A Taste of Home
Jack carefully straightened his uniform, regretting once again that he hadn't gotten things to work out with that nice dry cleaner. At least she still got the stains out, even that weird mustard from Guam that Vincent insisted he try yesterday.
God, that stuff had been awful.
"SARAH?" called out Carter as he made his way downstairs.
"Yes, Sheriff Carter?" said the house politely. "Your breakfast is on the table already."
"You're a doll, um, house," said Jack, shaking his head, and then he stopped when he saw what was waiting for him. "Awww, did Zoe put you up to this?"
"Tofu and egg whites are very high in protein, Sheriff," said SARAH, unrepentant. "The spinach is full of nutrients, and the pineapple juice will..."
"What, make it all test less like crap?" muttered Jack, sitting down to poke at the plate. He picked up the pineapple juice and drained it in one long gulp, mostly to put off the inevitable.
"Morning, Dad," said Zoe cheerfully, stealing a cube of tofu off his plate. "You're really getting the hang of these omelets, SARAH."
"At least one of you has some taste," said SARAH tartly.
Jack pushed the plate toward Zoe, "You can have mine, I'll just get something at Cafe Diem."
"You wound me," said SARAH, but she opened the door for him anyway.
"I'm under strict orders from Zoe not to feed you any junk food," said Vincent, face resolute. "I'll just go make you an egg white omelet, okay?"
Jack groaned. "Can't you at least put bacon in it or something?"
Vincent thought about this for a moment. "I might be able to come up with something," he said, before leaving Jack to nurse his Vinspresso.
"Why does that sound ominous?" Jack asked of no one in particular.
Henry answered, taking the seat on Jack's left. "Because the last time Vincent got creative on you, you ended up snorting that awful mustard from Guam out your nose?"
"Oh, god, I thought my sinuses would never recover," said Jack, groaning at the memory. "How're you doing?"
"Fine, fine," said Henry, gesturing for his usual when Vincent peeked back out. "How's that new coating I put on the Jeep?"
Jack blinked. "You put a new coating on my Jeep? When?"
Henry laughed good-naturedly. "When you had it in for servicing last week, didn't I tell you? I redesigned the molecular coating on it to better repel dirt and small damage."
"Huh. Well, I think there's been less bugs on the windshield," said Jack sheepishly. Vincent returned with his sad, white omelet and Henry's perfectly normal breakfast, at least it seemed that way until Henry tried to explain what was special about it.
"Don't tell me," said Jack, stabbing a fork into his food. "I just want to pretend this won't taste like someone removed every good part of it before making me eat it." The forkful didn't even make it to his mouth before his phone rang, however. "Hah, saved by the bell," he said, answering. "Carter."
"Jack, there's been an accident," said Alison. "I need you at GD."
"Isn't there always?" he said, grabbing his coffee.
"Hold on," said Henry, snagging the muffin off his plate and his own cup of coffee, "I'll go with you, I have something I want to talk to Alison about, anyway."
"Excellent," said Jack, leading the way. "You can give me a bite of your muffin."
"Why, Jack, is that a proposition?" said Henry, laughing.
Jack almost snorted his coffee. "Don't distract the driver," he countered, getting into the Jeep. "And seriously, I haven't had anything but coffee and pineapple juice today."
Henry buckled in, then broke off a piece of the muffin while Jack got them on the road. "Are you sure? I didn't think you liked..."
Jack snagged the bite and ate it before Henry could tell him what was in it and spoil his appetite. He instantly regretted it.
"I, ohgod, I really don't," said Jack, almost gagging before he could swallow the thing. "What is that... On second thought, don't tell me," he said, swigging coffee as fast as he could manage and still drive safely.
"What's up now?" asked Jack, looking around Alison's office for something to get the taste of Henry's muffin out of his mouth. "Listen, have you got a breath mint or something?"
"Can you stop thinking with your stomach for a second?" asked Alison peevishly.
"If you'd tasted that muffin, you'd want a mint, too," groused Jack.
"Jack's just not suited to fine cuisine," said Henry, amused. "He tried one of Vincent's breakfast savories."
Alison was surprised into a chuckle, and though she quickly got back to business, she did go rummaging in her purse. "We've lost one of the labs in Section 4," she said, producing a tin of lozenges with a flourish.
Jack popped one in his mouth, only to have his eyes bug out as he tried to find somewhere to spit the thing out. "This actually may be worse than the muffin," he said pathetically. "Wait, how do you lose an entire lab?"
Alison rolled her eyes and handed him a tissue. "I have no idea, that's what you get to figure out. Come on, I'll show you." She led the way to the elevator, Henry following.
Jack threw away the lozenge and trailed after them, going through his own pockets, hoping for a stick of gum or, at this point, a lint-covered, forgotten bit of candy. He gave it up as hopeless when Alison started to explain.
