Category: Jake 2.0, Jake/Diane friendship/UST
Spoilers: post-ep for "Last Man Standing"
Summary: He needs to know why she's there.
Author's Note: I've never written for this fandom before, eek! For angel_grace. My DVR totally ATE this episode, and I am in mourning, but she is sending me TiVo-DVDs so I am her fanfic slave for the month. Send me your next challenge, dahling!
It feels like the nanites are on overdrive.
That's to be expected, maybe, because he just came back from the dead, because he survived this year's bout with public speaking, because he's dancing with Diane.
He shouldn't panic, because it's Diane, and stepping on her feet -- it's inevitable, and he knows it -- is hardly the worst thing she's ever seen him do.
Her hand is just touching his neck, like she's still checking his pulse if she can't check her JMD, and he leans closer to her and wonders if it's the newly rebooted nanites that make him able to smell her skin this clearly, or if it's just that he's never this close. To her.
He feels the need to say something, before he steps on her toes or accidentally crushes her or tells her that he was never so scared in his entire life, and he has no idea how to thank her.
"So," he asks, "Good toast?"
"The best." Diane sniffles once and pulls her head back, but doesn't quite meet his eyes. She smiles self-consciously over his shoulder, and if he pays close enough attention to the points of contact between them, he can feel how fast her pulse is fluttering. "I don't know what you were so worried about."
This is their second dance, the first cut short when Diane's heel came loose from her shoe -- a strappy sandal not meant to survive its owner dragging a grown man through a hotel or performing emergency CPR. Jake caught her from falling with pure dumb luck -- a reflexive grab for her arms when she shrieked and started to fall toward the drinks table -- and then stood around uselessly while Diane assured the bride's mother and everyone else that she was fine, just a little mortified, nothing to worry about.
"Yeah, uh, Kevin -- the, uh, groom -- thinks you wrote the speech for me."
Diane winces. "A poet and a klutz. Thanks for... yeah, the champagne fountain, that would have been bad."
He smirks. "So I guess we're even, then."
She pokes at his shoulder. "Not even close."
She's in stocking feet now that her shoes have fallen apart, and he notices she's standing on tiptoes, and her eyes-
She looks different without glasses. Really different, and with whatever she did to her hair, and the dress, and-
"Jake," she whispers, and his throat feels strange. Not death-by-nanites-strange, just...
Oh God, he thinks, she's going to kiss me, and he has no idea where the thought came from (the dance floor, the wedding, the life-saving aside), but he's not breathing, and he doesn't even have time to think if this is good or bad or incredible before she leans up and says, "I wish I didn't have to, but... I need to check on the nanites."
He sighs, and isn't sure if he's relieved or... well, it's probably best he just go with relieved, and a little annoyed. "Di-ane. I'm fine. You said I'm fine."
She shoots him a look, and suddenly, glasses or lab coat or otherwise, she looks exactly the same as she always has, if a little more frustrated. "Jake, this isn't exactly a proven science."
"That's reassuring, thank you." He probably doesn't have to sound so snarky, but the nanites aren't high on his list of favorite accessories at the moment.
Diane looks away, busying herself with her purse. He can tell her shoulders are tight. She's high-strung most of the time, and probably always has tense shoulders, but this is the first time he's been able to... well... see those particular muscles, without lab coats and normal clothing in the way. "Don't worry, Jake. I'll be subtle. You don't have to stand here while I do this -- you can say hi to your friends and I'll just... I'll yell if there's a problem."
He actually sort of forgot he had friends here, and those he hasn't seen in years, no less. This happens to him -- high school dances, the occasional bar scene, and, more recently, coffee with Sarah. When women actually give him the time of day, he has the bad -- and often embarrassing -- habit of losing track of time, place, and occasionally his name and address. "Social amnesia," his old roommate called it, and he's sure Diane would have an even more scientific analysis for it if he asked her... or she'd just make fun of him for it, like pretty much everyone else in the world.
He shouldn't feel like this around Diane, though, social-amnesiac and nervous like she's... a woman, and pretty, and actually his date. She's not like other women, because she's his doctor, and his coworker, and they know each other only through the most bizarre of circumstances. Diane knows more about what goes on inside of him on a cellular level than, well, he ever thought anyone would need to know in a million years.
