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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: My uncon ship tendencies are back! Yay!

by helsinkibaby

Kyle stands in the hallway, knocks at the door once again. There's no answer, as has been the case for the last five minutes, and he finds himself casting furtive glances up and down the hall, sure that at any moment security are going to come storming down the hall, alerted by some well-meaning neighbour who's worried about the strange man stalking that nice woman doctor.

His patience finally runs out, and he knocks once more on the door, this time with vocals. "Come on Diane, I know you're in there," he calls. "Open the door." Hearing how that sounds, he adds, "Please," as if that's going to do anything to placate her. He saw her in Sat Ops earlier on, saw the way that she was looking at him, and he knew how pissed off she was. He'd just spent the whole day hoping that it was the situation and not him. Now he's beginning to wonder.

His wondering stops when he hears her voice through the heavy wood. "I don't want to talk to you."

"Diane, I know you're upset..." he begins, and that seems to be all she needs to hear, because the door is yanked open, and Diane stands in front of him, in casual clothes that the briefest of glimpses tells him are worn for comfort, eyes red, curly hair standing up every which way, as if she's spent a long time running her fingers through it.

"Upset?" she grinds out, and he almost, almost, takes a step back. "Upset? Lethal force Kyle... lethal force. Against Jake. Jake!"

She throws her hands up on the last word, a danger sign if ever there was one, and  Kyle's known Diane for long enough to know that repetition is a very bad sign as well. He looks left and right again, wondering how many ears are pressed to doors, and considering what they're discussing, he takes his life into his own hands and asks the question, "Mind if I come in?"

The question knocks her off her stride, and she crosses her arms over her chest as she tries to regroup. "I'm not sure I want you to," she tells him, and he looks left and right again, does so pointedly.

"I'm not so sure the National Security Advisor would like us to discuss this where your neighbours can hear." He leans in to her, keeping his voice low, and he sees that knowledge settle in her eyes. She lets out a huffy sigh, steps back to let him in, and before she can change her mind, he steps past her, into the apartment.

His eyes flicker around the room, assessing everything, and he finds quickly that not much has changed since he's last been here. The couch, worn and comfortable as the clothes she's wearing, is still in the same place, crocheted throw--made by her mother--lying across the back. The television is still in the corner, bookshelves overflowing with books taking up every inch of wall space, and the coffee table is still littered with books and magazines. He knows that if he goes into her kitchen, it will still be neat as a new pin, a marked lack of junk food in the cupboards, is sure that her bedroom will likewise smell the same, something he can only categorise as flowers and spring and Diane.

"Did you come here for a reason?" Diane's voice--and if he thought she was pissed off when she opened the door, he now knows that he underestimated just how much--brings him back to reality and he turns to look at her, sees her still with her arms crossed. "Or are you just going to stand and stare?"

There are a hundred ways he could answer that question, and all of them will get him into trouble. So he doesn't point out how at odds this version of Diane is with the image that she projects at work every day. She's shed her ditzy scientist persona, is projecting an attitude that Lou would be proud of, one that even reminds him of Director Warner, much though Diane would kill him for thinking it.

Not that he's surprised at the change in demeanour. He's known for a long time that there's more to Diane than just the ditzy scientist.

"I know you're worried about Jake," he tries, knows it was the wrong thing to say when she looks heavenward and rolls her eyes. "I am too..."

"But you just stood there and let Lou give the shoot to kill order."

"What was I supposed to do Diane?" he demands. "She's my boss, and it's her call."

"It was the wrong call," Diane mutters, and she looks down at the floor when she speaks, scuffing her stockinged foot against the rug. Kyle follows her gaze, noting that it's a new rug, and he's about to comment on it when she speaks again. "Jake's not a danger, Kyle... you know that as well as I do."

Kyle sighs, runs a hand over his forehead. "You didn't see him on that bridge," he tells her, his stomach turning over at the memory. "He looked right into my eyes... and it was like he didn't even know me." He shakes his head, turns away from her towards the comforting familiarity of the apartment. "He didn't look like Jake... not the Jake we know anyway."