"Our records show that there's supposed to be a lab 413, right between 411 and 415, with Dr. Wallace doing relatively harmless research on the wave/particle nature of light, but they also show that we haven't had a report from him in over three weeks, and no one I've talked to can remember the last time they saw him or," she paused in front of a blank bit of wall, "his lab."
Jack blinked. "So, have you done all the obvious things like checking for holograms and measuring the other labs to see if there's a secret passageway?" asked Jack.
Alison's lip twitched. "We've done scans, and I even looked for old security footage of the corridor. Here's where it gets really weird -- according to the cameras, there's never been a lab 413, not since this corridor was built."
"All right, well, let's start with the easy route. Where does Dr. Wallace live?" asked Jack, running his fingers over the concrete wall. "AC's working, anyway," he commented, as a chill went through him.
"Don't be ridiculous, it's the middle of winter," said Alison.
"Must be a draft, then... Don't tell me, there are no drafts at GD," said Jack, getting the depressingly familiar look of contempt. "How about I grab Jo and go to Dr. Wallace's house, and you and Henry see why the wall is cold?"
"It's concrete," said Alison dryly. "It's not supposed to be cosy."
"There aren't drafts per se, but even in Eureka we can't evenly heat a space this big without a few cold spots," added Henry, though his tone was warm. Henry never seemed to mind explaining things to Jack, and he certainly didn't do it with the same contempt as, say, Stark, which Jack appreciated.
"Look, this wall," said Jack, putting his hand by the door to lab 412 across the way, "feels cool. This wall," said Jack, putting his hand on the wall where 413 ought to have been, "is practically arctic."
Henry followed suit, touching not just the two areas Jack chose but wandering down the corridor to see how far the cold spot went.
Alison obediently laid her hand on each wall, looking extra peeved when Jack proved to be right. "Fine. Henry, can you handle this?"
"Yes, of course, this temperature differential is fascinating, perhaps an endothermic reaction..." Henry pulled a device out of his pocket and pointed it around the corridor, muttering distractedly to himself between readings.
Alison turned back to Jack. "Dr. Wallace lives at 14-1 Euclid Circle, it's a duplex according to this."
"Fourteen minus one?" asked Jack dubiously. "Are you sure it's not 1313 Mockingbird Lane?"
Alison rolled her eyes. "Just go check it out, okay?"
"Fine, fine. But I'm getting some actual food on the way," said Jack, the last grumbled under his breath as he headed for the stairs. Maybe this time he could convince Vincent to give him a cheeseburger.
"Jo?" asked Jack, heading into the Sheriff's office with unhappy confusion.
"Yes?" she replied, irritated as always to be interrupted.
"Where's Cafe Diem?" said Jack, glancing with confusion at the blank wall across the street. "Vincent can't possibly have been that offended I didn't eat my omelet."
That got Jo to look up from her gun magazine. The kind that went into a large assault weapon, which she had been carefully filling with ammo. "If I can't get my Vinspresso anymore because of you..."
"I don't think it was me, actually, we're supposed to be looking into a missing lab at GD, it's just like this, big blank wall, everyone remembers it but the security video shows it never existed," said Jack, sounding resigned at the escalation. "I wonder if SARAH would give me a cheeseburger?"
"Aren't you supposed to be on a low-cholesterol diet?" asked Jo, coming out from behind her desk. "Come on, you can call Alison on the way, this is an emergency."
Jack glanced longingly at the office's mini fridge, but he let himself be led out to his jeep. "We're supposed to go check out Dr. Wallace's house, he lives at 14-1 Euclid Circle."
"Fourteen minus one? Seriously?" said Jo, which made Jack feel a little better. "I looked at that place when I moved here, but the closets were tiny."
That made Jack feel less better. "Then you can tell me how to get there," he said, putting on his earpiece and calling Alison as he pulled out of his parking spot. He explained about the missing Cafe Diem, adding a bit worriedly that he'd last seen Henry there, but she assured him Henry was already down in Section 4 measuring things.
Jack's sinking feeling sunk even lower when they pulled up to 14-1, only to find that 14 Euclid Circle had become a single-family dwelling, with no sign at all that it had once been a duplex.
"Okay, now that is weird," said Jo.
"That our duplex is now a, um, one-plex?"
"What? No, that the Einsteins don't have their Christmas lights up yet," said Jo, staring at the house. "Though, now that you mention it, it's a bad sign about the duplex, too."
"Well, let's go knock on their door and ask why," said Jack, getting out of the jeep. His stomach growled, but he resolutely ignored it as he knocked on the front door, trying to ignore the very cold breeze working its way down the back of his neck.
"Sheriff Carter, Deputy Lupo," said the matronly woman who opened the door. "You must be freezing, please come in, don't mind the mess. Arthur's getting his lights ready, he's got something very special planned this year now that that grinch Dr. Wallace is gone."
"Yeah," said Jack, as they went inside, "about Dr. Wallace, doesn't it strike you as odd that his half of the house is just... Gone?"
"It's a bit strange, but that big blank wall will be perfect for my new Christmas lights!" said the little, greying man fiddling with the equipment strewn about the living room.
