Seasons of Change

By Nomad
July 2008

Summary: Jack and Arvin, through the years.
Spoilers: Up to season four.
Disclaimer: Characters, settings and concepts belong to J.J. Abrams; borrowed for entertainment value, not profit.


i.

He could kill Arvin.

It had been a mistake to ever mention Laura. But she'd been occupying his thoughts increasingly over the last few weeks, ever since their chance encounter in the library. Arvin had clearly noticed his distraction, and there seemed little harm in mentioning the confident literature student who had caught his eye.

Arvin, unfortunately, considers no detail too small or irrelevant to fold into his personal game of chess. Within two days, he had managed to turn up at the library, interrupting Jack's encounter with Laura on the pretext of inviting him over for a meal.

As if Arvin has ever hosted a dinner party before.

And yet here they are, sitting around a table in a blooming garden that already bears signs of Emily's touch. There are fresh-cut flowers in a vase, and the bright blue sky is glorious.

Jack only has eyes for Laura. Though he's loath to dignify Arvin's meddling with the mantle of gratitude, he has to admit that perhaps he was afraid to take this step; caught up in some superstitious fear she would lose her allure outside her natural context of the library.

It was a baseless superstition.

Emily has already excused herself; when the phone rings, Jack very much doubts it was unplanned. Arvin stands up from the table with a smile. "I should take that. I hope that you'll forgive me."

All of Jack's attention is on Laura's bright smile, and he doesn't look up. "Of course," he says.


ii.

He could kill Arvin.

Sydney's going to be up all night after the amount of ice-cream she's had, and there's little chance she'll want the dinner Laura's preparing back home. But it's hard enough for Jack not to indulge her without Arvin egging him on. Between them, they could turn her into the world's most pampered princess. It's just as well he has Laura to act as the voice of moderation.

But Laura's not here now... and a few small treats can't hurt.

Sydney is luminous in the sunshine, an angel framed by Emily's golden curls as they dig in the dirt together. His daughter's face is a frown of concentration as she helps place the plants just right, her yellow sundress grubby and the set of her shoulders Laura's stubbornness in miniature. Any other four-year-old would have been bored with this task long ago, but Sydney won't rest until the whole row's done.

Arvin watches with a wistfulness that Jack does him the kindness of pretending not to notice. He's never sure if bringing Sydney here is hurting or helping, but he knows Arvin would be deeply wounded to lose these moments with her.

Sensing Jack's scrutiny, Arvin smiles. "I'm afraid I shall have to steal your daughter for a moment," he says, burying the truth in the joke. "I hope that you'll forgive me."

He swoops forward, and Jack can't help but laugh at Sydney's shriek of giggles as she's hoisted into the air.

"Of course," he says.


iii.

He could kill Arvin.

It would be easy enough. Arvin is a powerful man for his size, but surprise is the great advantage. Jack has garrotted bigger, stronger men who trusted him far less.

Arvin's trust is a sickening thing these days, as if his own betrayals mean so little to him he sees no reason to withdraw it.

This office is far too exposed, but there are other parts of SD-6 that are deeper and darker. Beneath a thin veneer of glass and chrome are many grim and dismal layers, an ugly grey-brown palette of concrete, dirt and rot.

He wonders when the same became true of his closest friend.

Jack has to believe it a gradual thing, a withering, a dying. A madness eating Arvin's soul like cancer eats the body. Arvin was not like this in the beginning.

Jack couldn't, couldn't have been fooled the same way twice.

He could kill Arvin... but that would leave Sydney alone, at the mercy of the Alliance. This new Arvin is a stranger, but for now, he still trusts Jack. All these years as a double agent, it felt wrong for Jack to use that.

But no longer.

Arvin has the nerve to sit there showing sorrowful reluctance. "I know that you must feel betrayed, Jack," he says. "But you couldn't be objective - and Sydney's talents are far too good to be wasted." He smiles sadly. "I hope that you'll forgive me."

Jack's face doesn't twitch. "Of course," he says.


iv.

He could kill Arvin.

The man never, ever understands when to leave well enough alone.

APO is their fresh start, the blank slate Arvin had no right to ask for. It's all sterile white walls and cold glass, presenting no reminders of the history between them. Here they have achieved neutrality, a less hostile state of affairs than Jack ever expected them to return to. But it's never been in Arvin's nature to accept the status quo. If you gave him all he wanted, he would still pick it apart, looking for the secret way to make it better.

Jack isn't sure whether to pity him or envy him the optimism. He learned a long time ago to stop hoping for better. Things, in Jack's experience, invariably fall apart. When they've reached a temporary equilibrium, the best thing to do is hold perfectly still in the hope of delaying the crash.

But Arvin continues to reach out. He repeatedly reopens old wounds, hoping to clear them of the poison instead of simply being grateful they've scabbed over.

"I know it's hard for you to believe that I've changed," he says earnestly. "But Nadia... she's opened my eyes. I realise now how far I've drifted. One day, I'll prove to you I mean to make amends. And when I do... I hope that you'll forgive me."

There's no way for Jack to know if that day will ever come. But Arvin doesn't expect an honest answer anyway.

"Of course," he says.