A/N: Set in the same universe as the other Lester/Becker/Jess fics (first one was 'Your War Is in Your Heart'). Spoilers for 5x6.
Three Ways of Saying 'I Love You'
i. Jess and Becker
Her heart was racing and her cheeks were wet with tears when Jess woke up. She lay on her back in the bed with the sheets pushed down around her ankles, trying to convince herself that everything was fine, it had only been a dream, but her fear and her anguish still felt real as life. She fumbled at her bedside table for her mobile and grabbed it, her finger hovering over one number before she pressed a different one.
After two rings, Becker's sleepy voice answered, "Jess? What's the matter?"
"I had a terrible dream," Jess said as she clutched the phone to her ear, the sound of Becker's voice feeling like an anchor.
"Do you want to tell me about it?"
You were too late, she thought and clenched her eyes closed as if that could make the blood-soaked images go away. She felt suddenly foolish, foolish and childish for calling him about a nightmare. Her breath hitched but she said, "Never mind. I'm sorry I bothered you, it isn't anything. I shouldn't have rung."
"No, sweetheart, don't apologise." The tenderness in Becker's voice made Jess ache. "You can always call me, no matter what."
"Okay," Jess said and wondered what she'd done to deserve him.
"Do you want me to come over?"
Oh, God, yes. "No, it's so late. Don't trouble yourself; I'll be fine."
"Jess, would it help you if I came over?"
It was too hard to lie to him. He would know. "Yes."
"Then I'll come over. Why don't you have a drink or something? It'll help you sleep."
"Yes, okay. Now hang up- I've seen the way you drive. You need both hands on the wheel."
Becker chuckled in her ear and said, "I'll see you in a bit."
Jess got out of bed and grabbed a sweater, then padded barefoot into her kitchen. She poured a glass from an open bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and sipped at it, leaning her back against the counter and doing her best to think about anything other than her nightmare.
Unfortunately, she wasn't all that successful.
The sound of a key turning in her lock made her glance up and Becker soon appeared in the kitchen, looking scruffy with his hair mussed from sleep and stubble on his face. She almost smiled at the oddness of his dress, his brown leather jacket over one of his black T-shirts and a pair of jogging trousers. Jess knew he liked to sleep naked so he'd obviously pulled on whatever he had close at hand.
Becker dropped his keys on the counter and looked at her with that overly concerned and protective expression of his. "Are you all right, sweetheart?"
"I'm not a baby," Jess said, slightly miffed, but she went over to let him engulf her in his warm embrace anyway, pressing her face into his strong chest. She sighed as he rubbed her back and felt better already.
"Do you want to go back to bed?"
Jess nodded wordlessly but didn't make any attempt to move. Eventually Becker drew far enough away to get an arm around her waist and nudged her into motion.
In the bedroom, Jess took off her sweater and simply let it fall to the floor, getting under the duvet while Becker got naked. He slid in next to her and Jess snuggled against him, loving the familiar feel of his bare skin and firm muscles.
"I'll listen if you feel like talking," Becker said softly. "I think it's supposed to help."
His doubtful tone was a little bit amusing. Becker was certainly not a believer in the benefits of talking things out, at least not for himself. He gravitated more towards ignoring things and hoping they went away.
But Jess thought maybe if she said it out loud, she could move past it and stop concentrating on it. She was hoping talking might be cathartic. "We were in the ARC, James and me. With the predators. He… he died." Her voice was shaking and she had to blink to hold her tears back. She wasn't going to cry again, not in front of Becker. "I knew they were going to find me, I knew I was going to die but I didn't care because he was dead. He was dead and it was my fault, if I hadn't been there or if I'd been better then he wouldn't have had to worry about me, he wouldn't have been slowed down. He was dead because I'd killed him and I was as good as dead, too."
"Don't say that," Becker said, sounding fairly horrified. "It would never have been your fault."
Which was rich, coming from Becker, who blamed himself for everything.
And he didn't know. He didn't know what had really happened and Jess couldn't bring herself to tell him.
She couldn't deal with it any more so she said, "I want you to help me with the guns. I need to be better." That was one thing Jess could control. The basic training Becker had given her hadn't been enough. She was never going to feel so helpless again.
"All right. I'll make the time. As often as you like."
For a while they laid there in silence, the slow rise and fall of Becker's chest beneath Jess' ear. She was glad he was there.
She wished Lester were there, too.
"Do you think James is okay?" she whispered.
Becker smoothed Jess' hair back from her face, stroking soothingly. "Yes, of course. I'm sure he's sleeping like a baby." After a few seconds, he added, "We could give him a ring, if you want."
"No," Jess said immediately, even though she thought there wasn't anything she wanted more right then than to hear the sound of Lester's voice, even if it would be cranky and annoyed. "It'd be stupid to wake him."
"I don't think he'd mind once he knew what it was about," Becker said, but when Jess didn't reply he dropped it. "If you're sure. Hey, wait a moment," Becker said and disentangled himself, getting up to take something out of the pocket of his jacket. He climbed back into bed and handed her a chocolate bar. "I was going to give you this in the morning, but why wait?"
