A/N: Here's the next installment. And responses to those awesome reviews; thank you for the encouragement, you guys rock!
Syrinx – Cheers. I'm sticking to my outline, and hopefully can deliver if I don't rush it. FYI, I based Jackson's past on the real life upbringing of actor Josh Lucas, who played Lt. Ben Gannon in "Stealth". His parents were anti-nuclear activists and raised him as a survivalist. I just sort of elucidated and added fiction to Jackson, making it much more harrowing and messed up. ;)
76 – Thank you kindly.
Itsbetterwithjam – yep, the plot thickens. I'm not revealing anything at this point, so stay tuned and find out. ;) Thanks for the kudos, Jackson and Lisa deserved a picnic. Though I tried to tone down the fluff bunnies. :D
Maria – Trust Jackson. He's got it covered. Or doooes he? ;)
Leese – More shall come in the next week, the end is nigh. And you are always a great source of inspiration. In fact, uh, I wouldn't have a story without you. Or Carl Ellsworth. Or Jackson, for that matter. LOL
"So, what did you want to show me?" Lisa stood next to Jackson in the basement of the cabin a few hours later, looking around apprehensively. The last time she'd come down here he'd kicked her ass.
He regarded her with amusement as though reading her thoughts, and walked over to the temperature panel on the wall. "This." Curiously, she watched as he flipped the panel open, and then lifted a hidden inner plate beneath it that looked like the touch-tone buttons on a phone receiver. He beckoned her over with his finger.
"The code is fifteen digits long; your social security number followed by the date of our red eye flight."
Lisa kept her mouth open. "You – have my social security number memorized?"
He rolled his eyes. "Really, Leese. What kind of a stalker-slash-boyfriend would I be if I didn't?"
Her eyes narrowed automatically. "Who said you're my boyfriend?"
He stepped in close, far past the boundaries of her personal comfort zone, impressing their height difference upon her. "I do," he said huskily. "Want to contest it after all the love we've made in the last few days, including before we flew back after the picnic?"
Against her will her cheeks burned crimson, and she found that she couldn't. Am I really giving into him? Damn. She slowly shook her head, meeting his cerulean gaze with trusting eyes.
He chuckled low, dipping his head down for a light peck to her lips. "Mhm, that's what I thought. Now enter the code, if you please."
Lisa turned her attention to the panel, and she began to enter her social. "So, what is this, the key box to the security here?"
A smug smirk crept onto Jackson's face as she entered the date of the flight. "Not quite. Press enter, and turn around." He didn't want to miss her reaction, and watched every movement as a series of high pitched beeps ensued, and they both turned around to look at the far wall. Like the whole room it was mounted with fencing swords and sparring equipment, but a portion she hadn't noticed before about the size of a door was left inconspicuously bare. After the sound of thick metal unlatching sounded in the otherwise silent basement, the empty space in the wall suddenly slid to one side, revealing a hidden dark room.
"So, this is where you keep the bat cave," Lisa joked, walking with him towards it.
"Every safe house has to have one," he retorted, leaning against the doorjamb as she peeked inside.
"It's … a panic room." As soon as the words escaped her, they seemed implausible, connecting the word "panic" with Jackson. True enough, the room was relatively small, a computer station with monitors that showed the entire premises, a single bed in the corner with several locked metal chests around the room stored with what she assumed were MREs, food rations and survival goods.
She quickly backed out of the room, looking questioningly at Jackson.
"It's also a bomb shelter," he informed her. "It was constructed to withstand an explosion."
She frowned at him. "Why are you showing me this?"
Jackson took a deep breath and glanced at the ceiling, articulating his words. "Because I want you to be prepared just in case something goes wrong with the operation."
Lisa folded her arms. "You're scaring me."
He lifted an eyebrow. "The idea is not to scare you Lisa, but to prepare you. This is just a precautionary. Everything should be fine, but in case it isn't and something happens, I want you to be safe."
She swallowed dryly, glancing at the panic room. "You know I have a problem with tight spaces."
"Well, if the need arises, you'll have to suck it up and drive on."
She grimaced, putting a hand to her throat. In the back of her mind she didn't want to consider what this implied. "Can we go upstairs now, please?" She found that her voice was very small.
Jackson nodded, swiftly crossing the room and entering the code in the panel again, watching as the panic room disappeared from view. She'd seen what he'd wanted her to see, and that was all she needed to know. The rest would be up to him to not muck up the operation.
The day waned on quite slower than Jackson had expected it to; they wound up playing a round of gin with Richard in the kitchen, which turned into a lengthy game of poker that Lisa surprised him by winning with a grin the Cheshire cat would have admired. She did a little victory dance as she collected her poker chips.
Richard cooked chicken tetrazinni for them that night, and Lisa discovered that the Doctor was quite skilled in the culinary arts as well as the art of indulgent conversation. He was an interesting raconteur on every subject from ingredients to patterned behaviors, and though he loved to hear himself speak, he also loved to give Jackson a hard time, which she privately adored.
