A/N: I hope everyone is safe after Superstorm Sandy. Second and final installment as promised. Enjoy and please review when you have a moment. Meanwhile, back at my other stories...
It was a very disappointed and rather despondent Sue Thomas, who let herself back into her old apartment when she returned from her meeting with Dimitrius Gans.
Lucy ran out to greet her. "So, when do you start?"
"I don't," Sue sighed miserably dropping onto the sofa she'd been using as a bed and stroking Levi's head as it rested on her leg.
"What do you mean, you don't?"
"What I said. When I first asked, D told me that while he knew I could do the work, my sudden decision to leave had upset every member of the team and he felt he needed talk to them individually first to see how they felt before he could give me a final decision."
"That's right, he asked me and I said I'd love it if you came back and I thought everyone else would, too."
"Thank you, but apparently they didn't all feel that way so in the end he had to turn down my request."
"What?" Lucy's voice had climbed a few octaves.
"He was very nice about it, said he would have had me back in a flash if it wasn't for…" She nibbled on her bottom lip to stop herself from crying.
"Who would..? Myles, it has to be. You just wait until I get through with him." She reached over the arm of the chair to pick up the phone.
"Luce no, we can't be sure it was him and I don't want to cause any more trouble. I'll get a flight back to New York on Monday."
"But you hate it there."
"What other choice do I have?"
Her friend thought it through for a moment. "Go and see Jack, talk to him. He's the Team Leader, if anyone can fix it, he can."
"I can't do that."
"Why not..? Remember you said you wanted to thank him in person for what he did that awful night and I'm sure you could casually drop it into the conversation."
Sue looked at her doubtfully.
"Go on, what have you got to lose?"
"Hi." Jack greeted her warily although he didn't seem that surprised to see her standing outside. "Come in," he stepped to one side to let his visitors past before closing the door again. "Sit, please."
"Thank you." Sue made herself comfortable on his couch with Levi at her feet.
The dog barked and wagged his tail happily as Jack gave him a scratch and he received a canine kiss in return.
"It's good to see you too, pal."
He was dressed in a torso-hugging black t-shirt and tight jeans and was looking at her with those beautiful chocolate-coloured eyes, which still had the power to turn her insides to mush and it had taken all of her willpower not to hug him 'hello' when he'd opened the door. "Coffee..?"
"Please." It came out as a croak so she quickly cleared her throat and tried again. "I'd love one."
An awkward silence fell on the room when he returned and they both tried to break it at the same time.
"Sorry, after you."
"No, you first..."
"I was going to ask if you were okay after what happened but I can see you are… stupid question." The friendly rapport they'd always shared seemed to have deserted them.
"We're fine now. You must have been tired the next morning."
He shrugged, "Crash gave me a hard time, wanted to know what I'd been up to."
"What did you tell him?"
"That I'd spent the entire night talking to a beautiful woman."
"I wanted to come over and thank you properly. I was really scared until..."
"I know I could hear it in your voice. Had you been calling long?"
"A few minutes, that's all."
He sighed in relief. "Thank the Lord, I was really worried that you'd been alone in the dark for hours, I know how difficult it is for you," Levi whuffed softly. "Sorry boy, I know you were there too."
"Did I wake you?"
"No, I was on a stake-out with another Unit, I'm just glad I came home when I did."
The conversation fizzled again and she took a few sips of her drink, wondering how to broach the other subject she'd come to talk to him about.
"So, what can I do for you?"
"Can't a girl just stop by for a visit?"
"Of course, but the way you keep worrying your lip and stroking Levi tells me there's more to it than that."
"Still read me like a book, huh?"
Jack just shrugged.
Placing her mug back in the coaster she took a steadying breath. "You know I asked D about transferring back to D.C.?"
"Well, there's a problem."
"I know that too."
"You couldn't speak to Myles for me, could you, find out what's wrong? I thought we'd put all that other stuff behind us a long time ago."
"Sue," he paused for a second, screwing up his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. "It isn't Myles."
"But it has to be. Bobby and Tara…"
"It isn't Myles, or Bobby, or Tara, or D," Jack interrupted her. "I'm the one who has the doubts."
