Becker watched, horrified, as Jess suddenly went running after Connor and handed him the keys to her flat. When she returned to his side he immediately started in on her.
"Jessica, do you know how dangerous that is?! You can't just be giving people a free-for-all in your home! What if he was a thief? What if he's a kidnapper? Murderer?"
Jess stared at Becker in disbelief, "Becker, calm down. He's not some stranger off the street. In case you hadn't noticed, that was Connor. You know, Connor Temple. Your friend, Connor Temple."
Becker stared at her like she'd grown a second head. "But Jessica, he's not your friend. You don't know him."
"I've read his file; I know him."
"Jessica, you don't. You can't know someone like that just by reading their file. I'm sorry, but you can't. Anyway, who knows how he's been affected in his year away. I'd think his situation alone would be enough to drive someone crazy. You can't possibly know what he's thinking! And you also can't be giving out your keys to complete strangers! I sure the hell hope you don't do this kind of thing often!"
Jess felt her eyes fill up with tears. She'd thought Becker would've been happy she was helping his friend, and here he was yelling at her. Jess hated it when anyone was mad at her, but the fact that it was Becker made it so much worse. She never had been very good at hiding her emotions, but she did her best to keep the tears from falling. Only one single tear rolled down her cheek.
"Has it occurred to you," she asked, blinking a few times to clear her vision and wiping away the traces of the tear the same time, "That you've spent the last eight months telling me how wonderful Connor and Abby are? I didn't let some random stranger in my house, Becker. I let Connor in my house, because I trusted you."
Becker stared, dumbstruck, as Jess turned and walked away, heading towards the ladies' room. He was pretty sure he'd just made a huge mistake and he felt terrible about it. After all, Jess was right. This was Connor they were talking about. He wasn't sure how yet, but he'd have to make it up to her.
Jess hid away in the ladies' room where she felt safe to let the pent up tears run free. It took about five minutes until she was able to calm herself, and Jess also used that time to clear her mind and to think about Becker's words once more. The more Jess thought about it, the more she decided that Becker had only been angry because he cared about her. He'd been worried for her safety, and that was a good thing, right? She felt embarrassed by her strong reaction. She was sure that he had noticed the tears in her eyes and that it was obvious, even to Becker, that she had locked herself in here to have a good cry.
She scolded herself about that. He was a soldier, for Pete's sake. He'd probably think of her as a weak and emotional teenager now. She wished she could just run away, call Lester and ask to go home sick something, but she knew that'd only make it more awkward later, so she put on her bravest face and stepped out of the ladies' room.
She still backed her decision to have given Connor the keys to her flat, even knowing that Becker had a problem with it, but she decided to not bring it up again and hoped he'd do the same for the sake of getting along with him again.
To Becker's surprise, Jess cheered up fast. When she came out of the ladies' room she was all smiles and rambling as usual. In a quiet moment, Becker caught her eyes and gave her the tiniest of nods. They seemed to have come to a mutual understanding to let the topic slide. In return, Jess rewarded him with a huge grin.
Still, Becker wanted to make it up to her properly and couldn't think how. The solution presented itself when he heard Jess ask Matt to bring her some chocolate without orange. Good, Jess liked chocolate. Chocolate he could do. He set his mind on a plan. Somehow he needed an excuse to go out and get her some, and he needed to make sure that Matt didn't. He probably didn't have to worry about that, he had a feeling Matt would forget anyway, but he definitely needed an excuse to go out. He was so busy formulating the plan in his mind that he barely took in what she was saying about Matt and how she found his behaviour suspicious.
When he finally listened to her, he realised that she was right. Something strange was going on. "Jess, okay, you are brilliant," he told her, and was awarded with one of her smiles.
Becker took off to go give Matt a hand, but the entire time he kept reminding himself to bring her back some chocolate.
Connor had no idea that Becker had been angry about Jess giving him the keys to her flat. Sure it was a rather unusual move to make when you met someone the first time, but Connor was impressed by Jess' selfless act and didn't think too much of it.
"I've read the files, I know you!" He smiled as Jess' words echoed through his mind when he entered her flat. He remembered feeling the same way once or twice when he'd hacked into people's files himself, though he'd never outright told them that.
