"The Temporal Encapsulation Determination Extrapolation device will pinpoint an instance in time and wrap over itself to form an Einstein-Rosen bridge linking this time to that one."
"Like a time machine," Jack stated, interrupting Doctor Yearsday's explanation of her latest experiment and stopping her from approaching a device she was about to switch on.
She stared at him for a moment, one eye twitching before sighing. "Yes. It's like a time machine."
"Yeah, and time travel is banned in... places."
"Which places?" she demanded.
"Many... many places," he floundered but he was certain it was written down somewhere as a very bad idea. Plus he'd already experienced two time experiments that had gone very wrong. One had left him and a few of the others stranded in this strangely different version of the universe, and the other had killed Nathan Stark. Fargo said Nathan had been deleted but Jack figured it meant the same thing. Nathan Stark was gone. Vanished in a cloud of sparkles.
She narrowed her eyes at him as he reached out to pull the power. "Don't you touch my TEDE."
"Teddy?" He glanced around, wondering why she would have a stuffed children's toy in the laboratory, unless she intended to send it back through time, but he couldn't spot anything that looked even remotely like...
"Temporal Encapsulation Determination Extrapolation. TEDE."
Yeah, of course, he thought, and sighed. "You can't switch it on. Not without Henry's say-so."
"Director Deacon has fully signed off on this project."
"Yeah... and that's what they all say."
Henry had put it another way when he described the tendency for Global's scientists to lie about having the official go-ahead to start up certain experiments - Better to ask forgiveness than ask permission.
All the brainiacs figured their experiments would be world-changing and therefore worth the risk. Weinbrenner had made that same mistake, setting them in a time loop counting down to the end of the universe, and he cost the life of someone Jack had only just started to see as more than a rival for Allison's affection. Except she had made her choice and one time loop in particular had put him totally straight on that score when he asked her directly and she told him she was in love with Nathan Stark.
A few years after Nathan's death, and after a kiss back in 1947 showed a little promise, he and Allison had tried dating. Unfortunately things hadn't worked out, mostly because it turned out they were both in love with someone else; the same someone else who was beyond the reach of both of them.
Eventually, Allison moved on - just not with him - leaving Eureka and all its good and bad memories behind.
As for him finding out he had feelings for Nathan? That had come as a bit of a shock as he had never exactly gone for the tall, dark, and egotistically arrogant before but, otherwise? Yeah, there was a valid reason why he had joined law enforcement rather than go into the then-homophobic military. Not that it mattered in this 'new' version of the universe. Something as mundane as gender was immaterial in a world where 'psychic chemistry' was more important than whether your genitals were on the inside or the outside of your body, though not everyone was lucky enough to ever find their perfect match. Bad luck for those people but, as far as Jack was concerned, it was good luck for the small group displaced from a different version of the universe. If everyone had psychic links other than them, then they would have stuck out like a sore thumb, and someone might have figured out they didn't belong in this universe long before they'd had a chance to blend in.
For a while Jack was convinced none of the group would find this perfect psychic match - at least not until Henry met Grace - a gorgeous, intelligent lady who complimented Henry perfectly - Fargo met Holly - who was just as weird and clever as Fargo - and then Allison met Doctor Steven Evans while attending a meeting at Area 51. Jo had already rediscovered the love of her life was Zane, leaving only Jack who had yet to meet anyone who truly clicked with him.
He had taken the time to read up on this whole psychic thing and these links came in levels of strength that varied from relatively mild to triggering what they called Sentinel status. Jack figured his link with Abby had been one of the mild kinds, and maybe that was why they hadn't lasted. He knew she still loved him in her own way, just as he still cared for her, but sometimes love simply wasn't enough. Since then Abby had met someone with a stronger psychic link and she was happy. Zoe? Not so happy with her new stepfather, which was why she had kept running away, eventually all the way here to Eureka.
As for this Sentinel aspect of the psychic link, the scientists had noticed a high percentage of Sentinels tended to be drawn into law enforcement or the military long before their Sentinel status was triggered. The trigger tended to come when they met the one person who could ground them - their Guide. On paper a Sentinel's abilities sounded amazing, with all five senses extended to exceptional levels, but Jack could see the flip side of the coin, becoming so lost in a smell, or a sound, or in the sight of some object, and needing someone - their Guide - to bring them back from out of an almost comatose state. As much as he liked the idea of having 'superpowers', he hated the idea of being so reliant on another person.
"You're standing in the way of the greatest discovery in human history!"
Her words interrupted his straying thoughts. Jack frowned, glad he wasn't a Sentinel as he already had enough problems getting lost in his own thoughts without worrying over getting hypnotized into a stupor by some sparkly lights.
"Yeah, they all say that too. Still going to have to wait until I've checked in with Henry."
It turned out Doctor Yearsday was quite spritely for an older woman in her sixties, darting around him and smacking her hand down on a big red button triumphantly. The device began to whirl and shake alarmingly, with wisps of smoke curling up from behind the console. Sparks and crackles followed, and Jack had a very bad feeling about it when Doctor Yearsday's smug expression faded first into confusion and then fear. He leaped forward and tackled her to the ground just as the top of the console exploded. The shriek of metal made him wince but he kept his head down, and it slowly fading away to a whisper. When he figured it might be safe he pushed up to his feet and stared at the scorch marks all around the previously pristine off-site laboratory.
Something caught the corner of his eye; a ripple effect inside a cylinder in the corner of the laboratory that had him stepping a little closer as curiosity got the better of him. It all looked strangely familiar, gathering speed and intensity until it was outlining a human shape that slowly coalesced into a very familiar form. Jack glanced aside at Yearsday, seeing a similar expression of curiosity on her face that quickly turned to triumph.
