Author's Note: If you'll recall, there was an extra week between episodes 4x18 and 4x19. (I think it was because of Labor Day.) During those long two weeks, this story occurred to me. And afterwards, I debated whether I really wanted to write a story that ignores two episodes. But then I started writing it, just to see if there was anything there anyway. And this is the result. So NOTE: This story randomly ignores the last two episodes of the season. Not because I didn't like them; just because they didn't fit.
Author's Note, Part 2: With the show coming back on 4/16, I scaled way back on the science storyline. It was really holding me up, because my scientific knowledge is somewhat basic. So, once I realized I was on a deadline, I decided I just had to power through. (You'll start to see this in Ch. 3). And anyway, maybe sometimes the problems get solved more easily than others. What I'm saying is, don't be surprised if I've basically cut the entire B-plot. Also, there's a good chance that the science around the VASIMR is just wrong. It's all Wikipedia and guessing.
Disclaimer: I don't own Eureka, its characters, or its situations, and I am not making any money off their use here. Please don't sue me.
Summary: An object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force. The Zane/Jo relationship finds its external force when Eureka gets a new DOD liaison. AU-ish
Canon through: 4x18—One Time at Space Camp
Jo tried not to spend the night at Zane's place if she could help it. In the drowsy haze of morning, when she opened her eyes and saw him, saw his room, saw everything looking exactly the way it should, it was too easy to forget. And then there was that moment three or four seconds later when she had to remember all over again that everything was wrong. That she was living in a bizarro world version of her real life.
She did not think of it that way very often. It had been almost a year, and she accepted that this was real life now. There was no going back to the world that she, that the five of them had known. It was time to make do here, and it seemed to Jo the rest had. Now that Henry was happily married to Grace, Jo was the only one left struggling. There were so many things she liked better about this world. Most of the time, it wasn't that hard to embrace her new life. But then there were those seconds when the memory of the old world pushed so hard at the edges of her brain, and there was that moment when she just knew that, great job or no, this was not the life she was meant to live.
On this particular Monday morning, she could feel him before she even opened her eyes. She was lying on her side facing him, her arms curled up between them. The lower part of one arm was pressed against the upper part of Zane's, elbow to elbow, her wrist to his shoulder. Jo resisted the urge to settle in closer to him and instead rolled onto her back.
Thinking it was being ignored, her phone's alarm increased its volume. The phone was located in the pocket of her pants, which in turn were located way out in the living room. "Are you going to get that?" Zane asked.
She ran her hands over her face. The alarm was set for the time she needed to wake up if she was starting her day at S.A.R.A.H. Adding in the commute, she would barely have time to shower and dress and get to work on time. "Yeah." She sighed. "I have to go."
"Of course you do," he muttered.
He was still mad at her for withdrawing from consideration for the Astraeus mission. Not too mad to have sex with her, just mad enough to make sarcastic, passive-aggressive comments. The whole reason she showed up at his apartment the night before was to try to explain herself to him one more time. Somehow, they had not gotten much talking done.
Jo rolled her eyes and threw off the covers. There was not time to be coy, and it was not anything he had not seen many, many times at this point. She dressed hastily in the clothes of hers that were in the bedroom and then went out to find her pants. "It's just that I can't be late today," she called back as she finally shut off the alarm. "I'm supposed to meet with the new DOD liaison in Allison's office first thing."
From the bedroom, he called back, "Whatever."
She walked back in to see him still lying in bed. "Could you stop acting like a sullen teenager for one minute and listen to me?"
He sat up. "Oh, I'm listening, Jo. You're the one who showed up here saying we needed to talk and then didn't say anything. And now, as soon as you wake up, you're out the door."
The worst thing was that she knew he was right this time. It was completely her fault that nothing got discussed the night before. "I am trying, Zane, but—"
He cut her off and lay back. "You don't have time for this."
Jo stared down at him. It was times like this, when he was being so aggravating, that she wondered if it was even worth smoothing over whatever she had done to so upset him. "You're right; I don't." With that, Jo left the apartment, slamming the door behind her.
Major Daniel Callahan was very punctual. Jo, somewhat uncharacteristically, was not. Allison took one last look out her window and into the rotunda, but there was no sign of Jo. "Our head of security should be here any minute, but I guess we'll just get started without her."
Allison was not entirely sure what to make of the Major. He was not the kind of person who was typically appointed to the liaison position. By giving the job to someone active military, an army intelligence officer from the Pentagon no less, General Mansfield was sending a clear message. He was not happy, and he intended to keep a closer eye on Eureka. It was not helpful to think of Major Callahan as a spy, but it was probably more or less accurate.
