Body of Evidence
1. The Question
Someone was dating someone new at the ARC. That much was clear. Unfortunately, that was the extent to which they could all agree.
"But I saw Jess sneaking out of Becker's office the other day," Connor claimed.
"That doesn't mean anything," Abby said.
"It does when she was all flushed and rumpled! There's no way she wasn't in there snogging his face off."
"I don't think I'm the only one who doesn't quite trust your judgment in something like this."
Matt spoke up before an argument could break out. "I don't know, that seems like pretty compelling evidence to me. They've been flirting for months, makes sense they'd finally get on with it."
"Becker flirts with everyone," Abby reminded them. "He flirts with you."
"But he hasn't snogged me. I'm pretty sure I'd remember that."
"Fine, then, Abby, since you know so much," Connor challenged. "What do you think is going on?"
Abby shrugged as if the whole thing was obvious. "Becker's dating Lester."
Connor choked. "What?"
"Oh, please. Don't tell me you haven't noticed that bit of UST. When we came back from the Cretaceous I half-expected them to announce they were about to go on their honeymoon."
"Oh, God, my eyes," Connor moaned. "I need some bleach or something."
But Matt was considering it intently. "I suppose the snarking and the bickering could be construed as flirting. And Becker was pretty upset when Lester got attacked…" He shook his head. "I don't know. I think I'm still with Connor on this. When the predators were in the ARC, he went straight to Jess."
"Yeah, and then he gave Lester a shoulder rub," Abby said with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. "Because that's what men always do when their boss gets a gut wound."
"He what?" Connor exclaimed.
"I'm telling you, the thing with Jess, it's nothing. He might flirt a bit, but in the end he treats her like a sister."
Matt turned to Emily, who had been silently observing them all. "You've been quiet, Emily. What's your take on all this?"
Emily looked around at all of them and then said, perfectly seriously, "Jess' affection for Becker is only a cover. She's seeing Lester."
The room fell into complete silence.
Eventually Abby cleared her throat. "And where do you get that from?"
"Haven't you seen them together? They're like a perfect, matching set. They behave as though they've been married for years."
"They… But… They…" Connor covered his face with his hands, muttering, "Bleach. So much bleach."
"Well, someone's clearly been erasing footage from the CCTV," Connor informed the team as he clicked through Jess' system. "Jess or Becker, most likely. Possibly both. Because they're dating each other."
"We got that, Conn," Abby said with an expression that tried not to be fond and failed. "But surely they can't have wiped everything."
"They're on here talking and whatever, but nothing incriminating that I've seen so far. The occasional encroachment of personal space but that doesn't necessarily mean anything," Connor said with a pointed look back over his shoulder to where Matt was hovering and peering at the monitors.
Emily nudged him. "That was a hint."
"What? Oh, sorry." Matt straightened and took a step back. "Okay, so there's nothing here. We can work around that."
"What do you propose we do?"
"Keep our eyes open, that's all. Getting rid of the evidence won't do them any good if we've caught them."
Abby sighed. "And this isn't creepy at all."
"Are you all lost? Because I'm going to have to remind you that this is my station."
Connor nearly toppled out of the chair. "Damn, Jess, give a bloke some warning before you sneak up on him! Been getting lessons from Becker?"
Abby elbowed him sharply in the side for his altogether too suggestive tone.
Jess' arms were crossed over her chest and she made a small jerking motion with her head, prompting Connor to get up and the rest to move away. She settled into her chair. Apparently choosing to ignore Connor's question, she instead stared at him suspiciously. "What exactly were you doing poking through my station?"
"Nothing," he mumbled, looking down at the floor guiltily like a scolded schoolboy.
"Hmm," she said, frowning. "I'll be able to tell if you've mucked anything up, you know."
"I wouldn't! I think you're forgetting who designed most of this in the first place."
"Settle down, children," Matt broke in. "Come on, let's let Jess get back to work."
