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Beyond the Gate - Part II - Window of Opportunities

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IV

They took a quick shower – not together this time – and got dressed. Michael slipped into his room to get his jacket and wallet. He left first, making sure the front was all clear. There was another party going on somewhere. He could hear loud music, chatter and laughter. But the lobby was almost deserted and the couple of people there didn’t pay attention to him as he slipped out through a side exit.

He texted Rick and headed to the bus stop across the street.

Google Maps was his friend, yep.

He had to wait ten more minutes before Rick finally showed up, bitching about drunken idiots hanging out in front of the elevator just when he'd wanted to go down.

The bus arrived and, much to their relief, it was empty.

Michael, who hadn't taken a bus in years, but had his acting skills to make up for it, asked how much he'd have to pay for two tickets into the city. With a bit of sign language and the driver's broken school English he finally paid and received two white paper slips.

He and Rick squeezed into the last row of narrow seats.

“Oh, god. I don't even remember the last time I took a bus,” Rick grumbled. “You sure you know where we going? And how to get back?”

“Uh, yeah, sure. Relax.” He patted his jacket's pocket where he'd put his phone. “I'll get us home.”

Of course Daniel Jackson had said that, too, on Abydos. And then they had been stuck. But that had been the other, Spader's, Daniel Jackson. Didn't have anything to do with him. He was confident.

They watched the city go by. Darkness, patches of light, bus stops, stores, restaurants, apartment buildings. The bus took two different freeways and they were in another part of town.

“When do we have to get off?” Rick asked after several long minutes of silence. “Wasn't it supposed to be close by?”

“Next stop,” Michael said after a look at his phone. “Aaand, here we are.”

The location Rick had chosen turned out to be a bar offering warm and cold snacks even this late at night and a large variety of beer. There was a dart board and a pool table. It wasn't a big place, but it was clean and seemed decent.

A group of guys had occupied the dart board and another gang of young men hovered around a pin ball machine in one corner.

Rick and Michael chose a table for two at the back wall of the room as opposed to sitting at the bar and being the center of attention.

“This is on me. Time to celebrate,” Rick said as soon as they had taken a look at the menu and decided they wanted beer and a small plate of chicken wings. To their surprise the menu was in German and English which made things significantly easier.

“What's to celebrate?” Michael flipped peanuts into his mouth from a bowl on the table.

“The L.A. Kings bringing home the Stanley Cup,” Rick said with a megawatt grin. “They're going to knock the Hawks on their asses tomorrow and go into finals to bring that thing home.”

“The Hawks won the Friday game,” Michael pointed out. “Barely, but they did.”

“What's your point? Tomorrow they won't,” Rick insisted.

Their Guinness was put in front of them and they raised their glasses.

“To the Kings,” Rick toasted cheerfully.

“Yeah. To the Kings,” Michael grumbled. “They only got this far because the Canucks had a crappy coach this season.”

“Ex-cu-se moi? The Kings have sacked the Stanley Cup twice already. And they're gonna do it again this year.”

“Maybe. But three years ago around this time the Canucks were starting their march to the Final. Two years ago they put the finishing touches on another President's Trophy...”

“Yeah, well, that’s in the past, obviously.”

“Hey, knock it off, dude. The Canucks will be back with bells on next season.”

“Ye-ah, riiight,” Rick drawled with glee and took a long swig of his beer. “How long did they last this year? A week?”

Michael grimaced. “Just keep poking at open wounds here. One fucking week, yeah. You could call it an unfortunate series of... crap. Their power play has totally sagged under Tortorella, he was a bad choice right from the get-go.”

“He's a guy who talks much and says nothing,” Rick agreed. “Big words, little action.”

“Yep. And there were injuries...”

“Every team deals with injuries to the point that it can't be used as an excuse. Look at the Penguins – and they had injured players en mass.”

Michael flipped a peanut at Rick, “You're enjoying this, you jerk. Tortorella's gone. They'll be back. Mark my word.”

Rick smirked, then scowled. “My L.A. Kings will wipe the floor with the Hawks tomorrow and I'm at the other end of the world and can't watch it. Not fair.”

Michael nodded. “I know! And Mr. Hockey is nominated in 12 categories for the best TV movie at the Leo Awards this weekend. We already won in cinematography, sound editing, production design and costume design. They'll announce the winners for best supporting performance and male/female leading performance on Sunday. And I won't be there.”

“Whoa. That means the next round goes on you,” Rick grinned.

“Deal.”

“So... you're going to get the Leo and won't be there? It's a shame.” Rick shook his head.

Michael snorted. “There's no guarantee I'm actually going to win.”

