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Author's note: This was written for Voleuse as part of the Jake 2.0 ficathon. Feedback is greatly appreciated. Do not archive or distribute this story without my permission.

The Lock
by Peregrine

Part One: Aftermath (Jake)


Early morning

It's 7AM, and SatOps is devoid of activity. No suits are hanging over me and no one's making any demands. I should be ecstatic, jubilant, or some other catch phrase that escapes me, but I'm mostly brain dead.

Industrial strength coffee barely makes a dent in my morning stupor as I pore over some documents that need cross-checking and correct information in the SatOps database. My fingers tap away absently and think about my current status: grounded until further notice and assigned to SatOps to help Agent Carver catch up on her backlog of interference reports.

They yanked my clearance, so I'm not authorized to work on anything higher than confidential, and I'm not allowed to approach the Med Lab unless I'm scheduled for testing. The list of thou shalt not far exceeds what I can do: work, shit, and eat. So I'm here for God knows how long (Kyle says it's temporary) and figure that if they reinstate me, they'll send me on permanent travel...away from Diane and everything I care about.

I ask myself why I'm being punished for something that was totally beyond my control and then I see Warner's face and it all becomes crystal. The I.I.C. (Idiots in Charge) want nothing more than taking me down a peg or two, and what better way than to kick me upstairs?

The longer I stay here, the more likely it becomes that they'll hustle me off to some backwater post that nobody wants. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Or maybe they'll send me straight into a war zone where it's highly likely that I'll never come out alive. Good way to end the saga of Jake Foley and save the taxpayers millions of dollars in development costs. Diane and Fran will be out on the street and Lou and Kyle will return to normal operations without nanites or insubordination or mad hackers on the loose.

I might be surrounded by a sea of idiots, but I'm not about to let them drown me, and neither is Diane...damn, I should leave her out of this, but I know she's committed to the cause. Every minute that I was gone, she was out there lobbying for me, yelling in their faces and throwing chairs (Kyle passed along that tidbit), working far into the night to come up with an antidote. Even at my lowest, part of me knew I could trust her, and when the robbery went down, I remembered her pleading with me, asking me if I wanted my life back. As fists flew and legs kicked out, I pictured her face in front of me, sodden with tears and a hint of grief at what I had become, and I couldn't live with that, so I made a choice.

I did it for her, not for me. Maybe I'm not cut out to be a criminal, or even a fighter, but at least I was free to come and go as I pleased, with no one dictating my actions or planning my agenda. Was it worth it? Maybe. Do I regret it? Absolutely. In that life, Diane and I could be together. In this life, that will never happen. But hey, a guy can fantasize, and that's what gets me through the day and fills my dreams with the only slice of light in my otherwise dreary existence.

We haven't seen each other since that day in the Lab, but she's always on my mind. I sent her a dozen e-mails that have gone unanswered and left voice messages that are never returned. The silence is killing me, so I can only imagine what it's doing to her... my best friend. Yeah, she's all that and more, and I can barely wrap my mind around the constant churn of emotions that bounce around my head while I pretend to work. As long as I keep busy, they usually leave me alone. On a few occasions, I've felt Valerie Warner's evil eye boring through me as she sweeps through the area, but Skerritt and Jennings have better things to do than check up on a lowly tech agent. And what if they did? What would I tell them, that I'm spending every waking moment reliving that know, The KissTM, with all its slo-mo special effects and fireworks and eyes glazed heavy with passion...yeah, that one. The one I can't forget. The one that follows me everywhere, dogging me even as I toss and turn in my sweat-drenched sheets. The one that started as a hug and ended with us almost knocking boots in my crappy hole in the boarding house.

This... whatever it is between us... it's complicated. There are too many rules binding us into tight little knots, and there is far too much interest in my every move. It goes beyond Kyle and Lou and pushes past the doors of Crypto City and snakes to every covert group, undesignated black program, and military nutcase with money to burn. They know what I am and they know what I can do. I'm a line item on someone's balance sheet with a special charge number assigned to Jake Foley.

Ain't that sweet? They pay me to parse reports and put the country further into debt. No wonder we're turning into a third rate world power. Anyway, I figure if I'm stuck working here, I might as well invent my own Jake movie, with me as the unlikely star and Diane as the femme fatale who saved me from myself. It's so easy to fall into my reverie while I fill in the blanks, reliving that delicious moment when I receive the kiss that kills. The kiss that kills is every geek's dream. The media shoves it down our throats, so even though we diss all the romance, we secretly dream about the day when it happens to us. Diane and I have discussed this endlessly after countless reruns of Some Kind of Wonderful. It's not a typical guy movie, but I do kind of relate to the nerdy guy Keith who gets the girl that he deserves instead of the girl he thinks he wants. It's so much like my own life that it's scary, but I always laugh that off when Diane brings it up, because admitting something like that is social suicide, especially when the girl that you deserve is sitting right in front of you with one of those expectant looks on her face. I start to think that maybe Keith and I aren't so different, that now more than ever, that movie has become my life.

And of course, that begs the question of who am I really? Am I the geek that tries to save the world or am I the ass-kicking hacker with a bad attitude? Was I the guy that made the moves on Diane or was that some weird personality in an alternate universe? I sip at my coffee and start thinking that my alter ego's life seems ripped from the pages of a Harlequin romance or someone's private stash of bad fanfic.

I love him... Jake. He's my best friend.