"Wasn't Dr. Wallace's work about light?" asked Jack, wondering if it could be that easy.
"I believe so," said the woman. "Arthur, you know more about it than I do," she turned back to Jack, "I'm usually at my own lab, knee-deep in monomers, but Arthur and I do like to take some time off together at Christmas."
"Gotta get my lights up," said Arthur cheerfully. "My house is one of the most-visited every year."
"You're late this year," said Jo, nodding along. "I was surprised."
"Little glitch in the projection system," said Arthur with a sigh. "I've just about got it fixed now, though."
"And what is it you do, Dr... Einstein?" asked Jack.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, where are my manners? I'm Martha Einstein, and this is Arthur Einstein. He works with sound waves, and I work in plastics."
Jack politely shook hands with her, getting a distracted wave from Arthur. "When did you first notice the wall?" asked Jack.
"Almost two weeks ago," said Martha. "Wasn't it, dear?"
"Two weeks tomorrow," agreed Arthur, swearing as he made something spark. "But that big blank wall he left behind gave me a great new idea for my lights."
"Have you tried to go inside? I mean, is your house still the same size?" asked Jack curiously.
"Everything's the same here," said Martha cheerfully. "Bit of a draft we can't quite pin down, but otherwise we haven't gained any space, just lost a neighbor."
"A humbug of a neighbor," muttered Arthur.
"The houses had totally separate entrances," said Jo. "Mind if we walk around back to check things out?"
"Be my guest, back door's through the kitchen," said Arthur, gesturing absently.
Jack's stomach growled again.
"Oh, you poor thing, can I get you a snack? I've got some chips around here somewhere," said Martha, bustling them all into the kitchen.
"Actually, that would be-"
"Working," coughed Jo irritiably.
Jack sighed. "Maybe another time, thank you, anyway."
They headed out of the kitchen, and into the northern lights.
"That can't be normal," said Jack.
"But it is beautiful," countered Jo, eyes glued to the sky.
The lights were pale and ghostly in the sun, but Jack had to agree -- even washed-out, they were beautiful. "The question is, is it something Arthur's doing for his Christmas show, or is it related to the disappearing doors?"
"You go ask, I'll look around," said Jo, pulling out her phone to send a few photos to Alison and Henry.
"Gotcha," said Jack, turning to head back inside. After confirming that the light show outside had nothing to do with Arthur's project inside, he turned to head back out into the yard, only to find the back door had vanished, leaving nothing but the chill of winter and a blank wall behind.
"Crap," said Jack, phone already dialing for Henry. "I really hope you've figured something out, because I think it just ate Jo."
After a few unsuccessful attempts to get around to the back yard another way, Jack gave up and headed back to GD. Things always worked out better when he was helping Henry with some hare-brained scheme than when he was off on his own, anyway. Especially without Jo.
They'd get her back, though. They had to.
He drove a little faster.
"Henry," he said, calling once he got on a stretch of open road, bluetooth in his ear. Or whatever passed for bluetooth in Eureka.
"Jack! I've got some good news, we've figured out that it has something to do with turning light waves into hyperreal particles, definitely an unanticipated interaction with Dr. Wallace's experiment. I'm working now on how to get them to go back to their original wave-particle state and, hopefully, restoring the missing places and people."
"You're a god among men, Henry," said Jack, feeling something inside him start to relax. "How long will that take?"
There was a burst of static, followed by an ominous silence.
It was going to be a really, really long day. And he still hadn't had any breakfast.
"Here," said Alison, by way of greeting, handing Jack a suspiciously glowing vial of liquid. "Drink that, it should prevent you from being caught up in another hyperreal photon storm."
Jack drank it, making a face at the taste. "Aw, man! I just got the taste of that candy out of my mouth."
"It wasn't candy, it was a chlorophyl lozenge," said Alison tartly. "We've already lost Henry and most of that corridor with him, but he got me enough of his results that Zane and Fargo are building the device right now."
Jack gave her a wry look. "Let me guess, someone has to go brave the magic light storm and set it off before it can disappear them."
"It's not magic, Dr. Wallace found a way to freeze photons into a hyperreal state that mimics solid matter, but the process must have gotten away from him somehow," she said, downing her own glowing cocktail.
"It's magic," said Jack. "How long do we have?"
"Before they're done, or before the entirety of Eureka is walled off by hyperreal photons?" said Alison, making her own face at the taste of the cocktail.
"Either of those," said Jack, biting his lip. "Have you heard from Zoe?"
"She's at school with Lucas, they hadn't lost a single room the last time I checked in."
"He'd better not be giving her any 'private tutoring,'" said Jack darkly.
Alison chuckled. "I'm sure they're fine, Jack."
"Jack! Good, you're here, Zane and I were going to have to flip for who got to take the other half of the machine out to Euclid Circle," said Fargo. "But now that you're here..."
"Yes, yes, the Sheriff takes the machine into the deadly menace, I know how this works. It's a good thing I get hazard pay," said Jack irritably. "What do I need to do?"
