We Have Each Other
Jack looked over, frowning slightly. His friend was tossing and turning in the bed. Jack got up off the floor and approached the bed. He rested a hand on Tech 67's arm, concerned that he would hurt his leg in his sleep. The tech gasped and sat up. He looked around, disoriented at first. Then he looked up at Jack and gave him a half-hearted smile.
"Her again?" Jack asked.
He nodded. "Sorry if I woke you."
"It's okay," Jack said softly.
"It would help if I knew who she was."
Jack nodded. "Want a book?"
Tech 67 shook his head. "Tired," he said.
"Okay." Jack stepped away, but Tech 67 grasped his arm.
Jack looked quizzically at him. "Would you mind... um..."
"What?" Jack asked softly.
"You don't have to sleep on the floor," Tech 67 said, looking at the sleeping bags. "You found the mattress, after all."
"We agreed to take turns," Jack replied.
"But you've given me your turn for three weeks straight."
"Your leg's broken, I'm not going to make you sleep on the floor."
Tech 67 chuckled and looked up. "I don't mean that," he said. He scooted over, making more room on the bed. "There's room for both of us."
Jack smiled. He grabbed his sleeping bag off the floor, unzipped it and covered his friend with it. Then he slipped in under the covers. There wasn't really room for two grown men on the full-sized bed – even a small man like Jack Harper. They could not coexist on the bed without touching one another. Judging from the easy way Tech 67 rested his head on Jack's shoulder, Jack figured he didn't mind the close quarters at all.
Jack didn't mind, either.
"Okay, other way." Tech 67 rotated his leg in a full circle, counter clockwise at the knee. He smiled, and Jack grinned at him. "Good job, Technician," Jack said.
Tech 67 laughed, but there were tears in his eyes. "It doesn't hurt."
"Bullshit, you're sweating bullets."
Tech 67's smile never faltered. "But it's not sharp – just like a regular muscle ache."
Jack let out a relieved sigh. "I'm so happy, Jack."
"Couldn't have done it without you, Jack," he said.
"I had help from the AMA physical therapy books."
"Whatever," Tech 67 replied, stretching his leg, and doing a slow, cautious lunge. "The books didn't tell you how to be encouraging or when to be gentle and when to be a hardass."
Jack smiled and shrugged. Tech 67 did three slow squats, then grinned at Jack. Without warning, he launched himself at Jack, grabbing him in a crushing embrace. "Thank you," he said softly.
Jack gripped him tightly, nodding. After a few moments, they pulled back at the same second, and looked at each other. Jack smiled. "I have something for you."
"Yeah. I've been waiting for a special occasion, and I don't think it can get any more special than this."
Tech 67 grinned, and Jack squeezed his arms and trotted out to his ship. He checked the storage compartment and pulled out the treasure. He'd already cleaned the dust from it, but he brushed the cover once again and walked back to the house. He showed the large white square to Tech 67, and the man gasped. "Oh my... h-how... where did you get that?"
"Pretty far away," Jack replied. "About three months ago."
"And you waited all this time?"
"I wanted it to be special. I've... I never heard it before. Or if I did, it was before..."
Tech 67 nodded. "I've never heard it before, either." He smiled down at the precious gift, then walked over to the record player. He pulled out the first disc – large, white and beautiful, and set it on the player. He cranked up the volume, and the lake was soon treated to the vibrant guitars and glorious voices of The Beatles, performing "Back in the U.S.S.R."
"Thank you, Jack," Tech 67 said again. He jerked his head toward the lake. "Let's go for a walk."
Jack followed his friend out of the house, and they walked slowly around their lake. Tech 67 moved well, though still with some soreness. The books said that would ease up in a short time, especially if the patient stayed active. That was no problem. Tech 67 had been chafing to move around for weeks.
Jack took a deep breath and smiled. It was a beautiful day – late summer, warm breezes, birds chirping as if they wanted to sing along with the White Album.
"We should name this place," Tech 67 said.
"Yeah. Lakes had names before the war. We should name ours."
Jack immediately thought of the face of his dream woman. Her dark, wavy tresses, her welcoming smile. As he had done so many times before, he tried to remember her name. The harder he tried, the more frustrated he became – her name drifted on the edge of consciousness, just on the tip of his tongue, but never reached. He couldn't even think of a first letter.
"I can't think of anything," Jack said at last.
"I can't remember her name, either," his friend replied.
Jack looked at him, and Tech 67 gave him a small smile. The record stopped, and Jack glanced back toward the house. "We should-"
"I want to. Don't worry, Tower, I'll take my time."