“Sure you are. You nailed Mr. Hockey. And I bet Robertson and Playfair are nominated, too.”

The chicken wings were delivered and Rick immediately picked one and started nibbling.

“Yeah, and they should win, they were awesome. If I win Lexa is going to take it for me. Continuum is nommed, too. And she's on the list for the supporting female performance award. Wait...” Michael put down his beer, “you watched Mr. Hockey?”

“Sure I did. It's hockey. And...” Rick licked chicken wing glaze off his lips, “I have to admit to watching your stuff.” After a pause he added almost defensively, “Occasionally. You should try these. They're good.”

“You are a master of distraction,” Michael observed with a little smile.

Rick's eyebrows shot upwards. “What?”

“Yeah. Right. So... you're watching my stuff, huh?”

Rick raised the nibbled-on chicken wing. “Occasionally.”

“You missed me.” Michael pushed on gently.

Rick continued eating for a moment, seemingly unfazed. Then he dropped the gnawed bone on his plate and wiped his hands on his paper napkin. “I never said I didn't.”

“No. No, you didn't.” Michael remembered Rick telling him he'd been thinking about calling since Calgary. “I missed you, too. More than I ever realized.” He went out on a limb once more. “Maybe we could figure out a way to see each other more often. Regularly even. We could make it work.”

Rick shook his head. “How? I don't see how. This whole triangle idea... I don't see that. I won’t be responsible for crashing your marriage if things go down badly.”

“You won't crash my marriage. Not a chance.”

Rick rolled his eyes.

“No, you don't get it. Lexa and I are solid. If she says she's in on this – and I have a feeling that's exactly what she was up to in the first place – she knows what she's doing. She's way ahead of us here. I just wish she had talked to me about this before... I got here.”

Except if she had he might just have refused to do this con. Because it was so out there. Something he'd never even have considered if she had confronted him about it while he'd still been sane and far away from one Richard Dean Anderson.

“It's a hell of a...” Rick cringed and started taking apart his napkin. Always the need to fiddle with things, that was Richard.

“Commitment?” Michael knew he was walking on thin ice here. If he pushed too far, too hard, he'd lose him for sure.

Rick shrugged. “It would change things. Look, I'm quite happy being a single dad and 'Uncle Rick' to my daughter's step sister. Apryl and I are okay with each other for the most part and her SO is a decent guy. He's good for her, keeps her grounded and happy. I'm an add-on to their lives with Wylie being the bridge. We're patchwork, but we're family. It's not always cozy and easy, but it's okay. I'm lacking a sex life, but I was okay with that, too.”

“Okay.” Michael tried one of the chicken wings just to get rid of his nervous energy.

Rick drank from his Guinness and then stared into his glass. Finally he said, “What I'm trying to say is... I have a good life. I don't know if I want to change it. I don't know if I want to be the one sitting in Malibu, waiting for you to fit me into your schedule.”

“Sooo... it's not enough commitment?” Michael thought this was what would work best for Rick. Because Rick needed his space. Rick had always backed away whenever things had gotten too cozy between them. Well, they both had, but Rick had always been the driving force in keeping it 'simple and fun'.

“I don't know. All I know is that I don't want to be your call boy... man... whatever. And that confuses the hell outta me because, yes, that would be the perfect deal. You coming around for a couple of days, we'd be going at it like monkeys, and then you'd leave and we both do our thing.”

“It won't be like that. You'd have the same right to call and come see me when you can.”

“Yeah? When? Christmas? Birthdays? While you're on hiatus? And when are you going to spend time with your wife and kids, which always should come first as far as I'm concerned. Or are we going to be one big happy family in Vancouver?”

Michael chewed on the chicken without tasting it, his thoughts racing. “I was more thinking of when I'm not on hiatus. You could come see me in Toronto.”

“When? After a ten hour shooting day?”

“Weekends. I'm only going home every fortnight while I'm shooting. But Rick – these are finer points we have to work out together. You have to make up your mind about giving it a go first.”

“Together, as in you and me and Lexa?”

“Uh, yep.”

Rick rubbed a hand over his eyes. “I'm not going to discuss visitation rights with your wife, Michael. It's hard enough to keep up with Wylie's schedule and when she wants to be with whom and fitting it all into her huge overall timetable of dancing, theater, school...”

“Okay. I hear you.” Michael took a deep breath. “You don't want to compromise and you're not willing to fit ME into YOUR life. I get it.”

“Sheesh, it's not a question of who wants to fit whom in. It's just not...”