Jess stared at the chocolate in her hand and felt an absurd prickling behind her eyes. She pushed Becker down with a hand in the centre of his chest and kissed him, a surge of affection swelling in her chest.
"It's only chocolate," Becker said against her mouth, his breathing quickened, but Jess didn't move away and he didn't seem to want her to. "Oh, sweetie," he said, and they left the chocolate to melt.
ii. Becker and Lester
When Becker and Jess arrived at the ARC the following morning, Jess stepped out of the lift and immediately looked towards Lester's office.
Becker stood beside her and said quietly, "Why don't you go and say hello?"
She shook her head. "No. No, I'd better just get started." She straightened her back and marched straight into the hub, her focus never straying from her station.
That wasn't right. Jess was avoiding Lester and that simply wasn't right, so Becker made a decision. He knocked sharply on Lester's door and entered, sinking down into a chair. He didn't like to go behind Jess' back but something clearly needed to be done.
"What do you want?" Lester asked.
"Oh, that's nice. Don't I even get a good morning?"
"Terribly sorry, you're right, that was rude." Lester folded his hands in front of him and met Becker's gaze squarely, his expression politely bland. "Good morning, Captain Becker. How may I be of service?"
While that provided the perfect opening for a wealth of naughty suggestions, Becker regretfully was forced to rise above. There were more important matters to be dealt with. "I'm here to talk about Jess."
Lester immediately looked out through the glass. "Is she all right?"
"Yes, she's fine. She doesn't even want me telling you this but I thought you should know. She had a rough night."
"A rough night?"
"A nightmare. She dreamed of the predators. She dreamed they killed you," Becker explained in a quiet voice, the very idea making him feel ill. He didn't want to admit how difficult it had been trying to comfort Jess after she'd told him when her words had made his own skin crawl.
Lester's eyes dropped to the desk, his shoulders slumping forward. "Oh, dear."
"She phoned me in the middle of the night extremely upset, so I went to her flat and stayed with her."
His eyes lifted again to Becker's face, accusation in the green. "She phoned you but she doesn't want me to even know?"
"That is completely not the point. This is about Jess, not you and your irrational jealousy."
For a second Becker thought Lester was going to shout at him, but then he sagged. "Yes, of course. You're right, that was inappropriate. I'm sorry."
Becker squirmed in his seat and picked at his cuticles. "I wasn't trying to make you feel bad."
Lester nodded, the faint trace of a smile forming on his face. "You want me to talk to her?"
Relieved that Lester was content to move on, Becker said, "Yes. I think she needs to talk to you but she won't do it herself. I can't begin to fathom what's going on in her head."
"I'll do what I can."
"Thanks. Hey, can we come over tonight? Have dinner?"
"You mean, will I make dinner for you?"
"Well, obviously. You like cooking for us; don't even try to pretend otherwise." Becker counted out the reasons on his fingers. "You can show off, take care of us, make us happy, and earn both our gratitude and our admiration all in one fell swoop."
Lester's mouth was pressed into a thin line. "You are nowhere near as clever as you think you are."
"I am exactly as clever as I think I am," Becker insisted. "If you cook, I'll even do the washing up after."
"How generous." Lester heaved a sigh. "Well, all right. But I hope you're aware I'm doing it only for Jess."
"Of course, James." Becker stood up and walked around to the other side of the desk, bracing a hand on the arm of the chair and leaning down to murmur into Lester's ear, "I know you don't care for me at all."
Lester swallowed, his breath hitching. "Quite right."
Becker rested his forehead against Lester's temple. "I certainly can't feel how fast your heart is beating right now."
"Hils, we're in the office." Lester sounded almost like he was pleading, like he needed Becker to move away before he did something rash.
Becker would have quite liked Lester to do something rash, but nevertheless he said, "Yes, I know. Such a shame. James, darling, the next time you start to feel insecure, remember that without you, there is no relationship." Becker swiftly kissed the side of Lester's face and then started to leave, feeling a little embarrassed.
Lester, however, grabbed hold of Becker's hand, stilling him. There was something open and anxious in his face, like he was unsure of how to proceed, but he raised Becker's hand to his lips and kissed the back of it.
Becker swallowed and thought that it was probably weird to be trembling this much. His heart was hammering in his chest just like Lester's had been, but for an entirely different reason.
Lester released Becker's hand and Becker walked out. He went through the hub, brushing his hand against Jess' back as he passed her. When she smiled at him, it was almost genuine.
iii. Lester and Jess
After Becker left his office, James could hardly get any work done. He was too distracted, thinking about Becker and worrying about Jess. Having two lovers was more than he could handle, sometimes. What had he been thinking?
Clearly he hadn't been. Not with the right part of his anatomy, anyway. Probably it hadn't helped that most of the decision-making had been done while he was on incredibly strong painkillers, either.
Still. He wasn't planning on giving either of them up.
A while later James approached Jess' station, stopping beside her and touching her hand. She glanced sideways at him, an almost skittish look in her eyes. "Hello, James."
"Will you take a walk with me, Jess?"