Diane had the courage to come forward; now I need to return the favor. With that in mind, I check my watch and realize that I'm due in the lab for my weekly workup, complete with needles and all the usual bullshit. None of that fazes me, because there's always a chance I might see Diane, and that is enough to make my entire week.



Fran runs my tests now. She's perfectly competent, but she's not Diane, nor does she try to replace her. Forever serious, she's the model of efficiency and usually gets me in and out of the lab in record time. Trouble is, I want to be here, hanging with the rats and cracking bad jokes with my favorite gal pal.

"Where's Diane?" I ask lightly, wincing when the needle nearly runs me through (shots are not Fran's forte) and scanning the lab with my eyes and ears on full nanite alert.

"Picking up supplies," Fran explains, removing the tourniquet and folding it neatly into a drawer.

"How's she doing?" I ask casually.

"She's...not so great."

"Sorry to hear that."

Fran lowered her voice. "I know she misses you...a lot."

I'm sure she hears my heavy sigh but she lets it pass. "Yeah," is all I manage to say, watching her sign her report and head out the door without saying another word. I suck at relationships. I never seem to find the right words or make the right gesture, so I fall on my face every time. You'd think it would be different with Diane, who knows me better than anyone, but I'm just as fucked up as I always am, stumbling over my words and sweating like the hopeless case that I am. And even with all that, I manage to find my way back into the wrinkled stripes of my button-down shirt at the exact moment that Diane rounds the corner, arms full of test tubes and lab samples.

Her mouth opens in dismay as her load slips from her suddenly nerveless fingers. "J-Jake," she stammers, hands flying to her face as I dive to the rescue, saving her load and feeling like the hero of the nanosecond.

"Here you are, milady." With a courtly bow, I pass her the goods and accidentally brush my hand against hers.

Diane smiles nervously and I hear the vials shaking as she places them down on the lab bench. "Thanks."


I smile back and for a second, we share one of those perfect moments that appear in all the Kodak commercials and I can almost hear the sickly sweet music rolling in the background while we exchange gooey smiles and flash our Osmond white teeth. But the second passes when her beeper goes off and she stares down at its display with obvious alarm. "You have to leave."

"What's wrong?"

Diane pushes me toward the exit. "They can't find you in here."

My mouth opens in protest. "Why not? I'm here for my weekly lab tests."

She starts pulling on my arm. "And now you're done, so please go."

I start to say that no one's coming but voices intrude from the distant corridor. "It's Warner and Lou, but how did you know they were on their way?"

Diane tugs at my sleeve but I refuse to budge. "Fran paged me when they passed the Test Verification lab."

The voices grow louder and coalesce into Kyle and Lou arguing with Warner. "We're too late," I exclaim, ducking behind a bench when they push through the far door.

"Not quite," she counters, yanking on my arm and dragging me out to the hall with preternatural strength.

"Where are we going?"

She stumbles slightly and I catch her with my free hand. "There," she says, pointing at the bathroom door... with the lock. " C'mon."

I lope by her side, hardly noticing the walls when I bounce off them and project myself through the bathroom door, feet skidding on the bathroom tile as I smash into the sink with a bone-crushing thud and a major hit to the nuts.

Bathroom with the Lock

MedLab Hallway

The pain is worse than any of the needles they jab up my butt. With a whimper, I slide to the floor and cradle my head in my hands. Diane kneels down and touches my cheek. "Where does it hurt?"

My initial response is a grunt and a down-turned thumb. "There," I gasp, catching her delicious scent and wondering how I can focus on perfume when my balls are doing the rumba.

Her cheeks flame with embarrassment. "Oh."

I want to reassure her. "Don't worry. It's not catching."

Diane smiles and slides down next to me. "So..."

"Here we are," I reply, injecting my witty repartee with my usual nervous laugh. "In my home away from home."


"You know..." I mime myself taking a cup and lowering it suggestively. When she echoes my nervous laugh, I lighten it up a bit and grab a few magazines from the pile on the floor. "I mean, where else can you yank your chain and read Nanotech Times, Neurobiology Today, and a 1995 issue of Popular Science."

She relaxes and smiles sheepishly. "I'm still catching up."

"Should I worry?" I ask blithely.

"About?" she prompts.

"A 9 year backlog of Popular Science?"

"Naw. Those are in my john at home," she explains with a twinkle in her eyes

"Hmm. Anything else I should know about you?" I ask softly, mesmerized by the ruddy march of heat that colors her porcelain complexion and wondering if she knows how incredibly beautiful she is.

She peeks around a curl that dares me to touch it. When I brush it aside, her breath catches and her color deepens. "Well, I like cats, and the color red."

My gaze drops to the sexy red shirt that shows off two of her best assets. "I can see that." I say, flirting shamelessly and enjoying the way she opens her mouth in surprise.

Diane tries to hide behind her hair, but I'm on to her. "What about you? What do you like?"

I really put my foot into it this time. ", B-rated movies, and computers. "

"I already know all that. What else?" she asks coyly.

"What else...let's see, umm...Ducati motorcycles, Ferraris..."

"Wow," she replies with a raised eyebrow.

"What?" I ask archly, catching the whiff of doubt in her voice.

Diane shakes her head, clearly unwilling to explain what's on her mind. "Nothing."

I get the feeling we've veered into more dangerous territory and as usual, I'm absolutely clueless. "Doesn't sound like nothing."

Her hands start waving and that badass ring catches the light and spreads it across her face like a Mobius strip on speed. "I...uhh...never mind, I can't do this."

