Title: Clearing the Air

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: K+

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world belongs to SyFy.

Summary: There was no sense tying himself in knots over what might have been's or what could be's. 1700 words.

Spoilers: Eureka 4.5 "Crossing Over"

Notes: For Season 4.0, Week 5 at eureka_tag. A few steps farther from canon than usual- because if the writers ever seriously address this subject again, I'll die of shock. (And glee; but mostly shock.)

Jack knocked lightly against the half open door of Henry's garage, then pushed it further open and craned his neck inside, looking around for his friend.

It looked like his timing had been good, for once; Henry stood in the empty space where he and Grant had reconstructed the Einstein Bridge, arms folded across his chest and head dipped toward the floor in a posture of deep thought.

Yeah; Jack knew exactly how he felt. With that thing finally gone... well, they'd known that going back to their original timeline wasn't a possibility, but he hadn't realized how much hope had still lingered until the machine that had enabled the whole mess had finally been consigned to Warehouse 13. He supposed they'd never know, now, what Kevin had been thinking when he'd turned it on; all they could do was live with the world he had given them.

And on that note. "Hey, Henry," he announced himself, walking into the garage.

Henry looked up from his perusal of the stained concrete, blinking in surprise. "Hey, Jack," he replied.

Jack crossed the floor to join him, absently fingering the tools on the nearest workbench as he worked up his nerve. He didn't exactly want to have this conversation, any more than he was looking forward to the inevitable discussion with Allison about Grant, but he supposed it was time. And at least here he wouldn't have to defend himself for disliking a guy who'd intended to strand him sixty years back in time, never mind how clever or charming he'd proved to be in the present. "There's something I've been meaning to talk with you about. You got a minute?"

A wrinkle of puzzlement formed between Henry's brows. "Sure. What's up?"

"It's kind of..." Jack trailed off, rubbing at the back of his neck with one hand, and decided to tackle the easier topic first. "I don't know if she's said anything to you, but Grace confronted me yesterday."

"What?" Henry's eyes widened in alarm. "What about?"

"She wanted to know if you were having an affair," Jack replied, then hastily held up his hands. "To which of course I said no, I couldn't tell her what was going on but you were definitely not involved with someone else." The whole conversation had caught him off guard at first; but of course she was Jack's friend, too. She'd had the right to ask.

Henry took a deep breath, then scrubbed a hand over his face, looking troubled. "I knew she'd noticed something was wrong- how could she not- but I'd been hoping a good answer would come to me before I worried her too much. I can't exactly tell her what you told Zoƫ, and excuses of being busy are only going to hold her for so long. Especially since..." He smiled, sadly. "Now that I'm getting to know Grace, I'm pretty sure the man that married her had the right idea. I just don't know if it's fair to her to let her go on believing that I am that man."

Jack hadn't been able to do the same, in Henry's position. Then again, the stakes in his relationship with Tess hadn't been as heavy- and he really wanted to see Henry happy. Grace seemed like the perfect person to do that for him, if he would let her.

"You are," he told his friend, reaching out to give Henry's shoulder a quick, companionable squeeze. "Everyone else is basically the same person- deep down- as they were in our timeline. Right? So it stands to reason we can grant ourselves the same leeway. Whoever we were here, we can't have been too different, or we'd never have got away with faking it this long. We just don't have the same memories they did. Think of it like..." He paused; this was touching on the other issue he needed to address; maybe that's why the analogy sprang so quickly to mind. "Think of it like selective amnesia. Same people, different experiences. You just need to rebuild your common ground."

Henry sighed. "Easier said than done."

"I know." Jack paused, then continued, hesitantly. "And while we're on the subject- there's something else I've been sitting on for awhile, since before our Founder's Day detour, that I think we need to clear the air about. Especially given the way consequences keep cropping up from that- I want to make sure you're sharing all the possible concerns with me."

Henry went very still at that, and his expression suddenly grew very guarded. "What do you mean?" he asked.

Jack's stomach soured at his friend's reaction. "Don't give me that," he said, firming his jaw. "You know exactly what I mean, and you've been avoiding the subject for more than two years now. I won't be put off any more, Henry."