Jack watched his friend walk back to the house – moving carefully and glancing back occasionally to smile at him. Tech 67 turned the record over and made his way back to Jack. They sat at the lakeside for a while, watching the fish that were bold enough to linger near the water's edge. They didn't speak – just listened to the music and the sounds of the water moving, breezes blowing through the trees, birds singing along.
When jack guessed that the album must be about to end, he glanced at his friend. "Want to head back?"
"Uh-uh," Tech 67 said.
Jack chuckled. "We can put the second record on."
Tech 67 shrugged, but nodded his acquiescence. They stood up as the last notes of a Paul McCartney ballad faded away. Jack hadn't looked at the titles, but he liked the words – "Who knows how long I've loved you? You know I love you still."
He was about to ask Tech 67 what he thought of the song when he heard the soft, almost plaintive voice of John Lennon, and decided to keep quiet. This was another soft ballad. "Half of what I say is meaningless. But I say it just to reach you, Julia."
Jack gasped, stunned. There was a split second of awareness, and he saw Tech 67 stumble. But a second later, the lake was gone, and he was at the bottom of the Empire State Building. Searching through dozens of faces, busy, unconcerned, with no idea that this was the most important day of Jack's life. There. There she was. A smile. Her small, warm hand in his. Julia.
Jack staggered to his knees, chest heaving, eyes filling with tears. Tech 67 was on the ground, curled in on himself, shuddering. "Jack," Jack choked out. He crawled forward, as the lilting guitar played its melody, and John sang on about Julia, beautiful and relentless.
Jack took hold of Tech 67's shoulders and tried to steady him. "Jack, are you okay?" Tech 67 shuddered, eyes closed, tears flowing despite the closed lids. "Jack."
Tech 67 gasped suddenly and sat up, eyes wide. He looked around, then back at Jack's face. His tears flowed, and his body continued to shake. Jack could feel his own body quivering. Tech 67 lowered his head, covered his face, and sobbed. Jack wrapped his arms around his friend, and they wept together while the song played on.
"Jack," Jack whispered, when the last "Julia" echoed on the lake. "She... whoever she was, she... she's gone now." Tech 67 shuddered. "She must be. And... if we're right, then she was... n-never really ours."
"Or she was always ours," Tech 67 said.
Jack clutched him tighter and nodded. "Yes. My... she's my earliest memory," he whispered.
Tech 67 sat up, blinked away tears, and put his hand gently on Jack's face. "Mine, too. I... I wanted to grow old with her. In a place just like this."
Jack nodded, then looked toward the peaceful lake. The water sparkled and glinted as always, unconcerned with the drama being played out on its banks. "We'll never forget her," he said. No joy. No sorrow. Just a statement of fact.
"No," Tech 67 said. "We never will." He put a hand on Jack's face, and gently guided him so they were face to face. "But we have each other," he whispered.
Jack smiled. "Yes," he whispered, hardly more than an exhaled breath. "Yes, we do."
Slowly, Jack reached out and touched his friends' face, so that the two of them were exact mirror images of each other, large identical hands caressing tear-stained, identical faces. Jack brushed at the trail of tears on Tech 67's cheek. They moved at exactly the same moment, leaning toward one another, heads tilting slightly in just the right way, until their lips met.
Jack usually began his kisses with his eyes wide open, watching Vikka's eyes flutter closed as she melted in his arms. Even in dreams, with the dark haired woman – Julia – he often began his kisses with his eyes wide open. But he had never really noticed the habit until now, watching Tech 67... watching his Jack watch him. It was a little unnerving, but much less strange than he thought it would be. Having his own eyes stare back at him was unusual, but he didn't feel like he was kissing himself.
Tech 67 was his twin, physically, though he had been on Earth about sixteen months longer. But their experiences in those years had been different – even since they'd found each other, their reactions to the experiences they shared were slightly different, and there were things that each man had experienced alone. They were very similar – maybe even more similar than a set of twins. But they were individuals, as well. Two different people with more than the usual number of common experiences, who had supported one another through some of the most devastating moments of their lives, and some of the most victorious.
As Tech 67's lips parted to receive Jack's kiss, Jack knew that this was a man he cared about as he had never cared about anyone before. This was a man he loved. As much as he had loved Vikka, she had never understood – never even tried to understand him. And as much as he loved Julia, she was a dream, ethereal as the morning mist, never to be touched, and never able to share space with the here and now. His Jack was here. Now. And he knew Jack better than any human could know another.
At the same moment, the two men shifted, wrapping their free arms around one another. Jack pressed his body closer, let his eyes flutter closed, and melted into Jack's embrace.