Putting aside whatever feelings she had about the meaning of Callahan's presence, Allison launched into her spiel. She had years of experience both as liaison and as head of Global Dynamics. She might not know what Mansfield had told Callahan on his end, but she knew what was required of a DOD liaison on the Eureka side.
Several minutes later, as Allison was wrapping up, Jo finally came running into the office. "I am so sorry I'm—" She stopped and stared at Callahan. "Late," she finished after a long delay.
Callahan's face lit up. "Lupo? God, how long has it been? You look great."
Jo did not share his enthusiasm for this apparent reunion. Her expression was more akin to shell-shock. "Hi, Danny," she said tentatively. "Uh, long time."
Allison prompted them to fill in the blanks. "So you two know each other?"
Callahan answered first. "Yeah, very well."
"Yeah," Jo echoed without taking her eyes off Callahan. "From West Point." Her gaze swept over his shoulders. "Wow, you're a major. That's. . ." She trailed off with a slight shake of her head. She had a weird smile plastered on her face, and Allison could not quite decipher it.
"Okay," Allison interjected. "I guess it's time to give Major Callahan a tour of the facility."
"Right." Jo turned to face Allison. "So, you'll do that and, uh, and then bring him by the security office, and my team can program his biometrics into the system."
"You're not going with us?" Callahan sounded disappointed.
"No, I—I think the plan was always for Dr. Blake to take you." Jo looked at Allison with pleading eyes.
That had definitely not been the plan, but Allison nodded. "Yes." She had only broad ideas of what the story was between Jo and Callahan, but it was fairly obvious that, whatever their history was, Jo needed time to deal with his presence at Global. Allison came around her desk. "We'll see Jo again at the end of the tour."
Allison was about to lead Callahan out the door when her phone rang. She checked the display. It was one of the researchers from the Astraeus ground crew. This close to the launch, Allison could not afford to ignore any little problem. "I'm sorry," she said to Callahan. "I have to take this. "I'll just be a minute."
Callahan nodded his understanding, and Allison turned her attention to her call. A second later, Jo's phone rang, probably with the same news: the Astraeus labs had just been evacuated because of a thermal management problem.
Allison hung up her phone and overheard Jo ask if they were sure that everything was under control. Allison knew that Jo was not going to like what was about to happen, but she did not really have a choice. She walked over to that hideous white couch where Callahan had taken a seat. "We're having a problem with our VASIMR for the Astraeus mission. So I'm going to have Jo take you to do the biometrics, and we'll have that tour later."
Jo came up beside her. "No, you should take Danny with you," she said with just the slightest trace of panic in her voice. "This sounds important, and it would be a good opportunity for him to get his feet wet. Besides, he's an engineer, sort of."
Allison wanted to be sensitive to Jo's clear unease, but they had a facility to run. "I am aware of Major Callahan's educational background. However, this isn't a defense project, so it isn't important for him to be there, and he can't actually begin work until he has his security clearance. So I need you to take care of that."
Jo blew out her breath and smiled. "Of course." She turned to Callahan. "Follow me."
Allison told herself it would be fine. If she could handle working with her ex-husband all those years ago, then Jo could handle working with whatever Danny was to her. It was not until she was halfway to the lab that she realized that might not be the best example.
When Allison tacitly pulled rank on her, Jo knew that she had pushed too hard. She just really, really was not ready to be left alone with Danny Callahan. Of all the intelligence officers in all the military, it had to be him. There were hundreds of people to choose from, although maybe considerably fewer with a strong science or engineering background. And probably just the one up-and-comer whose father was in the same West Point graduating class as General Mansfield. The point was this was her town, and Danny did not belong there. She had not thought about him in years, and she would have preferred if she could have just gone on not thinking about him.
He looked almost exactly the same as he had in college, with those same clean-cut, all-American good looks. If anything, age had refined his features and made them better, and he'd finally found that perfect regulation haircut for his sandy brown hair. He looked good. Jo hated that about him.
"So," Danny started. "I take it you're not happy to see me."
Jo kept her eyes forward. It was only a little bit further to the biometrics lab, and that was her focus. Get through this walk, get him clearance, get time to breathe. "Don't be silly. I was just surprised."
He murmured as though he did not really believe her. "So how have you been?"
"Good. Great." Awkward, so awkward. She tried to steer the conversation away from herself. "Um, I heard you and what's her name got married."
"Her name is Rachel," he said with a smile. "And your intel's a little outdated because we just got divorced."
