Actions

Work Header

How Time Has Changed the Cracks in Our Skin

Chapter Text

It was his idea to do it. If he was honest, the idea had been growing in his mind ever since he’d found out about the alternate timeline. When Fargo had told him Zane had had to tread very carefully - and he was definitely aware that his version of treading carefully was about as subtle as a bull in a china shop - but if anyone knew him, they’d know he’d stopped probing long before he would have normally. He’d had to, really, because Jo was one of the most enigmatic people he’d ever encountered, completely open and spontaneous and yet extremely guarded and meticulous. He thought part of that had to do with him and the weirdness of their interactions, but it only served to pique his curiosity farther than he’d thought it could go.

So he’d stopped trying to force the issue, preferring instead to treat her like an equation that had to be solved, carefully and precisely. His emotions got the better of him at several points but he defied anyone not to go crazy because of Jo Lupo and the fact that he’d apparently proposed to her in some other life that he didn’t know anything about. Honestly, he didn’t know how he could have done it better. Okay, he could think of some things he could have done, but he still thought he’d done a pretty good job of trying to both give her space and find out the truth, falling desperately in love somewhere along the way.

It had worked out in the end, or was working out still. She had proposed to him and he had accepted and she was as busy planning their wedding as she had Grace and Henry’s once upon a time. It was going to be ridiculously big and while Zane was happy to be as involved as she wanted him to be, he was looking forward to the day it would be over and he would just get to be Jo’s husband. Apparently weddings had a way of getting overwhelmed by the town’s atmosphere and getting sidelined by whatever wacky thing Eureka was doing that day, such as when Carter and Allison had gotten married over a phone connection while being drowned. Jo was determined to beat the odds and Zane was willing to assist her in doing so if it was what she wanted.

But while she was busy doing that, he was busy thinking about the past and what had brought them together in the first place. He knew so little about what had happened and he found himself irrationally jealous of himself, the other him. In reality he should pity the guy, after all, that Zane had been wiped from existence, had been murdered by the timeline gods, and he was the one who got to have Jo forever. He was absolutely the lucky one, but Zane was not satisfied with that. He wanted it all; he wanted everything the other Zane had, desperate for every single moment of Jo’s time and their relationship that had ever been. It was a somewhat selfish desire, but he believed it could only better their relationship, to help build a more solid foundation than the uneven one they currently balanced upon.

So he broached the idea with her one day while she was dragging him to figure out his tux and she had been a little hesitant at first.

“It might bring up issues that are better left back there,” she said, biting her lip.

“It might help me understand you, us, better,” he countered.

“Or make you try to be something you’re not,” she said. “You’re you, not him.”

“But I’m also him,” he said, remembering what he had told Fargo when they were trapped in space and Zane’s working hypothesis had been that he’d had memories erased. “And I’ve had part of me stripped away without my consent and you’re the only person who can help me get it back.”

She blinked at him for a moment and he guessed that was rather a dramatic way of putting it, but it really was the truth. That Zane had not been given an option if he wanted to change his life; neither had any of the other inhabitants of Eureka, and, just because it was an accident, didn’t mean that there shouldn’t be some consideration given to that point.

“You’re right,” she said. “I guess I never thought about that before.”

“I’m not blaming you,” he hastened to say. “But if you and I are going to start over, then we need to be on equal ground. You’re the one holding all the cards, JoJo; I just want a fighting chance.”

“You excel at cheating and grabbing all the chances for yourself,” she said, smiling at him.

He grinned back before stealing a quick kiss.

“I never said that wasn’t a side benefit,” he said.

She fiddled with his jacket lapel for a minute before looking back up at him.

“Let’s do it,” she said. “But slowly.”

“We could make a chart,” he teased.

She rolled her eyes and flagged down the sales assistant.

That wasn’t the end of it, of course. Zane continued to make his plans and logistically figure out how it could be done. His initial thought had been for her to tell him the things he wanted to know, but the scientist in him rebelled at the thought of something so simple. He lived in Eureka; something had to be there that would allow him and Jo to do more than just talk about the past. It wasn’t until he spoke with Henry one day and mentioned off hand that he wished it could happen that he finally found the means. It should have occurred to him before to ask. Henry and Grace had gone through some of the same issues that he and Jo did and Grace’s field tied directly to what they were attempting to do. Grace had modified the Eureka time capsule failed experiment to direct neural interface only. Zane himself had used it when being interviewed about the Astraeus project.

When he told Jo about it she was more excited than when they had initially discussed it.

“Why the change of heart?” he asked her as they lounged on his sofa.

“Because now it’s a two way street,” she said. “I show you us, you show me us.”

“Why would you want to know that,” he asked, not really puzzled, but wanting to make sure they were on the same page.

“Yes, I might have had a relationship with another you,” she said, “but you had a not-relationship with another me. So we each have something to learn, not just about what works, but what doesn’t work. Besides, do you know how difficult it is navigating this timeline without understanding what happened here? I’m constantly putting my foot in my mouth or talking about things that never happened. I’m actually extremely surprised more people haven’t put it together and called us on it or thought we were robot replacements or something.”

“Okay then,” he said. “Give and take, I can do that.”

“Taker,” she said, poking him.

“I could say something about taking only the best and who could blame me and all of that,” Zane replied, capturing her hand, “but I’m much more mature than that.”

“My Mr. Mature,” she said, leaning into him and effectively stopping the conversation.

After that they set the ground rules, working with Grace and Henry on the technical details at the same time. There were a lot of safety measures both of them wanted put in place before they did anything. They did live in Eureka, after all, and it was just as common for an experiment to go horribly wrong or interact with something else and go horribly wrong, as to be successful. Henry had signed off on it as his first official act as head of GD, but they still wanted to make sure everything was perfect before they attempted their initial test run.

Without knowing quite what to expect they both agreed that they try for only one memory or incident at a time and be prepared to digest and discuss it before moving on. There were years to go through, so it was going to take a while and they would be married before they finished. Jo was the one who had said they could only do one a week and Zane agreed even as he privately thought they might want even more time. He and Jo had come a long way and, if he had anything to say about it, they’d be going a very long way, but the miles behind them were rocky, apparently in either timeline. He knew there were going to be things he didn’t like, advantages the other Zane had that he would be angry about, times when he would hate what he’d done. He also knew that showing Jo the way things had been for him wouldn’t be likely to endear him to her. There was so much between them that he didn’t want to remember or didn’t want to have to admit.

He frankly considered it a miracle he’d even listened to her when she’d set him free after General Mansfield had tried to arrest him and they’d worked together, trying to clear his name. It was probably a good thing that had happened before she had inadvertently confessed their relationship to him and shown him she had his grandmother’s ring because he would have been in no state of mind to listen before that.

But now, now they had the chance to put the past behind them or integrate it into their future if he wanted to be poetic about it. So he was going for it, no matter how messy it got in the meantime. He was pretty sure they’d make it to the other side.

He and Jo were going to share each other’s memories using the device Henry and Grace had created and then they would know everything about each other’s pasts and hopefully find themselves more connected than ever.

Chapter Text

Zane connected the last wire and found that he couldn’t prolong his actions any longer. He didn’t know why he was so nervous. After all, this had been his idea. Somehow, it was harder to deal with the physical fact of knowing the unknowable than ruminating on the intangible theory of figuring it out. He cleared his throat and turned to where Jo was sitting on the couch, blinking lights on the headset around her head, glittering like some twisted version of a backwards tiara. He fought the urge to burst out laughing since he had the feeling she would try to kick his ass for it.

“Don’t. Start,” she said, patting the seat next to her.

“I thought we were starting,” he said, obliging her.

“Not gonna dignify that one,” she replied. “You ready?” she asked and he realized she was just as nervous as he was.

“Wanna hold hands?” he asked, only half-joking. She held hers out in response and he took one while holding his other hand above the button. “You first,” he said and pressed the button, then grabbed her other hand. “Here we go.”

“God help us,” she muttered and he was pretty sure she wasn’t joking.

***

Zane wasn’t sure what to expect despite the extensive testing they’d done beforehand, but he felt an almost physical reaction as if he were being FTL-ed to a different location. He closed his eyes, more because it felt like he should than because he needed to. He felt odd and he guessed it must be because he was looking through Jo’s eyes as she remembered something. Everything was off because she was much shorter than he was and so the familiar sight of the Sheriff’s office looked different from that angle and it took him a moment to orient himself to the new normal.

He also felt disjointed because he wasn’t just seeing what she was seeing; he was feeling what she was feeling. The brain was a much more powerful processor and memory bank than people realized. Though Jo on her own couldn’t bring up this level of memory and insight, the brain still stored all the data she had processed that day, and Zane could feel the satisfaction she had from a good Vinspresso and the slightly ache-y feeling of her muscles from her morning workout. Her curiosity was piqued by the sight of something new inside the office.

It was himself, he realized, and was slightly embarrassed at how young he looked. He was practically a baby version of himself. The other Zane was lounging on the cot in the holding cell and probably doing his best to make it look like this was all his idea even though Zane figured the guy was actually terrified. Zane knew he had been.

Jo stopped, assessing the threat level, before asking Carter what was happening.

“New prisoner,” answered Carter.

“New GD recruit,” said the man in the cell. “You wound me, Sheriff.”

“Sam bring him in?” Jo asked, confident in her guess.

“Yup,” said Carter. “His file is on the desk.”

Jo nodded and headed toward her desk, examining the new prisoner on her way. Initial assessment was good-looking, too cocky, definitely a flight-risk, trouble. She flipped open the file and raised her eyebrow at his record. Zane Donovan was good, she’d give him that. Definitely too cocky though. White collar crimes mostly. Well, it didn’t take much to push over that line so she dubbed him a medium level threat and moved on to the rest of her morning.

“Nice to meet you, too,” Zane muttered from the cell.

Zane’s vision shifted slightly and he realized that some time had gone by. Instead of lying down, the Zane in the cell was standing at the bars. Jo had gone from reviewing files to fiddling around with a big-ass gun.

Jo was focusing all of her attention on the gun, but she could tell that Zane was getting bored given the fact that he was watching her so intently.

“Obsession with firearms can be a sign of unfulfilled sexual appetite,” said Zane. “I'm not saying that's you, but if it is, I'm at your service.”

Zane inwardly winced as Jo swung her gun around and pointed it right at the Zane locked up. Not his best moment and pretty much the worst first impression. Granted, he hadn’t done much better at his first meeting. So far, everything was pretty similar.

“Jo! Don't shoot the prisoner,” said Carter, catching the gun.

“Don't - if I just wing him?” asked Jo wistfully. She really loved shooting pervs and this guy was starting to border on too annoying.

“No, down. Allison wants him at GD alive.”

Jo regretfully put down the gun and picked up the transceivers she’d pulled from the armory earlier.

“Better use these then,” she said.

“Bracelets?” said Carter skeptically.

“They're geodetic coordinate transceivers,” answered Jo, in her usual, ‘Carter is being stupid,’ voice. “They'll show his location within one meter and if he tries to run, it's also got a restraint field.”

Zane moved closer to the bars as Carter opened the cell door.

“An emergent graviton field generator? Very cool.”

Zane remembered the feeling he’d had seeing those bracelets. Wonder that this town might actually be worth his time.

“If he tries to escape, hit the button,” said Jo. Zane laughed to himself even though Jo was appropriately apologetic when Carter ended up zapping himself. “At least you know it works,” she called out after a departing Carter and Zane.

Jo settled back down with her gun, still feeling like it was a pretty good day. There was a new annoyance in town she’d have to watch out for, but at least he was pretty to look at and was mostly Carter’s problem. There were some advantages to being the deputy and that was definitely one of them. Besides nothing in town had blown up yet today which meant she had time to play with her new toy.

Things shifted again and Zane found himself outside of the Sheriff office about to walk in with cup in hand.

Jo felt slightly different this morning, a little more annoyed with how long it had taken her to get her coffee this morning, the idiots on the road, and the fact she’d have to deal with the delinquent in her holding cell. However, there was a quick mood shift when she walked in and saw what Zane had somehow done to the office overnight. It was annoying but the look on Carter’s face was almost worth it. She had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. She might think it was funny but Zane did not get to know that. His behavior shouldn’t be encouraged.

“Watch him,” Carter ordered and ran out the door with Zane calling after him.

“On the upside, I got them to raise your credit limit. Yeah, you're welcome.”

Jo gave an internal sigh and decided to nip this in the bud.

“Don't even try. You may get to him, but you won't get to me,” she warned Zane and then turned at the sound of her name.

“Jo Lupo.”

“Yeah?” she asked.

The delivery man in front of her took a little too long looking her over and Jo had an internal spasm of anger and then realization it was all due to the man in the cell, smirking at her.

“I got 19 boxes from Liza's Lingerie…and can I just say, God bless?”

Jo stared in something of consternation at the box in her hand and she didn’t know if she should yell or swing first.

“I had to guess the size. You should really try everything on. I'll make popcorn,” Zane said as he raised his coffee mug to his lips smugly.

“Never gonna happen,” said Jo tightly.

As jokes went, Zane was inclined to think it was hilarious, though he gathered highly inappropriate. So he was actually really looking forward to how he had come back from this and just hoped from the way Jo was balling her firsts that it hadn’t involved internal bleeding for him. At least he finally understood why Jo had placed her ring box inside a lingerie box when she’d proposed.

Jo grabbed the dolly with the boxes and moved it hastily to the one place where she was sure no one would see it, the bathroom. She pushed the button on her wrist just for good measure and listened to the sounds of Zane swearing in the other room while she quickly reviewed what he’d bought. Some of it was…questionable, things only a man would think a woman should wear; however, she had to admit, if only to herself, that everything else…she might actually like. In fact, that one there, that one she really did want to try on.

But that was absolutely no excuse for what he had done and she went back into the other room, prepared to studiously ignore him, which she succeeded in doing until Carter came back with the news that somehow the people in GD were now stupid. That one caused her to do a double take, even with Zane’s annoying commentary in the background.

Of course, he probably had a point about the chaotic device and the likelihood of it blowing everyone up. Naturally, he also didn’t want to do anything to help and that pissed Jo off more than anything. Granted, he looked, well, he looked scared, but then the possibility of being blown up would do that to someone. She guessed that Zane was the type of person to panic first and that was something rather normal in a town full of hyper sensitive geniuses with more smarts than practical know-how. Still, it did not help her and Carter out while they tried to pull off a miracle save when most of their go to smart people were running around playing patty-cake.

When Carter left Jo tried to work, but after getting the evacuation plans initiated, making sense of the data was harder than she wanted to admit. She was not a scientist, she was a hardware person. Give her mechanical problems and she could usually sort them, but this involved science that even hanging around in Eureka for years had not given her a handle on. It would also help if the person who could actually do something about the problem would stop ogling her ass.

“You're wearing one of my presents under there, aren't you? Come on, you can tell me.” Jo did not bother to respond, but she certainly was not above giving him another zap from the bracelet. “Okay, I deserved that,” Zane actually admitted. She might drop dead from surprise. “This is nice work. How did you get enough phase power for the field and the biometric lock? Redox battery?”

Now those were questions Jo could answer with authority. She knew all when it came to what made her weapons tick.

“No, it's a nano-titanite cell,” she replied, actually happy to be talking about something other than this stupid chaotic test that was going to kill them all.

“Sweet. How do you keep the amp load from shorting out?” he asked.

“It's a dielectric waveguide,” she answered, trying to return her attention back to what she should be focusing on.

“Nice. Hey, do you have the specs on that chaotic inflation test?” was Zane’s next helpful question and that got her attention.

“Why?” she asked suspiciously.

So far he hadn’t exactly come across as helpful for no reason, even when it would save his own skin.

“Why don't you let me take a look at the containment structure for you?” He put on a charming smile, but it was wheedling and she could sniff that a mile away. “And if I'm helping you, maybe you could help me.”

“And here it comes,” she said, oddly disappointed.

“There's only one thing I want from you, JoJo.” Jo waited to hear what would follow that insanely ridiculous nickname that she would never allow anyone to call her ever again. “A sandwich. Yeah, the Geneva Conventions state that I get a sandwich for lunch.”

“And you'll read this?” she said incredulously. “And help?”

“Yeah,” he said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Well, perhaps there was slight hope for him yet, but Jo wasn’t holding her breath. Still, they needed all the help they could get.

Zane was actually quite fascinated to watch the back and forth between him and Jo so early on. She wasn’t taking any of his crap, but he was puzzled at his own actions. He knew him and he knew that he would have played hardball a lot sooner to get out of that cell and find freedom. In fact, he had. He wanted to know why this Zane was waiting and he couldn’t wait to pick Jo’s brain about it later.

Jo went to get Zane’s sandwich, haggling with Vincent to get what she wanted. The stupid was apparently spreading fast.

Or faster than she thought because when she got back to the office, she found out what an idiot she had been. Zane was gone and she had no idea how he had gotten out, but clearly his request for a sandwich had been to get her out of the way so he’d obviously been waiting for his opportunity to leave.

It was bad enough having to admit to Carter that Zane was gone, but then she found out she had inadvertently given him the answer and she was very angry with herself.

Zane actually winced at the level of annoyance Jo was feeling because she could hardly be blamed for everything the other Zane had done to break out. He was impressed at how quickly she put that aside to deal with the issue. She and Carter immediately started work on finding Zane.

Jo was very busy after that. She felt personally frustrated but she forged ahead with wrangling scientists and manhandling Zane when Carter brought him in.

“Ouch, have a heart, Deputy Lupo,” said Zane. “You know I was always coming back to you, right?”

“Can it,” Jo told him. “Fix the problem.”

Zane smirked at her but then did something rather remarkable. He went to fix it. Later Carter told Jo all about how Zane had worked the problem and she tried to put a tiny piece of the puzzle of Zane together. He could be disciplined when he wanted to, apparently, and that was interesting. Then again, he was probably trying to save his own ass.

He did save it and everyone else’s and his own instrument of torture turned out to be the key ingredient to doing so. Jo thought it was rather fitting.

She felt a breath of relief flow out when they all didn’t blow up. The quiet moments after a victory were usually a chance to resettle and calm down, but that wasn’t the case here because everyone was still acting completely out of the ordinary and if she, Carter, and Zane were the only sane people left, she was absolutely going to resign and move somewhere else.

Carter eventually did figure out the cause of the stupid epidemic and it involved organic chickens, because this was Eureka and that’s the type of thing that happened on a daily basis.

Making her own lunch had certainly had its perks though now she had to deal with the fact that giving Zane the key to his release really had been all her idea and not an insane scientific experiment messing with her brain waves. She took a brief moment to wonder if Carter was going to put anything in her file and how it would affect her future. She would give anything to have her brothers never find out.

She made her way to back to the station and found Carter there on the phone.

“What’s up?” she asked as nonchalantly as she could.

Zane was being watched by GD security as he helped with the aftermath of the chaotic test and so at least they didn’t have to worry about him at the moment. They also had to work on giving the cure for the stupid virus to everyone, but a scientist at GD was handling most of that.

“I just made a very interesting phone call,” said Carter.

“To and why?” she asked.

Carter leaned back in his chair.

“It turns out our friend Zane might have a bit of a Robin Hood complex.”

“No way,” said Jo.

“I’m more shocked than anyone,” said Carter, “but I just found out that the money he stole ended up back in Mrs. Spidaro’s donation fund and that he originally tried to help her find whoever stole her funds in the first place.”

“Oh,” said Jo, not prepared for anything more eloquent than that. She certainly hadn’t expected it and she didn’t know what to make of it. “So, what are you going to do?”

“Well, I think we let our felon fly free for a while and see how he does,” said Carter. “I’m not saying I don’t want eyes on him but...maybe he deserves a chance.”

“I guess everyone does,” said Jo.

Carter clapped her on the back on his way to Cafe Diem and she called out that she would catch up.

However, she had some thoughts of her own. Zane was proving to be a bit more of an enigma than she was sure she wanted to solve. There were a lot of things that didn’t fit and even though she oddly wanted to, she didn’t know if it would be wise to try and find what else was there. The more she thought and puzzled him out, the more she understood what he’d done, if not why. She had at least one question that needed an answer and she was going to get it.

At Café Diem Jo watched Carter release Zane out of the corner of her eye and pretended to ignore him as he sauntered across to her. He broke through the gaggle of people thanking her and put his hands in his pockets, grinning at her.

“Did you hear, JoJo? I’m a free man.”

“The JoJo thing stops now,” she told him, “and you’re free in Eureka only, remember?”

A shadow of something passed over his face and Jo made a mental note of it.

“Well, Deputy Lupo,” he emphasized, “if I’m going to stick around, I think we should get to know each other better, don’t you?”

“There’s one thing I want to know,” Jo said.

“Yeah?” he asked, clearly expecting something different.

“Why didn’t you run sooner?” she asked. He cocked his head in confusion. “You had that key before Carter and I ever came in to work,” Jo said. “You could have run.”

“Bracelets, remember?” Zane said.

Jo shook her head.

“No, you wanted me to think you got that information from me but you had other means at your disposal. Don’t tell me you couldn’t have hacked it from Carter’s computer. Don’t forget, you may have had all those things delivered, but someone had to get that furniture into a locked cell.”

Zane’s lips twitched.

“No, really, I couldn’t have done it without you,” he said and Jo saw he clearly wasn’t going to budge on that one. Maybe he didn’t even know the reason himself. “I owe you everything.”

“You owe Carter quite a lot of money,” said Jo. “I would get busy inventing.”

“But then I wouldn’t have time to take you to the ballet,” said Zane.

Jo shot him a side glance, her suspicions raised right back up, but he looked back innocently.

“The ballet?” she asked, surprised her voice didn’t crack.

“I hear they’re coming to town,” said Zane. “Now, why I don’t know, but I take my breaks where I can get them.”

“I’ll bet you do,” said Jo, ignoring a funny feeling of warmth inside her gut.

***

Zane almost slammed back into the present with a vague feeling of discomfort and a big sense of disorientation.

“I guess that was the kick Henry warned us about,” said Jo.

Zane opened his eyes and tried to reorient his vision. Jo was still sitting across from him. He glanced back at the clock, only half an hour since they’d started, but he felt like he’d lived a couple of days since then. It was incredibly odd.

“You okay?” he asked finally, not sure what else to say.

“I’m fine,” she said, “you?”

“Uh, good,” said Zane. “I’m me, right? We didn’t switch bodies or anything?”

“Why would we do that?” asked Jo.

“Just…” Zane shook his head. “It felt like I was you for two days or something.”

“Grace warned us there’d be disorientation,” said Jo.

“I guess you’re not feeling it as much because you were showing me something you had already experienced and felt,” said Zane, feeling a bit better.

“Makes sense,” she said. “What next?”

“Let me catch my breath,” he said. “That was pretty intense.”

“It was...nice,” she said.

“What do you mean?” he asked, taking a huge gulp of water from the bottles they had put beside them.

“I’d forgotten,” she said. “Meeting you was...”

“A case for sexual harassment,” he offered, figuring he might as well bite that bullet first.

“Other than that,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I liked trying to figure you out back then, even if it was dangerous.”

“Yeah, I’d say it was definitely better your time around,” said Zane.

“Ready to show me?” she asked.

“I guess,” he said, somewhat reluctant to let go of that picture of the past and let Jo know it hadn’t started out that way for him.

“We knew this would be hard,” she reminded him, squeezing his hand.

He leaned forward and brushed his lips across hers in response before refiguring the device for him instead of her.

***

Jo felt the rush of being transported but this time it was a lot more jarring. Suddenly she felt bigger and more clumsy. She was seeing through Zane’s eyes and he was in a detention cell, tension thrumming throughout his body. Options kept running through his mind and he was very close to snapping. It was not a pleasant feeling.

Zane examined the vent carefully before checking his watch again. He’d gotten the money out but now he was caught and he did not like that at all. The feeling of being trapped was one of the worst feelings in the world and he had things to do, things to accomplish. There were too many thoughts in his mind that needed exploration and he wouldn’t be able to do that from a jail cell.

The sound of a door opening had him spinning back around. A man who looked entirely too young to be wearing the expensive suit he had on was entering the room with a smug expression on his face. Jo almost laughed at how ridiculous Fargo looked in that suit, like he was trying to be a little mini Stark.

The man pushed his glasses up his nose and spoke.

“Probably not the best idea. That comes out on the pistol range.”

“Please tell me you're not my lawyer,” said Zane, pinching his nose with his fingers.

“No, but I can keep you out of jail,” said the man.

“What'd you have in mind?” asked Zane, willing to hear any option once.

“My name is Douglas Fargo and I run a very prestigious company called Global Development.”

That piqued Zane’s interest. He had heard of GD but it was apparently backed by very mysterious sources and hacking had only gotten him mediocre results in the past. Granted, he hadn’t been putting his best efforts into it, but that still made him give it an automatic modicum of respect.

“Sounds dull,” he said instead and acted uninterested.

“Mr. Donovan,” said Douglas, “I don’t have time for anybody who isn’t willing to commit to my cause. Your skills are passable and that’s why I’m here. But if you’d rather rot in federal prison than listen to what I have to say, I will walk out those doors.”

Zane narrowed his eyes. He really didn’t like this pompous jerk, but if he really was his ticket out of there, then he’d rather play along now and run later.

“I’m all ears,” he said.

“That’s better,” said Douglas, sitting down and gesturing for Zane to do likewise. “My terms are these, accept them or not, I don’t really care.”

Jo raised her eyebrows; this timeline’s Fargo really was a jerk. She could almost sympathize with Parrish and his rants about him now.

Zane listened as Douglas laid out the terms and went on and on about how great GD was and how they were willing to lower their impossible standards for him and how grateful he should be and he wanted to throw something by the time it was over.

Still, he took the deal. He would have much better luck figuring something out from a poky little town than from inside a jail cell.

Jo could see that the other Fargo hadn’t made the best first impression on Zane; that must have been the start of the differences. Allison and even their Fargo would have done a much better job of presenting Eureka and GD and would have been more appreciative of Zane’s intelligence and skills. Still it didn’t sound too different than a standard employment offer.

Zane was pretty much bored the entire trip to his supposed new home. He was handcuffed the whole way and it was not exactly an ego boost to be paraded that way in front of everyone as he entered the town. They went into the lobby of whatever this town called a Sheriff’s office and while they were busy figuring out who was supposed to take charge of him he could hear voices coming from inside the inner office. One of them he recognized as coming from his old buddy Douglas Fargo.

“You wanna hire this guy?” asked someone.

“He's adequate in his field,” answered Douglas.

“Oh, yeah, if screwing up is a field,” said the first voice.

“We need a particle physicist, Carter, and he's the only one out there at the moment. He was accepted to MIT at the age of 13.”

“Expelled,” answered Carter.

“Accepted at Yale.”

“Expelled,” said Carter.

“Cornell.”

“Oh, guess what?” said Carter, heavy on the sarcasm. “Expelled.”

“Carter, I do not have time for this,” said Douglas. “Mr. Donovan won the Spidaro Foundation Award for superstring theory. They haven't even bothered to give it out since. I realize with your limited intellect that doesn’t mean much to you, but try to grasp the import of my words.”

“Here's a resume highlight,” continued Carter as if Douglas hadn’t said anything. “Just stole $3.1 million from the U.S. Border patrol account for drug interdiction.”

"Allegedly,” Douglas scoffed. The door opened and the voices abruptly stopped. “Welcome to Eureka, Mr. Donovan,” said Douglas, coming out of the office. “He's all yours, Sheriff.”

“Don't want him,” said a blonde haired man wearing a uniform, hands on hips.

“Well, you got him,” Douglas said firmly. “Technically, he's still a prisoner and he's your responsibility.”

“Until when?” Carter actually whined and Zane inwardly rolled his eyes.

“Until you think he can be trusted,” Douglas said vaguely and walked out without saying anything else.

Carter sighed and unceremoniously ushered Zane into a cell.

“So, what do you do for fun in this town?” Zane asked.

Carter looked at him as if he was the world’s biggest inconvenience and sat down at his desk.

Jo couldn’t find too many differences in Carter yet, though he clearly was even less interested in the hassle than her Carter.

Zane sighed and lay down on the cot in the cell, figuring he might as well get some shuteye if he was going to come up with an escape plan. Even geniuses needed their beauty sleep and he clearly was not making any friends here today.

He hadn’t been lying there long when he felt somebody’s attention on him. He cocked an eye open and found a very beautiful example of a woman at the desk, dressed in the same dorky uniform Carter was wearing but she pulled it off much, much better.

Zane didn’t have much in him at the moment to fully appreciate her beauty but there was something about her that made him sit up and take notice.

She glanced at him dismissively and didn’t even bother to introduce herself. Zane didn’t like being ignored at the best of times and she was incredibly good at it. He had to crane his neck to read the nameplate on her desk. Deputy Jo Lupo, huh.

Jo squirmed slightly at the racy thoughts that ran through Zane’s mind while looking at her. She supposed it was no different than some of the racy thoughts he’d said to her...or done to her for that matter, but it still felt very odd to be so close to them without any kind of filter and knowing that they didn’t even know each other yet.

The entire department appeared to be run on some kind of telepathy because Carter and Lupo didn’t even talk to each other until Carter announced the Director wanted Zane at GD.

“I have plans,” said Lupo.

“Hopefully plans with me,” said Zane, shooting her a winning smile.

She pulled her gun on him and Zane took a step back without thinking about it.

“Don't shoot the prisoner,” said Carter, catching the gun.

“How about I wing him?” asked Lupo.

“No, down. Fargo wants him at GD alive.”

Lupo picked up silver objects from her desk.

“Better use these then,” she said.

“Bracelets?” said Carter skeptically.

“They're geodetic coordinate transceivers,” answered Lupo. “They'll show his location within one meter and if he tries to run, it's also got a restraint field.”

Zane moved closer to the bars as Carter opened the cell door.

“An emergent graviton field generator? Very cool,” Zane said.

He really meant it, too. It was the only thing he’d seen or heard of so far that made Eureka or GD seem like anything he’d want to be a part of.

Carter sighed again and unlocked the doors and took the bracelet Lupo offered and put it on Zane’s wrist.

They tested out the restraint field before they left and it did not make Zane like being in his current situation any more than the proposed jail cell. The feeling of putting one’s finger in an electrical socket was magnified many times and made every part of his body light up momentarily with pain that caused aftershocks of tingling numbness.

Jo slightly, only slightly, regretted the number of times she’d shocked Zane now. He’d deserved it each time, but sometimes it did take being in someone else’s shoes, this time literally, to truly understand how something felt. She wondered if he was getting a perverse thrill out of her getting shocked in his body.

Zane was actually fairly impressed with GD and its security measures. He quickly deduced that escape from here wouldn’t be simple; he was definitely going to have to do it from the Sheriff’s office. Still, it was fairly cool to be wandering the halls, even closely eyeballed by Carter.

He was brought into a lab and his attention was immediately drawn to the observation window and what lay beyond.

“Holy crap. You actually built it?” he asked in awe.

To see so much of what he’d envisioned in his head in real life was incredible.

“What, exactly, did we build?” asked Carter from behind him.

“A chaotic inflation device,” answered a new voice from behind him.

There were different people in the room now, seemingly the other scientists, but he tuned out their conversation explaining the device to Carter, and just simply marveled at what he’d technically helped build.

He went to check the containment levels before getting yanked back by Carter.

“I'm just checking the levels on the containment fields,” he said, annoyed.

“Let’s ease you in, shall we?” said the man Zane realized someone had introduced as Nathan Stark.

“Nice teamwork,” Zane muttered. “Well, team, I’m starving, what’s for lunch?”

“It is lunchtime,” said…Henry something or other.

“None for me,” said Stark, “I’ve got another project that needs my attention. You have fun.”

They went back into the town for lunch and Zane didn’t really understand how this town could possibly work the way it did, but he understood that the Café Diem owner Vincent truly had a sweet set up, being the only restaurant in town and being fully funded by the government.

Zane grabbed napkins and got zapped again for his efforts and sat down under Carter’s watchful eye.

“I'm not eating that,” he said flatly, looking at the chicken.

“What? It's chicken,” said Carter.

“You know how chickens are raised?” Zane asked, spotting an opportunity.

Jo wanted to laugh, she could feel Zane’s anticipation of ruining Carter’s lunch and she knew exactly what that would be like.

“Don't. Just let me enjoy my meal,” said Carter.

“Jammed together in a windowless warehouse, wading in feces,” Zane persisted, “until they get decapitated. Or pecked to death. When you eat that chicken, you're eating all that hate.”

Carter unceremoniously ushered Zane back to the office and shoved him back in a cell. Zane was not exactly pleased.

“Come on. I have to sleep in here?”

“At least you're not wading in your own feces,” Carter shot back. “GD has an apartment for you, but you're a criminal. You don't deserve it.”

“You may think I'm a criminal, but my mom loves me. She wouldn't appreciate you insulting her boy,” Zane said, examining the lock on the door.

“Enjoy your stay and don't bother,” Carter said, pointing to the lock. “It's unpickable.”

“Ithaca lock company,” Zane said, filing all the information away. “Sloped tumblers, nice. Can I at least watch tv? The Mariners are playing the Yankees.”

“Fine,” said Carter, tossing him the remote and leaving. “No pay channels.”

“Of course not,” whispered Zane to himself as he pried upon the remote and began his good work.

It took a while but he eventually got what he needed. The trickiest part was getting the tv lined up so it mirrored Carter’s computer. It was almost cute the security Carter thought he had in place. In a way it was just shameful that this supposedly all powerful Eureka let their Sheriff be so vulnerable.

Zane did mess around with the tumblers on the lock for a bit but he quickly realized there were different ways to accomplish his goal if he was willing to be patient.

After Zane ordered the key from the lock company he pondered what his next step would be. He had the urge to mess with this town but something told him that wouldn’t turn out well. He had other places to be and his reception here hadn’t exactly given him hope that he would ever truly belong. There were some bright spots, Ms. Lupo’s ass and the chaotic device being two of them, but did they really hold a candle to his freedom?

He quickly searched through the rest of Carter’s information and found the diagnostics on the bracelet around his wrist. A little bit of delicate work later and it was off his wrist.

It was a long night and Zane got bored waiting for his deliveries. Security in the town was somewhat ridiculous, he realized, when he was able to just get what he wanted without anyone questioning why the Sheriff wasn’t there to receive it. It had taken a little fancy maneuvering with his feet and some tied together blankets to get the actual package to his cell but once he got it there, it was a matter of seconds getting the locks opened and he stretched, enjoying the moment.

A cab waited for him down the road and Carter’s credit card was all that Zane needed to get him fifty miles away from town and to a cabin he figured he could work out his next move.

It hadn’t really worked that way though. He was going on adrenaline and wit alone and he didn’t really know what his next move could be. He’d just have to figure it out because that’s what he did.

He slept well but he was starting to regret not packing some snacks because he hadn’t exactly eaten a lot in the last twenty four hours and he was starving.

He was a bit taken back when he exited the bathroom and found Carter standing in the doorway.

“Well, I must say I'm impressed,” he said nonchalantly, because what else could he do? “What did you do, refocus some of your satellites to pick me up? Figured fifty miles from Eureka was far enough.”

“No. You vacationed here when you were ten,” Carter replied smugly. “I figured…it's off the main roads, a place to hide out for a couple of days first.”

“Well, I guess my FBI file was more detailed than I thought,” said Zane.

“It's not in your file,” Carter said.

“Then that computer of yours must have an amazing predictive algorithm,” said Zane, confused.

“Didn't use a computer. I called your mother.”

“You called my mother?” Zane was nonplussed.

He had a grudging respect for the man but he was annoyed at his mother now. Sure, he may have been breaking her heart with his criminal antics for years, but did she really have to give him up like that?

“Come on,” said Carter. “We’ve got to get back to town.”

“Since you asked so nicely,” said Zane.

He didn’t let himself panic as Carter got him back in the car and they started driving back to Eureka.

“I need to know what you did,” Carter said.

Zane didn’t see any harm in revealing his cleverness.

“Okay, you were right. That cell has a damn good lock. I had to order a new master key off the Ithaca lock web site. They run a pretty tight ship. I had to give them your social security number.”

“That's not what I'm talking about,” said Carter, though the look he shot Zane led him to believe the social security remark had not gone unnoticed. “What did you do to the big bang experiment?”

“What are you talking-” Zane started to ask.

“What did you do to make them stupid?” said Carter.

“That's crazy!” Zane said, highly offended now.

“All right, this isn't a joke anymore,” said Carter. “You’re extremely lucky that Stark decided not to eat at Vincent’s yesterday or we would be having a very different conversation. All the same, I need to know.”

“You think I would intentionally mess up that experiment?” Carter just looked at him. “Well, I wouldn't,” Zane continued. “Because it's beautiful. If that thing up there works, it could change the laws of physics.”

“Then why are you running from it?” Carter asked.

“In case you didn’t notice, I wasn’t exactly given the keys to the kingdom,” said Zane. “It’s amazing but I doubt anyone’s going to trust me with it so why bother?”

“You want the keys, you got to earn them,” said Carter. “You can’t just order them off the Internet.”

“In your world, maybe,” said Zane. “But in my world, it doesn’t work that way.”

Carter sighed and subsided into silence. Zane folded his arms and didn’t try to speak for the rest of the drive. He was feeling extremely uncomfortable. Somewhere underneath Carter’s words was a truth he was not ready to deal with.

Jo wasn’t sure how she felt about what had just happened. It all felt so familiar but there were subtle little things that were off and it was very confusing. Carter was almost saying the right things and Zane was almost hearing them, but she could tell from the churning in Zane’s stomach that he was not happy and he was feeling trapped.

When they got back to Eureka Zane was hustled back into the jail cell.

“Carter, we still have a problem,” Lupo said. “They’re not getting better.”

“They’re still stupid?” Carter said, sounding horrified. “But we stopped the big bang.”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” said Lupo. “But it’s still going on so we need to figure it out.”

“Okay,” said Carter. “Stay here and watch him. I’m headed to GD.”

Zane was about to settle back into his cell when he had a rather uncomfortable and yet enjoyable experience of being frisked by Lupo.

“It was all worth it for this moment,” he said.

“Don’t count on getting out again,” Lupo said, holding up his stolen key and staring him down.

Zane folded his arms and stared back at her. He’d tried charm; clearly he needed to try a new tactic with her.

“Have a good day, Deputy,” he said.

Lupo stared at him and when he didn’t blink, something flashed in her face and then she turned her back on him and sat down at her desk.

There was the weird sensation of vision shifting and Jo realized it was hours later. Zane was still sprawled out in the jail cell and the other her was still working at the desk.

Carter entered the room.

“Allison was the test subject and it’s working great,” he announced. “The stupid outbreak is over.”

“What’s the project status?” Zane asked idly.

“A resounding success from what I hear,” said Carter.

“So you realize I had nothing to do with what happened to everyone?” said Zane, standing up and leaning against the bars.

“Yeah, you’re clean on that score,” Carter admitted.

“You just broke your contract and ran,” said Lupo brightly. She turned to Carter. “Did Fargo say when we could get rid of him?”

“We did have a meeting,” said Carter.

“Well?” asked Zane.

“When you’re too old to run,” said Carter. Zane stared at him, unable to tell if the man was joking. “No, you’ll still get to find out the secrets to the universe, you’ll just have to ease into it.”

Zane sighed, so it was going to be like that.

“The cuffs are permanent then?” asked Lupo.

“Cuffs stay on,” said Carter, “but only for tracking purposes. No zapping. You can move into your apartment but you are under house arrest. When you’re not at GD working, you’ll be there. Someone will escort you to and from GD. They have special teams going through the apartment now removing every electrical device known to man so I hope you’re ready to go Amish.”

“Just kill me now,” said Zane and shuffled back to the cot and collapsed on it dramatically.

He deserved a little drama. Shiny toys at work were all he had to look forward to till the day he died, brilliant.

***

Zane cocked one eye open and looked at Jo across from him. Her hand was limply held in his and her eyes were closed.

“JoJo?” he asked, surprised at how dry his voice sounded.

“I’m really tired,” she said and it was not what he had expected.

“Yeah, me too,” he said, feeling more unsure by the second.

She opened her eyes and a slow smile spread across her face.

“Hi,” she said and he immediately felt better.

“Don’t scare me like that,” he said, jabbing her with his foot.

“I repent of nothing,” she said, taking the headset off and stretching a little.

He watched her appreciatively while taking off his own headset and clicking off the device. She stood up and almost immediately toppled over.

“Careful,” he said. “You’ve been sitting for a while.”

“Head rush,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”

She made her way slowly to the restroom and closed the door behind her. Zane stood up much more slowly and blinked while the blood rushed to his head. He did some stretching of his own and made his way over to the window, not surprised it was now fully dark outside. They would have to get some food soon because his stomach was grumbling.

He was feeling uneasy, it was hard going back so far and feeling everything he had felt when first arriving in Eureka. He didn’t like remembering that past when his present was so much better. He only wanted to feel what he felt now rather than anything from back then. Maybe this had been a mistake. He still wanted to know what had happened with the other Zane, but he didn’t like reliving his own past.

Jo’s arms snaked around him and he hadn’t noticed her approach. She could be very sneaky when she chose to be and he hadn’t been paying attention.

“You okay?” he asked absently.

“Yeah,” she said, “how are you?”

“Well, now you know why you and I never got anywhere,” he said.

“I wasn’t having any of it,” she said. “I wonder what the vital difference was? It’s not like the scenarios were so different.”

“Well, I doubt it was just because she never got lingerie,” said Zane.

Jo swatted him slightly and he turned to smile at her.

“Seriously,” she said. “Why didn’t I let you in? You tried.”

“Not that hard,” he reminded her. “It was all hormones, Jo, that and getting out of here.”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “So I wonder why the other Zane stayed, can you answer the question I asked him?”

“I have a theory,” he said, leaning back against the window and pulling her with him. It felt good to stand after sitting for so long. “I think your Zane dared to believe he could stay.”

“He ran only after the experiment started to go wrong,” said Jo slowly.

“Yeah,” said Zane. “He could have left when I did and, since Stark was in Dummy City, if I may say so, bye bye Eureka.”

“Yeah,” Jo agreed, tucking her chin against his chest. “Maybe having Allison be the one to recruit him…”

“Other Fargo was a dick,” said Zane bluntly. “This one is a major improvement. So yeah, I didn’t exactly feel welcome from the get go. It was cool, yes, but staying somewhere because you have to isn’t exactly my idea of a dream job.”

“I guess we didn’t make it any easier,” said Jo. “Maybe if you’d had a little more encouragement, less cuff time…”

Zane shrugged. He honestly didn’t know.

“Eureka wasn’t ready for someone like me,” he said finally. “Not as I was.”

“I read your files,” Jo said, biting her lip. “I pretty much had to in order to figure out this timeline.”

“I figured as much,” he said, shifting uncomfortably.

“I’m sorry about all the…things,” she said, apparently unable to articulate anything specific, but he knew what things she meant.

“It wasn’t you,” he said and inwardly cringed at the continual double standard of going back and forth on if they were responsible for their other timeline selves or not.

She snorted softly as if to let him know she wasn’t buying it and he chuckled.

“Did you find what you were looking for in my past?” she asked, moving back to see his face.

“Maybe,” he said. “I definitely know what to get you for your birthday.”

“Ha ha,” she said. “If I open up a box and find any lingerie, you will never get to see it.”

“Apparently I never got to see it originally,” he said and leaned forward to whisper in her ear. “You can tell me, did you try it on?”

Jo blushed slightly and glared at him.

“Maybe,” she said, not admitting anything in her tone.

“Oh, you did, you so did,” he said. “Any chance you were wearing that the day you popped back to 1945 and still have it?”

“You’re trying to distract me,” she said. “It won’t work.”

“Who me?” he asked. “I defy anyone not to be distracted at the thought of you in lingerie.”

“You wanted so badly to know how things with me and the other Zane happened,” she persisted. “Are you satisfied?”

Zane sighed.

“Yes, no, I don’t know. Nothing about this is hard science. Okay, the whole thing is based around hard science, but the experience of it…it’s all emotional. Sorting through that data takes time.”

“So what’s happened so far?” she asked.

“All I know is I like your version better,” said Zane, folding his arms cross his chest. “It looked nice…maybe there were some unpleasant moments and rocky starts, but he got to save the town and play with science all day long and apparently we went to the ballet. I know you felt drawn to him and if he was anything like me, he liked the look of you right away.”

“I remember,” said Jo, her eyes slightly darker than normal.

“It just…I wish it had happened that way,” said Zane. “Maybe if I hadn’t run it could have. I remember debating whether or not to stay and it just didn’t seem worth it.”

“We can’t change the past,” said Jo, putting her hands on his chest. “I spent a really long time wishing I could. I wondered what if I’d just said yes to him when he asked me? What if he’d been on his phone and gone back with us? What if I’d tried to do something harder to get back to that timeline? What if I’d told you something? But we’re still here, mostly because you’re a stubborn jerk. So that’s something, right?”

“Something,” he admitted, leaning forward and kissing her forehead. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with how things are. I’m happy you got to have that past. But I don’t like my past and I don’t like reliving it.”

“I guess I didn’t think about how hard it would be for you,” she said. “I was thinking about me.”

“What about you?” he said. “Did you find what you wanted?”

“I don’t know what I wanted,” she said. “Some kind of sign that we could have been together in this timeline? To know why we weren’t?”

“I don’t know if you can find that there,” he said.

“I do know I understand you better,” she said.

“Oh yeah?” he asked, trying to lighten the mood.

“I mean, it was very similar,” she said. “You hit on me, you were a delinquent, everyone went stupid…”

“I ran away…” he said.

“You ran away without me feeling like an idiot,” Jo mumbled.

“What was that?” asked Zane.

“Well, I let you out…” she said. “Him out. You know.”

“You didn’t mean to,” said Zane. “Besides it wasn’t like he seduced you and you fell for it. You were just having a conversation.”

“Inadvertently or not, I let a prisoner escape,” said Jo strongly. “There is no excuse for that and I still hate that it happened, even if I figured out later that he could’ve escaped all on his own.”

“I remember,” Zane said, throwing his mind back to being her in the memory. “You were worried about Carter putting it in your record. My little perfectionist.”

“It’s not a joke,” said Jo, moving away from him. “That could have seriously ruined any chance I had at…”

“At?” he asked, staying very still.

“At going nowhere,” she said in a defeated tone, sitting back down limply. “Carter will be Sheriff until he dies.”

“Which you wanted…” Zane filled in.

“I thought I was qualified,” said Jo wearily. “But any kind of mishap meant it was less likely.”

“Do you think if you’d stayed in the other timeline you’d have ended up at GD?” he asked, moving to perch on the couch arm.

“Maybe,” she said. “I had…other distractions there.”

“The other Zane kept you from career climbing?” Zane asked, not sure how he felt about that.

“It just meant I wasn’t as focused on my career because that wasn’t the only thing in my life,” Jo corrected. “Finding a date in this town is not as easy as you might think.” Zane had never really had that problem so he wisely didn’t say anything. “I guess in this timeline, I was all about career.”

“I certainly got that impression sometimes,” Zane said delicately.

“I don’t really have a lot of things from her, the other me,” Jo said, waving her hand vaguely. “My house got destroyed too many times.”

“Yeah…still sorry about that,” Zane said.

“You’re not the one who destroyed most of it,” she said. “All I have are her records at GD and that’s not very personal. So I don’t know what she was thinking or feeling. That’s what I hoped I would see in your past. At least that was partly it.”

“I hate to break it to you, Lupo,” said Zane, “but we weren’t exactly BFFs. Most of what you’ll see in my past regarding her involves her smirking while locking me up.”

“I know,” Jo said, “but I still think that I can read myself better than you could at the time. Even through your eyes, maybe I can find the differences between us. Her and me.”

“I hope so,” said Zane. “But I won’t pretend to like living through it again.”

“Why does it bother you so much?” she asked.

“Because that’s the me that you didn’t love,” he said. “That’s the me that didn’t love you. That’s not a version of me worth knowing. I don’t want you reliving the happy other me and then being reminded of crappy, loser me.”

“I don’t even know where to start to address those things you presented as sentences,” Jo said. “Firstly, we’re in the same boat, you know. I don’t want you looking at the other me and feeling resentful and remembering how badly I might have treated you. Secondly, the changes in the timeline are based around Eureka so…as far as I can tell, there really aren’t that many differences in your life before you came here. You and he aren’t that different. I’m the one that’s different.”

“We’re just going to run around in circles on this, aren’t we?” he asked. “Do you regret doing it?”

Jo paused before answering, absently running her hands over her knees.

“No,” she said finally. “Do you?”

He heaved a big sigh and ran his fingers through his hair. Did he? He still found himself craving what the other Zane knew, thinking there must be some formula hidden away about how to make things work with Jo. Maybe he had it backwards.

“No,” he said. “If I’m honest I’d rather just relive your timeline, but I know that wouldn’t be fair.”

“Maybe we can compromise a little,” said Jo. “Maybe if after I show you something you tell me what happened here we won’t have to live it. It only makes sense that things that happened to me and him wouldn’t have affected you and her the same way since he and I hooked up almost right away and you guys started hating each other.”

“Hate is a strong word,” he protested. “But I get your point and I’m grateful for it. Honestly, there were very long months when the other Jo and I never interacted at all. Even in the weekly crisis.”

“Okay, so we’ll take that part as we go,” said Jo, “but I would like to reserve the right to request we still go through your memory, okay?”

“You got it, Lupo,” Zane said.

“So is the debrief over?” she asked.

“Anything else you wanted to discuss?” he said. “Any lingering questions? Descriptions…?”

“You are such a pig,” she said, rolling her eyes. “The only thing I really want to know is why he stayed…and how he knew about the ballet.”

“That second one is fairly easy,” said Zane. “I’m guessing your buddy Carter told him.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“You’re probably right,” she said. “I can see him doing that.”

“I think Carter knowing about Mrs. Spidaro in my timeline would have helped,” said Zane. “As far as I know, he never knew.”

“That’s right,” said Jo. “Carter likes to trust people, but he also holds rules pretty dearly. It’s a weird mix.”

“You’re both like that,” said Zane. “And I’m telling you, your Zane stayed because he had hope that he could belong and he wanted to be a part of the science.”

Jo got up and grabbed Zane by the shirt front, pulling him up. He followed without protest, but was rather confused.

“You’re my Zane,” she said in no uncertain terms, pushing him into a seat at the kitchen counter and opening the fridge. “Shall we eat?”

Zane smiled, slightly in awe.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said.

Maybe this would work out, he didn’t know. His experiments were fifty-fifty at the best of times. Still, there was a lot of time to go through and he was pretty satisfied with the results of their first attempt. He gladly took the leftovers she handed him and dug in and she joined him. Next time would be next time.

Chapter Text

Zane hit the button to lock his car and headed into the house where Jo was presumably waiting for him while fuming. It was not his fault he was late and he was prepared to vehemently argue that fact. Pausing for a second, he took in Jo’s third attempt at a house, one which had not been destroyed by any method Eureka could yet create. He was hoping it stayed that way, especially since the vast majority of his stuff was now inside. While he and Jo had discussed the idea of still leaving Eureka when they had thought it was going to be shut down, they had changed their minds and decided to stay at least until after the wedding. Any future employment opportunities would be considered with their marriage in mind; at least that was the plan.

He entered and called out for Jo.

“I’m in the kitchen,” she called back.

He walked in and threw his bike keys on the counter.

“What’s for dinner?” he asked, trying to keep a solemn face.

“Whatever you make,” she said, putting what looked like the last bite of a large slice of cake in her mouth and chewing with relish. “I ate mine while I was stuck here waiting forever.”

“It was not my fault,” said Zane quickly. “The experiment I was working on exploded and I had to clean it up.”

“Then you shouldn’t have been so careless,” she said. “Serves you right.”

She was smiling though, so she couldn’t be too mad.

“That was the nuisance of an assistant that Henry made me hire,” Zane complained. “Everything was a lot better when I controlled everything.”

“You still do,” said Jo, grabbing her plate and dumping it in the sink. “The assistant is to help you get better at paperwork, which you suck at.”

“I still don’t like it,” Zane grumbled. He caught her before she could sit back down and kissed the top of her head. “How was work?”

“Slow and boring,” said Jo. They still drove separately to work even though they were going to the same place since they often worked such different hours and had different claims on their time. “I would have welcomed an explosion.”

“Hey, more time for wedding stuff?” he offered.

“Don’t remind me,” she said. “But here’s one for you, you have to pick up the tuxes tomorrow or I will murder you and then there will not be a wedding.”

“Noted,” he said, opening the fridge and spying a lonely takeout box from Vincent’s in the back of it. He warmed it up and started shoveling bites of something probably never found in any normal restaurant but which still tasted somewhat decent, despite having been in the fridge for God knows how long.

“Are you ready or do I need to waste more time?” she asked.

“I can do it now,” Zane answered, carrying his food into the living room and starting to double check the equipment. He did trust Jo fully, but they had both agreed he should always look at everything before they started, just in case. “Let’s do it.”

It had been a little more than a week since their first go at the device. To be honest, Zane was still trying to figure out how he felt about it, but he also knew as a scientist that he would have to keep doing trial runs to get any kind of consistent data.

So here they were.

Jo got herself comfortable and accepted the headset from him.

“I’m ready,” she said.

“Where we going today, JoJo?” he asked.

Her eyes glinted mischievously at him and he raised his eyebrow.

“We’re going to church,” she said and pushed the button.

***

Despite Jo’s words, Zane found himself in Café Diem. He as Jo was seated across from Zoe and was eating a sandwich and he recoiled from the taste and realized that Jo was enjoying it tremendously, but he was not.

Jo swallowed and then realized with some trepidation and a little anticipation that Zane had entered the cafe and was making a beeline for them.

“This seat taken?” Zane asked, standing at the table edge and fixing doe eyes on Jo.

“We’re kind of having lunch here,” Jo said, gesturing to Zoe.

This was not a good time to try anything, not with Zoe right there, looking as if she’d landed in gossip heaven.

“Say no more,” said Zane, waving his hand. “I won’t get in the way. But you owe me a trip to the ballet, Deputy.”

“I don’t owe you anything,” she said. “If anything you should be taking Carter to make up for his credit score.”

“It’s higher than ever. I am very responsible,” Zane said seriously. “Besides, he looks like an expensive date.”

“Zane…” Jo said. “Is there a point to this?”

“Tell me when you’re free and, since the ballet doesn’t seem to be a big ticket item and we’d have to wait, where you would like to go?” he said.

Jo hesitated and started to say no when Zoe kicked her under the table. Jo groaned inwardly and realized she shouldn’t have mentioned Zane’s flirtation to Zoe. It was just the kind of thing Zoe ate up. Zane was staring at her and so was Zoe and Jo hated situations like this. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to say yes, but she was normally a lot more cautious about her choice of dates.

