a/n Here's a gift for the awesome Stormpkr - Mackson with background Bellarke, set in some hypothetical future post-series. I wrote this before 7.13 and guessed Jason was going to kill off the other Blake sibling, so sorry for my error and please bear with me on that! Happy reading!
The fighting is over now, but Jackson is only just beginning to realise that it takes more than a ceasefire to make a happy ending. In fact, he's not really sure what it does take to make a happy ending – he's not sure if he'd even recognise one, now, after all they've been through.
Whatever a happy ending is, he sure as hell knows that this isn't it.
Abby is dead – the woman who has been something like a mother to him for decades that were really centuries. His actual parents, they're dead too. So long ago that sometimes he manages to go entire minutes at a time without thinking of them. Miller's still breathing, at least, but Jackson knows he's lost too many people, as well, and that his father's death still hurts in particular.
And they've both lost Octavia. Their former red queen, with whom they had a relationship that was complicated at best. But all the same, they wouldn't have her dead. They can never uncomplicate it, now that she's gone. And they certainly can't find the words to console a grieving Bellamy, or to assure Hope that Octavia's death is not her fault. Octavia chose to fight to protect her, and that's that.
So here they are. The fighting is over. And yet happiness remains in short supply.
Jackson has no idea what a happy ending is. He only knows that he wants it with all his heart and all his soul.
Jackson spends a lot of time in the med centre, in the immediate aftermath of the last war. This is partly because medicine is a calling, and he feels a strong urge to take care of the injured.
But it's partly because as long as he's up to his elbows in other people's blood, he's distracted, not able to dwell on all that has happened.
At one point on day three, Miller wanders through the door of the med centre. Jackson's first response is panic, but then it becomes clear that his partner is not injured.
"You should take a break, Jacks. I count thirty-six hours since you last slept. And that was only a nap."
"I'll sleep when we're done here."
"You are done here, at least for now." Miller tells him firmly. "I asked Niylah. She said everyone's stable and you should go home."
Jackson sighs. In fact, Niylah made that exact suggestion to him scarcely an hour ago.
"I don't know where home is." He says quietly, because that seems easier than admitting that he wants to cry.
He's a grown man, and he lost fewer people in the last war than most have. He's not supposed to cry.
"I know that my home's wherever you are." Miller reminds him, pulling him in for a gentle embrace. "Come on. There's a room above the tavern we can use for now. Get some rest."
Jackson nods, still a little reluctant. Miller's right – and he knows full well himself that being this short of sleep is bad for his performance, potentially dangerous for his patients.
They walk back to the tavern together, hands clasped. There's a comfort in that, in knowing that he's not alone at least. He's lost so many people, but he hasn't lost the man who matters to him more than anyone. Miller doesn't talk as they stumble along, and Jackson is grateful for it. That's one of the great things about his partner – that he always knows when it's time to say something uplifting, or when it's time just to be a steady, comforting presence.
And the best thing about Miller? He doesn't leave. When they arrive at the tavern, he lies down in the bed at Jackson's side and holds him tight until morning comes.
It gets easier. Jackson's not sure when, only that it happens. By the time he pauses to notice it, a week later, the grief does not feel fresh any more. He's no longer surprised that they've just fought yet another war.
At least that was supposed to be the last one they'll ever fight.
Med bay gets emptier, too. The walking wounded hobble home. The most seriously wounded die, and Jackson has to accept that. It's part of his profession, but it never stops hurting.
Life never has a happy ending. He's sometimes found himself thinking that, in his career so far. Life only ever ends in death.
It's not a cheerful thought, but it's well-supported by evidence.
It's Jackson's idea to go on the day trip. He's aware he's been feeling low recently, and as a doctor he knows a little bit about how mental health works. So he knows that fresh air and good company and new activities are all good things. But he's also increasingly aware that his low mood can't be helping Miller out at all. Miller has lost people, too. He's hurting, too. He doesn't need to be propping Jackson up while he's mourning as well.
"You've got the day off tomorrow." Jackson informs him, as he arrives home to the room above the tavern.
Miller frowns. "What do you mean?"
"I've told Bellamy you can't take a shift tomorrow. We're going out."
"I'm taking you on a date. Well, you'll have to drive the bike. But apart from that I'm taking you out." He explains, smiling a cautious smile for what feels like the first time in months.
Miller doesn't question it. Trusting and loving as ever, he simply grins. "Great. Is that our first date then?"