They all walked off, led by a still sullen Connor. "Who takes a lunch break that short?" he muttered.
2. The Misdirection
"I have no idea what you mean."
"But… Come on, Lorraine. You know everything," Connor pleaded.
Lorraine brightened at the compliment (which was, obviously, one hundred percent true) but remained steadfast. "I'm sure if they wanted you to know they would tell you."
"So you admit there's something to tell."
"No, I certainly said no such thing. That would simply be you projecting what you want to hear."
Connor sighed. "I thought we were friends. See if I bring you those cakes you like again."
Lorraine directed a private smile at Connor's back as he walked away before connecting a line to Lester's office. "Connor was asking nosy questions again, sir. That's another one you owe me."
"What's the number up to now?" he asked, resigned.
"As if I keep score." Which, of course, she did, but she preferred not to rub it in.
"I'll have the tickets on your desk by tomorrow. In the orchestra section, as promised."
"Thank you, James," Lorraine said and resumed typing.
Jess wasn't stupid. She knew exactly what her teammates were up to. She knew why Connor had been sitting at her station with the CCTV open and the others crowded around him and she knew why it suddenly seemed like every time she turned a corner or came out of a room, someone was there in the corridor.
If it were up to Jess, she would have told them what they wanted to know. After all, she was shagging two gorgeous men. What did she have to be ashamed about? It was taking every last bit of her self-control not to tell everyone.
But, unfortunately, Jess had been overruled. Lester and Becker wanted to keep things 'private'.
Whatever. It was going to come out sooner or later. Jess figured she might as well have some fun with her teammates while they remained clueless.
Currently she was sitting across from Abby and Emily in a pub and trying desperately not to laugh in their faces as they failed at being subtle.
"You've been cheerful lately," Abby started.
"Aren't I always?"
"Yes, but… Cheerful like there's something different, something new. Have you bought new shoes? A new computer game or something?"
"Nope, nothing new," Jess answered and knew that what they desperately wanted to ask was, Have you got a new man?
Emily tried a different tactic. "Lester looked quite nice today, didn't you think so?"
Jess masked her grin by taking a sip of her drink. "Did he? He always dresses so well."
"His trousers were cut particularly well."
This time Jess couldn't stop her giggle. "Is that your way of saying his arse looked amazing?"
Emily blushed slightly and picked at her fingernails. Jess really needed to break her of that habit. "It was hard not to notice when he took the jacket off," she mumbled.
Abby caught Jess' eye and joined in her laughter. "It's all right, we've all done it. Jenny used to say Lester had the finest arse in the ARC."
"Better than Becker's?" Oh, damn, but it was hard not to blurt out that Jess was in the enviable position of being able to do an up-close and very personal comparison. Apparently further study was needed so that she could arrive at the proper conclusion.
The things Jess was willing to do in the name of research…
"So she claimed. You know, I've even caught Becker checking it out on occasion."
Jess chewed her lip for a moment in a tactical delay. "Really?"
Abby glanced at Emily and then leaned forward like she was sharing a secret. "Sometimes I think they might be shagging. Is that crazy?"
"Oh, I don't know. They're certainly fonder of each other than they care to admit."
"Yes, I've always thought that. And with all that time they must have spent together while we were gone… I mean, I speak from personal experience that adversity brings people closer together." Abby paused, a lascivious glint in her eyes. "Wouldn't they be a sight?"
Jess closed her eyes briefly in appreciation. "They really would." Abby had no idea.
The fifth time Jess nearly walked smack into Connor because he was lurking in the corridor outside Becker's office, she decided something had to be done. "Is there something you want, Connor? I'm beginning to think you're stalking either me or Becker and I don't think Abby would be happy about either choice."
He raised his hands in a defensive gesture. "No! God, no, definitely not. Er, not that you aren't deserving of a stalker… I'm going to shut up now."
"Probably for the best."
"Right. I'm just… What are you doing coming out of Becker's office all the time?"
