Disclaimer: Primeval and all related elements, characters and indicia © Impossible Pictures. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations—save those created by the authors for use solely on this website—are copyright Impossible Pictures.
Please do not archive or distribute without author's permission.
Author's Note: Set between 5.04 and 5.05, and after the events of "Unofficial Secrets Act". Huge thanks to my amazing (and patient) betas boosette, marymac, and seren_ccd.
Jess' first day back at the ARC after her medical leave was like being thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool with lead weights attached to her ankles. She should have expected it; the anomalies had been increasing in frequency ever since Connor had noticed the mad satellite anomalies at the prison where they had caught Ethan.
She'd only been at her desk for perhaps ten minutes, a giant Caffè Nero mocha in one hand and a muffin (banana nut this time) in the other, when the Anomaly Alert alarms went off.
Abby and Connor came over from the break room, and Jess was glad to see the two of them so close again. She hadn't had a chance to talk to Abby much the last two days, but Connor had his hand on Abby's waist and they seemed to have regained their easy way of being around one another. And while she was happy for them, she couldn't help being that little bit envious.
Connor and Abby were making life at her flat a little more complicated than Jess had initially pictured when she'd first offered them her spare room. She had been lonely, living on her own in the city, and it was especially nice to have people she could be completely honest with about every aspect of her life. A flatshare had seemed like such a great idea at first, and it had been for nearly a year.
Of course, that was before she had a boyfriend. A proper boyfriend, with whom she had thus far done little more than make out on her sofa, and chat with on the phone. It was a bit like living at home with her mum and dad all over again. But she wasn't a kid anymore, and she really was looking forward to a little... unchaperoned adult time.
When she'd come in that morning, it had taken every ounce of her willpower not to head straight to the Armoury to see Becker. But they'd agreed to keep their relationship off the radar at work. So instead she'd been at the ADD since she arrived, catching up on the systems logs from the previous two days and trying not to be angry with Shelby for rearranging items on her desk while she'd covered Jess' shifts.
One thing had changed since Lester had forced her via Skype to take a day's medical leave: Emily was now a fully vetted member of the team. Jess had issued her a black box as she'd come into the Hub behind Matt, still looking a bit like a woman out of her time in grey jodhpurs and riding boots, the hilt of her stiletto peeking out from the top of her right boot.
"It's good to see you looking so well," Emily had said as she'd taken the EMD pistol from Matt and checked its power cell like she'd used one before. Perhaps she had. She and Matt had spent most of the time together since Emily had returned to the 21st century, despite the fact that she still slept in the guest quarters in corridor five.
"I'd have been back yesterday, but Lester... insisted." Jess shrugged. In truth, she suspected Becker might have had a talk with him after he'd left her place the morning before. She would normally have taken exception to his alpha male macho posturing, deciding what was best for her, except for the fact that once the adrenaline and steroids had worn off she'd spent most of the day dead-to-the-world, finally rising only a few hours before Abby and Connor came home covered in the remains of a Jurassic predator. Apparently, the ARC showers were low on the list of systems requiring priority maintenance after the beetles had tunnelled through the walls.
They had disappeared into the bath, and Jess hadn't seen them again until that morning when she'd put the coffee on and Connor had stumbled out in nothing but a vest, boxers, and Abby's pink dressing gown, monosyllabic and finding mugs by touch. Jess had waved to him and he'd grunted a greeting as he carried two steaming mugs down to the bedrooms.
She'd toyed with calling Becker, to see if he wanted to grab a meal or even a film, but stopped herself because she wasn't sure she wanted to be "That Girl". The one who couldn't be apart from her boyfriend for two minutes, and insisted that they spend every waking moment together.
Still, it had been awfully nice waking up in his arms, even if they hadn't done anything more than talk and make out like horny teenagers the night before. She looked forward to possibly repeating the experience sometime soon, only while both of them were wearing considerably less clothing, and at his place where there was no danger of Connor or Abby walking in on them.
She remembered the feeling, before she opened her eyes, of his chest rising and falling beneath hers. Of warmth where they touched. The way his eyelashes lay against his cheek as he slept, his hair sticking up at odd angles. His clothes were rumpled from falling asleep on her sofa—falling asleep with her draped across his body, one hand tucked under his tee-shirt to curl against his stomach. She remembered how his heart beat thrummed through her, the way his belt buckle dug into her hip, the feel of him through his faded and creased jeans, half hard against the top of her thigh.
The way his lips parted as she deliberately brushed up against him, lashes fluttering against his cheek before he opened his eyes. In the sunlight streaming through the windows, his hazel eyes were shot through with flecks of amber and almost seemed to glow from within, until he shaded his eyes with one hand.
"Shit, what time is it?" he'd asked, despite the fact that of the two of them he was the only one wearing a watch, the face turned around the inside of his wrist per usual. She'd lifted his wrist so she could peer at it, and he'd curled his hand around her neck, and carded his fingers through her hair.
"Don't worry—it's only half seven. You have time to stop at home and change before shift change."
"Do you know what's the best part about my men wearing uniforms?"
"It means that instead of having to go home to change," he'd pushed her fringe out of her eyes with a slow smile, "I can stay here with you just that bit longer."
her favourite memory of the last few days.
"Jess?" Matt prompted as he clipped his black box to his belt, bringing her out of her reverie. "The anomaly?"
"Yeah. Of course. Sorry." She felt her cheeks burning as she pulled up the data. "It's the golf course at Stockley Park. I've loaded the co-ordinates into your satnavs, and Becker and the security team are already down in the loading bay. No sign of a creature incursion yet, but I've had the buildings closest to the area cleared, with a half-mile perimeter just in case."
"OK. We'll radio in when we get there. And Jess?"
"It's good to have you back." Matt laid a hand on her shoulder and gave it a squeeze before turning to follow Emily out of the Hub.
Jess smiled brightly, and then her breath caught in her throat as Becker came over to pick up a black box from the docking station on her desk. He leaned down 'til his lips were next to her ear.
"Very good," he said, running a finger lightly over her forearm. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks, and glanced around to make sure no-one was watching them. But it was hardly unusual for Becker to be hanging around the ADD. As far as everyone else in the ARC was concerned, it was business as usual.
"Be careful, OK?" Jess said brightly.
"Always," Becker promised as he clipped the black box to his belt.
Jess turned back to the ADD and pulled up satellite imagery of the area, trying to concentrate on her job, rather than the memory of Becker's fingers in her hair.
According to Connor's anomaly dating device, the anomaly in the golf course led not to a prehistoric period, but to the 12th century. Luckily the only creature incursion was a herd of cattle who were happily grazing on the green.
Jess was about to hand off the ADD to second shift when her mobile chirped, indicating she had a new message.
Question. Secure channel? -b
Intrigued, she transferred her earpiece to a separate channel, and texted him the frequency.
"Aren't we very James Bond all of a sudden?" she said quietly, her gaze darting around the Hub to make sure no-one was listening. But aside from Lester's assistant and two lab techs, all of whom were engrossed in their own work, she was alone. "How's your unexpected afternoon as a drover coming along?"
"Abby and Matt have got the majority of them through. The cows followed the bulls; it's just the stragglers left. I'm back at the vehicles—let Connor play sheepdog for a while."
"Oh, I don't know. Sheepdogs are clever, driven, highly trained, and always follow commands. Sound like anyone we know?"
"Very funny, Jess."
"I'm just saying—you could do worse."
"How do you feel about dinner at mine tonight after work?"
Jess grinned. "Let me guess—spagbol a la Becker?"
His laughter over the comms made her toes curl inside her kicky red pumps as if he were right beside her. "I'm through cooking for you. We're going to order in."
"You just don't like doing the washing up."
"Let's just say I can think of better ways to spend our time."
Colour flooded her cheeks, and Jess glanced around again to make certain no-one was watching her. "I quite like the sound of that," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.
"I thought you would. You're just lucky I—"
Whatever else he's was going to say was cut off as the alarms went off, and the lights in the Hub flashed red.
"Becker—switch back to the main line." She keyed in a few commands, drawing up terrain maps of the area. "Head's up—we've got another anomaly alert. Sending co-ordinates now. ETA to anomaly site is 22 minutes from your present location, assuming the traffic behaves. I bet you wish you had sirens."
"Any sign of a creature incursion?" Matt asked, and Jess frowned at her screens.
"Nothing yet, but I'm monitoring communications. It's in a block of council flats in South Acton."
