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Author's Note: Set during "Last Man Standing." Big big BIG thanks to Merry, Yahtzee, and Bunglegirl for betas!
The Cure for the Single Syndrome
by Tara O'Shea
Jake brushed down the sleeve of his jacket with a damp washcloth from the bathroom, trying to get rid of the last of the dust he'd picked up from crawling across the hotel laundry room floor. He suspected it might be a lost cause. If he was lucky, everyone would be half in the bag by the time he got downstairs and no one would ask why his rental tux had grass and other, less identifiable stains.
If he was unlucky... well, that would be pretty much a typical Jake Foley social event. At least, unlike Cheryl Rhodes sixteenth birthday party, it didn't involve greasepaint or pleather. Thank heavens for small mercies, he thought to himself as he attempted to smooth his hair into something resembling a style.
Diane was still sitting on the end of the bed, doing her level best not to hover, even though he could tell she was ready to wrestle him back to the bed any second—and not in a fun, drunken-wedding-revelry sort of way. He could see her sneaking glances at the JMD every few seconds, as if to reassure herself that he really was back amongst the living permanently.
He had to admit, it had been as close a call as he ever hoped he'd get. If it weren't for the fact that Kevin and Jenny—not to mention Sarah—were all outside in the tent waiting for him to deliver a travesty of a wedding toast, he would have been content to spend the rest of the night holed up in here with Diane, hiding. From shame, if nothing else. He cringed as he pictured how it must have looked—him taking off at a sprint seconds after the wedding ceremony finished. Not to mention disappearing entirely for the receiving line, photos, dinner...
They could order room service and watch movies on the hotel cable. This was a high-end joint. He bet they had really good movies on cable. He entertained that fantasy for a moment, before allowing reality to drag him back to his responsibilities. Kevin was counting on him, and he couldn't let him down any more than he already had.
Fixing the slightly abused rose back into his buttonhole, Jake presented himself to Diane for inspection. "Okay—how do I look?"
"You have some lipstick..." She reached out to brush the corner of her mouth with a fingertip to show him where. "From the, um... CPR...."
"Oh." He grabbed a wad of tissues from the box in the bathroom and, wetting them from the faucet, rubbed at his face. "Thanks."
"Wouldn't want everyone to think we'd been, you know..." she trailed off, laughing nervously. She'd managed to fix her eye make-up, so no one would be able to tell she'd been crying. He could, though. He supposed he just knew her too well.
"It's probably safer to let them think that," he said with a shrug, "than let them think I've got half a billion dollars worth of technology integrated into my central nervous system that bad guys want, as well as could, you know... Kill me at any minute."
"Not at any minute—" she said quickly. "I mean, I'm pretty sure this was a one-time deal."
That gave him pause. He suddenly remembered during his delirium how she's been so certain about what was going on—something about frontal lobes and how he wouldn't understand it then... "Has this happened before?"
"Not with this version of the nanites. I mean, not until Antonio. Not until Antonio died, so—"
He stared at her blankly. "Who's Antonio?"
"He's one of the lab mice. He was my favourite, actually. And he is—was, I mean, your twin."
"You both got the nanites the same day, and when I found him yesterday morning—um... he wasn't so good. And then my screen was frozen, and it was this whole big thing." If she had been wearing the large amber pendant she usually wore, she'd be twisting it nervously right about now. "But Antonio just got worse... then he kinda died."
"So you knew this was going to happen?" Jake asked, sitting down heavily on the small couch against the wall. Something that had been warming in the pit of his stomach since that morning when he'd opened the door to find her there, suddenly started to grow cold. "That's why you were monitoring me? That's why you flew all the way out here?"
"I didn't want to tell you—I mean, I didn't want to worry you, if it all turned out to be nothing." Diane perched on the edge of the sofa next to him. "Like the other morning, when Kyle drove me to your apartment... You thought I was a total spaz, and I was... Because of Antonio. But if it all turned out to be this freaky co-incidence, I didn't want to ruin your week-end. You know, by just being a big old spaz. I mean, it's your best friend's wedding. These things don't happen every day, right? I didn't know—I mean, not until it actually... Not until I found you. I didn't know if it was all just me being all freaky and paranoid—"
"Diane, it's okay," he cut off her nervous rambling with a smile as he fought to keep his disappointment off his face.
"I'm sorry." She didn't seem to know what to do with her hands and she clutched the strap of her purse, twisting it. "I should have told you."
"It's okay." He laid his hand on hers, stilling her fingers. "I just..."
"You just what?" she prompted.
Jake felt a flush creep up his neck. "I just thought you flew out here to be my date."
"Oh," she said softly, blinking.
He managed not to wince, but only just barely.
"Oh," she repeated, when the impact of his words seemed to finally sink in. "Oh, Jake, I did," she insisted, taking his hand and giving it a squeeze. "I mean—I might have done that anyway."
"Really?" he asked, surprised how much her admission meant to him.
"Yeah." She smiled, and he could see even in the tastefully dim light of the hotel room that her cheeks were flushed. "I mean, you sounded so pathetic last night—"
"Gee, thanks." He rolled his eyes, but the weird tension that had settled over them at his admission was broken.
"No, I mean. I understood. I understand." She smiled at him shyly. "And I thought, you know, if nothing else, it would be nice to have somebody else who's sorta in the same boat... Single syndrome, and all."
Jake suddenly realised that in addition to her pendant, she'd forgone all of her usual funky-cool jewellery. There was nothing adorning the simple black dress except Diane herself. And that was more than enough.
Usually he was hopelessly tongue-tied around pretty girls, but something about Diane just immediately made him feel at home. He didn't have to be super-cool suave guy, he could just be himself. She liked hanging out with him just as he was. That was new to him—at least, new enough. Even with him and Sarah growing closer over the last few weeks, he still felt like their lunches and phone conversations were on the level of "tech support" in one way or another. Sarah only ever seemed to call him when her hard drive needed to be defragged, or she wanted to pick his brain about NSA funds. He always had to look for an excuse to call her—some plausible little lie, to put himself into her orbit. They rarely if ever just hung out; spent time together without ulterior motives or pretence.
But Diane... Diane was just about the only constant in this new and occasionally—as today had proved—terrifying life. Ever since the accident which had blessed and cursed him with the nanites, Diane had become his best friend. Literally, since Darin was now stationed in Hawaii and Kevin had moved to Seattle. In fact, for the last two months, pretty much any time he had that wasn't spent out in the field with Kyle, back at Ft. Meade, or fixing Sarah's computer, he'd spent with Diane.
The fact was, he'd gotten used to spending most of his day with her in the lab and just hanging out and watching TV or playing board games at his place at least one night a week. He was always surprised at how comfortable he'd been with her, from the first moment they'd met and she'd jokingly offered him some Valium.
Diane showing up on his doorstep that morning had somehow made the entire excruciatingly awkward cab ride and eight hour flight with Sarah and Alex bearable. Not to mention, if she hadn't been there, one of the hotel maids would have found him stone cold on the floor when they went to get fresh towels or something.
"Thank you," he said, giving her hand an answering squeeze before reluctantly releasing her fingers. "For coming out here—no matter what the reason."
She gave him another shy smile and he realised that she looked absolutely beautiful with her Audrey Hepburn hairdo, even with her eyes still red-rimmed from crying. He didn't know how he'd ever missed it before.
"Hey, don't you have a toast to give?" she reminded him, punching his arm lightly.
"I do indeed," he said, getting up and offering her his arm with as much gallantry as he could muster. Still blushing slightly, she took his arm.
"And I know just what I'm gonna say," he said with a smile as they headed downstairs towards the reception.