Okay, Hearties, here you go!  It’s #FanFictionFriday, and it’s a biggie!  This is the first story I’ve written to be published straight to the blog.  This is one way to envision Jack’s permanent return home.  This one has been a long time in the making.  Sarah Nitsch and I strated playing with this idea at least 3 months ago, if not longer.  So have fun reading “Halley’s Comet”, written by Kami Clements and Sarah Nitsch.

 

Elizabeth sat on her porch, wrapped in her favorite shawl, staring at nothing in particular. These nights with Jack gone seemed to weigh down her shoulders like an anvil of loneliness. The darkness seemed endless, pushing into her face. She anxiously waited for the stars to appear to pin it back in the sky where it belonged. A few stray tears trailed down her cheek. Elizabeth brushed them away, blaming the chilly night air for the sting in her eyes. She ruefully rolled her eyes, and shook her head. Of course she was fooling herself. The melancholy heartbreak she’d experienced since Jack left after Christmas reminded Elizabeth of those sorrowful days when he’d briefly been reassigned to Cape Fullerton. She hadn’t known then if Jack would ever come back; at least she knew now. A few more days, Elizabeth coached herself inwardly. Just a few more days, and THEN he’ll the home. “For good,” she added aloud.

There had been an article in the newspaper that the syndicates and gangs up north had surrendered, and the fighting had finally come to an end. Then, just a few days later, Elizabeth had received that long-anticipated telegram that STILL filled her with unspeakable bliss: Jack was coming home! She’d broken down right there in the mercantile, and shed MANY tears of relief. Of course, Abigail’s shoulder had been readily available to absorb all that moisture; as was her sister Julie’s!

Elizabeth finally smiled as the memory of her sister’s astonishing arrival mingled with the sounds of her moving around in the guest bedroom upstairs. What an ironic turn of events, Julie turning up unexpectedly two times Jack was forced to depart Hope Valley. Strangely enough, that familiar twist of fate was very comforting to Elizabeth now.

Preferring “comforted” to “downcast”, she closed her eyes to soak in all the familiarity around her: a few horses nickering as they settled in for the night, the wind breezing its way across the pond, Lee and Rosemary laughing next door, Julie humming to herself upstairs. Yes, she felt comforted. Now all she needed to feel completely at peace was to have Jack home safe and sound. Why was it that she felt his absence more acutely now that she knew he was headed this way? Maybe it was the anxiousness settling in, or the fear that something would happen to him when the danger was supposedly passed, and he was traveling home alone.

“Breathe,” Elizabeth reminded herself. Maybe a short walk would help clear her head of all this fretting. She made her way down the steps, but when her feet touched the path, she became distracted by the stars starting to appear. Each one was a bright spot of hope, reminding Elizabeth to keep the faith, and put her trust in God. She repeated this thought in her head as she breathed the way Jack had taught her to when she needed to settle down: in through the nose, and out through the mouth. After a few repetitions, her breath came in normal, regular intervals. She smiled fondly at the memory, and went back to star-gazing.  

“I thought Halley’s Comet only came by every 75 years,” said a voice behind her. Elizabeth knew that voice! Its familiarity washed over her like warm water. She inhaled excitedly, and turned to gaze at the voice’s owner. There stood her hero in red serge, removing his riding gloves. To Elizabeth, he’d never looked more handsome. “Or is that just another excuse to wait out here in the middle of the night?” he added mischievously. They both smiled broadly. Jack dropped his gloves to the ground, and opened his arms. Elizabeth let out a cry of pure delight, ran to him at full speed, and leapt into his outstretched arms with such force that they spun in a circle.  Jack chuckled warmly near her ear, and Elizabeth felt a shiver of excitement shoot down her spine.

Even when they slowed to a stop, and Jack had removed his hat, he wouldn’t loosen his hold. Elizabeth wasn’t objecting; she was in no hurry to let go of her fiancé. Nothing made her feel more content or at peace than having this man envelop her; and it had been so long!

“I missed you so!” Jack exclaimed. He finally eased back to look at her, and put a hand to her face. “You are a sight for sore eyes!” His thumb traced the same path where tears had been only minutes before. “So beautiful.”

