Disclaimer: jake 2.0 and all related elements, characters and indicia © Roundtable Entertainment and Viacom Productions, Inc., 2003. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations-save those created by the authors for use solely on this website-are copyright Roundtable Entertainment and Viacom Productions, Inc.
Author's note: The title comes from Dashboard Confessional's "As Lovers Go", which I listened to almost nonstop while writing this. No, the song has nothing in particular to do with the story. Yes, I am a dork.
The cavalry was waiting on the pier in the form of twenty-odd NSA agents with black suits, drawn guns, and cautious expressions as Jake steered the boat into port. Diane stood ready to exit the boat, her arms crossed and her face tense.
"Sorry, guys," Jake called to the agents. "I took care of him." He picked up the still-unconscious Steve by the back of his jacket and heaved them both out of the boat. Then still dragging Steve like a kitten, he trotted down the length of the pier while everyone else followed.
"Was he the only guy?" Kyle said, falling into step behind Jake.
"Yep. Nobody here but us chickens." Jake dropped Steve unceremoniously on the ground at the end of the pier. The earth was still wet from a recent rain, and Steve made a satisfying splat as he plopped in the mud. Everyone gathered around him.
"And one lying, two-faced, traitorous pig," Diane spat. She was still resplendent in her evening attire for her botched date with Steve, but her face was very pale and she kept biting her lips.
Jake rubbed the back of his neck. "Hey, throw in a couple of cows, maybe a duck..."
"Damn, you already took out the one guy?" The young agent to Kyle's left looked disappointed. "I was hoping we would see some action tonight."Kyle shot him a murderous look. "You'd better be joking."
"He's right. That's like the spoken equivalent of wearing a red shirt on the original Star Trek."
All nearby heads swiveled slowly to stare at Jake.
"Come on. Red shirts? Redshirts? Come on! Star Trek! Ensigns! Death!"
They continued to stare. The corner of Kyle's mouth twitched.
Jake sighed. "No one gets my humor."
"That's okay. You can tell it to Lou later. She might even smile," Kyle said.
"Don't patronize me, Kyle."
"But it's so much fun."
"Why don't you go away and be useful? Rescue kittens or something?"
"I am going to search the boat. Clemens could have left information about his buyers or the nanite project on board." Kyle drew his gun. "Or he could have a stowaway in an ice chest somewhere. Let's go, guys."
The overeager young agent let out a whoop, which he turned into a cough as Kyle glanced at him.
"Want me to come with?" Jake said.
Kyle shook his head. "Call Lou and tell her we've got Clemens in custody. And take Diane back to the car. There's a bottle of water under the front seat."
Diane raked her fingers through her hair and sucked in a ragged breath. "Got any whiskey instead?"
Kyle didn't even crack a smile. "There's a bottle of Jack in the trunk. I thought it might come in handy."
* * *
Three inches of amber liquid disappeared down Diane's throat before Jake reached out and firmly took the bottle away from her.
"Hey! That's mine!"
"It's not going to do much good if I save you from bad guys just to have you die from alcohol poisoning." They were sitting on the hood of Kyle's car while a pack of agents apparently intent on dissecting the boat into toothpicks worked the vessel over from top to bottom. Jake dropped the whiskey into the still-open trunk and slammed the trunk shut.
"Bad guy. Singular. Steve." Diane's face was flushed and her eyes were red, though she hadn't yet cried. Some of her hair had worked itself loose and hung over her face in sad, limp coils. Jake wanted to reach out and brush them back from her eyes. "God, I'm so stupid. What kind of guy would be interested in me but some lowlife black-market technology arms dealer?" Diane rubbed her eyes with one hand, leaving a thick streak of mascara across her thumb. She licked the fingers of her opposite hand and tried to scrub off the smear, but she only smudged it further.