"Get this as close to the actual site as possible and then we'll coordinate. We have to push the buttons at exactly the same time," said Zane, handing Jack a small, spindly object covered in LEDs. It looked like someone's nightmare of a futuristic Christmas tree, complete with sharp points and strange reflective baubles nestled in amongst the metal branches. Instead of a star, there was a big, glowing red button right at the top.
Jack chuckled. "Probably for the best you didn't have to send Fargo," he said under his breath.
"I heard that," said Fargo.
Jack smirked. "I know," he said, grabbing the machine and heading out. "I'll call you from my car."
Zane put grabbed own phone and strangely lovely device. "I'll be waiting."
The drive to Dr. Wallace's was eerily silent, no giant ball of fire in the sky or raging storms to battle, just Jack trying to outrun the speed of light. Or at least the rate at which light was being converted into hyperreal. Uh, walls. Jack made it into generally the right neighborhood and activated his cell. "Please tell me this is Zane."
"Nope. Zane left before Alison could give him his dose. All of Section 4 is gone now, but I managed to get the device out," said Fargo's voice cheerfully.
"Great, the fate of Eureka depends on Fargo," said Jack. "Can't I have Henry back?"
There was a pang of loss when he said it, something Jack didn't really want to explore right now. "There's something up ahead where Euclid Circle, um, used to be. It looks like... a forest? It's like a wall, but of trees instead of concrete."
"Sounds like the place," said Fargo. "Get out and go stand by the wall, and then we'll push on three."
"Will do," said Jack, pulling over and going right up to the densest part of the trees. He could just see a hint of the aurora he'd admired earlier up above them, and that more than anything told him he was in the right place. "Okay, glowy tree thing is on the ground, button ready to push."
"Ready," said Fargo. "Now, one... Two... Three!"
Jack pushed the button on three.
For a second, he thought nothing had happened, and then there was a wash of colored light and a tingling that he hoped wasn't him being turned into a tree or something.
When he blinked himself back to reality, he and the tree seemed to be in Dr. Wallace's back yard, with a bemused-looking scientist and a small, floppy-eared dog.
"No, Gromit!" said the man, when the dog started for the no-longer-glowing device. "Sorry, Sheriff, I'm Dr. Wallace, what brings you to my backyard?"
Jack grinned. "You did, actually," he said. He started to explain when his phone rang. "Carter. Henry! You're all right."
"I'm all right," said Henry, voice warm and amused as ever. "Fargo tells me he got to push the button that saved us?"
Jack laughed. "Yeah, he did. Look, did you want to head over here and help me explain things to Dr. Wallace?"
"Sure," said Henry. "Just let me take a few more readings here."
"See you soon," said Jack, smiling despite himself.
Dr. Wallace smiled. "You and Henry, huh?" he said, bending down to ruffle his dog's hair, a good ear-scratching that distracted it from its continued advance on the device.
"Me and Henry what?" asked Jack, taking a moment to look around the back yard now that it was all here. There was another, bigger device over in one corner, and all of the pine trees in the shared yard were decorated with lights. "Is that Arthur's doing?" he asked, gesturing toward the elaborately-lit trees.
"Yeah," said Dr. Wallace. "I couldn't stop him if I tried, so I no longer try." He gave Jack a strange look, and then added, "So you're not with Henry?"
"I'm not with... Oh, you mean 'with' with. No, no, I've got a daughter," said Jack, blushing.
"Ah," said Dr. Wallace, sounding irritatingly dubious. "Well, he's lucky to have you as a friend, then, I could tell you were worried. Did something happen?"
"Yeah," said Jack, getting back to the matter at hand. "You could say that."
"So," said Jack, sliding onto a stool next to Henry, "what was it like being made of hyperreal photons?"
Henry chuckled. "I don't really remember, Dr. Wallace and I theorized that our consciousness was suspended in a matrix of frozen light, but in all honesty I'm just glad I didn't stay that way."
"Me, too," said Jack, warm and sincere. "Eureka sucked while you were gone."
Henry chuckled. "You say the sweetest things. Hey, Vincent, two cheeseburgers to go? Make one bison with sweet potato fries."
"Will do," said Vincent. "For you, Jack?"
"I think one of those is for me," Jack said, surprised. "I'd love a hot chocolate, if you think my cholesterol can take it."
"I suppose, just this once," said Vincent with an amused grin. "Henry, should I make that a double?"
"Sure, you've been working on that new formula, right?" asked Henry.
Vincent grinned. "I've just about got it right, so a review from the two of you would be wonderful. Just a tick." He vanished into the back, and Jack smiled at Henry.
"So," asked Jack, "where are we taking this feast to go?"
Henry grinned. "It's a surprise," he said. "You'll like it, though, I promise."
"I already do," Jack assured him, grinning right back.
