Jack was doing his level best to ignore Melanie. It was hard, especially with how she was staring a hole thought the back of his head, but so far he’d managed it. After all, he needed to come up with a plan that wouldn’t get her killed, and he couldn’t afford the distraction. Plus, he was still maintaining that he didn’t know her in some vain attempt to make Boris change his mind. He knew the big man wouldn’t do that, but he still had to try every trick he had. Some philosopher once said that a man is only ever defeated when he gives up. Jack wasn’t about to give up, but he did know when to pick his battles.
That was how he came to be sitting at the work table, fiddling with the papers in front of him and looking impressively busy. Boris and Natasha had taken off, leaving only one goon to watch over himself and Melanie. For her part, Melanie looked much less panicked, but she still didn’t look happy. In fact, if looks could kill, Jack was sure he would have been six feet under for getting her into all this. If only she could have aimed those negative waves at their captors. They may have let them go just to get out from under her stink eye, or if not both of them, at least her. He could deal with that. Plan A would just be back in motion. Plan B was coming together in his mind slowly. As in, it really wasn’t coming together.
It had all seemed so easy when it came to him in Ames’ office. He’d go in, set the bomb, gather everyone around, start it up and kablooey. That was all she wrote.
Well, maybe he could still accomplish most of that. There had to be a way to set it off and not be holding it at the time. Then he and Mel could run in the confusion and no one would be any the wiser...
“Jack,” Melanie hissed, and not for the first time, but Jack was trying to ignore her, after all. “Jim!”
“Melanie, I’m trying to think here. Would you please not hiss at me.”
“Jack, what’s going on?” she demanded. “What do these people want?”
“I told you, I infiltrate terrorist cells. This is one of them. My name here is Doctor James Dean. Not Jim, not Jack, James.”
“You would please make up your goddamned mind! You change your name more than you change your underwear.”
It was an over exaggeration, but he did know where she was coming from. He didn’t even know his real name, and he was sure that the one he’d married her with had been fabricated, too. When all this was said and done, he was going to tell her his full and legal name, if they were still alive, that was. If they were dead, then it really didn’t matter what the hell his name was, now did it?
“Melanie, I said don’t hiss at me.”
“Would you rather I yell so all your terrorist buddies can hear?” She asked, glancing over her shoulder at where the remaining goon was leaning against the wall.
Jack cast him a look, too. He was clearly not playing them any mind. They were being babysat, not monitored for content. He was too far away to hear their whispers, but he was close enough that should they bother to try and escape, he could bring the entire building down on them.
“They’re not my buddies. Before you walked in, I was planning on making sure they all died in this building,” he growled. “But I can’t have that happen with you inside here.”
“Ji...Ja...James,” she gasped. “What do you...what are you going to do?”
“Now? I don’t know.” He shook his head. “But it’ll be very important that you follow my lead when I do make a move. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” she replied, nodding. “I’m scared, Jack.”
“I know,” he replied, thinking that it wouldn’t get them anywhere if he were to tell her that he was scared, too. Not for himself, but for her and what she was going to think when she got out of all this. No, he needed to keep focused if they were going to get out of there. One of them needed to stay strong, and it was his turn. After all, she’d gotten him through the ordeal at the hospital.
“I...I never appreciated how hard your job was.”
He felt like laughing, and he would have if it wouldn’t have set Mel off. He never knew his job to be anything but this danger. What he wouldn’t have given to have been an accountant or something dull like that. He was willing to bet that shy of being Al Capone’s book keeper, no accountant ever had to worry about being shot at or blown up.
“I think after all this is said and done, I’m going to retire,” he told her, fiddling with one of the pens on the dek. “Go somewhere hot, sit on the beach, drink Mai Tais all day.”
“It sounds lovely.”
“What are you doing to do when we get out of this?” he asked, trying to keep her mind focused on something outside the situation.
“I’m going to take a bubble bath.”
It was so simple and impractical that Jack couldn’t help but think that it should have been his first choice, too. At least it was a good stop before jet setting off to somewhere hot. Tahiti sounded nice. Maybe Hawaii. He put it out of mind. Even though he didn’t want her there when the bomb exploded, he had to be prepared for that eventuality. There were millions of lives at stake. Two lives were nothing in the grand scheme of things. When he’d become so willing to let those kinds of things pass through his mind, he didn’t know, but it made it easier to just consider Mel to be just another number.