Diane starts to get to her feet but I manage to grab her around the ankle and yank her away from the door. "I know why you're running away."

She sinks back down and itches the top of her head, still not able to meet my eyes. "Do you?"

"Yeah. Let's see, two people came together and something...profound happened between them, only they can't seem to talk about it." I watch her biting at her lip and touch the top of her hand in reassurance. "How am I doin' so far?"

"G-good," she replies, curling her fingers around mine and gripping my hand like it's a lifeline.

It's time to take a slight detour. "Compared to that, Ferraris aren't a big deal, are they?"

She laughs nervously. "I just can't picture you in a Ferrari. I mean, ride-sharing super spies need to depend on reliable transportation, not lust after some impossible dream."

My mouth opens and closes in shock over what she is thinking and I have to stifle a laugh. "Diane, there's nothing to worry about."

"Who said I was worried?" Her hand is trembling and I feel her start to withdraw.

"Don't do this," I plead, refusing to let go of her hand and ignoring the slightly vexed look that crosses her face.

"Do what?"

"Don't throw up walls...this is me, Jake. You and I have always been able to talk and I don't want...Philly to ruin our friendship." Now I've laid it all out on the table and the rest is up to her.

The teeth are back to biting her lower lip, but I sense that I have her undivided attention. "I'm sorry, and you're right. I have been avoiding you."

"Why? I thought we called me your best friend." I don't add the part about love, because we're not quite ready for that discussion.

She turns to face me and I see the tears that shimmer in the wings. "That's still true."


"Well, there's my track record with men. It sucks. I mean, look what happened with Steve Clemens."

"That was a fluke."

Diane shrugs. "Maybe you're right, but what if Philly was also a fluke?"

"It wasn't." I am dead sure of that. "It was meant to happen."

"I really want to believe that, but let's face it, you weren't in your right mind. If it had been Jake and Diane as we are today, that night would have never happened."

This has been driving me crazy for the past two weeks and I'm not about to let her get swallowed up by it. "But it did happen, and it was amazing. Diane, that was the best night of my life, and right now, it's all I have to hold on to. They won't let me see you and I can't even talk to you anymore without worrying that someone is listening in."

"They are." She gazes around us and shudders slightly.

"Is that why you haven't returned my calls?"

Diane nods sadly. "After they grounded you and started making all these allegations..."

"What kind of allegations?" I ask crossly.

She dances around my question. "Nothing important. They're just looking for someone to blame."

"Why? We haven't done anything."

Diane smiles tremulously. "Well, we're not plotting to overthrow the government or build a nuclear bomb, but we both know what happened that night, and they obviously want the full monty."

My mouth goes dry at that seemingly innocent comment, though I know it's meant in jest. Her infectious grin brightens up the dank and rather cramped confines of our temporary prison and I can't help but smile in response. "Too bad. It's not for sale."

She looks away with a flushed face and the tiniest of smiles. "That's because it's... priceless."

I think of all those commercials and shake my head. "Oh, I dunno, half a billion dollars is hardly chump change."

"More like Trump change."

I groan and pretend to cover my ears, loving the moment when Diane collapses into giggles and slaps my knee. "I've missed this."

"Me too." Diane's fingers spread over my upper thigh and I nearly faint from the lightning response of my nanites, flooding my system with adrenalin and kicking my libido out of the basement and into high orbit. With a hard swallow that stays lodged in my throat, I feel her shift her weight and settle against me. A curly wisp of her hair brushes against my cheek and releases a spicy hot scent that tightens every part of me. I can barely breathe and time seems to slow down as I wrap my arms around her and feel her nestle against my chest, My chin rests on the top of her head and I kiss the whorl of dark chestnut hair that swirls on her scalp like a hurricane that's been blown off course. She shivers slightly when I sample her left ear lobe. "You know, maybe this wasn't such a good idea."

Diane says one thing, but her words mean something entirely different. Maybe it's the way she tightens against me, arching her back slightly when I apply pressure, or maybe it's the subtle thread of sensuality that colors her words. "Maybe not." My voice throbs against her throat and she seems to vibrate in response. With a hitch of breath, she tips her head back and stares at me, dark eyes traveling to each part of my face like she's memorizing me for some future test and then stopping to stare at my mouth with unabashed longing painted all over her lovely face. The memory of that night tears through me, and I know she remembers the way her mouth opened under mine, yielding to the pressure of my insistent tongue and twisting lips. And I know she burns with the same living flame that tortures me now with memories of that kiss. My right hand suddenly comes to life and with a will of its own, creeps up her shoulder to her face and traces the outline of her lips. "Perfect," I say dreamily. "So soft."

Diane closes her eyes and I marvel at the way her dark eyelashes fan her cheeks. "Jake, we...shouldn't...if they catch us..."

I stare over at the unlocked door and decide to even the odds. With a twist of my fingers, I engage the deadbolt and watch her eyes fly open at that click of finality that seems to seal our fate. "Who cares? This is between you and me."

Part Two: You and Me and The Nanites Make Three...Million (Diane)

His words have a dangerous edge that reminds me of that night in his room, and while I'm all for taking a step forward, I'm not sure I want to do it here in this bathroom with its noisy fan, heavy chlorine smell, and prison gray walls. So I break the mood by joking, "What about the nanites? We can't leave them out."