"Diane, that's not true and you know it." Jake leaned through the car's open front window and snagged a bottle of water from under the seat. Opening the bottle, he pulled a crumpled McDonald's napkin from his pocket and soaked it. "Come on, give me your hand." He dropped the closed bottle back through the window, took Diane's smudged hand, and proceeded to scrub it clean while he talked. "Steve was just a jerk. You couldn't have known he wasn't legit; all his credentials checked out. It's not your fault that he used you. He's going to jail for a really long time, and you'll meet someone else. Someone who'll be nice to you, and be honest with you, andoh, crap!" He dropped Diane's hand and the napkin.
"What is it?"
"I forgot to call Lou and tell her that you're okay." Jake fished out his cell phone and hit the speed-dial for Lou's number. "She must be freaking out."
The phone clicked. "Beckett here. What's going on, Jake?" If Lou was indeed freaking out, her cool voice over the line didn't show it.
"We're still at the pier in Virginia. Diane's okay. We've got Clemens. He was trying to take her away on a boat, but I got to them in time. Kyle and the rest of the team are searching the boat now."
"Kyle called me a few minutes ago about the search and gave me an overview of the entire situation."
"Oh. Right. Sorry about that." Jake glanced guiltily at Diane, who was trying to pick the car's trunk lock with a piece of twisted wire scavenged from the ground. "Diane, stop that! Lou, sorry."
"Kyle's going to remain onsite and direct the search until a forensic team arrives. That could take some time, so unless Kyle needs you, I want you to go home with Diane. It's been a long day."
"I'll drop her off at her apartment on my way back."
"No. I want you to spend the night with her."
Jake's stomach lurched curiously. "Oh. Um. What?"
"We know Clemens wasn't acting alone, but we don't know the extent of it." Despite her cool, Lou was beginning to sound tired. "I don't want one of his business partners pouncing on her at home alone for their own shot at the prize money. I'll have an escort meet both of you. They'll keep watch tonight outside her building, and you'll be in her apartment. Tell Diane you can both make a report in the morning."
"Right. Yes. That sounds logical."
"Good job tonight, Jake. See you in the morning."
"Goodnight, Lou." A stray thought struck Jake. "Hey, Lou? Did you ever watch Star Trek?"
He heard Lou make an amused sound. "Only the one with Uhura. Goodnight, Jake." The phone disconnection clicked in his ear.
* * *
From the pier, Kyle caught Jake's eye and motioned to him. Another agent was speaking to Kyle in low tones, but Kyle shook his head and waved him away as Jake approached. "Did you talk to Lou?" Kyle asked.
"Eventually. Sorry about that."
"She fill you in? I'm going to stick around, keep an eye on things."
"Yeah. She wants me to stay over at Diane's tonight, just in case Clemens' people try anything."
"Good deal." Kyle looked around in annoyance. "Forensics is taking their own sweet time to get here."
"I'll call to get a pizza delivered to you on my way in."
"No can do. Security. But thanks anyway. How's Diane doing?"
Diane had given up trying to open the car trunk and was now sitting on it, staring blankly into space with her arms crossed tightly across her chest.
"She's all liquored up, if that's what you were trying to do. But she seems okay. I think she wants to scoop out Steve's eyes with a spork, though."
"Sounds like a plan to me." Kyle cast a disdainful glance back at the lump of Steve, still crumpled in the mud and surrounded by armed guards. "He's been out cold. Not a mark on him otherwise, though. This is Diane we're talking about. The least you could have done was rough him up a little."
"I think I might've broken his wrist."
"Agent Duarte!" One of Clemens' guards was now bent over the man, his weapon still at the ready. He looked up. "I think the guy's coming around."
Steve moaned as Jake and Kyle approached. He was still lying facedown in the mud, and the muffling of the earth made him sound like a sick cow. He touched his head with his left hand as he started to prop himself up with his rightthen shrieked in pain and collapsed back to the ground, rolling and clutching his right wrist. "My arm! Dammit, you broke my arm!"
"Good man," Kyle said, slapping Jake on the back.
