The Hardest Part of the Job
Category: H/R - Some fans and I created an H/R Shipper Club, and it seemed appropriate that with this sweet couple, simplicity works best. Come join us at TV(dot)com.
Dedicated to: Lu, my EH soul mate without whom this would not have been done, among many other things; Nikki, who gets me through my "idiot fits" and makes me smile day in and day out; to all those who have been helping out with the Eleventh Hour Renewal Campaign - you guys are wonderful, and hopefully our hard work will pay off soon; and most importantly, my Mom, who is also my best friend.
Jacob Hood was pissed. As he was considered by most he came in contact with to be somewhat of a genius, the conception would be that he was the type to become politely irritated or thoughtfully perturbed. Not so. He was pissed.
Nearly all of the folks he met treated him only as the brilliant scientist, the man with all the answers. Very few regarded him as what he truly knew himself to be: a fallible human being named Jacob. And it was one of those few that just happened to be at the focal point of his anger.
Perhaps he wouldn't even had noticed before.
In the fallout of his wife's illness and death, he had obsessively taken residence inside his own thoughts. He became perfectly happy to remain locked there in his head. It had order and he had control. It was safe there. And no one dare bother him. Until her.
Perhaps it wouldn't even have mattered to him before.
It had all seemed to be working, this plan of his. His life as he had known it was over. Maggie was gone and any need to connect and feel and love followed along after her. But he still had his thoughts, and they were relentless and complicated and exceptional. So he had silently tread water off on his own until a friend had unwittingly offered him a way to channel this new life. It began as just a favor. A "come and check this out" kind of thing. But this quickly transformed into something else. He discovered a pathway where he could reconcile both continuing forward in the secluded life he desired with the demands of the world he lived in and the people in it. Relatives and friends were appeased and that only gave him more time to himself. He set out to make the world a better place, whether he felt a part of it or not. And in this he felt he could mend. He bound his wounds in this new passion and treated them with the skillful touch of apathy. Until he no longer saw or felt them at all. He excelled in this new life, wanting neither the praise nor the attention. Just the next place to show up.
Then it all changed. He became too noticeable to the wrong people, and it almost got him killed. Although he was perfectly content to just move on ahead, disregarding any consequences, those at the FBI could no longer let him ignore the asset he had become. And, as it was easier and less terrifying to give in than give up, he found himself attached at the hip to another person. The very thing he had painstakingly avoided for so long, whether he acknowledged it or not.
While he outwardly accepted this new arrangement, Jacob's true intentions toward it were not quite of a submissive nature. He managed to retain a grip on his isolation as new faces came and went. Some shook with anger; others with bewilderment. None of them, however, got him. And he was secretly ecstatic. Until her.
Perhaps it wouldn't even have bothered him before.
So here he was, in the corner of his hotel room, slumped down in an ugly, oversized armchair. Even the chair had him fuming, as he was unable even for a second to get comfortable. Truth be told, the chair was just fine. He had sat comfortably in many identical chairs across the country without complaint. It was in his head where he could find no relief.
She was there, with her computer, chewing on something unlikely to be of any nutritious value and presumably unaware of his musings. To be honest, he was unsure what had prompted them himself. But once they were upon him they become ravenous, seeking out and consuming any and all of his emotions until he was a raw shell of himself. He went from weary Dr. Hood to wrathful Jacob.
They had just finished a case. The crisis was over, to be sure, but the ones affected were far from relieved. One of which was a man whom he could not help but identify with. The man had lost his first wife to leukemia 3 years ago. He was a Professor of Biology at the local community college and only recently got his life back together. And his new wife of 6 months had been their first victim. The pain and sadness was agonizing to see each and every time, but, for whatever reason, this time had scraped away at his heart just a little bit deeper. It left him feeling sore and exposed.
And then there had been an incident that had tied all his troubled emotions of the day together. Her antics had only aggravated his feelings of helplessness.... and amplified his sense of loss. Whether it was past loss or a fear of future loss he did not dare admit.
