Inspired by the teasing between Jack and Erica during the boxing scene, this different kind of sparring takes place sometime after the finale.

Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.

Erica was sporting her tough look today; leather jacket and half-tinted sunglasses. The windows were rolled down and her elbow rested on the door. Her long blond hair was flicking out behind her head as the wind whipped it. It was a beautiful day.

"Do you have time for a coffee?" she asked, turning her head briefly towards Jack.

"Yes. Sure," he said checking his watch as he spoke.

Erica was one of those people who could always find a parking spot and she had the skills to squeeze the sedan into the most ridiculously small spaces. Jack smiled and shook his head as she claimed her spot directly in front of the coffee shop by coming within an inch of removing paint from another vehicle.

"What?" she looked at him as she shoved the transmission into park and broke into a satisfied smile.

"Nothing!" Jack threw up his hands in mock surrender. The last thing he was going to do was comment on her driving. Nothing was worth that face off.

Jack waited as Erica came around the car and they went into the building together.

"My treat," Jack offered.

"You're on!" Erica replied and sat down on a stool by the window. She unwound the scarf around her neck and folded it up on the table top, setting her sunglasses on top. It was second nature to watch everything going on around her. She started her scan by examining Jack's backside. She no longer felt guilty for that particular weakness. Her eyes worked their way around the patrons in the coffee shop. She listened as Jack chatted with the barista and then heard the girl's delighted response. How could he not even notice the effect he had on women? Without even looking, Erica knew the girl was gazing into Jack's gentle blue eyes, noting his blonde hair and kind face and so she was turning up the charm. Erica rolled her eyes as she smiled and began observing the passersby outside on the street.

"See anything good?" Jack asked as he placed their coffees on the table and slid onto the stool next to her. He was used to her habit of surveying her surroundings and often found himself doing the same thing. Not a bad habit to get into, considering.

Erica's focus sharpened as her eyes followed a priest walking down the other side of the street. Jack noted her black-clad target with the white square of his collar peaking at the throat. He watched the priest for a few seconds then turned his attention to the woman sitting beside him, his face showing the curiosity he was feeling.

"Do you know him?" Jack asked.

"No," she said mildly, "but it reminds me how much I miss seeing a man in uniform." Erica's eyes were half closed and her lips began twitching as she brought her cup her up to take a sip.

"Really," he replied, his eyes boring into her profile. It was more of a statement than a question. Where was she going with this?

"There is nothing that quite matches it," she replied, a faraway look in her eyes.

"And there is nothing quite as hot as seeing a man genuflect," she murmured as she stared off into the sky, her voice dripping with innocence. She couldn't resist looking at him from the corner of her eye. She could hardly wait for the response.

"Really," Jack repeated, his eyes narrowed. "That's a pity, because this man has probably worn his last uniform."

"Disappointing," Erica pursed her lips and tilted her head.

"But I can still genuflect." Jack raised his eyebrows. "Do you need a little demonstration?" and he began to slide off his stool.

"Don't you dare!" she hissed at him, pulling him back down onto his stool, her eyes wide with shock as he called her bluff. She loved seeing him with such a broad smile on his face. He lit the room with it. And that smile happened far too rarely. Little did she realize it was she who sparked that light in recent weeks.

Then she became serious. She twisted to look directly at him, concern shadowing her blue eyes.
"Do you miss it?" she asked leaning close to him.

"Of course I miss it, Erica. But I wouldn't change anything that's happened. "

"Nothing?" And then she winced mentally, regretting the question immediately. She had treated Jack horribly for weeks on end after Joe's death. She had pushed him away and kept the truth from him. There was no way he wouldn't change that.

"Yes, actually, I would change something."

Erica felt her face go cold but automatically cloaked her visible emotions. They had been doing so well. She'd had no inkling of this. Was he going to dump her here in the coffee shop? Tell her their relationship was a mistake? Why had she even started this stupid conversation?

He saw her expression freeze as she donned her impassive mask, but he knew her too well to miss the uncertainty in her eyes. He reached out his warm hand to hold hers; he hadn't meant to scare her. He was surprised she was still so sensitive about her behavior during those few weeks. She knew he understood. She knew he'd forgiven her. He hoped her guilt was fading to regret as she understood her emotional devastation had guided her decisions and actions during that time. And he knew the Hobbes thing had nothing to do with love. She had hurt him. A lot. But Jack had been strangely reassured by that part of her guilt, because it meant that she had loved him for a long time before she spoke the words. Time and stability would heal her fears. However, if Hobbes ever showed up again, you could bet there would be tension. He was only human….

"What would you change?" Erica asked, her voice tense, her eyes riveted on his. She had lost all interest in the surrounding people and their activities; her complete attention was on Jack.

He looked at her with a seriousness that was not reflected in his eyes. "Your restrictions on my shirt colours. I would buy black shirts." As he watched Erica's face, his smile grew until he was chuckling at her expression.

"It's a good thing you got these coffees to go, because you're going to be walking to work, Landry," she finally choked out.

"Well, it's a good thing we're not far then, isn't it? Let me get my things and I'll be on my way."

Erica re-wound her scarf and placed her sunglasses on the top of her head, continuing to wear a look of disbelief.

As they walked side by side to the car, he reached over and rubbed her back, still smiling from ear to ear.

Jack picked up his laptop and lunch bag from the front seat and shut the door. He leaned in the window she'd just opened from the driver's seat.

"Do you really want to know what I would change?" he asked. His expression was deeply serious as he continued.

"I wouldn't have been so pig-headed. Instead of ignoring your call, I would have picked up the phone that night and told you I loved you."

Tears sprang to Erica's eyes as she looked across at him. She just nodded silently, followed by a little thoughtful smile.

Then she took a deep breath and lifted her eyebrows to break the moment.

"Here." She reached over and handed Jack a white square she'd ripped from her coffee cup sleeve.

"Go buy yourself a black shirt. I'll see you later. Bring that."

And with a toss of her blonde hair she was gone, leaving Jack standing on the curb looking after her, mouth open.


After I'd written this, it occurred to me it might be regarded as disrespectful. It's not meant to be. If Jack had still been in the army, I would have used that uniform somehow! I liked the subtlety and unexpectedness of this.