"Alright—we're heading out now. The rest of the security team will join us after they've got the remaining cattle through and the anomaly has closed. Jess, at the first whiff of an incursion, dispatch back-up to the estate."
"Already on it—I've got two teams of five prepping now; Sgt Tully's team, and Major Sanderson's."
"So much for dinner," Becker muttered, and Jess had to cover her mouth with her hand to keep from making a sound.
"Oh, did you have plans?" Abby asked over the comms, her voice dripping with sincerity and Jess groaned as if she could already see her flatmate's face.
"If I did, they'd be no business of yours," Becker said loftily.
"It's just funny you should mention, cos Jess only just texted me that she was going to be out tonight, that's all."
"The comms," Matt interrupted, "are not for personal chatter, people. Isn't that right, Jess?"
"Right," Jess stammered, trying to ignore her flaming cheeks. "I mean—yes. Matt's absolutely right."
She could hear Abby laughing in the background, and ignored her desire to go find a cupboard and hide.
While the ARC vehicles were en route, she concentrated on monitoring the council flats, tapping into the network of CCTV cameras on the estate. She could see police escorting the residents away, angry and frightened people being herded behind the hastily set up tape. Meanwhile, the ADD's sensors were triangulating the radio signals until a section of the building's schematics lit up red on her screen.
"Jess, we're onsite. Any idea what we've got?" Matt asked over the comms.
"The anomaly is down in the subbasement of the Northwest tower, near the laundry machines. It's been evacuated—we put about there's a gas leak and I've had them set up a half mile perimeter."
"Connor, you and Emily lock the anomaly. Becker, Abby—you're with me. Jess, any sign of a creature incursion?"
"Not yet. I'm scanning all the floors, but they don't have full coverage of the lower levels. Police have confirmed all thirteen storeys have been evacuated. But Matt—I've scanned the last hour of the car park cameras and it looks like there were some kids who went into a rear door to the basement about twenty minutes ago. It looked like three boys, but camera resolution isn't the best. It's an old estate, and the images are pretty grainy."
"OK, we'll keep a look out for them. You did good, Jess," Matt added, but she still frowned at her screens.
"Find the kids, and I'll feel like I've done my job," Jess said firmly as she pulled up as many local traffic cameras as she could. From her Big Brother view, she saw the ARC vehicles pulled up to the council block. Becker sent one of his uniformed soldiers to speak with the police while they unloaded the locking device and EMDs from the boot.
The hardest part of her job wasn't co-ordinating field teams. Or interfacing with local law enforcement. It wasn't even sitting safe and sound at her desk in the Hub while her friends were out there risking their lives every time they went to an anomaly site.
Jess had known what she was signing up for when she took the job at the ARC. Or she thought she had. She'd read through mountains of non-disclosure agreements, signed the Official Secrets Act. She'd taken it upon herself to read every mission report, every personnel file. To get to know the people she would be working with, and to understand the people who had come before her—the people lost to their fight to protect the world from the dangers of the anomalies.
She'd read about Tom Ryan, Stephen Hart, and Nick Cutter. About Jenny Lewis, Danny Quinn, and Connor and Abby. She'd read about all the men and women who had died, on every mission, and vowed that so long as she was acting as field co-ordinator, she would do everything in her power to keep the people of the ARC safe. That meant being their eyes and ears when they were out in the field. Knowing every twist and turn of an anomaly site.
What she had never planned for was seeing people—innocent people who had no idea what was happening—fall victim to the predators from the past and future. Men, women, children who were just going about, living their lives completely oblivious to the danger. People who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
She did everything she could to help, but the hardest part was having to watch. Because that was her job—to watch.
"There's definitely something," Becker replied, and she switched the feed to his black box. She flinched at the video image of a blood smear that ran along the floor. She switched back to the CCTV and watched Becker, Matt, and Abby as they followed the trail, EMDs pointed towards the ceiling.
Switching camera angles, she caught sight of an ankle in a high-heeled shoe peeking out from behind a half-open door.
"Becker—your 2 o'clock," Jess said, trying her best to keep her voice level instead of trembling. She forced herself to look as Becker and Abby examined the body of a middle-aged woman. Her throat and chest were a mess of red which appeared black on the camera feed, and Jess suspected that was the only thing keeping her gorge from rising.
"Animal attack," Abby confirmed as she bent over the body. "Not large—but carnivorous. Teeth and claws for sure."
"Matt, we have a confirmed incursion," Jess switched feeds. "Has Connor dated the anomaly yet?"
"Working on it."
"In your own time, then," Becker muttered as he and Abby swept another corridor.
"According to the readouts, it's Late Cretaceous. So it could be anything from an Adasaurus to a Balaur raptor to a Euronychodon. Without knowing the where as well as the when the anomaly leads to, or finding some tracks or scat—"
"What's the best case scenario?" Becker asked, interrupting Connor's nervous rattling off of every fact he had to hand.
"Becker, someone's already died, and we've a carnivore from 65 million years ago running around a housing estate. I'm not sure there is a best case scenario."
"Are we dealing with one of them, or an entire pack? How large are they?"
"OK. Best case scenario—one creature," Connor informed them.
"No—best case scenario, the creature's already gone back through," Abby pointed out as she and Becker swapped positions, EMDs at the ready.
Jess caught a flicker of movement in the top quadrant of security camera feeds she'd pulled up from the estate and zoomed in as much as she could, squinting at the screen.
"Becker—I've picked up a creature on CCTV. Second storey hallway—it must have climbed the stairs. How did it get the fire doors open?"
"Places like this, doors are always propped open," Becker pointed out. "Especially in summer."
"Jess, any idea what it is?" Abby asked.
"It looked... kind of like a cat crossed with a lizard? Sorry Abby—these cameras are really old."
"But there was just one of them?"
"So far, yeah. I'm sending the best shot I could get to your phones. Connor—any idea what it is?"
"Wow. You're right—these cameras really do suck. Could be an Aristosuchus. Um... carnivore, two metres tip to tail, maybe for or five stone when they're full grown? The fossil records are all we've got to go on. We've never seen one of these before."
"Do they have any weaknesses?" Matt asked, and Becker shrugged.
"Does it matter? It's a dinosaur—we shoot it. End of problem."
"Sometimes I envy you, Becker," Abby said as she patted his shoulder. "Your worldview is so simple."
"It's a dinosaur, and it's killed at least one person."
"I'm sorry, Abby. But I'm with Becker on this one. If we can't herd it back through the anomaly—"
"I know, I know."
"I promise—next time."
"So long as they're cute, cuddly herbivores."
"Guys? Kids in the basement? Scary dinosaurs?"
"We're on it, Jess," Matt sighed.
Six hours, two Aristosuchus, three teenagers with cans of spray paint, and one long phone call with the housing association later, and the core team was back at the ARC.
"Where's Connor?" Jess asked as Becker laid his black box very precisely on Jess' glass desk. He'd changed out of his tactical gear, and was wearing faded low-slung jeans, his brown leather bike jacket on over a dark blue tee-shirt which was stretched taut over his chest.
"He and Abby disappeared into Matt's lab as soon as they got back."
"Matt's lab? Huh. That's weird." Jess tapped a few keys, frowning.
Jess gestured to the screen, but Becker didn't know what he was looking at.
"Phillip rang for Connor, like, half a dozen times. He even called me once, to ask where Connor was, because he wasn't answering his mobile."
"Why so strange? Lester and Phillip share him, right?"
"Yeah, except Connor never dodges calls from his mentor. And we've had to prise him out of his lab to eat and sleep and shower for weeks now. But I just checked the security codes and he hasn't been in there once today."
Becker shrugged, shoving his hands deep in the pockets of his jeans. "All I know is, Temple was very happy to be back out in the field today. I suppose Burton and Lester will just have to hash it out when Lester gets back tomorrow."
Jess' mouth quirked in a smile. "Who gets custody rights to Connor, you mean?"
"Divorce, such a messy business," Becker said with a sigh, and Jess reached over to punch him lightly on the shoulder. "Enough about Temple. I am wondering what Miss Jessica Parker might be fancying for dinner tonight."
"Becker," Jess whispered, glancing around self-consciously.
"Eyes in the back of my head," Becker said with a wink. "So, what'll it be? We've done Chinese and a curry. That leaves... well, everything that's not Chinese or a curry."
Becker made a face. "There's something deeply unsettling about bread you don't have to chew."
