Author's Note: I've been working on this for way too long. What started as a simple rewrite of the bomb scene in episode 6 somehow grew into this 8,000 word plus story simply because I got too caught up in writing the lead up to that scene. The initial idea was inspired by the idea of how episode 6 would have played out if Jess and Becker had swapped roles, meaning Jess was on the pressure pad and Becker had to defuse the bomb. The idea was helped along by the cover of "Running up that Hill" by Placebo and although I don't consider it a music fic, there are a few excerpts from that song. Enjoy, and please let me know what you think. I haven't written any fanfiction in a very long time and I want to know if I should bother trying to do more, especially more Becker/Jess.
It doesn't hurt me
You want to know how it feels?
You want to know, know that it doesn't hurt me
You want to hear about the deal I'm making?
"Jess, I think we've found the location," Becker's voice crackled to life comfortingly in her ear. "No sign of Ethan."
Jess couldn't help the small sigh of relief that escaped her at the sound of his seemingly healthy voice. True, she'd been listening in as he and his men called clear around the flat (and the three others before it) but there was always a part of her that wouldn't rest easy until Becker himself told her he was safe. Or better yet, until he was back in the ARC where she could monitor him in a completely professional non-stalker like manner.
"…set up a surveillance operation outside, with any luck he won't know we're on to him," Becker was still speaking Jess realized as she hurriedly tried to catch up with what he'd been saying.
Surveillance, right, a stake out then…that could be dangerous. Not that she thought he didn't know what he was doing just that she generally preferred to only have crushes on men who stayed well clear of known serial killers and Becker was making it hard to stick to that rule.
There was a sharp whistle on the other end of the line startling Jess out of her musings and sending her into a slight panic. Why hadn't she answered him yet? She should probably say something. If she didn't say something soon he'd think she was completely useless at her job, come on Jess, say something…
"Ok, be careful and…stay warm," She finally cautioned him, the silence that followed allowing her plenty of time to regret her words.
Stay warm? What?
Jess resisted the urge to bang her head off of the ADD only because the feedback would probably deafen Becker and his men making her humiliation complete. Right now all of the soldiers were most likely laughing at the pathetic girl with a crush on their boss, not out loud of course if they wanted to live, but still. And Becker, well, he was probably thinking that she sounded like his mother, or worse a nagging little sister.
A desperate decision that she had done more than enough nagging for the day was probably the only reason she didn't chastise Becker when he alerted her that he was in position and she realized he hadn't taken any backup with him. Instead she just patched through the CCTV like he requested and began silently plotting ways to recover from her earlier slip-up.
Becker had already been in position staring at his SUV's small screen for hours but he knew he probably had hours more to go before anything happened, it if it happened at all. Strictly speaking protocol for these situations would suggest setting up rotating shifts with teams of two monitoring the building, but Becker preferred to handle this himself. This wasn't a creature that would lash out if it felt cornered, this was a man with a known record of murder and kidnapping, a man who now had the ARC team directly in his sights. They needed to catch him and soon. He couldn't afford any mistakes when the safety of his team was involved, not again.
So Becker had sent the rest of his men back to the ARC with the instructions to be ready to return quickly if need be, ignoring pointedly the muttered "Stay warm" that followed one cadet's "Yes, sir". He'd simply made a mental note to make sure that an incredible amount of drills and unpleasant assignments were in that man's future and returned to the task at hand.
Speaking of the task at hand…Becker reached over and tapped the controls next to the small dashboard screen for what seemed like the thousandth time, switching the feed from one stairwell to the other. Still nothing. Becker gritted his teeth to hold in the sigh that wanted to escape. He was trained for this. A few hours, even more than a few hours, surveillance should be child's play for him. He knew that operations like this were all about patience and vigilance but he was finding the former all too hard to attain.
He couldn't help the feeling of anxiety that swept over him at the thought of what would happen if he didn't catch Ethan tonight. Supposedly Ethan was from 1902, anomaly traveling experience aside, he should be completely out of his element in modern London. And yet, it hadn't taken him any time at all to find out who Matt was and where he lived, not to mention breaking past the not inconsiderable security system on Matt's flat and that level of skill had nearly cost Emily her life.
If Ethan could get to Emily then odds were he could get to any of them and Becker couldn't even allow himself to contemplate the loss of someone else on the team. The hollow painful feeling in his chest whenever he tried was enough to have him reaching for the buttons next to the screen once again, any distraction would do. If he was honest there was one member of the team he was more worried about than any of the others, and that was a certain Jessica Parker.
God knows she was capable enough at her job, more than capable in fact. But she was also young and naïve, completely without field training or any skills relating to self-defense, refusing to see the danger inherent even inside the ARC itself, refusing to see…
Becker forced himself to trail off mentally, years of training allowing him to curtail his thoughts for the time being. It was nothing he hadn't been over in his mind before. Jess might refuse to see why the status quo of the ARC needed to be maintained, why his relationship with the members of the team had to stay the way it was, but he knew better. Besides he wasn't sure he was capable of what he thought she wanted from him anyway. He'd seen too much, had to do too much, lost too much…just too much. Too much to be good for anybody, and if he tried it would only take his attention away from keeping people alive which would do no one any favors.