That brought up a whole new awkward complication for Jo. This Danny was from a different timeline than the one she remembered. She had no way of knowing if things happened the same way. It worked out this time because he did marry Rachel. But was that her name? Were they talking about the same person? She put it aside. She would just have to avoid specifics. "I'm sorry to hear that."
He shook his head. "It was for the best. What about you? Are you seeing anyone?"
Jo did not even think before answering, "Yes." For the moment, truth was not as important as not being single in front of Danny. It took another second for her to realize that there was a guy who she'd been "seeing", depending on how one defined the term. "He's a physicist here. Although he just made the Astraeus crew, so he's focusing on that right now." Jo stopped there before it started to sound like she was trying to make her guy sound impressive. Even though, she realized, that was exactly what she had been doing.
"That's great," Danny said with just a slight hint of insincerity. "Is it serious?"
This was the point where Jo had a decision to make. She knew that she should be honest and tell him that it was just casual. Anything else would just come back to bite her, especially since she and Zane were not on the best of terms at the moment. She opened her mouth to tell him exactly that, just casual. "Actually, yeah, it's getting pretty serious."
Luckily, they got to the lab before she could say anything else stupid. Jo greeted the biologist who was about to be her salvation from this conversation. "Dr. Dodson, I have the new liaison for you. He needs full clearance." She started to back her way out of the room. "So, I'll leave you to that."
Unfortunately, Dodson stopped her. "Wait, Lupo. As head of security, I need your passcode in order to grant Section 5 clearance."
"Right." She knew that. Jo reluctantly walked back into the lab. She could at least be glad that this process involved a lot of sitting still and not talking on Danny's part. She watched everything Dodson did, but she was not really paying attention. Her mind was too preoccupied with obsessing over her stupid lie. When the time came to type in her passcode, Dodson had to say her name twice to get her attention.
With the biometrics task completed, Jo did not know what she was supposed to do with Danny. "So, I guess I'll show you to your office, let you get settled in, until Dr. Blake is ready for you." She took off at a brisk pace.
Danny jogged to catch up. "Speaking of that, did she say they have a working VASIMR? Because I thought those weren't going to be ready for launch until 2014."
Jo was happy to talk about something other than personal lives, but this was not a subject about which she had much to say. "Yeah, well, welcome to Eureka."
"But is it the full 200 kilowatt engine with the higher thrust efficiency or is it just a spinoff of one of the earlier models?"
Jo had recently gotten a crash course in astrophysics, but rocket design had not been part of the curriculum. She shrugged. "Probably the full, high-efficiency one."
"Right, I guess that's not really your area," Danny said with a small laugh.
It was not really an insult. It was true, and it was pretty much exactly what Jo was thinking when he started asking about the VASIMR's specs, that it wasn't her area. Still, coming from Danny, it grated on her. Various genius scientists had earned the right to make her feel stupid; Danny had not. But she decided to assume that he hadn't meant it to be mean. "Nope."
They walked in silence for about a minute. Jo tried to think of something to say, some way to take control of the conversation because it kept getting away from her. She did not want to talk about how well Danny's career was going or his divorce, and she definitely did not want to talk about any of the projects that were going on in the facility. She settled on the only topic she could think of, a classmate who had recently been killed in action. Horribly depressing, but safe. "Did you hear about Maldonado?"
Danny blew out his breath. "You know, he wasn't the first to die, but that one's hitting me pretty hard. I hadn't talked to him in . . . probably five years, but I still remember meeting him that first day of basic training." He grinned at the memory. "He was almost a stereotype of an Italian New Yorker. Even the name: Maldonado."
Danny launched into a story about a weekend trip to Brooklyn when they were firsties, and he and Jo made it to the office without any more awkward silences. Jo gestured to the door. "Here we are."
The reality that Maldonado and others were really gone must have come back to Danny because his face grew pensive. "It just occurred to me that I've never even been in combat. I think from the Pentagon it's a little too easy to forget how dangerous it really is over there." He opened the door to his new office. He turned back to face Jo with a wry smile. "Although, with your special forces background, you probably don't have that problem."
With a small laugh and a nod, Jo started to make her escape, and she was almost successful. She lingered just a second too long for fear of making her exit too abrupt. As he stepped into his office, Danny added. "I gotta say, Lupo, you are the last person I would have expected to give it all up for a cushy private security job."
And then he was gone, into his office. Like a stealth bomber. It was not exactly an insult either, and she did have a fairly cushy job. But that was what Danny did; he made these snide comments, this and the thing about her not being a rocket scientist. He had this way of undermining her confidence. She stomped to her own office, two hundred yards and one left turn away from Danny's. It was not far enough. His office being in Washington, D.C., that was far enough away for her.