It was a simple arrest. They had confirmed who was responsible and where they needed to go to find him. But as they drove up to the location, even he knew that something wasn't right. But she insisted that she was more than able to handle things. She hadn't waited for backup. She hadn't even waited for Felix. It was dark as she approached the building. She crept up on it only to be jumped by two men who had been crouched in the shadows. She struggled with them as he flung himself from the car. As he ran, he noticed another man running towards her position from the other side of the building. To his immense relief, it was a cop and he had his gun trained on the attackers. A few agonizingly tense moments passed until the men lowered their weapons and surrendered as the backup began to arrive. They had been extremely lucky, and he had not said a word to her since.
That the origin of his present thoughts should have been obvious to Jacob was absurd. He was a man of science and thought and hypothesis. And, although he was this smooth and discerning scientist, those talents did not always extend to Jacob the man. Especially when it applied to matters of the heart.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her turn and glance over. And at once he knew she knew. He became unnerved and ashamed, despite the anger that continued to course through him. Even now, he was very much aware of his self-control. It was strong and unusually impenetrable. But anytime one person, filled with their own thoughts and fears and insecurities, enters into another's emotional minefield....all bets are off. Just one tiny spark can be all it takes to cause an explosion.
Rachel stole a glance at Hood. She knew that something was wrong. And, if she would only allow herself, she even knew what it was and why. Here was a man who she once looked at as only an assignment, a duty, her charge. She had even gone so far as to tersely correct any perception that he was her partner. But as time went on all those barriers slipped away. And she had found in him that partner, one whom she valued and trusted above all others. But today hadn't gone as they planned and she was wise enough to know that it had all somehow hurt him.
She watched as he tried to ignore her glances and his legs began swaying rapidly back and forth, back and forth. He shifted in the chair repeatedly as though insects were crawling all over him. She could see that he wanted to be standing up, moving around. In her mind's eye he was up, hands swallowed by his pockets, turning this way and that.
It was time to confront him. That was a big part of her job anyway, right? Confrontation. Now granted, it was normally on his behalf that she did this and not him personally that she was challenging. But, it still seemed like it was something he needed and that definitely was her job.
She knew from day one that it wouldn't be easy with him. But how he had gone from a major annoyance, an obstacle in her career path, to an absolute joy, a man who she could not bear to live without....she did not know. These thoughts rose to the surface of her mind unbidden and she smothered them without remorse. She did not want to think on that any further. She was about action.
He saw her chin drop, a move he knew indicated that she had made up her mind about something. And then she got up and walked straight over to him. Without hesitation, she bent down towards him and said, "Ok, Hood, what is up with you?" He looked up at her, pretending to be surprised at her sudden proximity, and blinked as though she were a bright light, shaking his head. All the while he kept his eyes trained on hers.
She had prepared herself for those eyes, but she had yet to do it successfully. All the nerve she had gathered up began to melt away as green hit blue. She could stare down a weapon or an enemy advance; but for the eyes of Dr. Hood she found she was no match. She started to feel that increasingly familiar feeling deep in her gut and her resolve began to crumble.
She recovered enough to say, "Is this gonna be like those other times, Hood? You are just gonna clam up when I know that you are angry or hurt or frustrated...." she paused and finished with a sigh "....'cause I really thought we had gotten past that."
At this, his eyes flashed almost imperceptively and he seemed to fight himself for just a moment. Then he said in a very quiet yet simmering voice "And I thought that we had gotten past stunts like today."
She paused at that. He was unusually blunt to those with whom he had no patience. Those who were hiding the truths that he so desperately needed to uncover to save lives. But with her, he was often different. There was usually a vagueness left between them and he almost always backed off. But not this time.
"Listen, Hood, it was not a stunt. It is my job." She knew that this explanation would not go over very well with him. They had had a long talk after her hospitalization and physical therapy, and he had been very insistent on his end. He demanded she take less chances if they were to remain working together. She had agreed, but had known that he took the conversation more seriously than herself. Her thoughts were interrupted by his raised voice.
"Well, Rachel, maybe the very definition of your job has become the hardest part of mine!" The emphasis he put on the last word shook her slight frame, and his voice cracked with the exertion.