Michael leaned across the table and seized Rick's wrist. He kept his voice low, but he couldn't keep the frustration out of it. “Richard, if you have the nerve to tell me it's not worth the effort I'm going to walk out of here. Right now. And that's the end of it. You get that? I'm TRYING here. Because it MATTERS to me. YOU matter. And I believe you feel the same. But go ahead, prove me wrong... tell me what we had isn't worth more than a weekend of sex. Say that to my face and I'm gone.”

They glared at each other for agonizing long seconds that felt like minutes or hours.

“You've got so much to lose over this,” Rick said finally.

Michael nodded. When it came down to it Rick was right. They couldn't tell where this was going. How much this relationship on the side would grow. He could very well end up being torn between the two sides of his sexuality and even more so between the two people he... between Lexa whom he loved unconditionally and Rick... Rick who was... Rick.

Yet, he couldn't let this go.

“Maybe. Maybe this is a very bad idea. But we'll never know if we don't try.”

Rick turned his hand upside down and their fingers looped. “You shouldn't risk everything you have... for me.”

“I wouldn't take this kind of risk for anyone else. Never.”

Rick pulled his hand away slowly.

Michael's heart gave a painful lurch. “It's a chance. It's not perfect, but it's something we could have.”

“A part time relationship.”

“Yes.”

“With your wife's blessing.”

“Yes.” At least he hoped he had read the signs right and listened well enough between the lines to make this huge assumption.

“Nuts.”

“I know!”

“Will you walk now if I say I need time?” Rick asked, sounding almost timid. He raised his hands. “I'm not... I'm not saying no...”

Michael released the breath he hadn't known he'd been holding and sat back in his chair. “Take all the time you need.” Then he frowned. “Unless you're just trying to stall and then leave for good.”

Rick gazed at the small strips of paper on his plate that had once been his napkin, then looked sharply at him. “No. Not stalling. Just... thinking about it.”

“Okay.”

Rick pointed at the green table behind Michael's back. “Pool?”

Michael grinned. “Sure. I'm so-o-o gonna wipe the floor with you.”

“Oh yeah? Let’s see about that, pal.”

They played pool for an hour, both winning and losing some. They talked about their kids, Rick's ongoing passion for Sea Shepherd and his moaning about not being able to do any sports. They discussed Sam's hockey training and Michael told Rick about the upcoming charity walks he and his family were planning to do for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada. They whined about their 15 year old daughters having turned into teenage monsters and then agreed they were still great kids and not quite bad enough to send them to Boot Camp.

“As long as it's only boy crushes, shopping overload and giggling fits I won't complain. Much,” Michael said. “Could be worse.”

“Oh, god, yeah. So true, that.”

“So it's puberty, it'll pass. That's what Lexa says and she has a great connection with Tati.”

“Yeah, but do you get why they always have to show up in gaggles, raid the fridge like the plague of locusts and then when the friends have left she needs to be on the phone or the computer with the very same girls for hours? Or why they are giggling and being cheerful and dancing on air and five minutes later they hate everyone and everything and their life is hell and no one has ever truly loved them?” Rick sighed.

“Beats me. I guess it's a girl thing.”

They finished their fourth game with Michael hitting a pretty high score and then decided it was time to call it a night.

It was chilly outside and Michael was grateful for his warm leather jacket. Rick was wearing a warm, black hoodie which was a nice contrast to his gray-silver hair. The white cargo pants were a tad too baggy for Michael's taste, but suited him well. Rick had taken a liking to all BDU-style pants ever since he'd been on SG-1.

After hanging out at the bus station for twenty minutes – Rick texting back and forth with his kid and Michael browsing through his twitter page – it dawned on them that something was up.

“Try making sense of the timetable,” Rick ordered absently, still focusing on his phone.

“But, Ja-ack, it's in a language I don't speak,” Michael whined.

“And here I thought you were a ling-u-ist, speaking hundred or whatever languages fluently.”

“Oh, you remember that?” Michael laughed at the indignant glare aimed at him.

Rick pocketed his phone and got up from the small wooden bench he'd been sitting on. “Five bucks that we missed the last bus.”

“Nah, we didn't.” Michael stared at the time table. Reading the times wasn't a problem, but it took a moment until he understood that there were three different timetables for different days. One for Monday till Friday, one for Saturday and one for Sunday.

He checked his phone for the time, then the time table. “Uhhh...”

“Uhhh – what?” Rick groaned.

“Um, you just won five bucks.”

“I don't believe this!”

“We could take a cab.”

“Do you SEE a cab anywhere?” Rick opened his arms and turned on the spot.

“Nope. No cab. No stargate and no spaceships,” Michael confirmed with a sheepish grin. He consulted his phone once again and opened google maps. “Actually... we can walk.”