Jake pulls me to my feet and flashes this heart-melting smile that turns my insides to mush. He moves closer and I know he can hear my breath catch when he starts leaning in. For a long beat, he studies every inch of my face before staring at my mouth with an intensity that outshines Chernobyl.

"Hmm, the cat's obviously got his tongue, so perhaps I should monitor the situation." I only barely manage to keep a straight face, biting at the corners of my mouth so I don't burst out laughing.

"Don't you dare." Jake's answering laugh bursts out of him and with a flick of his fingers, he snatches my JMD and tosses it in the trash. I try reaching for the basket but am stalled by his arms around my waist. "Leave it."

"B-but that's...government property," I cry in mock outrage, squirming out of his grasp and wondering if I'm imagining the disappointment in his eyes at my escape.

"So am I, and I'd be quite happy to let you handle me too." He pretends to leer at me and is rewarded with a swat on his arm. As he rubs the spot, he says, "Ow. Good left cross."

"And an even better right hook." I smack his other arm lightly and he holds up his hands in surrender. With a glimmer of mischief, he adds, "You know, if this doctor gig doesn't work out, you could always work for Caesar."

"Caesar, huh? Well, if it wasn't for the jail thing, I bet he'd pay big bucks for a Diane vs. Jake smackdown." I watch his face and see that he's fighting back a smile. "And you know what? I bet I could take you."

Jake's eyes widen in this 'I can't believe she actually said that' expression and then I see my comment register as he remembers that long ago Boggle game. "You think so?" he says quietly.


"Don't be so sure," he crows, pinning my arms behind me and wrestling me against the wall, laughing as I struggle against him, kicking his shin lightly with my boot and grinning when he releases one of my arms and gives me one last chance to top him. But I lose my balance and flop against him, saved only by his lightning reflexes. As we flail in place for a second, my forehead cracks into his with a thwack of bone.

"Ow," we say in unison, then start cracking up at the absurdity of it all.

My hand flies up to rub my sore temple, gouges him in the cheek, and nearly takes out his eye. "Gee, I was only kidding about Caesar," he jokes weakly.

I'm so horrified that I start stroking his face, fingers trailing down from his temple to his chin and checking for damage. "I'm so sorry... I'm such a ... "

Jake stops the flow of my words with his finger, etching my lips from edge to edge like they're made from the finest of lace. "It's okay. Nothing's folded, torn, or mutilated.

I'm slightly thrown by the sudden sweetness of his smile, so much like that night in Philly that I'm transported back to those moments when he rocked me gently, swaying back and forth as he murmured in my ear, assuring me that everything would be okay. I shoot back to the present and wonder if I look star struck, utterly captivated by how completely adorable he is with his overgrown bangs and puppy dog eyes. If he gives me the chance, I'll worship this man for the rest of my life. "Good."

He squeezes my hands and pulls me in so close that I see the individual strands of his eyelashes and the hint of amber that surrounds his irises like a nimbus. As he looks down on me, his smile changes character and I see a hint of that Palace guy from the alley, desperate and devastatingly sexy. He reaches up to frame my face and I am struck by the contrast between his callused hands and the softness of his lips as they plant the lightest of kisses on the corner of my mouth, lighting here and there as he moves on to my cheeks, eyelids, and the tiny scar that hides under my left ear lobe.

A long forgotten Italian endearment rises to my mind and escapes as the faintest of murmurs, one that is quickly lost to the tides of emotion that sweep over both of us. I moan as he works his way down the column of my neck and returns to my face, finally capturing my lips and drawing me into his spell, weaving his magic with the barest of nibbles and brushes before opening my mouth under his, deepening the kiss and taking it to a darker and far more sensual level that has me biting back, clawing against his chest and pulling him down to my level, one arm winding around his neck while the other hugs him so fiercely that he gasps against my mouth. "S-so," he stammers hoarsely, "Did I deliver?"

Ah, right, the kiss that kills. "Not there yet."

The next kiss rains on me like a trail of tears, gently and softly taking me by storm as he works his magic, levering my mouth open with the momentum of our bodies as we twist and wind around the 6x8 cube that defines our temporary prison, entwined bodies bumping against porcelain, dingy gray walls, and nearly tripping over the pile of magazines. "How 'bout now?" Jake whispers, working the clips loose from my hair and tossing them into the sink with a clunk.

"You're good... but I need more proof." I catch my foolish grin in the mirror over the sink and smile even wider when he grabs fistfuls of my hair and buries his face against my neck.

Jake inhales like he's reached a state of nirvana. "God, you always smell so amazing."

"Always?" I murmur uncertainly, knowing how he used to fixate on Sarah.

He cups my chin and kisses me softly. "From the moment when you first offered me Valium."

The taste of his mouth burns my lips. "Didn't think you noticed."

He removes my glasses and blesses each of my eyelids with a feather soft kiss. "Are you kidding? I may be clueless most of the time, but I'm not blind, and I'm not the only one who notices when you...umm..."

So I'm not the only one who's flustered. "When I what?"

Jake's laugh practically stutters out of him. "Umm...forget I said that."

I can guess who the other person might be, but I figure this is one of those guy things that should probably stay between them. With a slight nod, I shrug out of my lab coat and kick off my shoes, enjoying the way his eyes darken when I stretch like a lazy cat. "Mmm, much better. So where were we?"

Jake inches closer and touches my shoulder with one finger, moving across the fine freckles that sprinkle my collarbone like fairy dust and completing the circuit with a slow, detailed trace that follows the scalloped edges of my shirt. When he reaches the deep vee of my cleavage, he stops and favors me with an intense look that sears me with its warmth. "Right here."