He had been unable to stop the words from coming out. He even shuddered slightly as their impact hit him. At some point he had stood up and was inches from her face. She smelled of licorice and vanilla. And something else that increasingly tugged at his heart. He retreated just as quickly as he had approached, sitting back down in the chair and bowing his head to rest his hands on the back of his neck. Just like that, all the anger was gone. He was left with nothing but the weariness once more.
She had seen that anger before. Aimed at selfish people, who used their grief or vanity to step on the lives and rights of others. Or at liars and murderers, who would use whatever means necessary to get what they wanted. But never at her.
Stunned but resolute, she haltingly asked "What do you mean, Hood?" After a few moments of utter silence with no movement from either one, she pressed on. "Ya know, you may be able to listen well to others, but you sure don't volunteer those thoughts of yours easily. At least, not when it counts...." she trailed off for a moment, dipped her head and finished "....to me." She saw him move ever so slightly at this and realized that she had drifted too close to an intimacy she fought and a reveal that she was not ready for. Doing what she did best, she tried to cover this lapse in a cloak of professionalism, speaking hastily. "Come on, Hood. I am your handler. I need to know where you are in your head sometimes, too." She could feel that these words were rushed and not completely convincing, but it was more important for her right now to recover some semblance of control than anything else.
A few moments passed and he looked up at her, straight into her eyes, and that last bit of control she thought she had secured fell away. And then he spoke in a thick whisper, the breathiness of it almost causing her to lose all control. "Is that all you are, Rachel? Is that where we are? Really?" He said each word deliberately, letting them suspend in the air for as long as possible.
She froze. Her mind was doing somersaults, and she hazily saw him stand up and slowly make his way over to her. Just when she thought she could take no more, he stopped. He was mere inches away again and she could feel his warmth enveloping her. She inhaled his scent and it made her whole body tingle. Neither dared to breathe and the air between them was smothered by their own unease. A part of her wanted to reach out and grab him, run her hands through his hair, brush her lips to his. But that part was subdued by Agent Young, who knew that she should leave the room now.
Before she could think any further, he fell back a step and thrust his hands in his pockets. She found that she could breathe again.
"You're not saving me if you get hurt, Rachel." He said it in such a resigned manner. If all her nerves hadn't been on fire she might never even had heard him at all. She felt tears threaten her eyes, but did not relent.
He must have sensed her tears because at once he was back, watching his own hand trail up and down her arm. She jumped a little at his touch, then instantly softened into the sensation as you would a warm bath. She looked up at him, but he refused to meet her eyes. And for that she was almost grateful, for they were always her undoing.
He continued to caress her arm as he stared into what she could only guess was the past. Just as she was about to break the contact, afraid to hurt or get hurt, his eyes met hers again. And she fully saw in them what she had only glimpsed before. The shock of it held her motionless until they were both gradually leaning inwards, caught in each others' gaze and compelled like two magnets toward one another.
Their lips brushed tenuously, each one caught up in a moment they thought would never come to pass. His hand gently sought out hers and he encircled it affectionately. The tenderness of this gesture weakened her knees and she reached out to him with her other hand for support. He took it and placed in on his chest, over his heart. She felt as the beats became faster and knew they matched her own. Her hand inched up his shirt as they kissed, caressing his chest and capturing his cheek. Before long, she let her hand fall slightly to his neck, pulling it downward and deepening the kiss. They ignited.
With his other hand, he reached around and squeezed her body to his. There was no longer any space between then, and yet they pulled at one another, desperate to get nearer. Neither felt like they could stand on their own so they found their bodies drawn towards the wall to steady their movements. She moaned as he explored her mouth and her lips and her neck. He was so thorough and passionate that she had to hold on tighter just to stay on her mutinous feet.
Somewhere within the haze, she remembered speculating at various times if the brilliant scientist in him would enhance his lovemaking. She needn't wonder any longer. He took the same care with her that he did in everything else, and her whole body began to throb with the realization of what they were doing and where they were headed. She found that she was having trouble breathing and broke from his kiss. He noticed her distress at once, endearing him to her even more, and placed his forehead on hers. They both just stared at one another as their bodies remained pressed tightly together, chests heaving and hearts pounding. Neither had spoken, yet they knew they had reached a moment of decision.
