The trip back in time to Camp Eureka in 1947 was an eye-opener for Jack in more ways than one. First he let himself get played by the chief scientist, Doctor Grant, and nearly ended up stranded in the past, and then he kissed Allison for the second time, just in case he never got the chance again, only to feel no sparks at all. Nothing. Zilch. He was so sure there had been sparks with the first kiss, back when they were trying to make Nathan Stark jealous and angry enough to bring all his nanite clones to the dance hall, but for this second kiss? Nothing.
Some days later, after he had confirmed Zoe was alive and well, and after he had gone through some of the more recent case files to get a feel for this changed world, he sat in his Cherokee overlooking Copernicus Park. Despite everything there were only minor differences in his personal and professional life. He was already missing having Jo as his deputy but he couldn't begrudge her the promotion to Chief of Security at Global Dynamics, and Deputy Andy had his uses. The biggest surprise was Fargo, and it had only taken a couple of days for the brainiac to embrace his role as if he was Nathan Stark reincarnated.
"Maybe time travel messed with my mojo?" he mumbled aloud to himself, or maybe it was the fear and desperation that had soured the experience.
Whatever the case, Jack had felt awkward around Allison since then, though if she had noticed then she said nothing. He knew she had to adjust to several major changes in her life, taking her 'demotion' from Director to Head of Medical Research in her stride if only because it gave her more time and freedom to explore a whole new relationship with a no longer autistic Kevin. So many of her poor decisions in the past - and Stark's - had come from wanting to protect and nurture their autistic son. As a father he understood that need to protect all too well, dwelling on a few of his own frantic actions to keep Zoe safe; like hitting a fission, or fusion, or whatever it was reactor with a baseball bat to stop BRAD from disintegrating her.
For a moment he became lost in his memories of events that may or may not have happened in this new version of his life. He thought about all his interactions with Stark, wondering why the man was so often on his mind since his death... or deletion... or whatever technobabble phrase Henry and Fargo had used when they determined they couldn't bring him back. Jack had only stopped blaming himself for not being the one to die that day after Henry showed him exactly how complicated it was to input the final codes manually. Fargo had offered at the time but knowing Fargo's propensity for hitting the wrong button, maybe it was for the best it had been Nathan when the whole universe was at stake. Despite all the animosity between them he had trusted Nathan.
"Stark," he corrected himself, even though Stark had un-bended enough to refer to Jack by his given name in those last few precious seconds.
'See you around, Jack.'
It hadn't made them friends. Frenemies, perhaps. Though with Jack's thoughts and desires no longer focused on Allison maybe they could have become friends one day. Not that he could see 'Nathan' lounging in the Bunker with a beer, pizza, and baseball.
"More likely some expensive wine and Fettuccine-Alfredo-whatever," Jack snorted, initially amused at the thought and then saddened from knowing it could never happen now.
It was weird how the mind conjured up images, and perhaps it was only his thoughts of Nathan that plagued him now but the tall, dark-haired man striding towards the Cherokee looked remarkably like Nathan Stark.
"Holy Cow!" he exclaimed when the man came close enough to remove any shadow of doubt. Jack got out of the Cherokee and...
"Sheriff? Miss me?"
Jack had deliberately shied away from reading the reports dealing with the time loop and Nathan's death because he had no intention of reliving that trauma. He'd simply assumed it had all followed the same tragic path because Fargo was now the Director of Global Dynamics and Allison had never remarried Nathan on that fateful day, but she still had Jenna. Plus all the later cases made no mention of Stark, and there was no way Nathan's enormous ego would have let that happen, especially when there was always the opportunity for ridiculing Jack in the process. He was big enough to admit a small part of him had hoped to find Nathan alive and well in this new universe but his absence had taken away all hope, leaving Jack feeling strangely depressed... until now.
"Ouch!" Nathan feigned being hurt. "I did warn I'd be incommunicado," he threw his arms wide, "But I'm back! Surprise!"
Jack frowned as he wasn't used to Stark looking uncomfortable in his presence. Usually he was preening or smirking as he showed off his superiority at Jack's expense.
'Not always,' Jack's inner voice stated, Jack could recall a few times when Nathan stopped being so competitive and treated him like a worthy individual. Usually no one was around at those times, especially Allison, so maybe his posturing had been for their audience, with each of them trying to one-up each other for show.