"And here." I put my hands over his and kiss each of his pinkies, sucking them softly and biting the webbing between his fingers and nuzzling the strong ridges of his knuckles. Jake moans when I unfurl his fingers and leave a kiss at the center of each palm. The muscles at his neck strain against the collar of his shirt and my mind paints a pretty picture of what lies beneath, the perfect symmetry of all that lean muscle, barely revealed by his modest clothes or the way he carries himself, but all the more sexy when the layers are peeled away to reveal the man that I love, gracefully geeky in that way that he has about him. I stand on tiptoe and kiss the pale patch of skin where his collar separates, nuzzling the thatch of hair and following its trail as I unbutton his shirt, kissing and licking every few inches until I stop at his beltline. He yanks his shirt away from his pants and I push it away from his shoulders, slowly working it down his biceps and sighing when it floats to the ground.

"Wow," I say with a grin. "Is this all for me?"

His answering smile has a sensual edge that leaves me weak in the knees. "Yup." His fingers grasp my shoulders and without warning, he chases away my smile with a deep, wet kiss that leaves us both wanting. We separate slightly and I writhe when he brushes the sides of my breasts in a slow sweep of his fingers. He nuzzles my ear and whispers, "I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet right now."

My heart swells and I plant a kiss that just misses his lips and swipes the side of his chin. With a chuckle, he kisses the top of my head and surrounds me with the warmth and shelter of his arms, wrapping me against him so tightly that I am molded to him like a second skin. When I raise my head, he starts devouring me whole with his hungry lips, slanting his way from side to side until I am undone. When he pulls away slightly, I murmur in protest, but that is quickly forgotten when he sinks down to one knee and pulls me with him, sliding me along the hard muscles of his thigh until we are joined at the center, so close that only thin material separates us from what we want. I place both hands on his hips and inhale his clean guy scent like I'm mainlining Jake. With a sigh of pleasure, I sample the throbbing vein on his neck and feel him practically pulsate in response... except, something really is thrumming beneath my fingers. With my teeth against his ear lobe, I murmur, "You're vibrating."

"At about 1 GHz, right?" he counters, referring to the high clock speed of his nanites in a state of excitation.

I shake my head with a giggle. "Not the nanites, your pager."

"Oh... right." Jake detaches it from his belt and tosses it in the trash, where it joins my JMD with a clatter. "Cute couple," he remarks dryly.

"Don't you want to check that?" I inquire with a small smile.

"Absolutely," he murmurs, but when his fingers drift under my black rayon skirt, I know his mind is on other more...fleshly matters. Jake lifts me sideways and I feel cool air hit my legs as he pulls my tights down in a slow, sensual slide that ends with him kissing his way from my feet to the inside of my knee. I offer my other knee and he ravishes all my sensitive spots with his generous mouth and talented hands, moving higher and skirting dangerously close to the point of no return...only he stops and stares up at me with such unswerving devotion that my heart nearly stops from the realization that he returns my feelings...finally, after all this time.

My throat closes with emotion and big fat tears start spilling from my eyes as it hits me, nearly knocking me sideways with the shakes. "Oh...umm..." I blubber, feeling the comfort of his arms as he wraps himself around me, surrounding me with the warmth that I've come to associate with my Jake.

"S'okay," he slurs, nuzzling my neck with his nose and kissing my shoulder in almost uncanny imitation of that night in Philly...the night where nothing happened because I stopped it, the night where I turned my back on my heart's desire, determined to have Jake when the time was right...only, I never expected it to be here, in this dreary, government issue bathroom with its cold gray tile and scratchy bargain basement toilet tissue, enlivened only by the splashes of color that peek from the aging pile of magazines.

I know it's up to me, that I have to take a stand, knowing that he won't push the issue. A sigh rattles out of me as I hug him fiercely and see that he's startled by the strength that's always been in me. "No, it's not okay."


I grab his ears gently and force him to look at me. "Don't think." I pull him to his feet and start moving my hands down his arms and linger for a long while on his biceps, marveling at the lean perfection of his physique, so often hidden by the slightly baggy work shirts that crowd his closet and only occasionally revealed by the sweaty T-shirts that cling to him like a second skin after his workouts. My fingers drift to the sculpted wall of his chest, molding and shaping his pecs with reverent hands, covering every inch of him with slips of my tongue and teeth. My nails scrape against his nipples and I bathe him with long sweeps of my tongue, tasting the sweat that dots his torso. "Sweet."

Jake groans out my name and tenses against me in unmistakable invitation, the fingers of one hand biting into my upper arm and the other curling around my butt possessively as he attacks my lips with a kiss that stuns me with its slow savagery, completely unraveling me with the sensuous pressure of his tongue as he traces the contours of my lips, darting in and out of my eager mouth and withdrawing with a wicked smile that promises more of the same when we really get down to it. His grin deepens into those adorable almost-dimples and he drops his attention to my heaving chest, barely contained by the constraints of my black lace bra and the thin strip of silk that passes for a shirt. He lowers his head and starting with my collarbone, he plants a continuous chain of kisses that focuses almost exclusively on the upper curves of my breasts and my rather deep well of cleavage. "Very sweet," he murmurs dazedly, running his fingers down my sides and coming to rest on my waist.