Later that evening Lisa was sitting in the armchair by the fire, reading a hard backed edition of Great Expectations she had found in Richard's extensive library, when she heard talking in the next room. She shut the book with a quiet whisper, laying it on the arm of the soft chair, and tiptoed through the glow cast by the fireplace to the standalone, high bookshelves that served as a partition to the medical area.
She removed one of the thinner books just above her eye level to peek into the next room, where Richard had his glasses on and was examining Jackson's ear with a scope as he sat on the exam table. The light was bright and stark, and they spoke quietly. Lisa strained to hear them. Jackson sat facing the side, and she could only see his well-defined profile from where she stood on tiptoe.
Richard was speaking, choosing his words carefully as he examined Jackson. "-bought flat outright, so they're yours when you need them, information and keys are stored in the safe deposit box like you wanted. Money's wired to the account in Zurich."
"Good," Jackson grunted, his jaw tightening as the doctor probed his tender calf.
"Looks like they worked you pretty good this time … So, when I was in Mexico last week, I ran into Salvador Chavez down by the diving lodge in Acapulco, you know, the one you used to frequent quite regularly? We made small talk, and I asked if he'd seen you while you were there five months ago when you had your two month sabbatical, hanging out with any beautiful women down at the beach …"
Jackson said nothing, but looked down briefly as though embarrassed.
"Want to know what he said? Said you'd never even checked into the hotel. Care to elaborate, or would you like me to venture a guess at where you spent February to April before penultimate disaster took flight, so to speak?"
Jackson sighed and looked up at the ceiling, and Lisa saw him shoot the older man a warning look, but he still said nothing.
"Because I'd like to take a guess, if I may. Might it have something to do with stalking a certain young fiery-haired woman, who by the way is staring at you right where Dostoyevsky's greatest works should be?" Jackson's head whipped straight to Lisa, and she let out a little yelp at having been found out, stumbling backwards and landing hard on her butt on the hardwood cabin floor.
"Ow!" She squealed, and the next second Jackson was on the floor beside her on his hands and knees, bare-chested, his face close to hers. His skin glowed in the firelight as a smile threatened to surface, but was overridden by concern. Lisa grimaced and rubbed her sore toosh. "Guess that's what I get for eavesdropping, huh," she moaned.
Jackson smirked. "You alright there, Nancy Drew?"
She rolled her eyes. "Very funny. I supp-" The next second, Jackson was kissing her passionately, putting a hand behind her back for support and pushing her gently down to the floor.
"Mmm … what about Richard?" She questioned, halfheartedly putting a hand to his chest as her body came to attention, and darting her eyes to the bookshelf. The light from the examination area had been switched off, and she heard the front door shut.
"He went back to his RV for the night. We're alone," Jackson assured her, dropping his tone down a notch.
She gave him a probing look, slightly playful. "Do people always do what you say?"
"Everything's negotiable," he replied sensually, with an inviting look that could only have one meaning. "Kiss me, woman."
She awoke in the dark to the sounds of a zipper being shut. Her eyes took a moment to adjust to the gloom, and she vaguely realized Jackson was on the floor somewhere at the foot of the bed. Lisa wiped her eyes and reached over for the lamp on the nightstand.
"Don't turn it on," he said quickly in a hushed voice. The rustle of clothing as he moved along with his seriousness of tone sent chills creeping through her body. She sat up, pulling the duvet up to her naked form. The lack of his warmth must have woken her. "Why not?"
He moved quickly around the bed and was now kneeling at her side, touching her hand. "Because I'm leaving early to do the drop, and I don't want Richard to know until after I'm gone. This is the only time he sleeps."
Against her will tears stung behind her eyes. "Were you even going to say goodbye to me?" she kept her voice low like his, though Richard was out in the RV. Jackson tsked, standing up to lean over and kiss her forehead and rub her shoulder. He was fully clothed in some lightly-based black material, and looked every inch the deadly spy.
"Of course I was, Princess. Otherwise I wouldn't have woken you up. Want to get dressed and see me out?" he reached down to the floor and produced her earlier discarded garments, which she maneuvered into while still on the bed. She stood up, putting her arms around his waist and pressing her head into his chest. She noted he had a thin, colored stretch of long rope in his hand that he had been knotting, much like the climbing ropes she was used to scaling when in gymnastics.
"Are you sure it's such a good idea to go now? Won't they be upset you're changing the drop time?" she muttered into his chest.
Jackson held her at arms length, smiling ruefully at the emotion crackling in her voice. "Leese, can I give you a piece of advice?"
"Could I stop you?" she snarled.
The corners of Jackson's lips twitched upwards. He waited a moment as if carefully choosing his words, then had out with it. "You need to learn to quell your emotions when necessary when you're around these people, or you're not going to have a GWH to save your life. They eat your tears for breakfast, and spit them out for brunch."
Lisa frowned. Great, more jargon to learn in addition to being lectured by Yoda the Wise. "What's a-"
"Stands for Great White Hope," he winked, pulling the knot on the rope in his hands tightly until satisfied. "Now, if you'd be so kind as to lend me your hand for a moment?"
She yanked it back just as he began to touch her fingers. No way was she going to be tied up. "Why do you want my hand?" she asked suspiciously, regarding the rope with less than trusting eyes.
