Kyle pushes Jake towards a dangerous path, one he knows Jake really wants to take. Set right after Dead Man Talking – evening in the hospital wing, after regular visiting hours.

Author's note: I don't own anything, just like to write about it and hope you enjoy reading it. R&R's are greatly welcome and appreciated; I do try to reply to each one I receive and employ the suggestions you're so kind to share with me :)

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As the elevator doors began to close, Kyle could hear Diane's voice.

"Wait, hold the elevator, please!"

For a moment, he considered letting it go; he wasn't sure Jake's doctor would approve of the contraband he'd smuggled in. What was left of his conscience getting the better of that debate, he sighed, reached over and pushed the button to open the doors.

As she appeared breathless at the elevator door, lugging a fairly large bag, even by Diane's standards, her face registered guilty shock when she saw Kyle in the elevator.

"Oh, uh, hi," she said with one of her quick, quirky smiles. "I didn't realize you were planning to visit him tonight."

"Likewise. Are you getting in the elevator?" he asked with a hint of amusement in his light eyes.

"Oh, yes, of course." She stepped in and leaned up against the back wall with him, as the doors finally closed and the machine began its ascent.

"So, what are you bringing him?"

"Well, I know that he goes to that icky diner down the street for lunch – I really don't know why; it didn't look too good, but if that's what he likes …" she trailed off.

Kyle maintained his composure, silently grateful for his years of training in such practice, though her knowledge of the diner was disconcerting. As long as she doesn't find out why, he thought.

"What about you?"

"What?" She had interrupted his thoughts about the secret of the bad diner.

"What are you bringing him?"

Kyle sighed; the jig might be up now. He reached into one of the deep, inner pockets of his trenchcoat and showed her the top of the beer bottle.

"Ah," she said lightly. "I suppose that's a partner thing, versus a doctor thing."

"You don't mind?"

"Well, I don't think he should have too many of those right now, but one or two can actually be beneficial. You don't have a whole twelve pack in there, do you?" she asked in a playful tone, merry dark eyes scouring his jacket for signs of more hidden contraband.

Kyle chuckled, relieved that she wasn't going to pull doctor rank on him about the beer.

"Nah, just a couple to take the edge off."

"Well, as his doctor, I'm obligated to make sure he's getting nourishment, so that's why I got the sandwich," she said, her tone almost apologetic.

"And hospital food just might not be right for someone with his specific … makeup …" she was launching into her doctor babble again, sounding more defensive of her visit with each word that came tumbling out.

Kyle gave her a look; it's time, he thought.

"Diane, did you know that the only place the NSA has no surveillance cameras is the ladies room? All the cameras record audio, too."

Diane stopped mid sentence; her mouth forming an o as she realized what he was referring to. Her face became pale as fear replaced the guilty look, and he could see she was preparing a defensive missive to what he'd seen and heard.

"Well, sometimes, things can be completely misinterpreted without all of the facts …" she began in a professorial tone; she'd obviously been thinking about this for a while.

"Can you keep a secret?" he interrupted her.

"Uh, sure," she replied, confusion evident in her tone.

"I think it's cute," he said, as if he himself were surprised by this information.

Diane looked at him curiously.

"You think it's cute?"

"Yeah, and cute isn't a word I'm supposed to use – ever."

"Not exactly in the spy lexicon, is it?" she said, clearly relieved.

Kyle looked seriously at her now.

"Y'know, Diane, it took some major cajones to go AWOL to bring him back from Philadelphia – Lou won't ever admit it to you, but she was really impressed by that. Jake is very lucky to have someone like you in his life; it doesn't take a nanobot scientist to see that it's not just a doctor/patient thing."

Diane opened her mouth to protest; Kyle smiled and raised his hand; the elevator had reached their floor.

"I won't say anything, if you don't tell anyone I used the word 'cute'."

She thought for a moment before responding, smiling at him in a way she hadn't before.

"Deal."

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He strolled into Lou's office for their monthly status meeting, and pulled one of the armchairs closer to the front of her desk. She was tapping away on her keyboard.

"Hi, Kyle; just a second while I finish this email. We won't be too long today, anyway, unless you've got some items I should know about?" she asked in a wondering tone.

"Nope, nothing out of the ordinary this month. Got a rogue agent back, with the help of an AWOL scientist; the bean counters have got to be loving the savings on that little venture," he deadpanned, with a droll grin and a merry look in his eyes.

She looked up from her email now, frowning. She stabbed a button on the keyboard and pushed it away.