Determinedly turning his thoughts back to the screen, Becker reached yet again for the buttons in the dash only to be thrown into an internal panic at the sound of a knock on his window. Ignoring the wild beating of his heart, Becker grabbed for his EMD, swinging it around in a smooth motion as he faced his assailant who was…a little over five feet tall with reddish brown hair and a sheepish grin.
"Sorry," She mouthed as he let his head fall back and a rush of air escape his lungs.
He took half a second to compose himself before swinging his gaze back to Jess and reaching for the automatic window controls. Before the window was even halfway down she had started rambling in that way she had, a way he most certainly did not find adorable. Not even a little bit.
"I thought you might be hungry," She shifted the large bag she was carrying on her hip. "I hope you like Chinese."
Becker forced himself to glance away from her most certainly not adorable nervous behavior before he began speaking.
"Jessica, this is a stake-out," He reminded her in what he hoped was a forceful sounding tone.
"You still have to eat," She answered as though it were the most obvious thing in the world. "I was just on my way home, I thought I'd drop by."
"Jess, I know where you live it's miles away," He argued, realizing belatedly that he'd just admitted to reading her file. She didn't seem to notice, and he supposed it made them even after all. It was odd how both of their jobs required them to know intimate details about the other person's life and yet a simple conversation was often impossible to have without it growing awkward.
"Well, I like the scenic route," She told him with a smile that clearly said she thought the argument was over.
And that was exactly what was dangerous about Jessica Parker. That. That thing she did, just there, where she smiled just like that while doing something sweet and right on the border between brave and stupid. That was exactly what could be his undoing if he let it.
Becker considered for a moment, before feeling his resolve wearing away. Just for five minutes then.
"Got any prawn crackers?" He asked, wondering just when he had lost the ability to say no to this girl.
The answering smile he was graced with as she reached into her bag before handing him a paper container almost made this lapse in judgment worth it in his mind. Almost.
Jess had been able to relish her success at constructing what almost amounted to a date, or at least a date-like situation, for only about ten seconds before the reality of the state of affairs hit her like a giant prehistoric worm smashing into a camper.
"I'll just, pop round to the other side then, shall I?" Jess asked after a few moments of silence had stretched to the point of being uncomfortable. When Becker didn't immediately answer Jess felt all of her former confidence draining quickly. "Unless, you'd rather eat alone. I mean, I suppose I could just leave the food with you, you're more than welcome to it, of course, it's for you, I just thought…"
"Jessica," He interrupted finally, his tone flat but his eyes amused.
"Yes?" She responded softly, bracing herself for rejection.
"Get in the car before you alert everyone within a three mile radius to our presence," Becker scolded before reaching over and pushing open the passenger side door for her.
"Right," Jess couldn't stop a nervous giggle from escaping. "Sorry, I'll just, yeah."
Climbing into a tall SUV in heels while carrying a huge bag of hot Chinese food wasn't as easy as Jess wanted to make it look. Even after Becker reached over and took the bag from her Jess still found herself struggling to get in gracefully, in the end settling for a kind of awkward half jump, half climbing combo.
Once inside the problem became where to spread out all of the food Jess had brought given that as technologically advanced as it might have been, the vehicle wasn't made with buffet style dining in mind. In the end, they decided on simply leaving everything in the bag on the backseat and taking a paper carton each to eat from, although even that resulted in an awkward moment when they had both reached for the same container before sorting out who wanted what first.
Jess handed Becker a plastic fork assuming that chopsticks were out of the question in their current dining experience. He thanked her and immediately began digging in with enthusiasm. Jess watched with an amused smile as he shoveled the meal she had provided into his mouth at an impressive pace. Finally noticing, that Jess was watching him, Becker paused with a forkful of food halfway to his mouth.
"What?" He asked mock defensively.
She simply gave him a knowing look.
"Ok," He rolled his eyes, but she could see the start of a smile threatening to start. "So, you were right. I was hungry."
"You're welcome," Jess laughed before dipping her fork into her own carton.
Jess lifted her fork towards her mouth with lo mein noodles wrapped loosely around it and promptly dropped them on her lap.
"Damn," Jess swore quietly trying to scoop the offending food back into the carton as quickly as possible.
Becker's burst of laughter took her by surprise and she felt more than a bit hurt at his reaction until she actually looked up and met his gaze. It was so rare to see the captain before her genuinely smile let alone laugh she couldn't help but smile in return. Besides, she thought the way he was looking at her could almost be labeled affectionate and she certainly wasn't complaining about that either.
They both went back to eating in a surprisingly comfortable silence, each occasionally reaching back to retrieve a different container of food. They had switched dishes between each other once, and Becker had even reached over at one point and swiped a piece of chicken from her carton just before she was about to eat it.