They chatted about inconsequential things until their food arrived, two nice big hot chocolates and two wonderfully greasy bags of cheeseburgers and fries. "Thanks, Vincent. I promise not to tell SARAH," said Jack, grabbing his bag with a grin and having a couple of the hot, perfectly salted fries.
"Oh, don't worry, she and I are working out some alternative solutions for you," said Vincent. "I'm just not used to having to bow to such a pedestrian palate."
Jack laughed. "You guys can use a little pedestrian around here once in awhile."
"Thanks, Vincent," said Henry, hefting his own food and drink.
The two of them headed back outside, food in hand and matching grins on their faces. "So," said Jack, "your truck or mine?"
Henry gave Jack a speculative look. "Yours, I think. Mine's a little attention-grabbing," he said, gesturing down toward the garage where the tow truck waited.
Jack laughed. "That's very true," he said, unlocking the Jeep and climbing in. "You'll have to give directions," he added, buckling himself in and taking his first swig of hot chocolate. The taste was dark and rich but not too bitter, with just enough sweet creaminess that he knew there was whipped cream on top, and a tiny hint of peppermint. "Oh my god, this is good."
Henry chuckled. "I'll be sure to give Vincent your review," said Henry, getting himself arranged. "Now come on, we need to go this way," said Henry, gesturing down Main Street.
"Will do," said Jack with a grin. He drove and ate fries out of his bag while Henry gave directions, never letting on their final destination, and didn't even mind the mystery. He trusted Henry, despite everything with Kim and the Artifact last year. Or maybe because of it, in a weird way.
Finally they pulled up to the entrance to the same subdivision where Dr. Wallace lived, only to find the whole place lit up with holiday lights, and rows of cars parked on the verge. "Just park anywhere," said Henry. "I hope you don't mind walking the rest of the way?"
Jack smiled nervously, feeling just a little bit like a high school girl on a surprise date, but he figured Henry just wanted to share one of Eureka's less explosive traditions with him. "Sure, but can I finish my cheeseburger first?"
Henry laughed and handed it over. "Let's both eat," he said.
They got the food polished off in short order and Jack managed to find a scarf and some gloves in the glove box of all places, while Henry activated some sort of personal warming field. They took their half-full hot chocolates and started wending their way through the maze of streets, Henry pointing out a particularly intricate display here while Jack took delight in the various caricatures there. Soon enough they were standing in front of the duplex at 14 Euclid Circle.
"They decided to work together, after we figured out that the EM field created by Einstein's remote-powered lighting in the back yard was what threw off Wallace's experiment," said Henry.
Jack smiled softly, watching the northern lights shift and flow up above the house, which was lit from one side to the other in simple, shining white. "It's gorgeous, as long as it's not going to turn us hyperreal," said Jack with a grin.
Henry put his arm around Jack's shoulders and smiled. "No, this time it's just beautiful," said Henry softly.
Jack turned, surprised, and found himself nose-to-nose with Henry's familiar face. Something flip-flopped in his stomach and brought back to him Dr. Wallace's earlier assumption. "Henry, are we... Is this a date?"
"If you want it to be, yeah," said Henry, his arm sliding down to encircle Jack's waist. "I'd like for it to be."
Jack's voice got low and breathy as he said, "I shouldn't be thinking about this on the first date." He was the one who closed the gap between them, testing his own reactions as much as Henry's as they kissed.
"Yeah, you should," said Henry with a grin, when the kiss ended.
Jack was confused about a lot of things, but his body had a perfectly straightforward suggestion for how to proceed with the evening, and he found his mouth working before his brain could even hope to catch up. "Should we go back to your place?"
Henry's grin grew blindingly white, and he pressed a warm, happy kiss to Jack's mouth. "Yeah, we should," he agreed.
Henry's house wasn't what Jack expected; it seemed he kept most of his tinkering confined to the garage.
"I only bring home the successful projects," said Henry, following Jack's gaze around the warm, cosy living room.
The decorating was an eclectic mix of art from the primitive to the very modern, including a few things that could only have come out of Eureka, most of it occupying the spaces between and in front of the vast array of books lining the walls. There was a fireplace that had a fire floating a few inches above a pile of what looked like gemstones, and dim lighting that seemed to come from nowhere. Here and there a bit of circuitry or a few tools betrayed Henry's passion for tinkering, but overall the place was clean, welcoming and very much Henry.
"This is nice," said Jack, hoping he didn't sound too surprised.
Henry grinned. "I'm glad you like it," he said, giving Jack's neck a little nuzzle.
Jack turned and kissed him, flushed and a little too warm when he pulled back. "I'm a little nervous," he admitted. Somehow it was easier with Henry than with a woman to just come out and say what he was thinking, instead of trying to pretend to be all cool.
"Let me get you a drink," said Henry. "I'm pretty sure I remember how it all goes, though it's been a while for me."
Jack chuckled, pulling off his gloves and scarf. "Sure, beer?"
"Beer it is," said Henry, vanishing through a doorway that went from dark to light to reveal a clean, modern kitchen much like Jack's own.