She definitely hadn't seen that one coming. "You, why..?" Her voice held a hurt edge. "We always made such a great team and you said you didn't want me to leave."
"But you did."
"And you think I might do it again, is that it?"
"Maybe… I don't know."
"What if I told you accepting that job was one of the worst mistakes of my life and it didn't take me long to realise I didn't belong there."
Getting to his feet, he walked to the window and stared out into the street with unseeing eyes and when he turned his expression was sad. "Sue, I can't say yes, I want to but I can't… I don't think I can go back to the way things were before, it's just too hard, especially after…"
She tried to reassure him, "I know it'll take time to earn your trust again but I promise I'll do whatever it takes."
Jack carried on as though he hadn't heard her. "You have no idea how many times I wished I'd left you in 'Fingerprinting'…"
"But I thought," her eyes started to tear up and her voice faltered. "You, you always said I was an asset to the team and you were glad I was there."
"I was, am… was."
"Then it's me personally?"
"Sue, it's not…" he paused again. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Why did you call me that night?"
"You know why."
"That's not what I meant. There must have been others… Lucy or Bobby… Tara, Jim or David… So, why me..?"
Not being able to hear the way he was saying the words she took his question to mean that he'd rather she hadn't, so she said the first thing that came into her head. "It was dark, I was scared and yours was the first speed dial number my fingers found." Wrong answer, she could see it on his face and in his eyes.
"Okay." Defeated, he picked up the empty mugs to return them to the kitchen.
"Jack, wait…" He stopped but didn't turn until she spoke again. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that."
"Because, it isn't true…"
Returning the mugs to the table, he sat down again. "Then, why? Sue, please, I need to know."
She nibbled on her lip anxiously, annoyed with herself for letting Lucy talk her into this situation and she knew she had to be completely honest or run the risk of losing a friend. No, that was wrong… Jack wasn't just a friend, it went far deeper… she'd felt it the first moment she saw him again.
"You're right. I could have called any of them but I didn't, you were the only one. Maybe I shouldn't have but I needed to see your voice. Jack, you've always been there, whether it was to rescue me from serial killers, slave-trading, false prophets or just my Mom," she gave him a quirky smile. "And I knew if I could just talk to you, I'd be okay. Of course, I had no idea then about the looters who were outside on the street breaking into the local stores and some of the apartments in my building."
"What?" Jack stared at her in horror. "They didn't..?"
"No not mine. Luckily I had the vicious beast looking out for me. The neighbours think it was his barking that kept them off our floor, they even gave him a reward."
"New York City can be a dangerous place."
"So can anywhere, even D.C."
"But at least while you were here, I knew you weren't alone."
"And that's why you asked Jim to look out for me. Jack, I'm sorry about that other call, I shouldn't have said all those things."
"And I shouldn't have interfered I was just worried about you but if I'd known the jerk was going to hit on you, I would have asked someone else."
"He didn't hit on me he just took me out to dinner a few times and showed me around."
"So, if you don't like me being in New York, why did you say 'no' to my coming back here?"
"I didn't say 'no' to that exactly," he sighed rubbing his face with his hands in an effort to clear his brain. "When I first met you the day you stormed into the bullpen, there was just something about you… Then finding out you were deaf but still determined to carve yourself out a place in the F.B.I., I wanted to help, give you the opportunity to prove yourself."
"And you did. You taught me so much, first as my Training Agent and then as my partner."
"I learned a lot from you as well, mainly about myself; the person I was and the one I wanted to be and almost without my noticing it, you became part of my life and I found that I looked forward to spending time with you. It didn't matter what we were doing or where we were as long as… and then you were gone."
"You said you wished you'd left me in 'fingerprinting'," she reminded him gently.
"That's because I wanted so much to… I mean if I had then maybe we could have… I mean…" He groaned in frustration, not wanting to say the words out loud for fear she'd laugh in his face. "You know what I mean."
"Not a clue, S-P-A-R-K-Y. Do you mind if I call you Sparky?" Her grin and the twinkle in her eyes told him she was teasing him and for the first time since she'd arrived he actually laughed, shaking his head and waggling a finger in admonishment.
"Very funny Thomas..."