He squats down and unbuttons the bottom half of my shirt, nuzzling my belly button and nipping at the semi-hard flesh of my abs as he rises, bending me over his arm as he finishes his work. He gazes up at me with such adoration that I am moved beyond words, wondering how this can be happening to me and figuring it's a one time thing, never to be repeated. But the dream continues when he pushes the edges of my shirt from my shoulders and gently liberates it from my body, dropping it on the growing pile of clothes that lies waiting to cushion us. I look back at him and see a faint blush creep up his neck as he takes me in, following the movement of my hands as I unfasten my skirt and let it fall where it may. With a shy but brave smile, he unbuckles his belt and unzips his pants so slowly that I wonder if he's having second thoughts, but on second glance, I realize that he's a little nervous and sees this part as the final step. He steps out of one leg and hops around while he tries to free his other leg, but in his slightly muddled state, he manages to lose his balance and bangs his knee against the sink from hell. With a muffled curse, he rubs it a few times and finally deposits his trousers on our little nest.

"Want me to check that?" I ask, deliberately echoing my earlier comment.

Jake is totally with me and smiles in relief. "Sure...yes, absolutely." I pretend to study his knee and use the opportunity to study the lower half of his anatomy, focusing first on his heavily muscled thighs, shapely calves, and a tight butt that he tries to hide under shapeless boxers. But I'd felt its firmness on other occasions and know that hidden treasure is there for the taking. Before finishing my exam, I grow uncomfortably aware of his burgeoning erection and know that I'm the one who's now blushing in every shade of red known to mankind.

"'re good," I stammer, brushing against him as I start to rise, halted by the feel of his hands on my shoulders.

"Am I now?" he teases with a wicked gleam in his eyes. "But how do you know when I've hardly gotten started?"

Jake starts playing with my bra strap and pushes it off my shoulder. "I" My words emerge as a croak when he moves on to the other strap.

"Glad to hear it." He hugs me close and finds the vein in my neck that always sets me off. With the slightest press of his lips, I fall into him, surrendering to the soft touch of his mouth and hands as he works his way to the front clasp on my bra. In one quick maneuver, he slides it open with his teeth and gawks at my barely concealed breasts. "God, you are so beautiful."

Jake's so desperately sincere and passionate that I finally believe him. "Thanks."

His earlier shyness is all but replaced by a scorching sensuality that darkens his eyes to charcoal. He rolls away the edges of my bra and works it off my shoulders, completely exposing my breasts for the first time. With slow measured glances, he glances from left to right and seems to memorize what he sees, savoring me for future reference or display on a private computer screen. "Wow," is all he can manage after a long beat, clearly overwhelmed by what I know is a first class rack.

"Yeah," I laugh, stopping when his eyes nearly bug out from the movement of my breasts. "It's all me."

Jake reaches out and hugs me, clenching me so hard that my breath is nearly pushed out of me. I encircle his waist and hug him back, feeling comforted by the lub-dub of his heart and the rapidly escalating rise and fall of his chest. Then, in a deliberate move, I rub my breasts against him and see his eyes close in bliss, clearly in denial that this is happening to him. When his eyes open, I do it again and finish by dipping my hands into his boxers. "Diane," he warns with a laugh, "I don't think you should...God," he finishes when my fingers sheath his cock, rubbing up and down its massive length with practiced motions that go back to my high school boyfriend. He starts undulating under my hands and I stop before he gets too close to the edge. I reach behind and explore the fine planes of his ass, squeezing him through my fingers and hearing him sigh with such pleasure that it curls my toes. I step away and watch him shimmy out of his boxers with the unschooled unease of a true geek. I start to return the favor but he stops me, pushing away my hands so he can have the full privilege of stripping me bare, naked to the world and completely open to him. The panties drop to my ankles and I kick them over to the pile.

"So," I say, staring at the clothes with a raised eyebrow before returning my attention to his magnificence.

"Yeah," he answers with a slightly twisted smile, clearly enjoying a side of me that he's never seen...the side that used to hide under my clothes.

We savor the view and I swear he's even more gorgeous than anything my busy mind could throw together, with sweat beading his brow and dotting him here and there like jewels. I offer my hands and he takes them, drawing me down to the wrinkled clothes that define the real world, carelessly pushed aside as we give in to the instincts that we kicked up in Philly.

Part Three: Entre Nous (Jake)

We are planets to each other,
Drifting in our orbits
To a brief eclipse.

Entre Nous, lyrics and music by Rush

Diane's entire body throbs to a rhythm that also thrums inside me. It beats at me, clawing its way past the polite façade and tossing away the gentlemen that I've always believed myself to be. But when it comes to Diane, I can't think straight, can't see past the amazing curves of her voluptuous body, seemingly fashioned by the gods for someone other than me. But no, she's here in my arms, moaning and twisting as I lower my head to her breasts, kissing around and between the ample mounds that fill my hands and finally fastening on her nipples, drawing first one and then the other coral peak into my mouth, sucking and nibbling as I go, encouraged by her groans and hoarse mentions of my name. I moisten each of my hands with my tongue and roll her between my fingers, amazed at the size of her erect nipples and even further amazed that she feels this way She raises her head and drugs me with a slow, wet kiss that nearly drops me with its intensity. I groan against her mouth and pull her on top of me. Her legs naturally straddle me and I push the heel of my hand against her vulva, smiling when she bites her mouth from the unexpected pressure, parting the soft folds of her skin and pushing my fingers inside of her. She fits me like a glove and starts moving against me, rocking back and forth as I find her sweet spot and increase the pressure when she picks up the pace, sliding faster and farther forward until she ends with a sharp cry against my shoulder, fingers digging into my arms with her final release. "Damn," she murmurs against my ear.

