Fluff fluff fluffity fluff!
It should come as no surprise to anyone who had spent five minutes with her, but Jess Parker was a morning person. She always had been. She saw no point in wasting half the morning in bed, or even just at home – she liked to be out and about as early as possible. This extended to her work as well; she was almost always the first of the ARC alpha shift to arrive, and she'd come to quite enjoy her morning ritual of settling in and getting menial tasks underway while she watched the other members of the team traipse in at various stages of the morning.
Not this morning though. She pulled into the ARC car park at her usual time only to find her favourite parking space was already taken. She parked next to it, a little disgruntled. Getting out of her car she saw that there were more cars in the car park than was usual for the time of the morning – especially a Monday morning.
She smirked. It must be February 14th again.
As she walked through the ARC, Jess saw scientists already in their labs and soldiers already in uniform. She smirked a little more every time she saw one of them, trying to guess who they were there early for. Some of them were obvious. Others were a little harder to figure out.
She went into the locker room and opened hers up to put her bag away – three envelopes tumbled out onto the floor. Jess grinned as she picked them up; the red and pink of the envelopes told the world what they were.
Jess put her bag in her locker and then stood in front of it, turning the envelopes over in her hands and examining her name on the front of each one – she wondered if she'd be able to tell who they were from.
"'Morning Jess," said a voice from next to her.
Jess looked up with a start to find Becker standing a few feet away, about to unlock his own locker. He'd obviously just arrived – he was still in his civilian clothing. Jess' heartbeat sped up at the sight of him in jeans, and she cursed her girlish reaction. Her hands tightened on the cards in her hand... what if one of them was from him?
She cleared her throat. "'Morning," she replied.
Becker looked down at her cards and frowned. "It's not your birthday, is it?" He asked.
Jess almost rolled her eyes. Of course. Of course he wouldn't even be aware what day it was. "No... no, it's, um, Valentine's Day," she said.
"Oh yeah," said Becker, nodding. He looked at the cards again before smirking slightly. "Well. Somebody's popular."
Jess felt herself blush a little at his teasing, but decided to ignore it. "You're here early," she said instead. She watched Becker open his locker, half expecting him to have cards in there too, but he didn't. She was grateful he didn't – not only did she not really like the idea of another woman expressing interest in him, she also felt that if he got a Valentine he might assume it was from her. She'd been tempted to buy him a card, but she knew it would be too obvious. She'd be far too embarrassed...
"Hmm," Becker said absently as he reached into his locker. "I had some things to do this morning so I came in early." He stepped back from his locker and looked at her again. "Actually, lots of people seem to be in early today."
Jess nodded. "Well it is Valentine's Day," she said.
Jess rolled her eyes at his cluelessness. "So people get in early to hide presents and cards..."
Becker raised an eyebrow. "Is that why you're here early?" He asked.
"No!" Jess exclaimed, a little too forcefully. "I always get here this time." She shifted awkwardly. "Plus... well, I thought it would be a good idea to leave Connor and Abby to it this morning."
Becker smirked again. "Probably," he agreed. "Connor seems like someone who'd take Valentine's Day seriously... Abby not so much."
Jess smiled. "Oh I don't know," she said. "She's more romantic than she seems."
Becker shook his head and turned back to his locker. "It's all just completely commercialised anyway," he said. "I bet those cards you've got are all the same design. It's so unimaginative – the same cards and the same chocolates every year."
Jess listened to his little mini-rant and sighed internally. She hadn't really expected anything today... even if she thought Becker did like her that way – which she wasn't sure about at all – he really didn't seem the type to go in for Valentine's Day surprises. Still, having it confirmed was hardly much fun.
She decided to lighten the mood. "Well," she said after a moment's silence. "Somebody's grumpy that they didn't get any cards."
Becker's head reappeared around his locker door to give her a surprised look – Jess just smirked at him and held up her cards. "I think I'll go open these at my desk," she said, turning away.
"Are you going to display them around the ADD and make all the other women jealous?" He called after her.