Jess tried to clamp down on the rush of thoughts and emotions that were flowing through her at an embarrassing speed. It was easier said than done, however. She couldn't help but think how right this felt, how easy they were around each other once she got past her own nerves and his resistance to crack a smile. She tried to picture them eating Chinese on her couch, or perhaps his, instead of crammed into his SUV on a stake out and found herself hoping that maybe this was a step in the right direction.
Once they had finished eating Jess felt a sinking feeling start to well up inside her. She didn't want to leave him here alone, and she certainly didn't want to return to the quiet of an empty flat with Abby and Connor away. Surprisingly, it was Becker who actually broke the silence first.
"Have you heard anything else from the rest of the team?" He asked while messing about with the buttons controlling the CCTV.
Jess chuckled. "And by that you mean have any of them managed to get themselves eaten without you yet?"
"Exactly," He responded, the corner of his mouth twisting upward ever so slightly.
"Not as far as I know," Jess informed him. "There's a lab tech monitoring the ADD for the night shift of course, but I've also set all alerts and calls that come in to be routed to my phone. So, I think we'd know if they were dead or seriously maimed, or something."
"Good to know," Becker replied mock seriously.
"Isn't it amazing that they ran into Jenny? And they get to go to her wedding, that's so lovely," Jess said wistfully. She had read all of the old case files of course, and was well aware of Jenny Lewis and her involvement with the team. From what she could tell, if anyone deserved a normal, happy wedding day it was Jenny.
"Lovely," Becker repeated in a slightly sarcastic tone, still focusing on the screen before him.
"Oh, but I never thought…you probably wanted to go too, she was your friend after all," Jess realized belatedly that she was assuming things about days at the ARC before her arrival again.
Becker glanced up at her. "Yeah, she was," He answered simply before pausing. "I'm not much for weddings." He finally finished.
"I love them!" Jess enthused, clapping her hands a little in her excitement. "Not mine obviously, not yet anyway, but I love to attend other people's."
Becker didn't respond and Jess searched desperately in her mind for something else to say.
"You should go home," Becker told her, finally sitting up and glancing in her direction.
Jess tried not to let her disappointment show but she could tell from his expression that her face had fallen at his words.
"Oh…" Jess glanced away in an attempt to mask her hurt before meeting his gaze again. "No rush you know, just an empty flat waiting for me." She paused before rushing forward with the words she had no desire at all to say. "But I don't want to get in your way, of course. I'll just…"
She began routing around for her purse, before a gentle pressure alerted her to the fact that Becker had placed his hand on her arm to stop her hurried motions. Swallowing down the urge to gasp at his touch, Jess looked up slowly to find him watching her intently.
"You're not in my way," He told her softly.
She could feel her face light up in a smile.
"Not yet, anyway." He finished ruefully. "You can stay a bit, but just a bit, Jess, not all night."
"Great!" Jess wriggled around for a few seconds before settling into a more comfortable position.
She glanced over at Becker who had already returned his attention to the CCTV feed. Jess bit her lip, considering the risks versus the benefits of saying something that had been on her mind for a while.
"Becker?" She started cautiously, fiddling with the sash on her jacket absentmindedly.
"Mm?" He responded distractedly, still focusing on the grainy footage before him.
"I'm sorry," This came out as little more than a whisper and Jess kept her gaze firmly fixed on her lap.
She could tell she'd gotten his attention though as she saw him sit up sharply out of the corner of her eye.
"Sorry for what?" He inquired sounding genuinely confused.
"That anomaly a couple of weeks back," Jess mumbled. "The one in the school."
"Jess, what…" He started but she cut him off quickly finding it hard to stop now that she'd started.
"I should have said this earlier," Jess continued, struggling to keep her voice steady. "Only, I was ashamed and I didn't want to admit that maybe I'm not…that I can't…but you were blaming yourself and it was my fault and I should have said."
"Jess," Becker started carefully, using the same calm tone of voice she'd heard him use around creatures he was trying not to spook. "I know what you saw that day was horrific. But what part of what happened that day could possibly have been your fault?"
"All of it!" Jess snapped, her gaze rising briefly to meet Becker's surprised one before dropping back to her lap. "As soon as Connor suggested rebooting the locking system I should have known I could do it remotely. I did know…I mean…I just didn't think. If I had started right then, Connor could have been helping look for those kids. You and Matt could have split up, that girl…"
Her voice broke at this point and Jess realized Becker had been leaning towards her as she felt more than saw his flinch at the sound.
"Jess," He murmured, his voice soft.
"I've been thinking about all of the things I could have done differently," She pressed on, regaining an almost business like tone. "Number one, the locks. Number two, the PA system. I could have hacked into the school intercom, warned her to hide. Number three, I should have sent back up as soon as we knew there was an incursion, you needed help and I could have sent it."
"We didn't ask you to, Jess," Becker tried to interject only to be cut off yet again.
"You shouldn't have to," She shook her head fiercely, thinking vaguely somewhere in the back of her mind that this wasn't at all how she'd planned this evening to go. She just didn't seem to be able to stop herself. The darkness of the SUV and the quiet of the night seemed to be just enough cover for Jess to unleash the cyclone she had felt swirling within her for some time.
