Again, I'm sorry for the delay, but you would not believe how bad my writers block has been this week. Frankly I'm amazed I even managed this. sigh. Hope its not too bad. And by the way, I really appreciated those lovely reviews - you guys rock!
"Jack," Richard greeted jovially from his desk chair as the younger man stormed into his office "it's been a week, I was getting worried."
Jack sneered. "No you weren't."
"Not about you," Richard assented, "but about the order of the universe I was very concerned."
"I'm touched." Jack muttered, questioning the wisdom of his coming here for probably the hundredth time. Unfortunately, he hadn't seen that he had much choice in the matter. This had to be done. "But there's no need for your concern, the universe is doing just fine."
"Are you sure about that?" Richard asked, his knowing tone indicating that he knew something that Jack didn't, but Jack refused to rise to the bait. That was how Richard operated, he pulled you along by the nose letting you think that he had the answers to any question you could think to ask if only you earned the right to do so. But Jack was seriously beginning to doubt that the other man knew anything at all.
"Yeah, I'm pretty sure." He retorted, though felt compelled to expand on his assurance when Richard merely raised a questioning eyebrow. "Tru hasn't had a rewind in over a week."
"Harrison hasn't been into work this week." Richard announced out of the blue after a moment of silence. Most likely it was an attempt to catch Jack off guard and Jack, for his part was thanking God that he'd been able to perfect his poker face a long time ago. "You wouldn't happen to know why would you?"
"Not a clue." Jack shrugged, determined not to let Richard see him react to his nonsequitor. "We're not exactly on speaking terms."
"Well," Richard sighed, turning his attention to the diary on his desk, whether to actually check something or just to irritate him Jack had no idea. He felt like he didn't understand half of what he used to anymore. "I just thought that with all the time you've spent with Tru you might have some idea what was keeping him away. He hasn't said anything to her?"
"I wouldn't know." Jack shook his head, trying his best to convince himself that Richard knew nothing; that he had no idea that Harrison had stumbled upon their secret. This was all just some kind of diversionary tactic to keep him off balance…and dammit, it was working too. He'd come here for one reason and one reason only, but as yet Richard had dictated the direction of the whole conversation. Just as he was steeling his resolve to tell Richard just what he'd come here to tell him, he was beaten to the punch.
"So if Tru hasn't rewound and you have no news on Harrison," Richard surmised, "Just what are you doing here Jack?"
Barely restraining the growl of irritation over the fact that Richard always managed to stay ahead of him, to know what he was thinking even before he did, Jack crossed his arms defiantly over his chest and kept his voice level and calm as he spoke. "I want you to leave me alone."
Richard tilted his head, watching his successor indulgently. "Whatever do you mean?"
"I mean," Jack ground out, "I want you to stop calling me. Hell, I want you to loose the damn number!"
"But Jack," Richard began to explain, his tone patronisingly patient "if the day rewinds-"
"Then I'll deal with it." Jack cut him off. "On my own."
A heavy silence quickly descended on them then as realisation sank in that he was serious in his demands, and Jack had to restrain himself from pulling his jacket tighter around himself to fight the sudden chill that had pervaded the room. For the first time, he began to wonder if this had been such a good idea. It wasn't as if this was a decision he had made lightly however, he had in fact spent the last week agonising over it. It was the incident in the bathroom that had pushed him over the edge, that had made him see that if he genuinely wanted his more recent dreams to stand a chance at becoming reality, something was gong to have to give. Since he was the one with the secrets and untruths to hide, it stood to reason that it would have to he him. That thought in mind, he resolutely stood his ground…even if he was inexplicably uneasy with doing so.
"You know," Richard's voice was low, "when I was in your position, I would have given anything to have a guide."
"Well I'm not you." Jack stated rather obviously, his tone overly harsh to hide the nervousness he felt at the coldness in his now former boss' eyes. "I'm the one with the ability to rewind now, I'm the one fate needs. I'll keep doing my job, but I want you to stay the hell away from me."
Oddly, though a small part of Jack felt a twinge of panic at the thought of cutting off all ties with his mentor, of truly being alone in this, a larger part felt relieved. He was doing the right thing. This man was twisted and he had become so jaded in his pursuit of maintaining the balance that he had ceased to care about anyone or anything else, and Jack was only now realising how close he had come to walking the same road himself. He had let Megan fall after all.
How long would it have been before he could have heard that a child of his had been through what Tru had, or that anyone had for that matter, without batting an eye? Granted, if he continued to act as fate's advocate he knew there was still every possibility he might wind up the same way, but ending his association with Richard could only help him on the path Tru had set him on – regaining some sense of humanity.
"You're making a mistake Jack." Richard informed him matter of factly.
"Maybe," Jack nodded, "but if I am, it's my mistake to make." He turned to walk away then, satisfied that he had done what he had come here to do. He now had one less secret to keep from Tru...and that was good. As he was halfway out the door, he turned back and tossed one last comment over his shoulder. "See you 'round Richard."
"Yes." Richard spoke quietly once the door was closed, his shoulders slumped more through disappointment that it had come to this than any real sense of defeat or resignation. "Yes, you will.