"How do we feel about sushi?"
"How do you think I feel about sushi?"
"Only if you're not going to order the spiciest thing on the menu in an effort to destroy my ability to ever taste food again."
"OK—I give up. How about we stop by the pub on the way to your place and get a pint, and shepherd's pie."
"This might be true love."
"I don't know how you can be so fit surviving on nothing but the equivalent of school dinners."
"You think I'm fit?"
She gave him a look.
"And haven't you heard? Jamie Oliver's made school dinners posh now."
"Next time I get to pick, you're going to at the very least try tempura and some shrimp rolls."
Sneaking a glance around the Hub to make sure they were unobserved, Becker gave her a quick peck on the lips. "Deal."
"Becker, Jess?" Matt's voice came over the comms, "can you come up to my lab?"
"On our way," Becker replied, raising his eyebrows. But Jess was just as puzzled as he was.
"You go ahead, I'll catch you up. I just need to finish downloading the anomaly data from today."
When Becker got to Matt's lab, he was surprised to find Abby, Connor, and Emily with Matt, their expressions grim. Matt's plants were all in bloom, the heady scent of orchids and other flowers making Becker's head swim. He'd always thought it was odd that Matt's hobby was horticulture. Nothing in his file suggested someone who would climb Mt Everest for fun would have something so sedate as gardening as a pastime.
"Where's Jess?" Emily asked.
"She's on her way. What's going on?"
Becker watched the four of them all look to Matt with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. When Jess had first voiced the idea that something was going on, Becker had assured her that Anderson would never keep secrets from the team. But it was clear that something was going on. And from the looks on their faces, it was something big.
"Alright—out with it."
"We should wait for Jess—" Abby said, her eyes darting to Matt, who nodded tersely.
"Phillip's working with Helen Cutter," Connor blurted out. "Danny was right. He's been lying to us this whole time."
"Helen Cutter? Seriously? The woman's been dead for two years and she's still wreaking havoc?"
Becker watched a muscle in Matt's jaw twitch. Finally he leaned against the table, arms crossed, and looked Becker in the eye. "Phillip's work at New Dawn is going to bring about the end of the world as you know it."
"And you know this how, exactly?"
"Because I've seen it. In fact, I was born into it. And I came back here to try and prevent it."
"Becker, Matt's from the future," Abby explained, and it dawned on him that none of this was news to Abby or Connor. Even Emily was just watching him, waiting to see how he would react.
Becker advanced on Matt, ignoring how Emily's hand twitched toward her stiletto. "I knew that bit about Everest was a load of bollocks. How much of your dossier was fabricated? Are you really ex-Army? Are you even qualified to handle a weapon?"
"Becker, we've worked together in the field for nearly two years, and you're going to count a piece of paper over my actions?"
Jess chose that moment to enter the lab. All eyes turned to her, and her blue eyes went wide as she took in the scene. "What's going on?"
"Come on in, Jess. Matt was just telling us how everything we know about him is a lie." Becker could feel a vein in his forehead starting to throb, and scrubbed his hands over his face.
"What?" Jess' voice had dropped to a fierce whisper.
"Matthew is from the future." Becker crossed his arms and glared at Matt, while Jess just kept looking back and forth between them, confused.
"What? How? Like, where the scary mutant bat things come from? That future?"
"Look, I promise I'll explain everything. But right now, I need you to trust me when I tell you that the machine Phillip's built at New Dawn is going to rip this world apart."
"How?" Jess asked, going from looking confused to frightened.
"That's the thing—we didn't know until Connor built the prototype. Something about the man-made anomaly Phillip's going to create is going to upset the balance. Tip the scales." Matt closed his eyes, and blew out a breath, his shoulders sagging. "Look, my dad was the scientist. He's the one who figured out that it has something to do with the magnetic poles of the Earth. I'm a soldier."
Matt's eyes went to Becker's, as if looking for some kind of solidarity.
"And my mission is—and has always been—to stop the man-made interference that mucks up Mother Nature's mad plan. If we don't, billions are going to die. Nearly all life on Earth, wiped out."
It was the longest speech Becker had ever heard Matt make.
"The final trials are tomorrow—after that, there's nothing stopping Phillip from bringing the machine online." Connor said, turning his laptop towards the group. " I've got the schematics for Phillip's machine. With those, and the Security codes, we can disable it. We just need to keep Phillip away from New Dawn."
"Connor, that'll be your job," Matt said, as if this was just any other mission, and he was still acting as team leader. That more than anything else set Becker's teeth on edge. "I'll disable the machine. The rest of you—it has to appear business as usual here at the ARC. Otherwise, Phillip might get suspicious."
"Fine." Becker got right up into Matt's face, and glared at him. "But we're telling Lester first."
"I don't know that's such a good—" Matt began.
"Did I make that sound like a suggestion? Because it wasn't. Lester has been here since the beginning. He needs to know exactly what's going on, and he needs to know now. If Burton is using the ARC to end the world, then we'll need Lester on our side. To talk the Minister down after we've shot our pet millionaire in the head, if nothing else."
Matt frowned. "Fine."
Becker turned to leave, and then paused in the open door.
"Oh, one last thing," Becker said as he turned back to Matt, and then nailed him in the jaw with a right cross.
"I think you loosened a tooth." Matt probed the inside of his cheek with his tongue.
"If you ever lie to me again in a way that puts the team at risk, it won't be just your teeth you'll be losing. Understood?"
Becker stomped out of the lab, his back ramrod straight.
Jess was torn. Part of her wanted to rush after Becker to make sure he was OK. But she had so many questions. She'd known something was off with Matt, but she'd always assumed it was just personal stuff. Family, maybe old girlfriends. Normal, everyday stuff.
Coming from a post-apocalyptic future like that scrummy guy from The Terminator had never been on her radar. Why would it? Things like that just didn't happen in real life. They just didn't.
The thing of it was—prehistoric Mammoths didn't rampage across the M25 in real life, either. So her entire worldview tended to shift by degrees every day she was at the ARC.
"That went better than I expected, actually," Abby said as she gave Matt's shoulder a friendly pat.
"Yeah—I was actually expecting him to shoot you."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Connor," Matt said as he continued to massage his jaw.
"How long?" Jess asked, and they all turned to her as if they'd forgot she was there. "Seriously, though, how long has everyone else on the team known?"
"Jess, it's not like that," Abby began, like Jess was the sweet kid sister. But this time Jess wasn't going to buy it.
She held up her hand, and squared her shoulders, and looked Matt straight in the eye. "Look, I'll talk to him. I just... I just need to know. This is important. We're a team. I need to know why we were kept in the dark for so long, that's all."
Matt had the decency to look uncomfortable under her gaze.
"I told Emily first—when we were at Jenny Lewis' wedding. Abby figured it out later, and then, after the beetles, we had to tell Connor."
"Had to?" Jess repeated, her voice rising slightly on the first word. "So not wanted to? Not intended to?"
"Jess, I wasn't planning to tell anybody," Matt snapped, and she forced herself not to take an involuntary step back. Matt had never been the most open member of the team, but he'd never actually raised his voice at her before.
"I'm sorry," Matt said quickly, and he seemed to really mean it. "I was taught—I was raised to believe this was something I had to do alone. It was my responsibility, and I wasn't supposed to let myself get... distracted by personal ties. No friendships. No relationships. Just the mission."
As he spoke, Emily moved that bit closer to his side.
"But I can't do it alone. I need you—all of you." Matt turned to include all of them in his statement, before turning back to Jess. "And I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner, but I didn't actually know it was Phillip until recently. I swear."
Jess chewed on her bottom lip, her eyebrows drawing together in a frown. "Alright. I understand."
"So we're good?" Matt asked, looking suddenly vulnerable—unsure. Jess realised that he really genuinely felt remorse for keeping her and Becker in the dark. Whatever his intentions when he joined the ARC, he was on their team. Or they were on his. Either way, they were still a team.
"I'm good." She wanted to make it clear that she wouldn't—and couldn't—speak for Becker. Matt nodded, and on impulse, Jess gave him a hug. It must have been a huge weight to carry alone for so long, and she really did understand.
But being the last to know—that hurt. And she had a feeling it hurt Becker much more, since he'd been with the ARC since practically the beginning.
"I'll talk to Becker, see if I can smooth things over," Jess said as she released Matt, and gave his hand a squeeze.