He brushed his thumb over her cheek and said huskily, lust still evident in his voice, "I'm sorry Rachel."
She knew that he was, but for what reason she could not tell. They both wanted this. It was so obvious to them at this moment, right here, in this room. Anything else they could say would be a lie. All the stray thoughts that were born as each had drifted off to sleep at night could not prepare them for what was right before them now. They had touched and tasted, and the allure of one another was no longer some intangible shadow they could keep evading. It had shape and form. And urgency. She wanted to tell him not to be sorry. She wanted to pull him back into her arms and begin the tasting and groping and needing all over again. She craved the fulfillment that she knew she could get from only him.
But they were partners and this was not allowed and definitely not smart. She was there to protect him, not love him, and she was putting him at risk simply by having these feelings for him. Feelings once concealed within her that had now erupted, drawing her back to him with a force she didn't know was possible.
And there were the other doubts, too, swimming beneath her skin. Doubts that she had not had with the other men in her life. The ones who didn't quite matter as much as perhaps they should or the ones she had been with who were so easily dominated. But this was Jacob Hood. He did matter. And he never made her feel like there was a need to be anywhere but by his side. Somehow she had found an equal.
But he had had the love of his life. How could she ever compare to that?
He had wanted this ever since he had watched her sleep. She had a vulnerable glow about her then, laying there with her cheek in her arms, and it had been easy to forget the Agent that dwell within her. He had realized it in a flash, as he did most of his electrifying discoveries, but knew that he could never act upon it.
But now, in this moment, he was not as sure. He knew what it was to love and be loved and he found that he longed for it. He had been unaware of the fear he had been suppressing of never having this again with someone. And now that the choice was upon him he could no longer ignore that it had happened and he did desire it. He was slightly startled to find that he did not want to stop.
His realization must have shown, too, because Rachel asked softly, "What is it? What are you thinking?"
Caught off-guard, he shrugged his shoulders and answered carefully, not knowing where she was in her thoughts. "Uh....you and I....I guess I don't feel like this is as impulsive as it may seem." He was hesistant with his answer because he didn't want to guide her into anything that she may not have entirely wanted. He needed to be sure that she needed this as much as he did. Any doubts and he would stop it himself.
She vaguely acknowledged to herself that he may have had a point. They had both been leaning towards this for some time now, but this was not the reason they were put together. She was here to protect him. Period.
"I don't want to put you in further danger."
"You won't. Besides, it's you that I am always worried about."
"Well, that is not your job Hood."
"It's not about a 'job', Rachel. I think we are a little past that now."
He was right. They were a lot past that now. But that didn't change their reality.
"This" and she took her hand and made a circle between them "could be what gets you killed."
"And ignoring this" and he repeated her movements "will destroy me just the same."
She lay both her hands on his chest, and found that his heart was still beating very fast. She shook her head, dropped it on his shoulder and made a noise that he had come to know as her 'frustration growl'.
"I really don't know what to do here Hood." The conflict was evident in her voice. She was having an intense struggle between the trained agent and the passionate woman. And they were both very strong-willed.
He knew that she was in a battle of wills and that there was only one thing to say. "Just do what your heart tells you to Rachel."
At these words, she raised her head back up and met his eyes. The agent faded away at the sincerity she found in his gaze, and the woman emerged, intent on following his advice. She raised her hand and lazily ran it through his hair, watching as he closed his eyes and sighed. She whispered as her lips moved closer to his. "My heart wants you."
There was no hesitancy as before. He captured her mouth in his and pulled her body back to him in a crushing embrace. They found themselves against the wall again, this time as he pinned her to it with his full length pressing into hers. She ran her fingers down his sides slowly and playfully hooked her thumbs into his belt loops. Without warning, she tugged on them roughly, smashing his hips into hers. He moaned loudly as she smiled mischievously. He should have expected it, but didn't, and began to focus on creating some little surprises of his own. They danced about each other sucking and rubbing, pulling and nipping. They discovered a little bit of ecstasy in every movement made.
