Take a look.”

The door was slightly ajar; and sure enough, when Jack looked inside, he saw himself lying in the bed, gray and very still, his jaw slack. Nurses were unhooking him from machines. He blanched.

“Come on. We’re not through yet. Not by a long shot.” Nadia grabbed his arm again.

Jack tried to pull back. “What is this, ‘A Christmas Carol?’”

“I said, come on!”

With no further argument, Jack obeyed. The scene changed. This time, Jack found himself in a church sanctuary – the same one, he realized, in which Vaughn’s fake funeral had been held. There was a casket in the front of the sanctuary, and Jack didn’t have to look to know who was in it. A crowd somewhat larger than Jack would have expected filled several rows of pews. There were people from the Los Angeles field office, like Hayden Chase: what was left of the APO team; and even people Jack knew from Langley. Sydney sat in the front, holding Isabel close to her chest, tears flowing freely down her cheeks. One woman sitting near the back caught Jack’s attention. Her head was bowed, but something about her seemed familiar. She looked up, and Jack recognized her immediately.

“My God. Elizabeth. What is she doing here?”

She and her husband are divorced,” Nadia replied. “She never stopped loving you, but that isn’t the reason why. He left her when he found out how she injured her hand.”

“I was afraid of that. Why didn’t she contact me?”

“Because she didn’t want you blaming yourself, as she knew you would. It was not your fault, Jack. The truth is, she and her husband were having problems long before you came back into her life. You too often blame yourself when it isn’t justified. Now come on, there’s one more thing you need to see.”

“Aren’t you laying it on a little thick? I think I get the message.”

Nadia gave him a stern look. “I’ll be the judge of that. Come on.”

This time, Jack knew better than to resist when she grabbed his arm once again. The scene changed to a beach on a warm, sunny day. They were standing near the front door of a large, airy house. A girl of about six, with long brown hair and brown eyes came running out of the house past them, wearing a swimsuit.

“Hurry up, mommy and daddy!” she called back to the house.

Jack gasped. “Is that . . .”

“Isabel? Of course.”

Sydney and Vaughn appeared in the doorway. Sydney was carrying a boy of about one.

“His name is Jack,” Nadia said. “Sydney and Vaughn never considered any other name when they found out they were having a son. They miss you, Jack. A lot more people care about you than you realize. That’s what I’ve been trying to make you understand. You can’t hold on to the past, good or bad, and it isn’t your time to be here where I am. Not yet. Sydney needs you. Your grandchildren need you. Elizabeth needs you. You have been given a gift, Jack – the gift of more time. You are to use it by retiring and being with the people you love, and who love you back. That is what Sydney is doing. I have not been given that gift, but you and she have. How much time, is not for anyone to know. But be strong. Go back to them, Jack. Don’t let them grieve when they don’t have to. You were always kind to me, and now I’m returning the favor by showing you what you will be missing out on if you stay here -- things you are not supposed to miss. Go back.”

* * *

“Dad? Dad? Can you hear me?”

Jack stirred and opened his eyes. He was receiving oxygen through a nasal cannula, and tubes and wires of various types seemed to be attached to him everywhere. He was in a hospital bed, and Sydney was sitting in a chair beside him. He smiled drowsily at her, and she gently laid a hand on his forehead.

“You’re in Landstuhl, in Germany. You’ve had a rough time, but you’re going to make it. How do you feel?”

“Like somebody has been tap dancing on my chest, but I’m too woozy to care.”

Sydney laughed softly. “Well, Doctor Kramer does have you on a lot of pain medication. You’ve been sort of drifting in and out of consciousness for the past few days. We came very close to losing you, dad.” Her voice shook a little. “You really scared us. But Doctor Kramer says you’re going to be okay.”

“What happened in Hong Kong?”

“We’ll talk about that later, when you’re stronger. Right now, I should go. You’re only allowed one visitor at a time, and there’s someone who’s been waiting to see you. She’ll be right in.”

Sydney slipped out, and in a moment the door opened again.

“Elizabeth,” Jack murmured.

She smiled. “Hello, Jack.”

* * *

“Hi, Syd," Elizabeth said as she opened the door. “Come on in.”

“Hi. I’m a little early, I know. I let my last class out early with strict instructions to have those term papers ready to hand in on Monday.”

“That’s fine. Jack and the kids are in the family room. We took them swimming today, and they’re still a bit wound up, so he’s reading them a story.”

As she approached the family room, Sydney smiled to see her father in his favorite oversized recliner, glasses perched on his nose and bright orange book in his hand. Seven-year-old Isabel was snuggled up beside him, and two year-old Little Jack, as they all called him, was on his lap. Silently Sydney mouthed the words as he read aloud.

“I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. I do not like them in a box, I do not like them with a fox . . .”

The End
 

Faela

Cadet
OMG WOW... Incredible, fantastic, brilliant, inspired, wonderful, dazzling... Yep my vocabulary just gave out.... The point im trying to make LOL is that this story was a joy to read from start to finish.
It was powerful and moving and emotional and very very entertaining. The way you write Jack is wonderful and very insightfull, Nadia too.

I loved the ending with Jack reading to his grand children the same story he read to Sydney and he and Elizabeth are together.

Loved it Ophelia, I hope you keep me on the list of wanting future PMs because i think anything you write is worth reading, I already have a few of your other works saved in my favorites.

This was truely a wonderful read, thank you for the fantastic season ender LOL why didnt JJ talk to you before he wrote the season ender?
 
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