"And the men too," Jess replied without missing a beat and without looking back. She heard Becker chuckle and grinned to herself as she left the locker room.
Jess found it strange actually encountering people on her way to the main control room, but at least Lester wasn't in early – that would have been really weird. But then again, she couldn't just assume that everyone who was in early was there to plant Valentine's Day gifts... Becker was a case in point.
Jess sat down in her chair in front of the ADD and opened up her Valentine's Day cards. Any small hope she might have had that one of them was from Becker was dashed as soon as she looked at them – she could identify each sender from the handwriting. Honestly, people just didn't seem to realise that she catalogued and filed every piece of paperwork that went through the ARC.
One of the cards was from Dr Gregson – he was a sweetie who would, she was sure, have sent a Valentine's card to every single woman who worked in the ARC. Another was from Dr Kyle, a very shy botanist – bless him. And the other, rather surprisingly, was from Lieutenant Horner... now he might actually be considered a bit of a catch. Jess sighed; how she wished she wasn't completely, hopelessly hung up on somebody else.
Also, Jess knew Karen in genetic research had a big crush on him, and Karen kind of scared her.
And, unfortunately, Becker had been right about the cards. They weren't the same design but, looking at them, they did fall kind of flat. Jess wasn't one to really go all out on Valentine's Day, but she liked the idea of it – it annoyed her that she was feeling down on it this year, because she knew why she was. Stupid Becker and his stupid being perfect but not liking Valentine's Day.
Jess sighed and opened her desk drawer to stash the cards and pull out her earpiece... and gasped. There, nestled among the various electrical items and pens she kept in the drawer, was a bar of chocolate. She recognised it at once – it was the exact same brand that Becker had brought back for her a couple of months ago. An orange ribbon was tied around one end of it, in a bow. Jess lifted it out of her drawer with trembling fingers. There was a label threaded through the ribbon, and her name was printed on it in big black letters. She turned the label over and laughed.
Sorry about the orange.
It was Becker's writing, like she needed that to tell her it was from him. She bit her lip, trying to stop her grin spreading all over her face, but she wasn't successful. Jess could feel her heart soaring. Becker had given her a chocolate bar. Okay, that in itself wasn't too remarkable, but he had given it to her on Valentine's Day. In fact, he'd come in early just to hide it in her desk.
I had some things to do this morning so I came in early. He'd really had her fooled.
Part of Jess wanted to run back to the locker room and find him, and...er... well, that was the problem. What did she say? Did she say thank you? Did she flirt? Did she just throw all caution to the wind and kiss the hell out of him? The last one was certainly appealing but she knew she'd never have the guts. She shouldn't get ahead of herself anyway. This was definitely a positive, and a step in the right direction, but he wasn't exactly declaring his love for her or even asking her out.
No, she had to be calm. He'd played it cool at the lockers this morning – she'd show him that two could play that game.
Jess put her earpiece in, put the cards away in her drawer and got to work. She left the chocolate out so she could look at it every now and then, smiling every time. After a while she untied the ribbon and tied it in a bow around her ponytail. The label went into her cardigan pocket. A little while later she opened the wrapper (carefully – a sentimental part of her wanted to keep it) and prised apart the foil to get to the chocolate. She broke apart about half of the squares and kept it next to her keyboard.
She'd been working for about an hour, not paying quite as much attention to her work as she usually did, when Becker quite literally appeared next to her.
"Hey Jess," he said.
Jess jumped so much that her chair actually rolled away from him. She slammed her hand down on the desk to stop herself, and her hand landed right next to the chocolate lying open on her desk. Jess felt her face flushing and she looked back up at Becker, who was wearing his usual black fatigues and a totally impassive expression.
"Hi," she said weakly.
"I need you to cut some CCTV footage for me – the stuff from yesterday," Becker said. Jess swallowed and nodded, adjusting her seat back and turning to her keyboard. Okay, so he was acting like nothing had happened. She could do that too.