No other woman has ever brought him back from the dead before, either. He doesn't know what to feel about that.
"Diane, I'm fine," he repeats, but he knows her body language well enough to tell she isn't listening. She absently scratches behind her ear, loosening her immaculate hairstyle, and he wonders if her heart's still beating fast.
"Uh-huh," she says. "Jake, are you-?"
He can see the spike on the screen over her shoulder as soon as he nano-hears her heartbeat, still short and quick. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Normally, he knows better than to cheat when she's actually looking. "Yeah, I was just..." he waves a hand toward the tent ceiling. "Just a bird. Nothing to worry about. You want a drink? I'm gonna swing by the bar..."
She scrutinizes him for a second like they're in her lab, then smiles and touches his hand. Her fingers squeeze his with surprising strength. "Yeah, I think I could use something. I'll just be... over here. Have fun."
His chest feels weird, and he doesn't know why. If something was wrong, nanite-wise, Diane would tell him. Wouldn't she?
He'd never do this in Sat Ops or her lab or even his apartment on their occasional movie nights, but he brushes a loose strand of hair behind her ear and grins at the way it springs up into a curl.
She looks startled, and he pulls his hand back.
That drink. Right. Good idea.
Diane is lost again in nanite-readout-mode, so it's kind of unnecessary for him to tell her: "You... have fun, too."
His second wind -- his post-near-death-experience second wind -- hits while he's at the bar, and he ends up dancing with Sarah after all, and Jenny, and Jenny's cousin who he's met exactly once before, and completely forgets to bring Diane her drink.
"You're full of energy," Sarah observes, grabbing his elbow after he leaves Jenny's cousin at her seat. Sarah still looks a little upset with him, and Jake saw another guy -- someone he doesn't know, but who most likely is not a figment of dysfunctional nanites -- hitting on her over by the champagne fountain. He's surprised to find that he doesn't really mind, and figures that's a result of the euphoria of, well, not being dead. There's plenty of time for everything, for Sarah and love and happy-ever-afters, so long as he's alive and feeling like he's just had eighteen cups of coffee.
Sarah tosses a glance back toward the champagne fountain, and asks, "That glad to be done with your toast? When you missed the reception line, I figured you weren't coming back."
"Yeah, yeah," Jake shrugs and resists the urge to bounce up and down. Standing still feels too restrictive, and he contemplates ducking out for a quick run, dress shoes and all. "It's just great, isn't it? I mean, Kevin and Jenny?"
Sarah looks bemused. "Yeah, it's great, Jake. Really kind of... meant to be." She pauses, maybe waiting for him to say something, and then prompts, "So... where's your date?"
He finds Diane at one of the tables farthest from the dance floor, head propped up on her hands as she stares down at the JMD -- camouflaged in a pile of cocktail napkins -- and looking about the opposite of how energized he feels.
"Hey, you okay?"
Diane starts and then yawns. "Jake! I'm fine."
"You look exhausted."
She smiles sheepishly. "I didn't... really sleep that well on the plane out here. I'm going to go find a motel pretty soon."
"You can't just stay here?"
"Yeah, well, there's this wedding going on... and the last empty room, you kind of... well, they're still fixing the door, according to the concierge. They're probably going to fine you."
A fine from a Seattle lodge is truly the least of his problems. "That's silly -- you can't go find somewhere else at this time of night."
He can't explain the rush of panic that goes through him at that thought -- Diane, at the mercy of the mean streets and motels of Seattle.
Or maybe, just maybe, he's not quite ready to let her out of nano-hearing range. He almost died. A little neediness should be understandable. Normal. Totally befitting of a technology-enhanced secret agent.
"There's somewhere right down the road," she's saying, "I saw it on the way in-"
"Why don't you stay with me?"
Diane's eyes widen, and Jake's stomach turns over, and again, it's like she's someone other than Diane, nanotechnology handler and completely platonic coworker. He stammers, "I mean, there's a couch, and you did fly all the way out here, and saved my-"
Diane cuts him off with nothing but a stern look as another wedding guest bumps into him, and he doesn't finish his sentence. He's never going to get good at this classified stuff.