"You shouldn't have to," She repeated firmly. "I'm the field coordinator, it's my job, my responsibility. A girl died, Becker, and you…you could have…"
"Stop it," The intensity of his voice succeeded in stopping her rambling. "I mean it, Jess. Stop thinking like that. It wasn't your fault. Without your help we all would have died."
"I should have…"Jess choked out, finding it difficult as though her throat were constricting.
"Done better?" Becker, finished for her knowingly. "Now why does that sound familiar? Look, Jess, I'm sorry too. I'm sorry that you made sure I was ok, and I was so caught up in my own guilt that I never stopped to ask if you were."
"Well," Jess allowed a gurgling giggle to escape, her eyes full of tears even as she felt a small smile tugging at her lips. "You had just had a bite taken out of your leg. I suppose lapses in niceties can be forgiven."
"Come here," Becker surprised Jess by lifting his arm and tugging her towards him.
Jess needed no more encouragement and slid across the seat, ignoring the jab she received from a seat belt clasp as she fit her body under Becker's arm and leaned into his warmth. She felt his arm come down to rest on her shoulder and turned her face into his chest, taking this rare opportunity to breathe in the rugged scent that was so patently "Becker".
"No more guilt complexes, young lady," Becker scolded in a teasing tone from somewhere near her left ear, the feel of his breath at such an intimate distance causing Jess to shiver slightly.
"I'll stop if you do, Action Man," Jess responded in an equally teasing tone, allowing herself to lazily play with the fabric beneath her fingertips.
"I'm going to kill Temple," Becker responded flatly as Jess giggled.
"I like it," Jess mumbled, finding herself feeling both a bit giddy and immensely exhausted after their emotional discussion. "It's sexy."
"Did you just call me sexy, Miss Parker?" Becker chuckled, causing a pleasant vibration Jess could feel pass through his chest to her cheek.
"Mmm," She muttered, only half-aware of the conversation they were having at this point.
She felt so warm and comfortable, so safe, right where she was that it was becoming increasingly difficult to stay awake. Just as she was about to fall asleep for real, she heard Becker's voice continue sounding more than a little pleased with himself.
"That's what I thought you said."
Jess smiled softly into his chest before allowing herself to drift off.
When Jess woke up it was to the groggy knowledge that her pillow was both firmer than she remembered and somehow seemed to be moving. Choosing to ignore these inconvenient facts, Jess buried her face further into its surface, which only seemed to inspire her pillow to struggle harder.
It wasn't until she heard a quiet cough from somewhere above her ear that Jess forced herself to begin truly waking up.
Pillows don't cough. Mine isn't usually so warm either…maybe I should…oh, oh my…
Jess had cracked one eye open only to look directly into the panicked looking face of one Captain Hilary Becker. He was frozen with one arm raised awkwardly in the air and his body twisted partially away from her. It was pretty clear that somehow she had managed to fall asleep on top of him and she had woken up in the middle of one of his attempts to escape.
"Oh my God," Jess was up like a shot, scooting over to her side of the SUV at lightening speed. "What happened?"
"What?" Becker, seemed to realize his arm was still raised and lowered it quickly. "Nothing. You fell asleep."
"Oh, I'm sorry…" Jess paused for a moment taking in the drowsy eyes and rumpled appearance of the man before her. "Did you fall asleep too?"
"Of course not," He spared her one guilty glance before turning his attention back to the screen in the dash.
Jess couldn't contain the smile that spread over her features. He always thought he had to keep up such a perfect, strong front but he didn't fool her. She knew it was probably a little childish but every time she caught him in a moment where he let his guard down it filled her with glee. She guessed that some part of her just felt special that she was able to catch him out that way. Especially after she had let down her own walls in front of him so thoroughly earlier.
"You did, didn't you?" She teased in a sing song voice. "You fell asleep!"
"I was resting my eyes," He insisted, trying to look offended but settling for something nearer to indulgent.
"Oh, ok," She nodded, still smiling. She decided that humoring him and saving his pride as a soldier was probably her best course of action.
They sat in silence for a few seconds before Jess came to a somewhat uncomfortable realization. She had to go to the bathroom…really badly.
"Um, Becker…" She couldn't believe she was about to say this.
"Hm?" He decided this was a good time to look over at her, only adding to her mortification.
"I um…need to…go,' Jess managed to spit out in starts and stops, feeling the burning of an epic blush spread quickly over her cheeks.
"Go where?" Becker, bless him, seemed genuinely confused which while adorable didn't do much to ease Jess' embarrassment.
"You know," Jess lifted her hands and twirled them in a random gesture that she had no idea what she'd meant to convey. "Go."
Luckily Becker somehow seemed to get the picture.
"Oh," He looked away quickly, seeming to battle between his own discomfort and an urge to smirk at hers. "You should be heading home anyway."
"Becker," She shook her head at how typically male he was being. "That's way too far, I'd never make it."
He rolled his eyes. "What's the alternative, Jess? Are you just going to run up to Ethan's flat, pop into his loo?"
Now it was her turn to roll her eyes.