"So you're back... from where, exactly?" Jack hedged.
"You know I can't tell you that, Jack."
Jack. Nathan had called him Jack, just as he had the last time Jack had seen him alive, moments before he was... gone. It made his heart ache.
"So what can you tell me?" he asked, because he didn't have to be a genius to realize his best bet of finding out what had happened during the time loop incident, and immediately after was by getting Nathan to do all the talking.
Nathan looked around and indicated towards a park bench about twenty feet away. They sat down warily, knees touching as they angled towards each other. For someone who tended to use the biggest words in the dictionary just to confuse Jack, Nathan seemed to be having a hard time deciding what to say. Jack assumed he was looking for words of less than four syllables for a change - keeping it simple. He never expected the words that followed.
"I couldn't marry Allison after what happened. I faced Death square in the face that day and realized..." he trailed off, lost for words again.
"Realized what?" Jack prompted gently.
"I realized I wasn't in love with her anymore, and I hadn't been in love with her for some time."
Jack nodded. "Okay."
"I'm in love with you, Jack."
Jack froze, taken aback by this revelation. He blinked as if he had to make sure his eyes and ears were working correctly. Nathan Stark, former bane of his existence had just professed to being in love with him, and what was more astounding, his heart had skipped a beat, not out of shock but out of excitement. Seeing Nathan alive had started to lift the shadow he hadn't realized was hovering over him until now, but this soft confession felt like stepping out into the sunshine for the first time in years. Jack knew this feeling having felt it twice before in this life - for Angie, who had died in that terrible car accident when he was in his teens, and for Abby before their lives took them in different directions. He thought he felt this way for Allison but it was obvious now his feelings for her were a mere shadow of how he felt about Nathan. So many of his and Nathan's arguments, and one-upmanship, and acts of jealousy suddenly made sense to him. It was never Allison they were trying to impress but each other, and he had been too stupid to figure that out.
He blinked again, realizing Nathan was waiting for some kind of response but Jack had no words to describe how he felt.
"Who needs words?" he murmured, reaching out and tugging Nathan's head towards him as he kissed him soundly on the lips.
Judging by Nathan's initial response he had not expected that at all, but the one thing Jack knew about Nathan from all the weird events they'd handled in Eureka since he arrived in this loony-tunes town was Nathan's ability to think fast on his feet and get with the program. He didn't disappoint now, pulling Jack in to deepen the kiss. Eventually they pulled back, breathing heavily. Jack rubbed a hand over his cheeks.
"Never kissed someone with a beard before," he remarked.
"So no bearded ladies in your Freak Show past then, Jack?"
Jack rolled his eyes, "This town is the Freak Show," he emphasized. "So where do you fit in now?"
Nathan smirked, and Jack felt himself melting at the sight rather than bristling as he had in the past.
"Ringmaster," he declared, keeping the analogy going.
"Fargo better start looking for a new Circus Act then," Jack quipped, smiling back at Nathan wryly before sobering. "So where does this leave us? And Allison."
"Allison told me how I felt about you," he admitted.
"So that's why you ran? Because of me?"
Nathan shrugged, not denying it. "I thought you were in love with her."
"I thought I was too," Jack replied softly.
"Oh I think it's pretty obvious how I feel now. Just don't let it go to your head or you might not fit through the Bunker's door."
Nathan smirked slyly. "On the first date, Sheriff? Rumor had it you don't put out until after dinner and many, many drinks."
"Then maybe you should buy me dinner first," he retorted.
"Cafe Diem. Seven tonight," Nathan barked, and before Jack could object to being ordered around he was being kissed again, thoroughly, his mind only clearing as he watched Nathan walking swiftly away.
"Damn," he murmured, suddenly aware of what he had gotten himself into, and wondering how Zoe was going to take it.
Looking back years later he knew he had worried needlessly as Allison was not the only one who had figured it out and kept quiet. Zoe had known too but as she thought Nathan was in love with Allison, she had 'allowed him his delusion' of being in love with Allison too.
Though the years between were full of crazy Eureka-style events, and they continued to bait each other and quarrel like an old married couple - Taggart's words, not Jack's - they always went home to each other, soothing away any minor hurts, and reaffirming their love every day. It wasn't perfect but both of them had broken marriages behind them so they knew they had to work with what they had.
And that was more than enough to last them both a lifetime of happiness together.