"Don't thank me yet—I'll do what I can, but the rest'll be up to you. He trusted you, Matt. We all did. It won't be easy."
"I'd rather this world survive and Becker be angry, than the alternative."
When Jess arrived at Becker's SUV, he was leaning against it, waiting for her. His arms were crossed, and she could already tell from the stiff set of his shoulders that punching Matt in the jaw had, in fact, been him showing tremendous restraint.
Jess approached him carefully, slowly, the same way she would one of the animals in the menagerie. When she was close enough to see the muscle twitching in his jaw, she laid her hand on his forearm.
"Are you OK?" she asked, and he just looked into her eyes for a moment before tipping his head back against the roof of the car.
"All this time, I kept telling myself Matt would never put the team at risk. That if it was something important, he wouldn't leave me—us—in the dark."
"I know. But he did tell us. That has to count for something, right?"
"Two years, Jess!" Becker exploded. "He's been here for two years."
Jess sighed, and wrapped her hands around Becker's wrists, pulling them back down to his sides. She stepped closer, and wondered if this was just her day for helping talk down testosterone-infused soldiers from biting each other's head's off.
Then again, it was a skill she prided herself on. And while she might have been dating Becker, she still cared a great deal about Matt as a friend. And she knew Becker did as well. If he hadn't cared, then the betrayal of his trust wouldn't have been so devastating and painful.
"Hey, look at me," she said, taking Becker's face gently in her hands. "What if it were you?"
"What? What do you mean?"
"What if you'd been sent back in time to stop the end of the world. Ordered to focus on the mission, and nothing else. No friends. No family. Just you... and the mission. Knowing that everyone was counting on you. Afraid to let them down—and yourself down."
She let her words sink in, and watched as the Becker's jaw unclenched, and the deep line between his eyebrows disappeared. But she still didn't remove her hands from his face. Instead, she gently brushed her thumbs over his cheekbones as she spoke.
"Because it's the whole world we're talking about here. Not London, not Europe. Everyone and everything, forever. So he tried to keep himself from forming any kind of attachments. No friends, no lovers. Only the mission. I know right now you're angry. So am I. But what matters is that he needs us. He trusts us—trusts us with the most important secret ever. How can you be mad at him for that?"
Becker sighed, and leaned forward to rest his forehead against hers.
"Do you have to be so sensible and right, all the time? Because honestly—it's not a very attractive trait, sometimes."
"I'll bear that in mind," she said, her lips twisting in a wry smile. She went up on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his briefly. She'd meant it to just be a quick peck, but his arms went around her, pulling her closer. Jess squeaked as he turned her so she was pinned between the doors of the truck and his body. She was breathless when they finally parted, hanging onto his jacket for dear life.
Becker smiled down at her, brushing her fringe out of her eyes with a fingertip.
"I have wanted to do that all day."
"I've wanted you to all day," she confirmed with a smile. He pressed another kiss to her forehead, and unlocked the doors of the truck with the key fob.
"C'mon, let's go home."
Becker's flat was not what Jess had pictured. Somehow she'd always thought it would be white and Spartan, with loaded weapons in cases on the walls, like the armoury. It was silly, she knew, but she'd never seen him outside the ARC before the last few days and when she thought of his "home", the armoury was always the first place that came to mind.
It was the second floor of a period mansion block on a quiet narrow street. She recognised Danny's bike beneath its plastic tarp at the kerb, and Becker stopped to pick up his post on the way in. From a quick glance, she could see nearly all of it was junk mail, except for one creamy envelope addressed by hand, which he laid on the small table in the narrow entryway along with his keys.
"Make yourself at home," he said as he pulled a grey metal lock box from the single drawer and removed his SIG from his ankle holster. Locking the box with a small Yale key, he waved her through into the front room. It was small, with radiators lining the walls near the baseboards and an old gas fire set into one wall. A flatscreen telly was hung over the mantle, with bookcases built into the walls on either side. She ran her fingers over the spines of the books, recognising very few of them until she got to the dog-eared Le Carré paperbacks with cracked and almost unreadable spines on the lowest shelves. She grinned at him, and he shrugged.
"Relicts of a completely ridiculous youth."
"You wanted to be a spy when you grew up?"
"Not exactly. I was obsessed with Enigma machines when I was ten. I think I saw a film on the telly, or maybe it was at the cinema. I can't remember. I was gutted when I found out GCHQ didn't actually use them any longer."
"You wanted to be a cryptologist?"
"I was ten. I also wanted to be a fireman, a footballer, and a knight of the round table. Or—if I could somehow manage it—all three."
"Sir Beckham the Fire-fighter?"
"Something like that. Anyway, I read absolutely everything I could get my hands on, and when I ran out of non-fiction, my granddad got me Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Hence this," he gestured to the battered paperbacks. "My one addiction. Cold-war espionage thrillers. My granddad thought Smiley would appeal to me more than James Bond."
"I like him already, your granddad."
"I think you would like him, actually."
"Is he still alive?"
"Still going at eighty-one, and sharp as anything. He's got a cottage in a village near Swindon. We could go there, someday. If you like."
"I'd like that very much."
The walls were covered in dark green wallpaper—the expensive kind—and all of the furniture looked well looked after, if a bit old fashioned. The sofa, however, she recognised from IKEA. It was dark brown, and long, with cushions that had gone only slightly lumpy with age and use, and over one arm was neatly folded an oatmeal chenille throw. It seemed out of place, so she decided it must have been a housewarming present from a female relative, because it was exactly the sort of thing Jess might buy for her sister or her mum. She ran her fingers over it as she walked by, noting with amusement that the television remote was poking out from between two of the cushions.
There were photographs on the narrow mantle below the state-of-the-art telly, along with a small metal Spitfire toy model, its paint chipped and one plastic wheel missing.
She peered at the pictures, trying to figure out the stories behind them. One in an ornate silver frame was obviously his parents. It was a studio portrait, from the mid 1990s judging from the hairstyles and clothing. She recognised his father by the shared jawline and nose, his mother by the same hazel eyes. A photo in a smaller plain wood frame was next to it, and was clearly a very young Becker with an older gentleman in a tweed cap, waistcoat and tweed jacket, the worn elbows covered with patches. They were sitting in a garden, green trees behind them and she couldn't help but grin at young Becker in a rugby jersey, all knees and elbows.
Next to it was a photo of Becker with a blond girl, clearly taken at the bottom of someone's garden. He looked roughly the same age as the other photo, but was tanned, his light brown hair streaked from the sun. Summer holidays, then. The girl was obviously a relative—she had the same jawline and nose, though her eyes were blue, and she wore a faded and much-washed Take That tee-shirt.
In the centre of the mantle was a photo of Becker, Danny, Abby, and a woman Jess recognised from the files as Dr Page. They were laughing, Becker's hand blurred with movement. It had been taken outdoors, and they were standing on gravel, the bumper and boot of a black SUV behind them. Becker was clean-shaven, and wearing a full tactical jump-suit, a white and blue ARC patch partly obscured by Danny's arm. Abby's hair was bleached almost white, and cut short with a fringe that hung over one eye, her eyes made up with mascara and eyeliner that she almost never wore, now.
They all looked so happy. Jess couldn't think of a single photo she had with the current team. What with her being at the ADD night and day, she'd never thought of it. She had a sudden wistful yen to have one now—some record of the people she worked with and cared for. Especially if Matt was right, and the world would end tomorrow.
She shivered, and glanced back over her shoulder at Becker, who was busying himself filling the plain white kettle. Two mugs were set out on the counter, along with a small carton of milk, and an ornate white sugar bowl that looked like it had once been part of a much larger set of dishes.
She turned back to the mantle, and ran a fingertip over the smiles.
Lastly, there were a few photos in cheap plastic frames off to one side—including one that made Jess giggle as Becker was pulling faces while crammed into what was clearly a booth in a pub with four other blokes roughly the same age, a pint in one hand and a cigarette dangling from his lips.
"Getting your fill, Nosy Parker?" Becker asked as he brought her a steaming mug of tea. She took a sip, and smiled. Strong, milky, two sugars. The fact that he'd remembered how she took her tea warmed her more than the mug she cradled between her fingers.
Becker set his own half-empty mug (milk, no sugar) down atop a magazine on the coffee table, and slid his arms around her waist and rested his chin on the top of her head.
"I didn't know you smoked," she said, gesturing to the photo.