"Of course not," She agreed.
"Becker nodded, seeming to consider this conversation closed.
"I'm going to run up to Matt's flat, and pop into his loo," Jess already had the door halfway open when Becker reached across her and yanked it closed with a bang.
Jess had just enough time to register his proximity before he had withdrawn while still staying poised to stop her if she tried to exit the vehicle again.
"You're what?" He snapped, eyeing her like she was a particularly pesky creature that he needed to contain at all costs.
"Look," Jess gave him her most patient tone. "I need to use the loo. You need to stay here and keep an eye out for Ethan. Matt's building is just around the corner, he's at Jenny's wedding, he won't mind if I just run up and use his facilities."
"And how do you propose to get in to the building? Or his flat?" Becker countered.
"Becker," Jess laughed. "You're hilarious. I'd make a brilliant criminal, remember? I'll be back in five minutes."
Becker seemed to be battling with himself, but finally he sighed.
"Fine," Becker sat back and she felt she could safely reach for the door handle again. "Hurry up."
"You won't even know I'm gone," Jess smiled before opening the door and hopping as gracefully as possible out of the SUV.
Jess made her way to the entrance of Matt's building, admiring up close the deceptively simple modern design. She knew from her research that the utilitarian exterior actually housed several floors of expensive lofts with large balconies and incredible views of the city. Even more strange, she knew that at the current time Matt was the building's only occupant. It was a new development and he had been the first to move in.
When she thought about it the building he lived in wasn't unlike Matt himself, Jess mused as she tapped away at the keypad on the door. On the outside Matt was so stoic and almost bland compared to the other personalities that populated the ARC, but she just knew that underneath there was more going on than met the eye. She could probably figure him out if she had the time and wasn't constantly being distracted by a certain captain.
The automated door yielded to her hacking skills and swung inwards with a whoosh of air. Jess stepped through the doorway with a satisfied smile.
"Still got it," She whispered as she strode towards the elevator.
She knew Matt's flat was on the fourth floor so she punched the glowing button labeled "4" and waited. She tried to retain some dignity but she couldn't help but shift from foot to foot as her need to go grew even greater.
Finally the elevator slowed to a stop and the door opened with a soft ding. Jess stepped out and up to the door directly across the hall. She eyed the keypad next to the door critically, biting her lip in concentration as she focused on the task at hand.
A gentle click alerted her to her success, and Jess couldn't help but smile in victory.
"Really, Matt? Using your birthday as your entrance code?" Jess pushed the door open and stepped inside. "Remind me to have a talk with you about basic security procedures. It's no wonder girls are getting snatched up right under your…nose."
Jess trailed off as an odd noise caught her attention from across the flat.
The soft mewling sound was barely audible but Jess was already moving across the floor towards the direction it seemed to be coming from.
"I didn't know Matt had a cat," She murmured. "Did he not feed you before he left, kitty?"
"Here, kitty, kitty," Jess eased her way around the perimeter of the flat until she neared a low table.
Jess didn't see a cat but she did see a small black box sitting on top of the table. Jess knew instantly that this wasn't one of the black boxes from the ARC and felt a growing sense of dread as she reached out a shaky hand towards the object.
It was a simple voice recorder. Jess thumbed the switch to the off position cutting off the next meow before it could fully escape the speaker.
"What…" Jess tried to process what was happening but only one word, Ethan, Ethan, Ethan, was pounding through her mind. He knew, somehow he knew someone would be here.
She took an anxious step back as fear rushed in quickly, dulling her ability to think clearly. Jess vaguely registered a strange whirring sound as her left foot made contact with a newspaper that littered the floor and barely had the presence of mind to freeze.
Squeezing her eyes shut and forcing an attempt to collect herself enough to take stock of her situation, Jess took a deep breath. Reopening her eyes, she swept them quickly around the flat. She saw no sign of Ethan but caught a glimpse of a glowing red digital readout that had sprung to life somewhere to her left.
"Oh God," Jess breathed, sinking down towards the floor and brushing aside the corner of the newspaper under her foot. There was a square of plastic connected to wires hidden beneath the paper and despite her limited knowledge of explosives she was fairly sure that she was standing on a pressure pad.
"Oh God, oh God, oh God," Jess tried to control the shaking of her limbs and keep steady pressure on the pad as she tracked the wires with her eyes until she lost them in the darkness. She could tell that they snaked towards the glowing red numbers she could see only out of the corner of her eye.
Jess was completely helpless, trapped with a bomb, and had no prospects for escape. Her only hope for survival was that the man waiting outside would realize something was wrong and come looking for her.
Jess prayed with everything she had that he didn't.
And if I only could
Make a deal with God
And get him to swap our places
Be running up that road
Be running up that hill
Be running up that building
If I only could, oh…
Becker glanced quickly at the screen monitoring the stairwells in Ethan's building before resuming his watch over the corner that Jess had disappeared around.
"Damn it, Jess," Becker cursed under his breath, tightening his grip on the EMD he had picked up almost the moment Jess was out of his sight. "How long does it take to find the bathroom?"