"Are you sure you won't mind? Because I'm really about to drop dead on my feet here and a couch would be... really, really great right about now."
Jake can't quite hide his relief. "What, you think I'm not going to let you have the bed? I'm sleeping on the couch."
"Oh, nonono. You have had..." she pauses, looks around, and finishes, "a worse day than I have. And it's your room."
"Flip a coin?"
There's something so endearing about Diane, sleepy and arguing and letting him do something for her -- even if it's just the couch -- that he can't put up more of a fight.
She saved his life, and his sanity, and he never even asked. How the hell did he get this lucky?
"Come on," he says, picking up her broken shoes, and his heart jumps unexpectedly as he holds out a hand to help her up.
She takes it.
"I'm really glad you're okay, Jake," she whispers.
For a terrifying second, he thinks she's going to cry, and that -- well, that's worrying, after everything that has happened.
"I am, right? Okay?"
Diane nods. "Yeah. You're fine. Completely. I'll want to do some more tests when we get back, but... you're fine, Jake."
He almost died, but from the look on her face, he wonders if her day was worse, after all.
He can't stop thinking about it.
Diane spends half an hour in the shower when they return to the hotel room, and then orders him to bed, citing that he needs sleep no matter how wired he feels.
When he protests, she launches into full-on lecture mode, the nanites-aren't-a-replacement-for-good-he
He almost died. She always says that the nanites are unproven technology, and dangerous, but he felt fine and never really...
He's too young to die. Not to mention -- he can leap medium-sized obstacles in a single bound, and that should count for something in the invincibility department. Once he started to settle into this, he figured he was home free. Danger was from out there, from enemies of the state and rogue agents and hackers gone insane, and the nanites were what saved him.
He always thought Diane worried too much. Told her that all the time, actually.
He doesn't even want to think about what would have happened if she wasn't here. Not just dying, but dying like that, terrified and paralyzed and completely alone...
It's dark, but one mental flick of the nanites -- the helpful, deadly, suddenly scary-as-all-hell nanites -- and he can see her. Diane's hand is flung over the arm of the couch and her face is scrunched into the pillow he lent her. He doesn't know how he expected her to look in her sleep. He never really thought about it.
He thinks about the man -- not-man, hallucination, whatever he was -- who tried to kill him, and hopes to God that was just a fantasy. This time the danger was inside him, but just like Lou warned before he came out here, something like that could really happen. As long as he has this technology in him -- and, as he understands it, he's already married to that for life -- he's in danger.
Diane turns over, flinging her blanket away, and her throat is exposed and pale and vulnerable, and he can't stop thinking about it, about her, about his assassin, about Lou and the nanites and him.
She came all the way to Seattle for him, and he can't help the dark, scary thought: how much farther would she go? If the assassin had been real in that basement room, with Diane so determined to save him-
Diane gasps once, snuffles into her pillow, and then props herself up on her elbow, rubbing her eyes.
He considers pretending to be asleep, but he's sitting up, so that probably won't work.
"Are you okay?"
"You saved me."
Without nanotechnology, he couldn't have seen her flush. "You... you saved yourself. I just... pushed the button. Oh, no, Jake, are you freaking out?"
Not the most diplomatic way of asking, maybe, but it's the middle of the night.
"Because that would be totally normal, don't worry," she continues, digging around in the dark for the JMD. "I should have thought of that, but you seemed... do you need something? Water?"
"Why did you come here, Diane?"
"Your vitals look okay... you're not having chest pain, are you?"
She sits up. After a moment, she curls her knees up to her chin. "I had... reason to suspect something might happen. I needed to be here, just in case. I'm really glad I was, even though you probably... you probably thought I was crazy, just showing up-"
"Does Lou know?"
There's a long pause. "No."
Diane is protecting him, from the NSA as well as the nanites. Funny; when he pictured being a secret agent, he always figured he'd be the one doing the protecting.
"You could have told me what was going on over the phone. You didn't have to come all the way here."
He did think she was crazy, showing up at his door, but it almost made a weird kind of sense, because it's Diane. She does that -- turns up when he least expects it. Her face is the first thing he remembers after the accident, waving penlights around and trying to sound reassuring, and since then... she's always been there.