"Not much any more. It was a thing at Sandhurst—we all did it. Trying to seem older, more experienced, I suppose." He had the good grace to look sheepish. "I quit on my first deployment. You try running four miles in the desert on a pack a day."
"You never tried it? Not even in school?"
"I smoked half a fag in Carol Waverly's back garden when I was eleven, and promptly threw up. Never felt the need to try again."
"Wise choice." His lips brushed her ear, and she couldn't control the shiver that ran down her spine. "It's a filthy habit."
He pressed a kiss to her neck before releasing her, and she turned around, taking in the total effect of the room. It looked cosy, lived in. There were books crammed in odd nooks, along with magazines and she saw at least one of the ARC's black boxes resting on the lower ledge of a window frame. That was no surprise. Matt had at least four at his place by her count, and she was always finding them in her own digs, hidden beneath throw pillows or magazines.
The floors were dark wood, with small area rugs beneath the coffee table and in what would generously be called a breakfast nook which was only big enough for a kitchen island with two stools. There was a mug still sitting there, a half-inch of grey tea with a skin of milk on it, with the previous day's paper turned to the football results.
Becker reached for the mug, his ears slightly pink as he set it in the sink in the minuscule kitchen. The fridge had a Chinese take-away menu held to it with a magnet promoting cheap holidays in Spain, and a shopping list that bore an indecipherable scrawl. Of the entire list, the only words she could make out were tea and kitchen paper.
"I should have —I wasn't really thinking about the state of the place."
Jess pursed her lips, trying to keep from laughing. She could see the bed unmade through the open bedroom door, but there wasn't a single sign of clutter. No dirty clothes left haphazardly on the floor. The towels were hung up neatly in the bath, and the mug was the only dish in the stainless steel sink.
"Becker—this place is pristine compared to mine at the moment. I live with Connor, remember?"
"I just... I don't bring very many women—people home. In fact," he rubbed the back of his neck, his eyes sliding away from hers, "you're actually the only person from the ARC I've ever had here."
"Well, before Matt's bombshell, I was lured to your manly man lair on the pretext of food."
She drained the last of her tea, and carefully set her mug in the sink. When she turned, Becker had closed his eyes, and was sagging against the counter.
"Bugger. Dinner. We were meant to stop at the pub—"
"We can go out, if you like?" she suggested, and he scrubbed his hands over his face.
"It'll be crammed full this time of night, and I'm not really in the mood for it, now."
"Then we'll get a Chinese," she said, her pragmatic side taking over as she pulled the menu off the fridge. "Is this place any good?"
"It's cheap and it's fast," he said with a shrug. "I only ever get one of the noodle dishes, truth be told."
"Then order two of your favourite, extra prawn crackers, and we'll be fine."
"This isn't how I meant tonight to go."
"Becker, stop apologising. It's fine, honest." She slipped her arms around his waist, tipping her head back to look up at him. "It's just nice to have a quiet night alone, without the rest of the team."
"Especially if..." Becker trailed off, and Jess rested her cheek on his chest.
"If it's our last night on earth?"
"I wasn't going to say it."
"But you were thinking it."
His arms tightened around her, and she took a deep breath to try and steady her heart, which was currently pounding in her chest. He smelled, as always, of sweat, gun oil, and faintly of aftershave. She never thought the smell of gun oil could ever turn her on.
But then, that was before she fell and fell hard for someone who probably knew twenty different ways to kill someone with nothing more than a toothpick, serviette, and a bendy straw.
"Even if the world ends tomorrow, we still need food," she said into his shirt, and she could feel his chuckle rumbling through his chest.
"Do you ever regret it?" Jess asked as she used chopsticks to carry the last curried prawn to her lips. "Sandhurst, the SAS, all that?"
Becker shrugged, piling the last of the noodles onto his plate from the take-away carton. Unlike Jess, he was using a fork. He had also insisted on getting it only mildly spicy despite her making doe eyes at him as he'd ordered their dinner.
They were splitting a family-sized order of "Singapore Noodles" which Jess had pointed out was more like to have originated in South London than anyway near Malaysia. But it was tasty and familiar, the lightly spiced chicken, prawns and pork mixed with noodles as close to 'comfort food' as he got. When he'd explained that most of his meals were either takeaways or frozen dinners from Tesco these days, Jess had got that look on her face that meant at some point his fridge was going to end up holding more than just milk, beer, and a bottle of brown sauce.
"Someone had to carry on the Becker name and legacy. Maybe if I'd had brothers instead of sisters. But the thing was... I never really minded. And I was good at it. And at least it gave me something in common with my father. For a while, anyway. He doesn't really understand why I resigned my commission." He swallowed a forkful of pork and vermicelli noodles, washing it down with a mouthful of beer from the bottle. "I think Percy does—she was the middle child."
"Wait, your sister's name is Percy and your name is—"
"It's short for 'Persephone'. It's a family name. So's mine—I'm named after my great-grandfather. My dad insisted. My mum was convinced she was having another girl, so she went along with it. So now you know why I've always gone by 'James'. "
"I don't exactly blame you. Is 'James' a family name, too?"
"My mum's dad's name. Except he always went by 'Jock', cos his surname is Walker. You get funny nicknames in the Army."
"Like Becky?" Jess asked, all innocence, and Becker nearly choked on a mouthful of chicken and noodles.
"You called me Nosy Parker again." She gestured violently with her chopsticks. "It's only fair."
Becker gave her a dark look. But she just cheerfully snatched the last prawn cracker from the box.
"So, never Jim, or Jimmy?"
"My granddad calls me 'Jamie'. And Percy, but only when she's winding me up."
"How many sisters do you have?" Jess asked as she got up and pulled two more bottles of beer from the door of the fridge and handed them to Becker to open.
Becker couldn't help but smile at Jess giving him the third degree. She was playing it casual, but it was clear that she had been storing up every question she'd ever had and was taking full advantage of the evening to get all the answers she could. "So this is your plan—get me drunk, and get me to spill all my secrets?"
Jess looked at the three empty bottles on the table, and frowned. "I'm going to need way more beer, aren't I?"
Becker just laughed as he used the bottle opener on his key ring to uncap the beer. Then he very purposefully slid one of them over to Jess. She took it, blue eyes sparkling with mirth as she took a long pull off her beer.
"Just the two sisters, Percy and Jenna. Jenna—she's the eldest—was the over achiever, I was the only boy—so Percy got to make things up as she went along. Lucky, lucky Percy." He smiled ruefully, taking another long pull off his beer.
"I take it you're close?"
"We were as kids—we're only two years apart, and I idolised her when I was little. She was fearless. If there was a tree she shouldn't be climbing, she'd wave to you cheerfully from the top. If there was a single locked room in your house, she'd pick the lock with a hairclip and have it ransacked before lunch."
"I like her already. You said were close—you're not any longer?"
"I went away to school." He shrugged. "We talked on the phone, wrote letters, but it wasn't the same after that."
"Where is she now?"
"Here, in London. She's head of HR for some big media firm. She married a merchant banker, and they have a stunningly perfect house in Wandsworth, two beautiful children, and I see them once a year at Christmas despite the fact that we live twenty minutes away from one another on the tube."
Becker gestured to her empty plate, and she shook her head. He stacked the plates, and carried them over to the sink while she dropped the empty bottles into the recycling bin.
"If the world really is going to end, shouldn't you maybe ring her?" Jess asked as Becker filled the sink with hot soapy water. He was so used to doing the washing up alone at the end of the evening that it was a shock how easy it was to just keep on talking, with her leaning against the counter, chin cupped in her hand as he worked.
"And say what? 'Sis, take the hubby and the kids and find a bunker quick'?" Becker pulled the tea towel that was threaded through the door of the fridge and tossed it over his shoulder. "Even if we hadn't signed the Official Secrets Act, she'd never believe me. We'll stop it. We have to. There is no other alternative."
"What about Jenna?"
"Jenna went off to Spain to work for some giant travel industry IT company while I was still at Sandhurst. She's ten years older, so almost more of an aunt than a sister, growing up. I think she's their head of marketing, now. She was already off at uni when I went away to boarding school."
Jess frowned. "That sounds awfully lonely."
Becker shrugged. "It never seemed lonely. I guess I've just always kept myself to myself. It just seemed easier that way—especially when I could be deployed at any moment."
"So no exes to come out of the woodwork and force me to fight for your affection, then?"
