THE BIONIC WOMAN
She stepped out of her OSI apartment building and the smell of burning wood tickled her nose. The first night of the year that was cold enough for fireplaces to be lit, and smoke was rising from every chimney on the block. It was an aroma she adored, and one of the reasons she loved late autumn in Washington D.C. Still, she missed Ojai. Russ had said it was only going to be two weeks, and it had already been three. She recognized a stall when she saw one. Oscar had been jittery and on edge when she had interacted with him the entire time she'd been there; and most of her time had been spent at the Director's Office, in an almost assistant capacity to him. It's not that she minded helping him, but she felt as if she was doing Callahan's job most of the time, and apologizing to her friend for it. She had asked for explanations from Russ and Oscar, but she met with nothing but excuses and obstructions. Jaime had no more idea why she was there now, than she did three weeks ago. But she knew damned well where she could get some answers.
The walk wasn't far, but it was more brisk than she had anticipated. As she picked up her pace, she had the distinct feeling that she was being followed. Jaime glanced behind her, but saw no one; nonetheless, she could sense them shadowing her. For the time being, however, she decided to ignore it; if harm had been the intention, it would have happened by now. She turned down K Street and stopped in front of a well-kept building. It was chilly, and there was a dampness in the air; Jaime pulled her coat tighter around herself. She saw the light still on in the second floor window, and she mounted the front steps. Jaime rang the doorbell and waited. The footsteps echoed down the wood stairs and momentarily the door opened. He was in a robe, his glasses balanced on top of his head, a book in his hand. There was a look of discomfort in his eyes, and she could see the tension forming in his shoulders.
"Jaime.....is something wrong?"
She smiled at him, "Does something have to be wrong for me to want to spend time with you?"
"No, no....of course not; but it is late."
They held each other's eyes for a moment, the awkward air creating a canyon between them. Jaime shivered slightly.
"Can I come in for a minute? It's kinda cold out here."
Rudy jolted out of his stupor, holding the door open for her.
"I'm sorry, Jaime, please come in..."
Jaime walked into the entryway, and the warmth of the house engulfed her like a soft hand. Rudy felt a tinge of guilt as he saw a shiver run through her. He put his hands on her shoulders from behind, squeezing gently.
"Want a blanket?"
She placed a hand over one of his, "No, I'll be fine in a minute."
He led her over to the couch, next to the fireplace, placed some wood in it, and started a fire. Within moments, there was a blaze warming her. He removed her coat, setting it near the door, then he turned back to her.
"Do you want some hot coffee?"
"Aw Rudy, you don't need to go to any trouble, I really just wanted to--"
"--it's no trouble, Jaime. You warm up. I'll be back in a minute."
Jaime leaned into the soft cushions of the couch, thinking. Rudy was almost as jumpy as Oscar. He knew damned well why she had shown up at his door so late, but he didn't want to be put in the middle. And she couldn't blame him: but she needed to know. His voice almost startled her.
"Here you go, this should help warm you up."
She accepted the mug of steaming coffee, and observed him as he sat in the chair across from her. He was fidgeting with the book he had been reading, his nerves on edge. She waited, allowing the silence to grow to thunderous proportions. He couldn't stand it any longer. He leaned forward in his chair.
"What's on your mind, Jaime?"
"I can't just come by to see you, Dr. Wells?"
He smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes.
"Of course you can, but we both know you didn't."
Jaime sipped her coffee, and looked him right in the eye.
"What's going on, Rudy?"
He tried to keep his voice neutral, nonchalant, "What do you mean?"
"Oh Rudy, come on: I've been here for three weeks, filing, answering phones, milling around his office, and Oscar hasn't said much. I feel like some kind of bionic babysitter." Jaime was tired of it. Rudy's eyes locked with hers and she continued, "You know what's going on, just tell me."
He set the book down, and moved to sit in front of her on the coffee table. Gently he took her hands in his.
"Oscar doesn't want to worry you."
Her voice held more than just a tinge of annoyance, "Worry me about what?"
He let go of her hands, and his voice grew softer, "There's been a threat on his life, Jaime."
She studied him; that wasn't all.
He looked away, "And a couple of attempts." He looked up at her again, "The second time they almost succeeded."
Her anger was barely hidden, "Why didn't the two of them just tell me?"
"Come on Jaime, you know how protective Oscar is of you; he fought Russ tooth and nail about bringing you out here to keep an eye on him, and one of the concessions was that you were not to be informed of the real reason for your presence. Besides, he thinks the only way to bring out the person or people behind this, is by giving them a viable target."
"That could be suicidal, Rudy."
"Yes, it could."
Jaime looked at the man she trusted with her life, and knew he hadn't come clean with her. Dr. Rudy Wells was possibly one of the worst liars Jaime had ever known; his story just didn't add up. She smiled at him slightly, and leaned forward, holding the mug of coffee between her hands.
"I've only been with him during the day....who's watching him at night?"
"NSB has agents posted around his apartment."
"Around? Rudy, that's not going to do much if someone gets in there with him."
Rudy stood up, and began pacing, his voice tinged with indignation, "Don't you think I know that?"
Jaime could feel Rudy's worry, and ignored his momentary anger; her voice remained even.
"This doesn't make sense. Russ has me covering him during the day in the OSI building, where he should be safe, then when he's home at night, the NSB is 'around,' but covering him with low priority presence."
Rudy had stopped pacing and was standing with his back to her. She could see the tension in his shoulders.
"Rudy? If you know something more...."
His head dropped down, and he took a long breath, then slowly he turned to face her.