Henry studied his face carefully, then nodded, slowly. "How much have you put together?" he asked, cautiously.

"Not much, really. I just remember you, holding that flashy-thing- the memory device. Feeling like I'd lost something huge. And given how badly you went off the rails for a while there..."

Henry opened his mouth to object.

"Not that I blame you!" Jack hastened to say, then clarified. "...Much. I eventually realized it must've had something to do with Kim's death, and the Artifact, considering how all that fell out. I wasn't even sure anything had happened for months. But the thing is..."

He took a breath, then hurried through the rest of the reason he'd brought it up. "The thing is, you avoided talking to me about it even when there were clear opportunities, even we swore not to keep any more secrets from each other, even when it hurt us both. I'm afraid if we don't talk about it now, it'll just end up causing more problems. You are my best friend, Henry, and we're going to need each other now even more than we did in the old timeline."

"Even knowing that I've erased part of your memory?" Henry asked quietly.

"Especially knowing that I must have asked for it," Jack admitted. "Henry, I don't just remember looking at the device; I remember how I felt. I wasn't angry. Or fearful. Or anything I should have felt if you'd accosted me with it like Anderson. Just- sad. Regretful. Guilty. And worried- about you. You were supposed to use it, too, weren't you?"

Henry turned away. "Yes. Yes, I was. And I- didn't. I couldn't let it go."

Jack frowned, wanting desperately to ask- and chiding himself for the umpteenth time that he should trust his own judgment. "Would I be better off if I did remember?" he temporized.

Henry looked pained. "I'm... not sure. It was... four years, Jack. We each experienced four years of alternate timelines that no one else remembered, which played out very differently than the one we've lived in since." He grimaced. "Than either of the ones we've lived in since."

Four years? Jack boggled a little at that revelation. He'd been expecting something along those lines, but... four years?

Allison's name was his first thought; but it was followed very closely by 'Kim,' and he realized immediately that whatever happened must have been one of the major differences between his Henry and the one who'd married Grace. It made a painful degree of sense, not only regarding the events of the year after Kim's loss, but also some of the comments Henry had been dropping recently. If four years' worth of changes could end in apparently soul-scarring disaster, were any of them safe after sixty-three?

He swallowed, and mustered an answer. "I figured it must have been... something like that. And considering the details are even less relevant now than they were then... I won't ask. I'll trust you to tell me when something might be important." There was still no sense tying himself in knots over what might have been's or what could be's; he'd made that decision already, when he'd let Tess go.

Henry looked about as conflicted as Jack felt. "You're not- upset?"

Jack snorted. And now for the trickiest part of the whole thing; the part that had taken him the longest to deal with. "Of course I was upset- at first. I trusted you- I always have- and you were keeping something huge from me. You wouldn't even admit there was a secret. But I've had a while to adjust to the idea. Only one thing still bothers me- that I don't know what I did to hurt you. I can't either defend myself or apologize for it, and it took you so long to get over your anger that I figure it must have been pretty dire."

Henry started at that; then smiled, ruefully. "You're a lot more observant than you let on, Jack. And- it wasn't anything you could have not done, and still be you. No matter how much I felt like blaming you for what happened, I knew I wasn't being rational, and I didn't want you to suffer for having to clean up after a disaster of my making. You're my best friend, too, you know."

Jack let out a slow breath of relief at that. Forget last night's conversation with Jo; this was as close as he ever wanted to get to actual 'girl talk'. "Thanks, Henry," he said, awkwardly clearing his throat.

"No problem," Henry said, then returned Jack's shoulder clasp, briefly. "Thank you- for coming to me about this, and for telling me about Grace."

"Yeah- keep me posted on that, all right?" Jack said, pulling his phone from his pocket as it beeped with a new message: some kind of traffic problem in town. "I think she'll be good for you; I hope you work something out."

"So do I," Henry smiled, more genuinely now. "And- I'm sorry things aren't going as well with Allison."

Jack sighed, thinking of Grant again. "Yeah. It just never seems to be the right time for us- not in this lifetime, anyway."

"Wait and see," Henry said, sympathetically.

"Yeah." Jack shook the dark thoughts off as he turned to go.

It was Eureka, after all. Anything could happen.