"Not really. Not unless you count Geraldine Taggart, from Year Seven. Granted, she was wicked at lacrosse, and might be able to take you in a fair fight."
"I have absolutely no intention of offering a fair fight, I assure you. Dirty street-fighting all the way."
He tried to picture Jess taking anyone on with a broken beer bottle, and couldn't stop the smile the image drew from him. "Oh really?"
"And I'm reasonably certain I'm a better shot than she is."
"That I believe."
They had only been 'together' for a few days, but he realised with a shock that it felt like so much longer. He thought back to last Thursday's dinner. He'd felt none of the usual first date jitters or awkwardness. He'd told himself as they'd talked so easily over curries and beers that it was because they had been just two friends from work. Not a proper date date.
But the truth was, the second he'd pulled up to the kerb in front of her flat, he'd been hit with a stab of desire to follow her inside. He hadn't wanted the evening to end. He hadn't had anything approaching a normal relationship with anyone in so long, that it was a shock to realise how very much he wanted and needed her. It had both exhilarated him and frightened him; because he'd gone out of his way to try and prevent forming any kind of close ties after Sarah's death. He'd genuinely believed that was the only way to keep on going.
When she had come down to the armoury to check on him after he'd nearly died in that bloody canteen in the Stockton school, he'd nearly bit her head off. He'd been in pain, angry with himself for the deaths in the school, and when Jess had appeared she had been the very last person he'd wanted to see. He'd snapped at her, but Jess hadn't backed off. Instead she'd looked him right in the eye, and reminded him that while people had died, he'd been able to save two people as well.
She hadn't been flattering him, or catering to his ego. She just always tried to find a way to balance the darkness they witnessed on a daily basis with hope.
He'd envied that so much about her. After losing Danny, Abby, and Connor to the anomalies, after witnessing Sarah die right in front of him, he hadn't been able to find much hope in his life at the ARC. That was why he'd resigned his commission in the first place. He'd felt he'd failed everyone—his friends, his family, but most of all himself.
That whole first eighteen months they'd worked together, Becker kept telling himself that she just had a schoolgirl crush. That once she got to know him, it would fade. She'd move on. He told himself that while he was fond of her, that there was nothing between them beyond friendship. That there never could be anything between them, because he was damaged goods, and she was too... naïve, young, inexperienced, fragile; whatever lies made it easier for him to put distance between them.
He hadn't stopped her from kissing him that night because he'd wanted it as much as she had. And he'd wanted it for a very long time. From the first moment she'd introduced herself cheerfully as a bit mental, she had managed to slip past all his carefully erected defences. And now that she was in his life, he'd do anything to keep her there.
Carrying the last two opened beers to the living room, they sat down on the sofa. Jess immediately slipped off her red high-heeled pumps and tucked her feet up under her as she leaned against his chest. Becker smiled into her hair, and toed off his own boots so he could stretch his legs out on the coffee table.
"I think I've learnt more about you tonight than in the entire two years we've worked together."
"And I still don't know a thing about your family," he pointed out.
"Youngest of five."
"And all brothers, except for Stella. So you had better watch out."
"Please. Have a little faith in me," he said with a chuckle, and she snuggled closer to him, setting her beer on a magazine atop the table.
"You know I do," she said, her blue eyes wide and innocent, and he dropped a quick kiss on her lips. She tasted like prawn crackers and beer, but then again, so did he.
"So you were the baby of the family too?" he asked as she toyed with the peeling label on the bottle of beer.
"I hated it. I couldn't wait to go away to uni—start living my own life. And even now, I'm not entirely. My brother Michael is in India. He's subletting me his flat at a ridiculously low rent while he's away. After sharing a room with my sister my whole life, the last thing I wanted was a flatshare with complete strangers."
"And yet the first thing you did when Abby and Connor came back was offer up your spare room."
"That's different," she said as she sat up, resting her elbow on the back of the sofa. "I guess, after knocking around on my own for eight months, I was a little lonely. And it was nice, at first, to have people to talk to where I didn't have to lie all the time about work."
"And now, I admit... it would be awfully nice to be able to bring my boyfriend home and not have to worry about getting caught."
He reached for her free hand, lacing his fingers through hers. For a moment, he just brushed the back of her hand lightly with the pad of his thumb, and then her fingers tightened around his.
"I know I said I wanted to keep ourselves to ourselves, but Jess, if it's uncomfortable for you—"
"No. I... I like it. I like having something private. Something just between us."
"So what you're saying is, you're not quite ready to share me with the world?"
"Nope. Mine. All mine." She leaned over to kiss him again, and this time it was anything but chaste.
"I think I like Possessive Jess," Becker said when they came up for air.
"Good," she said firmly, and then pressed a kiss to the top of his ear before purring, "Cos I'm not planning on letting go of you any time soon."
Becker glanced at his watch, and sighed. "It's late. I should get you back home. Abby and Connor'll be worrying."
"Or I could stay," Jess said, her tone as light as she could manage. Trying to sound casual about sex, however, wasn't quite her forte. He could see what it cost her to say, and he knew exactly what was riding on his answer. "I mean, if you'd like me to—"
His mouth was on hers, hands in her hair, before she could blink. He rolled her over onto her back on the sofa, covering her body with his and kissed her breathless, drawing back from her mouth only when he felt her start to go limp. Her eyes were closed, her lips parted and slightly swollen. She opened her eyes slowly, and he felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth.
"I'll just make up the sofa then, shall I?" he said innocently.
She scrunched up her nose in a way that somehow was still sexy while being adorably juvenile. "Shut up."
"On the second date? Really? Why, Miss Parker, I had no idea."
"Shut up. Also, it's our third date, and technically we've already slept together. Just haven't... slept together."
He brushed her hair back from her face, tracing the shape of her bottom lip with his thumb. "At this rate, we'll be living together by next Thursday."
"Assuming we live that long."
He paused, it finally hitting him that if the world did end tomorrow, he didn't want her to leave. Not tonight. Possibly never. His thoughts must have been written on his face, because she raised herself up on her forearms and dragged his mouth back to hers.
The awkwardness and hesitancy were gone and her arms around his neck, her tongue sliding against his were certain. Becker wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her off the sofa, her bare feet dangling inches off the floor. She weighed next to nothing, and he carried her to the bedroom without a single thought of the unmade bed, rumpled sheets, or the work boots in the middle of the floor. He didn't even bother switching on the light. Still kissing her, they tumbled to the mattress, and he braced himself on his forearms to keep from crushing her beneath his weight.
When she hooked her leg around his waist and pushed at his chest, he rolled over onto his back, scattering the pillows to the floor. Jess straddled him, her hair falling down to hide her face. He reached up and pulled her down for another kiss, open-mouthed and hungry, and she gasped as he slid his fingers down her shoulder to cup her breast, thumb flicking her nipple through the layers of fabric. She arched her back, pressing her breast into his palm and then it was his turn to moan into her mouth as she rolled her hips, bringing them into even closer contact.
Becker slid his hands up her thighs under her short red dress. He could feel the silky waistband of her panties, and pushed them lower on her hips so he could grab her arse, lifting his hips and grinding into her. Her breath caught, and so he repeated the motion, thumbs nestled in the hollow between her curves, tongue sliding against hers before he sucked on her lower lip.
She tugged his tee-shirt free from the waistband of his jeans, and pushed it halfway up his stomach.
"This—off," she ordered, her voice breathy and surprisingly commanding for a little slip of a thing. He complied immediately, tossing the shirt off the end of the bed. She ran her tongue over her teeth as she laid her warm hands on his chest, tracing every plane and muscle. She was looking at Becker like he was a banquet and she didn't quite now where to start tasting. It was adorable and ridiculously hot at the same time, and Becker could practically feel all the blood in his body rushing south.
Particularly as she gave him a wicked smile before dipping her head to run her tongue around first one flat brown nipple, and then the other. She continued her explorations, tracing his ribs beneath the muscle, leaving a trail of kisses and gently nips until she was on her knees on either side of his legs. She reached down and scooped up the fallen pillow, tossing it to him playfully. Becker tucked it behind his head so he could watch her as she undid the metal buttons of his jeans. She tugged them lower on his hips, hooking her thumbs inside the waistband of his briefs as she drew them down his thighs.
Becker fisted his hands on the sheets at the first brush of her warm breath against his half-hard cock, feeling like he was seventeen again and completely at the mercy of his hormones. Her warm hand circled him, hesitantly stroking, and his back arched involuntarily. Her strokes grew more certain, and then she lowered her head to swirl her tongue around the head.