Diane rubs her nose. "I didn't want... to spoil your weekend, if it was nothing. The nanites have given you enough trouble for one lifetime."
"That's not your fault, though."
Diane doesn't say anything for a long time, and even with nano-hearing, he can't tell if she's even breathing.
The housewarming gift. The late-night talks in her lab, about everything that is and isn't important. The phone calls, the reassurances, dancing with him, the smell of her skin-
He never thought about it before, but he doesn't know if he could stand it if the only reason she's here is because she thinks this is her fault. Because she feels responsible for him, and for what he's become, because she was a post-doc for the wrong scientist and now his life is completely out of control.
Because she feels guilty.
"It's not your fault," he repeats urgently, crawling to the foot of the bed to be closer to her. "You can't take responsibility for-"
Her breath comes out in a rush. "I care about you, Jake." She starts scrubbing at her nose with one hand. "You didn't ask for any of this, and if something happens -- to you -- all the way out here, or on a mission, and I can't figure out how to stop it..."
"Woah, woah." His own existential crisis disappears, and he's on the couch next to her before he realizes it. "You saved my life."
"This time." She covers her face with her hands. "But this technology... it's a completely new field, and sometimes... Oh, God. I shouldn't be telling you this."
He laughs, weakly. He's pretty sure that freaking out isn't going to help. "Who else can you tell?"
"I'm so sorry, Jake."
She sounds so miserable that he can't help it. The usual NSA distance and twenty-five years of being paralyzed around women, other women, not-Diane women is all gone in a flash, and he pulls her into a hug.
She tenses, but only for a second, and then she's in his arms and hugging him for all she's worth, and when she gasps in a single sob against his chest, he starts to feel something entirely different than he's ever felt before.
"Hey," he says, cupping the back of her head. "We're in this together, right?"
That's usually her line.
Diane half-laughs into his shoulder. "Yeah. I'm sure you really would have volunteered for this. Near-death experiences and everything."
"Okay, maybe not." His heart is pounding, and he's pretty sure she can hear it, even though he's the one with enhanced senses. "But I do get to do some pretty cool tricks."
She pulls back and touches one hand to his cheek. It shouldn't feel so surprisingly intimate, maybe, after she killed him and brought him back to life, but it does. "Can you ever forgive me?"
He could kiss her. Right then, right there, and it would feel like the most normal, necessary thing in the world. He needs her, has needed her in just about every possible way since this all happened, but this...
This is new, and weird, and it surprises him enough to stop.
They can't do this just because they're tired and emotional and three thousand miles away from Ft. Meade, not when she's feeling guilty and he's feeling...
He has no idea what he's feeling. That's probably a bad sign.
Not when it's Diane, and he needs her.
She smiles nervously and squeezes her shoulders up to her ears. "So... can you?"
"I never blamed you, Diane."
She makes a face. "Not even a little?"
"Yeah. Okay, maybe. But... just the first day."
She barks out a harsh laugh. "Oh, that's all."
He grins at her, hoping the smile will be contagious. "Yeah. Since then... I mean, you took the red-eye for me."
She yields with a smirk. "Yes, I did. Layover in Cincinnati, too."
"See? Totally even." He kisses the top of her forehead, and that feeling is still there, the one that makes him want to protect her and cheer her up and just... keep her close by. "You should get some sleep."
"Look who's talking."
"Pay-per-view?" he offers, because Diane kicked the channel guide off the end table in her sleep and it's lying on the floor between them.
"Come on! That's where men prove their... manliness!"
"It's so fake!"
"You just don't understand."
She grins, and this feels normal. Their normal, the weird friendship-with-nanites normal that's just not quite like any of his other friendships.
"No boxing either."
"But that's the point of pay-per-view!"
Diane crawls onto the bed to watch the TV with him -- not wrestling or boxing -- and she falls asleep before he even figures out the legal, morally sound, non-nanotechnology way to order the movie.
He feels... good. Safe, like whatever crazy things within him and without him waiting for the kill will just... wait until some other day, and for right now, he doesn't have to worry.
"Thank you," he says in a whisper, to keep from waking her. He'll say it again, sometime when she's awake, but it feels important to say it now.
They're definitely not even, but someday, he'll figure out a way to make it up to her.