Epilogue- The End?
Jess could not remember the last time she had been so content with her life. She was alive and on the mend, she and Becker were finally together, and she was back at work. Well, she corrected herself sternly, to be more precise, she was visiting work. That morning over the phone Lester had forbidden her to return to work for at least another week, tersely explaining that she needed to take the time to fully recover before coming back to work because he needed her at one hundred percent as soon as possible and not a minute sooner. "And you may as well enjoy it while you can," he had added sternly, "it's not likely I'll be granting you more time off for a holiday anytime soon anyway." However, after several minutes of pleading, he had granted that she could come in for a few hours to ensure that Connor and the relief field coordinator who had taken her place did not destroy her system and files in her absence. She had been locked up in her flat moping for so long without a change of scenery that the ARC was a more than welcome distraction.
Unfortunately, her visit had not been without challenges- two challenges, in fact. Her interfering flat mates had done nothing but question her since she had arrived at the ARC some two hours earlier. Connor had appeared first at her workstation, on the pretense of updating some of the ADD's systems and hardware, and had been joined shortly thereafter by Abby, who had long since abandoned any pretense of having a good reason to be there except for grilling Jess.
"Come on, Jess," Connor wheedled from his position lying prone on the floor under her desk as he inspected the complicated wiring. "You can't just mention over breakfast that Becker stopped by last night and not tell us everything that happened."
"He only stopped by to say hello," Jess answered shiftily, avoiding the question and pretending to focus intently on the computer screen in front of her. "Why is that so strange?"
"Because," Connor argued, propping himself up on one elbow to face her, "prior to last night, I would have bet Rex, Sid and Nancy, and a year's pay that, while I'm sure Soldier Boy knows where each of us lives for 'security purposes,' that he would never pay a social call to any of us unless Lester ordered him to assassinate one of us."
"Don't be so dramatic, Connor," Jess commented airily as her screens flickered ominously. "And pay attention to what you're supposed to be doing, please."
"We've been working on this all day, Jess," Abby said, feigning greater ignorance than she possessed. "Matt must have dropped him off at the flat after he picked him up from the hospital- so what happened after that? I saw takeaway containers in the trash. Did you have dinner together?"
"Why don't you ask Matt if you think he knows so much? Or Becker for that matter?"
"Matt threatened to shoot Connor if he didn't stop pestering him this morning and he's too scared to ask Becker himself."
"Oh, so I'm the weakest link in the great conspiracy of Becker visiting me?"
"Yes," Abby answered bluntly. "So you may as well give up now and tell us the whole story."
"I already told you," Jess answered calmly, angling her chair away from Abby to hide the slight upturn of her lips. It wasn't often she had any gossip worthy of this level of interest and she was secretly enjoying the attention. But she was not sure how comfortable Becker really was with everyone knowing about their relationship yet and she did not want to give away the game. "Yes, Becker came by the flat last night and we talked. There's really not much to tell."
"There's loads to tell and you're being a complete jerk about it," Abby groaned bitterly, crossing her arms. "You know I'll get the truth out of you eventually, so you might as well tell me now." She leaned in a bit closer to Jess's chair and dropped her voice half an octave. "After all, you kind of owe me: I'm the one who stopped Connor from looking in your bedroom when we got home late last night to see if you were alone or not," Abby said, earning a horrified look from Jess. "You owe me details."
Jess pursed her lips, shooting Connor, who was carefully avoiding looking at her, a dirty look. "Well, if you really must know, Becker and I-"
"Are you ready to go, Jess?" Becker asked as he appeared over Abby's shoulder, making her jump guiltily. Connor cursed loudly as he bashed his head against the bottom of Jess's desk in surprise.
"Just one minute," she answered, a blush creeping up her cheeks. "Connor, do you think you can finish up here on your own?"
"Well, I could use the help if you-" he started to say before Abby poked his ribs with the toe of her boot, a little harder than she had meant. "Ow. Um, I'm good. I guess?" he finished, looking back up at Abby questioningly.
"You two doing some more field work?" Abby asked, ignoring Connor's query. "Chasing triceratops through an abandoned mine shaft, perhaps?" She fixed Becker with a stern glare, silently demanding that he give her some hint as to how things had worked out between him and Jess after her intervention. "I thought you weren't allowed back at work for another month- and that's if Lester's feeling generous."
"Three weeks, actually, and we both know I'll be back in two. I just came to pick Jess up since her car was destroyed and the insurance hasn't replaced it yet," Becker said, staring Abby down. "I thought we might get dinner on the way home, if you're hungry, Jess," he asked, the corners of his mouth twitching into a quick smile as he shifted his gaze to her.
"That would be lovely," she said, smiling broadly at the fact that he had hinted at their relationship to Abby and Connor first. She turned quickly to log out of the computer and pack up her laptop.
"And then I think we'll be stopping off at the hardware store to buy a lock for Jess's bedroom door," Becker added a bit louder, pointedly stepping on Connor's hand as he leaned forward on the pretense of looking more closely at one of the HUD's screens. "For security purposes."
Connor cursed again as he snatched his hand back and hit his head against the desk again in his rush to sit up and face Becker. "What? No, Abby was just joking about all that- I wouldn't- I didn't- I was…"
"I'll see you two back at home," Jess said quickly, preferring not to think about Connor peeking in on her while she was sleeping or… otherwise engaged at night. "
Becker and Jess set off toward the door together, carefully keeping a respectable distance between themselves.
Abby turned to Connor, who was still massaging his injured hand, and grinned. "I told you they would work it out. Now pay up."
Connor sighed dramatically as he jumped to his feet and pulled a ten-pound note from his pocket, slapping it into Abby's outstretched hand. "You had insider information- it wasn't a fair bet."
"Thank you very much," she said, winking as she tucked it into her bag.
"Double or nothing they'll be engaged by the end of the year?" Connor asked, rubbing his hands together greedily.
Abby considered the wager for a moment, watching as Jess and Becker disappeared around the corner, linking arms as soon as they thought they were out of sight, before replying: "A year? I give them six months. You're on."
A/N: A final huge thanks to everyone who reviewed and read this story- your dedication and kind words have kept me writing even when it got tough- and it got very tough at times.
Also, thanks once again to my wonderful beta, whose tireless editing and sarcastic commentaries have seriously improved the quality of my writing and without whom, I promise you, this story would never have been finished. (Ellen, never forget the tour of miniature London that was the highlight of the original draft).