“I have Sundays off,” she said, trying not to sound committed.

“Perfect!” said Zane. “How about breakfast?”

This at least Jo had a firm excuse against.

“I can’t,” she said and then didn’t say anything else.

Zoe shot her a glare.

“Because you’re allergic to breakfast…” Zane prompted and Jo realized she needed to be fair.

“Because I attend church Sunday mornings,” she said and then felt a little mischievous. “You wanna come with?”

“How about brunch?” he said instead and Jo was actually somewhat surprised.

Most of the time when she told a guy she went to church, he mocked her for believing in God or tried to corrupt her innocence or something idiotic like that. There was still time for that though.

“Okay,” she said.

“One?” he asked.

“Okay,” she said.

“Meet you here?” he said, his lips twitching.

“Okay,” she said.

“Okay,” he repeated and waved at both of them before leaving.

“Could you be more spastic?” Zoe asked as if bursting to talk.

“He caught me off guard,” Jo grumbled and kicked Zoe under the table in retribution.

“You have to tell me everything!” Zoe said, taking a bite.

“We’ll see,” said Jo. “It might not be anything. He’s just trying to mess with me.”

“No, I know that look,” said Zoe. “He really likes you.”

“Then there’s something wrong because one should not like one’s jailer,” said Jo.

“He’s not a prisoner,” said Zoe. “Just enjoy it, Jo. You’ve got a bad boy with the bonus of him not actually being bad.”

Jo chuckled and got back to her lunch. She’d worry about Zane later. For now, she wanted to enjoy herself.

There was an uncomfortable digging in his back and Zane was suddenly in a building he’d never actually stepped inside, Eureka’s one and only church. Jo was sitting in a pew and listening intently. There weren’t many people there, not that he’d expect it to be full or anything, not in Eureka. He idly wondered if Jo was making him listen to this on purpose, since he didn’t think it was possible this could have anything to do with them. The woman preaching did have a pretty compelling voice and he decided he’d try to listen.

“Albert Einstein said science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind. But is there still a place for faith in a world of science? Has our ability to unravel the mysteries of rainbows made them any less miraculous? Science may be the method by which we give name to God's miracles, but faith is the question that arises every time an old mystery is solved. The elegant explanations discovered every day in Eureka are the very reason to believe in something greater. Something beyond mathematics. Something divine.”

Jo listened appreciatively. There was something very comforting about this building and being here every Sunday. There were multiple reasons she attended here, but she thought a large part of it had to do with how Jo felt about the people sitting with her. There were a lot of people in Eureka who were against this church and what it stood for, which raised a kind of solidarity between the people who regularly stepped inside. Jo felt at peace, felt equal to everyone here. No one judged her for being here and she felt like she was on the same level as them, which is not a way she felt in Eureka often. There were too many people who looked down on her for not being a scientist or a genius or even that interested in things like that. She loved mechanics, but that was as science-y as she got.

As much as she would like to stay and revel in the safety of this place, she did have somewhere to be. Jo nervously adjusted her dress as she stood up and wondered if she should have gone with something a bit more practical for her date with Zane. She tried very hard to present a certain image as the deputy of this town and this was the antithesis of that image. Still…she was not going as the deputy.

She had no idea how this was going to go and that was what made her nervous, that and the ‘what if’ questions that automatically came into being whenever any type of romantic prospect raised its head.

She pushed open the door to Café Diem and spotted Zane with Vincent and she smiled. He flashed a huge smile at her and got up, speaking quietly with Vincent as he came over to her.

“If all church girls look like you, I might consider converting,” Zane said, taking in her appearance.

Zane wished he could see what his counterpart was seeing, but Jo was stubbornly not walking by any mirrors. All he could see was flashes of white and Jo’s gorgeous legs.

Jo was insanely glad she’d worn this dress now, but she refused to give in to his flirtation so easily.

“You should join me sometime and find out,” she said, accepting the rose he held out, inwardly impressed with the gesture, yet still testing his reception to the whole church thing.

“Oh, I would, but I'm allergic,” he said. “I'd have to get a new inhaler. It'd be a whole thing.” He gestured toward the table. “After you.”

“Chivalry,” she said, moving toward the table. “Not something I was expecting from a felon.”

Zane winced a bit. He knew Jo was just joking but it was remarks like that that had kept Zane alienated from everyone when he was first in Eureka. He doubted the other him would take it well, even if he had been accepted sooner.

“Hey, never convicted,” he said and was she imagining the bitterness in his tone? “But the day is still young.”

“Try anything, and I'll deviate your septum,” she said lightly.

He huffed out a breath and leaned in closer. His cologne suddenly hit her nose and she couldn’t decide if she liked it or not.

“That is so hot,” he said.

With that she decided to relax. There was no point in spending this date desperately trying to figure him out and why he was interested in her, apart from the obvious.

“So,” she said, after they were both seated. “How is Eureka treating you so far?”

“Okay, the small talk route, I know it well,” he said, his smile showing he wasn’t actually bored. “Uh, it’s good. Some rocky starts and I can’t say I’m on everyone’s A-list, but so far the science is proving palatable.”

“Which is all that matters,” Jo said somewhat sarcastically, but he just nodded eagerly.

“What can I get you two?” asked Vincent, hovering and staring at Jo like he’d never seen her before. It couldn’t have been that long since her last date.

“Those fallout flapjacks sounded pretty good,” said Zane.

After Vincent repeated the ingredients, Jo had to agree.

“We’ll go with that,” she said.

Vincent left and then Jo turned back to Zane who was studying her.

“What comes next?” he asked.

Jo wasn’t quite sure how to take that.

“You tell me,” she said, leaning back slightly.

“Oh, you don’t want to do that,” he said, putting his fingers together. “I will take control of this conversation and I will herd it in directions you will not like.”

“Like where?” she asked, amused.

“The dank depths of the male brain, the lofty heights of the particle physicist, the intoxicating excitement of the average criminal,” he said.

“All very awful places,” Jo agreed. “So where do you think I would take the conversation?”

“That’s a good question,” he said as Vincent put their plates down in front of them. “I’m guessing it would be to recite all 1,080 Eureka rules I have not yet violated?”

“It would be for your own good,” Jo said, mouthing a silent prayer before eating some rather delicious flapjacks.

“I’m always on the lookout for someone to look out for me,” said Zane.

“Then how did you stray so far from the path of righteousness?” Jo teased, but was actually rather curious.

He paused slightly as if trying to figure out what to tell her, which at least let her know he was taking the question seriously.

“Some might say I never strayed,” he said, swallowing anything else he might have said along with his food. “I just like to walk on the edges.”

“You might fall off,” she pointed out.

“Someone might catch me and pull me back,” he said, grinning, the very picture of a bad boy begging to be reformed.

Jo wasn’t in the market for someone to reform. It wasn’t her job or anyone’s to make him be good. It was something he’d have to decide for himself.

Still, she was surprising herself by enjoying their conversation. He might be a scientist but he was refreshingly light on the science talk and he was mostly talking to her face instead of her chest.

She pushed back her fork and placed her hands on the table.

“New topic,” she said, but smiled so he wouldn’t think anything was wrong.

Zane twisted his mouth and then nodded.

“So why does a special forces bad-ass quit a life of excitement to become the deputy of Sleepy Hollow?” he asked.

“Well, same reason an anti-establishment anarchist agrees to a cushy consulting job at Global Dynamics,” she said, a little unsure as to how he had gotten that information about her. He must have been asking around and she didn’t know if she should be flattered or worried on that subject.
“The money?” he said, laughing. “Cause you wouldn't believe what they're paying me.”

“Well, the opportunity,” she corrected. “You know, this isn't just anywhere, it's Eureka.”

“True,” he acknowledged. “If I'd come here sooner, things may have turned out differently.”

“Like you wouldn't have gone to MIT when you were fifteen?” she asked, leaning forward.

“Actually, MIT was great,” he said, eyes lighting up. “I could spend weeks at a time focused on a single variable in a lattice gauge equation. It was heaven.”

Maybe they could share a connection on something after all. Jo felt herself responding eagerly.

“I had the same feeling assembling a chromium flash suppression barrel for my grenade launcher.”

“Yeah, but that's simple mechanics,” he said. “Particle and theoretical physics, that's the real mind candy.”

There it was…the instant dismissal. Jo felt something inside of her turn off at his words.

“Well, some of us like practical application,” she said, attempting to give him another chance.

“Oh, yeah, no, that's all good,” he said, completely missing her point. “But, I mean, let's be honest. The particle accelerator only gets built after someone comes up with the idea.” She felt completely sideswiped and instantly regretted the entire day. He might not seem like every other genius in this town, but apparently they were all the same in all the wrong ways. “Right?” he finished, as if reminding her of her inadequacy wasn’t enough. He had to demand her agreement on the subject.

Zane wasn’t sure whether to be happy or sad at the way that the other Zane had completely missed every single cue Jo had been throwing at him. At least it meant their relationship hadn’t been magical from the very beginning. Zane wasn’t sure if he would have made the same mistakes or not. It was too hard to turn off what he knew about Jo now and apply it to a blank slate version of himself. Either way, he was starting to get a better picture of just why Jo kept herself so aloof most of the time.

Jo was saved from answering by Vincent reappearing at the table.

“So how about a Vinspresso to top things off?” he asked.

“That's an excellent idea. Jo?” Zane asked.

She had an out and she was going to take it. If she sat here any longer, she’d start to feel completely mortified and pissed off into the bargain.

“No, thanks,” she said, standing up. “I should be getting back to the office.”

She could tell he was finally getting the message by the way he answered her.

“I thought you had Sundays off.”

“Yeah, I just remembered I have some paperwork I forgot to finish. Thanks for brunch,” she said, walking away and deliberately leaving his rose behind.

She shouldn’t have bothered and now she had to go and hide in the office for a reasonable amount of time before she could go home and hide her humiliation in the comfort of her bed or perhaps her punching bag. If Carter or Zoe were there, that was just going to be the topping on the cake.

Zane was surprised by the overwhelming feeling of inadequacy he was feeling right now as Jo. He didn’t think anything the other Zane had said was so bad, but she was practically shaking with annoyance and he just didn’t see any version of himself as anyone that could make someone as amazing as Jo feel so worthless. He didn’t like feeling it and he didn’t like knowing he had technically caused it. While he was thinking, he felt time shifting and he was now at GD with Jo.

Jo walked into the infirmary and headed over to Zoe’s bed. The other girl was sitting up in bed but she looked miserable and scared.

“Hey,” said Jo. “Sorry I couldn't be here sooner. You okay?” Zoe gave her a thumbs up, a sarcastic thumbs up, but a thumbs up. “Well, we're still going over the smart house, and Fargo is running a full diagnostic on SARAH. Okay, so don't worry. We'll find something soon.”

Zoe started writing on her pad and an automated voice spoke out her words.

How'd it go with Zane?

Trust Zoe to make that her main topic of conversation. The very thing Jo did not want to talk about ever again.

“We can-we can talk about that later,” she tried.

Or now, Zoe wrote.

Jo gave up and sat down on the stool beside Zoe’s bed. After all, the girl was literally struck dumb; Jo could afford to give a little.

“Or now. Bottom line,” Jo said, “he's brilliant.” Zoe started to smile. “I'm not,” Jo continued. “It's the story of my life trying to get a date in this town.”

He likes you. Zoe wrote.

“But how long before he realizes I can't keep up with him?” Jo asked, deflecting a little her real issues, but Zoe didn’t need to know that. “Anyway, I'm more concerned about you.”

Zane had a moment of revelation further illuminated by conversations he’d had with Jo over the years and realized exactly how horrible it had to have been for Jo to hear the other Zane shutting down all of her ideas and provoking her insecurities. He was going to have to do something about that.

They spoke for a bit longer before Jo realized she was going to have to get back to the office and keep working. Eureka was going to fall apart the more things kept happening.

She was right about that because the phone was ringing off the hook. She was almost glad about that because she’d rather field frantic people worried about the end of the world than keep thinking anymore about how inadequate she appeared to the people of this town and how that meant she was going to die a crazy dog lady.

“We're getting reports all over town. I promise he'll get to you as soon as he can,” she said for what felt like the millionth time.

Steps sounded from outside and then someone spoke.

“You should really wear your hair down more often,” Zane said.

He should really think about how backhanded compliments like that were.

“Zane,” she acknowledged, turning around. “Really not a good time.”

“Yeah, no, I got that impression when you took off,” he said, coming farther into the room.

“Look, forget it,” she said, really not wanting to deal with it now. “It's nothing.”

“I think it is,” he said and she didn’t know whether to be impressed or annoyed he wasn’t letting it go. “So, either tell me why you're pissed at me, or I'll hold my breath until you do.”

Now she didn’t know whether to be amused or contemptuous.

“What are you, three?” she asked.

“Hey, I black out, it's on you,” he said and took a big breath, bulging out his cheeks.

She wondered if she should point out he still had a nose to breathe through. In the end, continuing to evade wasn’t worth the effort.

“Okay, you didn't do anything,” she half-lied. “It's me. It's this whole town.”

He let out his breath rather dramatically.

“Is this about the whole miracles thing? Cause, seriously, there's no such thing,” he said.

His comment only made her angry again, but that was better than feeling useless.

“Right, because only dumb people believe in something beyond tachyons and particle accelerators,” she said.

Something like understanding dawned on his face and he looked like he was going to reply but before he could Henry and Carter came into the room, Carter ranting about Reverend Harper being responsible for everything that was happening.

Zane found himself annoyed on behalf of his other self. He’d clearly just been getting it when they got interrupted and it didn’t seem like the conversation would ever get finished.

The lights went out and Carter decided an immediate trip to the church was in order. Zane made to follow them but Jo held up a finger.

“You stay,” she said.

“I don’t think we’re done,” Zane said.

“Not now,” she pleaded, her tone softening. “Just…wait.”

“I’ll be holding my breath,” he said, winking at her and Jo almost let herself smile.

Zane shook his head at himself; sometimes he was an idiot.

Jo didn’t have much opportunity to think about Zane after that. She was too busy following Carter on his wild goose chases and dealing with grieving scientists who could open up portals to who knows where.

In fact, Jo tried her best not to think about Zane, especially when he didn’t call or come back to the office or accost her anywhere else in town. It wouldn’t surprise her if he’d given up and she tried not to let it bother her. Granted, she did owe him an explanation, but she still felt a bit raw and couldn’t bring herself to seek him out. He either wanted to talk or he wanted something quick and easy and that was not her.

She went to church a week after their date and thought to herself about how different she felt today as opposed to a week ago. She’d been stupidly nervous and today she just felt resigned and somewhat jaded. She looked around her at the church that was much more full than normal and smiled though. Maybe something good had come out of the events of the past week. She might not have Zane sitting next to her like Stark was sitting next to Allison and Kevin, but Jo was still where she belonged.

She exited the church and started to hear someone calling her name.

“Jo!” She looked over and saw Zane standing there, smirking. “Are you really gonna make me beg?”

She didn’t know why she was so happy to see him, she was still mad at him, wasn’t she? She walked slowly toward him.

“You're here,” she said slowly.

“Yeah, well, I had to see if you were lying about all the babes who go to church,” he said, looking her up and down. “And you definitely were not.”

She knew she should address the problem. She should talk to him about what she was feeling and what his remarks had stirred up in her. She should be cautious and smart and remind herself that he clearly didn’t get it.

“Remarks like that are likely to get you hurt,” she said instead, falling into step with him.

“Can’t have that,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to walk you home.”

“Is that what’s happening here?” she asked.

“Oh yeah, I’d even hold your books if you had any,” he said.

“Wow, that’s a whole new level,” she said in a mocking tone.

“I made it all up myself,” he said, not even breaking whatever character he was playing.

She couldn’t help it, she liked his playful charm and arrogance and so long as she never stooped to believing it herself, she didn’t want to have to give it up. At least for now.

“So, I didn’t see you amongst the newly converted,” she said. “I guess the recent events were not enough to turn you into a believer.”

“They’re just scared,” said Zane. “As soon as the fear wears off they’ll come to their senses.” There was an awkward pause and he cleared his throat. “Sorry, I didn’t mean you.”

“Then what did you mean?” she asked pointedly.

They were very close to her house now and at least she could escape if this went south again.

“I meant people who do things for the wrong reasons,” he said. “Uh, they’re not sincere and so they won’t last. The people who do believe, the ones who were there before the miracles that weren’t, uh, well, clearly they’re real.”

“Real?” she asked.

“I don’t understand it,” he said, looking at her sideways as she stopped in front of her house. “Um, faith has been…well, I don’t get it, but it’s…nice that you do.”

“God and I come hand in hand,” Jo said, feeling like that much at least she was willing to take a stand on.

“I know,” he said, sticking his hands in his pocket. “So do science and me.”

Jo’s thoughts went back to the words Reverend Harper had said a week ago.

“Yeah, I don’t think those two have a problem mixing,” she said, smiling.

“Yeah?” he asked, probably not thinking the exact same thing she was, but she liked his smile, it looked genuine.

“Yeah,” she said. She turned around and started walking into her house. “See you later, Science Boy.”

He looked after her and she waved slightly, feeling at least somewhat back in control of her emotions.

***

Zane blinked and took his headset off, scratching his scalp. Jo was opening her eyes across from him and smiled.

“You okay?” she said.

“Of course,” he said. “You?”

“Sure,” she said, shrugging. “You think we need to go digging into you?”

“Not really,” he said. “I mean, I remember that, but I was in a lab at GD and nothing weird happened there until the lights went out. My security escorts let me keep playing with my toys and I didn’t know anything until the lights came back on. You and I did not cross paths.”

She studied him for a second and he kept his face open and sincere. He was telling the truth and he honestly didn’t know what her feeling like him while he got engrossed with science was going to do. Especially considering what he’d just experienced in her head.

“Okay,” she said, leaning back and taking off her headset. “I’ll bite this time.”

“Most adorable fish ever,” he said.

She rolled her eyes.

“So, what did you think?” she asked.

Zane bit his lip and wondered if he should dive right into this head on.

“I think I’m really amazed that you wanted to be with me when I couldn’t even see why you were upset,” he started. “I mean, I don’t think I would have caught on either, but the other me. You know.”

“I know,” she said, but didn’t elaborate.

He guessed it was up to him to really kick start this conversation into gear.

“Jo, you know I think you’re really smart, right?” he started out, figuring he might as well go for broke.

“I know you’re trying to help,” she said, “but-”

“No,” he interrupted. “Jo, you’re really smart. I think you need to hear that more often and I’m sorry I never made it a point to do it.” Her lips turned up a little and he continued on. “I’m sorry you never felt like anyone validated you before. We’re a bit egotistical in this town, yeah, but there are different kinds of smart and you proved that to me. Just because you don’t have eighty degrees didn’t and doesn’t mean you couldn’t outwit me any day of the week.”

Jo huffed out a laugh.

“You are kind of predictable,” she said, but he could tell that reliving these memories had opened up something raw inside of her and he was suddenly desperate to fix it and didn’t know how.

“It’s why you got so upset about the other me tricking his way out of the jail cell, too, isn’t it?” he asked.

“It just proved the only thing I had going for me wasn’t good enough,” she mumbled.

Okay, that had been the wrong thing to ask and Zane desperately searched for something, anything.

“Forget that for a minute,” he said, scooting closer and trying to pin her in place with his mind so she couldn’t escape the sincerity of what he wanted to say. “Jo, it’s okay to not be a scientist in Eureka. As much as we may not admit it, we need people like you and Carter. You keep us grounded.”

“Or locked up,” she said and he could tell she was at least listening.

“For our own good,” he said, grinning. “But I’m not just talking about that stuff because it’s not your only virtue.”

“I’m good at making you scream,” she said and he smirked.

“You’re smart,” he persisted. “The Astraeus project should have taught you that. You don’t have to love all that stuff, but you can do it and you proved to yourself you’re just as smart as anyone else.”

“You’re desperate here,” she said, but laughing. “Okay, you’ve made your point.”

“Have I?” he asked.

“Yes, I’ve realized I can do things I never thought I could before,” she admitted. “So you don’t have to keep beating me over the head with it.”

“I will,” he said. “I’ve got a lot more material.”

“You were a big part in helping me realize it,” she said softly, nudging him with her knee. “When you coached me. Like I told you then, it was like seeing a whole different side of you because before we had always been so…”

“So?” he coaxed because he earnestly wanted to know.

“We sparked a lot,” she said, “but that meant we were always riding a high or fighting through a low. There wasn’t a lot of in between.”

“Oh,” he said, because he could get that. Things with Jo were always intense, whether he wanted to screw her senseless or wring her neck or go to the ends of the world for her. “Not much change there.”

“No, but there is a more even keel,” she said. “It started with things like that, so thanks.”

“Uh, you’re welcome,” he said. “But I’m still curious about how you even put up with the other me considering how you felt.” She squirmed a little under his gaze. “Come on, JoJo,” he said.

“You were me, didn’t you feel it?” she finally asked.

“I felt it,” he said, “but I want you to give me some context.”

“You remember what I said to Zoe,” she said. “It was never easy getting any kind of a date in Eureka. Okay, men were either intimidated by me or contemptuous of me. The only person I ever made any kind of connection with turned out to be a robot.”

Zane tried to hide a laugh, but it was only because of the dramatics she threw into her tone and face.

“I see,” he said. “So you just didn’t want to give up a chance at some hot sex?”

“Zane, don’t,” she said and he knew he’d crossed a bit of a line.

“Sorry,” he said. “You know I was just trying to lighten the mood, right?”

“I do, but you suck at it,” she said, glaring at him.

“Sorry,” he said again.

“I did like you, like him,” said Jo. “But he made me feel stupid and right then I just didn’t know if he would still want to be with me since no one else ever had. I should have explained it, but I was a coward and I didn’t. I just was happy he seemed to want to pursue it and so I just let myself go with the flow and it worked and it continued to work but maybe it built a bad foundation, I don’t know.”

“He knew something was wrong,” Zane pointed out. “He could have pressed harder.”

“He could have,” Jo admitted. “But he really was not interested in anything more than casual at that point, I promise.”

“I believe it,” Zane said. “I can’t say I was all that different.”

“No, I’m sure you weren’t,” she said, but with no bite in her voice.

“So, do you feel better or worse now?” he asked.

“Um, neutral,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. “It did bring up some bad feelings, but like you said so forcefully, a lot has changed since then and I know myself better and I know us better.”

“Good,” he said, “because you are smart and it would take an idiot to miss that.”

“I’m glad neither of you missed it,” Jo said, leaning over to peck him on the lips.

“Well, we had some close calls,” Zane said, shaking his head.

“Very close,” Jo agreed.

Zane hesitated before bringing up the next thing.

“So, uh, it doesn’t seem like you did the whole church thing before,” he said. “Well, more recently, yeah, but she never did.”

“I wondered about that myself,” said Jo. “I was just as upset about losing that when we came here as losing you.”

“The other Jo never went to church, do you know why?” Zane asked.

“I don’t,” Jo said. “I went the first Sunday I was in this timeline and people looked at me so strangely and Reverend Harper looked so happy to see me and said how glad she was I had decided to come and so I freaked out and didn’t go back for a long time. I tried to figure it out, like with really delicately worded queries to my family, but everything there seemed the same. All I could figure out was that I had gone when I first moved here but left before Reverend Harper took over. I have no idea why and I can’t ask anyone without looking like an idiot.”

“So what made you start again?” asked Zane, feeling somewhat awkward.

“I waited an appropriate amount of time for people to get used to the new me,” Jo said. “It’s not something I’ll ever give up.”

“Tell me what you like about it,” he said, “other than feeling like people don’t judge you.”

“You were paying attention,” she said, sounding impressed. “It’s peaceful,” she said. “It’s familiar. It’s true.”

“True?” he asked.

“I believe it all, Zane,” she said. “God, the Bible, I wouldn’t go if I didn’t.”

“Why haven’t we talked about this before?” he asked. “Cause I don’t believe that and doesn’t that make us…incompatible or something?”

“Technically, yeah,” she said, blushing. “Uh, I can’t say I always follow the rules really well.”

“I’m glad you don’t…” he said almost like a question.

“I guess growing up,” she said distantly, “it was more of a family thing or a cultural thing. It just was what you did. After I got out of the military…well, it got more personal. When I came here, it was like a sanctuary for me, but I still never quite figured out how to…surrender. But I believed.”

“So you and God go hand in hand,” Zane quoted.

“Yeah,” Jo said. “I think…it makes sense.”

“Like the theory of relativity,” he said, only slightly sardonic.

“They weave together,” Jo said. “So…we can work together, too?”

“We always have, JoJo,” he said, kissing the top of her forehead. “But I hope it doesn’t mean you figure out something someday that makes you not want to be with me.”

“Well, vice versa,” she said. “That’s any married couple though, if you think about it.” She grinned and poked him. “Besides, that whole living in sin thing, we’re getting married in a month.”

“There is that,” Zane said.

“I still think you should come to church with me some time,” Jo said. “You might like it and Reverend Harper…she’s still a scientist at heart, you’d like her.”

“Let me think about it,” said Zane, not entirely comfortable with the idea.

Jo had told him she was going back to church, this was shortly after he’d come back on the Astraeus, or rather, gone nowhere on the Astraeus. At the time he’d been busy freaking out about her and Carter’s supposed relationship and so they hadn’t discussed it and then when they’d finally gotten their act together, it had just been a fact, like her owning a gun or him working out every day.

“You okay?” she asked, sounding tentative and he remembered her thoughts about guys either making fun of her faith and the other Zane’s dismissal of the apparent miracles.

“I’ll get there,” he said, rubbing her knee. “It’s really me just wrapping my head around it, okay, so don’t worry about me freaking out or freak out yourself, okay?”

“I’ll try and believe you,” she said.

“Believe me,” he said, rolling his eyes. “How did the other Zane deal with you and God?”

“We didn’t really talk about it much,” she said. “To be honest, I deliberately avoided it because I wanted both things and I guess I figured if I never acknowledged either of them to the other, it wouldn’t be an issue.”

“Because he would reject God or God would reject him?” Zane asked.

“Either, both,” Jo answered. “The first one I wouldn’t be able to control, the second, I wasn’t willing to deal with.”

“Is it okay that I find that hard to deal with?” he asked, because he did find it hard to deal with.

“Only if it’s okay that I struggle with it, too,” she said.

“God and I don’t exactly see eye to eye,” Zane said.

“Neither do science and I,” Jo said and he had to grin at that.

“Maybe we should talk about it more this time around,” he said.

Jo winced, but nodded.

“Yeah,” she said.

“So,” he said, grabbing her hand and swinging it a bit. “Second time through.”

“Yup,” she replied. “Fun times. Anything leap out at you about yourself and your times?”

Zane wondered if he should bring it up or not.

“Do you remember in the café,” he said, “when you called him a convicted felon?”

“Yes,” Jo said expectantly.

Zane sighed.

“Remarks like those, I got them a lot,” he said. “It never really made me want to play nice. I’m not saying some of the things I did were right, but…well, I kind of wonder either how he got over them or how they affected him.”

“Sorry,” she said softly. “You’ll probably figure it out, but I learned to trust him very quickly. It helped me trust you right away, even when I was desperately trying to run away from you.”

“I appreciate that,” he said. “It’s not a big deal, but I did notice it, so just thought I’d mention it.”

“Noted,” she said. “And let’s just agree that anything we notice or bring up here is always a big deal because it somehow mattered to one of the four of us we’re dealing with.”

Zane laughed.

“Agreed,” he said, leaning his head back on the couch and stretching out some of the kinks being still for so long had left in his body. “I feel good about it though. We covered a lot of ground tonight.”

“You might not feel that way when it’s your memories,” said Jo, cuddling into his side. “We’re eventually going to get back to those.”

“Well, I appreciate the breather,” he said. “I’ll deal with that then.”

“Let’s just sleep until then, okay?” asked Jo, her eyes closed.

“Fine by me,” Zane said, closing his own eyes. “Fine by me.”

Chapter Text

Zane leaned on the counter at Café Diem, drumming his fingers on the surface.

“Jo meeting you?” Vincent asked as he prepared their dinner.

“Yeah,” Zane agreed. “We’re having dinner in.”

“Probably have wedding arrangements?” Vincent guessed.

“The details of this thing might kill me,” said Zane.

“Or I might,” Jo said, stepping through the door and clearly catching the last part.

“Which would be preferable,” Zane said, pulling her to stand closer to him. “Death by Lupo.”

“Totally arrangeable,” she said agreeably and then leaned over to grab the boxes Vincent was putting on the counter. “Thanks, Vincent.”

“You got it, Jo,” Vincent said. “You’re still coming by tomorrow to do the food checks with me?”

“It’s on my list,” said Jo, “and I might even bring this idiot with me.”

“I’m the idiot,” Zane clarified for Vincent’s sake. “With some PhDs, but never mind that.”

“We’re going home, idiot,” said Jo, turning around.

Zane shrugged at Vincent who shook his head at them and got back to his business.

Zane followed Jo out to her car and slid in the passenger seat, balancing their dinner on his lap.

Jo drove a bit faster than she was wont to go and Zane mentally noted that, not wanting to bother her if something was on her mind.

When they got home, they ate mostly in silence and Zane waited for her to say something, but she never did.

“Okay, Lupo, what’s going on?” Zane asked finally. “You haven’t threatened me in at least an hour.”

“Stop it,” she said absently, then appeared to almost wake up out of a fog. “What? I mean, sorry.”

“Are you all right?” he asked, more concerned now than anything.

“I guess I’m just tired,” she said. “I had to run after a runaway hybrid monkey today and I mean run. That on top of the mountain of paperwork I’m trying to get through before we leave on our honeymoon and all the stupid wedding things is making me a bit dull.”

“Well, we don’t have to do a memory run tonight,” said Zane. “We’ve both been really stretched thin lately and that is pretty exhausting in every way.”

“No,” Jo said stubbornly, “I’m fine. We’ve already gone longer in between this time.”

“Yeah, but there are no set times for how long, just how short,” he said. “Jo, you’re falling asleep.”

“I’m fine!” she insisted.

“Of course you are,” he said.

Zane decided to do this the caveman way. He got up and chucked the rest of the dinner in a box and put it in the fridge. He took Jo’s water glass out of her hand and set it back down on the table and heaved her up, praying she didn’t attack him out of reflex. She didn’t so he knew he was making the right decision. He carried her over his shoulder into the bedroom and put her down on the bed.

“I assume you have a logical explanation for this,” she said wryly as he took her shoes off.

“I don’t do anything without a logical reason,” he said, sliding his shirt off and grabbing a blanket from the foot of the bed. He slid up next to her, gently tugging at her jacket to get her to remove it, which she acquiesced far more graciously to than he would have imagined. He arranged the pillows behind them and flung the blanket over them. “Doesn’t this feel logical?”

“No, it’s purely emotion based,” she said, her voice already sounding drowsy as he carefully pulled at the band in her hair, getting it off with what he hoped was a minimum of hair pulling.

“Well, you’re not wrong,” he said, feeling a nice languor settle over him as he pulled her against his side. “Good night, Jo.”

She was already sleeping next to him and Zane flicked the lights off before drifting off himself.

When he opened his eyes again, there was some kind of morning light coming in from the crack under the door. Jo wasn’t there anymore but the device was, sitting next to him. He rubbed his eyes and stretched.

“JoJo,” he called. “Tell me you didn’t turn into a machine while we slept.”

“Right, that makes sense,” she said, coming into the room with the headsets and fitting one over his head snugly. “No more procrastinating,” she said. “I’ve even moved everything so you can continue lazily lying around.”

“When did you get up?” he asked, automatically starting to check the device and its hook up.

“Only about forty five minutes ago, relax,” she said. “I called Henry and told him we were fitting it in to the end of our slot, so don’t worry about that.”

“Okay,” he said, getting up and moving toward the bathroom.

“Just where do you think you’re going?” she asked.

“I’m pretty sure you want me to pee before we start,” he said.

“Ugh, fine,” she said.

When he got back, he slid right back into his comfortable spot on the bed.

“All set!” he said.

“Thanks, by the way,” she said, lying down next to him. “You were right, I did need some rest and so did you.”

“No surprise there,” he said, squeezing her hand and pushing the button.

***

Zane found himself walking into the Sheriff’s office, and he was sweating profusely as Jo. He wanted to shake out of his skin she felt so overheated.

Jo looked up at Carter and chuckled to herself, still remembering that morning and their demonstration.

“Callie called,” she said instead of mocking him again.

“Thanks,” Carter said. “Hey, you got…” he gestured to her desk. “I left…”

Jo didn’t have to look at the message to know who it was from but she stated it anyway.

“From Zane.”

“Yeah,” Carter replied.

“You gonna call her?” Jo asked, because she’d rather talk about Carter’s love life than hers right now.

“Yeah, yeah,” he deflected. “You call Zane?”

“No, not yet,” Jo admitted.

“It's hard to dive back in,” Carter stated and Jo agreed with him, even if it had been an embarrassingly long time for her since Taggart so it felt more like completely starting over rather than beginning again.

“Tell me about it,” she agreed.

Carter folded his arms and leaned against his desk.

“I feel like such a guy,” he said.

“Me too,” Jo said.

She had to admit, she liked being able to talk to Carter about stuff like this. She’d never denied he was a good looking guy, but the fact that he was her boss and somewhat of a rival for his position and that she had to explain practically everything to him about his job, meant he felt more like a brother than anything else. She was good at having brothers.

She liked teasing them, which is why she completely left him on his own when Callie showed up with his dry cleaning.

Jo headed into the bathroom and took the opportunity to unbutton a few buttons on her shirt. The air was definitely cooler inside the station than outside, but with the air conditioning on the fritz, she really wanted to be somewhere else, like a freezer.

Zane was not at all unhappy about the current view he was getting as Jo while she worked on her face.

Jo took the opportunity to mentally squirm again over not calling Zane back. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to, but she was having difficulty reconciling what she wanted from him and what she thought he wanted from her. He was persistent, she’d give him that. Sometimes though that seemed like a warning sign, like all he was looking for was a score and he’d conquer her just to prove something. His actions spoke pretty loud but whenever he actually spoke, the charm and bad boy act made her feel like he was just toying around with her.

She knew she’d have to face the situation eventually and she was planning on it, but somehow she just kept taking one step backward. If she could only be sure of what he wanted…but asking him didn’t exactly seem to be an option, even though she knew she should.

Her thoughts were disrupted by an exploding toilet naturally and she had a very legitimate excuse to put off any thought of Zane.

Zane could see how Jo would feel about his other self’s flirting. Even in his timeline Zane had never exactly suffered for company and if there were any similarities, cuffs on or not, Zane had gotten quite a lot of attention his first few months in Eureka.

Jo was sick of dealing with the aftermath of the toilet and she made her way to Café Diem, dying for something cool to drink. Her head had been fuzzy all day and she needed to clear it. Carter was there having lunch and they’d be able to work on the next move.

Of course, when she walked in, Zane was sitting at the counter having lunch and so she made a beeline for the fan and leaned over it.

Zane remembered this and knew what was coming and even though it hadn’t bothered him so much at the time, it sure as hell had played in to some insecurities of his later.

“Ugh, I hate this heat,” she said, relishing the feel of the air on her overheated skin.

There was something, not just the heat; it was making her really warm.

“I'm loving it,” she heard Zane say. “Can I buy you some ice cream, beautiful?”

She swallowed a retort about the food being free and resolved she was going to have to talk to him. Besides, ice cream would be amazing right now.

She turned around and every thought she’d just had went right out of her head. There was only one thing she wanted and needed right now.

“I don't think so,” she said coolly, before sauntering over to the counter and plunking down next to Carter. “I haven't seen you for a while.”

“What are you talking about?” He laughed as if she’d said something hilarious and she liked his laugh.

“You and me. Our…partnership,” she said, leaning her chin into her hand.

“What?” he asked and he looked sexy when he was confused. His phone rang and Jo loved the way he answered it; everyone should answer phones that way. “Hey, Henry, I'm at lunch.”

There was something urgent happening, that much was clear, and Jo admired the way Carter’s face got really focused.

“What's up?” Zane asked, clearly getting the same idea that something was wrong.

“We gotta clear this place out,” Carter said, standing up. “Everybody, grab your things and head to the door as quickly as possible, that would be great.”

Jo absently herded people toward the door but she was really watching Carter be decisive and heroic and couldn’t wait to tell him so.

“What's going on?” Vincent asked.

“Henry said that there's an inertia thing coming.”

Carter was so cute when he didn’t know scientific terms.

“An inertia wave?” Zane asked.

“Yeah. Is that bad?” Carter asked.

Kinetic energy exploded from the kitchen area and knocked them all down. Jo slid across the floor and felt something hit her head hard.

“Yeah, it's bad,” Zane gasped out from somewhere on the floor.

Jo was having a hard time focusing. Pain was warring with lust and she wanted nothing more than to rip Carter’s clothes off, but something wasn’t letting her. Then he was in front of her.

“Hey, Jo, you still with me?” Carter asked. “Hey, you okay?”

This was her moment and Jo didn’t waste it. She leaned forward and grasped him, kissing him deeply, just like she wanted. It was heaven and so much like she’d pictured it being before.

“I'm good,” she said, spying Zane watching them from the corner of her eye, but she couldn’t care about that right now.

Yeah, Zane officially hated this memory.

“Okay, um, so, let’s just back up,” said Carter and literally backed away from her and she didn’t like that. “I’m going to get you some ice.”

Jo watched him shift through the wreckage and ignored the way Zane was looking at her. She smiled eagerly as Carter came back to her, but then felt a moment of disbelief at what she’d just done. She accepted his help into a chair and put the ice pack on her head where it ached.

“Are you hurt?” Carter asked.

“Carter, listen…” Jo started.

“Forget it,” he said. “It was an in the moment thing.”

“Good, okay,” she said and then felt confused again before everything became clear. “Are we still in the moment? Because I'd really like to do it again.”

“Uh, we're gonna lie you down,” he said, panic starting on his face.

“Yeah, let's lie down,” she agreed eagerly.

“Okay,” Carter said and looked around wildly. “Zane, could you take her to the Sheriff's office and just put her on the cot?”

Carter’s hand was on her leg and she covered it with hers before he yanked it away again.

“Sure,” Zane said distantly.

“Yeah,” Carter said, handing her off to Zane. “You're gonna be good.”

Zane’s arm was warm against hers as he guided her toward the door, but it felt almost cool compared to the heat Carter’s hand had left on her leg. Considering how warm it was outside, the longer Zane left his arm there, the better she felt. Her head hurt abominably and she was feeling confused again.

They entered the office and Zane left her leaning against her desk before grabbing a cup of water and handing it to her. She accepted it gratefully and realized she probably should talk to him, though she would rather talk to Carter. Or would she?

“I'm gonna head back to work,” Zane said. “I've got a point particle scan that'll crap out if I don't tweak it.” He walked toward the door and then stopped as if he couldn’t help himself. “So you've felt this way about Carter for a long time?”

“Yeah,” she answered automatically and then realized what she was saying. “No, uh, I don't know.”

“It sure sounded like it,” Zane said stiffly.

Yeah, it had, it must be.

“Oh, I guess so,” she said.

Zane’s face became carefully blank and he started heading out again.

“Okay, then. Hope that works out. Do me a favor and don't invite me to the wedding.”

There was something wrong here; she didn’t want him to leave without some kind of explanation.

“Hey, I'm really confused,” was all she could manage to say.

“I'm not,” he said coldly and walked away.

Jo felt her head start to ache with full force and swallowed some ibuprofen with the water Zane had brought her. She found her way to the freezer in the kitchen area down the hall and got another ice pack. She sat down gingerly at her desk, something telling her she shouldn’t lie down even though she wanted to.

What the hell was happening to her? She slowly felt her common sense coming back to her even as the desire to jump Carter’s bones left her. Horror and nausea filled her senses and she wasn’t entirely sure the latter feeling was solely from the bump on the head.

Zane suddenly felt more worried about this Jo of the past than about the nasty spectacle he’d just felt as her. He could sense how much her head was hurting and he was irrationally angry at both Carter and his other self for just dumping her here without making sure she was okay.

Jo felt the pain meds start to kick in and it helped to clear her head.

“Oh crap,” she said, realizing with full clarity everything that had just happened.

Sure, that was a great way to both keep her job and have any kind of a relationship with Zane. She was really not in love with today.

It took some time for her to feel like she could stand up without falling over; and, when she did, it was because there was a massive explosion outside.

Jo sighed, yeah, it really wasn’t her day. It looked like it was time to bite the bullet because she needed to let Carter know. She grimaced as she called him.

“Hey. Carter,” he answered.

She rushed in before he could say anything else.

“First off, I was totally insane before. For the record, I do not now, nor have I ever, wanted to jump you. You believe me, right?”

She really hoped he did.

“Well, I don't know,” he said, sounding relieved. “I mean, maybe you just got tired of staring at Lake Carter and you had to take a dip.”

Well, he wouldn’t be a good brother if he didn’t take advantage of her embarrassment.

“Okay, you're making me nauseated,” she said.

“Probably from your head. Might want to get that checked out,” he said and she rolled her eyes.

“Later. We've got bigger problems to deal with first.”

“Oh, like what?” he asked.

“Like Old Faithful in our backyard,” Jo said, staring at the geyser of water in Main Street.

“Crap,” said Carter. “Emergency protocols in place?”

“Yeah, don’t worry about that,” said Jo. “I’ll take care of that, you just fix whatever’s causing this.”

“I will, but, Jo, take it easy and don’t forget to have someone look at your head.”

“Yes, boss,” she said sarcastically.

She hung up the phone and started to work and there was a lot of work to do with the way the town was practically tearing itself apart.

She didn’t let herself think about Zane or anything else concerning her mortification. There was too much work to do. Besides, she was getting annoyed. It wasn’t like she just randomly went around kissing people; and, even though she and Zane were only just getting to know each other, she would hope he would know that about her. Clearly he wasn’t looking at anything but his own hurt pride and she was a bit pissed off about that.

When she finally did find out from Carter what had happened to her, Jo was relieved. She knew it had to be something abnormal because any thoughts of her and Carter like that had dissipated within a few weeks of knowing him. He was very important to her, she couldn’t deny that, but so were all her brothers. She put up with him bringing a medic to check on her and received an all clear with an admonition of keeping a close watch on herself over the next couple of days.

Zane was glad someone had remembered to figure out if her head was all right, even if he wished it had been him.

She just wanted to forget the whole mess so she buried herself in her work and getting all the complaints from the day’s events filed. She would go home and sleep soon, but she just needed some methodical motions to keep her body occupied for a while. She didn’t even notice the rain outside until she heard it falling from someone’s clothes standing outside the door.

She realized it was Zane a second later and didn’t know how to react. She knew he did deserve some kind of explanation but she was still annoyed at him for believing her capable of doing something like that to him.

“You're dripping all over my floor,” was the sentence that came out of her mouth.

"Hello usually comes first,” he said, coming into the room.

“Wipe your feet,” she replied, grabbing some files.

“Where's your boyfriend?” Zane replied and she shot him a look. “What? Sounded like true love.”

“No, it sounded like temporary insanity,” she said coming back toward her desk and not facing him.

“Okay, so how you feeling now? All your neurons firing again?” he asked and she didn’t know if she liked his tone.

“Well, I'm fine,” she said casually. She hated this, but she couldn’t bring herself to say anything else. “Uh, did you need something?”

If she knew what he really wanted from her, maybe she could be honest with him.

“Yeah,” he said. “I just wanted you to know I didn't like that. Seeing you kiss Carter, I didn't like it at all.”

She felt something like an electric thrill light up inside of her. It may have been the first vulnerable thing he’d ever said to her. Maybe this would work.

“No?” she asked, forcing her tone to be casual.

“I think I've been pretty clear about that,” he said, stepping closer to her back. “The question is what would you like?”

“Stop playing games,” she said honestly.

“Meaning what?” he asked and he sounded somewhat frustrated and this time she didn’t blame him.

“This,” she replied, turning around.

She gave in to her impulses for the second time that day, but this time the impulses were all driven by her emotions, and not a pheromone induced biology. She kissed him.

Zane responded eagerly and she liked the feel of him pressed against her and the taste of coffee and paprika in his mouth. She didn’t regret that at all.

They broke apart and he smiled at her and she liked his smile, too. It was very genuine.

This part, this part was a bit surreal and Zane wasn’t sure how to react to the fact that he as Jo was kissing himself and liking it very much.

“That, I liked,” Zane said and she smiled back before reaching up to kiss him again.

He wrapped his arm around her waist and she was glad it stayed there instead of going anywhere near her belt because then she’d have to stop kissing him and protect her gun. She put her hands in his hair and wasn’t surprised to find it full of product. Nothing got that kind of lift without some help. She was happy to mess it up.

When she absolutely had to breathe again, she broke off and sat back against her desk.

“Hold on a minute,” she said.

He looked both concerned and satisfied.

“Taking your breath away, Lupo?” he asked, and then frowned. “Or is it your head?”

“I got it checked out, it’s fine,” she said. “But it does hurt.”

“Sorry about, uh, leaving you before,” he said.

“You should be,” she said, whacking his arm. “You do realize that if I did suddenly decide I wanted Carter, I would have had the decency to tell you first without making out with him in front of you.”

“I know,” he said, shrugging. “I guess I don’t think too clearly where you’re concerned.”

“It’s no excuse,” she said. “If this is going anywhere, Zane, we have to be honest and have some measure of trust.”

“I’m all about trust,” he said. “I trust this will be earth shattering for both of us.”

“Wow, I’m going to have to put up with that all the time, aren’t I?” she asked herself more than him.

“Trust me, JoJo,” he said, putting his hands down on the desk on either side of her and brushing his lips against hers. “We’re both going to like that.”

She ignored the nickname, realizing if she was going to kiss him, it was probably a bit of a lost cause.

“I already like this part,” she admitted, that same heat she’d been feeling earlier in the day coming back in a much more agreeable way.

“We’ll work out the rest,” he said. “I worked very hard to get this close to you, Deputy, and I’m not willing to be displaced just yet.”

“Well, luckily, I’m okay with that for now,” she said.

“Come on,” he said, offering her a hand up. “You shouldn’t drive. I’ll take you home like a gentleman.”

“There’s that chivalry again,” she said, accepting his hand and standing up. “Ugh, I’m all wet,” she complained, realizing it with the draft from the door. He smirked at her proudly and she glared at him. “The rain,” she clarified unnecessarily. “You did make me wet. With rain.”

“Hey, whatever it takes,” he said, gesturing for her to go first.

He drove her home and they didn’t talk much except to work out some of the details of the town’s latest craziness. He pulled up in front of her house and then opened the door for her.

“Ice cream soon?” he asked.

“Okay,” Jo said, more than willing to agree this time.

She leaned over the car door and kissed him again, liking the funny lurches in her stomach as she did it.

“Night, JoJo,” he said.

She closed the door behind her and headed straight for the bedroom. She was really tired and she was more than a little happy and she had a lot to think about.

***

“For the record,” Jo said as Zane opened his eyes, “I am fully aware what issues are going to come into play from this particular memory and we can discuss them until the cows come home if you want, but first tell me if anything different happened for you.”

“Relax,” he said, rolling over to look at her. “Yes, we should probably talk about Carter again.”

“And?” she said.

“And, yes, we should go into my memories,” he said, sighing. “You and I didn’t exactly agree on things in my timeline.”

“Oh,” she said and looked less pleased about that, which he could understand. “You want a break first?”

“No, let’s get it over with,” he said and reset the device quickly. “See you on the other side.”

She squeezed his hand in response.

***

Jo opened her eyes and would have blushed if she was in her own body. Zane was looking in the mirror in the bathroom and was only just in the middle of wrapping a towel around his waist. She had to admit, one of the more subtle differences between the Zanes in her life was that the first one hadn’t been as into weight lifting. Not that she had minded because he was still in awesome shape, but this Zane clearly had been obsessed with keeping fit from the get go.

Zane shaved and then pulled his shirt over his head and got ready to leave. It was definitely wearying to have to be so dependent on a schedule since he couldn’t go anywhere on his own. He was really excited about the work he was doing, but everything else in this town completely sucked.

He opened the door and smiled at Karen standing outside.

“Morning, beautiful, let’s go!”

“Morning, Zane,” said Karen, falling into step with him.

He liked her…sort of. She at least didn’t act like he was the world’s worst criminal, but she wasn’t much for small talk. She was a bit older than he was, but not by much and he would have no problem trying to attract her attention when she wasn’t his guard dog. She was a beautiful woman, red curly hair with some kind of mixed heritage giving her much darker skin than he was wont to see on a woman with her hair color.

They didn’t talk on the drive to GD, or at least, she didn’t. He usually kept up a steady stream of chatter which she seemed to tolerate if not actually enjoy.

He opened the door to the lab he was working in and smiled at the sight of all of his toys. He had big plans for them today. He fell to work and lost himself in the satisfaction of science with only one break for a mandatory meeting. Perhaps one of the benefits of being considered a dangerous employee was that he didn’t often work with others, at least not yet. The current head of GD security had pulled him into their office the other day and told him that he would probably become part of a team as soon as he got his cuffs off which was still technically Carter’s decision.

Zane hadn’t really talked to Carter much since his arrival. They ran into each other at Café Diem every now and then, but the only people Zane really interacted with were the scientists at GD and Karen. So Zane didn’t exactly know how Carter was supposed to make such a decision, but he was getting a bit bored of the monotony of home and work and home and work.

Practically the only thing he could even do at home was exercise, as he was only allowed non-electronic equipment. He was getting pretty fit though, which was nice.

Jo got it now and she wasn’t sure how exactly she felt about that. She was sad about the reason it had happened, but she didn’t exactly mind that it had. Clearly weight lifting had become an essential habit during this time.

“Zane, let’s get lunch,” said Karen, sticking her head into the room.

“Coming,” he said. “Let’s not take too long though because I got a point particle scan that will crap out if I don’t tweak it soon.”

“You scientist types,” said Karen, shaking her head and smiling.

“We make the world go round,” said Zane, winking at her.

When they got to Café Diem, Karen placed her order and headed for a back booth. One of the things that Zane appreciated about her was that she didn’t act like he was under guard 24/7 and generally let him do what he wanted whenever they were out, so long as she was in the vicinity.

“Vincent, what’s good?” asked Zane, sitting at the counter.

“I have a great special today,” Vincent said, lighting up as he talked about his food. “Serbian cevacice. Lamb patty, garlic, paprika. A little hunk of Balkan heaven.”

“Yeah, that sounds pretty awesome. I’ll try it,” Zane said.

He had earned Vincent’s approval by being willing to try practically anything the man cooked, so that was one nice thing anyway.

“Thank you,” said Vincent and scuttled off.

Within a short amount of time, Zane had his food and was enjoying it tremendously. This was definitely one of the benefits of Eureka. Zane still had thoughts about getting out of here, but despite the cuffs and cold freeze from most of the town, he was finding himself enamored of the science and the food.

It was extremely hot though. Something was going on with the air conditioning and other than the ridiculous sexual harassment seminar Zane had been forced to attend earlier, the level of heat was getting insane. He smiled to himself at the show Carter and Lupo had put on. She had actually burst out laughing when Carter had inanely tried to come on to her and Zane had to admit how much he liked hearing that from her, though he doubted it would ever happen again.

“Hey, Zane,” Carter said, coming in and sitting down next to him.

“I haven't done anything,” Zane said, only half-teasing.

“No, well, the day's young,” Carter said pleasantly. “Vincent, could I get a burger, please, rare.”

Vincent tried to convince Carter of the joys of Serbian dining, but Carter wasn’t having any of it.

Zane opened his mouth to try and talk to Carter about his cuffs when the other man’s phone rang and Zane didn’t feel bad at all about listening in as Carter appeared to have a very awkward conversation with a woman on the phone.

What was even funnier was when the Mole’s wife came in and started hitting on Carter like he was God’s gift to women.

Zane had to laugh even as he thought making fun of the Sheriff was probably a bad idea.

“It’s one of those days,” Carter said, rubbing at his temples after she left.

“Must be a real burden,” said Zane, taking a big bite. “So level with me, Sheriff, when can the cuffs come off? I’ve been a real good boy and Christmas is coming.”

Carter studied him for a minute.

“You know, you have been doing really well,” he said. “Uh, I have been meaning to talk to GD security about you. I’m still not real comfortable with you being loose, but I think you’ve earned a little trust. So, yeah, the cuffs can come off and the guard duty can come down.”

“Much appreciated,” said Zane, giving a mock salute. “I won’t let you down, Sarge.”

Zane actually meant it. Not that this didn’t open up some possibilities for him, but he would be smart about it.

Jo was relieved to hear that Zane hadn’t been in the cuffs for more than a few months. She’d read his file, of course, but apparently there had been a few instances of record tampering from Zane later on and so she wasn’t sure how much was factual.

Lupo chose that moment to enter and make a beeline for the Sheriff.

Zane watched her with interest because she still fascinated him.

Carter’s phone rang again, interrupting the curious conversation that Zane was listening to and then Carter was ordering everyone out because an inertia wave was on the way.

Zane had no interest in being caught up in something like that and he headed toward the exit. He was almost there when he thought to figure out where Karen was and she was headed toward him, gesturing for him to go.

He was leaving when the wave hit and flung him against the doorjamb and he winced as his shoulder impacted.

It took him a moment or two to get his bearings and when he finally managed to get to his feet, he saw that Carter was leaning over a dazed Lupo, holding the back of her head. Karen was knocked cold a few feet behind him. Zane knelt down beside her and felt for a pulse. He was relieved to feel it beating strong under his fingers. Vincent hovered next to him, having gone out the door right before the blast hit.

“I called the ambulance,” Vincent said.

“Good,” said Zane, going over to where Carter was helping Lupo sit up, only to see her grab Carter and kiss him deeply.

Well, that was interesting. Zane wondered how long that had been going on. Not long based on the way Carter was staring at Lupo like she’d just attacked him. Zane sat by Karen and watched amusedly while Carter fended Lupo off, pulling his hand off her leg like she was a hot coal.

Lupo on the other hand, she was clearly not going to take no for an answer and Zane idly wondered for a minute what it would be like to have the kind of fiery intensity focused on him. It might be fun.

Jo wanted to bang her forehead as she actually watched herself kissing Carter. It was bad enough the first time, but now she had to actually watch it.

Carter gestured him over rather frantically and Zane sauntered over.

“Can you take Jo to the Sheriff’s office and just put her on a cot?” asked Carter.

“My keeper’s out cold,” Zane reminded him.

“Never mind all that. Please?” asked Carter.

“You got it,” said Zane.

Lupo followed, docile enough, until they got to the Sheriff’s office and Zane went to find her some water.

“I’m fine,” she said crisply.

“Sure you are,” Zane said, folding his arms and leaning back against the door. “That’s why you were kissing Carter like your life depended on it.”

