Let the Games Begin
Chapter 66 - PAST, PRESENTS, & FUTURE
"That was amazing!" Jess gushed as she and her friends entered her flat well past midnight.
Emily nodded. "Yes, the final fireworks display was quite spectacular."
"I don't mean just that," Jess said. "I mean the entire Olympics. All of it! It was just all so...I have no words!"
Unfortunately, Becker seemed in no mood to agree with her sentiments. "Don't blame me," he began, putting his hand on her lower back as they headed up the stairs, "but I'm glad they're over."
"Me, too," Abby concurred with a sigh.
"Oh, you're all such spoilsports!" Connor complained, and Jess was glad that at least someone was on her side.
Emily, however, clearly wasn't for she gave a loud yawn.
"Sorry," the former Victorian quickly apologised, obviously having caught Jess's frown, "but I am exhausted."
Abby nodded. "Yeah, we should probably all head straight to bed."
Connor gave an excited gasp. "And Lester's gone, yeah?" he asked eagerly.
Jess gave a pouty nod. She'd wanted to do something fun to celebrate their last night all together, but clearly that wasn't going to be happening. She slowly followed her soon-to-be-former roomies up the stairs to the second floor as melancholia started setting in.
But as she entered her bedroom and flipped on the light, she saw two gifts - a small, wrapped box and a ribboned gift bag - upon her bed. Even from this distance she could recognise the scrawled "Thanks" as Lester's. Picking up the gift bag, she deciphered the tag and handed the gift to Emily as she entered the room.
"What is this?" her friend asked, peering at the bag warily.
Jess shrugged. "No idea. It's from Lester. He must've stopped back by the flat earlier today when we were all at the ARC." She eagerly sat down on her bed and unwrapped her own gift.
"De Neuville!" she exclaimed as she instantly recognised the brown and pink box. Emily gave her an inquiring look, and Jess eagerly held up the French chocolates. "He must've had his wife purchase these before she returned. That's so sweet of him. What'd he get you?"
"Aw, that's lovely," Jess gushed before seeing the disconcerted look upon her friend's face. "Isn't it?"
"I suppose," Emily replied, though clearly she had her reservations.
"So what's the problem?"
"It seems Lester has a keen sense a humour," Emily said as she held up the perfume bottle with its name, "La Distraction", in large, flowery type.
Jess laughed, but before she could comment, Connor's surprised, "BLIMEY!" carried down the corridor. Jess and Emily shared a look before bolting out the door towards the other bedroom.
"You okay?" Jess asked as they barged in.
Connor was sitting on the bed as if in shock, so Abby had to answer for him.
"He'll be fine," Abby said, waving a small card. "It seems Lester has left us a gift,"
"Us, too," Jess said.
"What did he leave you?" Emily asked.
"He's ordered a moving company to do all our packing for us," Abby explained. "A thanks for all our hard work these past few weeks."
"That's brilliant!" Jess said.
Abby nodded, patting her fiance on the shoulder since he still seemed in a daze. "They're scheduled to arrive tomorrow at noon. We're to do nothing but be here to point out what goes and what doesn't - everything else will be taken care of."
"That is very kind," Emily said.
Becker suddenly appeared behind them and took Jess's hand, saying, "You need to see this." He led her downstairs to the front room, where Matt was sitting on the sofa.
Only it wasn't HER sofa.
"Where's my sofa?" Jess exclaimed, glancing about as if it might suddenly appear from behind the telly.
"Not sure," Matt said, "but this was on the cushion."
She took the folded note he offered her and read the handwritten message inside:
Parker, no need to worry. Your secret is safe with me. The U.N shall never know about your torture techniques - the evidence has been destroyed.
"Well?" Becker asked anxiously.
"It's from Lester," she explained with a smile. "To replace my old one."
Matt shook his head. "Such a shame."
Jess frowned. "What do you mean?"
"He gives this to you now and we're leaving tomorrow, so we don't even get to appreciate it."
"Why? Is it comfortable?" Jess asked as she took a seat next to Matt...and instantly sunk into the deep, cuddlesome cushions. Her moan of satisfaction convinced Becker he, too, needed to give it a try, and Jess scooted over to make room for him.
"Heaven," Becker said, laying his head against the soft back and closing his eyes.
"Hey, you can't fall asleep just yet," Jess said, nudging him.
"Jess, it's been kind of a long day," Becker said, his eyes still closed. "Don't forget - I awoke in medical this morning."
Matt, on her other side, nodded. "And we must get up early to help Abby and Connor with their move."
"But we don't," Jess insisted. "Not anymore."
This got Becker's attention, and he raised his head, asking, "What do you mean?"
"Lester ordered a moving company to pack and move everything. And they won't be here till noon. That gives us all morning to have breakfast and say a proper goodbye."
"To whom are you saying goodbye?" Emily asked nervously, having just entered at the tail end of the conversation.
"Just the flat, for now," Matt explained, grabbing Emily's hand and pulling her down practically onto his lap. She blushed and tried to stand back up, but Jess scooted over, pulling her friend down onto the cushion next to her.
"Is this new?" Emily asked.
Jess nodded. "Another gift from Lester."
"Another?" Becker asked, raising an inquisitive eyebrow.
Jess opened her mouth, ready to explain about her chocolates as well as the perfume Emily was already wearing, when Connor's voice was heard from the kitchen. "Hey! Did you lot see these?"
Jess attempted to turn to see what her roomie was referring to but failed, being thus wedged into the sofa between the others. "What is it?"