"I need the first two minutes of camera Z1459, then the first three minutes of X4226 and X4228," Becker reeled off. Jess nodded, bringing up the feeds as he spoke. "Can you burn them onto a disc for me?"
Jess nodded again. "No problem," she said.
He was still standing beside her, and Jess looked up at him, expecting him to have another task for her. Instead, though, he was making a big show of looking around her desk. He looked down at her and raised an eyebrow.
"I don't see any cards on display," he said.
Jess was blushing again. "No, you were right – they were kind of samey," she said after a moment.
Becker smirked slightly and then nodded at the chocolate. "And chocolate too I see – some people are just so predictable," he said, shaking his head.
Jess swallowed. "Actually, the chocolate was a surprise," she said.
Becker raised an eyebrow. "A good one?" He asked.
Jess' heart was beating at at least twice its normal rate. They were flirting. Becker was actually flirting with her. What she said next had the potential to completely change their relationship.
She made a thoughtful 'hmm' sound and turned to the chocolate. She reached out and picked up a piece, and popped it in her mouth. She didn't look back up at Becker as she chewed, but she could feel his eyes on her. She swallowed and then looked at him, and smirked.
"Very good," she said. Her tongue darted out to lick a tiny bit of chocolate from her bottom lip.
Becker was staring at her, and Jess felt a small sense of triumph at actually rendering him speechless. A couple of moments went by, and then he cleared his throat.
"Well, you never know," he said, "maybe your secret admirer will come out of the woodwork and actually take you out for a drink tonight."
Jess' heart practically stopped. Oh my god, was he actually asking her out?
She swallowed down her nervousness and tried to look and sound nonchalant. "He'll have to be quick – I do have three other secret admirers, after all," she said.
Suddenly, Becker moved. He rested his left arm on the back of her chair and leant down. Jess' eyes widened as he got closer to her, and her breath caught in her throat. Was he actually going to...
He looked away from her and Jess heard a weird snapping sound. Then he straightened up, a sizeable chunk of her chocolate in his right hand. He put it in his mouth and started to chew, smirking down at her.
Jess could do nothing but stare.
"See you later," he said a little thickly, before turning and walking away towards Lester's office.
Jess' jaw dropped and she quickly straightened her chair so that she was facing the ADD and he couldn't see her stunned expression. He was such a tease. And she had just... she had been doing so well until then, but all he had to do was move closer and it was all she could do to remember to breathe. But... but he had asked her out. Right? Kind of. Oh god, what if the chocolate wasn't from him? What if she was reading way too much into all of this? What if –
"What the –" Jess exclaimed as her chair suddenly started to spin around of its own accord. She saw enough to realise that Becker was standing behind her and turning the chair to face him, before he swooped in and kissed her. Jess gasped and Becker took full advantage of it, slanting his mouth over hers and making Jess go limp as desire crashed over her. She was just starting to raise her hands to grab his head and make sure he could never move – ever – when he suddenly pulled away. Jess let out a whimper of disappointment and tried to follow his retreating lips, but he stepped back, out of reach.
Jess' eyelids fluttered before she could open them properly, and when she did she saw that Becker was staring down at her, his eyes dark and intense.
"Do you want to go out with me tonight?" He asked her after a moment.
Jess couldn't speak. She just nodded.
Becker nodded back. "Okay," he said. "I'll see you later, then."
He walked past her chair and started for the exit to the rest of the ARC. Jess sat stock still, staring at the glass wall of Lester's (thankfully empty) office. Her lips were tingling and she felt flushed all over. She could barely even think. She sat where she was for about five minutes, until Lester walked out of the elevators and gave her a brief nod before walking into his office. Jess snapped out of it and turned back round to face the ADD.
The chocolate that had started it all still sitting next to her keyboard, half-eaten. Jess frowned, looking at it – from underneath the diagonal edge of the chocolate where Becker had snapped off a piece earlier, a bit of white was poking out against the silver of the foil. Jess pushed the chocolate aside and found it was a small piece of paper, folded over. She opened it and grinned.
I'll pick you up at 7.