“That could not be any less of your business,” said Lupo. Her eyes brightened at the sound of Carter’s name though. “I should go and help him,” she said.

“No, no,” said Zane, leaning her gently back onto the desk. “You have a head injury and I told the ambulance driver to come and have someone check you out.”

“I don’t need your help,” she said, like help from him would be somehow contaminated. “Shouldn’t you be somewhere else?”

“I do have a project that requires my rather immediate attention,” said Zane. “But you know, if you’d rather put on another show for my benefit this time, I’m not going to say no.”

He couldn’t say why he said things like that to her; it was probably going to get him killed some day.

“Let’s get one thing clear,” said Lupo, her fists tightening. “You try anything and I will deviate your septum.”

“I guess it’s true love for you and Carter then,” Zane said, backing up slightly. “You will invite me to the wedding, won’t you?”

“A wedding?” said Lupo, sounding confused and winced. Zane wondered exactly how hard her head was pounding right now. He found some ibuprofen and gave it to her and she glared at him. “Stop being an idiot, Donovan,” she said. “Stay away from me, stay away from Carter.”

“Your lover asked me to conduct you safely home,” said Zane. “My job is done so…have fun with the head injury.”

Zane left and headed back to Café Diem, twirling Karen’s keys in one hand, and throwing the key for his cuffs into the air and catching it. As he got to Karen’s car, he unlocked the cuffs and slid them onto the seat beside him. Having the cuffs off was nice and he was tempted to just get in Karen’s car and keep on driving, but even with the disaster happening in the town, it wasn’t too likely he’d get far. So he simply drove back to GD and checked in with security.

Jo sighed and she didn’t know whether it was with fondness or irritation. Of course, Zane had stolen the cuff keys, taking advantage of her head injury. She could only guess that hadn’t endeared him any further to the Jo of his timeline. Particularly when she wasn’t exactly his biggest fan to start with.

The guard on duty asked him where Karen was and Zane told him the truth. After a heated discussion over the phone with some higher up, Zane was let back into his lab and he went back to work on his particle scan as if he had never left.

When it was time to go home he went outside and was told to report to the GD security office.

He went, whistling nonchalantly, and wasn’t surprised to find Carter waiting inside.

“Hey, how’s the town?” he asked, sitting down. “We’re all still here, it seems.”

“Yeah, we’re all still here,” said Carter. “Including you, which is a bit surprising.”

“Don’t you trust me, Sheriff?” asked Zane with his most charming grin.

“A bit,” said Carter, “but not really. Thanks for taking care of Jo, but I’d steer clear of her for a while. She’s pretty pissed that you took the cuff key out from under her nose.”

“This cuff key?” asked Zane, handing it over. “You really shouldn’t keep the keys by the drugs.”

“I’ll make a note,” said Carter.

“So, what am I in for?” Zane asked, sighing, wondering if Carter was going to renege on the whole ‘cuff off’ thing now.

“Like I said, cuffs off, guard duty at GD, but you can go anywhere else by yourself now,” said Carter. “But consider this probation, Zane. You try to run and we’re right back where we started. I have no problem jailing you for anything else you pull.”

“Yes, boss,” said Zane. “So can I keep Karen’s car? How is she, by the way?”

“Got a concussion,” said Carter. “She’ll be okay and, no, you can’t have her car.” He gestured and Zane handed him Karen’s keys as well. “Maybe you can bike to work.”

“Biking?” Zane asked, and then shrugged. It was mobility. “I’ll work with that.”

“We’re done then,” said Carter.

“So, you and Lupo, huh?” said Zane as he got up. “How long has that been going on?”

He enjoyed the beet red that covered Carter’s face.

“It was pheromones,” spluttered Carter. “I mean, Taggart’s dog- well, the tunnels and I was down there and she… well, it wasn’t. Just….just don’t ask.”

Zane raised an eyebrow and wondered if Carter didn’t protest too much, but it didn’t really matter to him, so he tucked the sight away to chuckle over later and went on his merry way.

He still didn’t know how he was supposed to get home today.

***

Zane shut off the device and removed his headset, enjoying the comfortable mattress underneath him. They should do this on the bed every time.

“At least now I know why you’re so obsessed with weight lifting,” Jo said, performing some lovely stretches.

“I had literally nothing else to do,” protested Zane. “Besides, it’s fun.”

“I enjoy working out,” said Jo, “but weight lifting is not fun.”

“Says the drill sergeant,” teased Zane.

“That was different, I wasn’t doing the work,” said Jo.

“I see,” said Zane, lying on his side with his head propped in his hand.

There was an awkward silence between them before Jo sighed and turned her head to the ceiling.

“You may as well get it all out,” she said.

“I’m kind of jealous,” said Zane and then clarified. “Of how easy it was for you to get close to Carter.”

“What does that mean?” asked Jo.

“It just means that this time around you and I have had to fight tooth and nail to get anywhere. But it feels like it doesn’t matter what timeline you’re in, you and Carter just make sense.”

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” said Jo. “He can be really irritating.”

“So can I,” Zane pointed out. “So can you, for that matter.”

“It wasn’t too hard for me to fall for Zane in the other timeline,” said Jo.

“Brain chemistry being messed with aside,” agreed Zane. “By the way, I get it; it was not your fault.”

“But…?” prompted Jo.

“But,” Zane said, sighing, “but clearly there was once something there and we know that the potential future is there.”

“Would you get over that!” said Jo. “I don’t care what some computer says. I get to make my own choices and knowing what I know now, I don’t see that happening.”

“Because you’ve changed the algorithm,” said Zane.

Jo grabbed a pillow and growled into it.

“I hate scientists!” she said when she came up for air.

Zane was actually rather endeared at her rage, but he couldn’t help but be annoyed that she kept dismissing something that made so much sense to him.

“Could you just admit that you and Carter isn’t such a crazy idea?” asked Zane. “Remember, I felt what you were feeling.”

“I was being influenced!” she said.

“But I also know what you were thinking,” said Zane.

“Then you also know that any kind of feeling I had for Carter died within a few weeks of knowing him,” said Jo. “Everything about it would have just been impossible. He was my boss, I wanted his job, he didn’t have any kind of experience with Eureka or how we operated. I would never have acted on it and by the time those things didn’t feel like an issue, he was more like a brother than anything else.”

“I believe you,” said Zane, oddly satisfied. All he really wanted was an acknowledgement that he wasn’t crazy for thinking it was possible. “I felt that from you.”

“Then stop being a jackass,” she said sternly.

“I’m not the one yelling,” he said. “You’re so defensive about the subject and that’s part of why it bothered me so much.”

“Maybe because you overreacted and acted like an asshole,” she said, glaring at him.

“Look, I was really insecure,” said Zane. “Maybe it’s not an excuse, but it really felt like you were holding all of the cards at the time. Okay? You had a relationship with me in some other timeline and then you blew off the Astraeus project and said you had to go and find yourself and then I had to watch you be in a relationship with Carter even if it turned out to be fake. It felt like I was being jerked along some kind of hurricane path without any control and it was very difficult attempting to sort all of that out.”

“Like I had any control,” said Jo. “I lost my life, my lover, my job, my identity. If I was going to be any kind of a functioning human being, I had to figure that out. I had absolutely no control over what happened to you in that program.”

“I know that,” Zane said.

“Well, I know what you went through, too,” she said, folding her arms and glaring at him.

He wasn’t sure which one of them started laughing first, but they were both soon lost to it.

“Look,” he said, getting his breath back. “We’ve been over and over the Carter thing. I know you want to be with me and I’m not worried about the two of you anymore. I admit though, it is nice to be validated in my belief that the two of you could have been something at one point and it wasn’t just because a computer predicted it.”

“Wow, so this is all about you being right,” she said. “You are such a narcissist.”

“All the best scientists are,” he said, smirking.

“I really hate you,” she said.

“Nope,” he said cheerfully, then continued more seriously. “I am sorry, Jo, about what I put you through after I came back.”

“Well, I’m sorry you had to go through that,” she said, relenting.

“Um, I’m also sorry the other Zane didn’t trust you,” he said.

“Well, I can’t really blame him,” said Jo, “even though I can totally blame him.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if he was a little insecure as well,” admitted Zane. “You know, being the closest thing you can get to him, I think I have a pretty good bead on what he was feeling.”

“Funny how I was worried about what his intentions were,” said Jo. “And, yes, he wasn’t ready for anything serious, but maybe I was insecure about why he was pursuing me.”

“Aren’t we all just a mass of neuroses?” Zane commented. “I am glad nothing too bad happened to your head.”

“No thanks to you in either timeline,” she said, but with a smile. “That was a clever trick you pulled and I bet I hated you for it.”

“Oh, you did,” said Zane. “It wasn’t pretty.”

“Well, I guess I already knew that,” she said somewhat sadly.

“Hey, it worked out,” he said, leaning in for a kiss, which reminded him of something. “We’re going to have to do something about cutting off those memories. I mean, kissing myself was strangely nice, but very awkward.”

“I wouldn’t have thought you’d have any problem making love to yourself,” said Jo, arching an eyebrow.

“Hilarious,” he said. “But just…I don’t know, keep it PG for me.”

“I’ll do my best,” she said, “but it could get pretty NC-17.”

“Now that, I generally like,” he said.

She smiled at him and kissed him in a fashion that made his thoughts go that direction fairly quickly.

Chapter Text

Zane wandered into the living room and then frowned when he saw Jo setting up the device.

“Am I missing something?” he asked.

“No,” she said and went on with her work.

“Uh, then why are you doing that?” he asked, pointing.

“Can’t a girl organize her thoughts?” asked Jo innocently.

“Jo, you’re not doing this without me, right?” Zane asked, suddenly panicked. “You’re not doing it without alerting Henry…okay, you’re messing with me,” he said, calming down as he noticed the carefully tight expression she was wearing on her face.

“Calm down, Donovan,” Jo said. “Would I, a law-abiding citizen and head of security, break the rules?”

“I seem to recall you letting a dangerous criminal loose and sabotaging an officially sanctioned government wipe,” he said, leaning against the door jamb.

He liked watching her put things together, whether it was one of the rifles she kept locked in their bedroom or the transmission on her car or any other object she felt she wanted to tinker with. She was more science than she knew and he was more inclusive of mechanics in the realm of science than he used to be.

“Something must be wrong with your memory,” she said, flashing a smirk in his direction.

“So, uh, what are you doing then?” he asked. “Are we going rogue? Because I’m always up for that, especially if I get to drag you with me.”

“There was a cancellation in the schedule,” said Jo. “I snagged it.”

“Privileges of being the first to view security schedules,” he said approvingly.

“The job has to have some perks,” she answered.

He snorted as he joined her in the room. One of the security implementations of the new Eureka was that experiments had to be done during assigned time slots and the penalty for violating that rule was immediate redaction. It was extreme, yes, but it had vastly cut down on the strange and horrific catastrophes that were part of Eureka’s charm. Carter had even been heard to say he was almost bored. Zane missed the excitement a little bit, but even without the danger of two harmless projects accidentally mingling into a mess, there were still plenty of things that could go wrong at GD and would until the day it actually did shut down.

The schedule also meant that Zane and Jo had to carefully plan out when they could have their trips down memory lane, which worked well with them trying to keep some time in between, but also meant they hadn’t been able to do it in a bit.

“Aren’t you supposed to be getting ready for the big night?” he asked.

“I don’t have to do anything but show up,” said Jo. “Allison has assured me that she and Zoe have the rest covered and I frankly don’t even want to know what kinds of things Zoe has planned.”

“Well, at least you have something exciting,” said Zane. “Knowing Fargo I’m going to end up playing World of Warcraft all night.”

“Which you would actually have fun doing,” said Jo, poking him on a trip around the table to adjust something on the other side of the device.

“Maybe, but that’s not what a bachelor party is for,” he said, folding his arms.

“It doesn’t have to be anything but fun,” said Jo, and then fixed him with her best glare. “And completely chaste on your part.”

“Chaste?” he said, laughing. “Okay then, Lupo, but just you keep your lap free of dancing and we’ll call it even.”

“I’ve never gotten a lap dance in my life,” said Jo, “and I’d like to see the man brave enough to try it.”

“Challenge accepted,” he said, enjoying her blush.

“Just check it,” she said, gesturing to the device.

He did, but it took him a very short time because she was very good at putting things together.

“You ready?” he asked.

“Let’s get going,” she said, taking his hands before he pushed the button.

***

Zane found himself nervously standing in the front hall of what he assumed was Jo’s old house. She was looking in the mirror and he approved of what she saw. Her hair was down and he wondered if that was because she wanted it down or because the other Zane had told her she should wear it down.

A car horn sounded from the front and Jo took one last look in the mirror and then opened the door and stepped out, waving to Zane.

She auto-locked the door behind her and then made her way to where he was waiting in the car. He didn’t get out, but gestured her to get inside.

“I guess chivalry only lasts until you get what you want,” she said, not actually upset, but wanting to tease him.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to bore you into a routine,” he said.

“How considerate,” she said sarcastically.

“You look very nice, by the way,” he said. “I’d look closer but I am driving.”

“It would be a shame if our date got cut short because you drooled so much you killed us,” she agreed.

“Luckily, we don’t have far to go,” he said, pulling over and coming round to open her door.

She was slightly confused since Café Diem and ice cream was apparently not their destination. They were at a small, slightly wooded area that most people jokingly called a park. There was one wooden bench and a small creek at the edge. Eureka was surrounded by so much nature that most people didn’t feel the need to artificially create anything to enjoy it, unless it was in a laboratory.

Jo accepted Zane’s hand and was pleasantly surprised when he kept holding it as they walked across the grass. A blanket was waiting for them with a picnic basket. She’d already had dinner since she’d thought they were getting dessert so she really hoped he hadn’t packed a lot.

“You’re lucky it’s not raining,” she said, sitting down, curling her legs so she avoided any issues with her dress.

“Well, I’m a lucky guy tonight,” he said, opening the basket with a flourish.

He pulled out a carton of ice cream and handed it to her along with a spoon.

She had to laugh, but she accepted it gratefully and popped off the cover, gratified it wasn’t completely melting.

“You must have just bought this,” she said, digging her spoon in.

“Perks of being me,” he said, gesturing to the basket and when she looked inside, she saw it was ice cold.

“Did you make something or put dry ice in there?” she asked.

“Dry ice,” he scoffed. “I admit I didn’t make this, but I thought to ask if someone had so I didn’t have to.”

“How excellent you are at being lazy,” she said.

“I really am,” he agreed, digging into his own carton.

“What kind do you have?” she asked.

“Rocky road,” he answered, holding it slightly possessively. “And I never share rocky road.”

“Your favorite?” she asked.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “Ever since I was a kid.”

“I could make a pun right now,” she said, “but I won’t.”

“You’d be the first to refrain,” he said.

Jo stuck more ice cream in her mouth so she wouldn’t have to answer.

It was actually somewhat peaceful sitting there with Zane, warm enough outside that the ice cream didn’t make her too cold. She gathered he’d be more than happy to help her get warm if it did, likely his reasoning behind choosing the park for her date. But she didn’t mind, it was nice.

They talked about a lot of things even if sometimes he dropped too much science lingo into the conversation for her to understand what he was saying. It made her slightly uncomfortable, but she figured it was the price for dating a scientist. At least he wasn’t playing games, just like she’d asked, and she endeavored to return the favor.

She ate about half her carton while they talked and then asked him to stick it back in his freezer basket. He ate his entire carton and she watched him, amused, while he savored the last bite.

“Do you need a moment to mourn its passing?” she asked, gesturing to his lips, where some ice cream was resisting being eaten.

He didn’t react, simply smiled at her. She sighed and reached over to wipe the corner of his mouth.

He caught her arm and tugged gently and she let herself get pulled practically into his lap.

“Nope, I’m good,” he said, flashing his teeth at her before kissing her.

She let him, it certainly wasn’t anything she minded doing. His mouth was cold and she was shivering slightly after only a moment. He pulled her closer until she was sitting on his stretched out legs and wrapped his arms around her waist. His fingers were points of cold against her from holding the carton, but his arms were warm and solid.

“You really know how to plan things down to the moment, don’t you?” she murmured against his lips.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.

“The park, the ice cream, the blanket, even the messy last bite,” she said, adjusting herself more comfortably across his lap, happy she’d worn a dress with a lot of give.

“I admit nothing,” he said, kissing his way across her cheek.

“But then you won’t get credit,” she said, giving him access to her neck. “And I know how much you like to get credit for things.”

“Hey, I do the work, I want the recognition,” he said, one of his hands wandering down to caress her leg.

She wondered exactly how far he thought this was going to go in a public place. Her skin was quickly becoming over heated.

“As fun as this is,” she said, putting her hand on his and stopping it from wandering upward, “I am not about to get grass stains on this dress.”

“I might have to start pouting,” he said, but he stopped kissing her.

She felt herself start to settle back down and she stood up off his lap, extending her hand down to pull him up.

“Come on; let’s work off that ice cream a different way.”

“Not nearly as fun,” he said, letting himself be pulled up.

“In some ways,” she said, squeezing his hand. “Still, I would hate to have to arrest myself for indecent exposure.”

“I wouldn’t mind seeing that,” he said. “Both parts, please.”

“In your dreams, Donovan,” she said.

Zane was starting to feel uncomfortable again and wondered exactly how often he was going to have to go through this or if he’d even start to like it after he’d gotten used to it.

“Every night, Deputy,” Zane answered.

They walked over every square inch of the small park several times and Jo let him lead the conversation, which was peppered with innuendos and science and she enjoyed listening to him blather on about she barely knew what. She was just enjoying being there.

It gradually got cool and she regretted not having worn her dress that came with temperature control. She’d been meaning to get more of them, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Since she wore a uniform all day, she liked being able to wear other things, but she also didn’t like buying a lot since she wouldn’t get to wear it as often.

“Unless you want to go full on knight and give me a coat, we should get going,” she said somewhat reluctantly.

“I’m fresh out,” he said and guided her back to the blanket and basket, which he picked up and then clicked a button on the side of the basket, whereupon the blanket folded itself and slid into the bottom.

“Impressive,” she said.

“Anything that will take care of itself is fine by me,” he agreed.

The car ride home was over quickly and Zane got out and opened her door, walking her up to her house.

“Thanks for this,” she said. “I had a good time.”

“I got my recognition,” he said, smirking. They reached her door and he hovered slightly uncertainly and she once more wondered how much lay underneath his carefree exterior. “You gonna invite me in?” he asked.

“Nope,” she said, sliding her arms around his neck and kissing him.

His mouth wasn’t as cold now, but it still tasted like marshmallows and chocolate and she let herself fall into the feeling. She was leaning so much into him that she couldn’t keep her balance and she felt him half guide, half scoot her a few feet to lean against the door jamb. She didn’t really care where she ended up at that point, because she was quickly getting too used to kissing Zane Donovan.

His hands certainly liked to wander and this time she let him explore and she didn’t know if she was gratified or impressed that he managed to stay away from actually groping her.

For a time, that is. The longer they made out, the harder it was for her to think clearly, and he had his hands all over her ass.

She finally broke away, breathing hard, and smiled.

“That’s how we say good night,” she said.

“I’d love to hear how you say good morning,” he said.

His tone was half joking but she didn’t have to be a genius to know he wanted to stay. She wanted to let him stay, but the one tiny part of her brain that wasn’t glazed over in lust had made its feelings on the matter loud and clear and she hadn’t prepared for this part of a relationship and what she wanted at all.

“I’d like that,” she said, “but I don’t think it’s a good idea right now.”

“This a church thing?” he asked, sounding slightly weary and she frowned slightly.

“Kind of,” she said. “Look, this is our second date, there’s no need to rush into the bedroom just yet.”

“It’s where I do my best work,” he said.

“I’m willing to be convinced,” she said, kissing him again quickly. “But let’s say good night for now.”

“Yeah, okay,” he replied.

Zane could tell how pissed his counterpart was. Probably not directly at Jo or he’d be a lot nastier, but at feeling frustrated. Zane could relate, it was not a pleasant feeling. He wondered if this had caused a lot of friction between them.

“I’m not doing this to be a tease,” she said, wondering if he was going to be an ass.

“I know,” he said, wiping his hand over the lower half of his face. “Believe me, Jo, I could tell you were into it.”

“And not alone,” she said pointedly.

“No,” he said, chuckling somewhat bitterly. “I’ll survive though.”

“Can we talk later?” Jo asked, still feeling unsure.

“Oh, you’re not getting away that easy,” he said, frustration wiped away and charm back in place. “We definitely have another date in our future.”

“I would like that,” she said.

He kissed her again, lingering slightly.

“Goodnight, JoJo,” he said and walked away to his car.

“Goodnight,” she said after he’d driven away.

She sighed, feeling her overheated cheeks. She hoped that would be okay. She didn’t necessarily blame him for not wanting to stop, but the whole thing was really confusing and she just needed time to figure it out. She should have thought about it before, especially after their electric first kiss, but it had been way too long since she’d dated anyone.

She went inside and got ready for bed, knowing her thoughts were going to be filled with Zane all night and not entirely in a good way, the way after a successful date would normally be. The date itself had been amazing and she had no doubt whatsoever they would click physically, but if all he wanted was sex then where did that leave her? Not just with a relationship, but with her morals and desires?

She turned over, determined not to think about it, even though she knew she would.

Zane felt the shift of time passing and then Jo was walking toward Café Diem, dressed in her uniform. He was trying to figure out how he felt about the outcome of what he’d just witnessed. He could feel how distressed Jo had been and how worried she was about how the other Zane would react. He’d also felt exactly how much she had wanted to invite him in. He didn’t know how he would have acted if he’d been the Zane there that night and without the advantage of knowing her feelings and thoughts. He couldn’t say he blamed the guy necessarily though. The whole thing was stupidly complicated.

Jo was feeling a bit restless after not sleeping well the night before. She had coffee in hand, but of course she was not given the opportunity to enjoy it because someone decided to turn Archimedes into gold and she had to respond to a crowd control call.

She found herself, after all the ruckus died down, inside with Zoe, getting her account of events.

“Anything else you can remember about the statue cleaner?” she asked.

“He had an accent,” replied Zoe. “And no respect for privacy.”

“Did you see his name?”

“No. Wait, wait,” said Zoe. “Yes. On his overalls. Uh, Rudolph. Are we done yet?”

“Yeah, we're done,” Jo said, smiling ruefully.

“Okay, your turn,” said Zoe with a smirk. “Your date with Zane. All-nighter?”

How Jo regretted sharing any of her personal life with a teenager with an over-protective father. She really needed more girlfriends.

“That would be none of your business,” she said.

“Oh, come on, I have to live vicariously through you, since my dad shut me down this weekend,” Zoe wheedled.

“Yeah, I heard about that,” said Jo sympathetically, finally taking a drink of her coffee.

“I mean, if I wanted to have sex with Lucas, I wouldn't have to wait until my dad went out of town,” said Zoe.

Jo almost spit out her coffee before she swallowed quickly.

“Okay, but you're not. Right?” she asked urgently.

“Relax,” Zoe said dismissively, “I've seen the after school specials. And I mean Lucas is a perfect gentleman. Odd, yes. But a complete romantic. Look,” she finished, holding out her arm for inspection.

“Wow, very medieval,” Jo said, inspecting the blue bracelet on Zoe’s wrist.

“Yeah, so now that we know that my virtue is still intact, let's talk about you compromising yours,” Zoe said eagerly.

“Look at the time,” Jo said weakly. “Gotta find Rudolph.”

She gathered her stuff and left, wondering if it was a coincidence that Zoe’s love life was almost paralleling hers in ridiculousness. Carter was too strict with her, though Jo knew the impulse was from a very good place. She could try to help Zoe out, especially if it meant she could avoid talking about Zane and how she couldn’t stop thinking about if he would ever talk to her again.

Zane couldn’t help being weirded out by Zoe being so into Jo and his relationship. It was just very different from the Zoe he knew.

She couldn’t stop working, especially with a brand new Eureka mystery to solve, so she went along with Carter to find Rudolph and see what he knew. Not much, it turned out, but at least they got a sample of the cleaner he was using.

Jo also took the opportunity to talk Carter into letting Zoe have a boy/girl sleepover which Jo herself would chaperone while Carter was out of town with Callie.

Jo wasn’t quite sure what she was getting herself into but at least it would be a distraction from Zane.

After Carter went to interrogate the statue’s maker, they got back to the office and did a little detective work on their cleaner and then Carter gave Zoe the good news, hearing which she reacted exactly as Jo predicted she would. Jo smiled to herself, happy to spread some joy. However, it was short lasting because after Zoe’s bracelet turned gold Vincent called in a panic, saying that the townspeople were looting Café Diem.

Once they got there, they discovered many other items turning into gold and then when Henry joined them, they discovered the statue was now corroding likely with all the other gold objects to follow, seriously compromising the structural stability of the town.

Jo and Carter went back to see Rudolph only to find him pinned down in his own shed. They had to rescue him. All the answers led them back to the statue’s creator Christopher, whom Jo took care of arresting for obstruction of justice and withholding information, letting Carter, Stark, and Henry take care of anything to do with restoring all the metal in town.

Sometimes it was nice not to be responsible. Still, Jo could have used more distractions. She sat down in the office and tried to figure out what she wanted to tell Zane if/when he called.

She had to put this into perspective for herself. She was interested in Zane and she very much wanted to sleep with him. She wasn’t planning on marrying him or anything like that, but she also didn’t want this to be only a physical relationship or a fling that would end once he’d gotten what he wanted. She also had to be honest and admit that she was struggling with how sleeping with him would affect her faith. She had the feeling that it would degrade it and not just because Zane was anti-church.

Jo knew that she struggled to actually follow a lot of the morals Christianity laid out. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe the reasoning behind them, but she found them very hard to walk out because those morals did not fall in line with either her plans or her feelings. She often regretted not following them, would that be the same here if she just decided to give in to what she wanted with Zane?

Even if she hadn’t signed an abstinence vow or anything like that, she still believed sex was not something to throw around lightly and she felt like with Zane it would be.

Jo rubbed her forehead and wondered how Carter was getting on at GD. That was a better problem to focus on. She should probably concentrate on what she could do to help him and getting Christopher out of her jail cell and into official custody.

She started on his paperwork, determined to do her job well. Luckily, that lasted until a security team arrived to pick Christopher up. Unfortunately, then her Zane problem returned to settle on her shoulders.

Zoe called in the middle of her brooding and gave Jo the details of the party and Jo almost blurted out everything, but restrained herself. It would not be appropriate for her to tell any of this to Zoe.

The problem was the person she really needed to talk to about this was Zane, because if she only had the answers to her questions about him, it would be a lot easier to know what to do. She was worried talking to him would drive him away, but she knew not talking to him was just playing games like she had not wanted to do in the first place. The whole thing was just ridiculous.

Zane spared a brief thought to wonder if Jo’s mind wandered in a dozen different directions like this all the time. His own experience with her would have to say yes, that and the being in her head so much lately.

“Your face could freeze like that,” Zane said from the doorway.

She couldn’t stop the happy lurch in her stomach, which told her a great deal about how she felt about him, even if she was confused.

“Is that a scientific fact?” she asked lightly.

“I could probably make a case for it,” he said, coming in and dropping into a chair in front of her desk. “I’m brilliant that way.”

“Are you?” she questioned.

“Oh yeah,” he said, picking up a pen and playing with it. “So, the town might go to hell.”

“Possibly, but we’re working on it,” said Jo.

“Are you sure you want to die before experiencing a night with me?” he said bluntly.

“We’re not going to die,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Also, it’s day time.”

“That was my subtle way of bringing up a topic of conversation, Deputy,” Zane said.

“Yeah, I got that,” she said. “Which I told you I wanted to talk about, remember?” He nodded. “Just, I might have to go if Carter needs my help, okay?”

“I guess saving the town is an acceptable excuse to bail,” he said. “So, you want to go first?”

Jo bit her lip and debated exactly what she should say.

“If we have sex are you just going to run away?” she asked finally.

“Well, if it’s really bad, I might,” he said, smiling, “but I really don’t see that happening.”

“I’m being serious here,” she said. “I’m not asking for a commitment or even a label, but I refuse to sleep with you if all I am is a fling to you.”

“Look,” he said, leaning forward, “without being even more narcissistic than I already am, I think it’s fairly obvious that I’m not that hard up for a date that you’re my only shot at a trip to Mattress City. I would not work this hard at getting you to go out with me if all I wanted was sex.”

“I’m not sure if I should be relieved or not,” Jo said, raising her eyebrow.

“Well, there’s not really another way to say that,” he said. “I’m not suffering for female company, that’s just a fact. But I would hope that the fact I want your female company would be considered an important note of distinction.”

“It’s a good thing you are attractive,” said Jo, “because any woman with any sense at all would run from that mouth.”

“Ah, but you don’t even know the best thing I can do with it,” he said, smirking.

She groaned.

“I walked right into that,” said Jo, “so let’s move right along and accept the fact that sex does not automatically mean the end of seeing each other.”

“At the risk of getting shot, duh,” he said.

“You’re not making this easy,” Jo said. “I’m trying to be honest with you.”

“I want to date you, Josefina Lupo,” said Zane. “Is that honest enough for you?”

“It’s a start,” she said. “I also want to date you, okay?”

“Then let’s date,” said Zane, spreading his hands out. “Let’s date our brains out.”

Jo had to think about that because as relieved as she was to hear his intentions, or at least what he said his intentions were, she still didn’t know the line she wanted to walk.

“I’m a little rusty at this,” she admitted.

Zane’s face softened slightly and he leaned forward.

“You know, that’s kind of hot,” he said.

Jo had to laugh.

“You’re such a jerk,” she said, but affectionately.

“Sometimes,” he agreed. He hesitated and then spoke. “Are you going to demand abstinence from me? Because, honestly, I don’t think I can live with that. It may work for you, but it’s not going to work for me, so let’s decide now.”

That was more bluntly put than she wanted, but she did appreciate him being straight about it. She took a moment to reply, wanting to make sure she was going to reply something she really meant and not as a knee jerk reaction. Sex had been a part of her life for a long time, she’d never paid any mind to anything sermons or preachers or anyone had said about it. It was only recently, since getting out of the army and attending Reverend Harper’s sermons that she’d started to have doubts. Could she live with knowing something wasn’t the right way to go and deliberately doing it anyway because that was what she wanted? She looked at Zane, who was actually patiently waiting for her to process what he’d said, and she had her answer. She couldn’t say for sure she’d never regret it, but she was going into it with her eyes open.

“I don’t want to ask that of you,” she said slowly, “so I won’t. What I will ask is that you be patient and realize that even though I want to sleep with you, it’s still going against something I believe in and there may be times when I struggle with that.”

“Okay,” he said, as if trying to reason that out. “So we’re going full tilt into this, right? But I’m not going to freak out if you freak out.”

“Basically,” she said, shrugging.

“I’m not pressuring you into this, am I?” he asked. “I don’t need anything else on my conscience.”

“No,” she said, immensely relieved at his words, “I’m pressuring me into it if anything.”

“Should I let you do that?” he asked as if genuinely confused.

Jo stood up and walked around her desk and sat down in his lap and put her arms around his neck.

“Nobody lets me do anything,” she said.

“As arousing as this is,” Zane said, “your gun is digging into my stomach.”

Jo giggled and shifted her belt around.

“Better?” she asked and he put his arms around her.

“Very,” he said, tilting his head up to kiss her.

She enjoyed it for a few moments before he broke off.

“So am I taking you out tonight so you can make it up to me?” he asked, breathing on her neck.

She shuddered slightly, but nodded with her eyes closed.

“Yup,” she said, “that’s what I want.”

“How about we stay in then?” he asked.

She nodded again, wanting to stay in her hazy little world of hormones and decisions made until a sudden thought burst into it.

“Crap, I can’t,” she said. “I’m chaperoning Zoe’s sleepover.”

“You’re what now?” he asked incredulously.

Jo explained Carter and Zoe’s agreement and Zane started laughing.

“Shut up, it’s not funny,” she said.

“Uh, yes, it is,” he said. “You’re the adult chaperone at the coed sleepover for the Sheriff’s daughter. You’re going to be so bored or so teased.”

“Well, perhaps if I had a strapping young companion with me,” Jo suggested, running her hands down his back, “it wouldn’t be such a chore.”

“No way,” he said, leaning into her touch.

“Come on,” said Jo, crowding herself closer to him, “imagine what we could get up to!”

“Now you are being a tease,” he said, the breath catching in his throat.

“Is it working?” she asked.

“Surprisingly yes,” he said.

“Good,” said Jo, rewarding herself with another kiss. His hand came up to the back of her neck and she enjoyed the feeling of his fingers on her skin. She was just starting to forget that she was on duty in a public office when the phone rang, causing her to jump. Zane laughed at her and she pointed her finger at him as she got up and reached across the desk. “You are meeting me there and we will continue this later,” she said, before picking up the phone. “Lupo, Sheriff’s office.”

“Jo, it’s Jack,” said Carter. “Just wanted to let you know the situation is under control and we’re getting a solution so all the affected metal can be treated. We’ll need to work on getting it everywhere the gold touched.”

“I can work on that,” said Jo. “Just have them send it here.”

“Good, thanks! Thanks again for taking care of Zoe.”

“You got it,” said Jo.

“Great, talk to you later,” said Carter, hanging up.

“I’ve got to go,” said Jo to Zane, hanging up. “We’ve got to get all the gold back to normal before the corrosion gets too bad.”

“I get it,” he said, standing up. “I guess I’ll meet you at the slumber party.”

“Yes,” she said firmly, giving him the time.

He left and she allowed herself one moment of satisfaction before she set about making sure everything was ready for a mass distribution of the gold cure.

Afterwards, she stopped at home quickly to pick up a few overnight things and was both simultaneously relieved and disappointed that the reason wasn’t because she was going to be staying at Zane’s.

Zane was actually highly amused at the idea that he’d been the chaperone at Zoe’s party in Jo’s timeline. That had absolutely not been the case for him.

He was waiting for her outside of the bunker and she greeted him with a light kiss but he quickly put his hand on the back of her head and held her there a minute longer, threading his fingers in her hair.

“Your hair’s down,” he said.

“Good observation,” she said, leading him inside before SARAH recorded footage of them and released it on the Eureka network.

Zoe opened the door for them and smiled broadly at the sight of them together.

“Come on in,” she said. “Thanks again, Jo, for doing this.”

“Just don’t make me regret it,” said Jo.

“I won’t,” Zoe promised.

“We’ll see,” muttered Zane under his breath and Jo stifled a giggle because he looked very uncomfortable.

However, as the party wore on and the kids basically ignored him, he stopped looking so stiff and Jo was grateful to have him along because she probably would have been very bored if she’d been there on her own. The second time his hand found its way under her shirt she decided that if nothing had happened yet, it likely wouldn’t. She instructed SARAH not to let anyone upstairs under any circumstances and dragged Zane into the hall closet, reasoning that if she was using it at least none of the kids were.

He appeared more than happy to go with her and once they were inside, fully engaged himself in helping himself to her mouth. Jo let herself enjoy every second, secure in the knowledge that so long as there were a bunch of teenagers outside the door she wouldn’t let this go anywhere beyond second base.

She lost count of how long they were in there but she was a bit horrified to find the door flung open with Carter standing there looking disappointed.

“What are you?” he trailed off. “You're supposed to be watching…”

“Well, I was watching her, and she was watching me, so,” began Zane and then stopped at the look on Carter’s face. “Yeah, okay,” he ended as he and Jo slinked out past Carter and Callie.

Jo thought about feeling guilty but decided to put it off, especially as Carter went rushing back out after he got a call from Henry. She decided to just enjoy the rush that making out in a closet brought.

***

Zane opened his eyes, chuckling.

“I can’t believe you were making out in SARAH’s closet!” he said. “That is too adorable.”

“I wasn’t exactly doing it alone,” said Jo, smacking him.

“Nope, and I’m afraid I’m almost getting used to it,” Zane said, shuddering. “Why’d you stop the memory?”

“Well, if your timeline is anything like mine,” said Jo, “things got hairy there after that and it seemed like it might be better if we didn’t do too much. Especially if we needed to go into your memories.”

“Which I guess we should,” said Zane, never excited about that. “But…not yet. Honestly, nothing exciting happened for me during the town’s Gold Rush. I admit I might have nicked a thing or two from Café Diem, but I wanted to study them.”

“Aww, you’re so cute,” said Jo, patting his cheek. “Little kleptomaniac scientist.”

“They corroded before I could get anywhere,” said Zane, pouting. “And then some GD thugs came into my lab and confiscated everything. But you and Carter were nowhere to be seen.”

“Were you happy?” asked Jo, picking at a thread on her suit. “Did you…make friends?”

Zane tilted her chin up.

“I wasn’t thrilled,” he said, “but I wasn’t miserable either. I was free to come and go so long as I stayed in Eureka. It’s easy to forget how small it is when the science is so big.”

“But did you do anything but lift weights and science?” asked Jo.

“Yes,” said Zane. “I pulled pranks on you.”

“For a genius, you’re really dumb,” said Jo.

“I know,” said Zane.

“Okay, so we’ll do you next time,” said Jo. “How about the making out, you want to talk about it?”

Zane had to think about that for a moment, because the entire section of memory made him somewhat uncomfortable. He honestly didn’t know what he felt about it.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I can’t say I’m unhappy you decided to go for it, but then I think that the whole thing was basically you being pressured into something and then I’m annoyed because I’m not sure if you should have and I still don’t agree with your reasons for not wanting to and then I start wondering about our relationship now and what I might be missing or encouraging or keeping you from or loved less because of.”

“Slow down,” said Jo. “I might have gotten about half of that.”

“What do you think about it?” said Zane. “I mean, this is your life, it’s got to be evoking some kind of reaction.”

“We already talked about the whole God thing,” said Jo. “There’s no need to beat the subject to death.”

“Maybe it’s more important than we thought,” he said, not really liking that idea.

“It’s incredibly important,” said Jo, “but I don’t think that’s the point. Are you worried that I’m going to run away because of it?”

“If it’s that important to you, maybe you should run away,” said Zane. “Or should have.”

“Okay, three days before our wedding, this might be a really bad conversation to have,” said Jo.

“Or an essential one,” he said.

“Uh, okay,” she said, nodding. “Well, I feel like I have feet on different paths and I’m worried they’ll diverge, but both are really important to me.”

“And I’m worried I only have half of you and that I somehow stole that half and someday you’ll resent me for it,” he said.

“Oh boy,” said Jo. “This is not good.”

“I concur,” said Zane. He paused and then tried to speak coherently. “When I was in your past, I could feel how conflicted you were about doing the right thing. I might not be…the most moral person, but I love you more than I ever thought I’d love anyone. I don’t want to be the thing that holds you back from something you consider important.”

Jo stared at him like he’d grown two heads. For all he knew, he might have. It certainly wasn’t something he’d ever pictured saying to her.

“I love you,” she said, her voice cracking. “I can’t stop even when I try. And what you said was…the most unselfish thing I’ve ever heard you say. I appreciate that.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, feeling slightly uncomfortable with the intensity of this conversation.

It was certainly not how he’d pictured this going when he’d proposed the idea of swapping memories.

“But I don’t for a second believe that God didn’t put you in my life,” said Jo fiercely. He stared at her. “You changed literally everything for me and even when everything in my life changed, somehow you were still there. Okay, so it might not be perfect and we might have to work at it, but I have faith now that this is what is supposed to be. God gave you to me and He doesn’t give bad gifts. Maybe rough ones, but not bad ones.”

Zane had never thought of himself in such terms before and he didn’t know whether to be amused, terrified, or warmed. Perhaps all three.

“You better write him a thank you card then,” he said, swallowing everything else he didn’t know how to say.

“I just might,” she said. “So do you feel better?”

“About the future, sure,” he said. “Maybe, maybe I do have it better than that other Zane.”

“Well, isn’t that obvious?” said Jo.

“Not just that I get to keep you,” he said, “but maybe being forced to start over is helping us do some things better this time. You got to be more confident because you already knew me and what we could be. I’m benefiting from that experience because I don’t make the same mistakes like making you feel inferior or pressuring you into sex.”

“You weren’t always nice about it,” said Jo, “but I don’t think you ever pressured me. You always backed off when I said no.”

“But I sure wasn’t going to live without it,” said Zane. “Not that I blame the guy.”

“I don’t really blame him either,” said Jo. “I clearly don’t want to live without it either. I just want to live with it a little more carefully.”

“This is ridiculous,” said Zane. “And weird.”

“Well, so is our whole relationship,” said Jo. “So you better get used to it.”

“Oh, I am,” he said. “Do you think if you knew then what you know now you’d still have made that decision?”

Jo didn’t answer right away and he appreciated her taking the time to think about it.

“Well, yes,” she said. “If I’d only known about the timeline change, maybe not.”

“That makes sense,” he said. “Now let’s talk about you feeling pulled in two different directions.”

“Oh that,” she said like it was nothing. When he just looked at her she looked past him and continued. “I felt so lost after I got into this timeline. Everything I was, just gone. So when I got to go back to church after my failed walkabout and after everything that happened with us, it was like coming home. But so is being with you. I do think those two things will reconcile now, but it’s hard until they do.”

“Does that mean you think I’m going to convert?” he asked.

She shrugged.

“I don’t want to predict the future anymore; I just want to live my life in the present.”

“Except for when we’re literally in the past,” he teased.

“Except for then,” she amended. “I think God has a place for you, for us, in His plan. It may not be perfect or right, but there’s a part of me that feels like when we get married it’s going to cement that. Maybe I’m forcing God’s hand into giving me what I want.”

“That’s kind of badass,” said Zane. He wasn’t sure that you were supposed to do that with God, he didn’t exactly have experience in that area, but if it meant Jo got what she wanted, then he was all for it. “I don’t see lightning bolts anywhere so you might be safe.”

“Let’s just say I expect a twist,” said Jo. “God has a sense of humor or we wouldn’t have met in the first place.”

“He sounds scarier all the time,” said Zane.

Zane was not sure how he was even talking about God like He existed since he’d never believed anything like that in his life and he still didn’t really, but he was also starting to realize that sometimes that meant discovery rather than impossibility.

“He’s something all right,” said Jo and kissed Zane on the cheek. “Are you feeling all right?”

“I guess I just felt sort of dirty,” he admitted. “Like you guys were together for all the wrong reasons and, I admit, the God thing makes me kind of insecure.”

“Well, I really hope you get over that,” said Jo. “Because I don’t feel that way and maybe knowing that will help you.”

“I think it will,” he said and then glanced at his watch. “I hate to break our party up but we have separate parties to get to.”

“Crap,” she said, getting up. “I have to go.”

“Relax, you’re the main event,” he said.

“Right, well, you better not be main event-ing or you’ll have a very painful wedding night,” she said, and she looked serious enough he was actually slightly scared.

“I got it, Jo,” he said. “Now go.”

She flew around the room, grabbing things, and he unconnected the device.

“Love you,” she tossed over her shoulder on the way out.

“You too,” he said and stood for a second with his hands on his hips.

He really did and he was starting to realize that even by going into her memories he wouldn’t be able to understand how much she really loved him and believed in him. It was a heartwarming and humbling feeling. Maybe, maybe God wasn’t so much a rival as a…wingman.

It was a thought anyway.

Chapter Text

Zane opened his eyes and yawned. He blinked as he looked to find the source of heavy warmth on him and discovered Jo slumped on top of him, delicious glimpses of bare skin peeking out from under the blanket. He needed the bathroom but wasn’t quite sure how to extricate himself without waking her. He gradually scooted to the left, gently moving her head to the pillow and wincing at how asleep his right arm was. He padded softly to the bathroom and when he was done, poked his head back in the bedroom and saw Jo was still sleeping.

He stretched and decided a morning workout was in order so he went to his tiny makeshift gym and made good use of it before hopping in the shower. When he shaved, his ring clacked loudly against his razor and he stopped for a moment, looking at it, still not used to seeing it on his finger. It wasn’t a bad thing, just odd.

When he got out of the bathroom again, Jo was in the kitchen making some breakfast.

“Morning, Mrs. Donovan,” he said.

“Morning, Mr. Lupo,” she answered.

“Is that for me?” he asked.

“Only if you ask nicely,” she said, sliding him a plate. “Also, don’t get used to it. This is honeymoon breakfast.”

“Our honeymoon is over, Jo,” he said, feeling rather ravenous this morning and shoveling in the food.

“Hey, we don’t go back to work till tomorrow,” she said. “Ergo, still honeymoon.”

“I can accept that logic,” he said. “Do we have plans for today?”

“We’re doing a memory run in fifteen minutes,” she said, looking at her watch.

“Oh yeah,” he said, not sure if he was really ready for that.

“What?” she said, looking at his face.

“Nothing,” he said, shrugging, not really wanting to admit he was dreading this next memory. “It was just kind of nice to have a few weeks of only you and me rolling around in my head. Not past you and past me.”

“Do you think we need to wait longer in between?” she asked, frowning.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I guess I’m just not looking forward to the next one.”

“This was all your idea, remember?” she said.

“And that means I’m going to like every second of it?” he asked mildly.

“Yes, that is what that means,” she said.

He didn’t bother to respond, just went to go set up the device now that he was finished eating.

“Ready, JoJo?” he asked, calling into the other room.

She came in, nodding.

“If you’re really not ready, we can wait,” she said.

“Well, now I’m kind of curious,” he said, deflecting. “Let’s see how we feel after this one.”

“You’re on,” she said and pressed the button.

***

Zane found himself pretty much where they had left off, in SARAH with Jo, teenagers milling around everywhere.

“I still can't believe I let you talk me into chaperoning,” Zane said, shooting Jo a look.

“Hey, no one snapped off your fingers,” Jo said mildly.

She was feeling a lot more secure about Zane every second, which was a nice feeling.

“The ease with which you say that is almost as disturbing as it is hot,” Zane said, half-whispering in her ear.

“I know,” she said smugly.

SARAH’s voice echoed inside the room.

“A biohazard's been detected at GD. All residents must remain indoors. All bio preservation lockdowns are engaged.”

Jo frowned, wondering what on earth had happened now. They’d barely just gotten over the gold crisis.

“Jo, where's my dad?” asked Zoe anxiously.

Jo hadn’t thought about that. No wonder Carter had run out when he had, he’d probably gotten a call. She took a moment to be annoyed he hadn’t told her and then calmed down; after all, she’d been watching his daughter. Sort of.

“Let me check, okay?” she told Zoe and pulled out her PDA. “What is going on?” she demanded of Carter when he answered.

“Pretty much everything that could be wrong,” Carter answered in his ‘I do not know why I am the Sheriff of this town’ voice.

He explained the situation and Jo felt a headache quickly approaching.

“Be safe, okay?” she said, before hanging up.

“I can try,” said Carter grimly.

Jo turned back to find Zoe in the mess of teenagers.

“Okay, your dad is with Stark and Taggart. They had to go back into GD,” she said.

Understandably Zoe was not happy about that, Jo couldn’t blame her.

“Dr. Fargo is at the door,” said SARAH.

“Hey, Jo,” he said, as he entered.

“I thought you were staying at Stark's lab,” she said.

“I was, but it was kind of creepy in there. I realized I may have a way to stay in contact with the sheriff and Dr. Stark. SARAH'S CPU is tied to my computer at Global,” Fargo explained as he walked into the center of the room. “Down periscope!”

A computer console slid from the ceiling and they all stared at it for a second.

“That's been here the whole time?” Zoe asked.

“Did I forget to mention it?” said Fargo lamely.

“Yeah,” Zoe said pointedly.

Fargo looked away guiltily, but Zane approached the console like it was gold.

“We use SARAH to slip in through a backdoor to the brain at GD,” he said.

“We?” asked Fargo, looking upset.

“Once a backdoor link's established, there's nothing I won't have access to,” Zane said in awe and Jo had a flash of horror at what he might get up to once that was the case.

“I think you mean there's nothing I won't have access to,” Fargo argued.

On the other hand, Jo really didn’t need a testosterone pissing match on her hands when there was so much at stake and she’d come to trust Zane enough that she knew he wanted to help.

“Boys, there's plenty of backdoor access for everyone,” she spat out and then stopped, rather horrified. “That didn't come out right,” she clarified. “Okay, just make it happen.”

Zane winked at her saucily, looking her pointedly up and down before flexing his fingers and turning back to the console. She wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or smack him.

He and Fargo typed rapidly for a while and Jo used half of her brain to admire the speed and dedication Zane was using and the other half to worry about what was happening at GD and trying to figure out how she could help.

“Dr. Stark?” Fargo said after a bit.

“Is that you, Fargo?” Stark’s voice came in over the intercom.

“Yes, sir,” answered Fargo. “I hacked into-” he stopped and glared at Zane, “-we hacked into the mainframe using SARAH.”

“Good thinking, Fargo,” Stark said.

Zoe was anxiously watching Zane and Fargo, Lucas standing next to her with a comforting arm around her.

“Dad, going a bit far to cancel my party, don't you think?” Zoe asked.

“Ah, you know me,” said Carter. “Three feet, Lucas. Get your hands off her.”

Lucas jumped

“How did he know?” he whispered to Zoe.

“I know everything,” said Carter. “Jo?”

“Hey, what's happening?” Jo asked.

“Uh, we're not sure, but Beverly's locked down there and she might be involved.”

Jo took a moment to lock eyes with Fargo and they both winced. Beverly was not a good addition to the problem. Jo was starting to get really worried about Allison and Kevin and Henry.

“Hey, Jo,” Taggart said over the intercom.

Jo felt Zane watching her. Just how much digging had he done on her?

“Hey, uh, Tag,” she said uncomfortably.

“Tag?” Zane repeated mockingly at her and she shifted under his gaze before ignoring him and returning her attention to what was happening.

Zane was amused at Jo’s reaction but he found himself very curious as well. He knew that Taggart and Jo had been together in his timeline but since that had happened while she technically would have been with him in her timeline, Zane hadn’t really thought about this Jo being with Taggart at all.

“We can monitor your vitals now and help you navigate the building,” said Fargo.

“Can you patch us into the panic room?” asked Carter.

“No, it has an encrypted protocol that only the DOD has outside access to,” Fargo replied. “And they haven't been able to reach them either.”

A sound issued from the monitors and Jo looked to Zane and Fargo for an explanation, but it was Stark who asked the question.

“What is that?”

“The sensor that monitors the suits,” Taggart replied.

Zane tapped a few keys and shook his head.

“I'm picking up the wireless readings here. One of you is losing pressure. Better check your suits.”

There was some rustling sound and Jo and Zoe looked at each other anxiously.

“It's me,” Stark finally said.

Jo was only a little ashamed that she felt relief, but she didn’t say anything as Fargo and Zane guided the men the rest of the way to their destination. She was starting to feel useless and wondered if there would be any point to her going to GD herself.

“You should see a computer console as you enter the room,” Zane said, scanning his screen. “Bring up the panic room intercom link. That should put you in direct contact.” He typed some and Jo couldn’t really understand what he was doing on the screen. “Hang on; I'm trying to circumvent the security wall. Try now.”

“The security mainframe is a learning system, and because of you it's gone into defense mode,” Fargo cautioned, jabbing a finger at Zane.

“What kind of defense mode?” asked Carter.

There were clicking and whirring noises as a gun lowered from the ceiling.

“That kind,” said Taggart.

“Move!” Carter yelled.

Zoe reached over and clenched Jo’s hand. Lucas had his arm back around her, Carter’s words apparently forgotten.

“That's a motion-activated photon defense array. They're screwed,” said Fargo thoughtlessly.

“We can hear you,” came multiple voices from the other end.

Zane had been busy typing this whole time.

“It looks like you can access the weapon's power supply - through the panel on the east wall,” he said.

“And the west wall,” added Fargo. “There are two panels. One mainframe and a backup power supply. But you're on your own with this one; we can't get through the firewall.”

The men quickly made a plan for Stark and Taggart to reach the panels while Carter played bait and Jo hated being on the end that was just waiting to find out what happened rather than being a part of it.

“I can't watch this,” said Zoe, covering her eyes.

Carter drew the fire while Stark and Taggart dismantled the panels, all of them yelling things the whole time so it was a bit hard to keep up with the action. But eventually it was over and Carter was panting on the floor while they helped him up.

“What now?” Carter asked.

“Guys, we're picking up heat signatures down the hall from you,” said Zane.

“Where exactly?” asked Stark.

“In-in the morgue,” stuttered Fargo.

Jo almost wanted to smile at Carter’s face.

“I swear to God, if this thing turns into a zombie attack, I am quitting,” he said.

The men continued their journey and Zane suddenly swore, slapping the side of the console.

“I’m locked out,” he said.

“Get back in there,” said Jo.

“I’m trying,” he said, already typing again.

“Fargo?” asked Zoe anxiously.

“It’s the security,” said Fargo, his mouth open in concentration. “It’s fighting back.”

They still could watch the screens and Jo saw the men open the morgue and find Larry and others simply milling about the room, apparently completely safe from whatever biohazard was at GD.

Of course, this led to the discovery that Henry had apparently lied about the biohazard in the first place; tricking the sensors into thinking there was one. Jo felt her heart sink because that was not Henry.

“Fargo, you still there?” Stark asked.

“Yeah, we are now, but the building's security keeps shutting us out,” Fargo said.

“What do you see now?” Stark replied.

“The sensors still detect a biohazard, and it's spreading through Global,” Fargo said.

“That's a problem,” Stark said.

“Why? It's not real,” said Taggart.

Jo realized the problem immediately.

“General Mansfield doesn't know that,” Stark said wearily. “And if the system tells him there's a threat, he has to trust it. He'll be forced to follow all biohazard protocols, and he will order a thermal cleaning.”

“Fargo, try to get through to him,” said Carter.

“I’ve got it,” said Jo and pulled out her PDA, using the special law enforcement codes given to her and Carter. “I can’t get through,” she said in frustration. “Why?”

“GD’s a little messed up right now,” said Zane, not looking at her as he spoke. “Keep trying and we’ll try to open a window for you.”

At GD, the men separated, Taggart leading Larry and his scientists to try and find a way out of GD and Carter and Stark going to try to infiltrate the panic room.

Jo kept trying her PDA, not really paying attention but then she heard Taggart speaking.

“So, Fargo, still with us?”

“Yeah, for the moment, but the connection's intermittent,” Fargo answered.

“Fargo is your brilliant plan?” Larry said derisively.

Zane thought that was hilarious. He’d been told that Larry and Fargo used to be rivals, but he was so used to boot-licking Larry that anything else was very amusing.

“Hey, you're lucky to have me, Larry,” said Fargo defensively.

“I'm gonna take my chances flying solo. Adios, muchachos!” Larry said.

