Summary: Jack has been waiting for this day for three years of looking after a silent Daniel. He's nothing if not a patient man.
Info: Sequel to Private Universe - won't make much sense if you haven't read it. Written ages ago and only just remembered. Beta by the gorgeous Catspaw
The airport is a scene straight from hell. I didn't imagine that it was going to be easy exactly, but I hadn't anticipated just how difficult it was going to be for you. The security announcements blare out distortedly, the glaring shop signs demand attention, the constant barrage of information and noise that I can simply tune out are a battering ram to you, and I can see you're struggling.
I hadn't counted on us getting caught up here while a cold front coming south and a warm front moving east duked it out over the top of us, dropping temperatures and more rain and wind on this corner of Minnesota than it's seen in years. And we're talking about a place that sees a lot of rain and wind. The airport was closed down yesterday - nothing coming or going. Today there're flights moving, but we've been caught in the backlog of tired, miserable delayed passengers.
We've managed to check in our luggage, answered the first round of questions and endured the curious looks, and now we're safe for a few minutes in the mercifully quiet first class lounge. I know you'd flip if you understood how expensive these tickets are, but it's worth it for the way you are visibly relaxing for the first time today, sinking into the leather armchair furthest away from the tv and watching out of the window at the taxiing aeroplanes while the rain flows in a network of runnels down the glass.
I get you a coffee and some juice for myself, and glance at the headlines on the complimentary newspapers. I never read unless you are engrossed in something else. I know you'd think I was being an idiot, but it just seems unfair to me. I don't feel like I'm missing out, and I want to be watching in case you have something you want to tell me.
I scan the departures monitor to see if our flight's been moved up, but no luck, and then I glance back across at you to see if you're looking my way, to see if you want some fruit or cookies or anything else from the table full of snacks that comes with a four figure flight price.
And Christ, I've only stepped away for a minute and already there's a guy come and sat down opposite you, briefcase and coat laid on the chair next to him. He's got a Scientific American in one hand and a coke in the other, and his body language is open and friendly, inviting you to make a comment, say hi, bitch about the weather. What is it about you that makes people want to talk? It doesn't matter where we are in the galaxy, you just seem to incite people into conversation. And while that used to be sort of okay, it sure does give me a headache these days.
My heart leaps into my throat, and it's all I can do to stay where I am and not come charging in to warn him off. But I want to.
You hate it when I do that. You hate that I think you can't deal with these situations - and it's not that I think you're incapable - I know you are. I just don't want you to have to deal with it. You don't get that, and there's no way that I can explain it to you. God knows I've tried.
You hate the thought that I have to protect you from stupid, everyday shit like this - I've seen enough anger from you when you've thought I was too quick to intervene. I know it's me you lash out at, but I also know that it's yourself you're furious with.
I don't blame you.
"Hey," the guy says when you turn your head to see who has disturbed you. He's short-haired and blond, with an expensive tie and a navy business suit that's been fitted to show how broad his shoulders are. He has an easy smile and quiet voice in deference to your introspection.
You smile uncertainly, your eyes already sliding away, back to the rain, but the guy isn't taking the hint.
"Hope the weather's better where you're headed," he continues, popping open his coke and pouring it into a glass filled with ice. "I'm on my way to Reykjavik, but I figure at least it won't be raining, right?"
Your shoulders hunch a little as he speaks, like you're trying to shrink into yourself, give him a smaller target, and I get that slow ache in my chest that has become so familiar to me since you came back.
"So, where're you headed?"
You must recognise that was a question that required an answer, because you glance at him quickly, then slowly touch your ear and your mouth followed by your sweeping negative, your hand falling into your lap like punctuation.
"Hey, are you okay?" the man says, leaning forward in his chair, and the urge to come over and stand between him and you is almost overwhelming. I can feel my fingers curling tight around your cup, my skin pricking and stinging from the heat of the coffee.
But you don't look for me, and that is the only thing that stops me.
I watch you take a deep breath, then turn your body away from the glass and toward him, so there's no misunderstanding. Clearly this time, your gestures measured and deliberate, you touch your ear and then cover your mouth with your hand before you hold your palm up toward him, your hand describing a line, left to right, across your body. You watch and wait for him to get it.