An agent pulled Steve to his feet by his left arm, getting another pained shriek from the man and then yet another as Steve's arms were pulled behind him and handcuffed. Two more stocky agents with grim expressions and expertly held guns materialized on either side of Steve.
Steve caught sight of an amused Jake watching him and his face twisted in hatred. "Foley," he snarled. "You're part of this, aren't you? Youthe nanotechnologyyou're one of the super-soldiers they're building, aren't you!"
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Stevie," Jake said. "Maybe you fell and hit your head a little harder than I thought."
"Move," one of the agents barked, and they all started toward the cars, pushing Steve roughly ahead of them.
Kyle moved into their line of procession as they passed. "Steve Clemens, you are under arrest for murder," he said formally. "Also for theft, assaulting a federal officer, impersonating a federal officer, misuse of NSA resources, kidnapping, littering, and whatever other charges I can make stick to your slimeball hide. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you do say can and will be"
Like an attacking falcon, Diane stormed past Kyle to stand directly in front of Steve. Her mouth was a tight line, and her eyes were blazing. Kyle retreated to stand beside Jake, and Steve flinched instinctively. But Steve was a professional charmer. Even covered in an inch of mud with his hands cuffed behind his back, he managed to look innocently contrite. "Listen, Diane, I'm sorry about all this," he said, his tone soothing. "I really do like you, and I can explain"
Steve was cut off abruptly as Diane's fist connected with his jaw, snapping his head back. He staggered in the iron grip of the agents holding him and spat blood on the ground from biting the edge of his tongue.
"You bastard," Diane hissed at him. Her fists were balled and white-knuckled. "You absolute jackass. You're a traitor, and a liar, and you're going to jail, and the last time you'll know the touch of a woman is me kicking you in the balls!"
Diane took a step back, presumably to carry out her threat, but Steve's captors chose this moment to remember the Geneva Convention and hastily dragged their prisoner toward one of the waiting cars. There was a ripple of laughter and applause from the surrounding agents. Diane shook herself all over, like a dog after a bath, and stalked back to Kyle and Jake.
Kyle was gazing at her in open admiration. "Have you ever thought about becoming a field agent?"
"The stuffed animals he gave me were ugly," Diane snapped. Her glare dared either of them to disagree. Kyle looked helplessly at Jake.
"Yeah, they were pretty ugly," Jake said in as neutral a tone as he could muster.
At this Diane's expression crumpled, and she stumbled forward to bury her face in Jake's shoulder. His body shook with the force of her fierce, racking sobs.
Jake and Kyle glanced at each other in silent sympathy. Kyle reached forward and squeezed Diane's shoulder. "You take care of yourself, Diane. I'm glad you're okay. Jake, take her home. It's been a long night."
Kyle turned and followed Steve's escort. Jake wrapped his arms around Diane and held her as she clung to him, alternately sobbing and swearing at Steve with as many colorful names in English and apparently Italian as Jake had ever heard. She felt small and light in his arms, and Jake had a brief flash of paranoia about crushing her. He had to be careful with the nanites, those strange and wonderful quirks of science. Clicks. Pings. Software reloads. Chemical reactions. Surely they were the cause of this unfamiliar ache in his chest.
Eventually Diane's sobbing quieted, and she relinquished her death grip on his jacket and looked up. "I'm sorry. Sorry." Her face was blotchy and streaked with tears and mascara, and some of her lipstick had smeared onto her nose. The ache twisted at him a little more. "I got snot all over you."
"That's okay. I have other jackets. I'm going to take you home now." Jake pulled another McDonald's napkin from his pocket and offered it to her. "Want to come over to my place this weekend for Boggle?"
"Sure." Diane sniffled and wiped at her nose and raccoon-eyes with the wrinkled napkin. "Just as soon as I start my crazy old cat lady spinster training and buy seventeen white Persians." She forced a laugh.
"And name them all 'Mister Fluffykins'?"
"Got it in one."
"Even the girl cats?"
They started back to the car.