Jackson actually laughs at that. "Yeah. I guess it is."
Bright and early the following morning, they arrange themselves on one of the Sanctum motorbikes.
"Are you sure you know how to drive this?" Jackson asks.
"I think the word for a bike is ride." Miller corrects him. "And yes. I do. Where are we going?"
"Back to that lake we found when we first landed. I know you always wanted to spend more time at the beach."
Jackson is sitting behind Miller on the bike, but he's still absolutely positive that Miller is smiling.
The journey to the lake is not a long one, moving at speed through the forest. Jackson surprises himself by enjoying the ride – he sort of thought he'd had enough hair-raising experiences for a lifetime, but there's something pretty cool about speeding through the forest and knowing he's safe. By placing his trust in Miller's driving, it's like he's reclaiming fear. He's saying that a scary thing can be a positive, as long as the situation is under control.
He wonders if that works for the rest of this unhappy ending, too.
Today is not a day for thoughts like that. Today is a day for trees flashing past them, for fresh air whipping at their cheeks. And then they arrive at the lake, and it's a day for swimming and splashing and playing in the shallows like the carefree young men they could have been – or perhaps could still be, one day.
"I'm sorry I couldn't get you a surfboard, Nate." Jackson tells him, when they give up on swimming and slump on the beach to eat their picnic.
Miller laughs. "Can you surf on a flat lake? Not sure."
"No. And the tides on Earth depended on the moon, so I guess large bodies of water don't act the same here."
"There's my smart doctor." Miller teases him, lobbing an apple in his general direction. "I was going to say that we would never carry a surfboard on that bike."
Jackson laughs. Again. God, it's been a good day.
He makes it better. He pulls Miller in for a kiss, lies him down on his back. They make love on the sand, slowly and for quite a long time.
Yeah, it's been the best day.
Is this a happy ending? Maybe it could be.
Only life doesn't stop here. There is more to do beyond this beach and this blissful day. Back home in Sanctum, a broken society waits for them to help piece it back together again. Back home in Sanctum, there are gaping holes in their lives where their loved ones used to sit.
The beach helps, even when they're no longer there. Even when they've long since washed the sand out from between their toes, the easier mood lingers. Sometimes that displays itself in smiles and surprised laughter, in Jackson coming home from the med centre at a sensible hour, in Miller asking if he can maybe not take five night shifts in the same week.
Sometimes it displays itself in open conversation about difficult issues.
"Why us? Why did we survive?" Jackson asks, as they lie sprawled in bed together one night. "I know why Clarke and Bellamy did. They're good people, and they've done so much for everyone else. They deserve to find happiness with each other again. But us? You know I love you, Nate. But we stood by through Blodreina's reign." That's one of the hardest things of all – that he loves Miller to the Earth and back, which is no small distance these days, but that he has to acknowledge that he has played his part in some horrific things.
Miller sighs. "Survival isn't fair. If there's one thing I learnt from the hundred, back when we first landed, it's that."
"Abby deserved to live. She was good. I know she faced some tough situation towards the end but – I wish we hadn't lost her."
"It's like we lost Octavia twice." Miller mutters. "Once when she became Blodreina, again when she actually died."
"We lost so many people I can't even keep count any more."
There's a pause. They hold each other loosely. Jackson knows this isn't a cheerful topic of conversation, but he does feel much better for discussing it – and if Miller's more relaxed breathing is anything to go by, he feels that way too.
And then Miller takes them one step closer to their happy ending.
"What about the people we've found?" He asks quietly. "Bellamy is like a brother to me, and I never would have known him if I stayed on Alpha Station and he stayed on Factory. Indra is the closest thing to a parent figure any of us has left, and she started out as our enemy. And without leaving the Ark and everything that's gone wrong since, I would never have known you, Jacks. I might have checked you out when I was injured and passing through medical, maybe known of you from a distance via the Griffins. But we sure as hell wouldn't be lying naked in bed together right now."
"You're right." Jackson agrees warmly. "We've found people."
The silence stretches out a little longer. Jackson weighs his next words carefully, tries to gather his thoughts.
"I've found myself, too." He says, although he worries it sounds foolish. "I've found that I'm capable of more than I thought I was. I've found out I'm stronger than I thought I was. And I'm capable of loving and forgiving others." He sucks in a breath. "Maybe I'm still learning how to forgive myself."
"Me too." Miller agrees.