“Good, I'd rather let the computer defenses take care of you anyway,” Fargo’s voice said and Jo whipped her head around. There were various exclamations of confusion, including one from Fargo, and then Fargo’s voice spoke again. “Kidding. We've contacted Mansfield to call off the thermal cleaning and shut down the defenses in section three. That's your best way out.”

Jo looked at Fargo who looked back nervously.

“I- I didn't say that.”

“Well then, who did?” Zoe asked.

Zane was the only person who didn’t look confused.

“Damn! This thing's good,” he said admiringly. “The defense system captured your voice to mislead them. They can't hear us anymore.”

Zane tensed because this was the part of his timeline that he hated most of all. He didn’t know if he could take it if he had to endure it in hers as well.

Fargo looked at the screen in a panic.

“Don't listen to me!” he said desperately.

“Fargo, you still there?” asked Taggart.

“Sure am,” said Fargo’s voice. “You're doing just great. It's not far now, Tag.”

Jo’s eyebrows went up and there was a pause before Taggart spoke.

“Only Jo calls me that,” he said conversationally. “That Zane seems like a nice enough fella. He and Jo make a handsome couple, don't you think?”

Jo suddenly realized Zane was looking at her weirdly and so was everyone else.

“I couldn't agree more,” said Fargo’s voice.

Taggart suddenly grinned.

“They're repulsive!” he crowed. “The real Fargo would know that.”

Jo put her hand to her head, very uncomfortable at the way Zane was looking at her and how Fargo couldn’t help from nodding in agreement.

“You'll never find your way out. Resistance is futile,” said the computer system.

The computer brought more security systems into play and Jo forgot her embarrassment in her fear that they would be killed.

Her fear was augmented when the system trapped Carter and Stark and started to roast them alive with a microwave defense.

“You've gotta shut it down,” she said urgently.

“We're trying,” said Fargo. “It's anticipating every attack.”

“Then change tactics,” she said.

“You've got a better idea, I'm all ears,” said Zane, keeping his attention on the screen.

Jo turned away in frustration, still automatically dialing the General as she thought. There wasn’t a point in being human if they couldn’t outwit a computer. A sudden thought occurred to her.

“The computer's been lying to us,” she said slowly. “What if we lie to it?”

“What do you mean?” asked Fargo.

“Well, its goal is to eliminate the threat. So let's do it first,” she said.

“You want us to kill them?” Zane asked incredulously.

“Just make them appear dead,” she said, pointing at the monitor. “Those are their vital signs, right? The security system is picking them up?”

“Yeah, so?” Zane replied.

“Can you change them?” Jo asked.

She could tell when he got her plan and he started typing rapidly.

“Maybe we can,” he answered.

“You mean if you make it think they're already dead, it'll stop cooking them?” Zoe asked.

“Let's hope,” said Zane.

“I've got Dr. Stark's vitals ready,” Fargo said.

“And I've got the Sheriff's,” said Zane.

“So do it,” Jo ordered.

They all anxiously watched the screen.

“Numbers dropping,” Fargo said. “Approaching critical. That's it! As far as the computer can tell, they're dead.”

The relentless heat didn’t give up and Jo had a sudden vision of her inheriting the position of Sheriff because she’d killed Carter.

“It's not working,” she said.

“Give it a minute,” Zane urged.

“They don't have a minute!” Zoe snapped.

“Come on, come on, come on,” said Fargo.

The heat turned off and Stark and Carter staggered to their feet.

“Yes!” Zane and Fargo each exclaimed.

There was such relief in Jo’s chest as Zane and Fargo did a weird fistbump/high five collision in celebration.

“Oh, thank you, Jo,” said Zoe in relief, hugging her.

Everyone calmed down for a moment and then Fargo looked strangely at Zane.

“This doesn't mean we're friends now, does it?”

“Hell, no,” said Zane.

“Cool,” said Fargo.

Zane laughed a little at that as well. It was weird, but Fargo was pretty much his best friend. How things had changed. It was clear that Fargo was crushing hard on Jo at this point in time, but Zane had never known that Fargo. No wonder the little nerd had hated the other him.

“How’s Taggart’s group?” asked Jo, fearful of what the system would do.

“Your buddy Tag appears to be leading them away from the danger zone,” said Zane, flicking a glance at her. “Guess it’s a good thing he finds us repulsive.”

“That’s good,” said Jo, ignoring the implications of the remark.

“So what now?” Zoe asked, fear apparently regaining control over their temporary victory.

“Now, we keep telling this system who’s boss,” said Zane.

“If we can take down all the firewalls, then we can get rid of the false biohazard warning,” said Fargo.

“Can you patch me through to the General yet?” asked Jo, since she still wasn’t having luck on her PDA.

“Give me a sec,” said Zane. He tapped a few keys and then nodded at her. “Go for it on that screen.”

“Only two more firewalls and we're in control of the whole system,” said Fargo.

Jo licked her lips and faced the screen as General Mansfield came on the screen.

“Deputy Lupo,” he said. “I’m about to order the thermal cleaning so I hope you have good news for me.”

“I do,” said Jo. “There is no biohazard, sir. The sensors are incorrect.”

“Do you know how implausible that sounds?” Mansfield asked. “There are safeguards upon safeguards in place to keep false alarms from happening.”

“I know it’s hard to understand,” said Jo, “but we believe the systems were deliberately manipulated. We have people on the ground inside GD and they are fine, there is no virus. But they won’t be fine if you do this.”

“Let me check it again,” said Mansfield.

“You won’t get an accurate reading,” said Jo. “I have two of my best people working on resetting the system, but they’re still getting through the firewalls. Until that happens, you won’t be able to see what I’m talking about.”

“You’re hacking into the system?” Mansfield asked, sounding outraged.

“General, you have to believe me,” Jo pleaded. “The virus is a fake. And there are people inside who will die if you do this.”

“You are asking me to trust you over the most sophisticated computer system in the world,” he pointed out.

“I'm asking you to trust all of us,” said Jo.

“Only one firewall left,” Fargo said excitedly.

“Oh, I want to, Deputy, but there are strict protocols in place,” said Mansfield. “As a soldier, you should appreciate that.”

Jo swallowed and silently prayed for just the right words.

“Great leaders know in combat you sometimes have to break protocols, sir. You of all people should appreciate that.”

He hesitated and Zane’s keys were tapping rapidly in her peripheral vision.

“I'm giving her all she's got, General,” Zane called. He slammed the last key. “Boo yah! Last wall down!”

“That's it!” said Fargo. “Resetting the system now.”

On the screen, the General checked a read-out in front of him and smiled.

“Way to stick to your guns, Deputy,” he said. “Well done.”

Jo flushed with pleasure.

“Thank you, sir,” she said, relief flooding her.

Mansfield ended the call and Jo turned to Zoe and they hugged.

“You were amazing,” said Zoe.

“Thank you,” Jo replied. “Ready to get back to your party again?”

“I really am,” said Zoe.

She grabbed Lucas and headed back toward the other kids as Zane approached Jo.

“Not bad,” he said appreciatively.

“Not bad yourself,” said Jo and put her arms around him.

It wasn’t a ‘make out like crazy’ moment, it was actually a ‘relief no one is gonna die’ hug.

Over his shoulder, Jo could see Fargo deflating and realized she wanted to congratulate him as well. She and Fargo had come a long way together and while she’d never feel for him the same way he apparently felt for her, he deserved to be praised for what he’d done that day.

“You did great,” she said, hugging Fargo.

She pulled back soon enough to see the triumphant smirk he was sending Zane and choked back a smile.

“So what now?” Zane asked.

“Now we wait,” said Jo. “I’m nervous about what’s going on at GD. Do you think I can get through now with the system back under your control?”

“Yes,” the two men said together and then glared at each other.

“That needs to stop,” she said and put her PDA to her ear, calling Carter. “Carter, what’s going on, is everyone okay?”

“Yes, we’re all okay,” he said, weariness in his voice.

“Did Henry…?” Jo trailed off.

“He wasn’t really working with Beverly,” said Carter, “but I’m not sure what’s going to happen because of what he did do. Kevin is fine, Allison is fine. Beverly is…gone.”

“How is she gone?”

“Long story, I’ll tell you later,” said Carter. “Is Zoe okay?”

“She’s fine, already back to her party,” said Jo. “Are you coming home?”

“As soon as we get everything cleared up here. Do you mind staying with Zoe until I can get there?”

“No, that’s fine, just stay safe.”

“Thanks for handling everything up there, Jo,” said Carter. “Couldn’t have done it without you, partner.”

Jo smiled and hung up. She had been feeling frustrated earlier about not being able to do anything, but she did think she’d been in the right place now.

“So are we stuck babysitting?” Zane asked in her ear.

“For now,” she said, slipping her arm through his. “Carter will be home soon and then I think we should go out and celebrate.”

“What did you have in mind?” he asked.

“Staying in and celebrating,” she said.

“That I like,” he said.

Jo liked the idea, too. Her adrenaline was still spiking and she not only wanted to work out her energy, but she wanted to work it out with Zane and pick up where they’d left off. She was definitely ready.

It did take a while and Jo helped clear all the teenagers out early before she and Zane ended up leaving.

“Meet you at my place?” she said.

“Race you,” he said.

“Don’t make me arrest you for speeding,” said Jo, but she was smiling.

They both made it to her place in record time and she unlocked her door, her pulse already racing.

His hand was on her back as she dropped all her stuff on the ground and then locked the door again. When she turned back around, he was pressing up against her, just where she wanted him to be.

“Do we need to have the protection talk?” he asked, one hand inching up under her shirt, the other tangling in her hair.

“I got it covered,” said Jo, happy he’d brought it up. “No talking required.”

“Yes, Deputy,” he said, kissing her.

Zane’s vision shifted and he realized Jo had fast forwarded them because as Jo he was now lying sideways on a bed completely naked and panting while an equally naked and panting other him lay tangled with him. He was beyond grateful that they’d missed the actual deed, but this also was entirely too surreal for him.

“Worth the wait, I hope,” Jo said happily, propping herself up and poking a finger into Zane’s rather sweaty chest.

“On the contrary,” he said. “I am offended I had to wait at all because no one should have to wait before having that.”

“I’m trying to work out if that’s a good thing or not,” she said.

“That is a very good thing, JoJo,” Zane said, curling his hand possessively on her hip.

“Just be sure it is,” she said, arching an eyebrow.

“I certainly hope I don’t have to wait again,” he said. “That would be cruel and unusual punishment.”

“I’m ready whenever you are,” she said, a challenge in her voice.

Zane groaned.

“Give me a minute,” he finally said.

“Oh, by all means, take your time,” she said saucily and then amused herself by drawing circles on his chest. “It was very cool what you did today.”

“What I did?” he asked, raising his head to look at her. “Jo, I do stuff like that every day. Particle physics may be my field, but hacking is my lifestyle.”

“Wow,” she said.

“I’m just saying hacking is my thing,” he said. “That was fun, even if a lot was riding on it. You, on the other hand, that was incredibly hot.”

“I mostly stood there,” she said. “Until the end, when I rocked it.”

“Yes, you did,” he said, his voice getting lower. “I’d say we were a pretty dangerous combo.”

“Fargo did help,” Jo said lightly.

“Ugh, can we not talk about him right now?” asked Zane.

“You’re right, I’d really rather not,” said Jo. “You were saying about us?”

“We are awesome,” said Zane. “We should get awards.”

He tugged her closer and her hair draped across his chest.

“I can think of some,” she murmured, bending down to kiss him again.

***

Zane opened his eyes and found his wife smirking at him.

“What?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she said smugly.

“You make me sick,” he said. “Just how great was that night?”

“Pretty great,” Jo replied.

“Better than our first night?” he asked petulantly. She didn’t reply, just grinned at him. “Jo,” he said warningly.

“Fine,” she said. “If I’m honest, no. After all, our first night was only your first night. I knew what to do.”

“You did at that,” he said, remembering how uncanny he’d thought it, even as he’d been vastly enjoying himself, that Jo seemed to know his body inside and out.

“Satisfied?” she teased.

“So what happened then?” he asked, ignoring her.

“You slept over, I had to do clean up at GD the next morning, so we had coffee and you did the walk of shame back to your apartment.”

“Drive of shame, I’m assuming,” he said.

“Drive of shame,” she admitted. “Now, shall we do you?”

“Oh, if you insist,” he said, stretching to put off the moment if only for a few seconds. “Though I warn you, we are going from fun sexy-times to death and judgment.”

“Mr. Lupo,” said Jo, catching his hand like a promise.

He smiled at her; she had to know at least a little bit what was coming.

“Mrs. Donovan.”

***

Jo was suddenly in Café Diem, where so many things happened in Eureka. Zane was sitting and having coffee, fuming about an experiment gone wrong. Vincent was humming behind the counter but otherwise there was no one else there.

Zane was not feeling happy. He’d come to Café Diem to try and forget the stupid gold fever that had run rampart over the town and which he’d gotten a dressing down for trying to analyze. He’d also neglected some of his other work and it had failed, meaning he’d have to start over. He was frustrated at himself for that.

Vincent was finishing putting all his precious cooking instruments back now that they were no longer gold and everyone else was apparently out doing the same.

There was a sound behind him and Zoe Carter entered with a tall curly-haired boy. She smiled at him and headed for the counter.

“Hi, Zane,” she said.

“Hi,” he said.

They’d met briefly a few times, but as far as he could gather, the only reason Zoe Carter took notice of him was because she’d been some kind of troubled youth before coming to Eureka and apparently felt a sort of kinship. In a way, he actually appreciated that. It was nice when someone didn’t look at him like he was going to eat their children. Vincent and Karen were the only real friends he’d made in this town. Unless you counted the women who wanted to try on a bad boy for size which Zane didn’t.

“Vincent, can we get some Vinspressos to go?” asked Zoe.

“Sure thing, Zoe,” said Vincent. “I guess I don’t have to tell the Sheriff.”

“Thank you,” Zoe said fervently.

“What are you two up to?” asked Zane. “Daddy let you out together?”

“Surprisingly,” muttered the boy.

“Lucas,” Zoe reproved, shoving her elbow in his side, looking embarrassed.

“No worries,” said Zane. “I’ll let you get back to alone time.”

“We’re just running some errands,” said Zoe. “Dad is letting me have a party tonight.”

“The Sheriff’s daughter is throwing a party?” asked Zane, amused. “Should be a good time.”

“It will be!” Zoe protested and hesitated. “Um, you should come.”

“Uh, me?” asked Zane while Lucas looked suitably alarmed. “Well, I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”

“Come on,” said Zoe. “It will be fun and you should get out more.”

“Pretty sure I could get arrested for hanging out with a bunch of teenagers alone,” said Zane. “Especially if one of them is you.”

“You won’t be the only adult,” said Zoe. “Think of it as a ‘get to know Eureka’ party.”

Zane wasn’t sure how to graciously decline. Normally he didn’t worry about being gracious, but he really did appreciate Zoe trying to include him, even if he was sure that half of it was because she wanted to stick it to the old man.

“Uh, I guess I could drop by,” he said.

“Cool,” said Zoe and gave him the details.

Zane raised an eyebrow as Zoe and Lucas left with their Vinspressos and Vincent gave him a look.

“What?” he said.

“Nothing,” said Vincent. “Have fun at the party.”

“Maybe I will,” said Zane.

He debated whether just to miss it altogether, but in the end he decided the chance to mess with the Sheriff’s head and see where he lived was too good to pass up. So he ended up going to the party and Zoe looked pleasantly surprised to see him.

“Come in,” she said.

Zane walked in and inwardly groaned. There was a sea of teenagers before him and not an adult in sight. He turned to look at Zoe.

“You promised me grown-ups,” he said pointedly.

“I have grown ups,” Zoe protested, pointing to a couple of kids by the counter. “Ashley and Zachary are both 18.”

“I cannot believe I fell for this,” said Zane, turning to go.

“Going somewhere, Donovan?” asked a voice from behind him.

Zane winced and glared at Zoe before turning.

“Deputy Lupo,” he said, “don’t you look ravishing with your hair down.”

“And Jo’s here,” said Zoe weakly before turning and fleeing.

“Why are you here?” asked Lupo sternly.

“Look, she invited me,” said Zane. “I did not know it was a kid’s party.”

“A likely story,” said Lupo. “Or you’re playing some angle, like you’re here to steal cuff keys while people are distracted by having a concussion.”

“Hey, you can’t blame me for that,” said Zane. “Would you have passed that opportunity up?”

“I would never have been in that opportunity,” said Lupo.

“Yeah, I bet that stick up your ass is a pretty demanding boss,” said Zane.

Lupo’s face darkened and she took a step toward him and he was suddenly worried he was about to get manhandled when a disembodied voice spoke.

“A biohazard's been detected at GD. All residents must remain indoors. All bio preservation lockdowns are engaged.”

“What the hell is that?” he asked.

“That would be SARAH,” said Lupo as Zoe came back toward them, Lucas in tow.

“Jo, where's my dad?” asked Zoe anxiously.

“Let me check, okay?” Lupo told Zoe and pulled out her PDA. “What is going on?” she demanded into it and wandered out of voice range.

“SARAH’s the smart house, right?” asked Zane of Zoe.

“Yeah,” said Zoe.

“She’s pretty amazing,” offered Lucas.

“So biohazard?” asked Zane.

“It means we’re all stuck where we are or risk our faces melting off,” said Lucas.

“Perfect,” muttered Zane.

“Okay, your dad is with Stark and Taggart. They had to go back into GD,” Lupo said, coming back toward them. “They’re going to go out of radio range and I need to figure out a way to get back in contact with them. Apparently, there’s something going on beyond the biohazard.”

“Excuse me, Deputy,” came SARAH’s voice. “Why not use my computer? I’m directly connected to Director Fargo’s CPU at GD.”

A computer console came down from the ceiling and everyone stared at it along with Zane so he gathered no one else had known about it either.

Zane approached it somewhat in awe.

“We use SARAH to slip in through a backdoor to the brain at GD,” he said.

“We?” asked Lupo, looking upset.

“Once a backdoor link's established, there's nothing I won't have access to,” Zane said happily.

“Yeah, I don’t think so,” said Lupo. “The last thing I need is for you to have access to GD’s system.”

“Do you have a better qualified person in the room?” Zane asked. “I’d like to see one. If you want the Sheriff and his friends stumbling around blind in GD, that’s fine with me.”

“Jo,” whispered Zoe, “please let him try. I want to know what’s going on with my dad.”

Lupo hesitated and then jerked her head at the console.

“You are looking for Stark and Carter only,” she said. “Anything else and I will arrest you so fast your head will spin.”

“Any other orders, Deputy?” he asked sarcastically.

“Just make it happen,” she demanded.

Zane flexed his fingers and got to code breaking. He was soon in his element, both impressed with the security and wishing he had a second set of fingers to help him out.

“Try it now,” he said after a bit.

“Carter?” Lupo asked.

“Is that you, Jo?” Carter’s voice came in over the intercom.

“Yes,” answered Lupo. “We hacked into the mainframe using SARAH.”

“You did?” asked Stark contemptuously. “It’s a good idea, but how?”

“She’s got help,” said Zane.

“You brought him into my house!” demanded Carter.

“I did, Dad,” said Zoe. “You can yell at me later since you’ve disrupted my party.”

“What’s happening down there, Carter?” Lupo interrupted.

“Uh, we're not sure, but Beverly's locked down there and she might be involved.”

“Hey, Jo,” Taggart said over the intercom.

“Hey, Tag,” Lupo said, a hint of a smile on her face.

“Tag?” Zane repeated mockingly and she glared at him.

Jo found herself wondering exactly how involved she and Taggart were at this stage. Anything had been long over for her, but Jo guessed it wasn’t in this timeline.

“We can monitor your vitals now and help you navigate the building,” said Zane.

“Can you patch us into the panic room?” asked Carter.

Zane didn’t know the answer to that question so he shrugged before remembering they couldn’t see him.

“I’ll try, but I doubt it. Those kinds of places probably have encrypted protocols.” A warning sound pinged to his left and he looked. “I'm picking up wireless readings here. One of you is losing pressure. Better check your suits.”

There were some rustling sounds and Lupo and Zoe looked at each other anxiously.

“It's me,” Stark finally said and Zoe visibly sighed in relief.

They continued on their journey as Zane guided them.

“You should see a computer console as you enter the room,” Zane said, scanning his screen. “Bring up the panic room intercom link. That should put you in direct contact. Hang on; I'm trying to circumvent the security wall. Try now.”

They tried but no one from the panic room answered and then Zane noticed something activating on his screen.

“What’s that?” Lupo asked.

“The security mainframe is a learning system, and it's gone into defense mode,” Zane said rather weakly.

“Because of something you did?” she demanded.

“Look, they wouldn’t be able to contact the panic room unless I went around the security wall,” Zane protested.

“Never mind that! What kind of defense mode?” asked Carter.

There were clicking and whirring noises as a gun lowered from the ceiling.

“That kind,” said Taggart.

“Move!” Carter yelled.

“That's a motion-activated photon defense array. They're screwed,” said Zane thoughtlessly.

“We can hear you,” came multiple voices from the other end.

Zane busily typed, trying to figure out how to shut off the guns.

“It looks like you can access the weapon's power supply,” he said, “through the panel on the east wall and the west wall. One is a mainframe and one a backup power supply. But you're on your own with this one; I can't get through the firewall.”

The men quickly made a plan for Stark and Taggart to reach the panels while Carter played bait.

“I can't watch this,” said Zoe, covering her eyes.

Carter drew the fire while Stark and Taggart dismantled the panels, all of them yelling things the whole time so it was a bit hard to keep up with the action. But eventually it was over and Carter was panting on the floor while they helped him up.

“What now?” Carter asked.

“Guys, we're picking up heat signatures down the hall from you,” said Zane.

“Where exactly?” asked Stark.

“The morgue,” Zane said matter-of-factly.

The men kept moving and Zane kept trying to dig his way into the system, but it was a lot harder than anything he’d attempted before. He was having the time of his life, but he was also becoming increasingly aware that he was responsible for people’s lives and that was less fun.

He swore, slapping the side of the console.

“I’m locked out,” he said.

“Get back in there,” said Lupo.

“I’m trying,” he said, already typing again. “Though if there are any genius baby hackers in the room, now might not be a bad time to grab them.”

“I’ll check,” said Zoe.

They still could watch the screens and saw the men open the morgue and find Larry and others simply milling about the room, apparently completely safe from whatever biohazard was at GD.

Of course, this led to the discovery that Henry had apparently lied about the biohazard in the first place; tricking the sensors into thinking there was one.

Zoe returned.

“Any luck?” asked Lucas.

“We got marine biology, quantum physics, astro physics, zoology, quantum mechanics, robotics, and interior design,” said Zoe. “Nobody jumped at the chance to hack GD.”

“Cowards,” muttered Zane, but kept trying to break back into the system.

“Jo, you still there?” Carter asked.

“Yeah, we are now, but the building's security keeps shutting us out,” Lupo said.

“Shutting you out?” Zane muttered under his breath contemptuously.

“What do you see now?” Stark replied.

“The sensors still detect a biohazard, and it's spreading through Global,” Zane said.

“That's a problem,” Stark said.

“Why? It's not real,” said Taggart.

“General Mansfield doesn't know that,” Stark said wearily. “And if the system tells him there's a threat, he has to trust it. He'll be forced to follow all biohazard protocols, and he will order a thermal cleaning.”

“Jo, try to get through to him,” said Carter.

“I’ve got it,” said Lupo and pulled out her PDA. “I can’t get through,” she said in frustration. “Why?”

“GD’s a little messed up right now,” said Zane, not looking at her as he spoke. “Keep trying and I’ll try to open a window for you, but I’m a little busy.”

At GD, the men separated, Taggart leading Larry and his scientists to try and find a way out of GD and Carter and Stark going to try to infiltrate the panic room.

“So, Zane, still with us?” asked Taggart.

“Yeah, for the moment, but the connection's intermittent,” Zane answered.

“A felon is your brilliant plan?” Larry said derisively.

“Hey, you're lucky I’m here,” said Zane defensively.

“I'm gonna take my chances flying solo. Adios, muchachos!” Larry said.

“Good, I'd rather let the computer defenses take care of you anyway,” Zane’s voice said and Lupo whipped her head around.

“What did you say?” she demanded.

“I- I didn't say that,” said Zane, still trying to make sense of what just happened.

“Stop messing around,” demanded Lupo.

“Kidding,” Zane’s voice said and Zane could tell everyone on his side of the glass now knew he was not saying this. “We've contacted Mansfield to call off the thermal cleaning and shut down the defenses in section three. That's your best way out.”

“Damn! This thing's good,” Zane said admiringly. “The defense system captured my voice to mislead them. They can't hear us anymore.”

“What do we do?” asked Zoe.

“I try to get back in control,” said Zane helplessly.

This was not as much fun. The system was leading them straight into a heavily guarded system that would wipe them all out.

“Donovan, you have to stop this,” said Lupo.

“I’m trying,” he snapped at her. “Do you want to give it a go, Miss Heavily Armed?”

“Stop messing around,” she said.

“Stop distracting me!” he yelled.

Zane found it incredibly difficult to concentrate on trying to free both groups of people after the system trapped Carter and Stark and started to roast them alive with a microwave defense.

“You've gotta shut it down,” Lupo said urgently.

“It's anticipating every attack,” said Zane.

“Then change tactics,” she said.

“You've got a better idea, I'm all ears,” said Zane, keeping his attention on the screen.

“The computer's been lying to us,” she said slowly. “What if we lie to it?”

“What do you mean?” asked Zoe.

“Well, its goal is to eliminate the threat. So let's do it first,” she said.

“You want me to kill them?” Zane asked incredulously.

“Just make them appear dead,” Lupo said, pointing at the monitor. “Those are their vital signs, right? The security system is picking them up?”

“Yeah, so?” Zane replied.

“Can you change them?” Lupo asked.

He could see where she was going and he started working on it, trying to multi-task, but this was impossible to do by himself.

“Maybe I can,” he answered.

“You mean if you make it think they're already dead, it'll stop cooking them?” Zoe asked.

“Let's hope,” said Zane. “I've got their vitals ready,” he said, after a minute.

“So do it,” Lupo ordered.

They all anxiously watched the screen.

“Numbers dropping,” Zane said. “Approaching critical. That's it! As far as the computer can tell, they're dead.”

“It's not working,” Lupo said.

“Give it a minute,” Zane urged.

“They don't have a minute!” Zoe snapped.

The heat turned off and Stark and Carter staggered to their feet.

“Yes!” Zane exclaimed.

There was such relief in his chest.

“Oh, thank you, Jo,” said Zoe in relief, hugging her.

Zane realized he’d forgotten to keep an eye on Taggart’s group and switched his attention and realized that they were in trouble and swore again.

“Will you stop that!” Lupo snapped.

Tag,” he emphasized, “is about to get vaporized, what do you want me to say!”

“Zane, don’t you let those people die,” said Lupo.

“As if I would!” he yelled, getting momentary control. “Taggart, the system is trying to fool you,” he said urgently. “I never told you where to go.”

“Let me talk to him,” said Lupo.

“Do not, repeat, do not enter section three,” Zane said, ignoring her.

“How do I know you’re not the system,” said Taggart. “Trying to trick me now?”

“Shut up and listen,” said Zane. “It’s about to lock you in!”

“Shut up,” said Lupo. “Taggart, it’s Jo, turn around now!”

“Okay, Jo,” said Taggart and started ushering his people around, heading for the entrance of the section.

Zane held the doors open as long as he could but two people got trapped on the other side.

“Crap,” he said under his breath, a sick feeling spreading inside of him.

“No,” whispered Lupo, her face stricken.

Jo froze as she watched, feeling Zane’s horror and shock along with her own as she processed the images she saw on the screen. She’d read about this, but especially after experiencing her own version of events so recently, the stark differences in victory were so apparent. Feeling it was another experience entirely.

“You tried, Jo,” said Taggart, panting on the other side. “I should’ve listened sooner.”

“Just keep moving, Tag,” said Lupo quietly. “Get the rest of them out of there.”

Lupo looked mutely at Zane and he felt one strange instance of pity for her before guilt swamped his own vision.

“If we can take down all the firewalls, then we can get rid of the false biohazard warning,” said Zane wearily.

“Can you patch me through to the General yet?” asked Lupo, suddenly business-like.

“Give me a sec,” said Zane. He tapped a few keys and then nodded at her. “Go for it on that screen. Only two more firewalls and I’m in control of the whole system,” said Zane.

Lupo licked her lips and faced the screen as General Mansfield came on the screen.

“Deputy Lupo,” he said. “I’m about to order the thermal cleaning so I hope you have good news for me.”

“I do,” said Lupo. “There is no biohazard, sir. The sensors are incorrect.”

“Do you know how implausible that sounds?” Mansfield asked. “There are safeguards upon safeguards in place to keep false alarms from happening.”

“I know it’s hard to understand,” said Lupo, “but we believe the systems were deliberately manipulated. We have people on the ground inside GD and they are fine, there is no virus. But they won’t be fine if you do this.”

“Let me check it again,” said Mansfield.

“You won’t get an accurate reading,” said Lupo. “I have D- someone working on resetting the system, but they’re still getting through the firewalls. Until that happens, you won’t be able to see what I’m talking about.”

Zane actually appreciated not being called out, though he had to think it was because she was trying to cover her own ass more than his.

“You’re hacking into the system?” Mansfield asked, sounding outraged.

“General, you have to believe me,” Lupo pleaded. “The virus is a fake. And there are people inside who will die if you do this.”

“You are asking me to trust you over the most sophisticated computer system in the world,” he pointed out.

“I'm asking you to trust all of us,” said Lupo.

“Only one firewall left,” Zane said distractedly.

“Oh, I want to, Deputy, but there are strict protocols in place,” said Mansfield. “As a soldier, you should appreciate that.”

“Great leaders know in combat you sometimes have to break protocols, sir. You of all people should appreciate that,” Lupo said solidly.

“Last wall down!” Zane slammed the last key. “Resetting the system now.”

On the screen, the General checked a read-out in front of him and smiled.

“Way to stick to your guns, Deputy,” he said. “Well done.”

Lupo flushed with pleasure.

“Thank you, sir,” she said.

Mansfield ended the call and Lupo turned to Zoe.

“You were amazing,” said Zoe, hugging her.

“Thank you,” Lupo replied. “Ready to get back to your party again? I’ll check in on your dad in a minute, okay?”

“Thanks, Jo,” said Zoe.

Zane was left with Deputy Lupo, quiet and staring at him.

He didn’t know what to say. Sorry for letting two people die didn’t cover it. He absolutely did not want to have anything more to do with this saving Eureka crap. Science was supposed to be fun and enlightening, not like this.

“I guess I should thank you,” she said stiffly.

“No need,” he said, just as stiffly.

“I can’t anyway,” she said. “You should have let me talk to him sooner.”

“Maybe we should have kept our attention on both groups,” said Zane, stung.

She nodded jerkily.

Jo studied her own face and recognized grief and guilt, but she doubted Zane could see it as well as she could. The other Jo was reeling, but then Jo could feel that Zane felt the same way. The event that could have brought them together was only tearing them apart.

“Maybe so, but just…just stay out of my way,” she said.

“My pleasure,” he said, not wanting to be around her a second longer.

He stalked toward the door, stopped by Zoe before he got there.

“Thank you for saving my dad,” she said sincerely.

He could only nod, not trusting himself to say anything else.

He left, getting home and slamming the door behind him. He felt sick and exhilarated at the same time. Working on SARAH’s console had been one of the greatest hacking jobs he’d ever done but the unexpected consequences of his meddling, despite both his and Lupo’s efforts, had soured the experience.

He didn’t know the two people who had been gunned by down the GD defenses and he never would, but someone had known them, someone would miss them.

He got a phone call that night from Carter.

“Yeah,” he said reluctantly, wondering if he was about to be sent packing.

“Jo and Zoe told me what happened,” said Carter.

“Am I in some sort of trouble, Officer?” Zane asked, trying to sound light.

“I wanted to let you know we have to report what happened,” said Carter. “It’s not being reported as your fault, but it will be part of your file, Zane.”

“Figures,” said Zane, shrugging.

“It will be a part of all our files,” Carter said.

“Sure,” said Zane. “Anything else?”

“Thanks for getting us through,” said Carter. “We couldn’t have stopped this without you, Zane.”

“Yeah,” said Zane.

He hung up and he did feel slightly better, but he knew he’d never be able to unsee those people getting vaporized.

***

Zane grimaced as he opened his eyes, not wanting to see the look of pity Jo would be wearing. Either that or censure. He couldn’t have stood either.

She was carefully not looking at him. He was feeling sick, not how he wanted to feel at all. He’d stuffed down those memories very carefully and here they were, rising to meet him with a horrible familiarity.

“I need some water,” he said, wanting to get a grasp on his thoughts.

He stumbled to the kitchen and closed his eyes tightly, getting himself under control. He took a glass and filled it and made sure to drink every drop.

“Feel better?” Jo asked quietly, when he got back.

“Yeah,” he said shortly. “So…what do you want to talk about?”

“I know it doesn’t really matter what I say,” Jo said, “but that wasn’t your fault, Zane. If it weren’t for you a lot more people would have died. I know you won’t accept that, I wouldn’t either, but I need to say it.”

“I appreciate the effort,” he said, forcing a smile and sitting down next to her, wanting the comfort of her body against his.

“It’s never a good feeling when you can’t save someone,” said Jo, threading her fingers through his. “I know.”

He knew she knew, and that was the only reason he could stand to listen to what she was saying. Jo had been saving people her whole life and even she couldn’t have a perfect record.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “So, uh, did you get any good insight there?”

“Not to discount what you went through,” she said, “but I can tell she blamed herself a lot more than she blamed you.”

“Didn’t stop her from blaming me,” said Zane.

“No, but I wonder if that’s why she just had to keep her distance,” said Jo. “If she connected her own guilt to you, then it would just eat at her every time she saw you.”

“Maybe,” said Zane and it wasn’t anything he hadn’t thought of before himself, but he tried very hard not to think of it at all.

“I’m sorry on her behalf,” said Jo, putting her head into his neck and he could feel the warm puffs of her breathing.

“You don’t have to be,” he said. “It was never you.”

“Sure,” she said, but there was no real agreement in her voice, just like there never was in his when she said something similar to him.

“So that’s why we could never be together,” said Zane.

“But we are,” she said.

“We are,” he said, hanging on to the thought.

“I’m glad we are,” she said. “I’m really glad we are.”

“Me too,” he answered, pushing a bit out of his fog. “Uh, Jo, could we take a longer break for next time?” he asked. “I need, I need one.”

“As long as you need,” she agreed. “It’s probably a good thing.”

“We should talk about you,” he said. “That was much better.”

“It was better,” said Jo. “I’m sorry it was better only for me.”

“Sex is always better than death,” he joked.

“Did you like how I tastefully faded to black for you?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said, finally smiling. “I really appreciated that.”

“I’ll have to do it a lot,” she said, “because you and I…we did it a lot.”

“Noted,” he said. “Not surprising.” He paused and tried to shift gears mentally. “Did you regret it?”

“Never,” she replied firmly. “I never did.”

“I’m glad,” he answered.

“You know I’m sure a lot of people felt really bad about what happened,” Jo said thoughtfully. “Like Taggart and Henry and Carter. I know it doesn’t make you feel any better, but I bet you’re not the only one who carried that guilt.”

“Except only Taggart knows about it now,” said Zane, not happy they were back on him.

“Maybe you could talk to him next time he’s in town,” said Jo.

“I’ll think about it,” he said.

They were silent for a while and he tried to think if there was anything he’d wanted to talk to her about before the past had attacked his good mood.

“Ready for lunch?” she finally asked.

He still didn’t feel like eating.

“In a bit,” he answered, “you go on.”

“Okay,” she said, uncurling herself from his side, but kissing him soundly before she went.

He took another moment to think about things he loved, like Jo’s face when she said I do and his mom’s parting hug before they left on their honeymoon. Or the satisfying hiss of the doors opening when he walked into his own department of Section Five and collaborating with the people he worked with. Or the endorphin rush after a workout and taking hikes in Eureka’s vast forests.

He had come a long way and even if that had been a rather traumatic experience for him, he couldn’t let it stop him from living. It hadn’t the first time he’d lived that memory, it had just…stunted him. Well, he’d have to keep working at it.

In the meantime he should probably thank Fargo for being there with the other him and helping so that those people didn’t have to die.

He joined Jo in the kitchen, mindlessly watching her actions. He appreciated her letting him internally work things out.

“You and Taggart, huh?” he finally said.

Jo threw back her head and groaned.

“I thought I was going to get out of that,” she said.

“Nope,” he said.

“Yes, we were a thing, but long before you and I were a thing, and for only like two minutes,” said Jo.

“Not for me,” he said.

“I know he asked me to marry him in your timeline,” said Jo. “Do you know anything else?”

“You’re just gonna have to wait,” he said smugly.

“You jerk,” she said fondly.

“Your fault for marrying me,” he said, “and not Tag.”

“He’s a great guy,” said Jo. “You know he is. He quit an Arctic hunting trip just to come back for our wedding.”

“Yes, I just find it interesting that for a girl who says it’s hard to get a date, she had three guys vying for her attention in that memory,” said Zane.

Jo cocked her head.

“I never thought about that,” she said. “I am good, aren’t I?”

“No one’s better,” he said. “No one’s hotter.”

“Thanks, sweetheart,” she said sickeningly sweet.

“You’re welcome, darling,” he said, just as sweet.

“Are you okay?” she asked, after a moment.

“I will be,” he answered honestly.

“It’s okay to take the time,” she reminded him.

“That’s why I asked.”

“You know, time may have torn me apart from Zane, but it also put me back together with you,” she said thoughtfully. “So if you think about everything that’s happened…at the risk of sounding incredibly cheesy, these memories are only the first part of our story.”

“What, and we’re still writing it?” he teased.

“Yes,” she said defiantly.

Yes, it was cheesy, but he liked the sound of that.

Chapter Text

“Do you and Jo have big plans or something?” asked Henry as he and Zane finished putting away their equipment. “You seem restless to get out of here.”

“Not really,” said Zane. “We took a month before we did another memory run and we thought we’d try for tonight.”

“I see,” said Henry. “So, how is that going? I see the readouts, of course, so I know it’s doing what it’s supposed to, but since it’s a personal project…”

“You don’t get reports from us on our thoughts and feelings,” finished Zane.

“Well, I am curious,” said Henry. “When Grace first came up with the idea, we had a live interface, able to share thoughts and memories. We didn’t experience the memories until we modified it for you and Jo. Grace and I haven’t done nearly as much as you two, but when we have, it’s been very taxing.”

“Some are easier than others,” said Zane, not sure exactly how much he wanted to share. He was closer to Henry now than he’d ever thought he’d be, maybe especially since the wedding, but they still didn’t exactly do anything but work. “I guess I hit my first big snag last time and wanted a bit of a break.”

“Because of your past or hers?” Henry asked.

“Mine,” Zane admitted. “Um, without idealizing it, let’s just say I like your timeline better.”

“There are a lot of things I liked better myself,” said Henry. “Of course, here I have Grace and so…”

“No offense meant,” said Zane, “but what if Kim were around?”

Zane didn’t know much about Kim in either timeline, but he did know that Henry had apparently loved her beyond all reason, which was saying something since Henry was usually very reasonable.

Henry’s face lost some of its open expression.

“I’ve wondered that sometimes,” he said, “I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision.”

“See I don’t have to wonder,” said Zane. “If I could erase myself and put you guys back, I would. Because as far as I can tell, I had it easier there and I still had Jo.”

“I guess I don’t blame you,” said Henry. “But just…be careful, because I think you are idealizing our past more than you think. I know Allison would say Kevin is a lot better off now.”

“I’m just selfish, I guess,” said Zane, not really wanting to talk about it anymore.

Being married to Jo was great, his work was great, knowing they could leave Eureka if they wanted to was great. He’d just been moody since their last memory run and knew that he was likely to remain that way until something else happened.

“You’re a work in progress, like the rest of us,” said Henry, with a comforting hand on Zane’s shoulder. “I’ve got this, you get home.”

Zane nodded his thanks. He really did appreciate Henry’s words and was planning on living up to them; he just was having a few issues with executing them.

When he got home, Jo wasn’t there yet so he amused himself by setting up the device and then getting in a quick workout and dinner.

“I’m in here,” he yelled when he heard the door open.

“Hi,” said Jo, sticking her head in the room. “Let me get changed and I’ll be right there.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “Whenever.”

“I got waylaid by Larry of all people,” Jo called and he could hear the sounds of things being opened and closed and set down and then the microwave beep.

“What did he want?” Zane asked.

“The usual idiotic things,” said Jo, coming in. “You know, in a way, being Fargo’s assistant was kind of perfect for him. Now that Henry’s there…I think Larry’s having a hard time adjusting.”

“Aren’t we all?” said Zane.

She stopped and eyed him.

“You’re really dreading this, aren’t you?” she said.

“I’m sure it will be fine,” he said instead of answering her question.

“Well, my next memory is very low-key and non-stressful,” she said. “So I’m hoping that either means we don’t have to go in to yours or it’s equally so.”

“Here’s hoping,” he said.

***

Zane was at Café Diem, Jo was walking in and she was feeling good, looking forward to seeing the other him.

Jo slid onto the stool at Vincent’s and swiveled her head to stare at the room. It was a fairly normal scene; Vincent’s being the main spot people in town tended to congregate. She was waiting for Zane and he was late. She wasn’t upset, she knew today was a big day for him. The Viper was supposed to be the thing that helped him make his mark at GD. Apart from helping to stop it from blowing up a couple of times, that is.

Jo watched Vincent glance at his watch and make a face and she guessed Zoe hadn’t shown up for her first day yet.

Cold air hit her neck as the door swung open and Zane rushed in.

“Hey,” he said, pulling on her ponytail slightly as he sat down.

“Are you sure it’s wise to pull my hair when you’re late?” she asked, trying to sound stern.

“It’s never wise to pull your hair, JoJo, but we’re in third grade and I just can’t help it,” he said.

“You might be in third grade,” she mumbled. “Now let’s order so we actually have some time before you have to leave.”

Other than some late night phone calls and hurried coffee before work, she hadn’t really seen much of Zane since he’d slept over. He’d been pulling all-nighters to get the Viper ready and she’d been called out of town for some training. She couldn’t find anything suspicious about it, but she couldn’t help but feel a little insecure about having slept with him and now barely spending any time with him.

They placed their orders and chatted a little bit and she started to relax more in his presence.

Vincent came up with their drink orders.

“Okay. Triple cappuccino double foam latte for Zane and Bavarian espresso hammer for Jo.”

They started their drinks as Zoe rushed in and Jo smiled a little, listening to Vincent start her at bussing tables.

“Doing the final test of the Viper today,” Zane said, getting up to go. “You wanna celebrate, later?”

“Obviously,” she said, leaning back so he could give her a kiss.

Once the test was over he would be a lot freer than he had been.

Of course, since it was Eureka, nothing went quite like it was supposed to. A target drone went rogue at the test and threatened the town so Jo spent her time running around with Carter trying to both talk him down from being overprotective with Zoe or brooding about Stark proposing to Allison and Henry’s continued incarceration, and keeping the drone from hurting the town.

Eventually, after they disastrously locked Martha up in a cell and had her blast her way out, they made their way to GD to try and get some answers.

Naturally if that meant Jo got to spend five minutes in Zane’s presence, then that was a good thing.

“Zane,” Carter started. “Ethan swears that the photon blast made Martha smart enough to upgrade her own system.

“No way,” Zane scoffed. “Software maybe, but hardware, not a chance.

“So, who'd want to do this to her?” Jo asked.

“I don't know,” he replied, “but they'd have to know how to highjack an encrypted frequency to control her.

“He also says that cloaking drains her battery, so she'll need to recharge,” Carter said.

“But if Stark took all of his equipment, maybe she'll follow him to GD,” Jo suggested.

“No, the security's too tight,” said Carter. “He'll need another source.”

“It'll take a fusion reactor to be any good,” said Zane.

“A fu-” Carter started to say. “Well, how about the one in the back of Vincent's kitchen?”

“That'd work. How'd you know that?” Zane asked.

“Father knows best,” groaned Carter and he and Jo were already running out the door.

So much for five minutes with Zane.

In fact she didn’t see him again until their celebration much, much later and the celebration was more about not getting blown up or letting Eva control the town than the Viper.

They met at Café Diem again and had dinner. It was casual and low-key and Jo appreciated the simplicity after their hard day. She tried to ignore everyone around them, but couldn’t help but notice Stark and Allison getting officially engaged and Carter’s pout. She was happy for Allison but knew she’d have to deal with a less than happy Carter for a while.

After dinner, Zane turned to her and suggested they go back to his apartment and she agreed, feeling anticipation in her belly at the thought.

It was her first time in his apartment and Jo let herself wander around his living room while he got changed. There wasn’t much there and Jo wondered if it was because he was someone who didn’t need a lot of stuff or if it was because he didn’t view this as a home to live in.

Zane didn’t habitually have a lot of things. Electronics, well, that was one thing, but other stuff…he really only required the basics. But he’d bet that just like him, this Zane was still trying to figure out how long he’d be in Eureka.

Jo grabbed two beers out of his fridge and sat down on the couch in the living room. Zane walked out of his bedroom, pulling a shirt over his head. Jo caught the glimpses of his chest and felt a slight flush in her cheeks at the memory of the last time she’d seen it.

He smirked at her like he knew what she was thinking but didn’t say anything, simply flopped down on the couch next to her and took his beer.

“Here’s to not dying,” she said.

“Again,” he said, clinking his beer to hers. “Gotta say, Eureka is a much more dangerous place to live than I thought it would be.”

“It’s definitely not like other towns,” Jo agreed.

“And it’s got some ridiculous people living in it,” said Zane. “Between Fargo and Stark, I don’t know who’s more difficult to deal with.”

“Some might give that honor to you,” she said, poking at him with her foot. “Besides, you certainly worked with both of them today.”

“It was an act of rebellion against authority,” Zane said. “I’m pretty sure I was obligated to join in.”

“By the Bad Boy Association of America?” she teased.

“Something like that,” he said. “That Eva is really interesting though. I’m a bit disquieted by how much she appears to know about me.”

“It would behoove her to do research when it comes to this town and to inhabitants like you,” Jo said.

“Yeah, but when I asked her why she wanted me to do Martha’s autopsy, she said she wanted the best person for the job.”

“And you don’t think that was you?” Jo asked incredulously.

“Of course it was me,” Zane said smugly. “But I just didn’t expect a corporate pawn like her to know that.”

“Even when you’re picked you’re not satisfied,” Jo said, shaking her head.

“I can think of other ways to accomplish that,” he said, putting his beer down and tugging her closer to him.

“Can you think of anything else besides sex and science?” she asked dryly.

He smelled like his soap and beer and she shifted herself onto his lap so she was sitting, looking down at him.

“I could probably come up with something, but don’t really want to,” he said, his hands on her waist, under her shirt.

“And what if I did?” she asked.

“Then we’d probably have to explore that, but I thought this was supposed to be a celebration,” he said.

“I guess I’ll allow a little celebrating,” she said, bending down to kiss him.

***

Zane opened his eyes and found Jo staring at him. It was disorienting enough coming out of a memory and finding himself in his own mind and body without her staring at him. He glared at her and she laughed.

“That wasn’t so bad, right?” she asked.

“Not so bad,” he admitted.

“Did that happen in your timeline?” she asked.

“It did,” he said slowly. “We did have a bit of a run-in.”

“Shall we dive?”

He appreciated her giving him more of an option, but he couldn’t hide from the rest of his past forever. He’d had a long enough break and he was going back into his brain if it killed him.

“Let’s do it,” he said, smiling as brightly as he could manage.

***

Jo found herself as Zane standing in a lab at GD, inwardly seething as he watched several people input numbers into computers.

“Is there a reason why I’m here?” Zane finally asked one of the lab techs to his right.

“You know Director Fargo wanted you on hand to check numbers,” was his returning answer. “The Viper test is important.”

“Yeah, so important they ignored their best shot at making it work,” Zane muttered.

Stark had asked him to consult a few times on the project, but when Zane had offered to do more, someone had shut that down. Likely the high and mighty Douglas Fargo, but it had made Zane annoyed. If they were going to hold him prisoner here, then he should be doing his job.

He pulled out one of his remote units, fiddling with his latest test results on other projects. He might as well occupy his brain. Around him flurried the other people in the lab, getting ready for the test.

“You all set, Dr. Edison?” came Stark’s voice.

“Yes, I am,” replied the scientist on the ground. “Prepare for defeat, boys. Martha here is gonna make me proud.”

Zane kept half an ear open. There were a lot of military and corporate bigwigs observing the test today, one reason he privately thought he was being kept a dirty little secret back at GD.

“So, tell me what you're testing today,” someone asked.

“The Viper anti-missile defensive ray makes the Star Wars program look like an erector set,” Douglas said proudly. “The system can track up to twelve targets. The turrets admit heavy empowered photons in control bursts. We've had nineteen successful tests.”

“Today should make a perfect twenty,” Stark agreed.

“Not if Martha can help it,” Edison replied.

“Martha?” questioned a strange voice.

“This is Dr. Edison,” said Stark tightly. “He designs our target drones.”

“Martha's my latest design. I really think she stands a chance against the Viper,” Edison said cheerfully.

“Viper system is online. Tracking system is active,” announced someone in the room with Zane.

Zane raised his head, watching the screens, the germ of an idea beginning in his head.

“Dr. Edison, time for a little target practice,” said Douglas.

“The drones will proceed then, turn back, and commence the simulated attack. The Viper’s mission is to knock them all down,” explained Stark.

“Come on, Martha,” said Edison under his breath but the mic still caught it.

“Your wish is my command,” said Zane in a low voice and quickly manipulated the device in his hand, accomplishing his goal with relatively little work.

They really should have had him design the anti-hacking software around here.

Jo groaned, knowing exactly where this was heading. She couldn’t exactly blame him, but the rule loving part of her was in agony at the moment.

“What the hell is going on?” asked a strange voice.

“Martha is targeting the Viper,” said Edison in a stunned voice.

Zane grinned, casually manipulating his device.

“Hit the failsafe,” Douglas snapped.

“Martha's not responding to any of my commands,” Edison said frantically.

There was the sound of an explosion from the screen and Zane blanched. Perhaps it was time to let this go before it got out of hand. He quickly released hold of Martha’s signal and returned it to Edison, erasing his actions from the system.

“Since this was all a colossal waste of my time, I’m headed out,” he informed no one in particular and left.

He did grin as he went. It was a short-lived joy, but it had been nice to use a little of his skills and cause a little bit of mischief.

Jo wondered if Zane realized the repercussions of his actions, but she doubted it. Time shifted and she was working as him in his lab when Karen entered the room.

“Zane, you’re wanted,” she said unceremoniously.

“My favorite bodyguard,” Zane said, actually happy to see her. “I know you want me, but I am rather busy.”

“There’s been some trouble,” Karen said rather gently. “You should come now.”

“Who wants to see me this time?” Zane asked, sagging a little.

“Stark and Sheriff Carter,” said Karen.

Zane sighed and followed her, guessing someone was going to blame him the for the drone situation. It was kind of his fault but he’d returned the signal before the drone had gone AWOL and it wasn’t his fault they couldn’t find it again. As they neared the lab, Zane could hear voices.

“I swear I stayed within test parameters,” Edison was promising.

“Look, nobody's blaming you,” Carter said soothingly.

“I'm blaming you,” Stark said flatly.

“Nineteen tests, that's nineteen victories for the Viper, nineteen losses for me,” Edison argued. “I finally win, everyone's mad at me.”

“Nobody's mad at you,” Carter said.

“I'm mad at you,” Stark again interjected.

“We're just trying to figure out why your fancy clay pigeon went AWOL,” Carter said.

“Martha is a learning computer, okay? And she is developing at an incredible rate. It's like she went from being a toddler to a teenager overnight,” Edison said.

“Well, your teenager just stole a car, a gun, and ran away from home. Now, she's dangerous and we need her back,” said Carter.

“Believe me, Sheriff, I'd like nothing more. But given her current state of mind, the last thing that you should do is threaten her.”

“Well, okay, given, but we need this fixed,” Carter replied.

“Martha's not responding to her control signal and she's flying below radar range. Eureka's electro-magnetic security barrier should keep her contained in the city, but I'm worried about her, Sheriff. She's growing up way too fast.”

Carter glanced up and noticed Zane and Karen standing there.

“Zane, can you please help Edison figure out why Martha isn’t responding to her control signal?”

“Me?” Zane asked in an exaggerated tone.

“Don’t make me regret it,” Carter said wryly. “I need to go and find this drone.”

“And I’ll be watching you,” Stark said grimly.

Carter and Karen took their leave.

Zane rolled his eyes and sat down beside Edison and went over his program. He already knew it well, having hacked it earlier that morning, but he’d wiped his trail clean, as any decent hacker would. However, he was going to sincerely attempt to figure out this problem. Not just for his curiosity, but because he didn’t want any more issues on his conscience.

Stark lurked in the background before getting distracted with other things. Zane concentrated but he was having the same problems Edison had been. There was nothing wrong in the program, something had to have occurred on Martha’s end and it wasn’t her super-charging her systems like Edison timidly suggested.

Stark took a call on his PDA and cursed before running out of the lab. Zane and Edison exchanged glances before continuing their work. After some time Carter and Lupo came in and explained what had happened.

Zane shifted uncomfortably under Lupo’s gaze. They had avoided each other since the incident with the fake biohazard and Zane hadn’t been invited to the funerals, though he doubted he would have been able to make himself go.

She pointedly looked away from him and he focused on what Carter was saying.

“What, you tried to arrest it?” he asked incredulously.

“We tried to contain it,” Carter corrected.

“By putting a weaponized attack drone in jail?” Zane asked with raised eyebrow.

“Any luck?” Lupo interrupted him flatly.

“No,” Edison replied. “I think I should go home and look at my equipment there.”

“I’d say good idea,” said Carter, “but I’m afraid Stark asked and Fargo approved confiscating all of your equipment and you’re off the project.”

“It’s my life’s work,” Edison said, horrified, and Zane couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt.

“I’m sorry, Ethan,” said Carter, “but you should go home and we’ll let you know if we need anything.”

Edison went after one more impassioned plea to not hurt Martha.

“Now, if she’s cloaking and needs to recharge, what would she need?” Lupo asked after he left.

“It would take a fusion reactor to be any good,” Zane said after he realized she’d been addressing him.

“What about the one in the back at Café Diem?” Carter asked, horrified.

“That would do it,” Zane said, nodding.

Carter and Lupo exchanged looks and ran out.

Jo felt a bit awkward about how cavalier Zane was being. She supposed she could understand it, after all, last time he’d gotten involved people had died and this time he really had been the cause of something, whether he’d intended to or not.