"You didn't see the readouts when he went missing." Diane's voice is loud, and Kyle can hear the hint of panic underlying it. "The readings were off the charts, who knows what they zapped him with?" She doesn't bother with the notion that Jake was working with Dumont; that's an idea for people like Skerritt and Warner to kick around, not them. "Who knows what effect would have had on the nanites?"

"And that's the problem," Kyle counters, spinning back to face her. "Who knows what those damn machines have done to him?"

Her eyes widen, and instantly, he wants to bite off his tongue. "I know what effect they've been having on Jake," she tells him, and he wants to tell her that that's not what he meant, but he doesn't get a chance, not with Diane in full flow. "I have monitored him every day since this whole thing started, I could tell you his vital signs without even looking at my records... you think if I had the slightest doubt about him that I'd let him anywhere near the field? What the hell-?"

"That's not what I meant!" He interrupts her with a shout, intending to shock her into silence, and from the look on her face, it works. Too late he remembers that he's never raised his voice to her, not once since he's known her. He takes a deep breath, reins in his temper, and when he speaks again, the volume is something more approaching normal. The intensity, however, hasn't abated one whit. "That's not what I meant, and you know it. But what if..." He breaks off, unsure of how to frame the question. "Most of us get into field work because it's what we want to do. We're tested, screened... we have to jump through hoops to be certified. Jake got into this by accident, had it forced on him. What if... what if this thing with Dumont was a bridge too far for his mind to handle?"

Diane's shaking her head, but you can see the doubt in her eyes. "No," she says, but she doesn't sound certain, one hand on her chin, eyes darting hither and yon as her mind works frantically to find the argument that will convince Kyle he's wrong. "No," she says again. "I don't believe that."

"And I don't want to. But it's a possibility."

She meets his gaze then, her eyes fearful, and the urge to go to her, to wrap his arms around her and pull her close, is so strong that it's actually painful. Maybe she sees that, because her gaze drops and she turns away from him, shoulders hunched, arms drawn around herself in an unmistakably protective gesture. "He has to be ok Kyle," she murmurs, and she's so quiet that he can barely hear her. "He has to be."

He takes a step towards her, checks himself. Any closer and he won't be able to stop himself from taking her in his arms, and that's not his place any more. It hasn't been for a long time. "I know you're close--" he begins, and she turns at that, her manner going from concerned to panicked in a matter of seconds.

"What's that supposed to mean?" she demands, and he hasn't got the faintest clue why she's reacting like this.

"That you're friends," he says, holding his hands up. "That you care about him--"

Her eyes blaze, and he knows he's just said the wrong thing. Again. "And what, you're jealous of that?" she demands, throwing her hands up. "Because you have no right to be." Despite the fact that it's true, or maybe because of it, the words sting, but not as much as her next words. "I wasn't the one who spent the entire time that we were together comparing me to Mei Ling Wong--"

"I never did--"

"Yes! You did, and don't try to deny it." Diane's cheeks are flushed pink, eyes sparkling with fury, and he can't believe that she's bringing this up now. She never has before, not in all the time they were together, nor even when they broke up, in what, he believes, might just be the most low-key break-up in the history of low-key break-ups. "You spent a year wishing that I was her... and we both know it."

Kyle shakes his head. "I never wished that." And he hadn't, not once. Because what he'd had with Mei Ling was fraught and dangerous and impossible. What he'd had with Diane was comfortable and easy and more right than he'd been able to realise at the time.

"Right." Diane's scepticism hangs between them, and she screws her eyes shut, shakes her head several times, rapidly, as if to clear it. "Look, I don't think you should be here... I mean, we don't need... we've been over for a long time, and besides, there's nothing like that between Jake and me, I'm his doctor, that's all..."

She's rambling, not looking at him and he can't take it any more. So he goes to her, puts both his hands on her shoulders. The effect is like an electric shock, silencing her, her eyes going wide, and she stares up at him like she's seeing him for the first time. "I wasn't implying that," he tells her. "And I wasn't jealous."

