Notes: Oh, jeez! Things just keep rolling over our heroes! The next part will likely be a split POV, and I can almost promise some sweet sweet loving, even if it isn’t the uber-smexy scene I’ve got written up. You will have it before the story is up, though.
Part Ten: Staggering From Day To Day
“Jack.” Jack Jack Jack… Jonah numbly shook out the bottom of his shirt, soaked with water from the glass he’d just fumbled and dropped. Jack…it hardly seemed possible that he could be here. Jonah hadn’t spoken to Jack since the night he took himself and Cody away from his mother’s ship, and then it had only been via com. He hadn’t seen him in person for…god…three years. Four. Not since Cody had barely been walking.
Jack looked so close to how Jonah remembered, tall, a little thicker through the torso and thighs, strong and solid. His hair was a dark, curly mess, the same texture as Cody’s. His face, roughhewn but attractive, wore a hard expression. He sported enough stubble to practically qualify as a beard, and there were a few grey hairs in the mix that Jonah had never seen before. “Where the hell did you come from?”
“Been prowling this system for months, ever since I figured out who your new paramour is,” Jack said as he sat down at the table, spitting the word “paramour” like it was a curse. “I thought you’d head here eventually. I couldn’t afford to fly all the way out to Pandora to see you, but I’ve got enough connections out here that I found the work to keep me close.”
“But why are you here at all?” Why the hell are you here? Why are you fucking with my life right now?
“’Cause I decided I’m not gonna let you be the judge of whether or not I can be a part of our kid’s life,” Jack said flatly.
“What?” Surely Jonah wasn’t hearing this right. “As I recall things, you dictated the situation to me back in the beginnin’ when you said we couldn’t take him and oughta throw him back.”
“I was in shock, Jonnie.”
“Don’t say that,” Jonah snapped. “Don’t start callin’ me by names that you think mean something, you don’t have that right.”
“And you don’t have the right to keep me from my child just because I made a bad decision years and years ago!” Jack replied, his own voice rising with strain.
“Ho-kay,” Kilroy said, raising his hands placatingly. “Let’s just calm things down now—”
“So, what, you had some grand moment of goddamn revelation and decided the best way to fix your woes was to throw your lot in with this jackass?” Jonah demanded, completely ignoring the third wheel. “Do you have any idea what he’s askin’ me to do? And you wanna help him to commit, fuck, treason by forcin’ me to betray the confidence of people who never treated me like anything other than family, just so you can reclaim some sort of happy family daydream? It’s not gonna happen, Jack.”
“If he’s the only way I’m gonna get close enough to make you work with me, then I’d help him burn this whole place to the ground,” Jack said. There was no give in his face, no flexibility in his expression. “I’d make a deal with the devil himself to make my point to you, Jonah Helms. Kilroy ain’t quite the devil, but he’ll do.”
“No need to be insultin’, now,” Kilroy protested, but he shut up a second later as two sets of eyes glared in his direction. “Fine, fine, I’ll just…I’ll just go talk to your young man, huh Jonah?” He stood heavily and wandered over in the direction of Corporal Kelly, who was looking rather grim faced on the other side of the room.
Jack watched him go. “That’s not…”
“Not my fiancé, no. He’s my bodyguard, and I’m less than a minute away from feignin’ an injury and havin’ him take you out for me, so why don’t you tell me exactly what you want, Jack? We’ve known each other for too long to dance around like this.”
“I agree.” Surprisingly, Jack backed down, the rigid line of his broad shoulders relaxing some as he looked down at his hands. He had big, firm hands, heavily calloused, so different from Garrett’s. Jonah could remember the way they felt on his hips, his back. He squashed the memory down viciously.
“We were together for a long time, Jonah. I’ve known you since we were kids, your mama was like my own. I switched allegiances and joined your clan when we got together even though we could have gotten our own boat, because it was what you wanted, Jonnie—Jonah, sorry. Jonah,” he raised his eyes and looked straight across the table, “you’ve been a part of my family for most of my life. It wasn’t always easy, but we made it work for a long time. We could have made it work with Cody.”
“He can’t live on a ship,” Jonah said, remembering this argument from before. “It’s not clean enough, goes too many places. Doesn’t matter how many things we vaccinate him against, he needs a stable environment to be healthy. You didn’t want to give up on the lifestyle, you didn’t want the burden of a kid who’s gonna grow old and die in a fifth of your lifetime, you didn’t want us. Those are your words, not mine, Jack. And gettin’ my mother on your side, gettin’ her to speak to me for you…that was low.”
“It wasn’t the best play, but I was out of options by then. You’d already run with my first, frightened impressions and cut me off. Yeah, frightened,” he added when Jonah scoffed. “I was scared shitless, Jonah, how was I supposed to be acting? Calm and collected, reasonable, even when things are changin’ so fast I couldn’t keep ‘em all straight in my head? You stopped livin’ with me, you cut me off with the rest of the ship. I had to get my own boat after all, only this time it was just me, no one to share it with, no family. Then when our kid gets big enough to start interactin’, becomes someone I can really get to know, you decide it’s time to take off for a bright new world. Leave all the rest of us behind, and take the dregs of the life I always wanted with you.
“Well, no longer.” Jack leaned in close, speaking softly but firmly. “I’ve made mistakes in my life, Jonah, and lettin’ the two of you go is something that I regret every day. But while I know better than to try and get you back, I’ll be damned if I let you keep me from our kid any longer. When it comes down to it, legally speaking, he’s half mine. You never served me papers and I never gave up my parental rights.”
Jonah stared in astonishment, his hearing a little muffled. He could barely feel the tips of his fingers, for some reason. “So, wha—” He cleared his throat, then tried again. “What, are you saying that you’re throwin’ your lot in with Kilroy as a way of forcing me to give you access to Cody?”
“I’d be pushin’ for it either way,” Jack replied, “but there are two ways I can go about this. I spoke with a lawyer already, a good one. I could legally claim that by takin’ Cody away without gettin’ me to sign off on it, you were kidnapping him.”
“Bullshit,” Jonah growled. He had never wanted to badly to hit another man as he had in that moment.
“I could,” Jack continued warningly, “or I could keep this just between the people it really concerns. We could work out a deal to let me see him without gettin’ the law involved. This is what I want, Jonah. I never wanted to hurt you. I did, and I’m sorry about that, but I’m not gonna back down just because I made some mistakes in the past. You work with Kilroy, we’ll take that path. You don’t…” He let it drift off.
“You’re blackmailing me.”
“I’m doin’ what I’ve gotta do to see my boy. He’s it, Jonah. The only good thing I have left from the life I always wanted, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna vanish into the dark like some sort of specter just ‘cause it’s easy.” Jack sighed deeply. “You get any paler, I’m gonna have to force your head between your knees, just like when you were sixteen and pulled too many g’s in that shuttle.”
“Don’t do me any favors.”
“I don’t reckon I am,” Jack said, and he sounded genuinely sad about it. “I’m sorry, Jonah. I mean that.” He pushed his chair back and stood up. “You’ve got three days to get us an answer. You could give us up to the Federals, but there’s nothin’ to prove yet, and that ain’t gonna make me go away. It’s just gonna make me fight harder.” He turned and left, and Kilroy followed him out.
Corporal Kelly came over to the table frowning. “Are you all right, sir?”
Jonah couldn’t catch his breath in time to speak, so he just nodded. It was maybe the biggest lie he’d ever told.