Quick as a hawk, Jackson swooped forward, and planted a kiss atop her knuckles, grinning mischievously as he pulled her to him and threw the rope over his shoulder so it landed on his duffel bag on the floor.
"Nothing really, I just wanted to do that," he smirked at her scowl, and walked over to her open suitcase on the armchair, motioning for her to join him. His expression suddenly wore down, and he looked very serious.
"Leese," he whispered, "I need you to do something for me." Her sharp green eyes followed him as he extracted a roll of socks wedged in the corner of the luggage, beneath a few folded pairs of pants. She saw the faint outline of a small rectangular object jutting from within the cotton.
"In here I have the main info they need from your dad's thumb drive. This is a split one I've made, because I don't entirely trust them to make good on their promise to take care of you, especially knowing there's a mole in there," she had to step very close to hear his half-inch whisper, meeting the light in his blue eyes, which were intensely focused on her. "Now, I'm going in playing my cards, and I'm giving them an ultimatum to follow, at which time I'll give them the rest of the information, but I don't fully trust Richard to not just hand it over to them."
"Well, what makes you think I'm not going to do the same, Jackson?" she hissed back in a harsh whisper. "You're withholding evidence, here, really important evidence."
"No, Leese," he reprimanded raspily. "What I'm doing is saving both our asses. I want to make sure we're both out of harm's way before I give this to them, and I need to go now when they're not expecting it, to keep the ball in our court. They still don't know who Keefe's inside man is, and I'm not going to take the chance of losing you."
Lisa pursed her lips, inwardly cursing him. She grabbed the roll of socks, fishing out the thumb drive and holding it up to his face. "I'm coming with you."
He looked furious. "The hell you are!" he growled in a whisper. "Listen to me and listen carefully. If I hadn't of intervened and taken you that day at your apartment, you would certainly have been dead within a day. These guys don't play around, Lisa. I'm not questioning your ability or stamina or guts – I know you've got what it takes. This isn't about that at all. But you can't come with me now. You're safer here."
"Jackson," she whispered shrilly, getting in his face, "You don't even trust Richard to hold onto this. What in the hell makes you think I'm any safer with him than with the guys at the FBI?"
"Because it's complicated," he lowered his head, bearing the full weight of his intimidating gaze into her. "He's my dog, loyal only to me. He would never put you in harm's way. I do trust him to a considerable extent, but he's more of a rule player than I am – always has been, and anyone will give in to the right kinds of persuasion or even guilt. Look, just hold onto this, Lisa. It's our insurance policy. Don't let Richard know you have it, and when the time comes in a day or so, I'll come to get you, we'll take off together, and the Feds will have what they need, but by that time we'll be long gone and on our way to safety. Just be packed and ready to go the moment I say to, okay?"
Lisa let out a breath she didn't know she'd been holding, and stepped back a pace, looking at him with slight distaste. But the distaste was more directed at herself. Was this some kind of separation anxiety after being so tightly clustered with him? She really didn't want him to go, especially after losing her father so suddenly. In an odd sort of way, she trusted him to deliver them out of this situation, and it was more the concept of possibly losing him that frightened her more than anything.
"It's going to be fine, Leese," he murmured into her neck, stepping closer to draw her into his embrace. "We're going to come out of this unscathed and free." He sealed this promise with a light kiss, smiling at her as he touched the side of her face, his fingers finding their way into her hair. "I have to go now."
Lisa frowned, glancing at the dark window. "Won't Richard wake up when he hears the car start?"
"I'm hiking up to the copter on foot," he whispered. "Should be about thirty minutes to get there. Just tell him I kissed you goodbye and said there had been a change in plans, that I was doing the drop early. He knows me, he won't think it's anything unusual. In fact, he probably expects it."
"Yeah, except you're not giving them everything they wanted," she chastised, lifting an eyebrow as he rubbed her back.
"Hey, never go into a poker game empty-handed," he returned lightly. He kissed her once more for good measure, and shouldered his duffel. "Don't wait up." Smiling, he released her arms and was suddenly shuffling quietly down the stairs. Lisa stood there holding the thumb drive, swaying slightly on the spot for a moment, when something kicked in and she thundered down the stairs, not caring if Richard heard her or not.
Halfway to the front door, he set the duffel bag down and opened his arms as she jumped into them, wrapping her legs around his waist and kissing him passionately. His black-gloved hands clutched her toned derriere, holding her up to him in a moment he never wanted to break.
They continued on in this fervor for half a minute; then Jackson halfheartedly released her along with even more reluctantly releasing her lips. He grimly nodded, grabbing his bag again and giving her a last, meaningful look.
"Be careful." She ordered, folding her arms over her chest.
The cabin suddenly felt ten degrees cooler and seemed much more silent knowing he was leaving.
He nodded, conveying unspoken words to her with his eyes before turning towards the door, carefully turning the knob and disappearing into the night.
Lisa put her palm to her rapidly beating heart, trying to quell the nerves and foreboding that settled upon her as she watched him walk towards the perimeter in the distance.