"Oscar doesn't want you involved, Jaime."
"That's ludicrous, Rudy. I can protect him a lot better than a bunch of guys with guns down the block." A frown creased her brow, as it hit her, "He knows who it is, doesn't he?"
Rudy slowly nodded, "Yes."
Jaime stood up and began pacing in front of the fireplace.
"Well?" The doctor hesitated, and Jaime's ire rose up, "Damnit Rudy... I can't help him if I don't have all the information. Now tell me what you know."
He looked into her fiery eyes and knew he couldn't keep the truth from her. In the end, she'd wriggle it out of him one way or another; she always did.
Wells sighed, and sat down in the chair by the fire, his voice growing quiet, "Remember Dr. Gillespie?"
Jaime rolled her eyes, "The bio-scientist who defected with his smart germ to the Middle East.....how could I forget?" She frowned, "It's him?"
Rudy shook his head, "Not exactly....it's worse. The people who lost out when you extracted his research and destroyed his lab in Iraq. They want Oscar and--"
"--That's all the more reason for tighter security. Rudy, can't you talk to him?"
"I've tried, Jaime."
"He won't listen to you?"
"He listens, but he doesn't hear me.... and that isn't all of it." She stared at him, so he continued, "Oscar agreed to bring you out here because he's afraid--"
"--they'll come after me. I should have known. That explains the tail that's been on me, and why I'm at the OSI all day long. He's got my apartment under surveillance as well.... Unbelievable, you know that? It's unforgivable...."
Rudy stood and took her by the arms, "Hey.....Oscar cares about you, don't be angry with him for that."
Jaime's eyes softened, "I'm not Rudy, it's just....."
Her voice died out and she looked down at the floor. Rudy's hand gently brought her chin back up so that her eyes would meet his.
"You're just disappointed that he didn't tell you the truth." She nodded, and he smiled, "That's Oscar. It's his way of protecting you, Jaime."
"He's the one who needs protection. Nobody's tried to knock me off.... He shouldn't try to shoulder this burden by himself, either; not when he has people around him who want to help him."
Rudy moved away, "Don't be too hard on him, Jaime, this situation has been rough enough."
Jaime's eyes squinted in suspicion, "How long has this been going on, Rudy?"
Wells shrugged, "I don't know, three, maybe four months."
"Three or four months? I don't know if I feel sorry for him, or would just as soon kill him myself....." She sighed, and after a moment, softened, "That poor baby. The stress alone has probably taken a huge toll on him..."
Wells nodded in commiseration, "Yeah, if they wait long enough, he might just drop dead of a heart attack before they can--"
Rudy stopped himself, but it was too late. Jaime was staring at him incredulously. He looked away.
Oh hell. He looked back at her, and his dark brown eyes pleaded for her to leave this one alone. But her hands came to her hips, and her eyes narrowed in anger.
"Rudy Wells, you'd better fess up, and you'd better do it fast."
His voice was almost a whisper, "There's nothing to tell, Jaime."
"Bullshit. I've seen how many times a day you find an excuse to come up to the office. You're checking up on him, aren't you?"
Rudy looked at her from beneath hooded eyes; Oscar would have his hide. But in his heart, he knew she deserved the truth.
"He's been having some tightness in his chest, and shortness of breath." He hurried to add, "But it's nothing I can't fix."
She looked right through him, "But you're worried it could turn into something far worse."
He nodded in agreement, "Yeah. Oscar isn't getting any younger, Jaime....."
She glared at him, "None of us are."
"That's the truth."
"At least one of us tells it like it is without prompting...."
She was sorry as soon as the remark had rolled off her lips. Jaime watched Rudy plop dejectedly on the sofa, and lean his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. This whole situation had been rough on all of them, and she had played the guilt card a little heavy on the dear man. After a moment, Jaime couldn't stand it anymore, and she sat next to him, rubbing her hand gently on the back of his head.
"I'm sorry, Rudy. This isn't your fault. I'm just worried about him, that's all."
Wells just nodded, and for a moment, Jaime simply ran her hand through his hair.
"I should let you get some sleep."
She kissed his cheek, stood up to go, and held her hand out to him.
"Walk me to the door?"
He nodded, gratefully took the hand offered him, and walked her to his front door. Rudy helped her with her coat, and opened the door for her. She turned to him, but he couldn't meet her eyes. She bent her head down to catch his attention, and he smiled slightly at her.
"I know you were asked not to say anything to me Rudy, and I'm sorry I put you on the spot; but I'm not sorry that I understand the situation now, because Oscar needs help. And you know that, and that's why you told me."
He finally looked up at her, his eyes steady and serious, "I told you because I don't want anything to happen to Oscar, or to you."
Jaime touched the side of his face with her hand, and pulled him toward her; she brushed her lips gently against his, "Get some sleep Rudy, I'll see you in the morning."
His timbre was full of tension, "Be careful going home, Jaime."
She stroked his cheek gently, "Don't worry babe, I'll be fine." She smiled at him, "Besides, I have an entire unit of NSB security people following me. If I so much as break a nail, I'll have the whole squad on top of me." Rudy didn't smile, so Jaime tugged at the lapel of his robe, "Aw Rudy, please don't worry. Everything's gonna be okay.... "
He nodded slightly, unconvinced, and she leaned in to kiss his check, whispering, "Leave the worrying to Oscar; without that, he wouldn't know what to do all day."
Rudy stood at the door and watched as Jaime walked down the street, pulling her coat closer to herself for warmth. He watched for as long as he could see her, then finally, chilled to the bone himself, Rudy closed the door and called it a night.