"Now, what was it you were trying to say?"
"Lord, I have missed you and if the only way to have you back in my life is to carry on as we were, then that will have to be enough. I'll call D and tell him I've changed my mind."
"Yeah," he smiled a little sadly.
"Could you ask him if he has any contacts in counter-terrorism?"
"I thought my past year's work experience might be of some use here in D.C."
"But then you won't be…" She could practically see the cogs turning in his head. "And we could… If you wanted to that is."
"I may regret this one day but I'd like to, very much."
She nodded, "uh-huh."
"There could be another problem."
"I'm not sure I can wait three whole dates before I kiss you."
"Well, if we count all the times we've had dinner or been to Montrose with Amanda…" Before she could finish he was sitting at her side.
"Then, I'm way overdue…" Raising a hand, he gently caressed the side of her face, tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear and then his mouth met hers, the touch both warm and tender.
"I can do better." This time he took her into his arms, pulling her close, and the second kiss was filled with love and lingered until they reluctantly parted to draw breath. "I think I'd better make that call." Taking her hand, he pressed the back of it to his lips and went to fetch his cell.
"Well, what did you find out?" Lucy muted the sound of the movie she'd been watching for the past hour, still clueless as to what it was about. "I'm guessing by the look on your face it didn't go well."
Sue sighed but didn't reply.
"Is he going to talk to Myles?"
"Myles wasn't the one who objected."
"Oh," Lucy looked a little uncomfortable. "I guess that explains it."
"I couldn't just sit here and wait, so I called him."
"You know, he actually had the nerve to deny it."
"That's because it wasn't him."
"I know that now," her face took on a pained expression. "Oh boy, I guess this means I'm going to have to apologise on Monday," she groaned. "And, I'll probably be making it up to him for the rest of my life. So, who was it?"
"What?" Her friend stared at her in disbelief. "You're kidding, right?"
Sue's expression turned even bleaker. "No."
"But he knows what happened to you in New York. Don't tell me he still hasn't forgiven you for that other phone call?"
Sue shrugged but remained silent.
"Then I guess you'll be flying back on Monday, after all."
"No, I have an appointment with the Head of Counter-Terrorism after lunch."
"If, the interview goes my way..."
"Whoa, back up. So what you're telling me is Jackson Samuel Hudson has no problem with you working in the same building, just not in the same office?"
"That's about it."
"Well, that's very generous of him." She snorted sarcastically. "I hope he had a good reason."
Reflexively, Sue licked her lips. "He did, several as a matter-of-fact. I didn't get everything he was saying but it had something to do with the F.B.I. rules on fraternization."
"But they only apply to… You mean… You… He… You're..."
Sue couldn't keep up the pretence any longer and her face broke out into a huge grin.
"Yes! I want all the details… What did he say? What did you say? Did he kiss you? What was it like?"
"Sorry Luce," Sue apologised less than sincerely as she checked her watch. "I have to shower and change, he's picking me up in about half-an-hour."
"Your first real date," her eyes took on a dreamy look.
"It's only dinner..."
"Dinner today, tomorrow, who knows?"
Thirty minutes later the doorbell rang and Lucy rushed to answer it. "Jackson."
The rotor simply stood and stared at him with a satisfied smirk on her face.
"Is she ready?"
"I'll go and see." As she left, Levi came rushing over and when he looked up she was standing in front of him.
"Hi, yourself… I hope this is okay, I'm afraid I didn't bring much with me." She was wearing a pale blue v-neck sweater and a black skirt.
"It's fine. Are you ready?"
"Just about," she slipped on her jacket and picked up her purse from the table. "Luce, I might be late so don't wait up."
Jack opened the door and they walked out into the hallway hand-in-hand. "She will…" He grinned.
"So, where would you like to go?"
"How about the restaurant we went to with Randy and Hannah? That was a nice place."
"As long as you don't ask him to join us..."
"Party-pooper, I was hoping he'd entertain us with stories of his undercover work."
"Let's save that for another time, okay? Tonight I want you all to myself."
"…Could turn out to be a dull evening."
"Somehow, I seriously doubt that but I'm willing to take my chances."
o-xxx-o ~ The End ~ o-xxx-o