Zane shrugged, not sure what he was supposed to be doing now. He didn’t know how to find Martha and he’d already done enough damage. He decided to stick around to find out what was going on, but instead remotely worked on his projects using his equipment.

After some time there was a lot of activity and Martha was carried into GD. Zane was surprised, but relieved.

Stark entered and gestured for the people carrying Martha to put her down.

“I’m going to take it apart,” Stark announced. “Anyone else who doesn’t need to be here should leave.”

Zane couldn’t help but feel like the words were pointed at him so he got up and left quietly. He ran into Karen in the hallway.

“So the excitement’s over?” she asked.

“Apparently so,” Zane said. “And nobody even scolded me.”

“I’m glad for your sake,” she said.

“You flatter me,” he said, smiling.

“Be careful, Zane,” Karen said and he wondered exactly what she might mean by that.

They parted ways and he went back to his lab. He quickly lost himself in his projects and worked a while before Stark, Carter, and Lupo stormed into his lab.

“Uh, hello,” he said cautiously.

“You know I examined Martha carefully,” Stark said, his expression like that of a shark circling its kill. “There was nothing on her and I examined the records of the test as well. Do you know what I found?”

“I’m guessing it wasn’t a sense of humor,” said Zane wearily.

“Nothing, I found nothing,” said Stark. “A little too much nothing. I’m positive somebody erased records. Do you know who would do that, Mr. Donovan?”

“An evil, evil person?” asked Zane, not wanting to give anything away.

“Someone who was in the room at the time of the test and who is known for hacking,” Lupo said sternly.

“I don’t understand, Deputy,” Zane said. “Are you trying to insinuate something?”

“Zane,” Carter said, rubbing his hand over his face, “yes or no, did you hijack the signal during the test?”

Zane struggled for a second since they had zero proof, but something in him told him he’d rather be honest now than regret it later.

“For a minute,” he admitted. “But I returned control before the test was over. I have no idea why she went rogue or what has happened since.”

“Zane,” Carter said again and he sounded so disappointed Zane was almost sorry, but the contemptuous looks on Lupo and Stark’s faces quickly erased that and made him defensive.

“Look, you should have had me on that project from the start and I was stuck there while you all did your song and dance for the bigwigs. It was just a stupid joke. Anything that happened after that is not my fault.”

Lupo scoffed but didn’t say anything.

“Mina Edison boosted Martha's learning capacity. She outsmarted you,” Carter said sadly.

“What?” asked Zane.

“Before the test she fiddled with Martha so in the few seconds it took for you to hijack the signal and/or return it, Martha took control,” Stark said.

“I'm sorry,” said Zane, it was all he could say.

“Well, you're lucky that we got her back before things spiraled out of control,” said Carter.

As he spoke alarms began to go off.

“Security breach,” said Lupo grimly.

“Section seven, it's Martha,” said Stark.

They began to run out of the room and Lupo dragged Zane along with them. Her grip on his arm was like iron and he was surprised at how strong she was.

“I want to keep an eye on you,” she said as they ran.

“All the drones are loose,” a tech said to them as they ran into section seven.

“She’s been planning this all along,” Carter said. “She was playing possum. It was her only way into GD to activate the other drones.

“Now you have an artificially intelligent drone army looking for pay back,” said Lupo.

“Jo, signal a lockdown,” Carter said. “We need to get people off the streets. Come on.”

“What about him?” Lupo asked, jerking her head at Zane.

“I’ll watch him,” Stark said. “Go.”

Jo felt bad as she felt Zane hunch in on himself in the corner, guilt and defiance warring inside of him. She could tell he was worried about what would happen, but he was also still annoyed at being treated the way he was being treated. She didn’t see how this could end well.

“They're taking out the power beacons for the EM shield,” someone said a while later. “They've hit four of twenty-six.”

“If they take down too many beacons, no way we can keep them in Eureka,” Stark said.

Allison and Douglas entered the room and Zane didn’t look at them.

“What’s going on?” Douglas asked.

“Only twelve beacons left,” Stark replied, not taking his eyes off the screen. We're below fifty percent shield strength.”

“This is going to make all of us look very bad,” Douglas snapped. “We need to bolster the shield before they take it down.”

“No, we have to take it down first,” came the garbled voice of Carter over the system.

“What?” Douglas asked.

“I don't think Martha wants to hurt anyone. I think she's the emotional equivalent of a pissed off teen, who needs some space,” said Carter.

“Except Martha's not a teen. She's not even human,” said Douglas.

“When we were at the cafe, she saw me ground my daughter, then she broke into my house and set her free. She may not be human, but I don't think she's bent on world domination.”

“That's not a chance I'm willing to take. We need air support, now,” said Douglas. “Dr. Stark, you wanna make the call?”

“If you go on the attack, then so will she,” said Carter.

“Carter articulated a good point,” said Allison. “We escalate; so does she. Taking the barrier down first could be seen as an olive branch.”

“Or a surrender, which is something I never do,” Douglas said hotly and pulled out his PDA. “We have an emergency situation here in Eureka. Prepare the fighters.”

“General, she is sending your men into harm’s way,” said Stark reluctantly, as if he didn’t want to join Carter’s side.

“Luckily, that's what they've been trained for. I'll keep watching,” said Mansfield over the speaker.

Allison and Stark moved closer together and began whispering and then Zane saw Allison get out her PDA and step away to use it.

Stark motioned to Zane and had him join him with Allison away from where Douglas was watching the fighters.

Zane went warily, not sure why he was being included in this.

“Carter, the fighters are in the air,” said Allison. “Shut down the EM shield before they get here.”

“Fargo is controlling the planes,” Lupo’s voice came over the PDA.

“For the moment,” Stark said, looking at Zane.

“What - what are you saying?” he asked.

“You think you should be involved, prove yourself right,” Stark said. “Turn off communication and give me control.”

“Omega One, this is Alpha Leader. We are minutes away and closing. Your targets are dead ahead,” crackled a pilot’s voice from behind them.

“Electromagnetic security barrier is now inactive,” said Carter.

Douglas began sputtering behind them and yelling at a technician.

“You’re going to trust me to do this?” Zane asked, pulling out his device and hooking it up to a console next to him.

“For the record, I don’t and this is a very bad idea,” said Lupo’s voice.

“I could do it myself, but it would take longer,” Stark admitted. “Now do it.”

Zane nodded and began to work.

“Omega One, this is Alpha Leader. We have contact.”

“Then take them down,” said Douglas.

“Omega One, your transmission's breaking up. Say again.”

“Shoot the drones down,” Douglas said louder as if that would help. “Alpha Leader, do you hear me?”

“Somebody must've hijacked the signal,” Zane said, grinning. “Crazy.”

“Omega One, we're going hot. Permission to engage.”

Zane nodded to Stark who put a remote headset in his ear.

“Negative, Alpha Leader. Fire only if fired upon.”

Douglas turned back to them.

“You are making a disastrous mistake,” he said, quickly sizing up the situation.

“Okay, Carter, I really hope you're right,” Allison said into her PDA.

Zane watched and listened as Edison tried to talk Martha down before Zoe grabbed the mic and said her piece.

“Omega One, targets closing. Request permission to fire.”

“Negative, Alpha One. Hold your fire,” said Stark firmly.

“Omega One, all targets have disengaged.”

Zane was immediately relieved and everyone else appeared to be as well. Even though Douglas looked relieved, he also looked livid.

“You and your team went behind my back and undercut my direct order,” he hissed.

“Some of us went in front of your back,” answered Stark.

“And we were right,” said Allison.

“You were lucky and this isn’t over,” said Douglas. “All of you will have permanent notes placed in your file and I will personally report all of this.”

“Please be sure to mention how we saved the town,” Stark said smugly.

Allison beamed at him and whispered something in his ear and he smiled largely at her.

Zane didn’t know what to think of that so he backed away quietly. He wasn’t quite sure what to do. He may have fixed his mistake, but he had the feeling not everyone would think kindly of that. Lupo certainly wouldn’t.

Jo was amazed once again at the difference between the Fargos she knew. Apparently Eva didn’t exist or hadn’t come to Eureka yet in this timeline and so Fargo was left to play the bad guy. He was clearly someone who had never had to work for where he was and it showed. She wondered how that would play into other events she could think of. Time certainly was strange and any change made huge ripples of difference in everyone’s lives.

Zane was once again sat in the Sheriff’s office while Carter and Lupo argued behind him. He idly traced patterns on the desk in front of him.

Eventually Carter came and sat down in front of him.

“Well, what’s my fate to be?” Zane tried to ask in a carefree tone.

“You’re lucky you’re not in a holding cell,” Carter said sternly. “Since the rest of us technically disobeyed direct orders none of us are exactly able to point fingers right now though.”

“Some of us have no problem with it,” said Lupo with folded arms from behind him.

“We talked to Stark and agreed that you’re going to be assigned to a team so your projects can be monitored by a lead,” said Carter. “I’ll let him go over that with you at GD. As for the rest, it’s going in your file and your pay will be docked to help pay for the costs to the Viper repair.”

“Guess I can put off buying that new Porsche for a while,” Zane said idly.

Inwardly he was rather surprised he was getting off this easily.

“But next time you pull something like this, I will personally put you in jail,” said Lupo.

“Since you’re the Deputy I’m fairly certain that’s how it would work,” he said mockingly.

She glared at him and he resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at her like a child.

“You’re free to go, Zane,” Carter said. “I have a drone shaped hole in my office to attend to.”

Zane bit back a comment about that being the only reason he wasn’t in a holding cell and made good his escape.

That could have gone worse. Naturally, it could also have gone better. It didn’t stop something bitter from taking root in him at how Lupo had refused to trust him. Whatever mischief he managed to get up to next, he was fairly certain it would involve her.

***

Zane came back out of the memory with a grimace. He wasn’t thrilled, but he honestly felt a lot better than the last one. There was something interesting about revisiting how he had felt. It was odd and slightly horrible to hate Jo when he loved her now so much.

“I was not feeling the love in that run,” Jo said with a sour look on her face.

“I’m afraid you’re not going to for a while, my dear,” he said. “Until you told a jailed me you would marry me, I’d never seen anything sweet coming from you. Nor can I say I took the high road.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “It’s just an uncomfortable feeling. I think I know what you mean now.”

“Welcome to my world,” he said dramatically.

“So…” she said, “you feeling okay?”

“Surprisingly yes,” he said. “Not my best performance, but hardly my worst.”

“I was thinking about how fascinating it is to see the differences in the timeline apart from you and me,” she said, stretching her arms above her head.

“Like what?” he asked.

“Well, in my timeline it was Larry who hijacked the signal,” she said. “He was trying to impress Eva. But because there was no Eva and he was already trying to impress your Fargo, this whole thing might not have even happened if you hadn’t been bored in the control room.”

“Great, make me feel worse,” he said.

“No, I’m just saying that it feels like no matter how much the timelines changed, some things were clearly always going to happen,” she said.

“Ahh, I see,” he said. “Like you and me?”

“Well, maybe,” she said, smiling at him. “But it really struck me this time.”

“It might strike you more later,” he said.

“I’ll look forward to it,” she said and leaned forward. “So do you know Eva Thorne?”

“Nope,” he said. “I take it she’s important?”

“She plays a large role in your future,” Jo said and then frowned. “Or past…”

Zane laughed.

“Well, that will be interesting to see then,” he said. “I’m sure I spent less time in a holding cell.”

“You certainly weren’t making life easier on yourself,” she said, sighing fondly. “I’m glad you got to redeem your mistake.”

“No thanks to that Jo,” he said wryly.

“No,” she said, wrinkling her nose. “I guess I really have to get used to that. There certainly have been times I’ve wanted to wring your neck, but never like that.”

“I’m such a likeable guy, too,” he said cheerfully.

“You’re lucky I like you,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“You liked me a whole lot in your memories,” he teased her. “Couch sex!”

“Not shocking,” she said. “Besides, you’d been busy for a while.”

“Apparently,” he said. “I take it even after we consummated our divine love, you were still afraid I was going to up and run?”

“Well, I didn’t know what was going to happen,” she said. “It was all new. Exciting, but scary.”

“True,” he said. “I guess it all worked out considering the whole proposal thing.”

“It took us a while though,” Jo warned. “You’ll see.”

“You know, I’m actually excited about this again,” he said. “It was hard after last time, but I think I’m ready to do this more regularly.”

“Good,” she said. “Because it really is fascinating like I said.”

“Settled,” he said. “Now what’s for dinner, wife?”

Jo snorted and tugged him up with her.

“Just for that you’re making it,” she informed him.

Chapter Text

Zane finished hooking up the device and turned to find Jo watching him, unbuttoning her jacket.

“And how are you today?” he asked her.

“Raring to go,” she said. “Always.”

“Then let’s see what adventure you have in store for me,” he said. “I got work to do.”

“And I don’t?” she asked rhetorically.

He winked at her and they put their headsets on and reached for each other’s hands automatically.

***

Zane found himself sitting in Café Diem, the other Zane beside him, eating something that smelled delicious. He as Jo hadn’t received food yet and her stomach was rumbling.

“Nice of you to wait,” Jo said, looking pointedly at Zane inhaling his food.

He shrugged and wiped his mouth with a napkin.

“Hey, man’s gotta eat. Particularly when they have their own department to run.”

“What?” she asked, puzzled.

He folded his hands under his chin and looked smugly at her.

“Would you care to guess who Eva put in charge of Global Dynamics new Consumer Products Research Lab?”

“Other than not knowing what that means, I’m assuming you,” she said, a fluttering of pride in her stomach.

“It’s her new way to make money,” Zane said, resuming his meal as Vincent put hers in front of Jo. “We have corporate sponsors and they fund our research. We come up with cool things they can use in their companies, we get paid the big bucks and GD is no longer broke.”

“Wow,” said Jo, saying a quick silent prayer before eating. “That is very ambitious. She made you Director, huh?”

“Old gal’s got a crush on me or something,” Zane said. “He's a risk taker with cross-discipline experience, was the exact phrase used.”

“Yeah, the words ‘Zane’ and ‘discipline’ tend not to go together in the same sentence,” Jo teased.

“The new boss doesn’t mind,” Zane said, pouting. “And I’m not complaining.”

“I’m happy for you, Zane,” Jo said. “That’s really great.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty big progress,” Zane said happily. “And I’ve got pretty much a blank check to do whatever I want. It’s science heaven in there.”

“I’ll never hear the end of it,” Jo said, rolling her eyes.

Zane cleared his throat and set down his food again.

“Uh, well, that’s really why I have to eat and run and probably be working pretty late for the next couple of weeks. You get it…it’s a lot to get up and running.”

“Um, of course,” Jo said. “Why do you say that like I’m going to have a problem with it?”

“Well, less time for…other fun activities,” he said, smirking.

Jo swallowed around a nasty feeling rising in her throat, wanting to either snap at him or cry for some reason.

“You do realize my life doesn’t revolve around you, right?” she said instead.

“I wouldn’t dream of suggesting it, JoJo,” he said.

He finished eating shortly after that and, while he gave her a lingering kiss goodbye, she could see his mind was entirely on what lay ahead of him, not what he was leaving.

Zane began to see exactly why Jo was so insistent that her and Zane had taken a while to get to the stage a proposal could happen. He didn’t see what Jo was so worried about…as far as he could tell Zane was being upfront and honest with her. But then, he knew now how insecure Jo could feel and so he had a sense of foreboding about what was to come.

Jo tried to shake off the feeling that Zane was growing tired of her and went back to the office. Carter was stuck at GD doing an investigation so she was holding down the fort. She tried to lose herself in paperwork before a voice interrupted her.

“My, how homey.”

Jo looked up to see Eva.

“Miss Thorne. What brings you here?”

“This,” Eva said, laying some papers down on the desk. “I need your help on something. Institutional changes here in town that will put Eureka on a secure financial footing.”

“Shouldn't this wait for Sheriff Carter?” Jo asked.

“Sheriff Carter's got his hands full. Based on your record, I know that you're up to the challenge,” Eva said.

“Well, thanks,” Jo began.

“Credit where credit's due,” Eva said smoothly.

Jo narrowed her eyes and read the document in front of her.

“No more free food at Café Diem. Parking meter installation?”

“I'm afraid the free ride is over,” Eva said.

“Fees for library cards?” Jo read incredulously.

“Just the cards. The books are still free,” Eva hastened to say.

“Closing the museum,” Jo continued and then paused, thinking. “I didn't even know Eureka had a museum.”

“My point exactly,” Eva said.

Jo swallowed and continued reading after Eva left. This was not going to be pretty. The woman may like Zane and may flatter Jo, but she was going to cause big waves here in Eureka. There were a lot of people who would be upset about this.

Plus…Jo was going to have to pray none of them shot the messenger. She gathered her gear and went to work.

Zane felt time shift around him and he was once again back in Café Diem. Jo was feeling exhausted and close to snapping at someone. She’d just spent hours making people unhappy and having them complain to her and she needed caffeine badly. Even if she was going to have to pay for it. Zane felt a large pang of sympathy for her.

Jo slid onto the counter at Café Diem after making her order. At least Vincent wasn’t mad at her. He knew what was really going on. She watched Eva order coffee and couldn’t help being snippy.

“Enjoying the local color?” she asked.

“I am,” Eva replied. “Observing the nuance of your fine town. You?”

“I just came in to wash my hands. Is the water still free?” Jo asked sarcastically.

“And yours is on the house,” Vincent said, sliding Jo her coffee.

“Efficiency has its own elegance, Deputy Lupo. Balancing a town, a company, a life. There's a certain beauty to it,” Eva said and Jo could tell she truly believed that.

“Well, I will be sure to tell that to the museum curator that I just sent packing,” Jo said anyway.

“I know today was difficult, but sometimes you have to sacrifice a part for the good of the whole,” Eva said sympathetically.

“So you're - you're saying that one day we'll thank you,” Jo said incredulously.

“You might. I'm not your normal corporate fixer, you know.”

“Yeah, and Eureka is not your normal town,” Jo said firmly. “We've got our own balance. And you're messing with it.”

She couldn’t deny that some of her ire still had to do with a deep down disquiet over Zane’s new role, but she didn’t want to think about it as she went back to the office, finishing her coffee so she could get back to the paperwork she’d been planning to work on today.

She did it quietly until the door burst open and Zane ran into the room, startling her.

“Jo, I need a gun. A big, powerful gun,” he said urgently.

A flush started in her belly and rose as excitement in her throat as she stood up from her desk. Just like that…she was fine again.

“I've been waiting for someone to say that to me my whole life,” she said intensely.

Zane smiled at her and she could see the arousal in his eyes as she took her keys from around her neck and went to go and get him what he needed. He quickly explained the situation along the way and while she wasn’t surprised Carter had gotten himself into that mess, she was surprised that Henry was somehow involved in helping them out, especially from prison.

This was the first time Zane felt like he wouldn’t mind seeing some of their physical activities. He was beginning to get used to it, in fact, he was even curious about it. Especially with the way he’d felt as Jo when she’d said that to Zane. If he had been the other Zane…it would have taken everything he had not to jump her then and there.

Before he left, Zane stepped behind her and whispered in her ear.

“You and I are definitely going to discuss your gun collection later, Miss Lupo.”

She shivered involuntarily and shot him a mock glare.

“I’ll take that as a promise, Mr. Donovan.”

With that he was gone, but she couldn’t settle down again. She finished her work early and then went to Café Diem, worried about Carter and Allison and what was happening down in Lab 27.

Her PDA rang a while later and it was Zane.

“What happened?” she asked.

“It’s all good,” he said. “The gun worked, everyone will be safe.”

“Thank God,” she said and meant it. “Good work, Donovan.”

“Nice hardware, Lupo,” he said flirtatiously.

“Wow,” she said.

“I know,” he said, laughing. “Hey, it’s me. Anyway, got another surprise for you, I think.”

“What?” she asked.

“Well, Eva seemed rather impressed with the work everyone did today.”

“As she should be,” Jo said somewhat bitterly.

“Don’t be too hard on her,” said Zane. “She asked me about Henry.”

“Why?” Jo asked, confused.

“Maybe she likes my opinion,” Zane said smugly. “Anyway, I praised him to high heaven.”

“As well you should,” said Jo.

“And I think she’s going to do her best to get him released,” said Zane.

“That’s….that’s amazing,” said Jo. “I hope so. For Henry’s sake. Carter may even owe you he misses Henry so much.”

“That’s what I’m counting on,” said Zane.

“Are you coming by Café Diem?” she asked, thinking back to his words from earlier.

“I wish I could,” he said, “but Eva’s got me doing some things. Will you let me break into your house later?”

“I might be available, but I do arrest all housebreakers,” she said lightly and they ended the call.

She was determined not to let this bother her. Zane was actually applying himself, working hard. This was a good thing for him and had nothing to do with her. If she knew more about where she stood with him maybe she’d feel comfortable voicing fear, but the only label they’d put on themselves was monogamous and she was trying to be content with that.

Plus, if it meant he was in a position to talk Henry up so much he got released; well, that was something she could never regret.

She listened to Zoe worry over her dad and had to admit to Carter she had been worried as well.

“Why, Josefina, I'm touched,” he teased.

“Don't get used to it,” she snapped. Then she saw something over his shoulder and smiled. She took a sip of her drink casually. “Good to see Henry.”

“Yeah, yeah, it was,” Carter agreed.

“No, it's, it’s good to see Henry,” she said pointing to where Henry was being greeted by the people of the town.

Carter lit up and went to go talk to his friend, while Jo waited and then hugged Henry and enjoyed the time spent with her friends.

She’d go home and try not to wait impatiently to see if Zane came to see her later.

Zane felt a long time shift; somehow, he just knew it was a long period of time. Jo was lying in bed next to Zane, sweating and naked, feeling happy, but there was an undercurrent of something else. Zane felt rather than knew that something was about to shift in their relationship.

Jo was glad to forget everything when Zane seduced her in her driveway that night. It had been a long while since he had. A few months ago, she’d waited and waited for him to come see her and he hadn’t.

He’d called and apologized the next day, having got caught up in work, but it had started a chain reaction of plans broken and apologies made. She didn’t think he was cheating on her, no, she just thought she wasn’t as interesting as the new goodies Eva had presented him with at GD. He’d even gotten to go out of Eureka for a few weeks on a mission for Eva.

Of course, then Stark had died on his and Allison’s wedding day and the whole town had been cast into a gloom for a while. Fargo was almost as upset as Allison and even though Jo couldn’t say she’d been especially close to the man, she realized that Nathan Stark had died to save them all and that his loss was huge.

Even Zane admitted he’d miss the other man’s intellect.

But it just meant their stolen minutes together were few and far between and the worse part about that was that Jo realized she wanted them, craved them. Every second she got to spend with Zane was better than anything else apart from them. She should be mad about that, furious that she cared so much when he clearly didn’t. This was exactly what she’d been worried about would happen. She would get more involved and he’d run away. She’d always imagined if something like that happened, she’d get angry and run, but instead she found herself living for the time she did get to spend with him. It was not how she wanted to be and she didn’t know what to do about it.

Now as they lay together in bed, her heart quieting down, she began to wonder if she couldn’t say something. This was pointless and even if he didn’t want to commit to something serious, she was beginning to realize she did. She wanted to see what this could become. But how to phrase that to a former felon who didn’t have time for her and was clearly afraid of commitment for all his ability to doggedly hound someone until they went out with him?

“Eva asked me to take on another project for her today,” Zane said without warning next to her.

“Really?” she asked. “What kind of project?”

“Puzzle box,” he said idly. “Should be interesting. Let’s just say I know you guys don’t like her, but she’s been nothing but good for my disheveled career.”

“She’s not unlikeable,” said Jo, “she’s just making a lot of changes and not being forthcoming with her reasons.”

“Aren’t you glad you have a man on the inside?” he asked, pulling her closer and nuzzling her neck.

“Do you want me to respond to that?” she asked, laughing.

“No need,” he said, kissing his way along her shoulder blade.

Jo idly traced her hands across his ribcage, thinking about if she should say something now and wondering what he would say in response.

“Zane, I like dating you a lot,” she finally said.

“Me too,” he said and she felt a slight surge of hope, but then he continued. “Isn’t it great how we can just have this? You know, nothing serious, nothing crazy, just know we’re there if we need something. It’s so fun being with you, JoJo. The sex doesn’t hurt either,” he finished, laughing and continuing to kiss her.

Jo’s heart plummeted and she tried not to feel hurt. This is what she had agreed to. This was probably just who he was. But her pride didn’t want to show he’d hurt her feelings. Nor did she know if she could continue this or give it up.

“Um, yeah, of course,” she mumbled and then tried to listen as he rambled on about something at GD.

“You’re the best thing in this town,” he whispered right before he fell asleep.

Jo tried to hold on to that rather than what he’d said before.

***

Zane opened his eyes and this time he tried to avoid looking at Jo. He was feeling somewhat ashamed even though he hadn’t actually been involved in what had just happened.

“You’re going to grow mold, you know,” Jo said.

“Jo, I…”

“Zane, I’m fine,” she said and then he looked at her.

She smiled at him and leaned forward to kiss him gently.

“He did propose eventually, I guess,” Zane mumbled.

“He did,” said Jo. “This is just one more step on our road.”

“I’m sorry he was, I was, a jerk,” he said.

“I don’t think he meant to be,” said Jo. “But thank you.”

“No, he was just having it all,” Zane mumbled.

“Like you are now?” Jo asked, reminding him.

“I guess I am,” Zane said and cleared his throat. “You know in my timeline Henry didn’t get released from prison then.”

“Maybe you did play an important role then,” she said, a thoughtful look on her face. “Perhaps that’s why your Henry turned spy.”

“Could be,” Zane said.

“So, shall we venture into you?” she asked. “I skipped over a lot of little things because it really all blended together.”

“I’ll probably just stick to the whole Lab 27 deal,” he said. “We did have a bit of a fight.”

“Then let’s fight,” she said, kissing him again.

***

Jo was in Café Diem, Zane was sitting watching Vincent huddle around a screen with Lucas and a few other lowly GD techs. He was surprised to see Karen there as well and wandered over to investigate. Jo was beginning to wonder about Karen.

Zane sidled up to Karen and bumped her arm casually.

“Whatcha doing?” he asked.

“Hijacking the internal network of Lab 27,” she said casually.

“That doesn't sound like something you should be doing, upstanding security personnel such as yourself,” he said, raising an eyebrow.

“It's not something I should be doing,” she admitted. “But it's Lab 27, the mother of all reality shows. We started doing this a long time ago.”

Zoe wandered over with a tray in her hand and started listening.

“And what's your excuse?” Zoe asked Vincent, clearly, like Zane, not having a clue of what was going on.

Vincent sighed.

“The Director and I were viewing buddies. That's how we bonded.”

“But not anymore?” Zane guessed.

“A lot has changed,” Vincent said, giving Zane a sad half grin.

“Okay. So, what's so special about today?” Zoe asked.

“New characters,” said Karen.

“Hey, that's my dad!” Zoe cried out, looking at the screen.

Zane looked and indeed, Sheriff Carter and Allison were walking around in track suits in the secure lab environment.

“Want to watch?” Karen asked Zane.

“I’m fairly certain I must watch all bootlegged material,” he said, settling down next to her and deliberately budging up close.

Karen shot him a look but didn’t move away and Zane hummed contently in the back of his throat. While he spent a lot of time having one night stands with the lady scientists of Eureka, Karen had never responded to his flirtatious style and he hadn’t wanted to be too zealous and ruin one of his only friendships. But if she were opening up…well, he wouldn’t say no.

Jo would have narrowed her eyes if she could as she watched Karen through Zane’s eyes. Hmmm…

Zane had to admit, watching the action of lizard men and impossible science was actually quite compelling. Doing it with the few people in town who didn’t hate him? Even better. Zoe was the only one who was treating it like it wasn’t actually a tv show, clearly concerned for her dad.

He was surprised to get a call on his PDA though and even more surprised to find it was Stark.

“Donovan, I need you at GD. We have a situation at Lab 27 and I think you can help,” Stark said curtly.

“All right, no need to beg,” Zane said, looking at how upset Zoe currently was and realizing perhaps it would be better if he was at GD right now.

Not that he approved of getting involved. He still wanted to stay far away from Eureka’s messes, but maybe this time it wouldn’t be that bad.

He got to GD and was debriefed and Stark promptly brought him in on a call with those in the lab.

“It was the water, all right,” Stark said. “Something or someone changed it. What you guys are witnessing is the first ever demonstrated case of macro de-evolution.”

“Can you see the variation in the mutations?” Allison asked.

“Yes, and whatever it is, it's affecting the entire geo-dome,” said Stark.

“How long does it take to affect it?” Carter asked.

“I jerry-rigged a timeline and up until a week ago, the water was clean. Looking at the physical progressions, I would say that's an outside limit. Look, Zane and I are gonna get back into the genetics. You guys just hang tight. We'll fix this.”

Zane worked with Stark and appreciated the challenge, but he was starting to get the sinking feeling this would be another failure. He thought they could reverse the changed genes, but how to do so was the real problem. Down on the ground, they were chasing Bob and Stark decided he was going into the lab itself.

“No, we need you on this end,” Zane argued. “We're close to reversing the gene, but the delivery system's killing us.”

“It's gonna have to wait till later,” Stark insisted.

“They're changing down there,” Zane said. “You saw Bob. Look, they hit a point of no return; it won't matter if we get them out.”

“Zane, the only thing that's gonna stop me is-” Stark started to say.

“A gun,” Carter interrupted from the screen.

“That's a little extreme,” Zane said, amused.

“No, the gun thingy. The bio-sensor used on Allison and me.”

“Bioballistic particle delivery system,” Stark said.

“Yes. We could modify it,” Zane said, starting to piece it out in his mind.

“Longer range,” Stark added.

“Larger bore, heavier payload,” Zane continued. “The time suck's gonna be fabrication. Unless…” he trailed off, not liking where his thoughts were going.

“What?” Stark asked.

“I’m gonna need back up for what I need,” Zane admitted. “Permission to recruit?”

“Just get it done,” snapped Stark.

Zane grinned and pulled out his PDA.

“Karen, meet me at the Sheriff’s office. I need back up.”

Jo watched curiously as Zane hurried to the Sheriff’s office, explaining to Karen along the way. She wondered how that Jo was going to receive him. She blushed as Zane burst into the office, because that Jo was currently heavily involved with making out with Taggart on her desk.

“Ahem,” Zane said pointedly, rather amused at the sight of a heavily disheveled Deputy Lupo, hastily breaking away from her make out session.

“What do you want?” she practically barked at him.

He didn’t have time to admire the tendrils of hair falling across her face or her flushed skin, even if his brain automatically catalogued it away.

“Deputy, I need your biggest, most powerful gun,” he said calmly.

“And what delusion makes you think I’m going to give that to you?” she said contemptuously.

“Steady on there, Jo,” Taggart said.

She shot him a look and kept on staring down Zane.

“It’s a GD emergency,” he said, looking as innocent as possible. “Your precious Sheriff is in trouble without it.”

“What?” she snapped.

Karen sighed from beside Zane and stepped forward, explaining the situation more thoroughly and without the personal barbs. She was very competent, Karen.

Lupo sighed and pulled her keys over her head.

“Why is it always you?” she muttered, jabbing at him to indicate he should go ahead of her.

“Must be penance,” he said and she glared at him.

Karen and Taggart followed along behind while Lupo got out the gun. She pointedly handed it to Karen.

“If anything goes wrong, I will hunt you down,” she said.

“I’m sure Tag could provide some better use of your time,” Zane couldn’t help saying, enjoying the angry flush on her skin.

“Get out of my office,” she hissed.

“You’re not going to watch my every move?” he asked.

“What an excellent idea,” she said. “After you.”

He should’ve stopped while he was ahead. He left, everyone else following behind.

He showed back up at his lab with a crowd full of people, all watching him and making him feel nervous while he redesigned Lupo’s gun as she breathed down his neck.

“What part of hourly reports does Stark not understand?” Douglas spouted out as he hurried into the room.

“He got anxious,” Zane replied.

“The transition facility is nearly complete,” Douglas replied. “The tactical team that he ordered without authorization is gonna be ready in ten minutes.”

“We're not gonna need it,” Zane said.

“How do you know that?” Lupo asked.

“Because this is all ready to go, your baby and mine,” Zane said, winking at her.

He handed the gun off to the appropriate person and then they all watched the monitors as Carter and Stark got Allison back and saved everyone in Lab 27.

“Nice job, mate,” Taggart said to Zane.

Zane wasn’t quite sure what to make of that, but he accepted the man’s handshake.

“Told you they'd pull it off,” he said to Lupo.

“Well, don't sell yourself short. The redesign on that gun was inspired,” Karen told him.

“Well, we all do our part,” Zane said modestly.

“I’d like my gun back,” was all Lupo said, but she had a strange look on her face.

Could he dare to call it admiration? Probably not, after all, she practically ran out of the room after that, glaring at him.

She had something to get back to. So did he, he called Vincent and let everyone know what had happened.

In the meantime…Zane turned to Karen.

“Celebratory coffee on me?” he asked.

“All the coffee is free,” she reminded him, but nodded.

“It’s the thought that counts,” he protested and ushered her to the door.

***

Jo stretched her arms as Zane opened his eyes.

“So, Karen?” she said pointedly.

“Tag?” he returned.

“You already knew about him,” she said, pouting.

“Yes, but I was not the one making out in that memory,” he said, enjoying teasing her.

“Perhaps not, but I have a feeling that may not be far off,” she commented.

“Maybe,” he said, “but while I admire Karen greatly, I love you.”

“That’s convenient, seeing as how we’re married and all,” she said, clearly letting it go.

“There is that,” he said, smiling happily. “Now, that was just the usual animosity between us, anything strike you?”

“I think she was pretty turned on by the gun thing actually,” said Jo slowly.

“Really?” he asked, intrigued.

“Even if she didn’t want to admit it,” said Jo. “It probably only made her more angry.”

“Well, I have to admit, your little line about the gun, even if I couldn’t see you, made me extremely turned on,” he said.

“I thought it might,” she said smugly. “Too bad we never got to explore it that night.”

“I might not even have wanted you to fade to black,” he said.

“Really? It doesn’t make you uncomfortable?” Jo asked curiously.

“Okay, so it’s still uncomfortable,” Zane admitted. “I’m looking at myself. Wouldn’t you find that weird?”

“You know I’ve been thinking,” Jo said. “Henry said we could experience the same memory simultaneously, remember?”

“I remember,” he said, wondering if she was really going where he thought she was going with this.

“Well, it’s not fair that you are the only one who gets to experience this uncomfortable sensation,” she said. “How about we even the score? How about we both let each other experience our first night together as the other person?”

“It could be the most horrific or most arousing experience of my life,” he replied.

“If you don’t like it, we can stop,” she said persuasively. “Come on, let’s take a little break from our pasts and remember us.”

“I’m game for experimentation, I’m a scientist, remember?” he said, feeling more excited than he’d thought he would be.

He reset the machine and looked at her…and when he opened his eyes again, he was so aroused he couldn’t think straight.

He launched himself at her, tearing off his headset, and she met him halfway, tangling their tongues together instantly.

His hands went everywhere he could reach and when she made to take off her jacket, he stopped her hands.

“No, wear that,” he said, his own hands exploring inside her blouse.

She shook her head and muttered something about kinks but left on the jacket and started tearing off his shirt.

An action he could get behind. He still didn’t like the sensation of feeling like he was making love to himself, but getting to feel how Jo felt about him, just made him love her more and want to experience her as much as possible.

Chapter Text

Zane got out of the shower and decided his stubble was at an appropriate stage for shaving. He took care of it before dressing and going to find Jo.

She was on her PDA and he busied himself making a sandwich.

“Yeah, I know,” she said, her tone caustic. “Well, then fix it because anything outside the GD is not my department.”

She clicked her PDA off and tossed it on the counter with a huff.

“Trouble in paradise?” he asked.

“Trouble in incompetence,” she growled. “Andy really doesn’t know how to say no to people.”

Zane laughed.

“Yeah, well, he’s not really programmed to disagree.”

“Too damn cheerful,” Jo grumbled.

“You ready to relax into some soothing memories?” he asked.

“I bet they won’t be soothing,” she said, but nodded.

She stretched her arms and rolled her neck to the side and he heard a loud pop.

“You know that’s not healthy, right?” he asked around the last bite of his sandwich.

“Neither is talking with your mouth full,” she pointed out.

They got their headsets on and prepared for a memory run.

“Do I get to find out if you tell past me off this time?” he asked.

“Something like that,” she replied.

***

Zane found himself in the Sheriff’s office listening to Allison lecturing Carter. Jo was feeling incredibly bored and frustrated and slightly amused at Carter’s predicament.

Jo hated election time. Scientists were the worst.

“Oversee the mayoral election,” Allison explained. “This is the official polling place. It's not a big deal, Carter.”

“Well, then why can't Jo do it?” Carter actually whined.

“Because Jo's not your lackey,” Jo said, sticking her head in between the two of them.

“Well, the town charter says that voting security falls on the highest ranking law enforcement officer. That would be you,” Allison said.

“Unless you promote me or become otherwise incapacitated,” Jo said slyly.

“The Mayor's seat has been open for over a year,” Allison went on while Carter shot Jo a glare. “The town needs a voice. This is a very important service card.”

“How important can it be? I mean, my daughter's backing her seventeen year old boyfriend for the job,” Carter said disdainfully.

“Eureka doesn't discriminate. Some of our smartest citizens are teens,” Allison said.

Jo tuned out the rest of the conversation about Lexi volunteering to count the votes and her pregnancy. She did like the idea of going to Café Diem though even if it meant watching Fargo and Zoe pull their prospective candidates around by the nose.

She was not interested in listening to Herrera try to get Carter’s vote and interrupted them.

“I'm getting coffee.”

“Could-” Carter started to ask but she interrupted him.

“Not your lackey,” she reminded him.

Of course then Herrera decided to literally put his face in the clouds to woo the electoral votes his way. It was hilarious watching Carter’s face.

“Told you it gets competitive,” she said.

“That's just wrong,” he replied.

“Big news, guys,” said Zane, coming up to join them.

Jo couldn’t stop herself from feeling both elated and nervous seeing him. He’d spent more time with her lately. It probably helped that after he’d unlocked an underground bunker for Eva and they’d all had to rescue Zane, Zoe, Lucas, and Pilar from it, Eva had been way more closed off and Zane had agreed to find out anything he could about what she was doing.

It still didn’t help her feel any better about what he wanted or didn’t want from her.

“Yeah, what's up?” Carter asked.

“Those ancient security cameras we saw in the bunker, I pulled the negatives before Thorne locked the place up again. It's thirty-five millimeter. We just have to find someone old enough to develop it.”

He and Jo looked at Carter who looked affronted.

It didn’t stop him from being able to help them develop the film however.

“What a time suck this is. How did we live before digital?” Zane asked, wandering around the dark room in boredom.

“I never knew you had an artistic side, Carter,” Jo teased.

“I'm a man of many facets,” Carter said, pulling out the photos.

“Check out the date stamp,” Zane pointed out. “1939.”

“I thought Eureka wasn't founded till 1950,” said Carter.

“Well, it wasn't,” said Jo. “What were they doing down there?”

“Well, whatever it was, they tried to bury it for good,” said Zane.

“Look who we have here,” said Carter, showcasing another photo of the same room, #307, showing Eva entering it. “Thorne’s been looking for something ever since she came to Eureka. How much you wanna bet it's in this room? So what is she up to?”

“That's gonna have to wait till tomorrow,” Jo reminded him. “The debate's about to start.”

After Carter exited the dark room in a panic to prepare some opening remarks, Zane turned to Jo.

“I could turn the lights off again,” he suggested, running his fingers up her arm.

“As fun as that would be,” Jo reminded him, “I am not having sex in my boss’ house, especially one that can literally tell him all about it.”

“We need to work on your kinky side,” said Zane, but he followed her out.

“You coming to the debate?” she asked.

“I’ll head back to GD,” he said. “Politics are not my thing.”

“Lucky you,” she said, slightly disappointed.

Time shifted and Zane had to blink because Jo had put them back staring up at a giant second sun in the sky. He wondered if it was retribution for past him not going to the debate with her.

“Just another day in Eureka,” said Jo, shielding her eyes.

“Well, it's a mini sun,” said Zane.

“Really? Took you all night to come up with that?” Carter asked sarcastically.

“No. It took us all night to rule out any GD experiments as the cause,” explained Allison.

“So now we have two suns,” Jo said.

“Just like Tatooine,” Zane said somewhat gleefully.

Jo inwardly rolled her eyes. He was so ridiculous.

“Tatu-what?” asked Carter.

“Geek speak,” said Allison hastily.

“The good news is it's stable, holding its position at about one thousand feet so we're not lighting the entire state,” said Zane.

“The last thing we need is a spotlight on the town the whole world can see,” agreed Allison.

“But it's 6:00 AM and ninety degrees. How do we turn it off?” asked Carter.

“I'm not sure yet. It has to be some kind of fusion reaction,” replied Zane.

“Sounds dangerous,” said Carter.

“No, not necessarily. Based on its containment, I'd say it's deliberate,” Zane said.

“Who'd want to make a second sun on purpose?” asked Jo.

“Maybe the guy who was trying to make a big bang at the debates,” answered Carter.

“Oh, cloud guy. Herrera,” said Jo.

They discussed Eva’s possible connection to Herrera and then decided Allison would look into that while Carter and Jo went to talk to Herrera. Zane kept working on the sun problem.

Herrera denied being able to create a sun, insisting he was strictly a cloud guy. His mini indoor storm was fairly impressive, but Jo was inclined to agree with Carter that Herrera hadn’t created a sun and hung it in the sky. Especially once they checked out his background.

She and Carter headed back to GD to confer with Zane and Allison.

“Herrera checked out,” said Jo. “There's nothing in his background having to do with solar energy or fusion power.”

“What did you find?” Carter asked Zane.

“Well, I ran some scans. The sun has all the properties of a main sequence dwarf star. The big question is its energy source.”

“Well, I might be able to shed some light on that,” said Allison. “I ordered copies of all records having to do with the hidden facility under Tesla. Now, of course, Eva's either had them redacted or they don't exist. But she forgot one thing. Accounting.”

“Oh, somebody messed up their lunch receipt,” said Carter.

“The DOD keeps track of every penny that they spent,” replied Allison. “So I thought I'd see where they were spending in 1939. Check out the stuff they were ordering.”

“Deuterium. Tritium. These are heavy hydrogen atoms,” said Zane.

“Yeah, and the essential elements in building fusion bombs,” replied Allison.

“So Thorne dug up an old bomb testing facility?” Jo questioned.

“Allison,” said Carter, “we gotta get into that room before Thorne does her thermal cleaning thing.”

Just then Carter got a call from Zoe and he left in a hurry while Zane and Allison prepared to go to the underground bunker, leaving Jo with crowd control.

She really didn’t like moments like that, the ones when she didn’t understand the science and Carter was doing the on the ground piece so she got stuck with behind the scenes work.

It wasn’t all the time, but it never helped her feel better about her job.

Time shifted again and Zane found himself pondering Jo’s last thoughts before concentrating on where she was now.

They had discovered the source of the sun, an out of control science experiment mixed with Herrera’s experiments. Zane said the sun was developing into a red super giant and blowing up.

Naturally they ordered an evacuation of the town, which is where Jo got to shine. She focused on her work and not on her worry. It wasn’t easy when people were still fighting about the election and not worrying about their lives.

She did her job though and she did it well. That is until she learned that Carter and Zane were going to be the ones to deliver the answer to their sun problem by going right into the danger zone.

She couldn’t help it, all of a sudden she knew, she just knew, how much Zane actually meant to her and the idea of him being so close to death, it frightened her. She risked her life all of the time and even though she loved Carter, she knew that was his job as well. Zane though, Zane was meant to be in a lab somewhere, that or making her scream or laugh.

As soon as she oversaw everyone out of town, she headed for GD. She entered the lab and heard the two of them talking.

“Having fun yet?” Zane asked Carter, grinning.

“Driving headlong into a fiery death is everybody's idea of a good time,” Carter said sarcastically.

“Sometimes I think it's his,” Jo said quietly. “Carter, could we have a minute?”

“Oh, yeah, yeah. Sure.”

Carter awkwardly left the room.

“Jo, you're supposed to be miles away at an evac camp by now.” Jo waited until he turned to look at her and then she put her hands on his face and kissed him. It was too hot for such close body contact, but she needed to touch him. She didn’t think now was the time for a lot of words and, frankly, she wasn’t great at them. But she could at least show him she cared. “Wow,” he whispered. “I should risk my life more often.”

“I prefer you didn't,” she said simply.

“Come on, Josefina, don't go all serious on me now,” he replied.

It was a moment, one in which she only had a short amount of time to answer. So she told him the truth, even if it wasn’t everything she could have said.

“It's too late.”

She didn’t wait to see his reaction on his face; she simply folded herself around him, laying her head on his chest. He put his arms around her and didn’t say anything. It was soon too hot to bear hugging him any along and he had to go, to try and save everyone.

“It’s time,” he said.

She nodded and followed him and they walked out of the lab to find Eva and Carter arguing. The end result was Carter ordering Jo to make sure Eva was evacuated.

Jo shot one last glance at Zane and did as she was told.

She made her way out of town and didn’t speak with a seething Eva. She waited like everyone else and she prayed with all her might and main they would be safe.

It worked, there was a brilliant explosion in the sky and then night suddenly fell, the heat wave breaking even if the air took longer to cool than she’d like.

She couldn’t deny the thumping in her heart as she heard Zane and Carter were okay. Whatever this was between her and Zane, she was well past the danger zone and the problem was, now he knew it.

The campaign results were still to be announced at Café Diem. Even though everyone was exhausted, everyone also wanted to celebrate. Jo supervised getting everyone back into town before heading there herself after showering all the sweat off of her and changing.

Zane stood there in a corner, his hands covered in bandages, which she lightly tapped.

“Glad to see you're okay,” she said.

“Me too,” he said.

There was a restless look about him and Jo decided not to pretend. She hated pretending, she hated games. She may not want to know what he thought, but she couldn’t go on like this.

“Look, about before,” she started to say.

“It's cool, Jo,” he interrupted. “It was a crisis. You were caught up in the moment.”

He was giving her an out. He wanted to go back to before. She couldn’t do that.

“No, I, I wasn't,” she said firmly, letting her face expand on what her mouth was saying.

She saw the panic well up in his eyes and he opened his mouth and closed it several times.

“You know, I, um,” he said, scratching behind his ear. “It’s been a really long day and I’m in pain and, uh, could use some rest. Could we talk about this later?”

“I’m happy to talk later,” she said quietly, but she was left feeling disappointed and rejected, with the smallest coals of anger starting to kindle.

“Cool, uh, later.”

He practically ran out of Café Diem and Jo didn’t stay either to hear the results. She had other things to think about.

***

Zane opened his eyes.

“Yikes,” he said.

“Yeah,” agreed Jo.

“Those were some pretty intense feelings you had there,” he said.

“And some intense running,” she pointed out. “Anything from you?”

“Well, not much between you and I,” he said. “I might have been enjoying a date with Karen when the sun appeared and then got roped into helping figure it out. That is when Henry got released back into town, on parole, then pardoned after he helped with the delivery system. Also made mayor. But I didn’t do the hero thing. I refused to go with Carter. He managed, mostly because of the cooling gel and Henry and because I think we came up with our plan much sooner than you guys did, not having to investigate the whole bunker theory.”

“Interesting,” she said. “Did I have words to say about you not going?”

“Coward being the most prevalent,” he offered. “I guess I was a coward in both timelines.”

“Sometimes the scariest things are not physical,” she said.

He laughed and leaned over to hug her.

“You’re too good to me,” he said.

“I know,” she answered.

He pulled back and studied her face.

“That really hurt you though, putting yourself out there and having him run like that.”

“It’s not the best feeling,” she admitted. “Like I’ve told you, I don’t have the best track record and, well, I’d been worried about him running out on me from the beginning.”

“I was such an idiot,” he said. “Honestly, Jo, he looked terrified.”

“Do you know why?” she asked.

“Did he ever tell you?” Zane asked in return.

“We did discuss it,” she said, “but I’d like your insight.”

“Well, before I came to Eureka,” Zane said, “my life was very transitory. I went from job to job, chasing the science, running from the law. I didn’t have safe places. I didn’t have a home.”

“Being in one place for so long must have been hard,” she said quietly.

“I was antsy all the time,” he said. “That’s partly why I pulled so many pranks. I think I wanted to test my boundaries as well. How far could I push before you guys threw me out?”

“Apparently not far enough,” she said, smiling.

“The idea of anyone wanting me enough to have me stay or me wanting someone enough to stay is still foreign to me,” he admitted. “I love our life, but it’s never something I thought I’d have.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“What you were offering him was something I don’t think he felt he deserved,” said Zane. “And it was an opportunity for him to screw it all up.”

“We’re way too alike,” she groaned, putting her head under a pillow for a minute.

“In some ways,” he said. “So he ran. Did he come back to you or did you have to go to him?”

“Wait and see,” said Jo slyly.

Zane shook his head.

“Such a tease.”

“Hey, you just put me through the wringer,” she pointed out.

“I was dashing and heroic,” he said. “I put my life on the line for the town.”

“Big deal, I do that every week,” she said, shrugging. “It’s like clockwork.”

“All right, Josefina, you’re unquestionably the true hero,” he said, pulling her closer to him. “I have to admit I’m surprised you didn’t say something sooner to him. You were so insistent at the beginning it shouldn’t just be about sex.”

“Yeah, well, it’s easier to fall into something than dig your way out,” said Jo. “I was a coward, too, you know. I didn’t want to lose it. I loved you, even if I couldn’t say it. It hurt too much, the idea of you not loving me, too.”

“I know the feeling,” he said. “But, Jo, just remember. It might have taken a near death experience, but you did put yourself out there and you didn’t back down when he offered you an out. That was courageous as hell.”

“It was more like I realized how much I wanted you,” she said. “I wanted all of you. The bits and pieces I had weren’t enough.”

“I know that feeling, too,” he said. “Lucky us, we don’t have to settle.”

“Settling is the worst,” she agreed.

“Anything else?” he asked.

“Just that I want to know more about how things go with Karen,” she said, poking him.

“Really?” he asked. “Because I’m smart enough to fade to black no matter what you threaten me with.”

“No, that’s fine,” she said emphatically. “But I’m curious about the rest of it. You always seemed so lonely and she must have been a big reason for you to stay.”

“Next time,” he promised.

“Fine,” she grumbled and he laughed at her.

Chapter Text

Zane opened the door for Jo and the others as they walked outside Café Diem.

“This was fun, guys,” Allison said, sliding her arm inside Carter’s. “It’s nice to get out and interact with adults instead of being at home with the baby.”

“Yeah, double dating with the Sheriff has always been my idea of a good time,” Zane agreed.

“Hey,” Carter said. “I thought we were past this.”

“Oh, we’ll always be a little bit by it,” Zane said, but he smiled.

Jo rolled her eyes and grabbed Zane’s hand.

“Gonna take this one home before one of us has to arrest him,” she said. “Goodnight and thanks for dinner.”

“Enjoy your evening,” Allison said.

Carter waved while Zane smirked at him.

“Does your self of identity feel threatened when someone assumes you’re not a criminal these days?” Jo asked as they drove home.

“Maybe, Dr. Lupo,” he said. “But maybe I can lie on your couch and discuss it some more when we get home.”

“Oh, no, we’re doing a memory run,” she said. “And then we’ll dissect ourselves.”

“You’re the boss, boss,” he said.

Zane set up the machine while Jo slipped into sleep wear.

“Ready?” she asked.

“Let’s go,” he agreed, pushing the button.

***

Zane found himself inside Café Diem, Jo moodily playing with her Vinspresso. She was pissed and Zane immediately realized the other Zane had not talked to her like he’d promised.

Jo stared into the distance, contemplating the perfect murder until Zoe walked past.

“Why do dads ruin everything?” she asked.

“Cause they're men and men are ruiners,” Jo said vehemently.

Zoe looked a little startled.

“Zane drama?”

Jo tried not to tell Zoe too much about Zane but right now she really wanted to tell someone.

“Fear. Okay, never date a coward. I put myself out there, commitment-wise, and he froze. We haven't talked since.”

“Well, here's your chance,” Zoe said, looking over Jo’s shoulder.

Zane walked in and sat down next to Jo at the counter. He started nervously drumming on it.

“Hey, Jo.” She didn’t even look at him, she couldn’t. “You, uh, eat yet? I thought maybe we could, you know, we could have a bite.”

“A bite,” she said mirthlessly. That was his opener? That was how he wanted to bridge the two week communication gap between them? “Well, we wouldn't want you to commit to a whole meal.”

“You got something to say?” he asked defensively.

“I already did,” she replied. “And you couldn't handle it.”

She got up and walked out of the Café and headed toward work. She didn’t really have any idea what she’d do once she got there, but she needed to be away from him. For the first week she’d tried to give him space, let him come to grips with what she did realize was a huge change for him. She’d called him then, he’d dodged the call, and literally hid from her. Now he wanted to talk, well, she was past talking and right into extremely pissed off. She didn’t know why she cared about the jackass at all.

Carter fortunately solved her work problem by sending her out to the trailer of Eva’s new pet scientist to try and investigate what he was doing in Eureka. Naturally when she got there, he didn’t answer.

“Thanks, Carter. That was pointless,” she muttered to herself.

Of course Zane was suddenly standing in front of her.

“Huh, found you,” he said.

She was startled into a question.

“How'd you get here?”

“I rode my bike,” he said and then a look she recognized appeared on his face. “And just so you know, this passive aggressive thing is really annoying.”

Doggedly seeking her out now was not helping his case.

“You wanna try just aggressive?” she asked.

“Uh, no. Not really.”

“I didn't think so. See ya,” she said, starting to walk away, to investigate the outside of the trailer. He looked frustrated and then started to leave. But then she saw something on the ground and realized she needed him. “Could you come here for a second?”

“Why? So you can hit me with that?” he asked petulantly.

“Well, not until you tell me what it is first.” He stared at her and she tried to play nice. “Please?”

He sighed and walked toward her, squatting beside her on the ground.

“Anodized aluminum with a trap valve,” was his succinct report.

“Okay. And that means?” she asked.

“It's a pressurized container of some kind. It's got a remote trigger,” he replied.

“For what?”

“To set it off at a distance. You wouldn't want to be anywhere near this when it went off.” She got up, something else catching her eye, her issues with him forgotten in the face of what she was looking at. “You could pack a hell of a lot of something in a device like this.”

“How much could you pack in about a thousand of them?” she asked, staring at the many unpacked cases lying around the trailer.

Zane didn’t really have an answer for her.