"There is nothing funny about that mishap. I don't know what was worse," Lou said exasperatedly, "him or her."

"Well, he couldn't help himself in that situation. And," he said as he lowered his voice, "she was right."

Lou clucked her tongue disapprovingly.

"Yes, but I can't have my scientists running off after amnesiac agents; I had to do some pretty intense song and dance maneuvers to keep Warner from throwing them both into prison. It's lucky for them the Brandt rescue mission was right on the heels of that whole episode.

"At least then they might be together," Kyle heard himself say.

Lou stared at him.

"Agent Duarte, there are guidelines about fraternization between NSA employees; please tell me you've imparted these without exception to your trainees."

He stared back.

"Yes ma'am; without exception."

"Well, given his time in the burn unit recently, and the troubles with his memory just before that, there's no better time than the present to reinforce those," she stated flatly, eyes steady on his face.

Kyle returned the no nonsense gaze.

"Absolutely; I'll make that my top priority with him."

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Jake looked at his reflection in the men's room mirror, and sighed.

"Of course, I think you're beautiful – who wouldn't?"

That's what he should have said, but she had caught him so completely off guard, threw him such a curve ball with the topic change, then ricocheting back to that comment.

Instead, he deflected her, never even asking her if she would be willing.

and I think we both understand … we just can't. The words rang in his head, over and over again, followed by his own response to this admonition.

You big chicken.

The door opened; it was his partner.

"C'mon, Jake; it's time for lunch," Kyle said with a grin, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.

"Yeah, I'm comin'" Jake replied, as they headed out of the men's room together.

The diner where they'd been eating lunch regularly since Kyle had noticed its proximity to the women's workout facilities at the NSA building had terrible food; they were easily able to secure their favorite window seat for the best view.

They stared unabashedly at the women, Jake using his nano-enhanced vision, while Kyle used high powered field glasses.

Out of the corner of his eye, Kyle could see Jake's face; he was concentrating on her again.

Time for some decisive conversation about the "Philadelphia experiment," he thought.

"You should have stopped right after you said she was beautiful."

Jake turned to look at him.

"What are you talking about?"

Kyle grinned, not taking his eyes away from the field glasses.

"The men's room conversation before you left for Serbia. You should have stopped right after you said she was beautiful, and let her decide if the two of you 'just can't.'"

Jake stared at his partner, his heart starting to race, but he had to stay calm, or she'd figure out where they were … and what they were up to.

"How the hell do you know about that?"

Now Kyle looked right at him.

"We work for the NSA, Jake, in the most secure building on the planet. There are audio equipped surveillance cameras everywhere."

Jake took in the meaning of his words, trying not to panic.

"Everywhere?"

"Everywhere. So, when I noticed the two of you in there together, I thought it might be a good idea to make sure that footage didn't get into anyone else's hands. No one checks those cameras except in an emergency – I think that little incident rates as an emergency, don't you?"

Kyle leaned forward on the table now.

"What is with that load of horse shit about 'and I think we both understand, we just can't?'"

Jake looked over at him, shock replacing the forlorn expression he'd been wearing.

"Did you even ask her?"

"No."

"Why not?"

Jake sighed, and ran his hand through his hair.

"Because I'm a big chicken, okay? What if it didn't work out?"

"What if it did?"

"But if it didn't, it would be so awkward, and then we wouldn't be friends any more, and it would be like the last fateful episodes of a great television show, where the two lead characters just spend the rest of the series annoying each other and the viewers, too."

"What if it DID work out? Don't you think you should ask that question, too? Then, maybe it would be like the great television show got cancelled at the peak of its greatness and the two lead characters live happily ever after for all anyone knows."

Jake frowned at Kyle.

"Shouldn't you be admonishing me, drilling me about the rules regarding fraternization at the NSA?"

Kyle gave him a look; he wasn't buying this diversion.

"All I'm saying is that sometimes you've got to take a chance – there's more to life than a rule book – and as many times as you've broken protocol, you're not fooling me with this crap about the rules – you're right; you ARE a big chicken," he said, as he tentatively tucked into his poorly made sandwich on stale bread.

Jake sighed and looked down, picking at his own food. He looked over as the girls finished their post aerobic stretching; he wasn't sure why he tortured himself in this manner.

"You really think I should?"

"I really think you don't want to spend the rest of your life asking 'what if'."

The girls went back in the building; Jake turned his attention back to his plate. That was at least twice in recent memory someone had suggested that he not spend the rest of his life asking that question; maybe it's time to ask a different question, he thought.

His New Year's resolution loomed in his thoughts now; yeah, it's time.