Jess resisted rolling her eyes and thought that Connor would make the worst secret agent ever. Considering the subtlety, or lack thereof, displayed by the rest of her colleagues, that was saying something. "I bring him papers from Lester."
Connor looked doubtful. "You're working?"
"Yes, I'm working. Some of us do actually work while we're, you know, at work." Jess, on the other hand, would make a fabulous secret agent. Not even a hair out of place to reveal that Becker had actually just had his hand up her skirt.
Becker got frisky at work. Jess didn't particularly mind. Neither did Lester - Jess always made a copy before she deleted the CCTV.
"Are you sure you and Becker aren't…"
Jess raised an eyebrow. (She'd been practicing in the mirror - it wasn't fair that Lester and Becker could both be so good at it. Sometimes they did it at the same time and she was sure it was only to annoy her.)
Connor blushed. "Never mind."
Jess smiled to herself and returned to her station for a few minutes before going into Lester's office. She stood in front of his desk, set down a DVD, and rested her hands on the desk to lean forward.
Lester's eyes flickered down to her chest. Men were all the same.
"Got a present for you."
Jess shrugged, well aware of what the movement did to her cleavage. "He got bored."
The hint of a smile touched Lester's mouth. "Maybe I should increase his workload if he's so bored all the time."
"If you do, I'd like to be present so I can witness the look on his face," Jess said with a grin. Before she turned to go, she added, "By the way, no one's figured it out yet. Connor and Matt still think I'm shagging Becker, Emily thinks I'm shagging you, and Abby thinks you're shagging Becker."
Lester shook his head in mock disappointment. "What a sad lack of intelligence and observational skills they're all displaying."
"Maybe we're just that good."
Lester looked pointedly at the DVD on his desk, prompting Jess to laugh as she left his office.
3. The Reveal
The party was Jess' idea. She had thought that after everything they'd been through recently, they all deserved a chance to relax and enjoy themselves, to wind down from all the stress and tension.
There had never been a real chance of Lester saying no.
The thing that most people didn't know was that Becker was kind of a handsy drunk. Generally he preferred to keep that fact under wraps. He had a reputation to maintain, after all, and being drunk made him extremely undignified.
Unfortunately, there was another thing that most people didn't know - he was virtually powerless to resist Jess Parker.
Or, actually, probably most people did know that.
It didn't matter. The point was, it was entirely Jess' fault that Becker was drunk in front of most of the staff of the ARC. Including his men, who couldn't stop snickering at him. They were going to regret it next week, Becker promised himself.
Anyway, it was Jess' fault. It was Jess' fault because the party had been her idea in the first place and because she kept offering him drinks. Yes, all right, Becker knew he didn't actually have to keep drinking them, but her smile and her coaxing were irresistible. He also suspected that Lester was in on it because he was fairly certain the whisky he was drinking was from Lester's private collection. (Becker had put his foot down at drinking any of that disgusting fruity punch, no matter how much alcohol Jess said was in it.)
So… Becker was drunk. He seemed to want to hug everyone. Matt was hiding from him but no one else particularly minded. Emily was taking pictures of it all. She was getting good with the camera; Becker thought she'd been getting lessons from Jess.
(He also thought that tomorrow he was probably going to sincerely regret there was photographic evidence of his behaviour.)
Becker's finest moment, however, was when he managed to hone in on Lester. The horrified face Lester made was worth whatever form of revenge he was surely going to take.
But mostly, Becker was using his intoxication as an excuse to get handsy with Jess, who was rather tipsy herself. Tipsy Jess basically resembled normal Jess, except that she was louder and more giggly than usual.
Becker couldn't stop smiling at her. He probably looked like a moron, but strangely enough, he didn't care all that much.
He wasn't sure how much of the punch Jess had drunk before she lost her heels, but the sight of her in her cute little dress with her tiny bare feet was doing a lot to make Becker feel warm and happy. Someone had put on some music (okay, probably Jess) and Jess had dragged him out to be her dance partner. It was sad that Becker realised he would have let her do it even if he hadn't been three sheets to the wind.
