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Story Notes:

DISCLAIMER: The name "Jericho" and all character names and trademarks associated with the television program are the intellectual property of Junction Entertainment, Fixed Mark Productions, CBS Paramount Television and/or CBS Studios, Inc. The following story is a work of fan fiction intended solely as an intellectual exercise without profit motive. No infringement of copyright is intended or should be implied.

Special thanks to Skyrose, for her feedback and encouragement.

 Special thanks as well to Marzee Doats and SandraDee for their advice.

Author's Chapter Notes:

Special thanks to MarzeeDoats, for her technical advice and for approving "Gramps" as EJ Green's preferred term of endearment.

 Johnston Green always looked forward to the football game.

Thanksgiving had always involved football, in some shape or form. When he was a boy, he'd tossed around the ball with his father, uncles, and cousins. It had continued when he was older, and when he was married and he and Gail made the trip to her parents' house, he played with her brothers. They'd objected when she'd joined them, but only feebly. He always picked her first for his team, and though they teased him that it was because he'd married her, he knew if anyone else had the chance they'd pick her too. She was as good a runner as any of them, a better receiver, and no one was allowed to be rough with her.

When the boys had been born, they had begun hosting Thanksgiving themselves, and the games had continued, tossing the ball around with his sister, her husband, and of course, his father. He didn't institute the Green football tournament, however, until that year that David knocked out a tooth.

He remembered it as the year his nephew had tripped on the living room rug and lost a tooth, but it had been Jake and Eric's rough-housing that had caused him to send everyone outside. Jake had been nine, Eric seven, and it seemed he had been breaking up one scuffle after another in between each of the tasks Gail had given him before the family dinner would begin. After David tripped and was taken tearily into the kitchen for some ice, Johnston had questioned his sons about the incident. Jake had blamed Eric for getting in the way, Eric had blamed Jake for cheating at whatever game they were not supposed to be playing indoors anyway, and Johnston had been so fed up with them that he had marched both of them outside.

He'd thrown Eric a football and told them to run around until they were sick of running, but they'd just stood there, refusing to play with each other. Exasperated, Johnston had taken the ball, telling Eric to go long and giving Jake directions to catch Eric. Reluctantly, with his prodding, the boys had followed his instructions.

He had only meant to throw the ball around with the boys until they were playing nicely amongst themselves, since he still had chairs to bring upstairs from the basement and a booster seat to locate. He had planned to go inside as soon as Jake and Eric showed signs of civility towards each other, but instead, he'd gotten caught up in the game. Eric began to ignore Jake's taunts, showing off his throwing skills he'd learned on the pee wee team that year. Jake had given up eventually and started following his father's directions, especially when he realized they were useful.

Soon his own father had come out, the girls in tow behind him. Lizzie had immediately wanted to play, and Kara refused to be left out, though everyone else would be cautioned to be careful around her.

Eventually Gail came out, his sister Caroline, her husband Don, and David, smiling a gap-toothed smile, following her. They hadn't been annoyed as he'd imagined they might be when they caught him playing with the kids. They had demanded a new picking of the teams to be done.

Johnston Green remembered fondly every year's football game. This particular year, however, he was struggling to remain cheerful.

The smell of turkey and pumpkin pie still wafted from the kitchen as he stood on the porch, leaning against the wall, his arms crossed. The lawn was empty. The porch, however, was covered in people. They were lazily chatting, sprawled out in various stages of post-turkey-dinner lethargy. He listened idly to their conversation.

“I don't think I can ever eat pumpkin pie again,” said David, leaning back on his seat on the floor between the chairs.

“Does that mean you won't be eating another piece tonight at midnight?” asked his mother from her seat nearby.

“He'll probably eat it tomorrow before any of us get up,” laughed EJ Green, holding the baby comfortably on his lap as he reclined in his porch chair. “I've seen him do it before.”

“I've never done that, Gramps. I think you're talking about Jake.”

“Where is Jake, anyway? What's taking him so long?” asked Kara, who was half leaning against the wall, her hands draped on the back of EJ's chair.

