Title: Backpedaling

Pairing(s): Jack/Carley and some Yusei/Aki.

Rating: T

Warning(s): Sexual themes, brief language.

Note(s): Related to Under Pressure, takes place sometime after Third Time's the Charm. There's also a slight reference to Rules and Making All Your Dreams Come True.

"Regret? That's a screwed up word."

-James Hetfield Quotes

"Aki, I need to talk to you," Carley said, bursting through the door to her office. Aki sat behind her desk, her nose buried in some patient files.

"Yes, come right on in, it's not like I have anything important to do." Her voice was dripping with obvious sarcasm, and she didn't even look up when she spoke. Carley paid no attention to this, however.

"Let's just take a moment to talk about how screwed I am," the reporter began, out of breath and panicked. "How completely and utterly screwed I am." Aki pursed her lips.


"I might be in huge trouble, and I really need your help."


"If you could just listen-" Carley said, but Aki had heard enough.

"-I'm really sorry, Carley," she began with a frustrated sigh, "but I'm too busy for this. I've got paperwork to fill out, calls to make, patients to attend to and, to top it all off, a wedding to plan. So it would be really great if you could solve whatever crisis you've got going on right now by yourself." Carley stopped pacing.

"So..." she dragged out the word, knowing it would draw in her friend's attention. "... I guess you don't want to hear about how Jack Atlas visited me late last night after his flight touched down in Neo Domino and how we enjoyed a nice, hot shower together?"

It worked. Aki set her notes down and looked Carley straight in the eye.

"Please, have a seat."

"You know Jack, you really have a way of surprising me when I'm not in the mood for surprises," Yusei said, taking a sip of his coffee. Though his voice was as calm and cool as ever, it wasn't hard to tell he was upset. "I must have called you a dozen times last night, wondering where you were. If it were anyone else, I would have been really worried. You were supposed to spend the night here after your flight came in. Instead, you show up the next morning without explanation or apology." Jack rolled his eyes.

"Look, I'm sorry. I got distracted and spent the night at someone else's house. I didn't see that you had called until early this morning."

Yusei sighed; typical Jack.

"I see."

Jack remained silent for a moment longer before clearing his throat to speak again. "It... It wasn't just anyone though."


"It was Carley Nagisa." This seemed to grab Yusei's attention.

"The reporter?"

"Yes, her." Yusei pursed his lips, thoughtful.

"So that's what you meant by 'distracted.'"

"Shut up," Jack snapped. "Anyway, I needed to ask you for some advice about it." That really threw Yusei for a loop.

"You're asking me for advice?" he asked in disbelief.

"Yeah, so what?"

"Well... It's just that you're really not talking to the right person about this," Yusei said with a sigh. "I don't have much experience in this field. You were always the one who had women throwing themselves at you." Jack cocked his brow.

"You mean to say you and Izayoi haven't-?" he began before he was interrupted by sounds of coughing. His question, which had caught Yusei completely off-guard, had caused him to choke on his coffee.

"No, we have not," he replied firmly after catching his breath, sounding indignant. Jack raised his eyebrows slightly; he knew he was broaching a subject that Yusei didn't particularly like discussing when they were living together, but had figured now that the affianced scientist was older, he wouldn't be so squicky about it. Jack shrugged; he supposed some things would never change.

"Well, I think you have more knowledge then you realize."


"Because," Jack began as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, "you have successfully gotten a woman to agree to marry you. Don't know how the hell you did it, but you did. Obviously, you did something right and I want to know what it is." This seemed to surprise Yusei.

"I wasn't aware marriage was your goal," he said, setting his coffee aside. Jack eyed the marked man warily.

"Then what did you you think my goal was?" the blonde asked suspiciously.

"Well, I thought that you were just..." Yusei's voice trailed off and Jack looked offended.

"What kind of man do you take me for, Yusei?" he growled.

"You can't blame me, Jack," Yusei began with a sigh, "You've been with more women than I can count. All non-serious relationships, I might add."

"That was before I was King," he said, lifting his chin high up. "I didn't want a serious relationship to drag me down. But now that I'm on top, there's nothing holding me back. Besides, there's no way Crow's getting married before I am.

"Might want to hurry then," Yusei replied, his voice dry. "They've been engaged for months, but Crow finally saved up enough cash to buy Sherry a ring. I hear they've been looking at houses in the city, too. Seems like they're actually going to go through with it." Jack's eye twitched.

"I know, and that's why I need your help," he said gruffly. "I mean, Izayoi is way out of your league and yet you two are prepared to tie the knot in a couple of weeks. How'd you do it?" Yusei looked slightly annoyed at this.

"Well, there's really not much to it. If you love each other and you think you could spend the rest of your lives together without killing each other, then you make a mutual decision to get married." He paused before adding, "I must emphasize that it is a commitment, Jack. You can't just give up or leave if it gets boring or hard."

"I know that."