Elizabeth smiled bashfully, and reached up to clasp Jack’s hand. He only moved their hands to his heart. “I’m so glad you’re back safely!”

“You worried I wouldn’t be?”

“Maybe a little,” she responded coyly.

“Just a little,” he countered teasingly.

She pretended to be insulted, and push him away. “Don’t push it!”

Jack’s eyes suddenly turned serious, his voice gravely and passionate. “Too late for that.” And then he kissed her. Elizabeth felt her heart catch on fire, as if the pieces were fusing together, where before, they had laid separate and broken. Her heart felt full and complete. And by the way Jack was kissing her,  it felt like life was being breathed back into the hollow cavity of his soul. Elizabeth thought she was going to faint from dizzy ecstasy when she heard a surprised, “Oh!”

Startled, Jack and Elizabeth broke apart to see Julie darkening Elizabeth’s front doorway. While looking a bit on the stunned side, she looked devilishly pleased. “I thought I heard something out here.”

Suddenly self-conscious , Elizabeth eased away from Jack as Julie skipped down the steps, and took both Jack’s hands in her own. “Jack! So good to see you home uninjured!”

Jack good-naturedly held her hands for a few moments, and cheerfully answered, “Julie! Lovely to see you again. How long have you been visiting?”

“About 3 weeks. Elizabeth was sounding so glum in her letters, I was afraid she just might wither away without me. So I came on the first stage I could catch.”

“Well, that was so kind of you,” Jack said as he released Julie’s hands, and slipped an arm around Elizabeth’s shoulders. “Thank you for looking out for her,” he added, giving Elizabeth a small side hug.

“Oh, it was nothing; my pleasure really,” Julie passed it off with a wave of her hand. “I took it as my family duty to aid my sister in her time of trial.”

Elizabeth tried not to snicker at her sister’s dramatic monologue. Despite the theatrics, she knew Julie meant every word. She also knew that she and Jack weren’t ready to say goodbye for the night, and would rather not have an audience. She lightly cleared her throat and widened her eyes, hoping Julie would take the hint. She took it alright, and very obviously yawned; then she announced, “Well! What a  day it’s been, and I am positively fatigued. I hope you two will excuse me?”

 “Sure,” Jack said with a smile. Julie flamboyantly, but graciously, turned and floated inside. As she watched her go, Elizabeth caught sight of Lee and Rosemary excitedly peering out the window. 

 Rosemary appeared like she’d like nothing better than to bolt out the door to welcome Jack back herself.  Thankfully, Lee held her back. They both gave a final wave, and disappeared. Jack and Elizabeth smiled, and waved back; then Jack turned Elizabeth around to kiss her again,  both smiling all the way. 

Jack paused, and just drank in her presence, their faces close together. Elizabeth relished his nearness, loving that their foreheads touching wasn’t merely a dream. She finally inched backed just enough to look at him. “So, it’s really over?” she inquired, searching his eyes.

“It really is. The fighting has stopped, and my posting has been terminated. It’s all over,” Jack’s last words came out heavily, as if they themselves carried great weight. Elizabeth touched his face. “And how are you? Really?”

Jack’s smile faltered slightly, and his eyes turned dark for a moment. Elizabeth’s heart started to pound. What had happened? What was wrong? Had he, indeed, been hurt? She was just about to voice these questions when the light came back into his eyes, and his smile returned. He cradled her hand in his own, and kissed her engagement ring the way he did so often; she never tired of it though. Jack put her hand back on his heart, and answered her. “Don’t you worry about me, Miss Thatcher. I’ll be fine. It was hard up north, I’m home now, safe and sound. It WILL take time to get used to life away from all the fighting, but I’ll do it. With you.”

Elizabeth threw her arms around Jack, and held him close. “And I’ll be right here,” she murmured into his shoulder. She pulled back, and looked him square in the eye. “Right here,” she reiterated.

Overcome with emotion, Jack pressed his lips to hers, anxious to show her just how much her words meant to him. “I love you, Elizabeth!” he whispered as their lips parted. Then he looked HER square in the eye. “You are my life!”

Elizabeth smiled, tears and nostalgia shining from her eyes. “And you are everything to me!” she added.

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