For all his foot dragging, it took a very small amount of time to get serum ready. A little tweak here, a little adjustment there and the dose would kill whoever’s genetic markers it was geared towards. He didn’t know the mark, but he was sure it was someone important. The bomb was his masterpiece in that moment. It would take out the building, if not the surrounding two, but seeing as how they were surrounded by parking, it wasn’t as if there were hundreds of people hanging around to be murdered. Small blessings were few and far between these days, so he would take what he could get.
“What was all that?” Melanie asked, looking at the bomb with the interest.
“It’s armed,” he replied, thinking it was only fair to warn her. “So’s this.”
He shook the vial in his hand. Melanie stiffened, leaning away from it. Jack couldn’t keep the smirk off his face at that. “It’ll only kill who I tell it to. The bomb will only explode if I tell it to. You’re completely safe.”
“Oh? You’re positive?” she asked, still leaning away from it.
“Of course,” he assured her. “That was the objective of the whole project, and as for the bomb, I had to have time to get out of here, after all. I wouldn’t make it so that it would just explode in front of me.”
Actually, that was exactly how he was rigging it. But positivity was key. If she believed him, then he could get her out of this. She did look a bit more relaxed, but still anxious because she was sitting in front of the bomb that was rigged to explode.
Before he could reassure her further, Boris walked in, hand under Natasha’s elbow to help her hobble.
“So? Is it done?” she demanded.
“I keep saying I’m waiting on a sandwich,” he replied, looking as bored as he could muster.
Boris surprised him by walking over and dropping a deli bag on the table. Jack eyed it suspiciously and then sent Boris the same wary look. Boris, for his part, didn’t look phased. He merely gestured to it.
“What’s this?” Jack asked, pulling back the plastic handles on the bag with the rubber end of his pencil.
“That god damned sandwich you just won’t shut the hell up about. And before you can ask, we got her a sandwich, too.”
Well damn. He didn’t think that there was any way he was getting that sandwich. He wasn’t even that hungry.
“Thanks,” he replied, ignoring the bag for a moment. “Like I said, I’ll get right to this after lunch.”
“Henry says you’ve been tinkering away, Deanie,” Natasha offered. “If it isn’t ready to go within an hour, I am going to shoot the nurse.”
Melanie stiffened considerably at that, sending Jack a look that he caught out of the corner of his eye. She was scared and it brought out all Jack’s protective instincts. The last thing he wanted was Mel to be there, but so far there hadn’t been anything wrong with it. They hadn’t hurt her, only made her life difficult. Now they were threatening to kill her. That was a line they just shouldn’t have crossed.
“Hey. No one is shooting anyone or I walk,” Jack threatened. “I don’t know what you plan to do if I leave.”
Boris and Natasha seemed to consider that. Boris’ frown deepened and Natasha pursed her red lips as if she had been sucking on a lemon. It wasn’t an attractive look, especially not when she had a longer face to begin with. But they seemed to get the message. Natasha limped from the room with her head held high and Boris leveled Jack with a look.
“She’s not going to shoot anyone. She’s just anxious to get back on track. I don’t blame her. Every minute we just sit here, the cops get closer, Doc. You know that,” Boris reasoned. “So eat your sandwich and get your head in the game, Dean. You’re here to end this? Well, then end it.”
Jack nodded, thinking that he finally got why the others followed the big brute. He had a way with words. It was something that he was sure everyone else noticed, too. He was almost inspiring. Jack would have jumped to attention and fixed it if he was a mindless drone following the leader on things. Natasha was the crazy, Boris was the charisma, and Jack was the government agent. He had to keep it together and figure out where to go from here. He couldn’t keep stalling or something would happen to Melanie. They might not shoot her, but there were other things that they could do to her that were less bloody but equally as painful. He didn’t want her to experience that, not now, not ever.
So he pulled the sandwiches out and shoved the ham and cheese into his mouth, chewing on it slowly. It was god awful. He was suddenly thrilled that he was neither a celiac or lactose intolerant. Their diets were torture. He glanced at the other sandwich, opening it and giving it a sniff. Turkey on regular rye bread with real havarti cheese. He was tempted to ask if she was going to eat it, but Mel looked like she was far from hungry. He took a bite and sat it down, looking back at that infernal bomb, wishing it would just give him an answer already.