“We should get this back to GD,” he said finally.

“I’m calling it in,” Jo said, getting out her PDA.

They got a team out there and gathered everything carefully. Jo didn’t really want to, but she followed Zane back to GD and oversaw the security side while he began researching what was in the containers.

In the meantime she got a call from Carter telling her SARAH had tried to hurt Zoe, claiming she was an imposter. Zoe was okay, but Carter was clearly still worried. Once she updated him on her situation he came right over to GD.

He picked up one of the containers and began playing with it like it was a pickle jar he was trying to open.

“That one's almost empty, but I was able to analyze the leakage around the nozzle,” said Zane. “It's some kind of cement.”

“Well, so you know what Hendrix is doing with about a thousand of 'em?” Carter asked.

“No idea. Why don't you ask him?” Zane said. “While you're at it, find out why it has a remote trigger.” Carter dropped the container and Jo felt something cold creeping around her left foot. “There's also a manual release,” Zane finished, looking down at his own right foot.

“I see that,” Carter said sheepishly.

“I'm stuck,” Jo said, trying to move her foot out of the gray mass.

“Yeah. We're stuck. Together,” Zane said grimly.

“I'll find Hendrix,” Carter said, backing out of the room.

“Thank you,” Jo mouthed and she and Zane leaned on the counter together. “Perfect,” she said, a feeling of panic rising inside of her.

As close as she’d wanted to be to Zane, this was a little too close when she was still mad at him.

Zane felt somewhat amused. He knew what had happened during his go around in this timeline, but two lovers in a quarrel trapped together? That was going to be entertaining, even if it was technically his relationship on the line.

“Look, I’ll keep working on it,” Zane said.

“So I’m just going to sit here and look pretty?” she snapped.

“Well, you are pretty, so…”

“I’m one inch away from clubbing you over the head,” she warned him.

“Good luck getting out of this then,” said Zane. “You’ll be dragging around my unconscious body by your foot.” Jo sighed and held up her hands in silent surrender. Arguing wasn’t going to help them get out of this and she was angry about something else, not the foot thing. It was just aggravating it. “Maybe we can actually talk since we’re stuck with each other?” Zane offered.

“I hardly think this is the time or place for that particular conversation,” Jo said. “Just get our feet free.”

Zane sighed and acquiesced and she moodily thought that for a guy who hadn’t wanted to acknowledge her feelings, he was certainly feeling chatty all of a sudden.

After a long time of him working and her feeling her foot start to go to sleep, he finally hit the counter in frustration.

“Let’s try cutting it,” he said and gestured for one of his minions to bring him something long and pointy.

She wasn’t sure that was a bright idea, but she didn’t say anything, but leaned on the counter in boredom while he went to town on their feet and didn’t make a dent.

“Son of a-” he started to say and straightened up with a bent blade.” She just looked at him. “Don't you look at me in that tone of voice. This isn't my fault.”

His PDA rang and she was closer to it. He tried but she got it first.

“Dr. Bonehead's lab,” she answered.

“Let me guess you two are still stuck together?” said Carter on the other end.

“Just till I can reach my gun,” she said.

Zane huffed a sigh and grabbed the PDA from her, sticking it up to his ear.

“What'd you find out from Hendrix?” he asked. Jo couldn’t hear what Carter said, but she bet he didn’t say it right. “Nano-polymer syntactic foam?” Zane asked. “Wow.”

“What, wow?” she asked.

“Uh, nanoparticles are bound together at a molecular level,” he said in an aside to her. “Did Hendrix have any idea how to get out of it?”

Zane’s face went white and Jo grabbed for the phone, but he held it out of her reach.

“What is he saying?” she demanded.

“That we saw our legs off,” he said tightly, hanging up.

“Oh,” was her response.

“Yeah, oh.”

“Why don’t you keep working?” she suggested.

“I’m gonna keep working,” he agreed.

Zane turned chemist on her and started mixing and testing, handing her a pair of safety glasses wordlessly and putting on his own pair.

“What if I have to go to the bathroom?” she finally asks.

“Why do you think I'm working so fast? I had four cups of coffee this morning,” he replied. He reached over her to grab something and then stopped, looking at how close their faces were. “This isn't so bad,” he said softly.

She couldn’t stop the normal fluttering in her stomach at his close proximity. She almost started to smile. Naturally Carter chose that moment to stop by.

“Hey, guys. You pick out a china pattern yet?” They simultaneously faked laughter at him and Zane started to march them behind the counter. “No, hold on. I need Jo for a second,” Carter said.

“I'm kinda busy right now,” said Zane, “and that means that…”

“What, my job is less important than yours?” she demanded, cozy feelings gone again.

“Well, that depends,” he grunted, moving them forward again. “Can you do it with one leg?”

That didn’t stop Carter from following them and spreading out maps for the underground bunker on the counter, but Jo continually felt sharp pulls on her leg as Zane moved here and there around the counter.

“If Hendrix seals the facility before we get a warrant, we're screwed,” said Carter.

“It's a big place. There's gotta be a weak spot,” Jo said.

Zane mumbled something behind them, but Jo ignored him.

“So if we find out where it is and protect it,” said Carter.

“We can get in later,” Jo finished.

“Okay, take a closer look right over here, right? There's an air shaft just there. I think it goes down to the second level.”

“I need my tools!” Zane finally yelled and Jo understood what all the muttering and tugging was about.

“Geez, no need to shout,” she said, and moved down the counter with him.

Carter’s PDA rang.

“Carter,” he answered. “What? I’m on my way. It’s Zoe,” he yelled on his way out the door.

Jo exchanged a worried look with Zane.

“Look, do you think someone else can help with this?” Zane asked. “If Hendrix can tell me what he used, I could come up with something a lot faster.”

“I’ll call Allison,” said Jo.

She did, explaining the situation and then learning what Allison had learned about Eva.

She hung up and told Zane Allison would take care of it.

He continued working, but now Jo had nothing to do but be worried about Zoe and her eyes and her life.

“Hand me that?” Zane asked.

She handed him the instrument in question.

“Do you think Zoe will be okay?” she asked quietly, needing to stop overthinking it.

“Henry will look after her,” Zane said. “He’s the best.”

“But what if the bunker gets sealed and what she needs is down there?” Jo asked.

“Hey, JoJo,” Zane said, putting one tentative hand on her shoulder, “you got the best people on this and you’re not one for worrying about the future. You do something about it.”

“I can’t do much of anything limb locked with you,” she said wryly.

“I can think of a few things,” he said smugly.

She automatically swatted his hand off her shoulder and got about half of her righteous indignation back.

Hendrix soon arrived under Allison’s thumb and Zane showed him his progress.

“You got the right dissolving chain here, but you're gonna need francium 227AC, and there's less than an ounce of that on Earth,” Hendrix said obnoxiously.

“Yeah, except for the stash here at GD,” Zane said.

“You're kidding, right?” asked Hendrix.

“I'll order it up,” said Zane. “But we'll only be able to make up a few milligrams,” he said, starting to limp before Jo was ready and wrenching her along.

They worked on the solvent and then moved to the med bay, which was a lot of fun, limping to get to. Jo had gotten one hell of a one leg work out today. Zane was also starting to bother her again, acting like everything was fine now that there was a solution being implemented.

“This solvent might work,” said Hendrix. “Just FYI, there's a chance of a slight explosion.”

“No, wait. Explosion?” panicked Zane.

“Just do it,” said Jo. He poured it on their combined feet and they exchanged a look before the Instantanium glowed and then burst. “Thank God!” Jo said, spinning away from Zane’s arm on her waist.

“Oh, look, it worked. You're free!” said Lexi as Jo practically ran out of the room.

“Yes, in another five minutes, I would have chewed off my own leg!” she yelled pointedly at Zane.

“Your mouth is probably big enough,” he called out after her.

Her leg felt exactly like she would expect it to feel after being compressed in cement for hours, but she kept on moving it, getting the blood back in. She submitted to a scan and then met back with everyone, unfortunately, that included Zane, to figure out how to get Carter out of the bunker now that he’d been sealed in.

“I know where he’ll be,” she told everyone. “It’s the air shaft. I just need to get down there and I need more of that solution.”

“Well, let’s go then,” Zane said.

“I can do it,” she said, putting out a hand to stop him.

“Look, Miss Action Hero,” he said. “You may be able to get down there, but somebody else should go with you, someone with experience in that bunker, experience with Instantanium, and strong enough to help you carry him.”

“Fine,” she gritted through her teeth.

Zane felt a little bit like a yo yo, bouncing back and forth in Jo’s feelings as she went back and forth on what she thought about the other him. He wondered how often she’d done that for him?

They didn’t speak on the way and Hendrix expressed his doubts when he got there.

“Look, I know this was a rush job, but I did seal the entire facility,” he said.

“Well, every fortified position has its weak point. I'm thinking yours is down at the bottom of that ventilation shaft,” explained Jo.

“You might know that, but how does Carter know that?” Zane asked.

“We looked at the same schematic,” she said, confused and then saw an opportunity. “See, when two people really know each other, then they're in sync, and when they're partners…”

“I get it,” he said, a jealous glare on his face. “Could you just drive the car, please?”

She drove, pulling the cover off the disguised capped well.

They made their way down the shaft before hitting a wall of Instantanium.

“Look, it’s our old friend,” she said. “Care to do the honors?”

“This is your rescue mission,” he said, handing her the solvent.

There was a now familiar glow as the cement superheated and dissolved in the air.

Jo landed on the ground with a flourish and felt an immense flush of pride when she saw Carter and Eva staring back at her.

“Good afternoon! My name is Jo Lupo and I'll be saving your ass today.”

“Someone ought to promote you,” Carter said, smiling proudly.

“Yeah,” Jo agreed.

She felt Zane grinning behind her and they started the work of making their way back up and exchanging information.

Of course, things couldn’t be simple from there. The same material that had infected Zoe and was causing her to age was in Eureka’s water and they would all be exposed and the town destroyed.

Jo got showered and changed while everyone else figured out what to do. It’s not like she had the science know-how to figure it out. When she got back General Mansfield had arrived, angry as she’d ever seen him, and Zane had found a really big bomb started by the three men trapped down there in the 1930s.

Jo sat with Zoe and Lexi as Zane worked on getting the bomb ready to go and it was set to remote trigger once he was clear.

She was surprised that he joined her in the med lab for the countdown rather than anywhere else at GD. But she wasn’t upset. Anger or not, hurt or not, she cared deeply about him. If they all were going to die horribly, well, beside him wasn’t such a bad place to be.

It made her volunteer to take him when he went to access the water table to see if it worked or not. She was finally ready to talk.

“The sensor's into the water table. It'll take a few seconds to get the reading,” he said.

“And let us know if we're all gonna die,” she summed up.

“Pretty much.”

“Well, no matter how it turns out…” she started.

“It's been a fun day,” he said, grinning.

“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I guess it was,” she said, because she really did like excitement and adrenaline rushes and being close to him.

“Nice to end the relationship on a high note,” he said next.

All of her nice feelings ended like a rush of cold water, but she couldn’t say anything in response. After all, she’d been the one rebuffing him all day.

“So what's the verdict?” she asked, trying to keep her voice calm.

“The explosion's completely neutralized the baryogenic radiation in the aquifer. The groundwater's safe,” he announced.

“Well, good for us,” she said.

“I, I should call Allison,” he said.

“Yeah.” She turned to leave and decided she couldn’t leave it there. “After that call, if you maybe wanna go for a…you know, break-up dinner?”

“No,” he said immediately and she tried not to feel even more hurt. “How about a make-up dinner instead?”

She couldn’t stop the smile from spreading on her face and walked back to him and kissed him, his arms going to her hips as naturally as they ever did.

“Guess it's not so bad being stuck together,” she said softly.

He grinned and pulled out his PDA, updating Allison.

“Now, where were we?” he asked, hanging it up.

“Making up,” she said.

“I like making up,” he said. “It’s a lot like making out.”

“Need a hand with your equipment?” she asked, gesturing toward his set up.

“Sure. After all, we do work in sync…like partners?” he suggested.

“Like partners,” she said. “That is…if you’re okay with this being something a little bit more than a casual dating relationship?”

“I’m sorry I ran like that,” he said, clearing his throat awkwardly. “It wasn’t what I expected and I just needed some time.”

“I gave you a week,” she said.

“I know, but I’m…skittish,” he said, a hopeful smile spreading across his face.

“So, what conclusions did you come to after your two weeks?” she asked, almost afraid to ask, but she needed to know before she let them fall back into something just because it felt good.

He reached out and took her hand and she looked down at their intertwined fingers.

“I didn’t know it,” he said, “but being with you is better than being without you. So, us, we’re moving toward something. It’s not just fun, not just great sex. It’s us. I care about you, JoJo.”

“Well, that was a pretty good response,” she said, her heart feeling utterly soothed. “So it’s not just me getting serious?”

“Definitely not just you,” he said, tilting her chin up and kissing her lightly. “I don’t know what this is and I’m not good at this, Jo. But I’m willing to try. Be patient with me?”

“Not my strong suit,” she said, “but I can’t say I’m great at it either.”

“You’re just quicker on the uptake,” he said. “Now, shall we get that dinner and then have the best makeup sex of all time?”

“Great activities, bad order of events,” she said, and leaned forward to kiss him again.

He got her hint quickly enough and responded enthusiastically and Jo spared a brief prayer of thanks through her lust ridden thoughts that she didn’t have to lose this.

***

“Wow,” said Zane, opening his eyes and looking wide-eyed at Jo.

“What?” she asked.

“You’re one risqué deputy,” he said, “seducing a man in an open field.”

“We did have a private van,” she said, blushing.

“Wow again,” he said. “So that was the makeup story, huh?”

“It was indeed. Did it thrill you?” she asked, leaning back on the couch and stretching.

“It was a bit of a roller coaster. I’ve never felt so many conflicting emotions in my life,” he said, laughing.

“Well, you were a jerk,” she said, cracking one eye open.

“And you were stuck with me,” he said.

“Ha ha,” she said. “Yes, stuck. And then we finally talked and you admitted your true feelings for me.”

“I don’t think that boy knows what true feelings are,” said Zane and he meant it.

“Neither of us had really had experience with it,” said Jo. “Give us credit for making due.”

“I give you all the credit,” he said. “Now, do you wanna see how truly horrible it is to be stuck to me?”

“You too?” she asked, eyes wide.

“Me too,” he said, and reset the device.

***

Zane was having a good day, Jo could tell. He was humming and feeling good after a workout and shower. There was a knock at the door and he hastily slung a shirt over his head.

Zane opened the door and saw Karen standing here.

“Hello, beautiful,” he said, greeting her with a light kiss. “You ready for a picnic?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” she said. “I’m driving though.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said.

They made light conversation on their way to the fields out of town, within Zane’s technical tether of Eureka, but far away from prying eyes.

There was an old trailer in the field used for visiting personnel to the town, but Zane didn’t think anyone was occupying it at the moment.

He spread out his food and they enjoyed a nice meal together.

“Are you back on the Sheriff’s good side yet?” asked Karen.

“The guy likes to give me chances,” said Zane. “But my refusal to help was put in my file and I guess Mansfield happened to read it that day and now he’s all hopped up about me again. Wants me back under house arrest or something. I might have also gone in and fudged a few of my file details and I guess he didn’t like what I did.”

“Zane, it’s stuff like that-”

“I know, I know. It doesn’t help Lupo absolutely backs his play. But either way, it’s Carter’s problem, not mine,” Zane said disarmingly.

“Just be the charming idiot I know is in there,” she said, sighing.

“Hey, an IQ like mine does not play idiot,” he said, kissing her again.

“Ugh, I might be sick,” said a voice he was not looking to hear behind them.

“Deputy, what a pleasure,” he said, without looking. “What are you doing out here?”

“Real work,” Lupo said. “A concept I know you’re not familiar with. However, since you’re here, can you look at something for me?”

“You want my help?” he asked incredulously. “I’m flattered and frightened.”

“Just come here,” said Lupo.

Zane wandered along behind her toward the trailer, holding Karen’s hand.

“What’s going on here?” he asked.

“Carter and I don’t know why this guy suddenly showed up in town with GD’s blessing,” said Lupo. “He’s not here, but I found this canister and whole bunch like it.”

He squatted down next to where she was pointing.

“Anodized aluminum with a trap valve,” he said after a moment.

“Okay. And that means?” Lupo asked.

“It's a pressurized container of some kind. It's got a remote trigger.”

“For what?” she asked.

“To set it off at a distance. You wouldn't want to be anywhere near this when it went off.” She bent to put the container on the ground. “You could pack a hell of a lot of something in a device like this.” Her attention was caught by a flash of movement and she didn’t look as she let go. He lunged to stop her hands. “Wait, there’s a manual release as well!”

He was too late. Something like cement exploded over their one of each of their feet and left them trapped together.

“I’m stuck,” she said, panic in her voice.

“Yeah, me too,” he said.

A quick flash caught his attention and he looked up to see Karen putting her PDA away.

“I’m sorry, but it was just too good an opportunity,” she said, a hint of laughter in her voice. “Now, let’s get you two back to GD.”

Jo had to like what Karen had done there. She wondered if that photo was still anywhere.

Zane quickly found out that walking in sync with someone who hated you was difficult. It felt like no matter which way he wanted to move, Lupo wanted to move the opposite way.

It was even worse when you were dragging a bunch of cement around with you.

Back at GD, Zane got to work trying to figure it out with a silently seething Lupo being slung around with him like a resentful statue. Karen left them alone, coordinating an investigation with Carter into Hendrix’s background.

“Carter, it’s Jo,” Lupo said on her PDA. “You had better talk to Hendrix. You are? What did he say?” She nudged Zane hard in the ribs. “It's a nano-polymer syntactic foam.”

Zane groaned but logged the information away.

“Get me a cutting tool,” he asked a passing intern.

Of course the cutting tool didn’t work very well and ended up bending the blade.

“Any more bright ideas, genius?” Lupo asked.

“Do not blame me for this,” he snapped. “I was out with my girlfriend, peaceably enjoying a nice picnic. In walks the Deputy needing my help and since she clumsily-”

“I don’t think so,” said Lupo dangerously. “If anything, you shouldn’t have lunged at me.”

“I was trying to prevent this!” he said, gesturing emphatically at their feet.

“Nice job,” she said.

“Look, just let me figure this out so we can both get out of here,” he said.

“We better because I had four cups of coffee this morning and I refuse to share that with you on any level,” Lupo growled.

“Noted,” he said.

“Sawing through our legs as Hendrix suggested is also not an option,” she said.

“Ew, of course not,” he said. “Just hand me that.”

She passed him the device without comment.

Zane worked through several more hours like this, occasionally getting death glares and sarcastic comments from Lupo. Gradually, he thought he found a solution, but it would likely need something else, something he couldn’t put his finger on.

Carter came in and while Lupo tried to keep it a quiet conversation, Zane was literally attached to her.

“Hendrix was hired by someone that he can’t name,” said Carter. “To seal up some bunker no one’s ever heard of. That’s what the Instantanium was for.”

“Why does the bunker need to be sealed?” asked Lupo.

“Berry-o something radiation,” said Carter.

“What?” squawked Zane, overhearing.

“Can it and work,” said Lupo.

“Hendrix thought this was all legit,” said Carter. “He doesn’t know anything about why, just that he was supposed to seal something. I don’t even know how it got opened because there’s a new hole in the Tesla basement and an air shaft disguised as a capped well. I’m going to go down there and check it out.”

“It’s set to be filled!” Lupo hissed.

“Yeah, but the Director had a scan going and discovered that berry radiation stuff is probably in our water supply. We need to know what else is going on down there.”

“Can Hendrix be sent to me if you’re done interrogating him?” Zane cut in. “I think he may have the solution to our little conjoined twin problem.”

“Sure thing, Zane,” said Carter.

Hendrix was brought up and he was slightly arrogant which Zane didn’t like.

“You got the right dissolving chain here, but you're gonna need francium 227AC, and there's less than an ounce of that on Earth,” Hendrix said obnoxiously.

“Yeah, except for the stash here at GD,” Zane said.

“How do you know that?” Lupo asked with narrowed eyes.

“You're kidding, right?” asked Hendrix.

“I'll order it up,” said Zane. “But we'll only be able to make up a few milligrams,” he said, starting to limp before Lupo was ready and wrenching her along.

They worked on the solvent and then moved to the med bay, which was a lot of fun, limping to get to.

“This solvent might work,” said Hendrix. “Just FYI, there's a chance of a slight explosion.”

“No, wait. Explosion?” panicked Zane.

“Just do it,” said Lupo. He poured it on their combined feet and they exchanged a look before the Instantanium glowed and then burst. “Thank God!” Lupo said, spinning away from Zane.

“Oh, look, it worked. You're free!” said Lexi as Lupo practically ran out of the room.

“Yes, in another five minutes, I would have chewed off my own leg!” she yelled pointedly at Zane.

“Your mouth is probably big enough,” he called out after her.

Suddenly pandemonium ensued and Zane didn’t know why, but found out the Instantanium had been set off and Carter was trapped underground.

Lupo set off in a panic to go find him and Zane went to try and find Karen.

She was working with the rest of the GD security team.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“Lupo got Carter out,” Karen said. “He had a lot of papers and stuff he brought up. They’re looking through it now to try and find a way to neutralize this element.”

“I guess my part in this is done,” he said. “Do you still have to work?”

“Zane,” Karen said, looking at him. “Why don’t you offer to help?”

“Because every time I do, something bad happens or I’m royally rebuffed by the resident Deputy,” said Zane. “I’m not some weird hero type like Carter, you know. I’m a scientist and while that embodies an element of risk, it shouldn’t be at the level that envelops this whole crazy town.”

“You can’t be afraid to help people because of rejection,” said Karen. “You’re smart and you can help, so go help.”

“You’re a very bad influence,” he said, kissing her cheek.

“You know I talked to my boss, and they’re impressed with your work,” Karen said. “If you can stay out of trouble, I bet we can talk about your arrangement here. Helping out here, will go a long way.”

Zane nodded and went to where Douglas, Carter, Henry, and Allison were discussing the problem.

“Is there anything I can do?” he said as humbly as he knew how.

Douglas looked at him in contempt but Carter drew him in.

“Zane, pore over these schematics, will you? We need to find something to help us figure out what was going on down there.”

Zane did so while the others argued about calling in the General. For once Douglas was against it. Zane bet that was because he didn’t want to have to explain how someone had managed to hire Hendrix and undercover this bunker without anybody realizing it.

“All I can find here are designs for some kind of a bomb, a big bomb,” Zane finally said.

“Those bodies we found. They spent their last days working on a doomsday weapon?” asked Allison.

“Maybe the bomb was the solution,” said Carter. “Does it say anywhere that the bomb created a lot of non – bary…”

“Non-baryogenic radiation?” filled in Zane. “Yes. Yeah, they were talking twenty, thirty kilotons. That's enough to irradiate ten square miles.”

“Could that fix the town?” asked Carter.

“A range like that would certainly reach the aquifer. I mean, it might work,” said Allison.

“Sure, if they actually built the thing. It doesn't say how far they got,” said Zane.

“There’s only one way to find out,” said Carter. “You up for it?” he asked Zane.

Just then General Mansfield entered the room followed by Lupo.

“Director, what the hell is going on in this town?” he demanded.

Zane tried to make himself look small.

Douglas attempted to explain the situation, but it was mostly Allison who took over.

“We’re going to go down now, to try and find the bomb,” said Carter.

“So our solution is to blow something up?” asked Mansfield.

“Yes, sir,” said Carter. “Zane and I-”

“Oh no,” said Mansfield. “I’m not trusting something like this to Donovan. He’s a felon here on probation who already helped take two people’s lives and last month ran away from fixing the town. Choose someone else.”

“With all due respect, sir,” said Carter, “Zane is the best person for the job.”

“I don’t care. Find another person,” said Mansfield in a tone that brooked no argument.

Zane felt something like rebellion seething inside his chest, but he said nothing.

Carter gave him a small, apologetic smile and left the room. Zane went straight back to Karen.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, when she saw him.

“I’m tired of trying to prove myself,” he said. “Mansfield banned me from helping. But I know I can do this, Karen. Get me down there, Carter won’t mind.”

She searched his face for a long moment before nodding.

She cleared his way and he gathered equipment. He found himself about an hour behind Carter and the other technicians when he made his way down into the bunker.

“Zane!” Carter said in surprise. “Did the General send you?”

“Nope,” Zane said honestly.

Carter muttered under his breath.

“We’re all going to get in trouble for this. How’d you get down here? Jo had it sealed off.”

“You’re not the only one with a girl in security,” Zane said.

“You’re lucky that Cannison is not making any headway with the bomb we found. I could really use you,” Carter said.

“Lead the way,” said Zane.

Carter led him to the right room and Zane whistled at the size of the bomb.

“Can you do it?” Carter asked after Zane had fiddled around for a while.

“Watch me work,” said Zane. “It’s gonna take a bit.” He jerked his head for everyone to get out and then started in. It felt good to settle in to his routine. “All right, baby, all you have to do is neutralize a radioactive water table and we are good.” Zane spoke into the other room. “The bomb's primed and ready to go. It's hot-wired into the timing circuits down here.”

“Great work, Zane,” said Carter.

“That wasn't me, it was the dead guys,” said Zane. “It's set up so you can start the countdown remotely.”

“I’ll call it in and we’ll get clear,” Carter replied, getting on his PDA.

“Okay. Just got one more thing to do.”

Zane grabbed chalk and signed his name on the bomb with the other three men he knew nothing about but who had apparently died for this bomb.

He and Carter left the bunker and found themselves face to face with a surprised Lupo.

“What is he doing here?” Lupo asked. “You heard the General.”

“Cannison would still be figuring out how to turn it on,” said Zane.

“Carter, this will be bad,” said Lupo, shaking her head.

“Jo, did you evacuate the area above the facility?” asked Carter.

“Of course,” she said.

They made their way back to GD and waited for the countdown to start.

The General was in the middle of reprimanding Douglas.

“You've created a problem so big the solution is to detonate an atomic bomb,” he said.

“I know, right? How cool is that?” Zane said before he could help himself.

Carter and Lupo shot him identical looks of dismay and he shut his mouth.

“In our defense, sir,” said Douglas. “This problem was created by an outside source.”

“And one I expect you to find,” said Mansfield. “Now, does someone want to tell me what Donovan was doing down there when I directly gave orders against it?”

“I took him, sir,” said Karen from the door. “He was the best person for the job.”

“And I agree,” said Carter. “We’d still be trying to figure out the bomb, General.”

The countdown began.

“You put all of our lives in his hands,” said Mansfield.

Zane suddenly didn’t feel so good about that.

The countdown hit zero and they didn’t blow up, so there was that.

“Now we just have to find out if it worked with the water,” said Henry.

“In the meantime,” the General said. “I want Carter, Lupo, Director Fargo, the head of GD security, and you,” he pointed at Karen, “in the Director’s office now. We’re going to have a little chat about insubordination.”

Jo winced. That couldn’t be good. Time shifted on her. Zane was looking in the mirror, clearly not as happy as when this started.

Zane walked toward the knock on the door, slinging his shirt over his head.

“Hey, beautiful,” he told Karen.

“Hey,” she said.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have asked you to get involved.”

“I know,” she said. “Zane, this was my decision. I don’t regret it. Neither does Carter.”

“I don’t get why you risked that for me,” Zane whispered, hot guilt bubbling inside his gut.

“Maybe one day you will,” Karen said. “Just pay attention to the next time someone risks something for you, okay?”

“Okay,” he said, a little confused.

“I have a car waiting for me,” she said. “Goodbye, Zane.”

She gave him a hug.

“Goodbye,” he said.

He was left staring at his closed door and wondering just why it was he stuck around this town.

***

Zane opened his eyes and stamped down on the feelings of disappointment he’d known he would feel after that particular memory.

“So you lied to me,” Jo said carefully.

“Excuse me?” he asked, staring at her.

“When I freed you to clear your name and you came back, you told me you came back because no one had ever risked their neck for you before.”

“I guess I meant since her,” he said, shrugging.

Jo nodded knowingly.

“You did what she asked and paid attention.”

“And I was rewarded with a wife,” he said, gesturing toward Jo.

“Lucky wife,” she said quietly. “So did Carter get fired as well?”

“Yup, and the head of GD security,” said Zane. “From what I heard, that Fargo threw them all under the bus. The only reason I didn’t go back to prison was because I had technically saved the town. But I could tell the General wasn’t happy about that, but he couldn’t do anything, not when I was just following the orders of the people above me.”

“Did the other me argue against you?” she asked quietly.

“Not for me going to prison, but definitely for Carter,” said Zane.

She nodded, clearly thinking.

“I’m sorry about Karen,” she said. “Do you know where she is?”

“Chicago?” Zane guessed, cocking his head to the side. “Postcards for a while, but she was okay.”

“Do you think that picture of us exists anywhere?” Jo asked next.

Zane laughed.

“Man, I hope so. I should try and find it. Fairly certain PDA records are housed on the GD mainframe somewhere.”

“I could authorize such a search,” Jo said, smiling. “We could put it on our fridge.”

“Gladly,” he said. “So, anything else? Those were some intense ones.”

“I still find it so interesting that the same events happened despite everything being so different,” said Jo. “So you have no idea who opened the bunker?”

“As far as I know, they never found out,” said Zane. “But after hearing your side of the story, I think Eva must be out there somewhere.”

“Those events did occur before we went back and changed the timeline,” said Jo musingly. “It wouldn’t surprise me. She was a wily one. She must not have been able to come to Eureka herself so she just tried to seal everything with Hendrix.”

“Some things are meant to be, I guess,” he said.

“I’m glad we’re part of that,” she said.

“Even if it took some extremely drastic measures for me to get it through my head,” he admitted.

“But you got there in the end,” she said, stretching herself out to lean against his chest.

“Twice,” he said.

“Well, I think I was the one who needed convincing this time,” she said.

“Well, you had more information,” he replied.

“Which is why we’re doing this,” she said.

“True.”

“Were you okay after that?” she asked after a moment. “Did life become really difficult?”

“I might have been a little more inclined to pranks,” he admitted. “Spent more time in your holding cell.”

“That’s my Zane,” she said. “I don’t mean this in a jealous way, but how serious were you about Karen?”

He thought for a moment.

“Not as serious as your Zane was about you,” he said. “You remember how you told me how nice it was to be friends with me this time around?”

“Yeah.”

“It was nice being Karen’s friend. And then she left before I had the chance to fall further like your Zane clearly did with you. So I don’t know. I think it’s fine, though.”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t get heartbroken,” she said.

“Me too,” he admitted.

Chapter Text

Zane poked his head into Jo’s office.

“Are you done yet?” he whined.

“You sound like a child,” she said, barely looking up.

“Well, it’s cause I really wanna go home.”

For once they’d driven together today because they had plans for a memory run. Of course Jo found more paperwork to do. It was completely unfair because he’d shut all his experiments down early.

“All right, all right,” said Jo, finishing writing something and then sliding the paperwork inside her desk.

She did a onceover of her office before she was apparently satisfied everything was secure.

They reached home and then ate before setting up the device.

“What have we got today?” he asked.

“A short one, I think,” she said.

“Then let’s go.”

***

Zane sat as Jo in Café Diem. She was feeling hot and frustrated and strangely excited. He was intrigued as to why that would be.

Jo picked at her food and then glanced up as Carter came over.

“A coffee and a doughnut! You're already eating like a Sheriff,” he said, sitting next to her.

“It's a sixteen grain protein bagel and I am not Sheriff,” Jo corrected him.

“All right, acting Sheriff. Just until the DOD makes it official. You happy?”

Jo smiled softly.

“Carter, you know I've always wanted your job. And I deserve it. And I'll probably do it better than you did.”

“Yeah, you will,” he said.

“I want it, but not like this,” she said.

She was upset about how unfair this all felt. She would miss Carter terribly. And Zoe. Plus, it felt wrong.

“I know. I'm proud of you anyway,” he said and she felt a rush of happiness.

His opinion did mean a lot to her.

They were interrupted by a rather pregnant Allison.

“I needed to see the both of you. I have news about the Sheriff's position,” she said.

“General Mansfield came around and he's gonna rehire Carter?” Jo said hopefully.

“No,” Allison admitted.

“Congratulations, Sheriff Lupo,” said Carter proudly.

“And it's not Jo either,” Allison said regretfully. “Sorry, they have hired a replacement. He will be here any minute.”

Carter and Jo exchanged glances and Jo immediately felt a wave of resentment and anxiety. It was bad enough Carter was going, but once again, they didn’t think she was good enough for the job.

They went over to the station and found nothing but a box.

“So I guess he sent his stuff ahead,” Carter said.

“And he's late on his first day,” Jo added.

“He gave me his phone number. Let me give him a call,” said Allison, digging out her PDA.

A ringing issued from the box.

“He sent his cell phone ahead?” Jo asked contemptuously.

Carter walked toward the box and opened it to reveal a robot of some kind who started to speak. Carter closed the box again.

“That’s very creepy,” he said.

“That is the latest in dynamic copolymers,” said Fargo walking in.

“Oh, is this one of your freaky inventions?” asked Carter.

“No. This is a $2.9 billion DOD program. I'll have him on duty in two shakes of an artificial lamb's tail.”

Jo caught on before the other two and she immediately started pulling off her badge.

“Fargo, are you saying the new Sheriff of Eureka is a robot?” asked Allison.

“The biggest advance in soft-robotics since the Furby. You can't expect just any anthropomorph to replace Sheriff Jack Carter.”

“That's it,” Jo said, handing her badge to Allison. “Passed over again? I don't think so.”

“Come on, Jo,” said Carter as she walked out.

“I quit.” She flung her belt and gun on the counter. “I am not working for that thing!”

She was so angry she didn’t know what she wanted to do. All she knew was that she was being replaced by a robot. Okay, Carter was being replaced by a robot, but a robot was considered better than her. It was a blatant message and one she didn’t intend to take lightly.

She didn’t really know where her feet were taking her until she realized she was standing outside of Zane’s apartment. She hesitated before she knocked. Maybe this was too much to dump on him? But then again…they had been growing closer. She blushed and felt slightly better because of how close they had gotten. She knocked.

“Jo?” Zane asked, looking sleepy.

She belatedly remembered this was his day off.

“Uh, sorry. Did I wake you?” she asked.

“It’s okay. Come in.” He gestured her inside. “Something up?”

“I just…I’m upset,” she said.

“Well, you’re not throwing things, so I’m guessing it’s not at me,” he said, grinning lightly. “Tell me?”

“There’s a new Sheriff,” she said, sitting on his couch with her legs drawn up.

“And it’s not you,” he surmised, sitting against the back of the armrest, facing her.

“No, it’s not me. And it’s not just that it’s not me. It’s not Carter and it’s not human. It’s a stupid robot,” she said.

“The dynamic copolymer project?” Zane asked, his eyes lighting up. She shot him a look. “Uh, right, sorry. Um, bad science, very bad.”

“You can like the science,” she said, feeling tired.

“No, Jo. I don’t like anything that makes you feel like this,” he said, scooting closer and poking at her with his pajama clad leg.

“Thanks,” she said. “I’m just really mad and I quit.”

“What?” he asked. “You quit? As in you’re no longer law enforcement?”

“Keep up, dummy,” she said.

“That’s a big deal, Jo,” he said, taking in a big breath.

“Yeah, I know. It’s my life.” She picked at the fabric of his couch. “I don’t know what to do now,” she said.

Zane didn’t answer for a moment and she felt a little bad about the pressure she was putting on him. But that is what relationships were for, right? She glanced up at him and saw he had an idea.

“Well, you’ll figure it out,” he said. “I’ve never known you to not be in complete control. Except you know…” He waggled his eyebrows and she huffed out a laugh. “In the meantime though,” he said, extending a hand to her. “I think we should take a drive.”

“A drive?” she asked.

“On my bike,” he said. “It’s good for clearing your head.”

It actually sounded like a good idea. He changed and showered while she put on some of her civilian clothes she’d left at his place and then they got on his bike and drove.

Eureka wasn’t huge, but it was big enough that she could put her arms around his waist and feel the wind whipping her hair under her helmet and know that at least she still had this. They drove for a long time and it was incredibly freeing. She was infinitely grateful he had suggested it. Nothing magically helped her problems go away, but it gave her space to think and feel and be with someone she trusted at the same time.

Zane was impressed. A good move from past Zane. It was moments like this that he’d wanted to see, wanted to steal for his own and keep. The feeling of Jo feeling safe and happy with him.

Jo still had to figure out what to do now, but she figured she could help Carter with his unofficial investigation as to why trees had suddenly crashed down the night before. Of course, it was difficult considering no one would talk to them without their badges.

She didn’t care as much as Carter did. For some reason he still really cared and she knew he wasn’t ready to let go of this town. Not that she was ready to let go of it. It had been her home a lot longer than his. With her family scattered over the world in the service, this was all she had. If she couldn’t find another job here…well, then she’d have to leave because she couldn’t afford to live here and they wouldn’t really let her live here otherwise.

So she helped with the investigation, having lunch with Carter, Henry, and Lexi, and spending a lot of time wondering about the future.

She got a message from Zane later and smiled when she read it.

Feel so much safer breaking the law now

It was his own way of telling her how good she was.

Carter kept up his investigation and Jo made sure to alert him of the small things, like traffic lights literally embedding themselves in the ground. Gravity was starting to become an issue.

Jo did what she did best and protected the town, protected the people. She remembered how much she loved it, how much it felt like a part of her. It would be like death letting it go.

So when Carter and Andy saved the town and Henry and Andy figured out how to save Carter’s job…well, she stopped by the church. Reverend Harper wasn’t there but Jo sat in a pew for a while thinking about what to do. Something told her that she wasn’t supposed to go anywhere just yet. There were things for her to do, people for her to save here. Maybe someday she’d move on, something would change, but not yet.

She met Carter outside the Sheriff’s office the morning after his going away party and she kept her job as Deputy.

“Deputy Lupo,” Carter said happily.

“Sheriff Carter. I'm just staying because I hate job interviews,” Jo said innocently. “What would you consider your greatest weakness? What kind of dumb-ass question is that, seriously?”

“It's gonna happen for you, Jo. It will,” he said.

“I really don't care,” she said, and in a strange way she meant it.

“Yeah, you do,” he said. “And you're gonna be a great Sheriff.”

“Damn skippy, I will,” she said.

They smiled and walked down the street of their town. Jo sent a message to Zane.

Back on the clock so get your law breaking ass back to work

***

“Be still, my beating heart,” Zane said, smiling at Jo.

“It was romantic in its own way,” she said, poking him.

“Well, my timeline was less romantic, but still quite dramatic,” he said.

“Can’t wait,” she said.

***

Zane hurried from his car in to work. It had been a long couple of months while Eureka figured out what was going on with itself. General Mansfield had been on the warpath, Sheriff Carter had been fired, and since Lupo was in charge…Zane had been extra good. Maybe that was just because Karen was gone, he didn’t know. But he was being careful until he figured out which way the wind blew.

It did pay to keep your ears open though as he passed by the GD Security office and heard Douglas on the phone with someone at the DOD.

“Understood, sir. The unit is being sent to the Sheriff’s office as we speak. I’m sending Larry to get it booted up. He’ll inform Lupo and Carter.”

Zane was intrigued. Suddenly it felt like his experiments could wait and he needed an early lunch. Or just breakfast before starting work, whichever.

He hurried into town and casually entered the Sheriff’s office.

“Are you kidding me?” he heard Lupo saying.

“This is a $2.9 billion DOD program,” Larry replied, sounding puzzled. “We need the very best in our new Sheriff.”

“Jo, no!” said Carter and Zane heard the sound of feet scuffling.

Maybe Lupo had leapt at Larry.

“Passed over again?” Lupo said. “I quit. I am not working for that thing!”

She stormed out and Zane barely had a chance to hide himself before she saw him and decided to take it out on him.

He peeked around the corner and saw the robot come to life. It was one of the coolest things he’d ever seen at GD.

“You can call me Sheriff Andy,” said the robot.

Zane got himself back out of the way and into his car, thinking about what this would mean for him. Sure, he’d actually miss Carter and he felt bad for the guy and guilty about the whole situation. But having Lupo gone…well, that would just make everything about right.

As he got back to GD, he saw Lupo’s car in the parking lot and gathered she was either filing a complaint or visiting Taggart. Either way, he was staying out of her way.

Jo mused on how glad Zane would be to get rid of her and how clearly it didn’t matter what timeline she was in, she wasn’t better than a robot. Time shifted again and Zane was in GD a few days later.

Zane exited his lab and nodded to one of the other members of his team coming in.

“Hey, you hear about Carter coming back?” Cannison asked.

“No, what happened to Andy Griffith?” asked Zane curiously.

“Guess they reinstated Carter and Andy is the new Deputy,” said Cannison.

“And the esteemed Lupo?” Zane asked, suddenly dreading the answer.

Cannison moved closer.

“Head of GD security.”

“No, no, no,” said Zane, his worst nightmares coming true.

“Yeah, she refused to go back to being Deputy after the insult of being passed over. I heard our great Chief,” Cannison said sarcastically as pretty much everyone did when referring to the Director, “got her to stay by offering her the job.”

“But our lives, Cannison, our quality of life?” Zane said pitifully.

“Yeah, it’s not going to be easy for you,” said Cannison, patting Zane on the back briefly. “Good luck.”

Zane leaned against the wall and thought how happy he’d been only moments ago. He could stop feeling guilty about Carter, at least. But now Lupo would be here, watching his every move.

He headed to the GD security office and, sure enough, her name was frosted on the glass.

“Admiring the view?” she asked from behind him.

“Contemplating a career change actually,” he said, spinning around.

“Well, that might be possible if you weren’t required to be here. Where I can keep an eye on you,” she said, her arms folded.

He eyed her up and down. Gone was the brown uniform. Instead she was wearing a smart business pantsuit, neatly draped on her frame. Her hair was still back in the no nonsense ponytail, but he couldn’t deny it…she looked good like this.

Jo would have narrowed her eyes had she been using her own. That was interesting.

She was clearly ready for war and she was aptly suited to the task. Head of GD Security, the job was practically made for her.

He suddenly grinned. Two could play at this game. She might be intending to make his life miserable, but he was more than her match. He could make her life miserable, too.

“Game on, Lupo,” he said, winking at her and strolling down the hallway, humming.

***

“You liked fighting with her,” Jo accused Zane as soon as he opened his eyes.

“Maybe a little,” he admitted, shrugging. “She drove me crazy, but she…challenged me.”

“And you love proving you’re better than someone,” Jo said ruefully.

“That I do,” Zane said. “And what a lovely challenge she was.”

“Oh, this is going to be interesting to watch,” Jo said. “So that’s how I got GD Security, huh?”

“Fairly similar tales, it appears,” said Zane. “But that Jo, she wasn’t backing down and there was a convenient position open.”

“I feel bad for her in a way,” said Jo, musing.

“How?” Zane asked, curious.

“She seems so much more on edge, there’s something not sitting right in her bones,” Jo said. “I was just as upset as she was. I felt like I was going to explode.”

“You had people to talk to,” Zane offered as an explanation, curious where Jo was going with this.

“Well, she had Carter and Taggart,” said Jo. “No, that connection between her and Eureka, it’s not as potent or she doesn’t have…”

“The church,” said Zane. “You made the decision to stay at the church. The other Jo helped Carter do everything you did. But she didn’t have the church.”

“God really does make all the difference in the world,” said Jo thoughtfully. “Of course, she did get a promotion and I didn’t.”

“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but aren’t there were more important things?” Zane asked. “Isn’t inner peace worth more than ambition?”

“Why, Zane Donovan, you spiritualist,” said Jo, smiling.

“Don’t get used to it,” he said.

The whole thing still made him uncomfortable. But he couldn’t deny the inner joy Jo had, especially when he could compare it to another Jo he’d known.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll do my best.”

“For the record, I’m glad you stayed,” said Zane. “As Deputy, I mean.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Well, it put you in the position for all of this to happen,” he said.

“I thought you liked my timeline better,” she said softly.

“Well, I do. That’s my point. I wouldn’t have the life I do if you didn’t make the choices you made in your timeline.”

“I guess,” she said. “But I think you’re starting to come around on your own life.”

“There were good parts,” he said. “I don’t think I’d erase myself anymore.”

“Then prayers do come true,” she said, sliding her arms around him and kissing him lightly. “I wouldn’t change you.”

“I wouldn’t change you,” he said. “And you are worth it, Jo. You’d be a great Sheriff, you’re a great head of Security. You could run GD, you could protect the President, you could be a General. Whoever doesn’t choose you for something, is a first class idiot.”

Jo smiled brilliantly and he knew that she already knew those things. She’d come a long way herself, his wife, so full of contradicting insecurities and confidence. But he liked to remind her and he knew she liked being reminded.

“Thanks for the bike ride,” she whispered in his ear.

Chapter Text

“So, it sounds like you and Jo have been doing well with your runs lately,” Henry said as Zane dropped off his weekly reports.

“Really good actually,” said Zane.

“I’m glad to hear it,” said Henry. “Does it get easier?”

“Well, you get used to the sensation,” Zane said, shrugging. “I don’t think it will ever not be weird to watch yourself through someone else’s eyes, and depending on how long of a memory you do, it’s trippy coming back, because it feels like you’ve been away for days.”

“Yes, I have felt that myself,” said Henry. “But you get used to it?”

“Used to, yes. Comfortable with, maybe not,” Zane said.

“Well, I won’t keep you,” said Henry and paused. “I’m happy for you, Zane,” he said.

“Thanks, man,” said Zane, heading home.

He found Jo waiting with the device set up so he quickly kissed her, checked it, and they started right in.

***

Zane was suddenly Jo with heart racing, adrenaline pumping, and exhilaration flooding her veins. He almost began to freak out, wondering what danger she was facing and then he realized she wasn’t upset, she was in GD, and she was coming out of the testing labs.

Jo headed out of the door and saw Carter standing there.

“Holy cow, Jo, are you okay?” he asked, taking in her appearance.

“Are you kidding?” she asked, smiling hugely. “That was awesome.”

And she meant it. She would do that every day; it would be the best work out ever.

“Is this the next victim?” asked the doctor and Fargo introduced her to Carter.

“Hi, Fargo,” said Julia from beside Jo, and Jo hid a smile at how earnest she sounded.

“Hey, Julia,” Fargo said, taking the tablet from her.

“So, how'd my Deputy do?” Carter asked.

“She's perfect,” said Julia.

“No surprise there,” Carter said proudly.

“Stop it, I'm blushing,” Jo said, but she didn’t really mind.

“No one expects you to match Deputy Lupo's performance, Sheriff,” said Dr. Pagani.

“That's a relief,” said Carter sarcastically.

“Take these and try to get some rest,” Julia said, handing Jo some pills. “The tests can have side effects.”

The doctor handed Carter his panic button and Jo used the opportunity to tease him about using it.

“Of course, that would mean admitting defeat. And unemployment,” she added.

Carter stopped before going in and Jo inwardly smiled at his need for last minute instructions.

“About watching Zoe. Just make sure she does her homework. Spend some quality time with SARAH. She tends to get lonely. And try not to let the town burn down when I'm gone.”

“Carter, I'm perfect, remember? I can handle my job and yours. Have fun.”

Jo got changed, but she was still full of energy. She headed to Café Diem to meet Zane for lunch. When she got there, he was sitting with his back to the door, and she had the sudden urge to sneak up on him. She covered his eyes with her hands and then leaned around to give him a kiss. He obligingly kissed her back and then started to bring his own hands up.

“Careful,” he said, “my girlfriend might see you.” He brought her hands away. “Oh, uh, hey, Jo. Awkward.”

She grinned.

“I will show you awkward,” she said and kissed him again.

He kissed her back and then popped some more food in his mouth.

“So, how'd you do?” he asked.

“Apparently, I'm perfect,” she said, holding on to his hands and waiting for his reaction.

He chuckled a little and then stopped.

“Oh, you were serious,” he said.

She reigned in her irritation.

“Remember that kiss. It was your last.”

Then she moved over to the counter where Fargo was lounging.

“Come on,” Zane protested, following her. “I think you're great. But no one's perfect.”

“She's darn close,” Fargo offered.

“Why, thank you, Fargo,” Jo said sweetly as he hurriedly got up and moved out from between them.

“Please, he's just trying to get on your good side,” Zane said.

“Maybe you should try to get on my good side,” she said, this going from a typical insensitive Zane moment, to something that was actually bothering her.

“Look, I'm just saying we all have our flaws, like being hyper-sensitive and over-reactive,” he said.

Coming from Mr. Narcissism himself, that was rich.

“And all I'm saying is when you really care about somebody, you don't focus on their flaws. So maybe that gives me something to think about.” Her PDA rang before he could answer, she cut him off. “Lupo. Oh, hey, Allison.”

“Can you come to GD?” Allison asked.

“Yeah, I'll be right there.” She hung up the phone and pointed her finger at Zane. “You, I'm done with.” She began to walk out the door. “But it was nice to see you, Douglas.”

Fargo smiled happily and Jo shook off her feelings of irritation and made her way to GD.

What she found was a moral debate between Allison and Henry. Dr. Stefano was explaining his new pilot program.

“Once I've uploaded everyone's DNA profile into the system, it'll monitor their vital signs and location in case an emergency security situation arises.”

“That could definitely come in handy, especially in this town,” said Jo, tired of having to manually keep track of everyone.

“Sure, if you're willing to compromise civil liberties in the name of security,” said Henry.

“A lot of people are,” Allison said.

“Then let them volunteer their DNA,” Henry countered. “Don't make it mandatory. I vote no.”

“Jo, you're acting Sheriff,” Allison said, turning to her. “Your vote decides.”

Jo felt suddenly nervous making decisions like this, but she knew what she thought.

“I have to put town security first. I vote yes.”

“Then you can be the first of our tribunal to go,” said Dr. Stefano. “Just stand in the chamber. Just stand right in the center.” Jo entered the chamber. “It'll scan your DNA in less than a minute. You won't feel a thing.”

She stood there and it began the scan and then an intense pain began in her head and spread over her whole body. It was like every nerve in her body was being set on fire and she screamed. It was a huge burst of pain and then darkness.

Zane shivered as he felt the pain, his cuff shocks times infinity.

Jo slowly opened her eyes to find Henry and Allison standing over here.

“How do you feel?” asked Henry.

“Oh, like a freaking lightbulb,” Jo groaned. They helped her up. “I'm good.”

“I've done hundreds of scans. I have no idea what went wrong,” said Dr. Stefano.

She sat down facing the machine on the container he provided. She blearily focused on a part of the machine that looked tampered with.

“Could that have something to do with it?” she asked.

“The genome spectrometer is missing,” he said, looking at it. “No wonder the settings went off the charts.”

“Why would someone take that?” she asked, taking her hands from her head.

“I don't know, but I've a replacement. So we can get the system back online.”

“After what just happened?” Henry asked angrily.

“What happened was sabotage. I put three years into this project. I'm not giving up now,” Dr. Stefano said vehemently.

“Who would do this?” Allison asked. She pulled out her PDA. “I'm pulling Carter from his exams.”

“I’m acting Sheriff,” Jo protested. “I can handle it.”

“Jo, you just had quite a jolt,” Henry said as she stood up. “You need time to recover.”

“I'll be fine,” she said, then amended that, “as soon as I regain sensation in my extremities. Allison, just get the DNA monitor back online. We may be needing it.”

“Are you sure you're up to this?” Allison asked.

Jo did not appreciate everyone doubting her, especially after what Zane had said.

“Don't worry about my performance. Worry about Carter's,” she said.

She spent a few moments in the restroom, breathing, rubbing feeling back into her arms, and then submitting to a scan foisted upon her by Allison. She felt horrible, completely the opposite of how she’d felt after her test.

She checked the machine itself but found nothing and decided to go see Henry, refusing to admit it was because that was usually Carter’s first step.

“Jo, how you feeling?” he asked.

“A little fuzzy, but crime waits for no one. I need to figure out who'd want to steal that genom-y, genomic thermometer thingy.”

“Just a few hours as Sheriff and you're already sounding like Carter,” he said, chuckling.

“Yeah, a near-electrocution can do that to you. I checked for prints, I got nothing. Any idea what they'd want to use it for?” she asked.

“Well, there's lots of potential research applications. But I'm wondering if it has anything to do with the missing intramuscular electrode array.”

“Okay, any particular reason?” she asked.

“Because mine appears to be gone,” he said.

“So that makes two thefts,” Jo said, musing. “Could you try and figure out a link between the two devices?”

“I can try,” Henry agreed.

“Great. And I'll work on a list of people that have access to Stefano's lab.” Her PDA buzzed with a message and she checked it. “Right after I help Zoe with her homework.”

“A parent's work is never done,” Henry said, grinning.

Jo ignored the pounding in her head and went to the bunker after making sure she had her overnight gear with her.

Helping Zoe would have been a lot easier if Jo was any better at math and if her head would stop hurting. Also if Zoe would stop trying to get away with things because her dad wasn’t there. Jo was not letting her go to Vincent’s karaoke night.

“Come on, Jo, Aunt Lexi would take me if she wasn't off at her chakra retreat.”

“Look, I'm exhausted, I have a pounding headache, and all I want to do is take a nap,” Jo said.

“Wow, and I thought my dad was no fun,” Zoe quipped.

“Hey, I'm tons of fun,” Jo protested.

“Whatever. Just go solve your big case. I'll be in my room solving this,” Zoe said, stalking upstairs.

Jo lay down on the couch and closed her eyes. She would just rest for a while and then get up and finish the case.

Zane really wished his head would stop pounding, Jo sleeping was a relief. But time shifted and she was opening her eyes to Zoe turning on the lights.

“Hey, rock star. Rise and shine.”

“Does that say 8:00 AM?” Jo said, wondering how she could have slept so long.

“Yep. Just on my way to school. How you feeling?” Zoe asked.

“I think my headache's actually worse,” Jo said, holding her head and willing the pain away.

“I'm not surprised, after last night's performance,” Zoe said.

“What performance?” Jo asked.

“Wow you must've been drunker than I thought. Cafe Diem Karaoke?”

“You went, even after I told you not to?” Jo asked, aghast.

“Well, yeah, because you said it was cool,” Zoe said with a very innocent face, ignoring SARAH’s statement to the contrary.

“And I've been completely out since before 8:00?” Jo asked.

“Yeah, out dancing on pianos and kissing Fargo. After which you passed out here,” Zoe said.

Jo was very confused now.

“What are you talking about?”

“Dr. Fargo is at the door,” SARAH announced.

“That,” Zoe said slyly as Fargo entered, holding flowers. “Fargo, what are you doing here?”

“Can I talk to Jo for a sec? Alone?” he asked.