Jack watched, taking off his coat, too, and draping them over a nearby chair along with his gun belt. "Should I put my gun somewhere safer?" he asked, though there was no Zoe here to get into things. Which was part of the appeal, of course, not wanting to explain what he was doing with Henry to his daughter before he, himself quite knew.
"It'll be fine, I locked the door, though you could leave your shoes," said Henry, coming out with two glasses of beer. "Shall we sit by the fire?"
Jack toed off his shoes, leaving them next to the ones he hadn't noticed Henry discarding. "Are those real rubies?" asked Jack, letting himself be led.
"Fabricated, yes, these are flawed so they gave them to me as scrap," he said, retrieving one the size of a blueberry from the edge of the pile and tossing it to Jack.
"Wow," said Jack, looking at the fire through the sparkle of the stone. "Eureka never ceases to amaze me."
"That's one of the things I like about you," said Henry, moving closer. "You remind me to be less jaded about all of this." His gesture took in the fire, the room, the town.
Jack smiled. "That's one of the things I like about you, you never get mad at me for not knowing what a transdimensional particle, uh, death ray is," he said, winding his arms around Henry's waist.
Henry responded as Jack had hoped, winding his own arms around Jack's shoulders and kissing him. This kiss was slower and more exploratory than earlier, and Jack soon found himself hard as a rock in uniform pants that really weren't designed for it, even without the gun belt.
Henry seemed to sense his discomfort and pulled away, smiling. "We'll go as fast or slow as you like." He kissed him softly. "I just didn't want to miss out on my chance, this time."
"Dr. Wallace totally said something, didn't he?" said Jack, moving away to snag his beer and shift himself to a more comfortable position in his pants.
"He did, he's quite the romantic, actually," said Henry, amusement in his voice that said Jack's attempts to be subtle really weren't. "Let's sit on the rug?"
"It's not made of some weird experimental nano fiber that's going to try to eat us, is it?" asked Jack, only mostly joking.
"Not even a little bit," said Henry with a grin. "I got it at Ikea."
"Perfect," said Jack, letting Henry arrange them so they were leaning back against one of the chairs with a soft fleece blanket over their laps, the chill of the night finally leaving his fingers and toes.
"Jack, I want you to know, I wouldn't start this if I didn't intend to stay with it," said Henry softly. "Not with Zoe and all."
Jack gave Henry a soft kiss, finding he enjoyed not having to taste lipstick or worry about smearing anyone's makeup for once. "I know you wouldn't, that's part of why I'm here."
They fell silent after that, drinking and kissing and watching the strange fire until the beer was gone and they'd slid down to a far more horizontal position on the rug. Jack felt a bit like a teenager again, discovering new territory and terrified of getting it wrong, but he had a feeling that Henry wouldn't be nearly as judgmental as Missy Halston in eighth grade.
"Do you want to stay out here, or take this to the bedroom?" asked Henry, big hands running up and down Jack's back.
"If I put out on the first date, will you still respect me in the morning?" asked Jack, only half joking.
Henry chuckled. "Oh, yes. But you'll have to call home and let them know where you are, if you stay."
Jack sighed. "Yeah, I... I'll do that," he said, though the idea of calling Zoe was a bit of a damper to his well-stoked libido. He fished his phone out of his clothes and dialed. "Hey, Zoe?"
"Are you coming home for dinner?" asked Zoe perfunctorily. "SARAH wants to make me wait."
"I'm not, no, Henry wants me to help him with an experiment, so I'll be at his place all night," said Jack, relieved to have thought of the slight misdirection. It was an experiment, and one only Henry and Jack could manage together for the same results. Hopefully one they'd like well enough to repeat. "No Lucas," he added sharply.
"We're supposed to study tonight!" protested Zoe.
Jack sighed. "Fine, no Lucas after nine, and I'll ask SARAH what you two got up to when I get home."
Zoe grumbled but agreed, and made him tell SARAH where he'd be for posterity so she'd let Zoe eat. That out of the way and his nervousness all the way back and then some, Jack turned to Henry. "I'm all yours," he said with a pathetic lack of conviction.
Henry chuckled. "Not yet, but maybe a little bit mine tonight."
Jack laughed and relaxed, letting Henry kiss him again. "Come on, give me the tour," said Jack, voice a little rough when they came up for air.
"You've got it," said Henry, standing and pulling Jack up with him, the blanket falling away. He snagged their empty glasses and grinned. "Kitchen first?"
They left the glasses in the dishwasher, and Henry showed Jack where to find water or a midnight snack, should he need it, stopping for kisses frequently. They made their way down the hall, closets and guest rooms and a messy office pointed out before they ended up in the master bedroom, with Henry's big bed. The sheets were a warm cinnamon red under a brightly-patterned comforter, and everything was still rumpled from when Henry got up that morning.