"Oh God, Jess." Becker closed his eyes, convinced tonight would be over ridiculously quickly if he actually watched her lips, swollen and red from his kisses, close around him. But the images behind his eyelids, combined with the feel of her mouth were enough to make beads of sweat stand out on his forehead as he breathed shallowly through his mouth. "Jess-I can't—"
He reached for her, but she pinned his wrists to his sides.
"Right now it's my turn. You'll get your turn later, I promise."
"You are killing me."
"Not yet, I'm not," she said, an absolutely filthy promise shining in her eyes.
He couldn't quite believe he had ever thought of her as a sweet, virginal kid. Clearly she was a woman who knew exactly what she wanted. And right now, what she wanted was to suck his brain out through his dick.
Somehow, Becker was completely OK with that particular paradigm shift. Particularly as she ran the flat of her tongue from root to tip before engulfing the head and teasing his slit with the tip of her tongue while she cupped his balls in her hand, gently caressing them.
What she might have lacked in experience she more than made up for in enthusiasm and, he had to admit, creativity. Becker nearly lost it completely when she took as much of him into her mouth as she could and hummed. He nearly bucked beneath her, his hips rising off the bed in tiny thrusts into her hot, wet mouth despite himself. When she pulled back, he was slick with saliva and her fingers kept up their rhythm even as she curled around his side like a cat, turning his jaw so he was facing her before leaning over to whisper in his ear.
"I want you," she whispered, licking a bead of sweat that rolled down his temple like a cat before nudging his cheek with her nose. "I want you so much. And you have no idea how long I've waited to do this."
She kissed her way across his cheekbone before tracing the curve of his ear with the tip of her tongue, while her right hand continued to slide up and down his length, the ball of her thumb brushing over the head of his cock at the top of each stroke. Finally, as she gently took his earlobe between her teeth, Becker felt his balls drawing up close and with a strangled cry he came all over her fingers and his stomach.
When he opened his eyes, it was to the sight of Jess bringing her fingers to her lips and sucking on her index and ring finger, licking them clean. Her pupils were blown, her cheeks flaming red, and he wrapped one hand around her neck and pulled her in for a deep, wet kiss. He could taste the iron tang of himself on her lips, and when he dropped his head back to the pillows, he was practically seeing stars.
"You are a wicked, wicked girl, Jessica Parker. Underneath those short skirts and frilly pink tops is an insatiable sex demon. Admit it."
"Only for you," she said with a giggle. "Now... tell me you have condoms."
"Shit." Becker rocked up into a sitting position, and reached across her to the drawer of the bedside table. He rummaged around, one-handed, in the dark, before dropping his forehead to rest against her collarbone. "Dammit."
Jess giggled into his hair, and he pulled back, dropping a kiss to her mouth before rolling to his feet.
"Just—don't move. Stay here. Just like... just like this. Exactly like this."
Her dress was rucked up around her waist, her hair dishevelled, and he didn't think he had ever wanted her more. His jeans still unbuttoned, he padded barefoot to the toilet and closed his eyes in prayer before he opened the medicine cabinet.
"Thank you, God," he said as he opened the door to find a box at the back, behind the travel-sized tubes of toothpaste and nearly empty bottles of aftershave.
He grabbed a flannel, cleaned himself off, and then pulled one of the foil-wrapped packets from the box. Glancing back over his shoulder, he grabbed a second one before returning to the bedroom.
Jess was stretched out on the bed, exactly as he had left her, except for one important detail: her eyes were closed, cheeks flushed and lips parted as she stroked herself through her panties.
Becker was fairly sure that this would be the briefest refractory period of his adult life.
He dropped the damp flannel onto the bedside table and pushed his jeans, briefs, and socks down his legs in one motion, condoms still clutched in his right hand. He felt slightly giddy, almost nervous. While it had been a long time since he'd been with anyone, it had been longer still since he'd been with someone who made him feel the way Jess did. It seemed fragile and tenuous, like the slightest shock or vibration might shatter it, and he was worried he'd be clumsy or thoughtless and lose something he hadn't realised he needed so desperately until just now.
Her eyes opened as he crawled up the bed to lay on his side next to her, his left hand coming down to rest atop hers as she pressed down on her clit in tight little circles, whimpering. She was already wet, and she kissed him as he guided her strokes for a moment before taking her hand and lacing his fingers through hers.
"My turn," he said as he took both her hands by the wrists and pinned them above her head. When he removed his hands, she licked her lips and grasped the wooden headboard of the bed. Becker felt his mouth go dry as he unfastened the bright red patent leather belt around her dress. He dropped the condoms to the blankets and with shaking fingers began working on the buttons of her red shirtdress with its useless decorative buttons on the pockets that he found endearing rather than childish. He was reasonably sure that this was entirely because of the girl in the dress.
Of course, right now, he was intent on getting her out of said dress. And Jess was more than happy to comply, releasing her death-grip on the headboard to pull her arms through the short sleeves, and lifting her hips so he could slide it free of her body.
With each inch of pale skin he revealed, Becker felt his control slipping away until she lay there in a mismatched set of bra and panties, her back slightly arched, and flushed with arousal. He undid the clasp on her bra, revealing small, pert breasts, her nipples already pebbled beneath his palms. He slid it down her arms, and then slowly dragged her panties down her legs, dropping them on the floor next to her dress. Becker climbed back up next to her, unable to resist taking a moment to just look at her.
"You're so beautiful," he said softly, and saw in the rectangle of light from the hallway her ears and neck going pink.
"So are you."
"Men aren't beautiful; they're handsome," he said with fond exasperation, and she shook her head.
"No. You're beautiful," she insisted, her eyes raking over him, hunger shining in their depths. "And if you don't touch me right now, I am going to go absolutely insane."
"Well, we wouldn't want that, now would we?" he said with a smile, reaching out to trace a line from the hollow of her throat to the damp curls at the juncture of her thighs. She shivered, the skin on her arms and legs breaking out in gooseflesh, which made him grin.
There was a yellowing bruise on the top of her thigh from the adrenaline injection, and he ran his fingers over it in small circles before pressing a light kiss to the skin. She made a desperate keening sound in the back of her throat as he continued kissing the crease of her thigh, and he gently nudged her legs apart. She sighed as he draped one leg over his shoulder, and just breathed in her scent before running his fingers through her curls, and parting her with two fingers.
At the first touch of his mouth on her, she let out a strangled cry, lifting her hips. He ran his tongue through her folds, dipping it inside her, tasting her. One of her hands came down to grip his shoulder before her fingers came to rest in his hair, holding him in place as he flicked her clit with the tip of his tongue.
Jess arched her back, her breath coming in strangled pants as he nipped and sucked until she was shaking beneath his hands. Looking up at her, he could see her eyes were screwed tightly shut, her lips parted, one hand still gripping the headboard.
"Jess, look at me," he said softly as he teased her with two fingertips, feeling the muscles of her belly twitching beneath the palm of his hand.
She opened her eyes, chin tucked to her chest and he slid one finger inside her to the knuckle and began sliding it in and out slowly. She bit her bottom lip, but that couldn't stop a moan from escaping as a second finger joined the first, and he continued flicking her clit with the tip of his tongue.
He could feel himself growing hard again as he watched her get closer and closer to the edge, and he slowed down, driving his fingers into her as deep as he could before withdrawing them slowly to swirl his tongue around her. With each thrust, she gasped, and her fingers tightened almost painfully in his hair.
"B-Becker," she stuttered, her hips jerking in time to his slow thrusts. "Please."
She kept begging as he fumbled through the blankets and sheets blindly until he found one of the foil-wrapped condoms. Tearing the packet open with his teeth, he rolled the condom down his length carefully, his hand still moving against her. She was wet—so wet—and tight, and he dragged the head of his cock through her folds until it glistened.
Her fingers plucked at his shoulders, drawing him up to kiss her as she arched into his touch, her breasts pressed up against his chest. She sucked hard on his bottom lip, and he responded by slipping his tongue into her mouth, swallowing her moans as she twitched around him.
"Oh, God, oh God," she said against his mouth as he pushed into her slowly, until he was balls deep inside her, and her thighs tightened around his hips. He wrapped one hand around her neck, tipping her head back so he could kiss her again as he pulled almost all the way out and then slid back in. Her short, manicured nails dug into his shoulders, pain mixing with pleasure as he thrust into her slowly, trying to give her time to adjust to the feel of him. But with each thrust, she eagerly lifted her hips to meet his, until they were rocking together in a steady rhythm, punctuated by his moans into her open mouth, and her breathy cries.