Jo did not like the way he was looking at her and she finished buttoning up her uniform.

“Actually, I'm starting to think I want a witness.”

“Um okay, I’ll just come right out and say it,” Fargo said, shifting nervously. “Jo, your kiss moved my soul, and I don't care who knows.”

He thrust the bouquet of flowers at her.

Jo wasn’t sure what to do, but then she began to laugh.

“Very, very funny. But I don't have time for this.”

“No, this is not a joke,” Zoe said, looking as if she’d won the soap opera lottery. “You can ask anyone at the cafe.”

“Okay, I've been through my fair share of physical traumas in the last 24 hours and kissing Fargo wasn't one of them,” Jo said.

“Ouch,” said Fargo.

“Sorry, but I gotta get back to work before Allison decides that I'm completely incompetent.” She put her hair back into its normal ponytail, despite that making her headache worse. “You, I'll deal with later,” she said, pointing at Zoe.

Zane had no idea what was going on, but he was on Zoe’s side, watching with avid interest. He had a feeling Jo was the one mistaken in this instance, even if she couldn’t remember it.

Jo walked into the Sheriff’s station and was surprised to see Larry in her holding cell.

“Larry, what are you doing in there?” she asked.

“You put me in here!” he practically shrieked.

“Okay, has everyone gone nuts?” she asked, grabbing the papers on her desk.

“That's what I'd like to know,” Zane said, walking in.

“Hi,” she said, distracted.

“Hi? Uh, that's all you have to say?” he said, smiling incredulously.

“Uh, what do you expect me to say?” she asked, certain she was supposed to be more annoyed with him than the other way around right now.

“Sorry for getting wasted and making out with Fargo,” he said dramatically.

“Ooh, you made out with Fargo?” said Larry, moving closer to the bars of his cell.

“No!” she said, pointing a finger at him.

“Uh, kinda,” Zane said, more to Larry than her.

Jo did not know what was wrong with everyone today.

“You've been, you’ve been talking to Zoe, haven't you?” she said, grasping at straws.

“I saw you last night,” he said, signs of something dark on his face she didn’t recognize and didn’t like.

But she had to think this was all some elaborate joke.

“Brilliant. Okay, let's punk the Deputy on her first case as Sheriff, yes?”

Zane looked confused and then hurt.

“You know what? I can't talk to you right now.” He began to walk away. “Good luck, Larry.”

“Okay, I appreciate the effort, but, uh, Larry, get the hell out of my cell,” she said.

She unlocked the door and he practically ran out of there.

She didn’t know what the hell was going on with Zane, but she had other stuff to worry about.

Especially when Allison called and needed something at GD. So then Jo had to make her way to GD.

“Hypermethylation plasma was taken from the infirmary last night,” Allison said.

“Which is?” asked Jo.

“A serum used in tumor treatments.”

“So I'll start talking to people, see if anybody saw anything,” said Jo.

“We already know who took it,” said Allison cautiously.

“Great,” said Jo. “So your DNA monitor's working?”

It was and Allison showed her the reading. Jo couldn’t believe it.

“The person behind the thefts, the person that we've been looking for is you,” said Allison.

Jo instantly denied it. Why was everyone telling her she was doing things she hadn’t done?

“Nothing is going on with me. I didn't do anything,” she protested.

“Jo, you suffered a serious injury. You need to be tested,” said Allison.

“Given the shock to your system, memory loss and aberrant behavior are not surprising,” agreed Henry.

“But I remember everything, and I'm not aberrant,” she said.

“Okay, so what you did last night at Café Diem was normal?” said Allison.

“I didn't do it,” Jo said again. “I took a nap after helping Zoe with her homework because I had a headache. When I woke up, it was morning.”

“You also arrested Larry last night. Henry and I were there,” Allison said firmly.

Jo had nothing to say to that because Larry had been in her cell this morning but…

“Dr. Pagani did say that there could be some side effects after the recertification exam, but why would I wanna steal all that equipment?” Jo asked.

“Honey, you kissed Fargo,” Allison said. “You're acting a tad impulsively.”

“Jo, we wanna help,” said Henry.

“Then figure out what all that stolen equipment has in common and I will figure out what's going on,” Jo said, desperate to not have this taken from her.

Not so soon after the whole robot thing.

“No, you need time to recover,” Allison insisted. “Carter will be done with his test in twelve hours. He can take over.”

“You know what?” Henry intervened. “Why don't we just let her work until he's done?”

Jo grasped the lifeline.

“And then you can do all the testing that you want. Please, Allison, I am not crazy.”

“Okay, fine. Twelve hours,” Allison relented.

“Thank you,” Jo said gratefully.

Jo left and she sucked in some breaths. What to do next? When everyone was looking at her like she was crazy and when she didn’t have complete confidence she wasn’t. She had never so badly wanted Carter’s advice.

She instinctively headed for his testing room but found Julia instead who wouldn’t let her inside. Carter was yelling as the camera recorded and he said something that caught Jo’s attention.

“I gotta go back to the beginning.”

“Back to the beginning,” she whispered.

She immediately dialed SARAH and got her to confirm that Jo had been present in the bunker all night long. Then she went to Allison with that information.

“That’s good thinking, Jo,” said Allison.

“Thanks,” said Jo. “So, I’m thinking the logical source of this problem is…”

“Dr. Stefano’s machine,” agreed Allison. “Let’s go talk to him about it.”

They did and he admitted that there were two DNA patterns for Jo and that he’d thought it was a glitch and with Jo’s documented unusual behavior, he’d assumed it had been her. He hadn’t wanted to hold back his research any longer.

“I’m sorry about this, Jo,” said Allison. “Just keep looking and I’ll handle this.”

Jo nodded, feeling slightly better she was cleared of theft, but still completely weirded out by what was going on. Henry called and she met him at his garage.

“You are right,” he said. “I've been considering the possible applications for the three devices that have been taken. Genome spectrometer, intramuscular electrode array, methylation plasma.”

“And?”

“All three have applications to experiments dealing with DNA manipulation,” said Henry.

“So we're looking for someone who has access to my DNA,” Jo theorized.

“Yes, but who would want your DNA?” Henry asked.

Jo thought about it and realized there was only one answer that made sense.

“Someone who thinks I'm perfect,” she said.

There was only one person who had the access and a possible motive. Jo went back to GD.

“Please don’t be mad,” Julia said when Jo confronted her.

Confronted her while she was wearing her face. It was like staring into a mirror.

Zane had thought it couldn’t get any weirder, staring at himself while in Jo’s mind. But he thought it was weirder being him inside Jo’s mind looking at herself.

“You stole my face!” Jo snapped.

“I'm really sorry, Jo. I just wanted to see what it would feel like to be you for just a day,” Julia explained, keeping the counter between them. “I mean you're, you're beautiful and confident and everyone respects you.”

“I wouldn't say I'm beautiful,” Jo said, unable to even respond to the rest of that.

“Because even the one guy I like only has eyes for you,” Julia said.

“Look, I'm flattered, but the party's over. Undo it,” Jo demanded.

“I can't,” Julia whispered. “The DNA base strands aren't stabilizing. I can't reverse it.”

“Well, you're not gonna stop trying until you do. Even if it's from my jail cell,” Jo said, feeling a bit panicky.

“Please, Jo, I know I messed up, but I never meant to cause any trouble. I just wanted to feel less…ordinary.”

Jo could feel sympathy, but not a lot.

“Look, I'm sorry, but you're coming with me,” she said. Then she suddenly felt woozy and fell to the floor. What's happening?”

“Remote time-release sedatives,” Julia whispered, holding up a button. “I gave them to you after the test. I needed to make sure that there weren't two of us walking around.”

“Julia, don't do this,” Jo gritted out between her teeth, struggling to keep awake.

“I'm so sorry, Jo. Just, if I had to choose between your life or mine, I'd choose yours.”

Everything went black again and when Jo opened her eyes she was in another room. She was lying in a bed, Henry and Allison standing behind the glass of her…cell?

“Can you talk?” Henry asked.

“Julia. She's behind the entire thing. Did you catch her?”

She felt off, something was wrong.

“Actually, yeah, I did,” said her own voice.

Julia as her stepped from behind the glass.

“What the hell did you do to me?” Jo asked, running her hands over a body that was foreign and wrong.

“You mean what did you do to me?” Julia asked.

“Jo told us how you stole the equipment, and how you used her DNA from the exams to steal her identity,” Allison said to Jo’s rising horror.

“No! I figured out how she stole my identity. And now she's turned me into her,” Jo said wildly.

“That's what Jo said you would say,” said Henry.

“She tried to convince me I was going crazy because of post-traumatic stress syndrome. You actually had me doubting my own sanity,” Julia said carefully, none of the remorse she’d demonstrated before in her eyes.

“You did that to me!” Jo said. “Allison, Henry, you have to believe me. I am Jo. Sheriff Cobb hired me five years ago. I graduated top of my class at West Point. I can kill a man with my thumbs!” she ended, yelling.

“All of which is information she could access from my personnel file,” Julia said. “Julia-”

“Don't call me that!” Jo shouted. “When I get out of here, I'm gonna kick your ass!”

“We're gonna keep you under observation until we do a full psych work-up. The ethics committee will take your mental state under consideration while they decide on your redaction from Eureka,” said Allison.

“No, you can't redact me! That is exactly what she wants,” Jo pleaded.

Allison and Henry left and Julia leaned close to the glass.

“I am really sorry,” she said emphatically.

“You can't do this!” Jo yelled after her.

She didn’t know what to do, a wave of despair swept over her. She wanted to wring Julia’s neck. She wanted her own body. She wanted somebody to believe her. She wanted…she wanted to be herself. Whether that someone was Sheriff or a Deputy, she needed to get out of here but she didn’t know how. She felt trapped and she paced.

Gradually her frustration gave way to exhaustion and she lay back on the bed, mind racing. Then she heard a tapping on the glass and saw Zane standing on the other side.

She’d never been so glad to see his scruffy face.

“Zane, thank God you're here!” she said, but he quickly quenched her hopes he might believe her.

“Julia, right? Allison told me what you did to Jo.”

Jo carefully reined in her temper.

“No, she's Julia Golden. And I am Jo.”

“Ah, psych ward. I'm Henry,” he said.

“I can prove it,” she said. “Ask me something personal that only Jo could know.”

He hesitated.

“Pet peeves.”

“Small guns, big egos, and overly-critical boyfriends,” she said truthfully.

To his credit, he didn’t look offended, but continued.

“Boxers or briefs?”

“Me or you?” she shot back.

“Funny,” he said, deadpan. “Me.”

“Boxers. Except on laundry day, which, by my count, would be tomorrow,” she said.

He hesitated again and she could some belief start to appear.

“First date?” he asked.

“Sunday brunch at Café Diem.” He stepped closer to the glass and she went on. Somehow it was easier to say these things outside of her own skin. “I was nervous. You brought a rose. I wore a sun dress. You said something smart, which made me feel dumb.” He looked quickly at her eyes. “But you made up for it on our second date.”

He studied her for a few seconds and then waved to the guard before putting in the code and opening the door. He entered her cell with her.

“So, does that mean I sounded dumb, or I made you feel smart?” he asked.

“A little bit of both,” she said, feeling renewed hope.

“And how'd the date end?” he asked, looking down at her with such a familiar look on his face.

“Let me give you a reminder,” she said and moved closer, reaching up and giving him a gentle kiss.

He kept his eyes closed and whispered.

“That's my Josefina.”

She gave him a second of tender emotion before she slugged him in the arm.

“Now get me out of here before I taser you for kissing another woman.”

“Yep, definitely Jo,” he said, turning around.

Zane had to chuckle. Only Jo could be so tender and so violent in the same breath. He found himself intensely glad the other Zane had listened to her and all on his own.

She moved to follow before she felt something like pain rippling under her skin and she hunched over.

He moved to her as she sat back on the bed.

“Zane, what's happening to me?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “But I’m going to find out.”

She concentrated on his face and she’d never been more glad to be in love with a genius.

He brought her to the bay where Dr. Stefano had been working, calling Allison and Henry along the way. They put her in a machine again, scanning her.

“I'm so sorry, Jo. I still can't believe that's you in there,” said Allison.

“Trust me, it's her,” said Zane, focused on a tablet.

“Just fix me and all's forgiven,” said Jo.

“We're working on it,” Henry promised.

“The transfiguration process must have caused her DNA to decompose. It's like her cells are misfiring,” said Allison, studying the results.

“So if we can't restart them…” Zane started to say.

“Being stuck in Julia is the least of her problems. If her cells stop functioning, we could lose her for good,” Henry said.

Zane turned to look at her and Jo couldn’t stop herself from staring at him in horror.

They stabilized the spasms and explained to her exactly what was happening to her cells.

“Your DNA strands are essentially unraveling. The genetic lines between Jo and Julia are becoming blurred,” said Dr. Stefano.

“I've been blurry ever since I was shocked by your stupid scanner,” Jo muttered and then realized something. “What if we do it again?”

“One near electrocution wasn't enough?” Allison asked.

“My cells are misfiring. What if we give them a genetic jump start?” Jo asked.

“The scanner does have your original DNA profile,” said Allison.

“Programming them into Julia's device might restart the markers. Like a cellular reboot,” said Henry.

“We need Julia to show us how,” said Zane.

“Well, we're trying to pinpoint her location,” said Allison.

“If this is happening to me, it must be happening to her, too,” said Jo. “Can we use the DNA monitor to track her the way she tracked me?”

“Not if her DNA is degenerating,” said Allison.

“It won't match the profile in the system,” agreed Henry.

Something Julia said came back to Jo.

“Then try searching for Fargo's,” she said.

Zane and Henry immediately set off to do so and Jo concentrated on not bursting apart at the seams.

They came back with a shaking Julia and Fargo. She immediately began walking them through what to do while Allison and Henry stabilized her as well.

“You're both critical, we can only treat one of you at a time,” said Henry.

“Jo goes first,” said Julia.

“You're in the worst shape, Julia. You may not survive the wait,” said Allison.

“Jo first,” Julia said firmly.

Jo forgave her everything in that moment.

“We need to do this now,” said Henry.

Zane sat beside her and the system was turned on. Jo felt the ripples of pain move more rapidly, more unpleasantly.

“Blood pressure's dropping. Her system's too unstable,” said Allison.

“If we stop now, we may not get another chance,” said Henry.

“She's getting worse,” said Allison.

Jo heard them all through a fog of pain and pain. Zane’s voice rose louder than the rest.

“Come on, Jo; don't give up on me now.”

Everyone kept talking.

It wasn’t working but Jo felt everything inside of her shifting. Sparks and electricity blew out from Julia’s machine and the lights went out for a moment. Jo felt a huge motion of change roll over her body and then the pain was suddenly gone and she was so tired.

“Her DNA profile is starting to stabilize!” shouted Dr. Stefano in triumph.

Jo finally opened her eyes and found Zane staring at her.

“Hey,” she said softly.

“You had me worried there,” he told her.

She put her hand up to her face, nervous.

“How do I look?”

He waited a beat and then answered.

“Perfect.”

She smiled, feeling in that one word his apology, his understanding, and his relief.

Zane helped her out of the chair so they could put Julia back.

It worked again and Jo was grateful no one had been hurt permanently over this ridiculous episode.

Zane walked her to the infirmary.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“Less than perfect,” she admitted. “But I’ll recover.”

“I know you will,” he said. “Listen, Jo, I’m sorry about being angry about the Fargo thing.”

“How many times do I have to tell you, I’d let you know before I go and kiss someone else?” she asked teasingly.

“From now on, I’m going to assume body swapping first,” he agreed. “I’m sorry you went through this alone.”

“You believed me,” she said, stopping him in the hallway. “Zane, you believed me.”

“You were pretty convincing,” he said, shrugging.

“Well, considering everything I’ve heard, from you, from Fargo, from Zoe,” Jo said, “I think you actually deserve a lot of credit. You knew something was off and then you listened.”

“I guess I learn quickly,” he said.

“Thank you,” she said. “Now, I could murder a cheeseburger.”

“On it, JoJo,” he said, kissing the top of her head, and resuming walking.

Zane could feel the relief inside of Jo’s head and he was proud of both of them. It was almost like he was watching some other couple, not himself and his future wife. It was slightly surreal, but then again, so was this whole experience. Time shifted for him again and now Jo was in GD, waiting for Carter.

“How'd you do?” Jo asked, relieved to see Carter.

“I think your record's safe,” said Carter as the doctor released them.

“It's just, it's good to have you back,” Jo said.

“I should go away more often,” he answered.

“I'd prefer you didn't,” she said. “Being you was no walk in the park.”

“Meaning?” he asked.

“Nothing I couldn't handle alone. It's just more fun having you around,” she answered.

And she meant it. Even if she were Sheriff, she’d want someone to partner with her. She knew that now.

“Yeah, tell me about it. Those forty-eight hours alone were way too long,” Carter said.

“Coulda been worse. There coulda been two of you,” she said, walking around him.

“Sorry, what?”

“Nothing,” Jo said. “Vinspresso?

She’d tell him the whole story later.

“Yeah, make mine a double,” he agreed.

***

Zane opened his eyes and found Jo about to remove her headset.

“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked.

“Well, I already know Julia never came to Eureka in your timeline so I’m fairly certain you don’t have a similar memory. Unless you thought I was so perfect you decided to switch bodies with me?” she ended, smirking.

“Nice try. No body swapping, but I do have a story about your certification,” he said.

“Ooh, this should be nice,” said Jo, putting the headset back in place.

“And short,” he promised, pushing the button.

***

Zane pushed the button to open the device and slid the test tubes inside. He started the timer and then removed his safety glasses, suddenly bored. A lot of the time automated tests were extremely dull because there wasn’t much to do besides wait. Or paperwork. And he was not doing paperwork.

He twirled around on his stool a couple of times, it may be childish but it was fun.

“Donovan, what the hell are you doing?” Lupo asked from the door.

“Spending GD’s money wisely and responsibly,” he said, catching himself on the counter and spinning to face her.

“I’m sure that’s not at all true,” she said.

“To what do I owe the displeasure?” he asked.

“I have my recertification today,” she said, sounding reluctant to admit it. “I’ll be out for forty-eight hours. I’m visiting all the departments to make sure everything is secure and to inform you that you’ll report to either Chad or Sheriff Carter in my absence.”

“I guess it’s too late to get a banner celebrating Mommy leaving us with a sitter, but I could half ass it if you gave me some glitter and safety scissors,” he said.

“Just do your job, Donovan,” she said. “And don’t try anything just because I’ll be gone.”

She left, somehow making her jacket swish as she left, and he was impressed in spite of himself. He idly spun on the stool some more before he thought of something, smiling as he got up.

He was dizzy, but he was a genius.

First step, recon. He found his way to the testing center and charmed his way inside with a fake delivery. Finding an empty desk, a small insert of a drive, and downloading the test perimeters was his next task.

Then he returned to his lab and studied what he’d found. He whistled at the data. This test was no joke. He was fairly certain he couldn’t do anything to make it worse for Jo. Not that he wanted to make it so hard she’d be in danger, no, just frustrate the life out of her. Unfortunately, it appeared to already be designed to do that. Well, he perked up at that.

But then he thought of something else. What if he tampered with the results instead? He couldn’t think of anything worse for Lupo than thinking she’d done poorly. Zane quickly hacked into the system, loaded an algorithm, and then sat back to enjoy the fun.

Jo could see exactly where this was going. And it was clever, she’d give him that. That poor other Jo, she thought.

Over the next two days Zane kept a close personal eye on Lupo’s progress. He’d hacked into the video feed and vastly enjoyed watching her tramp through an artificial jungle, crawl on her belly through mud, chase down multiple versions of himself (that was one modification he’d made, putting his own image in there). Even if she did end up catching them, the other versions of him had led her on a chase that made her beat the air in frustration more than once. She also won boxing match after boxing match, parachuted out of planes, parkoured her way across a literal ‘the floor is lava’ game, and then grimly lost each member of her unit as she rescued a prisoner.

The last one wasn’t fun, but he could tell it was important. It almost made altering everything not worth it. But he’d already put it in place.

Her last test was a sparring match and he could tell she enjoyed it. It was odd watching her when she couldn’t see him. He could study her in her natural habitat as it were, without her usual vitriol for him coloring her actions and words. He found he liked Lupo better this way, but then again, she was attractive when her eyes flashed in anger and he couldn’t reconcile this vibrant woman with the one who shunned him for no reason other than he was a criminal.

Her results showed a new record and he snorted. Tapping a few keys, he put his plan into place.

He watched the feed as she came out, glowing and sweaty.

“How’d I do?” she asked Dr. Pagani.

“Let’s look,” said the doctor. She pulled up her tablet and then frowned and re-tapped some keys.

Zane laughed.

“What is it?” Lupo asked, frowning.

“Uh, not sure. Um, well, it says you failed.”

“What?” Lupo asked, grabbing the tablet. “How could I fail? I rocked it in there.”

“Um, yes…”

They moved out of the camera feed and Zane leapt to his feet. He headed toward that level because he needed to see this if he could.

When he got there, Lupo was arguing with the doctor.

“Check it again,” she said. “I refuse to believe I scored lower than anyone in the history of GD. Particularly when that includes my own scores from last time which were higher than everyone else’s.”

The doctor huffed what might have been a laugh and showed Lupo.

“Josefina Lupo is without a doubt the most high-strung, uptight employee at GD. Mandatory stick removal required,” Lupo read out loud.

Her jaw tightened and she looked up. Zane ducked around the corner but not fast enough. He wouldn’t have gotten far anyway, he was laughing so hard.

She marched behind him and grabbed his lapel.

“What did you do?” she demanded.

“Relax, Lupo, it’s harmless fun,” he said.

She slammed him against the wall and stepped back.

“You hacked my results?” she said tightly.

“Just anxious to see how you did,” he said.

“You’re going in my cell,” she said.

“You’re not the Deputy anymore,” he pointed out.

“Yeah, but I have the right to detain dangerous persons at GD.” She smiled dangerously. “So you’re going in the cell in my office until Carter is finished with his exam and then you’re going to the station and living in his cell.”

“Oh, brother,” Zane said, rolling his eyes, but he submitted to being dragged along to her office and locked in her holding cell. “Can I at least get a magazine?” he asked.

She glared at him before marching back out of the room.

Zane sighed and sat down on the cot. Well, he probably deserved it, but…it had been worth it.

***

Jo punched him in the shoulder when he opened his eyes.

“Ow,” he said.

“You’re a jerk,” she said. “That was mean.”

“It was funny,” he said. “She took it personally.”

“It was personal for her,” Jo protested. “And for you, too. You watched her and you did it because it was her.”

“What’s wrong with that?” he asked.

She looked pointedly at him.

“It’s wrong and immature and kind of creepy.”

“Agree to disagree,” he said.

She huffed out a sigh and continued to look disapprovingly at him.

“So what happened?” she asked.

“I had about a week of jail time,” Zane said. “Carter kept it off my record though.”

“I’m sure Jo put it in hers,” said Jo.

“Oh, she did,” said Zane.

“I don’t recall seeing it as one of the pranks in your file,” Jo said. “One of the things you deleted?”

Zane shrugged.

“I can see now…it was a hard test, even if she enjoyed it. She probably wanted accurate results. But, yes, I deleted that from my file because she was rather uncomplimentary about what she said.”

“Losing people in combat,” Jo began carefully, “even if it’s not real, is one of my worst nightmares. I can only imagine it was hers as well.”

“Jo,” he said, swearing under his breath, then wishing he hadn’t. “That wasn’t my intent.”

“But you made a mockery of something very important to her,” said Jo, looking at him steadily. “You know how anxious I felt, the need to prove myself. Failure would have been like…”

“Death?” he supplied. He stopped and looked at her carefully. “This was right after Carter got his job back for you, right after you were passed over for a robot. You needed people to believe in you, to accept that you were perfect after your test results.”

“And she was passed over and then given a huge responsibility,” said Jo. “Proving she was fit to do it would have been uppermost in her mind.”

“I get it,” he said. “But me knowing that wouldn’t have been possible, not all of it. I don’t think it did any lasting harm.”

“Probably not,” Jo agreed. “But it’s one more thing to add to the pile of miscommunication between you two.”

“Then how about we don’t miscommunicate now?” he said. “Are you okay?”

“I’ll survive,” Jo said. “That was kind of funny.”

“It was programmed to go on,” Zane said. “Too bad I don’t know if she saw the end before they got her real results.”

“I think you did know her better than you think,” said Jo. “You observed her a lot.”

“Self-preservation,” Zane said.

“No, there was always a connection there,” said Jo. “And if not for those people dying…maybe it would’ve been different.”

“Maybe,” said Zane. “Being with you isn’t so bad, so that would have been all right.”

“Gee, thanks,” she said.

“So you want to talk about you?” he asked.

“What about me?” she said, looking at her hands.

“You are beautiful,” he said.

“What?”

“You told Julia you wouldn’t say you were beautiful. That’s not true.”

“Thank you,” she said. “I did have a hard time wondering why she’d want to be me.”

“Not unusual,” he said. “I’m sorry it was such a big disaster, having all that happen while you were in charge. But you did great. You kept your head.”

“Not literally,” she said and he groaned. “Hey, you walked into it. And, yeah, I felt really alone there and frustrated and crazy. But in the end, I had friends, I had principles to fall back on, I had my training, and I had you.”

“Always,” he said, kissing the nearest part of her he could reach, which happened to be her knee.

“Good,” she said. “Now can we eat? I’m starving.”

“Cheeseburger at Café Diem?” he asked.

“Oddly, yes,” she said.

Chapter Text

Zane poked his head around the door and called out to Jo.

“You ready?”

“As ever,” she said, slipping past him and onto the couch.

“We have a destination set?” he asked.

“Outer space!” she said, grinning.

***

Jo opened her eyes and stretched, narrowly missing hitting Zane in the face. She stifled a laugh and took a moment to appreciate the man sleeping beside her. She was happy. Sure, sometimes he drove her crazy and they tended to miscommunicate more often than not, but she was the happiest she’d ever been. Leaning over, she gave him a light kiss before getting out of bed and dressing for the day.

Zane loved feeling Jo’s happiness. It was an incredible experience, genuinely being able to know the true emotion behind someone else’s smile. He approved highly.

She made her way into town in the other new thing in her life to meet Carter and he pulled up with Zoe at the wheel. Her car whisked her away to Tesla and Carter turned to Jo.

“Automatic driving, it's a bad idea.”

“Ah, anything's better than a teenager driving,” she said. “But don't worry it'll take Henry a while to get all the cars online.”

“Oh, you can tell him to skip me. I prefer to be driving when I'm driving,” Carter said.

“Amen,” Jo said. She turned to showcase her new car. “Especially when you're driving something as sweet as this.”

“This is yours?” he asked in awe.

“Yeah. Two hundred and sixty-five horsepower, track tune suspension, and all-wheel drive. Totally high-performance, but completely under my control.”

“Kind of like Zane,” Carter quipped. “What, what about my new car?”

“Uh, with your driving record, good luck. I went through requisition hell to get this. I cc'ed you on everything. Don't you read your e-mails?” she asked.

“Yes. Sometimes,” he amended.

Fargo showed up in his car, sweetly named Tabitha. He complimented her on the new car and then had trouble driving away. Carter and Jo watched, laughing.

“Want to go for a ride?” Jo asked.

“Yeah,” Carter said eagerly.

“She drives like a rocket,” Jo promised.

Of course than an actual rocket flew over their head and crashed.

“I didn't hear anything about a missile test today,” said Carter.

“Ah, it's probably in your e-mail,” said Jo.

“Test drive's gonna have to wait,” Carter said regretfully.

He went to GD to investigate while Jo manned the office. Unfortunately, as soon as she got there it became a madhouse of phone calls.

She sat there for a very long time, taking messages about lost or stolen items.

Carter finally came back.

“What's Ranger Tom calling six times about? Somebody steal a tree?” he asked.

“I, I wrote it down,” Jo said, still distracted by her phone call.

"Something weird,” read Carter.

“Okay, thanks,” Jo said, hanging up. “Listen, he didn't go into detail. The, the phone's been ringing off the hook. Stuff's been going missing all over town.”

“Yeah, got a parking meter, a weather vane-” Carter’s voice disappeared with a cry.

The phone rang again and she answered it.

“Oh, and your, uh, your desk chair,” Jo added belatedly.

She spent her morning doing similar things while Carter went out investigating Ranger Tom’s request.

She got a message from Zane later saying he was heading out to the same site because apparently everyone’s stolen items were being used to create some kind of chamber. He was meeting Tess and Carter out there to figure it out.

Jo put the phone on hold and went for a quick bite. There wasn’t any point in continuing to try to find the items, though they would still have to catalogue and return all of them most likely.

Fargo drove up just then, driving some flashy new car.

“I waited six weeks,” Jo said, appalled. “How did you?”

“Uh, pulled some strings with my buddy in requisitions. Awesome, huh?”

Jo folded her arms.

“Well, what happened to Tabitha? I thought you loved that car.”

“Well, it was nice while it lasted, but, you know, it's time to move on,” Fargo said coolly.

“So you just dumped her?” Jo stated.

“I don't believe in long goodbyes, especially when something this sweet comes along,” he said.

Jo was not amused and she figured he would live to regret it, even if Fargo had dumped Tabitha on Larry.

She spent the rest of her day dealing with people complaining about their stuff being taken before going home and taking a bath.

Before she was done she heard the door open and Zane’s voice.

“I’m in here,” she yelled.

“I got a bunch of scans running and I should keep workin-” He opened the door and stopped when he saw her in the tub. “On the other hand, there are things happening here.” He stood next to the tub with his hands in his pockets. “Need help scrubbing your back, Deputy?”

She shot him a look.

“Maybe. But I’m trying to relax. Everyone in Eureka has complained to me today about their stuff being stolen.”

“I spent the day scanning said stuff,” said Zane, removing his jacket and sitting on the edge of the tub, running his hand in the water. “It’s amazing, Jo. I don’t know what the hell it’s for, but a plasma generator built out of every day household stuff is…well, it’s Eureka cool.”

“Carter is going to stake it out tonight,” said Jo. “At least I didn’t have to do that part.”

“No, you should rest,” Zane said. “I’ll, uh, let you finish. And I’ll report back if I find anything else.”

He gave her a mock salute.

“Go on, go be all genius-boy,” she said, waving him off.

He leaned over and brushed a kiss on her forehead.

“Don’t get all wrinkly,” he said.

“Out,” said Jo.

She settled back down into the tub, grateful for the chance to relax and only slightly disappointed he hadn’t pressed to join her in the tub.

She went to bed and was woken up about three in the morning by a cold body sliding into her cozy bed.

She sighed and let him burrow his way into her warmth before falling back to sleep.

The next morning they were both awakened early by messages on their PDAs.

“I gotta get out to the site,” Zane said, groaning as he looked at his. “More additions to the generator.”

“Yeah, and Carter found out who’s doing the building,” said Jo. “It’s kids. Zoe.”

“I’ll let you know what I find out,” he said, grabbing his clothes in a hurry. “What are you doing?”

“Carter wants me to man the station,” she said, sighing. “So, that’s what I’ll be doing.”

“Um, is this one of those moments when I really need to stop and listen to what you’re not saying?” he asked, sticking his head of the bathroom.

His hair was even crazier than usual and Jo immediately wanted to laugh, making her feel better.

“This is one of those moments you’d better get out of here so you can go save the town,” she said, shooing him out.

Zane could see semblances of the domesticity he and Jo currently enjoyed here. It was all still new though and he could see again Jo’s frustration at being sidelined by Carter. He hoped events unfolded so she’d have more to do soon. In a safe way where the town didn’t have to blow up, of course. Time shifted and Jo was in her office.

Fargo entered the office, dripping with mud, and ranting about Larry and Tabitha.

Jo didn’t have time for this. She gave Fargo a lecture about taking care of the things he valued and maybe they wouldn’t let him down.

She received a call from Carter that afternoon asking her to set up a guard rotation on the device in the woods. She gladly volunteered for the first shift. She sent a message to Zane letting him know where she was going to be that night. He didn’t answer and she supposed he’d gotten caught up in figuring out the device, but it was still annoying.

Night fell as she watched and suddenly people appeared, carrying items. She watched grimly. These weren’t the kids from the night before. It was all new people.

Her PDA rang and she answered. It was Carter.

“Jo, yeah, they're in a trance again.”

“They're not the only ones,” Jo said, apprising him of the situation. He said he’d be right there and pretty soon he showed up while she watched. “They keep coming.”

“Yeah,” he answered.

After a minute or two the device began making sounds.

“Carter, I think it's starting up,” she said, alarmed.

“Yeah, whatever it is.” Carter nudged her. “Jo.”

She looked where he was looking and recognized with a sinking heart, Zane, in a trance like all the others.

“Zane,” she said, reacting and starting to move toward him, but Carter stopped her. “Carter, what the hell is happening?”

“I don't know. But it's spreading,” he replied grimly.

They stood guard throughout the night and when the dawn rose and the people woke up from their trance, they were there to help escort them to GD.

Jo went straight to Zane.

“What’s going on, JoJo?” he asked, blinking at her. “I’m so-” he looked at his surroundings. “No, I’m a zombie,” he said.

He would’ve sounded adorable if she wasn’t so worried.

“We’ll figure it out,” she promised.

They got everyone to GD and she stayed by his side while he was checked out and until he fell asleep. Then she got to work trying to figure out the connection between all of the people who had gone into a trance. She couldn’t and then checked on Zane again. He was sleeping deeply, snoring in a manner she was amazed to find she was accustomed to. She was too worried to sit there though and she felt guilty she hadn’t been to see Zoe, so she went to where Carter was keeping watch over her.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” he said. “How's Zane?”

“Snoring like a lumberjack,” Jo said, folding her arms. “Zoe?”

“She's good. “

“She's exhausted,” said Jo. “They all are.”

“Yeah. First the teens, now the adults. Did you did you find a link?” Carter asked.

“I was cross-checking names. It's all random. Men, women, young, old, no specific field of research.”

“Well, keep trying,” he asked.

“Yeah.” She felt bad for him. “Hey, why don't you go get a coffee? I can watch her.”

“No, I'm -I'm good,” he said.

“Yeah.”

“You can go. Someone's got to do the Sheriffing,” he said.

She wouldn’t mind some actual work to do.

“Hmm, trust me, all the drama's in here,” Jo said, folding her arms. “Traffic's so smooth, I found myself hoping for a high-speed chase.”

“Yeah, I guess the road networks take all the fun out of eluding the police,” said Carter.

”Oh, seriously,” she agreed. “Everyone's driving around on autopilot. I may never write a ticket again.”

“On autopilot?” he repeated, getting that Carter look on his face.

“Yeah,” she said. “What?”

“I think I might know what our common link is,” said Carter. “Do a background check, will you? Find out which ones were upgraded to the new network.”

Jo nodded and immediately did so. What she found confirmed his suspicions and he presented them to Allison and Henry while she went back to check on Zane.

She wished he would talk to her, but he was back to trying to get out, just like Zoe and the rest. He was mindless and if there was anything Zane normally was…that wasn’t it. His mind was always working, too quickly, churning out responses faster than he should, saying things he shouldn’t say. She would give anything for that right now.

Carter came in to see her and pulled her aside.

“We’re shutting down the system,” he said, keeping one eye on Zoe. “I’m sorry to ask you this, Jo. Could you please supervise in town? We’re gonna have traffic jams, maybe some accidents, angry people. I just…I need to be here with Zoe.”

Jo knew why he asked her, but she looked at Zane again before nodding.

“I’ll call you when I get there,” she said.

“I’ll watch him,” Carter promised her.

“Thank you,” she said.

They shut down the system and Jo spent the next while trying to calm citizens down. She got a call from Carter.

“Are they okay?” she asked.

“They’re not great,” said Carter grimly. “Zane woke up; he helped us figure out that the signal is probably coming from somewhere else. The SmartAsphalt was just an amplifier. But now the signal is getting stronger and so they’re…they’re in the trance again. Not Zane though. He’s working with Henry and Dr. Weimann.”

Jo felt her heart sink and rise at the same time.

“What do we do?” she asked, trying to stay calm.

“Watch them, Allison’s getting worried we might be under attack. Just stay alert, okay?”

“I will. Be careful,” she said.

“You too, Jo.”

Jo hung up and refused to think about what was happening. She got another call from an unexpected source.

“Tabitha?” she asked.

Anything was better than nothing. She set out to find Tabitha and found Fargo and Larry holding on to each other for dear life in Tabitha’s trunk.

“Hello, boys,” she said, unable to keep from smiling.

“He hugged me,” Larry immediately accused.

“Oh, you wish,” said Fargo as they scrambled out. “Yeah. How'd you find us?”

“Tabitha called,” said Jo.

“Dr. Blake's cell phone isn't picking up, and you have important information to deliver,” Tabitha’s smooth AI voice answered. “Deputy Lupo's new cruiser can get you there faster.”

“Get in the car,” Jo said.

She drove as fast as she could while trying Carter and Allison with no luck. At least it gave Fargo a chance to truly appreciate the car he already had.

When they pulled up to the object, Fargo ran to where Allison was planning her attack.

“Dr. Blake! Stop, I know what it is. It's not a weapon. It's a boson cloud exciter,” he said breathlessly.

“Wait, what's, what's a boson cloud exciter?” asked Carter.

“The end point for a high-velocity space jump. Like a giant catcher’s mitt,” Fargo explained.

“Yeah, for a sixty-seven million mile per hour fastball,” Tess interjected. “It would be impossible to slow it down without a cloud of bosons to dissipate the energy.”

“Well, we can't just let it land,” said Allison.

“Well, I'm not sure we can blow it up either,” said Carter.

“The impact would turn Eureka into a mile-deep crater, Al,” Tess said.

“Sergeant, pull the explosives back, move to threat level red,” said Allison, clearly very stressed.

“Here's hoping it's friendly,” said Carter.

There was a giant blue flash and suddenly a ship was there, in the middle of the device.

Everyone stared until Henry pulled up and walked right into the middle of it, cleaning off an American flag on the outside of the ship.

Zane was incredibly excited to see this through Jo’s eyes. He’d only seen the aftermath in his timeline. Time shifted again for him and he was back at GD, Jo walking into a lab where the other Zane was getting scanned.

Jo felt so relieved to see Zane walking and alert again. She walked right up to him and kissed him deeply.

“Hmm, what was that for?” he asked.

“Not being a zombie,” she replied. “Are you checked out?”

“Free and clear,” he said. “Allison wants me out at the landing site first thing in the morning.”

“Then I get you all night,” she said and led him back to her place.

They got undressed and Jo watched him out of the corner of her eye right up until they got into bed.

“Will you stop that?” he finally said. “I’m not going to break or disappear.”

“You might try assembling a bomb in the middle of the bed. Or eat my brains,” she said, trying to keep it light.

“Hey, Jo, I’m right here,” he said, reaching out and putting his hands on her shoulders. “Flesh and blood.”

“Good,” she said.

She wrapped her arms around his middle and put her head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat, reassuring her with its steady presence.

Time shifted for Zane again and it was now the next day and Jo was saying goodbye to her Zane at the door.

“You want me to check in every half hour, Deputy?” Zane asked, holding her by the waist.

“No, just do your job, don’t get blown up, and come back to me,” she said simply.

“I think I can promise that,” he said, kissing her. “I’ll see you later.”

“Later,” she said.

She watched him drive off on his bike and figured she could analyze how worried she’d been later. She already knew she was head over heels for Zane Donovan, life and death situations were bound to bring worry out in her.

She was dreading the rest of the day though. Now that the boson cloud exciter had fulfilled its purpose, it was being dismantled and everything brought back to town. It was Jo’s lucky job to get the items back to their owners.

Lucky Carter was helping.

They formed a system, of sorts. It would be easier if people were a bit more pleasant regarding the wait times and if there was more organization and description of the items.

“Hey, you'll get all your stuff back,” she said to the masses. “Everybody, please, just calm down. I need a toaster oven, bagel-capable,” she told Carter.

He handed her a toaster and she gave it to the woman who crowed in delight and ran off.

“This I better than the one I had.”

“Uh, no, wait. That's not how this works,” Jo called out uselessly.

More people like that every minute, including Dr. Lieber and his arrogance regarding his boost converter and organic computers.

“It's gonna be a long day,” said Carter, sighing.

“It already is,” she replied.

They worked for hours and Carter finally managed to tell her what happened with the ship that morning and how there was a computer version of Kim on board. They were interrupted with more and more people, but it gradually slowed down.

She did get a message from Zane that made her smile.

Still not a zombie, but fair warning, I am taking the ship out to lunch for an examination.

“Oh, we're in the home stretch,” Carter said as they sat, collapsed on the front steps of their office.

“I don't want to see another toaster again,” said Jo.

“Oh, I don't want to eat toast again. But we are gonna have to do another inventory,” he said reluctantly.

“Ugh, maybe in a few minutes,” she said.

“Okay,” he agreed.

“Ugh, so much stuff,” she said, getting up. “Like, so many whack jobs.” Of course, Fargo showed up right then. “What do you want, Fargo? We already gave you back your thingy.”

“This is not my thingy,” he said, bristling. “This has a zx21 chip.”

“I don't want to know about this stuff,” groaned Carter.

“My boost converter has a zy21 chip. This is clearly inferior. You pulled the old bait and switch.”

“Fargo, look around. There's not much left,” said Jo wearily.

Carter did remember giving out something that looked like Fargo’s gadget to Lieber.

“Yeah. Yeah, that's the guy. He's been eyeing my converter for months,” said Fargo.

“Easy, Fargo. It was absolutely crazy earlier,” said Carter. “Could've been an honest mistake.”

“There is nothing honest about Tom Lieber. I'm gonna get back what's mine,” Fargo said, marching off.

“Have a nice day,” Jo called after him. “Add it to the to do list?” she added.

“Yeah,” Carter agreed. “Listen, I’m gonna take Allison’s blender to her and check on the Kim situation. You good here?”

“I will not do another inventory alone,” Jo said.

“On my word,” he promised.

He wasn’t gone long, bringing back Allison’s supposed blender. In good time they were able to do an inventory and there was only Fargo’s returned boost converter he claimed was really Lieber’s.

“Let’s deliver it personally,” said Carter.

On the way he let Jo know the issues they were having getting data out of Kim and that Zane had found out the ship’s onboard computer was fried.

They entered Lieber’s lab and Jo frowned.

“It looks more like a haunted house than a physics lab,” she said.

“Dr. Lieber!” called Carter, then turned to her. “Do you smell that?”

“It's like something's burning,” she agreed.

“Yeah.” They walked into the room and Carter spun around a smoking chair. “Or someone.”

Lieber’s charred remains stared at them.

They called it in and Henry arrived. Jo supervised getting the remains out while Carter talked to him. Then she joined them.

“I rebooted the power regulator so you guys don't have to worry about it,” Henry was saying.

“Fargo might,” Jo said, telling them what she found or didn’t find. “The boost converter he accused Lieber of stealing, it's gone. Uh, yanked out of the panel.”

“Tell me he didn't cause this,” Carter groaned.

“Well, I'll run a few diagnostics, but it's possible,” said Henry.

“Great,” said Jo and left to continue the investigation.

Carter joined her and they brought Fargo back to the station for questioning. He was defiant, calling Lieber a weasel and admitting he took the converter.

“Fargo, that weasel, is -he's dead,” Jo said gently.

“Come again?” asked Fargo.

“We think that Dr. Lieber was electrocuted,” said Carter.

“And we're thinking maybe it had something to do with a missing boost converter,” said Jo.

“I'm going to jail, aren't I?” Fargo panicked. “The big house. The slammer. The hoosegow. I'm gonna spend the rest of my life President of the Attica Physics club!”

Jo knew only one way to stop him from utter panic. She slapped him and pointed at his face.

“Man up, Fargo.”

“Uh, Henry's doing an autopsy right now,” said Carter. “We're gonna have a lot more information after that. But if you can walk us through everything that you did. And, deep breaths, okay?”

It was a rather long and rambling conversation, but he did tell them the essentials.

Henry called, telling them he had the results so Carter took Fargo while Jo stayed at the office. Fargo was cleared of all charges, but that still left them with a dead man and a very confusing case. One she was happy to work on until she got a call from Allison.

“Lupo,” she said.

“Jo, it’s Allison. Um, there was an accident in the lab. Zane was…electrocuted.” Jo’s heart stopped. “He’s stabilized, but you should come.”

“I’m on my way,” she said.

She definitely sped on her way to the hospital.

Zane was really only starting to feel in these last few memories how much Jo had really cared for Zane, for him, and it was a humbling feeling.

He was pale on the hospital bed and there were dark circles under his eyes. He hadn’t recovered from the last time he’d been in there. She sat beside him and Carter, Allison, and Henry stood, trying to figure out what happened.

“Last thing I remember, I was trying to get the data out of her and, and, boom. I hit the ground seeing fireworks,” Zane said, looking only at her and she gazed steadily back.

“Was it some kind of seizure?” asked Allison.

“Not in the usual sense,” said Henry. “His convulsions were extremely violent and his electroencephalogram is still off the charts.”

“Is, is this the same thing that Lieber had?” Carter asked and Jo’s head instantly swiveled to look at them.

“I'll have to do more tests,” said Henry.

“Wait a minute. Didn't Lieber die?” Zane asked.

“Lieber was alone,” said Allison. “You weren't. We got to you in a matter of seconds and we were able to dissipate your internal voltage spike.”

For someone who usually had all the answers, Zane looked unusually vulnerable.

“So, um, can I get back to work?” he asked.

Jo smiled fondly. Of course he wanted to go science some more.

“We're gonna need you to stay here a little longer,” said Allison.

“Why?” Jo asked, alarmed. “I thought you guys got it in time.”

“We're suppressing his neuro-electrical activity, but there's another electrical wave already building,” said Henry.

“Meaning…this is gonna keep happening?” Jo asked, standing up.

“We're gonna find out what caused this,” Allison assured her.

“I know what caused this,” Jo said, voice rising, beginning to walk out. “Kim.”

She had one clear destination and task in mind. Carter caught her.

“Jo. Where are you going?”

“To shut it down,” she said.

“The information is too valuable for that,” said Allison.

“It attacked Zane,” Jo snapped.

“Yeah, Jo,” Carter said carefully, “we're doing an investigation and there are rules. Now, we have a suspect there who we're gonna talk to.”

“Your suspect is a computer from outer space,” she said.

“Yes,” he agreed.

She all of a sudden felt helpless.

“Carter,” she pleaded and then looked over at Zane who was way too pale.

“Do you want to come with me?” asked Carter.

“Just give me a minute,” she said and went back to Zane.

“Still not a zombie,” he said, smiling weakly.

“Not exactly what I had in mind,” she said. “Um, we’re gonna go and talk to Kim. I’m sorry, I just…need to do…something.”

“Jo,” he said. “It’s okay. You wouldn’t be you if you weren’t doing. I’ll see you later.”

“Bye,” she said.

She wanted to kiss him but Henry and Allison said not to touch him.

Zane had to admit he looked like death warmed over. That couldn’t be good.

“I've reviewed the incident,” Kim said as Jo and Carter confronted her. “And although I understand why you draw a different conclusion, my assessment is that your colleague suffers from a congenital brain abnormality.”

“He was fine until he got in there with you,” Jo said angrily.

She wanted to leap through the glass and do…something.

“Easy,” said Carter. “Let's just run through this one more time, okay? So the spaceship lands and you come out. A few hours later, Lieber's electrocuted in his own lab. And then the exact same thing happens to Zane right here in front of you. And if I may say, you weren't too excited about the test that he was doing.”

“Perhaps there was a malfunction with his equipment. A short in the monitoring module,” suggested Kim.

“That's a good idea. We checked that and the machines were fine,” said Carter.

“How would I be connected with Dr. Lieber?” asked Kim.

“We haven't figured that out yet,” said Carter.

“Perhaps proximity is not a factor in this equation,” Kim mused.

“Are, are you saying that you can zap anyone, anywhere?” Carter asked, alarmed.

“That might explain what happened. And I have no memory of such an act. I'm not programmed for aggression,” Kim said calmly.

Jo wished she would act more…more human. Then Jo could get a reaction.

“Yeah, but you are programmed for self-preservation,” said Carter.

“Yes. You're right.”

“Thanks,” Carter said.

“You should shut me down,” said Kim and Jo felt surprise. “Eradicate my voluntary functions and do your best to preserve my data. Perhaps immersion in a slurry of liquid nitrogen and argon.”

“That's what I'm talking about,” said Jo, finally happy.

“Kim, is this your way of, um, admitting that you attacked Zane?” Carter said, holding Jo back again.

“No. But a man is dead and another man is in danger. And you just presented a logical explanation. Whether due to a programming error or degradation caused by my journey home, I might be a serious threat. Terminate me.”

They walked out and Jo rounded on Carter.

“You heard what that thing said.”

“Jo, we don’t know anything for sure. And this is…it’s more than just Zane.” Carter stopped and thought for a moment. “I need to talk to Henry.”

Jo could see that, could see how hard this must be for Henry. A computer that looked like the woman he’d loved and lost, but she was mostly too full of fear for Zane.

“Don’t wait,” she said and left.

She didn’t know what to do; maybe all she could do was help Zane feel better. On impulse she drove to Café Diem.

“Will Zane be okay?” a worried Vincent asked her. “What’s going on?”

“Yeah, what’s happening?” Zoe asked.

“I don’t know,” said Jo, trying to keep it together. “He’s stable for now. Um, Vince, could you get me his favorites? You know the ones.”

“Right away,” said Vincent, scuttling toward the kitchen.

“Jo,” said Zoe, taking her arm. “You act like you’re taking him his last meal.”

“I just want him to feel better,” said Jo, trying and failing to keep her tears back.

“He’ll feel better when he sees you,” said Zoe, hugging her.

Jo hugged her back and it was nice to have someone hold her while she cried.

“Thank you,” she said, wiping her eyes. “Thank you,” she said to Vincent, who brought her out the food.

“Tell Zane we’re thinking of him,” said Vincent.

“Yes,” agreed Zoe.

“I will,” said Jo and tried to compose herself for the drive back.

When she got there she was given a mask before she could see him, which was the first thing he asked her about.

“I am,” she said, fluttering her fingers over it. “It's one of those high-tech ones of Henry's. Uh, we've all got 'em.”

“So what's all this?” he asked, glancing at the food she’d put on the counter.

“Treats,” she said, trying to sound cheerful. “I brought your favorite foods. Well, all of your favorite foods. Olives stuffed with bleu cheese.”

“Awesome,” he said.

“Toasted peanut butter and bacon. Egg salad. And rocky road ice cream,” she ended with a flourish pulling out a spoon.

“I love you, Jo,” he said.

Simply, effortlessly.

It was the first time and she should have been floored or overwhelmed or upset or worried about why he said it now.

“I love you, too,” is what came out of her mouth.

“Good,” he said.

“Yeah,” she replied.

They both chuckled a little bit and it felt somewhat anti-climactic. Her heart was still clenched in fear, but at least, well, she had that anyway.

“You know what I want first, right?” he said.

“Ice cream,” she replied, handing it to him.

She wasn’t sure how long she stayed there with him. Allison came by after a while to check on him.

“It’s building again,” she admitted. “We have maybe two hours before the next hit.”

“But you’ll stop it?” Jo asked.

“We’ll do our best,” said Allison, squeezing her elbow. “Now we know we have a virus, we can work on stopping it.”

“I can help,” said Zane.

“You need to stay still,” said Allison. “I’ll be back soon.”

Jo and Zane were left staring at each other.

“Two hours isn’t much,” said Zane finally.

“I’m not leaving,” Jo said.

“No, I know,” he said.

She ached to touch him, but again, she couldn’t.

That is until they found out everyone was infected, it was an airborne virus. She left him only for a second for Tess to inject her with an electro-resistant gel. Still, when she got back, he’d fallen asleep and she was glad only because then she didn’t have to hide her fear.

Carter let her know they were working on an answer.

“You stay here with him,” he told her, hand on her shoulder. “We’ll do it as fast as we can.”

“Thank you,” said Jo.

The lights were dim because they were using all the power they could for their optic device. Jo took off her belt and climbed onto the bed with Zane, again listening to his heartbeat. This time it wasn’t so reassuring because she knew it was going to stop soon and there wasn’t anything she could do. Even if this device worked, it might not work in time for him.

She prayed with all her might that it would. Soon, she felt his arms tighten around her.

“I like waking up with you in my arms,” he said, his voice weak.

“Me too,” she said and impulsively spoke out her thoughts. “So give up your apartment and live with me? You’re never home anyway.”

“Why, Deputy, is this an attempt to keep a closer eye on my criminal activities?” he teased.

“You’re not a criminal,” she said, pulling back to look at him.

“Not since you reformed me,” he said, smiling at her.

“So, is that a yes?” she asked.

“I might not-” he started to say.

“Is that a yes?” she said over him.

He smiled and kissed her nose.

“You know I’m heading out of town for that ice core project soon. I’ll be gone for a long time.”

“After that,” she said, because it implied he’d be here to do it.

“After that,” he promised.

A green light washed over them and they both blinked in surprise.

“It’s the…” she said, trailing off.

“Keep your eyes open, JoJo,” he whispered.

They let the light wash over them.

Then it was over and she looked at him.

“Are you okay?”

“I feel better,” he said, craning his head to look at his monitors. “My readings went down, too.”

“I’m going to go get someone,” she said, sliding off the bed.

It was a bit crazy, everyone was still reeling from the light and figuring out what happened. But soon she got Allison to check him out and when she came back in, he was putting his sweatshirt on. He turned around and saw her and she grinned at him. He still looked sick, but he was standing.

“All checked out,” he said.

“I was really worried about you,” she admitted.

“Me too,” he said.

She pulled him closer by his sweatshirt, gently rubbing his chest.

“How are you feeling?”

“You tell me,” he said, leaning in and kissing her, and she responding, putting one hand on the back of his neck. When they pulled away, he looked at her. “Any sparks?”

“No,” she said mischievously and he started to laugh. “Just the good kind,” she whispered.

That certainly sparked something in Zane’s memory and he smiled to himself.

She was so relieved she hugged him again and he cradled her head with one hand.

“Let’s go home,” he said and she felt secretly thrilled he’d used the word home.

They did and she didn’t let go of him. She needed to know he was physically there in front of her.

“You look pretty exhausted,” she said.

“I could use sleep,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his head. “Lie down with me?”

“I’ll be there in a minute,” she said and went to put his leftovers in the fridge.

He was already asleep, shoes off, on top of the covers, when she walked into her bedroom. She stood for a moment in the doorway.

“Thank you for bringing him back to me,” she prayed in a whisper, before climbing into bed and putting her head on his chest.

***

“Talk about intense,” Zane said, opening his eyes. Jo just reached over and hugged him and he hugged her back. “I’m still here,” he told her.