Somehow, that made Jack feel better, and he found himself unbuttoning his shirt before he'd even decided to. "This is nice," he said, looking around at the room while he took off his uniform shirt, leaving the undershirt on for now. The clutter in here was different, big paintings taking up most of the walls along with the bureau, the top covered in little bits and bobs and some framed photos of life in Eureka. There was only one bookshelf, and it held mostly dog-eared paperback novels instead of the range of technical and cultural books outside, with more personal knickknacks shoved in wherever they'd fit.
Henry smiled, pulling off his own shirt and exposing his fit torso. "I'm glad you like it," he said, his voice full of sensual promise now.
Jack swallowed, mouth suddenly a bit dry. "I do, yeah," he said, moving in for another kiss, running his hands up Henry's sides. His skin was soft and dry and very warm, not so different from a woman's, though with less padding to catch hold of, just muscle and sinew and bone. "I didn't realize you were in such good shape," said Jack, blushing a little at the ridiculous sentiment.
"Eureka keeps me on my toes," said Henry, hands on Jack's hips. "How about we lose the pants and get into bed? It's a little chilly in here."
"I'm keepin' my boxers," said Jack a little too quickly, getting a huffed chuckle from Henry.
"As am I," he agreed, stepping away so he could take off his belt and pants, revealing strong legs with wiry, dark hair sparsely scattered over their length. His boxers were bright red with white polka dots, which made Jack chuckle and, somehow, relax despite the tent in the front of them that should be intimidating.
Jack stripped off his own pants, boxers a boring white with pale blue pinstripes, and his own tent to go with them. "Shall we?" asked Henry, sliding into bed and lifting the covers for Jack.
Jack nodded and slipped in, then steeled himself and closed the last few inches, pressing up against Henry's mostly-naked body.
He was annoyed at how much it surprised him to like it.
"This is... good," said Jack, unable to keep the surprise out of his voice.
Henry laughed, low and sensual. "I'm glad you think so, or else the experiment would be doomed to failure."
Jack laughed with him, relieved. "You've, uh, done this before, right?"
"Not in a while, but I'm told it's like riding a bike. Not that anyone's going to ride anything tonight, mind you." His hands felt good running up and down Jack's back, and Jack only jumped a little when one trailed down to give his bottom a squeeze.
Jack blushed. "So, uh, does that make me the girl?"
"That makes you the other guy," corrected Henry gently, and kissed him again.
Jack threw himself into the kissing thing, his hands mostly still at first until he relaxed, then grew tense again in a totally different way, his legs twining with Henry's, their hips colliding and their erections sliding against each other through the thin material of their boxers. It was weird, but not bad at all, and once Henry coaxed him out of his shirt it felt even better to have their chests rubbing together. It took him a minute to get used to the roughness of leg and chest hair, but once he did it was good, and then it was all good.
"Ohgod, I, I'm gonna," gasped Jack, breaking their kiss and moving his hips away abruptly.
"I thought that was kinda the point," said Henry, amused and aroused and looking very much like he might, soon, too. Then a wicked grin spread over his face and he said, "Lay on your back, you'll like this. All guys like this."
Jack blushed and grinned and let himself be laid back against the pillows. Henry disappeared under the covers and pulled Jack's underwear down, and Jack's hands clutched at the sheets so they wouldn't pull at his hair. "Henry, you're sure you want to, ohgod," said Jack, thoughs coming to a complete halt as Henry began to lick and suck at his balls. "Really, ohgod, do, like that."
Henry's voice held a grin as he said, "I know," His lips and tongue were magic, and all of a sudden Jack felt like he had to see, had to make sure his brain and libido connected this to Henry, because it was one of the best blowjobs Jack had ever had and he wasn't even getting blown yet.
Jack scrambled for the covers, pushing them back until he could watch, looking at Henry's familiar face doing pornographic things between his legs. "Henry," he breathed out, and Henry kissed his hip in reward.
"Told you I'd remember," said Henry teasingly, and then he finally sucked Jack's cock into his mouth, starting with just the tip and using his lips and tongue to tease at the sensitive crown.
Jack melted back into the pillows, stammering, "Really, really, really good."
Henry's laugh rumbled through his cock and straight to his balls, and Jack felt himself getting even harder. Henry took that as his cue and slid his mouth further down, using one hand to stroke the base while his head bobbed up and down over the top half, sucking with wicked intent, his eyes closed as he concentrated on pleasuring Jack.
"Henry, god, gonna... Please!" said Jack, feeling a bit desperate as his balls drew up and the tingling went from warning to imminent danger.
Henry made a rumbling noise of approval and that was it, Jack went off in his mouth helplessly, the pleasure overwhelming him as he came.
Jack managed to blink open his eyes again just as Henry was pulling off his cock, and watching Henry lick away the last traces of come was an image that would stay with Jack for a very long time. "That was. Wow."
Henry grinned. "Thank you," he said, gently restoring Jack's modesty by pulling his boxers back up, then the covers, coming up himself finally. "Can I kiss you?"