"Do you?"


Yusei didn't look convinced, but if there was one thing he had learned in their 28-year-long friendship, it was that there was no talking him out of something once he had made a decision. It was, quite simply, a waste of time and breath. So if Jack was determined to win this Carley girl's hand in marriage, then Yusei wasn't going to try and stop him.

"Whatever you say."

"So you and Jack, huh?" Aki asked playfully, resting her chin on her open palm. She had decidedly clocked out for her lunch break early, hung up her white coat and locked the door to her office to prevent any nurses from bursting in. She and Carley sat across from each other, each enjoying one of the hospital's complimentary Jello cups. "Never thought he'd actually pick someone. I swear, there was a time that man went back and forth on who he was in love with for months. Though, I guess since Mikage's recently had her baby and Stephanie got a boyfriend, he doesn't really have much of a choice..."

Carley glowered at her.

"So, you think I'm just a last resort?" she asked glumly.

"I never said that," Aki replied, eating a spoonful of her cherry-flavored Jello. "That sort of thing has never stopped him before anyway. I wouldn't be surprised if he's ruined a few marriages in his lifetime. But I digress. How was it?" Carley's eyes suddenly got cloudy with fondness, recalling the previous night's memories.

"Wonderful..." she mumbled dreamily. "I mean, I was really surprised and all. We started talking again via text message a couple of months ago and he and I called each other a few times, but I never suspected..." She shook her head. "Well, let's just say I got the shock of my life when he showed up on my doorstep. It was an even bigger shock when he asked if I wanted to use the shower. The biggest shock, though, came when he stepped into the shower with me." Aki listened to the reporter carefully, amused by her almost childish antics.

"Sounds like it was a great experience for both of you. So, then, why were you saying earlier that you were screwed?" The doctor smiled wryly. "Or did you mean that literally?" Carley's cheeks tinted red.

"No," she said with an awkward cough. "The thing is... well... Jack and I weren't exactly safe..." Aki's brow shot up.


"... And, uh, well... I obviously don't know if I'm pregnant yet, but I don't have the means to take care of a baby. And with Jack... well, I'd want to be married first. So, I was hoping you could help me out?"

Aki's face darkened. "Carley," she began quietly and seriously, "I'm not an abortion doctor. But as your friend-"

"Oh, no! No, that's not what I meant at all!" The reporter had practically jumped out of her seat, frantic. "I-I was just hoping you had some medicine that prevents pregnancy after you've had, you know..." Her voiced lowered, speaking the following word so quietly that Aki could barely hear it. "... sex." Aki's expression lightened.

"So you're looking for an ECP?" she asked, folding her arms. Carley had no idea what an ECP was, but she nodded anyway.

"Ah," Aki said plainly, standing up. She moved to her cabinent, unlocked it, and rummaged through it looking for something. Finally, she pulled out a plain, white box with few complicated labels or prints on it. The former signer then returned to her seat.

"This contains Levonorgestrel," she said, pushing the box toward Carley. "It's a female hormone that prevents ovulation and causes changes in your cervical mucus and uterince lining, making it harder for sperm to reach the uterus or for an egg to attach to the uterus."

"Does it really work?" Carley asked, her eyes wide.

"It prevents 90% of would-be pregnancies, as long as you aren't already pregnant." When Aki say the frightened look in Carley's eye, she smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry, if you use it within 24 hours of the unprotected sex, it's more effective."

"OK," the reporter said, smiling weakly. "Thank you so much, Aki. You're a real life-saver." The doctor waved her hand dismissively.

"It's nothing," Aki replied casually. "I just hope this won't become a habit of yours."

"Don't worry!" the reporter chirped sheepishly. "Next time, well, if there is a next time, I'll make sure Jack and I are more careful!"


"I swear!"

"Right." Aki started laughing when she saw Carley's crestfallen look. "I'm just kidding, Carley. It happens."

"Eh heh, yeah..." Carley mumbled, still completely flustered. "Anyway, I've taken up too much of your time, so I probably should go. I have an interview with Mukuro Enjo at 3 p.m for an article I'm writing anyway."

"Ah yes, wouldn't want to miss that now, would you?" Aki unlocked the door and slipped her coat on again. "It was nice seeing you."

"Same; and again, thank you." Just as she was about to leave, she stopped, turned and faced Aki again. "You... You do think think there will be a next time?"

Aki shrugged.

"Jack's always been rather fond of you, so I don't see why not."

"Oh... OK!" Carley closed the door tightly behind her and, with a heavy sigh, leaned up against it.

And smiled.


Comment(s): To clarify, Jack asking Carley if she wants to take a shower is an invitation for sex. In Japan, couples bathe before engaging in sexual activity. Yay. I know this is a vastly different interpretation of Jack and Carley's relationship compared to most authors, but I've always thought Jack to be extremely immature in his own way and Carley to kind of be a hopeless romantic.