"Good?" I ask, kissing her forehead and cradling her slight weight against me, wondering if I'll break her in half when we finally do it.

"Mmm-hmm." Diane brushes my hair aside and kisses my ear in gratitude. "Best I ever had."

"Like that Vertical Horizon song?" I joke.

"Umm... what?" Her dreamy eyes focus on me in bemusement.

"Nothin'." I kick myself mentally at starting a stupid musical discussion and quickly remedy my error by lifting her in my arms and kissing her into forgetfulness, knowing that the last thing she remembers won't be my dumb comment about song lyrics.

I break away when she raises one leg and hooks it over my arm. I catch her other leg and we form a perfect circle with interlocked arms and legs, never sure where one of us starts and the other ends. Her heels lock into the small of my back and her nails bite into my arms, urging me on to the next part of our journey. She smiles sweetly and is clearly ready to accommodate every part of me, but I doubt she knows what she's getting into. I am as well-endowed as she is and am always afraid that I'll slice through someone when I get excited. And let's face it, the nanites make me hornier than a paperhanger with no arms and a room full of porn. So, yeah, I don't want this to end before it even gets started. She derails me with a gentle kiss to my lips and says, "It's okay."

Geez, am I that transparent? "Are you sure? Because I'm a little... umm, large."

"Is that all that's bothering you?"

"Well, that and... I don't want this to mess things up."

"It won't."

I take that as a yes and with a slowness that approaches glacial, I push against her and feel her drenching heat spread around me, so sweet and tight that I harden even further on my way inside. Diane clenches her vaginal muscles and my answering groan shakes the wall tiles and vibrates through both of us, nearly causing me to lose every bit of self-control that I possess. I pull out slightly and hear her protest die on her lips when I start moving with short, staccato bursts that finally fall into a waltz, gracefully receding and advancing as we push and pull at one another like two wayward satellites. Diane returns my kisses with relentless fervor and suddenly slams against me, sheathing me so completely that I accidentally bite down on her lips. My apologetic gasp intermingles with her cry of pain and we stop and stare for a few seconds of lingering doubt, every inch of us locked together in stalemate.

Part Four: Luck of the Draw (Diane)

I've always hated clichés, but here's one that works for me: I'm holding all the cards, and unless I throw down the ace, Jake and I will never make it to the finish line. With a waggle of my hips, I urge him on and sigh in relief when he starts pulling out of me with maddening slowness that morphs into a reverse thrust that takes my breath away. He moans when my inner muscles ripple around him and steps it up a notch, pounding into me so hard and deep that I rake trails down his back, reining in his pace to a relentless samba that slaps us together in perfect synchrony. Each of us give and receive with equal fervor, mouths and hands tasting, biting and caressing every last inch of burning skin. I feel the orgasm rising in both of us, but rather than take me over the edge, Jake stops and gazes at me with one of those moony looks that smacks of the L word, hearts and flowers swimming in his rich Godiva chocolate eyes I feel his restraint and know this is costing both of us, taking what is maybe too great a risk for too little a return. But for this one totally and completely unforgettable moment, it is worth it. I smile in response and it seems to be the answer he is seeking, but the moment is interrupted by a knock.

"Diane, you in there?" It's Fran, using her casual back office voice.

I start to answer, but Jake cuts off my words with the force of his mouth, tongue darting between my lips in rhythm with his hands and hips, driving higher into me as he comes, gasping out my name before sighing into my shoulder.

She knocks again, and it's all I can do not to laugh. In a garbled voice, I answer, "Yeah."

"You okay? Because I thought I heard someone gasping for breath."

Jake smirks and it's only the quick movement of his fingers over my mouth that saves me from giggling madly. "Everything's cool," I state carefully, ready to punch Jake when he tickles my toes.

"Umm...that's good, 'cause Lou was looking for you, and I know she's coming back in a few minutes."

"Great...thanks. Be right out," I reply quickly, watching Jake's eyes darken as he looks down at our still locked bodies. When we hear her footsteps fade away, he twirls me around with a gleeful laugh and sets me down on the floor with a gentleness that belies the great strength in his lean body.

We separate with a loud sucking motion that sends us both into a fit of giggles. "This isn't funny," I caution with a straight face, pushing one leg through my pants with a short hop while he washes up at the sink. "Not even a bit."

"Yeah, it is." His dark eyes survey me with a scorching warmth that is only outmatched by the brilliance of his gorgeous smile.

I reach for my jersey but he holds it out of reach. "Give that back," I whisper fiercely, wishing for the millionth time that I wasn't a tiny pipsqueak with short little arms and legs that come straight from Nana Vidallia.

"Make me," he quips lightly.

"We don't have time for this." I know I'm whining, but I can't help it. This is Lou we're talking about, and you always fall into line when she's around.

Jake dangles it closer and I grab at one edge. "There's a penalty," he says, playfully pulling on the other end in a battle he could easily win.

"What is it?" I say breathlessly when he moves close enough to brush his chest against mine.

"This." He lowers his head and kisses the tip of each breast, smiling against me when they grow erect against his lips. When he finally pulls away and hands the shirt back to me, I pull on my bra and button my shirt while he watches with a slow, lazy smile that makes me crazy with longing.