"I feel like I should be asking that, holy... Wow," said Jack, still a bit dazed. He pulled Henry down for a kiss that, while it didn't taste great, did taste of sex and skin and them, and that was good enough for Jack. "Can you teach me to do that?" he asked, once he became aware of Henry still hard against him.
"Oh, Jack, you don't have to..." protested Henry, but it was a bit token even to Jack's ears.
Jack chuckled. "I'm not here because I have to be," he reminded his... what, lover? His Henry, anyway. "It certainly wouldn't be the weirdest thing I've had in my mouth today. I mean, chlorophyll?"
Henry laughed. "All right, if you're sure," he said.
"I'm sure," said Jack, first shimmying out of his own boxers, figuring that ship had sailed, and then diving under the covers to pull off Henry's.
Henry pushed the blankets down just as Jack had, but Jack didn't dive right in the way Henry had. He took a minute just to look, and found it wasn't any weirder or more offputting than what he was used to, really. People's bits looked funny no matter whose they were, and good sex was messy and weird and awkward in all the best ways. "Any pointers?" asked Jack, leaning in and inhaling.
It was different, yeah, but still unmistakably the smell of sex, musky and human.
Henry let out a ragged laughing moan. "You're doing pretty well already, Jack, just explore, use your hands and mouth and whatever else comes to mind."
"I can do that," said Jack, feeling his confidence rise. He stroked the skin of Henry's thighs, admiring the warm brown color and firm muscles, feeling the little prickle of the sparse hairs against his palms, then moved in to where they were smoother. His balls were hairy, too, but it was longer and even sparser, and felt crinkly against Jack's fingertips. The texture was familiar from a thousand showers and a thousand more solo sessions, and Jack found himself palming and rolling Henry's balls with only a little awkwardness for the angle.
"Ohhh, that's it, Jack, you know what's good," said Henry, voice gratifyingly shaky.
"It's easier to tell," said Jack, slipping his fingers around and up the length of Henry's cock. This, too, was mostly familiar, though the angle and shape were both different. The texture of it, soft skin over hard flesh, was something Jack had been intimately familiar with since he was old enough to get hard, and he found it fascinating to feel someone else's cock twitch in his hand. The head was already slick and purple, and Jack slid his fingers curiously through it, spreading the wetness as much as he could before leaning in to take a taste.
He sat back, considering. "Salty," he said, stroking with his fingers as he leaned back in, "but not bad." He licked all around the head, spreading that moisture, too, until the whole shaft was at least a little slippery, making it easier to stroke him.
"Gets bitter later," gasped Henry, moaning again when Jack sucked at the head. "Tighter?"
"Tighter, got it," said Jack, closing his hand more, a little tighter than he usually liked but he figured all guys must be a little different.
Jack closed his mouth back over the head and started exploring with his tongue, thinking about the things Henry had just done to him that had felt so amazing. It took him a minute to figure out the trick of covering his teeth, but soon enough he was clumsily coordinating his mouth and hand.
"Jack, god, not, not gonna last," said Henry, voice rough and hitching.
Jack opened his eyes long enough to see Henry's face, shining with sweat and full of real pleasure and desire. He made a little noise of appreciation and swallowed hard, then went back to what he was doing, finding it less awkward with that mental picture for motivation. He was still mostly unprepared when Henry shouted his name and suddenly bitter, thick fluid was spurting into his mouth, and he had to pull off and swallow, which got him a shot in the face before he put his mouth back to drink the rest.
Once he knew it was coming, it wasn't so bad, and he figured it'd be easier to clean up when it wasn't all over his face.
"Christ, Jack, ohgod, you, you," Henry couldn't seem to form a coherent sentence, even when he'd finished spurting and Jack had, emulating him, licked away the last few drops of bitter fluid. It wasn't great-tasting, but it wasn't even the worst thing he'd eaten today, let alone in his life. And, really, the reward was worth it, especially if he got to brush his teeth later.
Henry tugged Jack up for a very hot kiss, and then he was licking the come off Jack's cheek with a laugh. "You always were a messy eater," said Henry, kissing him again.
"At least I'm consistent," said Jack with a grin. He stole another kiss and then made a face and asked, "I don't suppose you've got a spare toothbrush?"
Henry laughed and hugged him tight. "Yeah, come on, we could both use a dose of minty fresh."
They retrieved their boxers and shared the bathroom with a surprising sense of comfort, Henry finding him a brand-new toothbrush and Jack laughing at the state of his hair. Soon enough they were tucked back into the warm bed with their phones on the nightstands and alarms set for morning.
"I don't know what I'd do if I lost you," said Jack softly, into the silence. It would probably feel strange for a long time to cuddle with a man, but for Henry -- and more of his wonderful blowjobs -- Jack would cope.
Henry smiled softly and gave Jack a very thorough kiss. "You didn't, and now you've got more of me than ever." He searched Jack's face for a moment, then asked in an amused voice, "It's not so bad, being with a man, is it?"
Jack chuckled. "Naah. Tastes better than that muffin, anyway."
Henry's laugh had never sounded so good.
Title: A Taste of Home