And he does. Finally. He sits back in his armchair, his eyes going wide. "Oh! You're... oh! Sorry. I had no idea."
You smile gently, understandingly, and you're apologising? The jerk forces his company on you and you're apologising to him?
In an unexpected leap of intellect, the guy suddenly looks around the room and spots me immediately, frozen with my complimentary beverages in the aborted swoop of a thwarted avenging angel.
I force myself to walk normally as I cross the distance between us, the stupid thick carpet muffling the noise of footsteps that ought to be just a little menacing.
"Hey," I manage as casually as I can as I lean over and put the coffee on the table.
A soft chime and a rounded voice respectfully reminds passengers travelling to Quito that their flight is boarding at gate eleven. Now even I know that isn't in Iceland, but I hide my smile as your friend hurriedly gathers his coat and briefcase, and mutters about that being his call.
I take the seat next to you and watch as the guy disappears back out into coach class. I relax into the chocolate-coloured leather and sip my juice self-consciously because I can feel your gaze boring into the side of my head.
I turn towards the planes and pretend to be surprised by your glare; I'm going for baffled incomprehension, but you're not buying it.
You give me a withering look, then roll your eyes. And I'll take your disapproval anytime over the miserable huddle I saw earlier. I know how much you hate having to rely on me. I know how hard you wish that this had never happened.
Probably about as much as I do.
I miss you. I shouldn't think it, but damned if I can help it. I miss your voice, I miss your sarcasm. Hell, I even miss your lecturing tone. I miss the way you used to shout at me when you thought I wasn't listening (I always was). I miss the bitchy things you used to mutter under your breath - the ones you didn't think I'd hear - or maybe you did. I miss the way you laughed - like it always took you by surprise. And I'm grateful you're back, believe me, no one appreciates it more than I do, but I still can't help wishing that you'd come back the Daniel I'd come to... respect. Yeah, respect. Right.
I wait until you take a sip of your coffee, replace it on the table and settle back into your chair, then pull the package of cookies out of my pocket and offer it to you casually. We both know it's a sorry.
You sniff and smirk, taking the cookies, looking at them closely to make sure they're something you like. As if I'd get you anything else.
And then you do it.
With a quick smile you lift your fingers to your lips and move your hand out and down to chest height in a short arc.
It's a sign I learned early on in your rehabilitation programme, a common word that was included in the first module of the ASL course we worked on together before it became obvious that the only signs you understood were the simplest ones - the ones that looked like what they were. Sleep. Hungry. Up. Down. (I've carried on signing words like please and thank you even though they mean nothing to you - I was brought up right and it just seems wrong not to say them.)
You've turned your face away, your attention drawn by the sudden gust of wind that blatters raindrops against the pane, distorting the lights and the looming outlines of the airplanes. I'm thankful for the timing, because I know that my face must look stunned.
You signed thank you.
An abstract word.
A word that I've been signing to you for three years now without you ever once signing it back to me.
I sit back in my chair and concentrate on my breathing, because you obviously have no idea what you just did, and if I grab you and spin you around like I want to, I might scare you into never doing it again. And how would I explain to you what you just did - how miraculous it was? How incredible you are to have been able to learn that with the damage to those specific areas of your brain.
I listen to the beat of my heart and try to clamp down on the insane hope that threatens to crack my face in two with an enormous grin. It could have been a fluke. It could be that you were just mimicking me without any idea of what that gesture meant. It could be that you were trying to say something else entirely. Only time will tell. But the happy flutter in my belly and the rebirth of hope that had withered and died a couple years back won't listen.
You drain your cup and get up for a refill. You pause in front of me, and wait for me to look up at you. You have my juice glass in your hand and your head cocked to one side; do I want more?
I sign 'no' and 'thank you' and you smile. I catch your hand before you walk away and you look at me, surprised and curious. I bring your hand to my lips and press a kiss into your palm, whisper, "I love you," against your skin before I let it go. You lift an eyebrow, a confused, amused smile curling the corner of your mouth. What did I say? What was the kiss for?
I just smile, and you walk away giving me a look like I'm a madman and you have no idea why you humour me.
I'll be watching you, waiting for you to do it again, like I don't already watch you enough. And I don't care how long it takes. I know what I saw. I can wait.
I'm nothing if not a patient man.