Title: A Piece of Jack

Author: Mindy

Rating: K

Disclaimer: Characters and lyrics are not mine and are used without permission. No moolah made.

Spoilers: "Problem Solvers", "Dealbreakers Talk Show 0001"

For: hamnapkin

Prompt: new job

Pairing: Jack/Liz always

Summary: The beginning of the end.

"Because we belong together now,

Forever united here, somehow,

You've got a piece of me, and honestly,

My life would suck without you…"

I.

He's standing behind his desk, leafing through some papers when she enters, coffee in hand and a spring in her step. Before she can even emit her usual 'Good Morning, Jack', he opens with: "When were you going to tell me about your job offer?"

Her steps slow. "How'd you find out about that?"

"You should've known I would," he remarks, without looking up. "Are you going to accept?"

Liz takes a few more steps towards his desk, but doesn't close the gap entirely. "I…hadn't decided."

"I see." Jack removes his glasses and sets them down. "And did you plan on discussing it with me first?"

She hesitates. "Should I have?"

He gives her a quick once-over before returning his gaze to his work. "Well, you generally harass me with the mind-numbing minutiae of your every, insignificant decision, I don't see why you shouldn't want my opinion on this as well."

Liz frowns. "Maybe I wanted to make up my own mind."

"And have you?"

"No. Like I said – I haven't decided yet. I'm…still thinking."

"So…" He lets the papers drop, moving round his desk to lean against the front of it. "You are considering accepting the offer then?"

She opens and shuts her mouth a few times. "Is there any reason I shouldn't?"

"You tell me," he replies, head cocked.

She takes a breath. "Well. The money is good."

"Better than I can pay you."

"And the people seem nice."

"They were very impressed by you, it seems."

She tips her coffee cup at him. "And you said yourself that TGS has a limited shelf-life. It's not really my show anymore. And I'm sure they'd get by without me."

"Yes, the show would do fine," Jack says with complete confidence. "There's any number of people in this city who could step in and do your job. Possibly better than you currently do it and without the need for my incessant hand-holding."

"Right," she mutters, biting back some irritation. "And after Dealbreakers not panning out, I need to think about what I want to do, where to go next. Isn't that what you're always telling me? Think ahead?"

Jack nods, clearing his throat. "It's sound advice. Somehow -- I'm not sure how exactly -- you've managed to ascend to a, to some, rather enviable position in your career largely by accident. But you cannot leave everything to chance."

She shifts on the spot. "You're saying I should take the job then?"

He finally meets her eyes for more than a moment, gaze steely. "Are you asking my opinion as a friend? Or as your boss? For the present at least."

Liz knits her brow, sighing in confusion. "Are you pissed at me? For meeting with these people? Because they came to me, you know, I didn't go looking for them."

"I am not pissed," Jack states.

"Really."

"No."

"You're not pissed at all?" she presses, tone turning sharper: "You're not pissed that they offered me a job that is exciting and well-paid and might make my life a whole lot better? You're not pissed that they offered me something I might be really good at and that you could not offer me?"

His spine stiffens. "I am not."

She pauses a moment. Then points out: "Because you look pretty pissed."

"That," he tells her: "is down to your stunning inability to read men."

She rolls her eyes: "Of course..." Then narrows them at him: "Because if you were pissed about me…what, leaving? Or…not talking to you about it? You would just come right out and say it, right?"

"I am very direct by nature."

"You wouldn't waste time beating about the bush and answering questions with questions and being all passive aggressive in my face."

"What are you implying?" Jack responds, blue eyes impervious.

"Jack…" Liz looks down, sighs. And when she meets his eyes again, all tension or fight or irritation has gone. She looks at her friend with soft regret and unspoken understanding. And something occurs in that small, lingering moment. She sees it in him. He sees it in her. An intangible shift. A simultaneous surrender. A comprehension that perhaps was always there but never fully utilised.

"I'll let you know what I decide," she says after a moment. "You'll be the first. Okay?"

Jack says nothing. He doesn't agree or argue. He just watches her turn and head for the door. Then tells her retreating back: "Of course you realize I can't do without you."

Liz turns back, facing him with an expression of slowly dawning surprise. And no words.

He takes a step closer, standing straighter. "The show will be just fine," he adds, his customary eloquence faltering slightly: "But I…would not…be."

"Jack." She steps back towards him. "We'll still be friends."

He's silent a moment. "Will we?"

"Sure, always." She laughs softly, voice brimming with usually hidden affection as she asks: "What, d'you think you were gonna get to boss me round for the rest of my days?"

He can't help a faint, bittersweet smile. "I'd hoped so, yes."

Liz takes a breath, her smile fading. "This is a really good opportunity for me, Jack. I want you to be happy for me."

"Then I will be," he replies resolutely: "If it's what you want. If it's what you decide."

She nods a few times then turns, silently heading for the door.

"You'll miss me too, you know," Jack murmurs, making her stop again. "…If you go."

One hand on the doorknob, Liz looks down. She takes a breath then lifts her eyes to his face. "I know."

TBC...