He felt a little better with the weight of the EMD in his hands although he still hadn't quite stopped longing for the familiar comfort of his old shotgun. He knew he was supposed to be watching for Ethan. He knew Ethan had to be his number one priority, no distractions, no exceptions. And yet the distance between what he knew and what he felt seemed insurmountable in this moment when all he could bring himself to consider was the safety of the distraction that had disappeared around that corner about ten minutes ago.
Becker managed to remain in the SUV for another five minutes, before he cursed again and abandoned all pretense of maintaining his former stake out. If Ethan managed to slip by him while he checked on Jess then he would just have to deal with those consequences.
As he slipped out of the SUV and into the night air he could only hope that it wouldn't come to that.
Becker reached the door of the building at a sprint, but slowed down in dismay as he realized breaking in subtly was going to be more of a problem for him than it had been for Jess. He examined the keypad, before raising his eyes skyward and considering for a moment. He was seriously thinking about doing yet another monumentally stupid thing because of a certain field coordinator, a circumstance that was becoming all too common in recent months.
"What the hell," Becker finally muttered, raising his EMD and firing it rapidly twice into the electronic door mechanism. He breathed a sigh of relief when the sizzling sound of fried circuits was followed by a click of the lock giving way. Becker heaved his shoulder against the door, forcing it open the rest of the way and entering the building.
Yielding to years of training and habit, Becker forsook the elevator in favor of the reliability of the stairs. Taking them two at a time, Becker made for the fourth floor, grateful that he had taken the time to familiarize himself with the particulars of his team's living arraignments. Emerging from the stairwell into the hallway, he swept his EMD in front of him watching carefully as the blue light illuminated the empty space.
Becker approached the door that he knew led to Matt's flat and hesitated outside of the door, quieting his steps as he leaned towards the its surface. He could hear a slight rustling on the other side but he couldn't make out anything that would inform him of who was waiting for him on the other side. Steeling himself for a moment, Becker aimed his EMD at the door mechanism and fired once again with the same result.
Becker thrust his body through the doorway, EMD raised and ready to fire at the person shrouded in shadows across the flat when a voice rang out.
"Becker, Becker, don't shoot, don't shoot, it's me!" Jess's voice was shaky but firm. "This place is rigged with traps. Don't step on the papers."
Becker immediately began picking his way carefully around the room, sweeping ahead of him with the EMD.
"Where's Ethan?" Becker questioned as he approached her.
"Not here," Jess's voice shook a little more. "But don't get too close, he's left us a little gift."
Becker stopped short, realization and horror starting to dawn on him in equal measure. In one instant he finally took in the fact that Jess was situated awkwardly, not quite looking at him and the newspaper under her feet.
"Jess…" Her name wrenched from his throat involuntarily, more a moan than anything else.
"There's a pressure pad under my left foot," Jess continued her voice definitely tear filled now. "It's attached to some wires, and I think somewhere over there…there's a…a bomb."
Becker allowed himself exactly three seconds to feel the emotions that were coursing through him threatening to overwhelm his ability to process rational thought. He allowed himself that long only to feel like any other man would if the woman he…cared for…was in danger.
"Becker?" Jess' voice brought him back to the present, as he clamped down on the urge to reassure her in favor of the need to get her out of harm's way as soon as possible.
"I'm here," Becker answered. "I need you to stay very, very still. I'm going to come over there and see if you're right."
"Ok," Jess answered nervously. "Ok. Please be careful, Becker, please."
"Just don't move," Becker ordered, pointedly ignoring her concern for his safety.
Keeping a careful eye on the floor in front of him, Becker moved as quickly as he dared towards the red display that was now all too obvious from its perch across the flat. As he approached the area he could see that the display was coming from a repurposed digital alarm clock that was attached to more wires that led to something under a sheet. On the table was an open laptop that he suspected was somehow hooked up to the whole setup remotely.
Becker shifted his EMD to one hand while reaching out with the other to gently pull the sheet away. As the cloth fell to the floor several canisters were revealed and Becker felt as though he'd taken a punch to the gut. If those containers were filled with what he thought they were than they were in a lot of trouble. He had been holding out hope that it was just another piece of strange modern art Matt was hiding under there, but it didn't appear that he was going to be that lucky.
"What is it?" Jess called out, clearly guessing correctly from his silence that it wasn't anything good. "Is it a bomb?"
"Yes," Becker answered, knowing that lying to her would be pointless. "Three canisters of explosives set to some sort of a timer."
"Is that bad?" Jess asked, her voice rising several octaves.
"It could destroy the entire building," He confirmed, eyes already sweeping over the bomb, searching for its detonator.
"So, pretty bad then," Jess replied, in what would have been a humorous tone under any other circumstances.
"We need to get you out of here," Becker continued, still searching for something he recognized as controlling the bomb. "Damn it!"
"What?" Jess questioned bordering on hysterical.
"I can't find the detonator," Becker explained struggling to keep his anger from clouding his mind. "I think he's hooked it up to the computer somehow. This bastard is not from 1902."