"Guess I better get back," I say, reluctant fingers playing with the locking mechanism as I watch him dress.

He grabs the doorknob and stays me with a kiss that nearly sends me into orbit. "For luck," he whispers with a wink, knowing I get the Star Wars reference about Luke kissing Leia before they swing over the chasm.

Part Five: Three Doors Down (Jake)

I stare at my watch and decide that five minutes is a very long time, and that if I'm such a hero, maybe I should stop cowering in the bathroom and go about my business.

After a quick glance in either direction, I saunter out like I have every right to be here. I decide to duck through the lab's back entrance, but am stopped in my tracks by an unexpected voice.

"I wouldn't go in there if I were you."

I turn around and see Fran advancing on me. "Why not?"

She grabs my elbow and spins me in the other direction. "Diane has visitors, and it would be better if you lie low for awhile."

"I'm not afraid of Lou." I allow myself to be towed along and wondering where she plans on stashing me.

We round the corner and slip into a lab I've never seen. Fran points to the far door and says, "What about Warner?"

I shrug off her hand and frown. "Shit. I should have known... I have to help her."

Fran blocks my exit and shakes her head. "Let Diane handle this."

I throw up my hands in frustration. "You don't understand."

Fran touches my shoulder with a grin. "Jake, I know what happened."

I feel heat rush into my face and am pretty sure that I've reached my daily quota of blushing. "Okay, okay, so... why is Warner hanging around?"

Fran's smile falls away. "They have questions about Philadelphia."

"B-but that was two weeks ago!" I stammer, wondering if they already knew the truth and were playing us.

"Warner wasn't satisfied with Diane's report, so she wants some closure."

That sounds bad. "I suppose they'll be after me next."

"Maybe, but I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. Seems like Lou and Diane have it covered." Before leaving, she pats my arm and adds, "You missed a button."

Late afternoon

Research Library

I have this special place that no one knows about in a library that nobody visits.

It's three doors down from the Med Lab and it allows me to hide when I'm in one of those moods. This is one of those times. I don't know what's worse: a pounding head or a sour stomach that is the poster child for Maalox.

I try to shut down my senses, but they keep sending me useless sound bytes... LaFortunata arguing with himself, Carver reporting on system interference, you know, the usual crap that happens on a typical day at the NSA. All that goes away when I disappear into my mix tape of TheThe and Death Cab for Cutie, fingers tapping to an entirely different beat that throbs in my head suggestively, sharply reminding me of what could have been. Now that I know what I'm missing, I'm starting to wish it never happened. Because it would be easier to go on like we always have, joshing and joking over beers, ranking on each other's bad taste in movies, and bitching about work.

She's always been right in front of me, but it took another guy and a game of Boggle to make me say whoah. Now that the haze of passion has lifted and my brain is firing on all cylinders, I find that I can hardly bear what I've lost. I lean back in the chair and put my feet up, threading my hands behind my head as I settle in for a good wallow. It seems like only seconds later when a message pops up on my computer screen. I stare at it blankly and wonder if the blinking pixels are sending me a coded message.

"Are you there?"

My heart sings at the sight of her AIM codename flashing at me. With my patented two-finger approach, I pound, "Three doors down."

She logs off and with a sigh, I wonder if she gets the reference. Ten long minutes pass and I realize that it's as hopeless as it's always been. With another sigh, I drum my fingers absently and barely notice the faint displacement of air that signals somebody's presence. When I look up, Diane is staring down at me, eyes glimmering with unshed tears. She braves a smile. "You're in my seat," she whispers, fingers touching my cheek so fleetingly that I almost think I'm imagining it.

The chair nearly collapses when I shift my weight. "Your seat."

"That's right," she says mischievously. "In my hiding place."

I smile and shake my head. "Since when?"

Diane perches herself against the tiny desk and her fingers brush against mine. "Since always."

"Oh, I see, so I'm supposed to give up my spot because you happened to show up."

Her smile blinds me. "Well, we can share it."

Part of me knows what's she saying, but another part wants to spare her any further pain. "No, we can't."

She grabs my hand and clenches it in desperation. "There are ways," she says vehemently, holding up our joined hands and rubbing it against her face.

I open her hand and stare at the web of lines that define this complex woman that I've grown to love. "What about Warner?"

"All taken care of."

"Really?" Now why do I find that hard to believe?

"She was on a fishing expedition."

"Did she catch anything?" I ask flippantly, trying to make light of an awful situation.

Diane shakes her head. "Nope. She came up empty."

"So Lou is backing you on this?"

"When it comes to Warner? Absolutely."

"What about the rest of it?" Lou has to have an inkling that something went down in Philly.

"Watch your back and keep a low profile."

Of course Lou would say that. "Sounds like she's figured it out."

Diane moves closer and brushes her hip against my leg. "I don't care anymore."

I sigh, hearing my careless words thrown back at me. "That's a dangerous attitude."

"I thought you liked it that way."

The librarian starts rustling papers in the next aisle. In a lowered voice, I say, "Maybe I've changed my mind."

Diane grabs both my hands and locks them between her fingers. "See this? It's a lock. It's you and me. We're strong, and they can't... God, I won't let them break us."

She's never looked more beautiful, and it's all I can do to stop myself from kissing her senseless. "You know that secret place that's three doors down in the other direction?" When she nods, I add, "See you there in ten."

Diane nods and smiles impishly. "It's a lock."