Lester was watching them, Becker had noticed, with a soft, indulgent expression that was completely obvious. He'd been at the punch, too, clearly.
Jess twirled away from him with a breathless laugh and said she needed a break, so Becker wandered over to where Connor was sitting by the punch bowl.
Connor waggled his eyebrows and nudged Becker in the ribs. "You and Jess, eh? That's a thing?"
Becker shrugged. "I suppose it depends on what you mean by 'a thing'."
"I knew all along," he proclaimed, as if Becker had somehow confirmed that he and Jess were dating, which he definitely hadn't. "Abby kept saying she thought there was something going on between you and Lester," Connor said with an air of incredulity, like it was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. "Crazy, right?"
"Absolutely," Becker said, keeping a straight face and biting down on his grin. He met Jess' eyes across the room where she was giggling with Abby and Emily. She gave a slight nod in the direction of Lester, her eyes sparkling, and Becker got the hint right away. What the hell? He was pissed, he might as well have some fun.
Like Jess had been saying all along, the team was going to find out eventually. Why not have it be at a time of his choosing? Sure, Lester would be aggravated, but he would fold in the face of the combined effect of Jess and Becker's pouts.
"Excuse me a second," he said to Connor and walked to Lester.
Lester gave him a split-second glance before returning his attention to Matt, which meant he was caught off-guard when Becker slid his arms around Lester from behind and kissed the underside of his jaw. Twice in one night - Lester had definitely had too much of the punch.
Becker grinned at the startled expression on Matt's face and then cried, "Ow! Hey!" as Lester grabbed a chunk of his hair and yanked.
"Play nice, boys," Jess said in amusement, raising an eyebrow with her hands on her hips as she stood in front of them.
"He started it," Becker grumbled, rubbing the sore spot on his head. There needed to be a rule making his hair off-limits.
"That is a complete fabrication," Lester said.
"Don't make me come over there," Jess said, the words almost disappearing in a burst of laughter. Even a drunk Jess couldn't get that out with a straight face.
Becker ducked his head as if in shame, watching Jess through his eyelashes. "But we like it when you scold us."
"Oh, Christ," Lester muttered, a faint pink tinge rising in his cheeks.
"It's all of you," Abby said, wide-eyed. "The three of you!"
Jess squeezed in between Becker and Lester, wedging herself perfectly in the middle of them. "God, you have no idea how much I've been bursting to tell all of you! You guys all looked incredibly silly, by the way. We laughed at you every day."
Becker snorted. They really had.
After Abby's exclamation, the team had receded into a stunned silence. Connor's eyes looked like they were about to pop out of his head.
Becker's men, however, were far less inclined to remain quiet. Whistling and cat-calls broke out, along with a few dirty jokes, which, luckily for the continued existence of those responsible, remained anonymous. Becker saluted in their direction but said quietly to Lester and Jess, "They're going to be doing so many drills next week they'll be afraid to look at me funny. We'll see who's laughing then."
Lester squirmed away. "Can we stop with the cuddling in front of everyone?"
Abby finally found her voice again. She was looking directly at Jess. "But how is it possible? The very idea of dating either of them gives me a migraine, but you're dating both of them? At the same time?"
Jess held a hand in front of her chest. "I'm sorry, have you met me?"
"She's bossy," Matt said. "I bet that helps."
"They probably like being bossed around for a change, especially by a woman," Emily said, half under her breath. When she realised everyone was staring at her, she said, "What? Look at them! Doesn't take a genius to figure that out."
"I'm a little bit insulted," Becker muttered to Lester. "I think if I were less drunk I'd be a lot insulted."
"How does it even work?" Connor asked, the gears turning in his head practically visible. "I mean, does he… Who gets to be… Actually, let's forget I ever asked."
Lester started off in the direction of the punch bowl. "I need a drink."