He paused as he clenched his free hand into a fist so tight he wouldn't be surprised if he had drawn blood.
"I don't know how to diffuse it." He admitted, cursing the fact that his training with explosives didn't extend to the technological side of things. "And if I'm reading this timer right we've only got about ten minutes."
"You need to get out of here, now," Jess insisted immediately, her voice choked but determined.
"No," Becker answered her flatly, still attempting to make sense of the bomb setup before him.
"Go now!" Jess shouted, frustration flooding her voice. "He knew we were watching him. You need to leave now. Please, Becker, get yourself out."
"I'm not leaving you," Becker informed her quietly.
"Don't be stupid, Becker," Jess argued.
"I'm not leaving you!" Becker shouted more harshly than he'd meant to, the tension in his body making him feel like a tightly wound coil about to explode in every direction.
In the silence that followed his outburst, Becker considered the situation in as objective a manner as he could under the circumstances. There was no time to call for backup. Jess couldn't move without setting off the bomb, which meant Jess couldn't leave. If Jess couldn't leave then he sure as hell wasn't going anywhere. But maybe he didn't have to…
"Jess, it's hooked up to the computer," Becker called over to her, hope springing to life somewhere inside of him. "The computer's the detonator. You can tell me what to do. You can tell me, come on."
"Oh God," Jess moaned softly before speaking again more firmly. "Wake the computer up, tell me what you see,"
Becker placed his EMD down on the floor before brushing his fingers quickly over the laptop track pad to bring the computer out of sleep mode.
"Loads and loads of desktop files," Becker informed her, his eyes skating nervously over the screen crowded with file icons.
"There should be a home directory," Jess continued, her voice frightened but focused. "Is it a Mac or a PC?"
"How can I tell?" Becker fought the panic that was sneaking in to his voice.
"I don't know, Becker, does it have a glowing apple on the lid or not?" Jess' voice dripped with tense sarcasm.
Becker shook his head to clear it and hoped he could refrain from any other idiotic mistakes out of fear. Glancing quickly at the laptop before him, and the timer that was now hovering around the five-minute mark, Becker called back to Jess.
"It's a Mac," He updated her briskly.
"Ok, there should be a disk in the home folder labeled 'Macintosh HD'," Jess started.
"Got it," Becker confirmed, clicking through a few of the folders.
"I'm guessing that he wouldn't leave the controls on the surface. He's probably buried the real information underneath what we can see. I need you to open a utility window and type exactly what I say," Jess ordered, her tone taking on the quality he'd heard through his earpiece on so many missions.
Jess began to rattle off words, letters, numbers and even symbols that sounded like total gibberish to Becker as he entered them dutifully until a high-pitched computerized squeal emitted from the computer.
Becker let out a strangled noise of shock and distress.
"What key did you hit?" Jess demanded fiercely.
"I don't know," Becker admitted, sounding more shaky than he wanted to admit as he realized the timer had reached the three minute mark. "I don't know."
"You're ok, you're ok, breathe," Becker wasn't sure if Jess was reassuring him or herself but took some comfort from her voice all the same. "You're doing brilliantly."
Hearing her call him brilliant after getting her into this mess only spurred Becker on to save her and actually deserve the word.
"Ok, I need you to type…" Jess recited another string of characters that Becker entered carefully. "Ok, there should be the true home folder on the screen now. I'm guessing if you delete it by dragging it to the trash can the entire program will just shut down."
Becker eyed the screen with increasing distress as not one but two identical folders popped up on the screen.
"There's two folders," He explained to Jess, stress keeping his tone harsh. "They're identical and we've only got about a minute. Which do I pick?"
" You get out now, Becker, please," Jess begged her voice equal parts anger and despair.
"Just shut up, ok!" Becker lashed out, the idea of saving himself knowing Jess would die completely repellant to him. "Just hang on. Just give me a second, I can do this ok?"
His eyes darted back and forth between the two folders, as the clock continued to countdown.
"Come on!" Jess shouted, from a seemingly great distance, her voice echoing strangely with the rushing in his ears.
Then with only a couple of seconds left Becker suddenly decided on the left folder dragging it quickly into the trash and hitting the button marked "empty". Bracing himself for the explosion he half-expected, it took him a moment to realize that it hadn't come and he was still alive. The timer had frozen on one second. Becker placed his hand to his heart as it threatened to beat its way out of his chest.
He spun around to see Jess had collapsed to the floor, whether from exhaustion at holding such an awkward position or from relief and shock he didn't know.
"It worked," He mumbled, all signs of his stoic soldier persona melting away in that intense moment of relief. "I did it."
He saw Jess struggling to get to her feet and without pausing to consider the implications or consequences of his actions, Becker launched himself across the space between them.
Jess seemed a little too shaken up to meet him halfway but she certainly seemed receptive enough when upon reaching her Becker swept her up into his arms.
"I did it, I did it," Becker muttered more to himself than anything as he clutched Jess to him tightly.