The bus had taken two freeways and several side roads. The bar Rick had chosen was at the corner of a small mall and at this time of night everything but the bar was closed and the streets were dark and quiet, except for the rushing sound of traffic coming from the freeway. According to google maps there was a bridge crossing both freeways. And it would lead them straight to the airport.

Rick leaned into him and studied the map. “Looks easy enough.”

“Yeah. Sorry we missed the last bus.”

“You owe me,” Rick murmured into his ear. “Five bucks and a kiss.”

“I don't remember anything about kisses.” Michael turned his head and their lips met, soft and gentle.

“Awww, you're so kissable,” Rick whispered and they did it again, tongues involved. Rick wrapped Michael into his arms and Michael hugged Rick's middle tightly.

“Never made out with a guy at a bus stop,” Michael said a moment later.

“We're too old for this,” Rick agreed. His hands roamed through Michael's hair, cupping his skull, tilting his head to one side as he dove in for another kiss. “This is a reckless, stupid...”

“I know.” Michael pulled back and licked his lips. “We should...”

“Yeah.” Reluctantly they let go of each other and started walking, away from the bus stop and down the road.

Rick griped and moaned about the long flights of stairs they had to climb until they stood on the bridge, looking over the freeway which was a strip of moving lights in the dark. In the distance they could see the skyline of the city – sparkling dots – and to the other side was the airport and the hotel, brightly illuminated.

“Wylie would probably... understand,” Rick said slowly when they had walked in silence for a couple of minutes.

Michael searched and found Rick's hand in the dark. He squeezed it gently to encourage his friend. There was a short, but firm, tightening of Rick's fingers around his.

“All teenage mayhem aside she's pretty mature and open minded. And she...” Rick took a deep breath, “A couple weeks ago she said to me... and that was creepy because she's just 15 and she's got such an insight of... anyway, she said to me; 'Dad, I want you to be happy. Find someone. I don't care if it's a guy or a girl, just be happy.'”

“They surprise you sometimes, don't they?” Michael said thoughtfully.

“And I didn't even... I didn't ask her what made her assume I might not want 'the girl'. I was just baffled. So... if I'd tell her there's a guy... she might just take it in spades. She grew up so fast, I keep forgetting she's not my baby girl anymore. Most of the time anyway.”

“Would you tell her? I think you could keep it under wraps. She wouldn’t have to know.” Michael hadn’t thought about what, or if, to tell his kids. He hadn’t come this far in his exploration of the concept to be with Rick.

Rick said quietly. “Hollywood is full of people living the lie I used to live. Travolta does it, Clooney does it, hell, I think Tom Cruise does it. Am pretty sure his wife couldn’t run fast enough once their five year contract was over and he’s probably in a relationship with his bodyguard or agent or pool-boy or whoever for years. I grew up enough to know that I don’t want to live that kind of lie anymore. If … and I’m stressing the word ‘if’ here... we’re doing this, I need to be straight about it with my family at some point and that includes my daughter, my mom and even Apryl. And that’s a huge, big deal of... oyyy.”

Michael took a deep breath. “Maybe it's only as much of a big deal as we make it to be. We are what we are. Maybe it's as simple as that. You don't walk around anymore pretending you're dating half of Hollywood and I...”

“You're a married man with a relationship on the side? Best of both worlds lucky bastard?”

“You tell me. Am I?” He felt Rick's warm hand in his as they took a left turn and followed the bridge over another freeway.

“Maybe.”

They snuck back into the hotel like kids who knew they'd be in big trouble if they got caught not minding the curfew. The party was still in full swing even at 2 am, but the lobby was empty and they made it into the elevator unseen.

Rick leaned back against the wall of the car and smiled. “This was fun.”

“Yup. We should get a couple hours sleep now, though.” Michael yawned.

“Sleep's overrated,” Rick said. “I can't possibly get it up again tonight, but... wanna snuggle?”

Michael was tired and he knew he'd have to sneak out of Rick's room at 5 or 6 latest, before there was too much traffic on the corridor. But... “Snuggling sounds good.”

A moment later Rick stuck his head out of the open elevator, looked left and right for straying fans or even con staff members, and whispered, “Clear.”

They hurried down the corridor and Rick swiped his card through the slit at his door. Seconds later they were inside, leaning against the wall, chuckling.

“C'mon.” Rick took his hand and they found their way into the bedroom without switching on the light. They dropped their clothes on the floor and fell into the soft, inviting bed. The covers and sheets smelled of massage oil, sex and sweat, but it was their own personal odor and they didn't care.

They fell asleep leisurely nuzzling and caressing and Michael's last conscious thought as he drifted off to dreamland was that he'd do whatever he could to win Rick over. Because he wasn't prepared to give him up again. Not for good.

 

Cont. Part III - Abyss