Johnston stiffened, not knowing if any of them noticed because his back was turned. He didn't know exactly what was taking Jake so long, but he could guess. Having stared at his plate and mumbled answers to his relatives' questions about life after college throughout dinner, Jake had stormed up to his bedroom directly after dessert.

“He's probably on the phone with Emily,” muttered Eric, from his seat on the steps.

“He's still going out with her? Again?” asked Kara.

Lizzie leaned across her grandfather to swat her sister's arm. “Well, every other time we come here, he's either with her or broken up with her. Again,” said Kara.

Johnston sighed. His niece was most likely right; Jake was most likely on the phone with Emily. Unlike Kara, he didn't mind the 'who' Jake was on the phone with, it was the 'why'.

“Well, whatever, I really want to know about Eric's new girlfriend,” said Kara, turning to give Eric an impish look.

Eric's face turned red as the porch erupted in questions from other relatives. “Fine, only if you don't bug me anymore. Her name is April, she's from Atlanta originally, and she's pre-med.”

“A doctor, very impressive,” said Caroline. Johnston couldn't help but grin a little. He didn't doubt that his sister had already heard of Eric's girlfriend's ambitions, having no doubt spoken with Gail on the phone. He recognized the knowing tone in her voice.

“Well, one day,” said Eric.

“So is she any good at football?” asked Kara.

“He just started dating the girl!” said EJ, jiggling his great-granddaughter, who had started to fuss. “You're already looking for a new recruit?” he asked with a chuckle.

Lizzie smiled at Eric's red face as she took the baby from her grandfather. “Kara just wants to add another good player to her team. Since she always plays on Jake's team.” She hoisted the baby up to her shoulder. “Not that Jake's not good, but Kara tried to recruit Calvin the first Thanksgiving I was dating him.”

From his awkward perch in the corner, her husband grinned sheepishly. “I think I'm kind of stuck on Lizzie's team. But your team was close, Kara.”

The other members of the losing team, David, Kara, and Gail's cousin Allan seemed to let out a collective sigh. Gail rolled her eyes. She'd been on their team too, but she couldn't remember when the football game had gotten so competitive. She glanced at her niece. Kara was oblivious to any criticism that might have been behind it her aunt's expression.

“Jake's a good player. When he actually plays. You think if we'd invited Emily to play he would have paid attention?” asked Kara. Even she wasn't oblivious enough to miss the next look Gail leveled in her direction. She shrunk slightly against the wall and smiled apologetically at her aunt.

“Well, I had a very good time,” Gail's cousin Allan chimed in loudly. Everyone turned in shock; it was one of the few times he'd spoken up that evening. He was the new recruit this year, having been invited to Gail's family dinner when she'd heard he was working in Wichita this year. He'd been rather quiet most of the afternoon amidst the loud, comfortable Greens, but he'd gamely joined in the football game, 'Thankful for' traditions around the table, and had even chuckled at baby Olivia's hiccups with the rest of the family. Now, faced with a seemingly not-quite-buried animosity, he attempted to express his thanks for being included his first year away from the Boston area. “I even liked the sugared carrots. Very...interesting.”

The entire porch dissolved into laughter. Even Johnston, who had been staring ahead through the whole conversation, had to smile a little as fresh memories of his sister's latest kitchen experiment came to mind.

Allan had turned pink. He hadn't been trying for a comedic effect. “I, I appreciated how you tried something new.”

“It's okay, Allan,” said David, close to tears as he laughed. “We all hated them too.”

“Nice,” said Caroline, reaching forward to mess up her son's hair. She turned to Allan then. “Thank you, I'm glad someone appreciates the efforts I go to.”

“Sweetheart, we all appreciate the effort,” chuckled EJ. “Now, the indigestion is something we could do without.”

“And thank you, Dad,” said Caroline. “Could you swat him for me?”

Kara leaned forward and playfully swatted EJ's shoulder.

“Careful, careful with your old Gramps. Not as young as I used to be,” he said, doing his best to give off the air of feebleness.