He needed to feel her in order to reassure himself that she was alive and safe. He was fighting down urges that he knew Jess probably wouldn't appreciate, urges she might even label "caveman" like. He wanted to throw her over his shoulder, carry her back to his place and never let her leave his sight if that's what it took to keep her out of harm's way.
Suddenly Becker became aware of a subtle shuddering vibrating through him. For a moment he thought Ethan had rigged up yet another trap before he realized Jess was trembling so hard it was throwing him off balance. She was also making soft gasping noises as if she was having trouble catching her breath, and he recognized that she was probably experiencing at least mild symptoms of medical shock.
Gripping her to him even more tightly and wrapping one hand lightly in her hair, Becker used his other hand to reach for his earpiece. He quietly called for a team from the ARC to come and do a thorough sweep of both buildings, although he suspected Ethan was long gone. He felt a hatred for the man who had almost taken Jess from him bubbling up in his chest, and had to fight down the urge to break something. Soon enough he would do whatever it took to neutralize the Ethan threat, for now his concern was Jess.
"Shh," He whispered, tucking his head down until it was close to her ear level without loosening his grip on her all too fragile frame. "You're ok. I've got you. You were brilliant, Jess, truly brilliant."
Her only response was to nuzzle her face further into the crook of his neck, her breath coming in little pants that caused Becker to shiver as they hit his skin.
Regretfully, Becker forced himself to pull back enough to get a good look at her face although he kept her firmly within the circle of his arms.
"Are you alright?" He asked, unable to fight the urge to stroke a finger down her cheek.
She looked up at him for the first time and he was relieved to see some of the fire he associated with Jess reappearing in her eyes. She nodded before looking back down and simply leaning forward until her forehead rested lightly against his arm.
Becker took a deep breath, steeling himself for the return to the soldier who kept people at a distance for their own good. As much as it had brought feelings he'd previously denied to the fore, this situation had also proved beyond a shadow of a doubt why he'd been right to hide those feelings away. If it wasn't for her infatuation with him Jess never would have been anywhere near this place and his affection for her had nearly cost him his ability to save her.
He glanced down at the girl in his arms and sighed, before leaning down and placing an impossibly light kiss on the crown of her head. Things had to go back to the way they were before, but not just yet.
"Come on," Becker said gently, withdrawing from Jess and holding out his hand. "Let's get out of here."
Jess seemed to hesitate for a moment, and Becker felt worry rush into him so quickly it almost left him lightheaded.
"What's wrong?" He asked.
"I still need to use the bathroom," She whispered, and Becker was so relieved he could have cried but he settled for laughing instead.
He led her to Matt's bathroom and ignoring any embarrassment this might cause her waited directly outside of the closed door until she emerged again.
"Let's go," He told her once she reappeared.
Jess merely nodded, taking his hand and allowing him to lead her out of the building after he scooped up his EMD.
Once he had her securely in the passenger side of the SUV he hurried around to the driver's side, taking her hand again as soon as he was inside. He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand absentmindedly every few seconds as they drove, finding it incredibly reassuring when Jess seemed to perk up enough to squeeze his fingers in response.
Becker drove them back to the ARC knowing that since it was the early hours of the morning anyway it made more sense to catch a few hours of sleep there before Lester would undoubtedly insist on them being debriefed.
Once inside the ARC facility, Becker led a disturbingly quiet Jess to the barracks, and the basic cots they afforded.
"It's not exactly high class," Becker attempted a joke. "But I can guarantee it's free of all explosives."
Jess graced him with a small smile before dropping limply on to one of the cots.
"You should have left," She informed him, her voice wavering with frustration and passion.
"You shouldn't have been there in the first place," He countered, feeling his own anger rising and fighting hard to tamp it down.
"I don't want to fight," She finally answered, all of the life draining out of her voice at once causing Becker's heart to clench painfully.
"Me neither," Becker agreed softly. "I'll let you get some sleep."
He had taken one step towards the door when Jess caught his hand.
"Stay," She said simply, refusing to meet his gaze. "Just…stay, please."
Knowing that this would only make things harder in the end, Becker allowed himself to be pulled down to the cot that was ridiculously undersized to fit two comfortably. Jess didn't seem to mind as she molded her body to fit his, tucking her head into his chest and clutching one of his hands in both of hers.
"Get some rest," Becker whispered, gently stroking her hair with his free hand.
"What about you?" Jess murmured sleepily, clearly already drifting off.
"Yeah," Becker answered. "Me too."
He knew Jess was asleep a few moments later when her breath evened out and her movements stilled. Contrary to his word however, Becker did not allow himself the same opportunity for rest. Even though he knew they were in the relative safety of the ARC, Becker couldn't seem to let his guard down fully. Maybe it was his complete failure at his earlier surveillance or maybe it was just how close he'd come to losing the girl currently wrapped up in his arms. Either way, Becker felt as though it was his duty to keep watch while Jess slept.
And this time, he swore to himself as Jess shuddered slightly in her sleep, this stake out, he would be vigilant.
Come on. baby
Come on, come on, darling
Let me steal this moment from you now
Come on, angel
Come on, come on, darling
Let's exchange the experience – "Running up that Hill"-Placebo