"Creme de cacao," Abby said, bringing the bottles of French liqueur in from the kitchen. "The tag simply says, 'See you all on Tuesday.'"
Jess grinned, pleased that Lester would be playing a part in their farewell party after all. "Nightcap, anyone?"
Becker slept soundly, curled up next to Jess on her new sofa. She'd kept everyone up late, discussing their favourite moments of the Olympics, knowing they all could sleep late the next day.
But even though they COULD sleep late, Becker didn't. He awoke early, as if his body were suddenly back on its old schedule. After lying awake in the darkness for some time, simply enjoying the opportunity to hold Jess close once again, he eventually dislodged himself with care from Jess's arms and quietly made his way up to the toilet. Unfortunately it was already occupied, but in an instant the door opened, and both men jumped, clearly not expecting one another.
"Why are you up so early?" Matt asked.
Becker shrugged, not bothering to ask his friend the same thing. "You wanna go for a run?"
Matt raised his eyebrows in surprise. "You up for it?"
"Just as long as there are no boars chasing us."
Matt headed across the corridor towards Jess's room, clearly having slept inside last night, and Becker raised an amused eyebrow before saying simply, "Meet you downstairs in five?"
They managed to get dressed and leave without awaking the girls, and soon they were out on the pavement, keeping up a slow, steady pace.
But as they paused for a red light, Matt glanced over, asking simply, "What'd you get?"
Becker smiled, knowing exactly what he was asking. "Reservations for two at Alain Ducasse for Friday night."
Matt looked impressed. "Lester must've called in a few favours for that!"
Becker nodded. He couldn't wait to surprise Jess with the expensive meal...and to see her sporting her posh frock.
But he shook these images from his mind to politely inquire back, "You?"
"Open reservations at several chambres d'hotes - his note indicated he could finalise the arrangements as soon as we decided when we want to go."
The words were left hanging in the air as the light changed and the two men resumed their run, the implications rattling about in Becker's head. Obviously the team leader wouldn't want to rush off on his Parisian holiday whilst they were still left hanging regarding the message the doppelganger had left behind. Then again, once the message was deciphered, Matt might need to set off immediately on another mission. What a conundrum! Becker was thankful it wasn't his decision to take.
Of course, now that things had started to progress between Matt and Emily, Becker wondered if that would affect Matt's decisions regarding the mission. Becker knew that becoming involved with Jess had definitely changed the way he viewed the world, and he wondered if Matt was experiencing a similar change of heart. Leaving for another time when he had had nothing to tie him here was one thing, but now things were different. Clearly Emily was eager for Matt to pursue his mission, whatever it may be, but would he be willing to pursue it on his own?
"Will you take her with you?" Becker blurted out, his interior thoughts suddenly manifesting themselves.
Matt glanced briefly at Becker before returning his attention to the pavement ahead of them. "Lester did suggest the reservations were for two," he replied drily, the twinkle in his eyes making it clear he knew precisely what Becker had really been asking.
And clear what Matt's real answer was.
The two continued on in silence for some time. Becker was tired, both his legs and his lungs out of practice, having been sick in bed for so many days. Yet it somehow felt good to run on, to exercise his muscles and pull fresh air into his lungs.
Not that he wasn't thankful when they reached yet another red light.
As Becker leant over to catch his breath, Matt asked, "You okay?"
The solder nodded. "Yeah," he said, remembering once again just how close he'd come to dying. But as he straightened up, he noticed Matt had a similar grave expression on his own face, so Becker prompted, "YOU okay?"
Matt studied Becker a moment, as if trying to decide whether to say anything, before beginning tentatively, "Did you notice yesterday...on the device...I thought I detected a faint scent."
Now that he mentioned it, Becker suddenly remembered a subtle floral fragrance when he'd picked up the item from the locking device. It hadn't meant much at the time, but now it seemed to tickle his memory, reminding him of something vaguely familiar.
"Emily's perfume," Becker concluded, finally connecting the scent he'd noticed on the device to that which she'd been wearing last night after they'd returned to the flat..
Matt nodded but said nothing further as the light changed and they started off once again.
So future Matt was still with Emily. Becker found that somewhat reassuring.
Though not so much his next realisation.
"You didn't recognise the device," Becker stated more than asked.
"No. I didn't."
So whatever future his double was from, it wasn't the future Matt had known.
"That's got to be a good sign, yeah?"
Matt shrugged. "We stopped Phillip," he replied simply.
Becker nodded. In that respect, they'd done what they'd needed to. But clearly the race wasn't yet over. Becker, however, knew that whatever happened next, the ARC team had each other and would work together to do whatever needed to be done.
And with this reassuring thought in Becker's head, they finished their run in silence.
Matt was glad to finally be back home. He'd been gone much longer than he'd intended, but his mission had been worth it. He was eternally grateful that the Minister had taken his call and agreed to keep the ARC fully staffed during the Games, for he could now be certain that, not only had everyone been kept safe for the duration, but his message had fallen into the correct hands.
Now he had only to wait.
[Author's Note: I just wanted to extend a big thank you to my mom for giving me story ideas and most especially Cathleen and Emilyjay for all their brainstorming, suggestions, amazing plot ideas, and basically putting up with me whilst I neurotically read aloud to them for months! Also a special thanks to those readers who took the time to send me reviews on almost every chapter, letting me know there were still people who were interested in reading it - I hope it was worth it!]