In the weeks that follow, there are funerals and memorials – more funerals and memorials than any community should have to hold in a lifetime, Jackson thinks, yet a number so small as to be almost insignificant compared to the multitude they have lost in the past.
In the months that follow, they try to find a new normal. The med bay stops dealing with acute battle wounds, and starts dealing with flu season and pregnancies and the more civilian types of ailments.
In the years that follow, there are children – more children than a community so small should be capable of producing, Jackson thinks. But he's certainly not complaining.
He and Miller don't have kids, at least not yet. Niylah has approached them to talk about surrogacy, or negotiating some kind of extended family arrangement where they share responsibility for a child. But Miller has said more than once that he still feels too young, and Jackson is not inclined to push him – although he notes that Miller is the same age as Clarke, who is already on her third pregnancy.
They still go to the beach, just the two of them, every couple of months without fail.
They still haven't found a surfboard, but they have found out how to barbecue fish over hot coals. Mostly the fish ends up a little scorched around the edges, no matter which of the two of them cooks, but neither of them ever complains.
They've eaten worse before now and survived.
And now? Now it's time to get their humanity back.
It isn't until years after the last war that Jackson finally works it out. Happy endings do not come with a signpost, not clearly labelled with a flashing neon sign. Real life doesn't end with some neat conclusion like the fairy-tales his mother Mary used to read him on the Ark.
How do you recognise a happy ending? By seizing it with both hands and saying this – this is the future I want to make.
He realises this one grey morning. It's raining outside. He and Miller still live in the room above the tavern – the bed's comfy, the previous occupants long since lost. There's no sense in moving.
There's a knock at the door.
"Who is it?" Miller calls, already tugging a shirt over his head.
"It's me." A familiar voice calls.
"Who's me?" Miller replies, tone teasing, as they both hurry to finish dressing.
"It's me. It's Gus, Uncle Miller. Is Uncle Jackson there too?"
Augustus Griffin-Blake at the ripe old age of seven is not a particularly patient child, so Jackson laughs and gets on with opening the door. This boy has inherited all of his mother's decisiveness and father's impatience, as well as their many more palatable qualities. He's also something of a favourite in this household – he's always had a close relationship with his two honorary uncles, since they babysat him so often during Clarke's tiring second pregnancy.
"What brings you here, Gus?" Jackson asks as the child tumbles inside.
"I want to learn to be a field medic." The boy declares. "Mum told me what one of those is. And I want to be one."
Jackson's not at all surprised. If he had to pick a future career for this kid from the day he started to talk in coherent sentences, this is what he would have chosen. And even without knowing the boy at all, it wouldn't be a shock, would it? What other profession so perfectly combines all the family trades of medicine and courage and stitching things back together?
"OK. That's great." Jackson declares warmly.
"Good for you, Gus." Miller adds.
"Will you teach me?" Gus asks. "Because Uncle Miller, you know all about being brave and staying safe in a battle and Uncle Jackson, you know all about medicine."
"We're hoping there won't be many more battles." Miller points out.
"Yeah. Of course." The boy swallows. "I mean – you can teach me about staying safe in the forest, too. I want to go out with the hunting parties so that they're safe if someone gets hurt by an animal or an accident."
"Sounds great, Gus. We'd love to help teach you." Jackson answers for both of them.
"Great." The child nods enthusiastically, still hovering on the threshold.
There's a pause. Miller and Jackson share a look, somewhere between amused and exasperated. Gus coughs loudly.
"Did you mean now?" Miller guesses.
Gus nods, even more eager.
"Seven's a little young to learn medicine." Jackson says gently. "But we can certainly go out into the forest and have a look around. Miller can teach your how to walk quietly, maybe I can teach you which herbs are safe to use for medicine and which to avoid."
"Thank you!" Gus bounces forwards, hugs each of them in turn. "Thank you so much! This is going to be great!"
"Do your mum and dad know where you are?" Jackson checks.
"Yeah. And they knew you'd say yes. They say that they send their love and you're heroes." Gus recites carefully.
Miller snorts. "Heroes? Not so much. Maybe good guys at a stretch."
Jackson laughs. "Come on, both of you. Are we going out walking or what?"
"We're not going walking." Gus corrects him fiercely, already half way out the door. "We're going learning."
Jackson smiles, and follows his godson out the door, and recognises the moment for what it is at long last. Here and now, with those childish words of wisdom, the happy ending begins.
a/n Thanks for reading!