He let his fingers meander over her back and up her side until he found the curve of her breast. She gasped as he touched her and let her head fall back against the wall. His mouth was instantly on her welcoming neck and every nerve in her body caught fire as he began an earnest assault on both her neck and her breast. She began rocking into him and the feel of their clothes between their bodies began to be more and more of a nuisance.
They both paused for some air and the steel intensity of his eyes met the electric blue of hers. She knew that he was asking her permission to go further. What he didn't know was that she was ready to kill him if he didn't. She smiled and kissed his lips hungrily, giving him all the assent he needed. He reached down and began to unbutton her white blouse, and she saw that his hands were shaking. She was pretty sure that he had not been with anyone since his wife, and she felt her heart ache for him and his pain. She helped him to shrug off her shirt, taking an extra second to unbutton his pants for good measure, and his eyes found hers again. The promise there excited her, and she leaned in for another blazing kiss. Just as their lips met, there were several sharp raps at the door.
"Dr. Hood, it's Felix. I'm looking for Agent Young. Have you seen her?"
They both stood frozen in a fevered embrace, her shirt laying on the floor below them. They tried not to breathe. She could see his mind flashing through the options, and knew that she would have to be the one to take charge. She lay her forehead on his chest, trying to bring her breathing to a normal pace, and felt him fall in line with her. It was amazing how much communication between them was now done in silence. He knew what she wanted and she knew what he needed. It was second nature. He leaned down, picked up her shirt, and helped her get it back on. It was just as intimate as anything else he had done tonight, and she had to focus intently on getting clear of this euphoria. It was intoxicating, and they both wobbled a bit in each others' arms. She backed away and reluctantly went back over to her computer. He ran his hands through his hair and, after one more quick glance at Rachel, went to answer the door.
Felix stood in the doorway and immediately sauntered into the room, completely unaware of what he had just interrupted. He nodded at Jacob and then, spotting Rachel, went right over to her.
Jacob heard Felix brief Rachel on some conversation that he just had with the Director, but his mind was off on its own, completely disconnected from any of the actual words. Maybe fate was trying to tell them something. Maybe they were just not ready.
Rachel did her best to pay attention to what Felix was saying. She kept smelling Hood on her clothes, and it threatened to collapse her concentration. That, and the fact that Felix, as he was new, hadn't yet learned how to simplify the information he had into a concise, relevant update. She let him finish and thanked him for the info. They would be leaving in a few hours time to begin a new case. The pertinent details were being sent to her computer as they spoke. She needed to show this to Hood immediately.
Felix headed for the door but turned before he got there to address Hood. Luckily, she had yet to look over at Hood herself, because who knew what Felix would have witnessed between the two of them should their eyes have met at that instant. "Did I wake you up, Doc? You look....um....tired. You should really get some sleep." Without waiting for a response, he opened the door to leave and said "Goodnight Agent Young, 'night Doc."
He was back slumped in the armchair, and he did indeed look rumpled. The fact that it was her fault he looked like that made her want to smile. Unfortunately, though, there was work to be done and Agent Young was back in charge.
She got up from her chair and took a few steps towards him. Stopping, she pointed back at the computer screen and said, "We have some things we need to look at right away Hood."
He got up and walked right up to her. He was very careful not to touch her. His face was a mask except for his eyes. They had not lost any of their former intensity, and she had to look away. He gestured to the phone and said "I'll order us up some coffee and something to eat." She nodded and turned away, heading back to her computer. He grabbed her arm at the last second and turned her back towards him. "I meant everything I said and did, Rachel. I want you to know that. And I don't want you to run away from any of it." He let go of her arm but continued to stare at her with that penetrating gaze of his. He wanted her to know that he was serious, but he was also ready to move on to what they needed to do. For now.
She stared back, but her eyes held a slight twinkle in them. "One thing you should know about me by now Hood....I don't back down. Especially when things get difficult."
As he watched her walk back towards the computer, his mind flashed back to the two of them on the highway racing towards another car head-on. He realized that if she brought that same kind of determination into her personal life, he had nothing to worry about. Or did he?