Tru leaned back into the couch with a contented sigh, noticing from the corner of her eye that Avery had done much the same. It had become something of a ritual for them of late, to watch a movie during the hours when Jack was absent…or maybe he was absent because of the movie…whatever the reason, this time with her best friend had meant a lot to Tru. She didn't have a life in her hands, nor did she have to try and analyse her increasingly confused feelings about the other person who had been there for her through this mess. Avery was just Avery. Blunt in her observations, but endlessly loyal, and a closet hopeless romantic – as was attested to by her choice of movies.
"If only all guys were that sweet." Avery mused as she watched the credits roll.
"I'm sure the right guy for you is out there somewhere." Tru reassured her with a smile.
"Yeah, right." Avery sighed. "At the moment my love life's as barren as the sahara."
Tru bit her lip before speaking again. There was something she had been meaning to bring up with Avery for a while now, but she had never seemed able to find the right time. Her friend had just given her the perfect opening…but for some reason, she was reluctant to begin. Taking a deep breath, she braced herself for what could potentially be a very awkward conversation. "What about Jack?"
"Jack?" Avery repeated, turning to look at Tru, her brow furrowed in confusion. "What about him?"
"I mean," Tru continued, determined to think that the apprehension in her voice was due to her concern that someone she cared about might be involved with someone with Jack's…moral flexibility, "what about you and Jack…you seem to get on okay."
Avery stared at Tru for several eternally long seconds, from Tru's perspective at least, and she got the distinct impression that Avery was trying to see if she was in fact serious. It was a perfectly legitimate question – the pair was always bantering quite happily, and Avery hadn't been in the least bit bothered by Jack's job. Tru was jolted out of her thoughts when Avery spoke, sounding very much like she was trying to contain her laughter. "Jack isn't my type."
What, single and gorgeous isn't your type? Tru thought sceptically, but instead she tried to keep her stunned reaction under control, her tone casual as she continued. "What do you mean? What's wrong with him?" She winced internally at the challenging nature of her question, not having expected it to come out quite like that, but she couldn't help it. She was torn between immense relief that Avery seemed to show no interest in her opposite, and an insane desire to defend him, neither of which she particularly wanted to think about.
"There's nothing wrong with him." Avery countered, and Tru was sure she must be near cracking a rib as she tried, not entirely successfully, to contain her amusement. "I'll admit he's good looking, he's funny…in a morbid kind of way…and from what I've seen, aside from his job, he seems like a decent enough guy…" She trailed off, obviously unsure how much she should say.
"But," Tru prompted.
"But there's nothing there, no sparks." Avery explained, "It would be like me and Jensen all over again. Some guys just work better as friends than boyfriends."
"Oh." Tru muttered, not really knowing how she should feel now that a matter that had caused her so much apprehension had been resolved rather quickly and painlessly. Lost in her thoughts, she barely noticed as Avery reached over the coffee table to change the DVD, nor did she see the look the other girl threw towards her from the corner of her eye, a calculating twinkle in its depths.
"Besides," Avery continued conversationally, keeping her eyes steadfastly fixed to the screen, "even if I did like Jack, I don't think he'd ever notice."
Tru felt the hair raise on the back of her neck at Avery's words, her instincts telling her that if she wished to go on living in her…well admittedly already complicated life, without any further bombshells disrupting her balance, it would be best to simply let the comment pass. But there was always that part of Tru that encouraged her to reach out, to touch the fire, to see if this time her flesh might come away unscathed. It was that part which controlled her voice as she heard the words she tried desperately to keep in escaping her lips. "Why not?"
"Because," Avery explained slowly, gently, apparently aware of the weight of what she was saying, "it's pretty obvious that he's already head over heels for someone else."
The pointed look Avery was throwing her way left little room for doubt as to whom she meant, but Tru shook her head anyway…even though she already knew…she'd known for a while. "That's not true." She insisted, hating both how weak her protest sounded and the warm fluttering in her stomach at the mere suggestion.
"I'm afraid it is sweetie." Avery replied, though she didn't appear particularly upset at delivering the news "Anyone who sees the way he's been looking at you can tell, and the way he's been at your beckon call. A guy doesn't do that unless he's got it bad."
"But Davis and Harrison." Tru argued, "They've both been here when Jack has and they haven't seen anything."
"Oh I think they have," Avery said, her look turning momentarily contemplative "or at least I'd imagine Davis has. Harrison might have, but he has this whole defence mechanism that stops his from seeing anything good about Jack. Have you noticed that?"
Tru didn't respond to Avery's question, she was too busy trying to sort out her own head. This wasn't supposed to happen. Jack wasn't supposed to be interested in her and she wasn't supposed to be happy about it. She should be disgusted, revolted, and nauseous, anything along that line where she wasn't in the least bit excited at the prospect. She couldn't feel anything now after everything she had been through of late. She just wasn't ready.
But what about in the future? That annoying little voice asked, the one that loved to point out those things she knew but didn't want to face. Wouldn't it be nice to do what Jack suggested; to one day try out different circumstances.
A year ago…hell two weeks ago, the idea of Jack…of Jack and her, would have brought her to hysterical laughter or a mindless rage.
Now it just brought curiosity…and the slightest hint of hope.