It was a little weird to wander around in a strangers' home when they weren't there. For some reason, he felt the need to be as quiet as possible, like he was sneaking and didn't want to be caught. He tiptoed around, looking at the living room quickly, before finding her laptop set up at the kitchen table. He stared at the decorative dial telephones set up on her counter. Each had a letter on the dial, spelling out JESS. He'd told Abby once that even though he knew a lot about art, he didn't know what he liked, but he did like this piece a lot. It was totally, Jess, he decided based on the little he knew about her.
To his surprise, one of them, the one marked E, suddenly began to ring loudly and Connor nearly jumped out of his skin. So they were hooked up then? He hadn't seen any wires. The ringing was persistent and Connor wondered if he should answer. Finally he picked up the receiver. "Jess' flat… Connor speaking."
"Con, it's Jess! I just wanted to make sure you found the place alright."
"Thanks Jess. Obviously I'm here, I guess. I like the phones."
Jess giggled, "Thanks! I bought them from a vintage shop and painted them myself. Then I took them apart and replaced the parts to some more modern technology to make them work cordlessly. They're like giant mobiles now."
"You're brilliant. Only the E phone rang."
"Yep, they're all on different lines. I give different people different numbers since they don't have call display. Helps me guess who might be on the other end. Anyway, I'd best get back to work now. See you later, yeah?"
"See ya," Connor replied.
He hung up the phone and smiled to himself. Something about this Jess girl definitely cheered him up. He hoped they'd be friends even if he didn't get his job back.
After only a few minutes of searching for a place to live, Connor found himself bored and started searching for creature sightings instead. He knew he was supposed to be staying away from the ARC and staying out of trouble, but his curiosity got the better of him. Anyway, if it was a civilian sighting online, he wasn't really encroaching upon ARC territory, he justified to himself. He wasn't surprised to find that there were some, knowing what he did about anomalies and all that, but he was surprised to find such extensive evidence online provided by his own childhood friend, Duncan.
And so, Connor decided to pay his mate a little visit. Duncan told him about the disappearance of homeless. Connor convinced Abby to help him and sure enough, got himself caught when Matt followed her and then called Becker for backup and soon enough the entire ARC team knew that he was out on the field and Connor rather hoped that this would turn out well for him and not hurt his chances of getting his job back any further. Still, he felt he had done the right thing and he knew he'd saved some lives today.
Jess stared at the chocolate bar in front of her. The team, and Connor, had returned to the ARC and to her surprise, it'd been Becker that handed her the chocolate instead of Matt. It was in that moment that she suddenly realized her feelings for Becker were more than just those of a silly crush. She, Jessica Parker, was in love. And with that realization she found herself suddenly and unusually speechless. She barely managed to thank him in her surprise. He took off as quick as he had handed it to her, but he did turn back suddenly. "Nothing with orange in it, right?" he asked, making sure.
"Right," Jess confirmed, cursing her sudden tongue-tiedness. Becker scurried off, probably to do some security stuff, and Jess bit her lip as she grinned at the chocolate bar.
And then suddenly Abby and Connor were at her side. They noticed her embarrassment over the chocolate and Jess quickly tried to change the subject. She'd already decided to offer them a place to stay in her flat for awhile. She really liked Abby and Connor and admired them. She'd wanted to meet them both for so long and, now that she had, she thought she liked them even more. There was just something about the pair that made her feel quite comfortable. Abby's slight teasing over the chocolate made her feel even surer of her decision. She thought they could easily become great friends.
Jess tried not to think about what Becker's reaction would be. If she were lucky, maybe he wouldn't find out. She was pretty sure that she'd won the argument earlier, and she knew she was doing the right thing, but she still didn't want him to know.
But before they could discuss it any further, they were interrupted by Lester's voice resounding through the HUB.
"I suppose this is what you think of not getting into trouble?!"
Connor straightened himself, ready to stand his ground, to fight for his job, the job he had promised Nick Cutter he'd continue. He took a deep breath before he answered. "Listen Lester, you need to know something! You can sack me, but you can't stop me from doing this work. Threaten me, disown me, punish me, whatever, but if I think there is a creature loose, I'm gonna investigate it! Okay?"