“Gramps? Admitting weakness?” said Lizzie.

“I know, hard as it may be for all you hooligans to believe, your Gramps might just be less than infallible.” EJ winked.

Eric turned around. “Yeah, I don't think I can believe it. Somehow you were with-it enough to notice every penalty in the game. With Olivia on your hip the whole time.”

“Yeah, Jake didn't get to cheat at all this year,” said David.

“Wonder if that's why you guys lost,” said Eric.

“Haven't we had enough wallowing in defeat?” asked Gail suddenly, turning to survey her family. Johnston heard a tone of irritation in her voice that seldom came out at holidays, at least the years his mother hadn't been present at them. She'd been pretending Jake's hasty retreat hadn't bothered her, but he suspected now that that might not have been the full truth. “Why don't we start heading out on our walk?”

“I thought we were waiting for Jake,” said Kara.

“Jake knows the walk comes after the food. He can catch up,” Gail said quickly. They all sat still as she looked around. She caught Eric's eye. He stood then, and she flashed him a grateful smile.

Johnston stayed stoically in place as the rest of the family stood, groaning slightly at the fullness they still felt, stepping off the porch and gathering in a group.

EJ was quickly cajoled to be the guide, though they had all, except Allan of course, gone on this walk around the neighbourhood every year. Johnston watched as his sister linked arms with their father, Lizzie balanced the baby as Calvin brought over the portable stroller, David, Kara, and Eric continued to tease each other enthusiastically, and Allan stood amidst them with only slight uncertainty. They started to walk, EJ beginning his tour with his loud, commanding voice. No one turned back to see if Johnston was following them, knowing he'd be along soon.

He felt Gail's hand on his elbow. “He'll be down soon,” she said.

Johnston didn't say anything. Her fingers traced a line up his arm, and back down it. “It's just Jake.”

She reached her hand under his arm, curling it around his elbow. Despite his reservation, he reached with his other hand, covering hers. “I know that,” he said. “I just thought, maybe today he'd put it aside and it could just be a good day.”

“I don't know that it wasn't a good day,” said Gail. “We've heard more from Eric than I have for two months over the telephone, your Dad set a new record for penalties called in the game, and Caroline's finally sick of holding her granddaughter, at least enough that the rest of us get a turn.”

“I know,” said Johnston. “I just, sometimes I miss those times it was easier. Times I knew we could just have a good time together, nothing in the way.”

“I'm not sure it was ever easy,” she said. “But it won't be like this forever. Jake's just figuring things out. And he's being Jake.”

“I never gave my old man this much trouble,” said Johnston.

Gail raised an eyebrow at him. “Yeah, I'm sure,” she said, a smile on her lips.

“It's true. Caroline, on the other hand. Holy terror,” he said, stony faced, but winking quickly.

“Right,” said Gail, with as much deadpan as she could exact. “You were the angel, I'm sure.”

“Hard to believe, isn't it?” he asked. He slipped his hand from hers, across her back, to rest on her waist.

She chuckled and turned towards him. “Just a little.”

He relaxed, for the first time that evening, and his hands settled on her hips. He leaned down to kiss her. They broke apart a few moments later. “I know one thing I'm thankful for,” he breathed.

“Oh?” she asked, one eyebrow arched mischievously.

“I'm thankful your cousin is so entertaining. That look on his face when he tried Caroline's carrots. We should invite him every year.”

She laughed softly, shaking her head. “Angel indeed, Johnston.”

His arms still on her back, he smiled. “So, think we'd better catch up with them?” she asked.

“They know where they're going. They've got a tour guide,” he said.

“We could go on our own walk,” she said. He glanced for a flash of a second towards the house.

“Jake'll come down. In his own time,” she said. She took a step towards the edge of the porch, pulling Johnston's hand in hers. “Come on, Johnston. We have lots of time.”

He followed her off the porch, around the side of the house, across the lawn. The twilight was fading, darkness overcoming it, and Johnston took comfort in Gail's hand in his. She was right; they had the entire evening. They had time.


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