As it turned out, it wasn’t that machine that would give him an answer. Instead, it was a radio. Of fucking course. Everything just clicked and Jack could have laughed.
Half an hour after giving him the sandwich, the minions seemed to be in a panic. There was the sound of rapidly shuffling feet, rustling papers, sliding chairs, the sound of things banging intro each other...it honestly sounded like they were bugging out, like on old MASH reruns. He really had to watch less TV, seeing as how he only seemed to have TV to compare life to. He didn’t have anything to compare things to, considering he didn’t have a life except that of what he saw on TV.
“What’s going on?” Melanie asked, looking a bit spooked.
“I’ll go see.”
Walking over to the door, he leaned beside it and gave it a listen, opening it a little so that he could peek out and see what was going on. They were all rushing around and getting their things, banging into each other, grabbing...guns. Yeah, they were bugging out, alright. Closing the door again, he made his way back over to Melanie.
“Something’s up,” he told her, pulling on his jacket. “This may be your only chance to get out of here, so when it looks like there’s an opening, you take it.”
“What? No! Aren’t you coming with me?” She asked, looking a bit panicked now.
“I’ll try, but I might have to be the distraction, so when I say go, you go.”
Before she could argue any further, the door opened and Boris was there.
“We have to go. Now.”
“Why? What’s going on?” Jack asked, hoping to get some sense of the situation.
“The police scanner picked up some chatter. We’ve got cops incoming.”
“Cops?” Jack actually was confused about that one. How had the cops found them?
“Cops. Haul ass.”
Jack scrambled up, grasping Mel’s hand and stopping mid step. “What about the weapon?”
“I can’t. It’s in the middle of an important step.”
“Then leave it. As long as we have the brain behind it, we will survive.”
Jack didn’t bother to point out that he barely managed to fix what was there, and there was no way he could recreate everything from scratch somewhere else. Why ruin the moment? Boris was saving him from the law, after all. It would have been touching if he actually believed in the cause.
“We have to let Melanie go,” he pointed out, thinking that if Boris was in this much of a hurry, he could manage to get her out of harm’s way, at the very least.
“At this point, Doc, I really don’t give a damn. Leave the nurse,” Boris replied, reaching so he could grasp Jack’s arm. “But you stick to me like glue or I will find her again and when I do...”
Jack couldn’t imagine Boris doing anything to her. She wasn’t his concern, after all, but the man knew that he was attached to her. He knew that Jack was willing to behave in order to keep her safe. It was a tell he’d given away and he knew he was going to regret it sooner or later.
“...I’ll let Moira deal with her.”
Now, that was a threat. He squeezed Melanie’s hand for a moment before letting go.
“Jack,” she rasped and he smiled at her a bit.
“Go on. I got this.”
Boris tugged him towards the door and Melanie followed. Once they were in the chaos of the room, he let Boris drag him along, pointing towards the main exit in hopes that Melanie would actually listen. She looked him over for a long moment before sprinting away. He had the feeling that he should have been hurt that he was being abandoned here, but instead he was proud of the way she checked two goons out of her way and went busting through the front door in record time. She was much more impressive than he gave her credit for.
“Move it, Doc,” Boris growled, tugging him along to where the side door was.
Now, Jack had a choice here. He could go along with the big guy, relocating with the cell, rebuilding all his hard work on building a case against them. Or he could dig his heels in and make this his last stand. After all, the bomb was rigged to explode. He could end it all here if he was fast enough. Mel was out of the way and there was really no excuse beyond his own attachment to a mortal existence.
It took him only a moment to choose.
Boris turned to look at him when Jack suddenly pulled back, levelling his weight so that the other man was pulled off balance, letting him go for a moment.
“What are you doing, Doc?” Boris asked.
“It’s over,” Jack replied.
“It ain’t if we move fast enough!” Boris snapped, losing a bit of that carefully controlled temper Jack had been admiring all this time.
He’d started to say something like ‘I’m CIA or FBI or some Alphabet Agency stooge’ but it got waylaid when Natasha stalked over and punched him across the face. He staggered a bit, giving her a look.
“Moira!” Boris roared.
“They’re talking about an undercover agent still inside the building,” she explained, still glaring at Jack. “Him.”
Boris turned and looked at Jack, sizing him up with new eyes. Jack smirked a bit and straightened up, trying to look nonchalant.
“Well, I guess that cat’s out of the bag.”