The computer geek was aware that he had all the eyes on him. Matt, Becker, Jess and Abby watched the scene with interest, waiting to see Lester's reaction. To their surprise, the man in question simply shrugged his shoulders and calmly replied, "Oh, since you put it like that. You're back on the team."
A couple of audible sighs of relief sounded, and, despite getting what he wanted, Connor was almost taken aback by Lester's reaction. After the words sunk in, he turned to Abby and grinned brightly. "Blimey! I should get angry more often!" Then, thinking about it, he turned back to their already retreating boss and shouted after him, "And I want a pay rise!"
Lester slowly turned around. "Don't push your luck!"
It'd been a few months now since Connor and Abby had moved in with Jess. When they'd first moved in, Jess had been so excited that she'd almost felt like a groupie, but as time past, the three had quickly developed an extremely close friendship.
Now, however, Connor had started spending more and more time at work doing secret projects for Philip. Jess missed him terribly and knew that Abby missed him even more. Even when he was home, he was always on the phone with Philip. As often as not, he'd excuse himself to the kitchen to use one of her dial phones. He'd taken a strong liking to them, and it made Jess proud of her work.
Tonight, Abby had slammed the door on her way to her bedroom and refused to come out. Jess knew that Connor had told her he'd be working late again. She knocked gently on Abby's door and called, "Abby, do you want to talk?"
"No!" her friend retorted. "Leave me alone, Jess."
Jess decided then and there she'd talk to Connor herself. Usually Abby would sit in the living room with Jess and complain about Connor to her and listen as Jess complained to Abby that Becker was never going to ask her out. If Abby didn't want to talk, she'd been really hurt.
Connor did a double take when he came home at two in the morning and found Jess sitting on one of the bar stools in her nightshirt, sleeping with her head on the counter.
"Jess," Connor whispered, shaking her awake. He knew if she didn't go to her own bed she'd be stiff and sore in the morning. "Jess, what are you doing here?"
Jess looked up at Connor confusedly as her eyes slowly opened. "I live here."
Connor smiled, "I mean, why are you in the kitchen instead of your bed?"
He waited as Jess looked around, trying to remember herself. Finally she seemed to wake up fully. "I was waiting for you, Connor. We need to talk."
"Jess, can it wait? I've just got home from work and I'm exhausted."
"It's important," Jess insisted, standing up and pushing him with surprising force down onto the stool.
Connor sighed, "Alright, Jess, what's up?"
"Look, Connor, I know you can't tell us about your work and I know it's super important and I know that the fact Philip hired you proves that you are brilliant…"
"I wish Abby thought so…" Connor interrupted, but he smiled at her thankfully.
"And that's why we need to talk. Con, I think she'd think better of you if you could make a little time for her. She's really upset that you don't care about her anymore."
"I care about Abby!" Connor protested.
"And I know that," Jess smiled, "It's obvious to me, but she doesn't feel that way. So, you've gotta fight for her, Connor, and I'm gonna help you. Of course, we've established your work is important, so we're gonna do this without using up any more of your time, or at least not much. Can you do five minutes a day?"
Connor stared at her doubtfully. "You think I'm going to make Abby happy again in five minutes?"
"Well, how long does it take you to order flowers for her? Or make her toast and OJ in the morning? Could you not take just five minutes in the middle of the day to chat with her about something that's not work? Just so she knows you're thinking of her? Or how about phoning her five times for a minute throughout the day?"
Connor was silent and when Jess saw that he wasn't answering, she continued. "Besides, you aren't always working. You work late and then sleep in and she doesn't see you. You know she's an early riser. Can't you get up earlier and start your job earlier and work more time in the morning so that you can go to bed at the same time as her?"
"Fine," Connor muttered, "I'll work on it."
"Good," Jess grinned, kissing his cheek. "I knew you were a genius."
Connor gave her a genuine smile. "Thanks Jess. Can I go to bed now?"
She nodded and went to her own room too. Long after he'd gone to bed though, Connor lay awake thinking about what Jess had said. The fact that Abby thought he didn't even care really hit him hard. After all, he was doing all this to make her proud. He'd take Jess' advice, starting the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow he planned on spending the entire day with her to make up for lost time.