"YES!" she cried out, and did a little dance on the spot as the sparkles finished forming, becoming the one person Jack thought was lost forever: Nathan Stark.
Jack realized why the equipment in her laboratory looked so familiar. It was Weinbrenner's equipment, though without the scorch marks, and with a different seal on the time unit making it just different enough he hadn't recognized it. Jack thought Allison or Fargo had disposed of it after the accident but Yearsday must have had it moved out here a few years back. It was only then he realized Nathan was looking right at him with either a confused or constipated expression. Jack wasn't certain which. Nathan unlatched the door and stepped out, acknowledging the excited Doctor Yearsday but focusing solely on Jack.
"You're still alive," Nathan stated, and that was a new one because although Jack had experienced a few close calls over the years, he couldn't recall any time he'd actually died. Not even after Carl Carlson diverted that energy gun pulse straight into his chest, or when he fell from the Da Vinci bridge.
"I was going to say the same about you," he replied, only to get raised eyebrows before Nathan glanced around and realized he wasn't inside Global Dynamics anymore.
"You turned into a shower of sparks and got deleted."
"Hmm. I computed a 62% chance that could happen."
"And you decided not to tell me?" Jack felt angry now because he should have been the one to press the goddamned button, or whatever it was, rather than Nathan.
"Considering the other 38% was incineration I decided not to say anything in case you went all heroic on me, Sheriff." He turned away before Jack could find an answering retort. "I presume I have you to thank for retrieving me, Doctor Yearsday?"
"You are most welcome, Doctor Stark. I told Henry not to trust in Weinbrenner's calculations - Rest his soul. He always forgot to factor in temporal resonance between the multi-verses."
"Wait! Why did you think I was dead?" Jack demanded before Yearsday could go into some long rambling discussion with Nathan using lots of large words that would make no sense at all to Jack, and probably give him a headache.
Nathan opened his mouth, closed it, then sighed. "Because the whole world outside of the temporal unit... turned into a shower of sparkles and got deleted," he replied, using Jack's own words. "I thought our attempt to restart the photon had failed and the whole universe was gone, except for me." He glanced more closely at Jack. "How long was I deleted?"
Jack knew it down to the minute but even he wasn't stupid enough to say it out loud - Nathan's ego was already big enough without Jack adding to it by admitting how much it had affected him - so he half-shrugged. "Two, maybe three years."
"Three years, four months, twenty-three days, sixteen hours, and 42 minutes approximately," Doctor Yearsday almost sing-songed. "I've contacted Henry. He's on his way."
Nathan nodded his thanks and turned back to Jack. "Allie?"
"She... kind of..... met....... someone......... new," he trailed off, lost in the swirls of color in Nathan's blue-green eyes, inhaling the musk of a familiar, expensive aftershave clinging to the air around Nathan as if Jack could sense every molecule. If he reached out he knew his fingertips would brush across warm skin, as silky as the tie still elegantly fastened around Nathan's neck.
He heard his name as if from a great distance; Nathan's deep voice penetrating the fog in Jack's brain and Jack straightened to find Nathan was still staring at him, so close. Jack pulled back sharply when he realized he was not only staring right back but touching Nathan, his fingers stroking, differentiating between silken skin and the coarser bristles of Nathan's beard.
Nathan grabbed Jack's hand in a lightning fast reaction before Jack could pull away completely, head tilted slightly, eyes narrowed, and brow furled with confusion.
"I don't understand. We've met before. Touch before," he added, and Jack could recall Nathan reaching down to help him to back on his feet just after they were nearly microwaved to death at Global. "So why...? Why now?"
"Why have you turned Sentinel? I can... feel you. Here," he touched his head, making Jack aware of a new pressure inside his head linking him to Nathan.
Various swear words went through Jack's thoughts and he glanced back at Doctor Yearsday just to confirm she was standing far enough away not to overhear their conversation. For some reason Jack thought the Nathan Stark who had just reappeared would be the deleted one from the old universe, and he felt like smacking himself for making such a stupid mistake. He would have to tell Nathan the truth about him and the others.... or not...
"We'd always had a mild psychic link," he winced, "which I chose to ignore in favor of Allison. The deletion and reinstatement must have altered me in some manner," Nathan added. Jack almost sighed in relief only to see those blue-green eyes narrow suspiciously. "Or you're not the real Jack Carter."
"Hey! I'm... real."
Nathan's lips twitched. "Really?"
"Yeah! And how do I know you're not some doppelganger."
"Big word, Carter! Doesn't help your case any."
"I know big words!" he retorted.
Nathan was outright smiling now, and Jack realized he was being teased, and it was likely he'd always been teased by Nathan in the past, looking to get a rise out of him.
"You... You... I don't even have small words to describe you right now."
Still smiling, Nathan reached out with one hand to cup Jack's face. "Words are overrated anyhow," he murmured as he leaned in to kiss Jack, lips settling over Jack's perfectly.
Jack felt his senses stretching both outwards and inwards at the same time as he pulled Nathan in closer. He heard the hitch of breath from Yearsday on the far side of the laboratory; he could feel the thrum of blood through Nathan's veins, his strong heartbeat matching Jack's; he could feel the imperfections in Nathan's skin that made him so perfect. The scent of Nathan threatened to overwhelm him, drowning him in sensation and yet Nathan's very presence kept him tethered, kept him afloat in this sea of overloading senses.
Jack had it on good authority from Taggart, who tended to over-share with far too much personal information, that a kiss with the right person was mind-blowing. Something about the psychic link making everything so incredibly good. As he pulled back, his lips tingling following the best kiss of his life, he had to admit for once Taggart was right.