Welcome Home, Jack
Michelle Perry


Jack tried to hold in the tears, but it was impossible. By the time he reached the other side of the lake and stood near her, his cheeks were wet, and his breathing was ragged. She had tears in her eyes as well. He wanted to reach for her pull her into his embrace. But he faltered when he looked down at the little girl the image of her mother.

The woman Julia, Sykes had told him looked at him, stunned, overjoyed, but hesitant, too. He knew she was thinking about her other love Tech 49, who had given his life to free them all. They were the same man, but Jack knew he could never fill the other Jack's shoes. Never replace their hero.

He glanced down at the girl again. Smiled as the tears fell. He looked back up at Julia. "I... I'm not him," he said. "I know I'm not." Julia's eyes widened, and she raised her hands to her lips. Jack blinked away the tears and reached up slowly, gently resting his hand on her shoulder too shy to touch her face. "But I've loved you as long as I can remember. I... I don't know how else to say it."

Julia shook her head, crying now, but smiling at the same time. Her daughter whimpered slightly, confused by her mother's sobs. Suddenly, Julia flung her arms around him and squeezed him tight. Jack returned the embrace, and the feeling of her body pressed close to his own was the most natural, beautiful thing in the world.

Almost too soon, she pulled back, looking into his eyes, placing her still-gloved hands onto his shoulders. "I love you, Jack Harper," she said. She looked down, the let him go and picked up the child. Jack smiled. "This is our daughter," she said. Our daughter. Jack's throat tightened. Not "my" daughter. Ours. Ours, as in "mine and Tech 49's", but also, ours as in "mine and yours."

Jack smiled at the little miniaturized Julia. She gave him a hesitant wave. "What..." His voice cracked. "What's her name?"

"Jacqueline Victoria Harper," Julia replied.

Jack sucked in a breath and looked at her. He hadn't known for sure whether Tech 49 had had a Vikka of his own. It had taken weeks to climb to Tower 52, and when he'd finally made it, he'd found the tower empty. The question of what had happened to Vikka haunted him now, nearly as strongly as the visions of Julia had haunted him over the years.

He smiled again, though his tears fell faster. "That's a beautiful name," he said, voice thick with emotion.

Julia smiled. With a glance at Beech's tribe, she took Jack's hand and drew him to the house. She watched his face, and he scanned the little home made with love and care by one of the two saviors of humanity. He smiled.

Julia squeezed his hand. He looked at her, and she smiled at him. "Welcome home, Jack."

Fin



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