Becker felt her start to tighten around him, and he rolled them over so he was on his back, and she was riding him. Her hair was plastered to her forehead and neck, damp and curling as she planted both hands on his chest and rolled her hips. He slid both hands up to cup her breasts, pinching her nipples between index and middle fingers as she rocked against him.
He didn't think she'd ever looked as beautiful as she did when her back arched, her hips stuttering against his. He grasped her hips in both hands and arched up into her as she came, his name on her lips, and tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes, clumping her lashes together before disappearing into her hair.
She collapsed against his chest, her face tucked into the crook of his neck, and he ran his hands over her damp back as he kept thrusting up into her as aftershocks ran through her.
When he came, it was like all the breath left him, leaving him shattered and shaking in her arms. They just lay together in a tangle of sweaty limbs for a few moments, trying to catch their breath. Then he leaned over and nipped at her jaw before sucking a bruise over the pulse beating wildly beneath his lips. He laved the spot with his tongue afterward, and felt her shudder in delight. Jess nipped at his collarbone playfully, and he had to prise his fingers from her waist.
"Bastard," she said, digging her nails into his bicep. "Now I'll have to wear a scarf tomorrow."
"I'd say I'm sorry, but that would be a complete and total lie." He pressed a soft kiss to her swollen lips. "Must be all those dinosaur pheromones."
She snorted with laughter, and all the tension drained out of him, leaving him sleepy and content.
Wrapping his arms around her, he rolled them back into the centre of the bed, leaving a sticky smear across her thigh as he reluctantly pulled out. He tied off the spent condom, and dropped it in the wastepaper bin next to his bedside table before he took up the damp flannel and ran it over her lightly while she just smiled up at him with heavy lidded eyes.
When he finally pulled the sheet over them both, Jess reached up to run her fingers through his sweat-damp hair.
"If this is my last night on Earth, I'm glad I'm here with you."
Becker took her hand in his, pressing a kiss into her palm.
"So am I."
Snuggling like spoons in a drawer under the duvet, Becker kissed the back of her neck and shoulder as he felt her slide into sleep one breath at a time.
By the time the sky beyond the window shades was the pale grey-blue of dawn, he was fast asleep, one arm draped possessively around her waist, his face buried in her hair.
Jess studied her reflection in the mirror critically. She was wearing her favourite outfit—even though her sister Stella referred to it as her Sgt Pepper togs. She'd tied a bright red scarf around her neck to hide the mark Becker had left on her neck, and kept fussing with it.
The door to the ladies toilets swung inwards, and Abby entered.
"Hey you. We didn't hear you come in last night."
"It was really late. I didn't want to wake you and Connor," Jess said, feeling slightly uncomfortable about the fib. In fact, Becker had given her a lift back to her flat shortly after dawn so she could shower and change. They'd sat in his truck outside her flat for ten minutes, just holding hands and talking. His good-bye kiss ended up being a series of good-bye kisses that she had been sure would have steamed up the windows had he not been running the truck's air conditioning. When she'd finally reached her front door, he hadn't driven off until after she'd closed the heavy door to her building.
"Connor could sleep through a stampede. Actually has, at least once, back when we were in the Cretaceous."
Jess couldn't help smiling. That sounded exactly like Connor.
"And I thought you guys might need a little alone time," Jess added, and Abby flushed.
"We did. Thanks for that. I mean it."
"Any time. I'm glad you two have worked things out."
"Sorry if things got a bit... tense at the flat."
"It's OK," Jess said with a shrug. "It happens. How is Connor, really? I mean—it must have been awful, when he learnt about Phillip. I know he thought the world of him."
"Yeah, well, finding out that Phillip would have killed us all last week when the bugs infested the ARC pretty much sealed the deal."
"What do you mean?"
"Phillip didn't halt the failsafe—it was the damage caused by the incursion that made it fail. And then he lied about it to Connor."
"Oh my God." Jess felt her knees go weak, and she gripped the counter for support. "So he'd have killed us? I mean—he did kill us, tried to, anyway. How can he do that and then just be all smiles every time he's come here since?"
"Some people can do that. Just... write people off as collateral damage. Cos that's what we were to him. All he really cares about is New Dawn."
"Well. Then it's good that we're going to stop him," Jess said brightly, trying to shake off the shock of learning a man she thought was a decent sort was in fact capable of being so cold-blooded. "I mean, we would have anyway, but... You know."
"That's the spirit." Abby gave her a warm smile. "So, how's Becker?"
"How do you mean?" Jess stammered, trying to sort out how Abby could have known she'd spent the night with him.
"You were going to talk to him about Matt, remember?" Abby prompted, and Jess laughed, giddy with relief.
"Oh! Oh, no. I did—and I think he's fine. I mean, don't get me wrong—he was angry that Matt didn't trust him enough to tell him what was really going on. But I think he understands, now, a bit better about how hard it was for Matt to ask for help from anyone."
"Men. Sometimes, I swear..." Abby rolled her eyes. "It's as if they want to carry the entire world on their shoulders, sometimes."
"Well, I suppose that's what we're here for. To be the practical ones, while they're all trying to out-macho each other."
Abby snickered, and reached out to give Jess' arm a squeeze.
"I wanted to tell you, you know. Especially after..."
"After I almost died that one time? It's OK. I get it. I really do."
"So, how much do you want to make a bet that Emily stayed over at Matt's last night?" Abby asked, waggling her eyebrows, and Jess laughed. She was surprised she could laugh, today. Surprised and glad.
"Who can't resist a little 'this might be our last night on Earth' canoodling?"
Jess fought a blush. "We shouldn't ought to gossip about them. It doesn't feel fair."
"OK, you're right." Abby sighed. "All girls together, then?"
When Jess got back to the ADD, Becker was already at his station. She sat down, fighting the urge to wrap her arms around him right there in the middle of the Hub, with everyone watching.
She busied herself with checking the system, but she was hyper-aware of him just a few feet away.
There had been a moment that morning, when she'd awakened alone in his bed and had a horrible few seconds where she'd worried they'd made a mistake. That he thought they'd made a mistake. She'd sat up, and pulled the tee-shirt crumpled on the floor next to the bed on over her head. It had hung down to the top of her thighs, and smelled of him. She had padded barefoot out to the kitchen to find him making two mugs of tea.
He was wearing a pair of faded pyjama bottoms which hung low on his hips, and despite her anxiety, she couldn't help admiring the view as he'd dropped two tea bags into the bottom of each mug while he waited for the kettle to click off.
Then he'd smiled, and all her fears had melted away as he'd reached over and given her a rather thorough kiss that had left her aching for more. He'd brushed his teeth, but his hair had still been mussed, his jaw dark with a day's growth of beard.
Jess caught moment out of the corner of her eye and tried to act normally as Becker came over to the ADD. He was in uniform, shaved, hair carefully combed.
"Good morning, Miss Parker," he said, and she could barely contain her smile from becoming a full blown grin.
"Morning, Captain Becker," she replied.
"And how are we this fine morning?"
"Well, I didn't get much sleep last night, but I really can't complain." She pitched her voice so it wouldn't carry behind the ADD, and his answering chuckle was muted. He leaned closer, lips brushing her ear.
"Somehow, I didn't think you would."
"Jess—do we know when Lester's arriving?" Matt asked as he came up to the ADD, and Jess brought up Lester's schedule.
"His train got in this morning—he's already en route from the station. Do you want me to text him?"
"No—I'll talk to him first. Thanks," Matt said, and then turned to Becker. "So, are we good?"
"Yeah." Becker nodded crisply. "We're good."
"That's it?" Jess asked, blinking in surprise. "You're not going to... I mean, that's it?"
"What did you expect?" Matt asked, clearly mystified.
"Yeah, we don't hug," Becker said simply, and then turned to Matt. "You didn't actually expect me to—"
"God, no." Matt said, pulling a face, and then they laughed, like it was some shared joke.
Jess rolled her eyes. She was never going to understand boys. She turned in her chair and watched Emily come up to Matt, their dark heads bent in discussion and she felt the corner of her mouth twitch in a smile at the way Matt's hand went automatically to the small of Emily's back.
Perhaps she should have taken that bet after all.