Jess bit her lip, staring regretfully at her monitors. "I should really…"
"Please. I promise it won't be long and Connor can keep an eye on things while you're away."
"I... Yes, I suppose that would be all right. If you want." She stood up and smoothed out her skirt, the faint smile she offered hesitant and lacking her usual brightness.
The grounds were empty at that time of day, which was precisely why James had chosen it. They took a slow turn around the pond, Jess tearing a chunk of bread into pieces and tossing it for the ducks.
James decided it would be best to be straight-forward. "Is there anything you would like to talk to me about?"
"Becker told you," Jess said in a small voice, her shoulders hunched forward.
"Don't be upset with him; he was concerned."
"I didn't want you to know because it's silly. I know it was only a nightmare."
"Our fears are real things, Jess," James started to say, slowly, working out what he wanted to get across even as he spoke. "It isn't silly to be affected by that. And I… I would never want you to keep something from me because you think I wouldn't take you seriously. I would never dismiss your feelings and I would never think any less of you."
Jess stopped in place, tilting up her chin and gazing at James. "You think that's why I called Becker and not you?"
"Isn't it?" He hoped he didn't sound as insecure as he felt. Whatever Becker said, James couldn't help how he felt.
"I never thought you would be cruel. I know you wouldn't."
Her firm tone filled James with more relief than he liked to admit. "But you thought it would make you look childish."
"Yes, I suppose I did. In part. But that wasn't the only reason I didn't call you."
"I hardly know how to explain it," Jess said, eyes darting away. "I… I didn't want you to worry; I wanted you to think I was okay. And because… because it was you. You were there with me and it was you I dreamed of. Becker can't… He doesn't get it. He wasn't there. He doesn't know I… That predator was coming for me, James. It was coming for me and it would have killed me if it hadn't been for you. If you had died, like I dream you do so many times, it would have been my fault. Not even you can say otherwise." Her blue eyes were shining like she might cry but there was defiance in her face as she looked at him.
"I can and I will. Jessica, love, that was my choice. You can't blame yourself for my actions."
"I chose to get between you! And I would do it again, I would always make that choice," James said, meaning it with every fibre of his being. He'd do it without a thought and it would be worth it, no matter what happened to him. "That is not on you."
"I don't want you to have to protect me!"
"Do you think Matt can't take care of himself?"
Looking irritated like she thought he was simply changing the subject, Jess crossed her arms in front of her chest. "Of course not."
"But what does Becker do every time they go on a shout? He protects Matt. He protects all of them. He's saved their lives and they've saved his. Not because they can't all handle themselves, but because that's what we do. We look after each other. We have each others' backs. I will always step in front of that predator but I know that you would do the same for me."
Jess stood in front of him, perfectly still and silent, her big, beautiful eyes awash with emotions James couldn't even begin to guess at. And then she fell against him, her arms going around his back, a soft sound that was almost like a sob escaping her lips before she whispered, "I would. Don't you get it? I would because I love you, and that's why if you'd died I could never have forgiven myself."
James did nothing but hold her close because he didn't trust himself to speak. He had never expected to hear anyone say those words to him again and certainly not this vibrant young woman who could have anyone she wanted. He didn't know what he'd done to have not just her, but Becker, too.
After a long while Jess pushed herself away from him, her cheeks flushed. She twirled a lock of hair between her fingers nervously. "Can we pretend I didn't just say that?"
"What if I don't want to pretend?"
For what seemed an interminable age but must have only been a few seconds, Jess simply stood there staring at him while James squashed the urge to fidget and to say something snarky to take his last statement back. And then he found himself with an armful of Jess as she threw herself at him, kissing him senseless.
James staggered back slightly and gripped her arse as she wrapped her legs around his waist. She was so small but she clung to him fiercely, her nails digging into his skin and her heels pressing against the backs of his thighs. She tasted like coffee and chocolate and like everything James had ever wanted.
Jess was panting quietly into his neck and he eased her back onto the ground. "I thought we'd agreed you were going to cut back on the romances," he said, straightening his jacket.
She laughed in a breathless way and stroked her hands up his torso, completely mussing what James had just fixed. "I only wanted to see if you could carry me, too. Becker can."
"Of course he can," James muttered, rolling his eyes.
"Oh, don't sulk. Clearly you're just as manly as he is and you can rest assured that I'm going to put this new knowledge to good use in the future."
James wasn't sure if he should be worried or intrigued so he put that thought aside for the time being. "Possibly the next time you decide to leap into my arms, you can do it where there isn't a chance of someone looking out the window and seeing."
"Where's the fun in that?"
"I think Becker's a bad influence on you."
"Or perhaps it's me who's a bad influence on him," Jess said with a wicked smile and a small wriggle against him.
Yes, that was entirely possible. All James knew for certain was that the two of them were a terrible influence on him, clearly.
James trailed his fingers down her cheek, grateful to see her mood so improved. "Becker thought you could both come over tonight. I'll make you dinner."
"Will you make that amazing chocolate tart?"
"For you, my dear, absolutely."
For the smile on Jess' face and for the smile he knew he would get from Becker later, James would do a lot more than bake a tart.