"Oh." The word sounds almost disappointed, and she looks down briefly before making a rapid recovery. Of course, if she hadn't recovered rapidly, she wouldn't be his Diane, and that's a train of thought that he derails as rapidly as possible.

She hasn't been his for a long time.

"Good," she says. "Because Jake and I are friends, and you and I are friends, and we're all friends, and it'd be just too weird if anyone thought that anything--"

"I understand." She smiles up at him, and he knows he should drop his hands, should put some distance between them.

He doesn't move.

"I'm just..." Her voice trails off and she looks towards the ceiling, shaking her head. "I mean, it's bad enough when the two of you are out in the field, and I'm standing in Sat Ops, listening to everything... but this... not knowing anything..." A shudder runs the length of her body, and Kyle frowns.

"You get that nervous?" Because that, at least, he'd never known about her, and he's stood beside her on occasion when Jake is in the field and she's given nothing away.

She smiles sheepishly up at him. "I'm a wreck," she confides. "There are times I can barely think, barely speak... I'm getting better though." The last is uttered proudly, chin up, and it makes him smile. It also makes him want to kiss her, but that's another thought he tries to forget. It's made easier when she continues, "It almost makes me feel guilty..." Her voice trails off and she looks away from him, her cheeks flushing with what he recognises as embarrassment. "Never mind."

He won't let her away with that though. "Guilty?" he questions, seeking out her eyes, and she sighs.

"When we were ... together..." she begins haltingly, one hand reaching out to finger the buttons of his shirt idly. "I knew you were frustrated at not being able to get out into the field... I knew how much you loved it. But I still spent every day thanking my lucky stars that you weren't... because I didn't know how I'd handle it if anything happened to you."

Kyle is momentarily speechless, lost in her eyes, and he only finds his voice when his hand moves down of its own volition, closing over hers on his chest. "I never knew that," he whispers, hardly able to recognise that hoarse voice as his own.

"You were never meant to." Her own voice is just as husky, and she looks up at him then, and he's suddenly very aware of how close they're standing, of the way they're standing.

He knows they shouldn't be doing this, not under any circumstances and especially not today, and he opens his mouth to tell her so. "Di... this is--" He stops talking when she smiles. "What?"

"Di... you haven't called me that in a long time."

He tilts his head, smiles in acknowledgement, because that was never a name for the workplace. That was what he called her during long walks around the city, lazy Sunday mornings in bed, nights slow dancing at some club. He was the only one who ever shortened her name, the only one she ever allowed to do so, and when he would call her so, her eyes would dance and her lips would smile, and he'd feel like the luckiest guy alive.

"There are a lot of things I haven't done in a long time," he tells her, the pads of his fingers tracing the back of her hand, and he still hasn't taken his eyes off hers. "I'm just not sure that--"

"Don't." One word, quiet and forceful and assured, from those lips has the power to stop him. "Because right now? I'm really, really scared. And I don't want logic, or sense, or reason... I just want you to hold me."

By the last, she's ready to cry, and to hell with all his arguments about why he shouldn't do what every instinct cries out at him to do. He wraps his arms around her, pulls her close to him so that her head rests on his shoulder, and her arms slide around his waist. He feels her gather fistfuls of his shirt, holding on tight, and tension radiates through her body, her spine like a drawn bow against his palms.

"It's going to be fine Di," he promises her. "We'll get him back."

"I know." A sniff follows the words, a drop of wetness hits his chest, and he tightens his grip just a little. "Will you stay with me tonight?" she asks then, and he doesn't hesitate.

"I'm not going anywhere."

Another sniff, a nod against his chest. "I'm still really mad at you," she informs him, and he would be more concerned at the words, were they not muffled by his shirt as she presses herself ever closer against him. "This doesn't change anything."

"Yeah," he breathes, closing his eyes as he rests his head against her hair, breathes in. The familiar fragrance of her shampoo envelopes him like a blanket, and when he runs a hand over her hair, lets his fingers get tangled up in those curls, they are as silky smooth as he remembered. "I know that."

Just like he knows that he's lying to her.

Because standing here, with her like this?

It changes everything.