“I know,” she said. “It’s just…I think I know how you felt before. Reliving those feelings again…it was difficult.”

“I do know the feeling,” he said, rubbing her back.

“Sometimes I am afraid you’ll disappear,” she said into his neck. “I’ve lost you and gotten you back so many times.”

“Hey, we can’t control the future,” he said, “but we made a commitment to each other, right? And we’re keeping it.”

“True,” she said.

“And Eureka’s gone two months without a town disaster, a new record.”

She huffed a laugh and pulled back a little.

“I love you,” she said.

“I love you, too,” he said. “Had the first one of those this time, too.”

“A big step and it was overshadowed by you almost dying,” she said.

“So when did we move in together?” he asked.

“Not for a while,” she said. “That is another story. Do we need to do you tonight?”

“Naw,” he said. “We had the ship come, I was a zombie, I wasn’t working on the project, and I didn’t talk to you at all. I did get infected, but had to get hooked up to a suppression machine only right before they fixed everyone.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t bring you ice cream,” she said, still holding on to him.

He could handle her being a little clingy, he’d felt the desperation and fear in her memories and he was mostly just overwhelmed by how much she’d loved the other Zane. He might even feel jealous if she wasn’t clinging to him now.

“I probably got myself some,” he said flippantly.

“Any other observations then?” she asked.

“One,” he said. “Sparks.”

“Sparks?” she asked, but she sounded like she knew what she was getting at.

“Back when you and I started to come together,” he said, “you know when you were insisting each night was the last time?”

“I can recall a guy who kept coming back for goodbye sex and never leaving,” she said.

“Hey, we’re on you now,” he said, poking her. “You tried to tell me that we didn’t work, all we had was a spark.”

“I, uh, guess I remember saying that,” she said.

“Were you thinking about him?” he asked. “About being in the infirmary?”

“Sometimes a spark is all you need,” she said in answer. “But I’d lost it and sometimes I wondered if it was what I thought it was.” She was silent for a moment. “I know I did romanticize the relationship I had with him, but I think I also deliberately forgot how special it was because it hurt too much to remember. Now I’m getting to remember and I don’t have to lose you, so, thank you.”

“Hey, we can spark our brains out for the rest of our lives,” he said, kissing her forehead.

“You’re such an ass,” she said, laughing. “And I love you, more than anything.”

“Same here,” he said. “And for the record, I recognized the look on his face when he said he loved you. It’s how I feel, so no matter what, remember that he did love you.”

“Thank you,” she said and put her head on his chest.

He knew what she was doing and he was content to let her listen to his heart as long as she needed.

Chapter Text

Zane walked into their house and was surprised to find their barely used wedding china spread out on the table and delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. He put his motorcycle helmet down and peeled off his gloves.

“Jo,” he called.

She walked in and his breath caught. She wasn’t wearing her normal pantsuit for work or her casual wear for the house. She was wearing a sundress, something she usually reserved for church. Her hair was down and it curled slightly around her bare shoulders.

“Welcome home,” she said, pausing in the doorway, and, boy, did that create a dynamic effect.

He whistled.

“What’s going on?” he asked, his suspicions automatically activated.

“Can’t a wife have a nice dinner with her husband for no reason?” she asked, shrugging innocently.

“No,” he said. “Not you anyway.”

She moved toward him, kissing his cheek lightly, then stayed close.

“You sure about that?”

“Nope, what did I do? Or what did you do?” he asked.

“What did we both do?” she asked, waving her left hand at him.

“That’s not for another ten days,” he said. “Six months of marriage is a big deal and I do remember the date, thank you very much.”

“Well, I didn’t, sort of,” she said. “I was talking to Zoe and she mentioned you had mentioned something about celebrating and that reminded me so I decided to beat you to the punch and celebrate early.”

She looked immeasurably proud of herself and he laughed.

“I don’t see the logic, but I’ll take the dinner and the date,” he said, letting his eyes rove over her now that he knew he wasn’t in trouble and she hadn’t done anything crazy. “I think I want the date first,” he said, sliding a hand around her waist and enjoying the feel of her pressed up against him.

“You don’t know what the date involves,” she said mysteriously.

“I can come up with an agenda very quickly if you don’t have one,” he said, cupping her cheek with his other hand.

“But I do,” she said, kissing him lightly and then walking away.

He enjoyed watching her walk away and followed.

She had the memory device set up and he let an eyebrow rise in interest.

“Special memory tonight?” he asked, taking off his heavy jacket.

“Maybe not special,” she said, “but I thought it was a good one. Then we can have dinner and perhaps fit in some of your agenda.”

“Then let’s get started,” he said, doing a quick check.

***

Zane was in Jo’s room as she lay in bed. She felt happy, looking forward to something. Looking forward to seeing him. She stretched and he felt her realize how empty the bed was without him in it. But it would have him in it tonight.

Jo felt a little stupid, being so excited to see Zane, but he had been gone for a month. Things had been really good with him apart from that really stupid fight they’d had for a whole week about his bike. Then he’d left town on a special assignment. They’d parted well and even though they knew communication would be spotty because of how remote his site would be, they’d promised to keep in touch.

He had, more than she’d thought he would be able to do. Little messages on her PDAs and holo-skyping late at night and she’d fallen asleep several times listening to him go on about the work. For the last several weeks though she hadn’t heard a single thing and it had made her realize anew how entrenched in her life he’d become. Going a single day without talking to him was too hard. He told her he loved the work and she was a bit annoyed he obviously loved it so much he wasn’t contacting her, even though she knew part of it had to be the signal strength where he was. Part of her also worried slightly because she’d heard that Taggart was a part of the project and she felt the normal pangs of awkwardness at having two love interests interact.

But no matter what, he was coming home today. The only reason she knew was because of the official communications from the project heads. She had a lot to talk to him about. So many things had happened like Allison’s baby being born and Zoe’s college plans or lack thereof. It was just a new feeling to want to tell somebody about the ordinary, ridiculous parts of her life.

She headed up the mountain pass road to join Carter.

“You need a hand?” she asked.

“It's not really a two person job.” He looked at her funny as they walked toward the back of his jeep. “You hate this kind of work.”

“Oh, well, not today. Zane's coming home,” she admitted.

“Oh, he's been gone a while,” he said, grabbing the police tape and handing one to her.

“A month,” she replied.

“Wow, this is getting serious,” he said as they walked.

“Yeah. It's been a while,” she admitted, thinking about her love life in Eureka. “I mean, there was Callister. And, well, he was a-”

“A robot,” filled in Carter.

“And there was Taggart, and, well, he's, uh-”

“Taggart,” Carter said, smirking.

“Yeah. I mean, I'm not used to the normal relationship thing,” she said as they set up the poles and activated them. “So, what about you and Tess? Have you guys, um, exchanged keys yet?

“Uh, no. No. I mean, we're…why is everybody asking me that today?” he stuttered before walking further down the road.

She laughed and followed.

“So, uh, what are we doing on the, uh, mountain service road?” she asked, letting him off the hook.

“They need a straight shot for some transport headed to GD. Traffic duty with no traffic,” he said.

“Feels kind of silly,” she said. A truck horn sounded and they both stared as a truck with seemingly no end began to drive by. “Maybe not so silly,” she admitted.

“That's a really big truck,” he said and she could not argue.

After a ridiculous amount of time the truck passed and Jo realized that probably meant Zane was back.

“I’m gonna, uh,” she said, gesturing with her thumb at her car.

“Yeah, yeah,” Carter said, waving her on. “Tell Zane hi for me.”

She drove back to GD with anticipation humming in her bones. When she got there, she went directly to his lab. There he was, examining something. She snuck up behind him and then wrapped her arms around him, a little surprised at how cold he felt. Normally he ran pretty hot, as did she.

“I've got a welcome home present for you,” she said.

He twisted to look at her but there was nothing in his face.

“Hi, Jo,” he said and went back to the glass looking tube in his hand.

She was confused but chuckled and stood by his side.

“Um, you okay?” she asked.

“I'm fine,” he said, not looking at her.

“Okay,” she said, taking the glass out of his hand and putting it down. “Let's try this again.”

She pressed up closer to him, but he twisted and picked up his glass.

“I've got a lot of work to do,” he said and walked away.

Jo stood there, flabbergasted, embarrassed, let down, and irritated. What the hell had just happened? After a month apart Zane acted like he’d seen her five minutes ago and hadn’t found her interesting then. She stood there for a few minutes before deciding to try and let it go and maybe talk to him later. She knew how involved in his work he got and while she didn’t condone that behavior for a second, she’d deal with it later. Her lovely mood had been spoiled, but….at least he was home.

Carter found her later as she was deciding to leave GD and told her Tess wanted them to look at the new ice core they’d drilled. She had to admit she was curious to see it and went to get suited up for the deep cold.

She arrived in the refrigeration area to hear Tess start talking. It was freezing and she welcomed her thick jacket and boots.

“So this is the first time we've had an intact core to study in the lab. Zane developed a nanoparticle refrigeration system just to get this thing down here. That guy is the king of cold,” Tess said admiringly.

“Tell me about it,” Jo muttered.

“Uh, so, security?” Carter interjected.

“Yeah, the team leader will fill you in on what he needs,” said Tess. “He should be here any minute.”

Fargo suddenly pointed and his voice cracked.

“The iceman cometh.”

A figure swaddled in furs appeared out of the cold fog and Jo wasn’t surprised to see Taggart.

“G’day,” he said. There was a moment of strained silence when Jo questioned why she had to meet another lover of hers who had left town on her without seeming to think she was important. “Jack!” cried Taggart, and he and Carter flung themselves into each other’s arms. “Fargo!” Another hug. “Grand to have the old team back together!” He paused and looked at her, suddenly subdued. “Jo, good to see ya.”

“You too,” was all she could say.

“I'm assuming you all know each other?” Tess said.

“Yeah,” said Taggart. “Eureka was my home for a spell. I did some fine zoological work in these parts.”

“And it hasn't been the same without you,” said Carter, side-eying Jo. “So where you been?”

“Ambled from Melbourne to Minsk. I was doing a polar bear count when I heard about the ice core project. Couldn't turn down a chance to study primordial life now, could I?”

“Well, you never know where a walkabout's gonna lead ya,” said Fargo.

“Sometimes you end up right back where you started,” Taggart said, looking at Jo. “Not so bad, eh?” Zane suddenly joined them, looking out of place without any jacket on. “Morning, doc. Your fridge has still got some temperature fluctuations.”

“I'll take a look,” Zane said flatly.

“Aren't you freezing?” Jo asked, trying to get some kind of reaction.

“No,” he said, dismissing her with barely a look and walking farther down the ice core.

“Petro-tech,” Fargo said.

“Who-tech?” asked Carter.

“He's wearing petro-tech,” said Fargo. “It's a reactive thermal barrier. Best cold weather insulation in the world. All of GD is insulated with it, along with every building in town. Making cloth out of it is an incredibly expensive process.”

“Waste of time,” said Tagagart. “Men of the arctic should respect the arctic ways. Everything I'm wearing I killed and skinned myself! Right down to my walrus skivvies…” he ended, pulling at his pants.

“We'll take your word for that,” said Tess hurriedly.

“Not to worry,” Taggart said, pulling some paper out of his pockets. “Just a bit of international business that needs attending to.”

Jo tuned out the rest of the conversation even as Carter and Taggart hugged wildly again.

Having her ex back in town and Zane acting like he was…well, she had a lot of things to think about. She got back in her car and tried to process but everything was swirling around in her head so she decided to head to Café Diem.

Of course, when she got there Taggart was holding court, telling stories. He approached her immediately and she braced herself for an unusual conversation.

“Uh, we haven't had a chance to talk yet,” he said.

“But even when we did, we, uh, didn't,” she said. “You left town without even saying goodbye. Two years ago.”

She walked away slightly but he moved with her.

“I didn't think you wanted a goodbye from me. You and Zane were already well on your way to becoming a happy little couple.”

She stared at him for a second.

“I guess we, uh, we were. Yeah,” she answered and her use of the past tense did not escape her notice.

In fact, it felt horrible to say and she suddenly wanted to leave again but he stopped her.

“He's an odd fellow, if you don't mind me saying. Moody type. Chatty at first, but after a while he turned downright icy.” Jo understood perfectly. Taggart looked over her shoulder. “My audience awaits,” he said. “It is good to see you again, Jo.”

He kissed her cheek carefully and she smiled softly. Not that she wanted anything from him, but kind attention felt good at the moment.

She turned around though and saw Zane sitting at the counter, perfectly positioned to see them in the mirror. He didn’t look happy. He looked blank.

She walked toward him, suddenly wondering if it was jealousy that was causing him to be so cold.

“What you just saw, you know, between Taggart and me, that wasn't romantic or anything,” she said, sitting next to him. He didn’t reply. “Zane. Well, you know that, right?” she asked, hoping for something, anything at this point.

“Don't worry about it,” he finally said, deadpan, and slid off the stool and left.

She was left again, dumbfounded, and more than a little pissed off.

She went back to work, what else could she do?

Carter was there, surrounded by piles of blue binders.

“Somebody looks tense. What's the matter?” she asked.

Better to hear about his problems than think about hers.

“Well, Captain Yuri has me going through Eureka's entire library of disaster plans. I mean, tsunami, missile attack,” he said, pointing. “Um, genetically modified super intelligent ferret infestation,” he ended triumphantly.

“Cool,” she said casually.

“Yeah. And, um, apparently we have an emergency pneumatic vacuum tube communication system. No, we don't!” She got up at that and walked over to the wall. “I mean, what's it, behind some picture in some wall?” She swung the picture open until he looked. “And I mean, look at these plans- oh, yeah, but I mean, it doesn't actually work, right?” She picked up the baseball from his desk and inserted it. “Wait, wait.” The baseball left through the tube. “That, that's…well, that'll be really handy if we ever need to send anyone a baseball.” She shut the picture and leaned against the desk, suddenly numb. “You okay?” he asked gently.

She took a breath.

“Uh, Zane. Um, he's just, he's being so cold.

“I think after a couple of weeks with Taggart, anyone would need a little alone time,” Carter said reassuringly.

“Yeah,” Jo said, not convinced at all.

“Just try to be patient,” he said, tapping her on the leg.

She didn’t know what good that would do, but it was all she could do.

He left to go back to GD to try and get signatures and she wallowed. She admitted it, wallowed.

She soon got a call from Carter though, summoning her back to GD. Apparently Taggart had been frozen solid in the refrigerator and though he was thawed out now, the ice was spreading.

Well, it was something to focus on. She went back to GD and suited up again.

“The ice is everywhere. I mean, it's even growing up the walls,” Carter said.

“That's weird,” she agreed, but without any enthusiasm.

He used a pick to slice apart two pieces of ice and examined it.

“You ever seen ice with black streaks in it before?” he asked, handing it to her.

“No,” she said, looking. “Then again, I've never paid that much attention to ice before.”

“Let’s keep looking,” he said and they walked down the ice core.

“Who else was in here around the time you found Taggart?” she asked, not able to help but have suspicions.

“As far as I know, only Zane,” said Carter.

“He's the one that designed this cooling system, right?” she asked, her brain jumping ahead to a wild theory involving Zane being jealous and hurting Taggart on purpose.

It was almost better than thinking he just didn’t care about her anymore.

“Yeah. I figure one of these things probably just went haywire,” replied Carter.

“They're fine,” Zane said, coming up behind them in his petro-tech and pushing through them like they weren’t even there. “I checked them. Twice.”

“Okay. Any ideas?” Carter asked.

“Whatever happened in here has nothing to do with my equipment,” said Zane.

“Zane,” Jo said, anxious to get some kind of reaction from him.

“Excuse me but I've got work to do,” he said, turning back to his machine.

“Zane,” she tried again, but he ignored her.

She was not going to get used to feeling like this. Something was wrong, her gut was screaming at her, but she didn’t know what else she could do when there were things wrong in the town so she ignored Carter’s pitying looks and they headed back to their office.

Zane did know what was happening. He had lived it, but it was very different this side of things. He did not like how Jo was feeling. For once he found himself almost liking his version of events better.

Before long Taggart showed up and Carter took a phone call from Henry who was consulting at NASA.

“Afternoon,” he said.

“How you feeling?” she asked.

“Tip-top, thank you,” he replied. “Amazing what the body can achieve with a couple hours in a hot bath.”

“Good. I was worried about you,” she admitted.

Taggart shifted and glanced back at Carter on the phone.

“Uh, Jo, about before. I was wrong to leave town without saying goodbye. To leave things between us unsettled. I'm sorry.”

“Me too,” she said, his words soothing a part of herself still a bit hurt inside.

“It's important to me that you and I remain friends. I wouldn't want to lose you from my life,” Taggart said sincerely.

She smiled and put her hand on his.

“Me neither.”

The moment was broken when Carter came back over.

“Back on your feet, I see,” he said.

“And on the case,” Taggart assured him. “I checked out all the refrigeration units. Yeah, they're fine. Operating at one hundred percent capacity.”

“I don't know if that's good news or bad,” said Jo.

“I did find something interesting in that bit of ice you gave me,” Taggart said. “Those black streaks - malformed ice crystals. Evidence of incredibly fast growth.”

“Wow. Fast enough to grab a man?” Carter asked skeptically.

“Ask me tomorrow,” Taggart said and turned to leave.

“Wait! Why tomorrow?” asked Carter.

“The ice, it’s still spreading,” Taggart replied.

With that, they headed back to GD. This constant back and forth was driving Jo crazy, especially since she knew a Zane clone waited for her on the other end. Carter went to talk with Tess and then the ice made its presence known, spreading throughout GD, covering the rotunda. Scientists were trapped in Level 3 and Taggart went back to work examining the ice.

Carter joined Jo.

“I hate to say it,” he said, “but I think Zane is a good place to keep looking,” he said.

“Good luck getting anything,” Jo said pessimistically.

They headed for his lab and then spotted him coming in.

“Uh, Zane, hey,” said Carter. “Can we ask you a few questions?”

Zane kept walking.

“I'm kind of busy.”

“Well, we need to know what you figured out about the ice,” said Carter, hastening after him.

“Nothing,” Zane said, pouring himself some coffee from the pot on the table. “I thought Taggart was working on it.”

“Well, everyone's working on it,” said Carter. Jo watched Zane not even glance at them. His motions were that of a robot. “We don't seem to be getting anywhere. And you don't seem to be as worried as everyone else.”

“It's not my problem. I'm concerned with maintaining the integrity of the core through temperature control. So far, so good,” Zane reported in a monotone.

“Have you seen the rotunda?” Carter asked, starting to sound as annoyed as Jo felt.

She was seriously starting to think Zane had been replaced by a robot.

“Yes. And, again, that really doesn't affect my responsibilities,” Zane said flatly.

Jo couldn’t stand it anymore; she sprang forward and let him have it.

“What the hell is going on?” she asked, cutting Carter off before he could stop her. “You go away for a month, and you come back acting like the thing. What's going on with you?”

“I'm fine,” he said, put his coffee down, and walked away.

“He is not fine. That's not him.” She walked, looking at him enter the refrigerator. “He's different.”

“Something's going on,” Carter agreed, looking down. “Jo, look at the coffee.”

“I don't care about-” she started to say.

“It's frozen solid!” Carter said, starting to run after Zane. “Zane!”

She chased after him. They opened the door and she saw Zane lying on the floor. She dashed to him.

“Zane!” She took him in her arms and he felt like ice. “He's so cold.”

They rushed him to the infirmary.

The doctors and Tess immediately took over and Jo had to stand back while they examined him. Every horrible possibility was running through her head, especially since he’d so recently almost died in here.

Carter stayed there with her for a while but then got a call.

“I’ll be back soon,” he said, squeezing her shoulder.

She nodded, her eyes glued to Zane.

The doctors kept working but Tess came over and explained that they had found ice, the same kind that was covering GD, inside of Zane.

“What are you going to do?” Jo asked nervously.

“We’re using an ultrasonic patch to melt the ice,” said Tess. “It should help. Hopefully until we can figure out what’s going on with the ice.”

“Will he be okay? Is that why he was…?” Jo trailed off.

“They’ll stabilize him,” Tess said compassionately. “Then you should sit with him, okay?”

“Okay,” said Jo, trying to calm herself down again.

Once again she found herself sitting by him while he slept in the infirmary. He felt icy cold to the touch still. She wasn’t sure how long she sat there, but the more time passed, the more antsy she got and the more frustrated.

His eyes opened suddenly and fixed on her and she felt him truly look at her as he hadn’t since he’d been back. Tess had explained the ice had been in his brain, blocking his emotions, but still, she was upset.

“JoJo?” he asked.

She jumped up.

“Are you okay? I can get someone.”

“No,” he said. “What happened?”

“You were infected by the ice,” she said. “You passed out. They’re melting it.”

“I remember,” he said, but he still sounded confused and she didn’t know what to do with that. Did he remember everything and how he’d acted? Was he sorry? Did he have some traumatic story about ice infection she would hear about later? And she’d been entertaining theories about robot replacements and him attacking people in a jealous…ice rage.

She suddenly couldn’t look at him and got up, checking on his pillows, beating them into submission since she couldn’t beat him.

“Why is it that every guy I date ends up in this infirmary?” she asked.

“Because you're bad luck, obviously,” he said dryly.

“A joke at my expense,” she said. “Glad to have you back.”

She walked around the bed and began beating the other side of the pillows.

He reached up and grabbed her hands.

“No. Okay, okay. About that, I'm sorry.”

His face was open and sincere and she melted, no pun intended.

“No, I'm sorry,” she said, holding on to his hands. “I should never have suspected you of…”

“Suspected me?” he asked, surprised. “Of what?”

“Well,” she said awkwardly. “Taggart got frozen. I… and he and I used to… Well, you know.”

“Really?” he said, a grin on his face. “You thought I loved you that much.” She hit him deliberately and he chuckled. “All right, you know, after the way I acted, I would have suspected me, too.” He tilted his head up. “So, what's the prognosis?”

“You're gonna be fine,” she said, hoping she was right.

He cocked his head and looked at her, telling her he knew she wasn’t telling him everything.

“Yeah?”

“As soon as they figure out why ice with black lines in it is growing all over GD and inside of you,” she said, sitting next to him.

“Black lines. You mean striations?” he asked.

“Yeah, I guess,” she said.

His face became focused and she knew he was lost in science.

“I came across something about that earlier this year when I was doing research for my cooling units.” He suddenly made to get up. “Is Taggart working in the core lab?”

“Yeah, but…” she said.

“Yeah, I need to help him,” he said and started to swing out of the bed.

“No!” she said, rushing to that side. “Okay, no. You need to stay here and get better.”

She put her hands on his face.

“Jo, I'm not going to get better,” he said, reaching up to take the patches off his head. “Not unless I help that crazy Australian find out what's happening around here. It's my only chance.” He got up and she immediately moved to support him. He stopped and looked down. “Have you seen my pants?”

She couldn’t help it, she started to laugh, and it felt so good to laugh. She kissed him, never minding how cold his mouth was.

“I love you,” she said, breaking off.

“Yeah, me too,” he said. “But, seriously, Jo. I know you like the view, but I need my pants.”

She rolled her eyes and went to grab his petro-tech.

After he was kitted out and moved to help Taggart, she went to find Carter.

“How’s Zane?” he asked.

“Working,” she said. “And being a pain. So…better.”

He grinned at her.

“Told you to be patient.”

She gave him a look.

They were all dressed in their heavy gear again because the ice kept spreading and soon Carter realized it was the petro-tech that was aiding the spread of the ice. They needed a way to get their cure to the whole town, since Zoe confirmed Café Diem was freezing over as well. The whole planet could go through an ice age if they didn’t have a way to get their fungicide to melt the fungus induced ice.

That was when Carter and Jo remembered the pneumatic tubes.

“Will the emergency communication system be able to reach everyone?” she asked as she pulled the wall panel open.

“According to this,” Carter said, looking at the schematics, “the network of tubes leads from here to every building in town.”

“So…” said Zane.

“So the tubes go into the walls where the petro-tech is, right?” Tess said, thinking. “We create an aerosol version of the fungicide and pump the cure all over GD and then the town. You're a genius,” she told Carter, tossing him the baseball Jo had sent through the tubes earlier.

“Well, not so much,” he said modestly.

“We'll need to build a pump with exactly the right kind of pressure,” said Zane.

“Yeah. Before the building falls,” said Carter, as they all felt the building structure groan under the weight of the ice.

“Okay, I'll run an algorithm to figure out how to disperse the fungicide,” said Tess.

“All right, good. I'll go to Cafe Diem,” said Carter and Jo knew he was worried about Zoe.

“The roads are all iced over. You'll never make it,” she said.

“I might be able to lend a hand with that,” said Taggart.

Jo knew what that meant and she covered a smile.

Tess and Zane continued to work while Carter and Taggart left and Jo let them do their work, enjoying a Zane who was busy rather than one lying in a hospital bed.

It worked, the ice melted and she literally watched Zane’s brow unclench from the comparable brain freeze he’d complained about feeling dissipating.

He hugged her in celebration while Tess sagged in relief that she hadn’t destroyed GD on her first day of running it without Allison.

“We need to get you checked out,” Jo said, worried about how cold Zane still felt.

“I’m fine, Jo,” he said.

“Infirmary,” she ordered.

He sighed and followed her there, getting a thorough screening.

“The ice is all gone from his system,” confirmed the doctor. “I don’t see any signs of it returning. Get scanned again tomorrow to be safe and let us know if you have any similar symptoms immediately.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Zane and turned to Jo. “See, I’m fine.”

“Then I’d really like to get back to that welcome home present,” she said.

“Me too,” he said, leaning his forehead on hers for a moment.

There was still some cleanup to do and Jo couldn’t ignore making sure the rest of the citizens of Eureka were okay, but Carter called from Café Diem and said everything was back to normal.

So that’s where she and Zane headed and he was surrounded by a crowd of people asking him questions. News certainly traveled fast in Eureka. She ordered food.

“So glad you're feeling better,” said Vincent.

Jo grabbed Zane’s hand after getting the food.

“Your hands are still freezing,” she said. “I ordered you a soup and a hot tea.”

He took the food but looked down at her.

“I really missed you,” he said.

She loved hearing that and she leaned up for a kiss, broken only when Taggart came in.

“Looks like things have warmed up around here,” he said, chuckling.

Zane kept his arm around Jo’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” she agreed.

“Uh, Taggart,” said Zane. “I'm, I'm sorry for the way I was acting the last few weeks.”

Taggart made a noise of dismissal.

“No worries. You weren't yourself, that's all.”

“Yeah, well, thanks for bringing me back,” said Zane.

“My pleasure, mate,” Taggart said, sticking out his hand for Zane to shake. “Worth it to see this one smiling again.” He nodded at Jo. She curled back into Zane as he re-put his arm around her. “So,” Taggart said, clapping his hands together, “ready to get back to work? We've only got a few centuries of history to defrost and study.” Zane and Jo began to walk out but smiled back at him. “What do you say, mate?”

“You'll have to get started without me,” said Zane. “I think I owe someone a proper hello.”

They walked out and she mouthed, “yeah,” to him.

He certainly did. Even if it hadn’t really been his fault.

They drove back to her place.

“I’m assuming you stopped calling me because you’d turned into the Abominable Snow Monster,” she said, holding his hand, trying to warm it up.

He sipped his tea with his other hand.

“Probably,” he agreed. “Honestly, I remember it all, but it’s like everything is glazed over with this…non emotion. I didn’t make decisions; I just acted, following the need to work. I don’t know; it was really weird. I could understand what I was doing was odd, but I couldn’t at the same time. I knew that I should be missing you and talking to you, but it didn’t seem important. I’m really sorry, Jo.”

“We’ll just chalk it up to Eureka,” she said. “I admit, I was pretty pissed and rather upset, but…I’m just glad you’re okay.”

“Me too,” he said. “So, what is this welcome home present?”

She pulled in her driveway.

“You eat your soup,” she said as they walked inside and she turned up the heat. “I am going to change and then we can discuss that.”

“Your house, your rules, Deputy,” he said, digging into his soup.

She was already wearing his present. Had been all day, in fact. It was the lingerie he’d bought her back when they first met. The only piece she’d allowed herself to keep. She quickly undressed and then took her hair out of its ponytail, brushing it.

She eyed herself critically in the mirror and decided she would do.

Zane blessed his intellect a thousand times over for coming up with the idea of doing these memory runs. He’d been taunted by the story of this lingerie for months now and he was finally seeing it, even if it was through her eyes. He was finally okay with her not fading to black if it meant he got to experience what happened next.

Jo somewhat self-consciously stepped back out to the kitchen. Zane was turned away from her.

“Welcome home,” she said.

He turned and when he saw her, he dropped his spoon on her counter. She’d forgive the mess for the reaction. He slowly looked her up and down and she tried not to squirm under his gaze. He’d looked at her many, many times and she could never quite get over how much he liked looking at her.

“I need to go away more often,” he finally said, his voice hoarse.

“Or just never leave,” she said softly.

He got up and walked toward her, rather like a predator, but luckily she found that sexy.

“Or that,” he said, running his fingertips up her side lightly and she began to shiver. “Looks like we both could do with some warming up,” he said, bending his head and kissing her.

She couldn’t agree more.

***

Zane blinked, finding himself breathing rather heavily as they came out of the memory.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Jo said. “It felt like you wanted me to keep going.”

“You guessed right,” Zane said, eying her hungrily. “I’m very glad I got to experience that. And now that I felt what you felt…I’m ready to put my agenda forward, Mrs. Donovan.”

“I guess we can rearrange the order of tonight’s events,” she said, sliding over, and put her hands underneath his shirt, bringing it over his head and dislodging his headset in the process. “Did you have anything you needed to share tonight?”

“Yes, but later,” he said, his hands in her hair and on her neck.

And it was much, much later when he did.

***

Jo felt surprise as Zane when his boss told him he would be getting a special project.

Zane was leaving Eureka. Not permanently, but he was getting a probationary ticket for the drilling of an ice core in Russia. Carter and Lupo sat him down in her office along with his team head.

“We’ve decided you’re the best person for this because of your work on the cooling units,” said Jackson, his boss. “I’ve cleared your release with Sheriff Carter.”

“Despite my misgivings,” said Carter, “I think it’s a good opportunity for you, Zane.”

“And you?” Zane asked, looking at Lupo.

He’d only just gotten out of her holding cell for releasing the test animals on Level 4 last week.

“I’m just looking forward to a little peace and quiet,” she said, smirking at him.

He stared back and then turned to Jackson.

“How long will I be gone?” he asked.

“About a month,” said Jackson. “It’s going to depend on the drilling time. We’ll arrange everything and there will be guards posted there.”

“To make sure I don’t steal all the ice and run off with it?” Zane asked sarcastically.

“Something like that,” Carter said. “You up for it?”

“I could do with a change of pace,” said Zane.

And he could, he’d been restless lately. The science and work was still rewarding but he found himself missing something. After Karen left he didn’t have anything he was working toward and with so few options available to him, he was somewhat lost. Teasing Lupo was pretty much the highlight of his day and even he realized that wasn’t exactly healthy.

He needed something; he just didn’t know where to find it. He’d been seriously considering running again lately, idly planning escape and cover ups in his head. Some worked well and some didn’t, but he never really gave up figuring out a life outside of Eureka. Getting to actually leave it would be a good opportunity to find out what he really wanted and what was viable.

Jo felt sorrow for this Zane, knowing he still hadn’t found a permanent place in Eureka, and inexplicably glad he hadn’t run before she’d come from another timeline for him.

As he discovered later, an icy camp with a mad Australian, was not exactly the walkabout he would have chosen. He found himself missing Eureka, which he’d never thought would happen. He missed Café Diem and Vincent and his strange food concoctions. He missed his lab and even some of his team. He missed sitting with Zoe and people watching and discussing ways of pissing off her dad. He even missed Lupo in a strange way. It was just weird not feeling like she was constantly breathing down his neck. Mostly, he missed being warm.

Taggart was a strange man and though Zane had met him before, he hadn’t spent much time with him. He admired the man’s expertise and enthusiasm, but he was slightly exhausting and a bit off putting. He didn’t really know what Lupo saw in him. Then again, he didn’t really know what Taggart saw in Lupo.

Eventually he just had to ask.

“So you and Lupo?”

Taggart beamed.

“Aye, my Jo’s a brilliant one, all right. Never a dull moment with her.”

“But she’s so…mean,” said Zane, finally deciding that was the kindest word he could use.

“Jo, nah, you just got to dig underneath the surface,” said Taggart. “She’s the kindest woman alive if you work with her.”

“Well, she doesn’t want to work with me,” Zane said, tinkering with his device a bit more.

“Just give her time and don’t aggravate her,” said Taggart, tapping his nose with his finger. “That’s the key. You can’t tease her and pull gaffs on her without her getting tetchy.”

“She decided she hated me first,” mumbled Zane, even if that sounded like he was in first grade.

“It might not be meant to be,” said Taggart. “But I tell ya, she’s worth it. I know it. In fact, I’m going to ask her to…” he trailed off.

“To what?” Zane asked, and then realized what Taggart must mean. “So forever?” he said, not quite able to wrap his brain around the idea.

“I love my Jo with a deep fire, like the firestorms on the desert,” said Taggart dreamily. “I’ve been planning it.”

“Good luck,” said Zane and meant it.

He and Taggart worked well together but gradually Zane started to feel numb to the other man’s overtures of friendship. Work was what needed to be done. Science was what mattered. Zane was tasked with the refrigeration unit and that’s what he was going to do. Anything else didn’t matter. Nothing really mattered.

They finished the drilling, he went back to GD, and they worked on the core. Lupo said something, but he ignored her. He ignored Taggart. He ignored Carter. He ignored Tess. He ignored Douglas. He was there to work.

He was cold, but it didn’t matter. He worked and did his job.

And then he woke up in the infirmary and he was confused. He was still freezing, but now it really mattered and he didn’t know why he hadn’t cared before. He remembered everything, but was really confused as to why he’d acted the way he had. He had some friends in this town but he’d acted like Vincent didn’t even exist earlier.

Jo found it extremely interesting to be inside Zane’s head because even though she’d been told what had happened with both Zanes and the ice, she didn’t really understand how someone could be turned into a robot by ice. Feeling it herself, or rather, not feeling anything at all, it was extremely clarifying and she felt bad for both of them and what they’d gone through.

Someone eventually explained to him about what had happened to him with the ice and mentioned the striations.

It stirred something inside of him and he ran to help Taggart.

“You okay to work?” the man asked.

“No, so use me while you can,” said Zane.

His petro-tech turned out to be what was causing the fungus in the ice to grow so rapidly. They had to work fast and Zane tried to help but his brain felt like it was freezing, like he’d had a giant bowl of ice cream, only more like ten bowls all at once.

He was doing his best but he kept blanking.

“Zane, are you okay?” asked Tess.

“I’ll be fine,” he said, waving her off.

“If you can’t do your job right now,” Lupo said and whatever her intention, he took it as hostile.

“Look, I have ice everywhere inside my body and it feels like I have brain freeze times a thousand,” he said tightly. “So let me work.”

She backed off and they saved Eureka, using the emergency response system and an aerosol fungicide.

Zane felt immediate relief and was glad to go back to the infirmary and get cleared. He was still cold and so he headed to Café Diem to get something warm. Then he was going to put on every article of clothing he owned and dive under his covers and sleep for a week.

He ran into Taggart though.

“Looks like you’ve warmed up,” Taggart said, but he looked much sadder than Taggart was apt to look.

“Yeah, um, listen, I wanted to apologize for the way I acted the last couple of weeks,” said Zane, holding his hot soup awkwardly.

“No worries. You’re weren’t yourself. That’s all,” Taggart said dismissively.

“Still, thanks for getting me back home,” Zane said.

And Eureka was home. It may not be perfect, but being away had actually made him realize that even if he didn’t have much of a future and he didn’t know what he wanted, he’d rather figure it out here. It was helpful considering he was technically required to stay there, but this made it feel like his choice.

“My pleasure, mate,” said Taggart, shaking his hand.

“So, start work on the ice tomorrow?” asked Zane.

“Um, I’m actually headed out of town,” said Taggart.

“Why? You were so excited. What about Lupo?” Taggart’s face fell and Zane realized something was wrong. “Did the proposal…?”

“Didn’t go well,” said Taggart simply. “Um, turns out she wants something else. Neither of us know what, but it’s not me.”

Jo felt a renewal of guilt because she could see how devastated Taggart was. She had loved him once and she would never want him to be hurt, any version of him.

“I’m sorry, man,” said Zane, feeling very awkward.

“A jewel like Josefina Lupo is not easily lost,” said Taggart, his face tight. “So I must hie me to the wild, find my way again. You start work on that ice without me, Zane.”

“I will,” said Zane. “And good luck.”

“I’ll look for it,” said Taggart and Zane made his way back home, feeling somewhat strange about the encounter.

From what he knew Lupo had been happy with Taggart, but apparently not enough to marry him. It was a new insight into her. Despite their antagonism, he didn’t think she’d turned down Taggart to hurt him, but clearly there was something more Lupo wanted. Zane couldn’t help wondering what.

But for now he needed to clear his head, go through his actions of the past couple of weeks, and probably apologize to a few more people. While staying warm, doing science, and waiting for that something he was missing. Until he found it…he could always mess with Lupo.

***

“The food must be really cold by now,” Jo said, untucking her head from Zane’s shoulder.

He lazily brushed his fingers along her side, enjoying the feel of smooth skin.

“It’s been a long night and I am hungry,” he said. “I suppose I should apologize for upsetting the order of your night.”

“If you ever apologize for what we just did I’ll divorce you,” she said, without bite.

Zane laughed.

“No, you won’t. Pretty sure the Bible doesn’t like divorce.”

“Well, commitment is a good thing,” she said, “and you shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep.”

“No one knows the future,” he said. “Things could happen. People change. Feelings change.”

“Which you knew going in,” she said. “So, you do your part and I do mine, nobody abuses anybody or cheats on anyone, and even when we don’t like each other, we’ll work at it and we’ll be fine.”

“I guess I can live with that,” he said, pretty sure he didn’t want anything other than that anyway.

“You better,” she said, kissing him lightly before sitting up. “Let’s talk and eat.”

“Okay,” he agreed, getting up and pulling on his pants. “Is this going to be formal?”

She looked down at her rather disheveled dress and looked back up at him.

“What do you think?”

He grinned and set out the food. It was a spread of Vincent’s good food, including both of their favorite things to eat.

“So, I should probably preemptively apologize for ignoring you in that memory,” he said.

“Zane, we both know you weren’t trying to,” she said. “And…in a strange way, after living your memory, I feel like I really understand the whole thing better. It was…blank being in your mind. No wonder you didn’t care about anything.”

“It just feels like it was always forward and back now that I have lived it myself,” he said. “You and he got so close and then something would always happen and you’d have to feel insecure again about how he felt about you.”

“Well, that’s a lot like how our relationship went as well,” she said, “though probably more with you feeling the insecurity.”

“Gee, thanks,” he said. “I guess. I also have spent an alarming amount of time in the infirmary.”

“Yeah, you might want to work on that for the health of my heart,” she said wryly, taking a sip of her wine.

“Do you worry about that?” he asked curiously. “That something will happen to me?”

“Of course,” she said. “You’ve seen how many times I’ve almost lost you.”

“You know what’s funny?” he said. “You’re the one in law enforcement. You’d think you’d be in more dangerous situations than I would.”

“You’re constantly messing with the laws of the universe,” she retorted. “And this is Eureka.”

He couldn’t argue with that.

“Well, it’s safer now with our rules in place,” he said, and put down his utensils for emphasis. “And if there’s one thing these memories have taught me, it’s that apparently we can survive anything. When we lose each other, we somehow always find each other. If one of us is close to dying, something saves us.”

“I’ll drink to that,” said Jo.

“You don’t need to get me drunk to seduce me, you know,” he said.

“Sometimes I really don’t know why I love you,” she said, shaking her head.

“But you do,” he said, smirking.

“God help me,” and she sounded like she was really praying, “I do.”

Chapter Text

Zane slowly unpacked the memory device and hooked it together methodically. He couldn’t believe how many times he’d done this, how many memories he’d lived through that technically weren’t his own, an entire relationship of two people so close to him, but neither one him.

“You’re looking maudlin,” he said, watching Jo as she waited for him.

“Well, I’ve been thinking,” she said, “and this is it.”

“What’s it?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t really have anything else to show you,” she said. “Except…the proposal.”

“Whoa, this is the end, the final memory?” he asked, stopping what he was doing and staring at her.

“Yeah,” she confirmed.

“That’s, uh, that’s pretty big,” he said, returning to his task, not sure how he felt about that.

“It is,” she agreed. “You’ll finally get to see how I messed everything up.”

“That sounds dramatic and ominous,” he said. “Let’s just say I’ll get to see the end of him and the beginning of me.”

“I don’t know if that’s any better,” she said, putting on her headset. “I’m a bit sad to end though.”

“It has been an interesting project with which to begin our married life,” he said, sitting down beside her.

“Probably a bit unconventional,” she said. “But that’s Eureka for you. Where else could you literally live through your spouse’s past relationships?”

“With a different version of yourself no less,” he said. “No, it’s, it’s weird. I know I haven’t really gotten to feel his feelings and thoughts, just yours, but I almost feel like I lived his life at this point.”

“Really?” she asked, cocking her head. “Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Sort of,” he said. “I was…greedy for more of you. For the parts I never got to have. It’s not perfect, but I got them so…thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she said. “You ready?”

“As I’ll ever be,” he said, taking her hand.

He pressed the button.

***

Zane felt the familiar sense of disorientation, of being in another place, of feeling someone else’s feelings along with his own. He was lying, as Jo, in their bed, sleepily contemplating when she had to get up. She was sore because she’d run through miles of Eureka’s forests the day before, chasing a runaway robot. She was hungry and Zane could feel her stomach rumbling.

Jo reached out her arm and felt empty space. It didn’t happen too often these days. While Zane was technically officially moved in, he had kept his apartment for storage, and for extra lab space. There were times he would run experiments late into the night and then crash there. Today was evidently one of those days. It had happened a little more often as of late.

She didn’t mind it a lot, but every now and then it caused her a twinge of uncertainty. Sometimes she couldn’t believe he was in her life and she wanted to never let him go, but there were moments when she was scared, feeling like it was all going to fall apart somehow. She didn’t know how to do this relationship thing and neither did he. They were both full tilt kind of people, rushing headlong into passions and feelings without a lot of concern for the future. She just knew there had to be pitfalls ahead and she didn’t want to be so happy she missed them avoiding them.

But she wasn’t the type to brood about the future so she got up and stretched thoroughly to get the ache out of her muscles. Today was a rather big day for Eureka. It was Founder’s Day. Like it or not, she had a part to play. It was rather unfair because she’d planned to spend today’s activities with Zoe before the other girl had called and said she couldn’t make it home from Harvard.

She didn’t want to change into her costume yet so she just put on her regular work pants and white tank top and headed in to the office. The festivities were in full swing already and she had to wind her way through people dressed up, kids in costumes, dogs barking, and a whole lot of balloons.

She walked in to find Zane inside the holding cell, a whole lot of crap in there with him. The cot looked like a comfortable bed, there was a painting on the wall, and he was cooking something. The whole scene was rather familiar looking.

“Hey, Jo. You hungry?” he asked. “This panini press makes rocking quesadillas.”

She put her costume down and smiled at him, eager to play whatever game he was playing.

“Zane, what are you doing in my cell?” she asked.

“Reminding you how we first met,” he explained, spreading his hands. “Me in shackles, facing twenty-five years for computer crimes. Hacking Carter’s credit card to make the place cozy.”

She laughed and tried to keep a straight face.

“Hmm. Good times.”

He picked up a box off the bed.

“I, uh, I got you something,” he said, displaying the logo to her.

Liza’s Lingerie. He passed her the box through the bars.

Zane’s attention was caught by that. Maybe Jo hadn’t proposed to him the way she had solely because of her first meeting with that Zane.

“Did you now?” she asked, supposing that he’d really been too proud of her keeping the other lingerie. Maybe he was angling for another show. But he stuck his hands in his pockets, looking a little nervous. “Hmm. Huh,” she said, hearing him open the door of the cell while she whipped the top off the box. “And I suppose you'd like me to try this on for you?”

Zane was amazed. Across timelines, without him realizing it, he’d echoed her own words when she proposed to him.

There was a ring box sitting inside, nothing else. She froze.

“Something like that,” he said, and she turned to find him kneeling in front of her.

She looked at him and then flipped the lid of the box finding a ring inside. Not just any ring, she remembered him mentioning once how he had his grandmother’s engagement ring, given to him before she died. She knew without a doubt this was it.

“Zane,” she whispered.

“Well, you already made an honest man of me,” he said. “So let's make it official.” He paused and looked as sincere as she’d ever seen him look. “Marry me, JoJo.”

She felt like she was broken. Everything inside of her was at a loss because while she knew this moment was usually emotional, she just hadn’t expected it. She was afraid and there was suddenly so much pressure. She couldn’t think of what she wanted.

“Zane, I, I,” she floundered, “don't know what to say.”

His face changed from sincerity to pain.

“How, how about yes?” he said.

She still couldn’t say anything, maybe she could have if given a moment, not that she knew what it would be, but Carter suddenly burst in.

“Hey, Jo! Fargo's got a job for-” he stopped as he saw the tableau in front of him. “No,” he said in a happy disbelief. “No!” He clapped his hands. “Well, congratulations,” he said to her, then to Zane. “Congratulations.”

Neither one of them had looked at him, Jo unable to look away from the disappointed and rejected look on Zane’s face.

“Yeah, not so much,” Zane said, getting up, clapping Carter on the arm, and rushing out.

“Zane, I…” Jo began, turning after him, but he didn’t stop and she felt a sudden terror she would never see him again.

Zane had the feeling she never had seen that Zane again. It made him hurt for her, for them both.

“Oh, Jo,” Carter said softly, moving in closer.

She couldn’t bear his sympathy. She shook her head, still looking down at the ring.

“Not right now, Carter. Okay?”

“Sure. If you need anything, you just call,” he said, putting his hand on her arm. “All right?”

“Yeah,” she said, listening to him walk out, eyes still on the ring.

It was beautiful. She loved it. Suddenly she wanted to try it on, wanted to see how it would look. But she couldn’t, couldn’t do that, not unless she could tell Zane yes, could feel with absolute certainty she wanted this, that one of them wouldn’t mess it up, that her heart wouldn’t get broken forever.

Because if there was one thing she couldn’t compromise on, it was marriage. Christian or secular, marriage was a big deal, and too many people threw it away. Jo couldn’t be one of those people and so she wished, she wished she and Zane had talked about it before he’d done this, wished she’d had a chance to work these issues out in her own mind first. She wanted more time.

There was no going back from this, she would never get a divorce, not unless her husband cheated on or abused her. So this meant…this meant forever. Forever was frightening, especially for a woman who felt restless in her job, who barely knew how to handle happiness, who was always secretly frightened Zane would wake up and realize one day he didn’t want someone who made him follow so many rules, who was so much dumber than him.

She didn’t know what she wanted, but she knew that she didn’t want this to end. And, the look on his face, oh, it felt like an end. It felt like the death of all of her happiness.

“God, what did I do?” she whispered brokenly to the empty room. “What do I do?”

An answer didn’t come to her but she suddenly remembered how he’d freaked out and run away when she suggested becoming more serious. This was just her moment to freak out. It may take two weeks, but they could talk. Oh, how she hoped they would talk. She would just figure it out and she wouldn’t run and she wanted him so badly…

A small hope ran through her and she quickly put the ring back in the box and put it in her pocket. She changed into her costume and tried to come up with something to say. It’s not that she would say yes, because she wouldn’t jump into it, but she would need to say something to show him it wasn’t no, she just needed time.

Zane thought that was rather ironic, considering he assumed she was about to get more time than she’d know what to do with.

Jo licked her lips and lifted her PDA to call Zane, praying he would pick up. If he didn’t, she’d go out to find him. She refused to lose him over a moment of panic.

Jo suddenly stumbled, confused. She wasn’t in the office anymore; she was standing in a road. It was late afternoon, judging by the sun, and there was something coming toward her.

She was already fairly distraught and she had no clue what was happening. It was a military convoy and voices were raised. Her instincts took over and she fought.

She commandeered a bike and rode it through a military base of some kind. She had no idea what was going on, but she needed to get out of there. She had other things she needed to be doing. They chased her and it grew dark and she crashed the bike. Men tried to take her down and she fought them off. It felt good to be beating on something actually and she might have almost enjoyed herself until numbers overwhelmed her and she was hauled off to some kind of jail.

“Where the hell am I?” she moaned, sore and tired and emotionally spent.

“Jo? Is that you?” came a voice from the shadows.

“Fargo?” she asked.

“Oh, I thought I was going to die alone,” he said, springing up, clad only in a blanket he opened too far, and embracing her.

“Fargo, why are you naked?” she asked, one more horrible thing to go wrong with her day.

He backed up in embarrassment.

“Funny story,” he said and spun her a tale that was a little too Terminator to be real.

“Seriously?” she asked incredulously.

“Okay, fine. I was changing my clothes when the phone rang and then I was standing in the middle of a field. Naked. Surrounded by soldiers. Completely traumatizing,” he ended, sitting on the cot.

“Not just for you,” she muttered.

“So what's your story?” he asked, looking up at her.

“I was trying to reach Zane,” she admitted. “He asked me to marry him.”

“He what?” Fargo asked before asking in a much softer tone of voice, “I mean, he what?”

“He proposed,” she said and remembered the horrible moment. “And I froze. Anyway, I was putting my costume on for Founder’s Day and I tried to call Zane and then, bam, there was a military convoy coming right at me, so I…I took the offensive.”

“I’m sorry, Jo,” he said and for some reason it took all the anger out of her, leaving defeat.

She took off her jacket with a sigh and sat down next to him.

“What's happening to us?” she asked.

“Based on the photos from Founders' Day,” he answered, “I'm, I'm pretty sure we're in 1947. I have no idea how to get back.”

At the idea she would never get back, it brought the kind of hindsight clarity that was both relieving in how strong its surety was and frustrating in that it was too late. She knew now what her answer would be. Everything she and Zane had gone through, it had only made them stronger. Even if there were things to get through, she didn’t think she’d regret saying yes. To her marriage meant forever and she wanted that forever with Zane.

“And if we don’t,” she said regretfully, “I’ll never get a chance to tell Zane yes.”

She felt the blood on her forehead and Fargo awkwardly bumped her shoulder and she huffed out a sigh.

They sat there for a while and tossed back and forth suggestions about how to get out and what to do.

Then there was a noise at the door and they both stood in recognition of Allison, dressed in an old timey nurse’s uniform. She got the guard to leave, gave Fargo some clothes, and explained more of what was going on.

Of course, in another traumatic experience of the day, their breakout involving Fargo having to pee on the door and Jo would never be able to get that out of her memory.

And thanks to her, now Zane never would either.

Jo just wanted this day over with. They found Carter and Henry and some guy named Grant who was from 1947. They found out how to get back using a device Jo vaguely remembered seeing on Eureka’s Founder Day streets before this whole mess had started. Carter asked her to stand guard so Henry and Fargo could keep working and he and Grant went to go and do something else involving Allison.

At eleven pm, they lit their beacons and Fargo offered his hand to Jo. She took it gratefully, praying this worked and returned them to their own time.

She felt the same sensation and then she was back in Eureka, in front of the Sheriff’s office. She whirled around, seeing the same clothes as she’d just left, but now it was the familiar street she remembered. She saw the others on the street and ran to meet them. Everyone looked as relieved as she felt.

“Somehow everything looks just the same,” said Allison.

“Uh, almost everything,” Fargo said, looking past them. They turned to look and Jo saw what he meant. “Archimedes used to be granite.”

The statue, the one Jo walked past almost every day, was now bronze.

“Okay, wait, if that’s different,” Jo said, panicking, “other stuff could be, too, right?”

“Right,” said Henry.

“I gotta get home,” Carter said.

They each scattered, running, anxious. Jo felt her heart in her throat.

What if everything was different? What if they’d changed something important? What if Zane wasn’t even here? Jo felt like that would be almost a just punishment for her freeze and her not answering his proposal. She wanted to say yes to him, she wanted to scream yes to him. But if he didn’t exist, she couldn’t.

But if he did, she would. She’d drop her stuff off at the station and then she’d go and find him. No matter where he was, she’d find him and she’d tell him yes and she’d marry him and never let him go. She could and would fix this.

She walked into the station. She saw Zane in the holding cell, flipping through a magazine. He was wearing the same shirt. Everything was suddenly all right.

“Zane,” she breathed. “I can’t believe you’re still here.”

***

Zane opened his eyes and the first thing he saw was Jo clearly trying not to cry.

“JoJo?” he asked in concern and that was when she lost it.

She broke down sobbing and he instantly turned off the device and took off his headset, sliding closer to her, taking hers off, and gathering her inside the circle of his arms. She turned into his embrace and held on to his shirt front and he didn’t know what to do.

It had been a hard memory to live through for him, but he couldn’t imagine what it had been like for her. It was perhaps humbling and too revealing, but the depth of her emotion when she’d thought he was gone forever and the hope and joy in thinking he wasn’t when he was, it was overwhelming. He’d always felt it intellectually, in fact even emotionally, that the other Zane might as well have been killed with the timeline shift. He hadn’t known how to deal with that, which is why he’d suggested this in the first place. But for the first time, he was realizing that Jo needed to mourn the death of someone she loved, even if she’d found a replacement. In fact, she might never have truly been able to mourn since she had found a replacement.

He tried to soothe her with reassuring sounds and rubbed her back, but for once in his life, he didn’t say anything, he just let her cry.

It didn’t last forever, just long enough for his shirt to get fairly wet. When it sounded like her crying was dying down, he carefully took her hair out of its ponytail and ran his hands through the strands. Then he waited for her to say something.

“Do you remember when you first called me JoJo?” she asked, her voice muffled.

He was caught a bit off guard.

“Uh, it was when we were…clearing my name,” he said. “I asked you if you hated that nickname.”

“I do, I hate it,” she said, laughter mixing with the remnants of her tears. “But you have no idea what you saying that did to me. It was like…this burst of clear joy inside of me. It felt like somehow there was a part of him in you. Only he called me that. And you, without any prompting from me, called me that.”

“I hope that’s a good thing,” he said cautiously.

“Eventually, but just now, I’m sorry, it hurt to hear you say it,” she admitted.

She looked up at him with red eyes and wiped her nose with her hand.

“It’s okay,” he said, not really even sure what he was supposed to say.

“Don’t take this the wrong way,” she said, “but I miss him so much. Seeing him, the way he looked after I couldn’t say yes, then time jumping and you in the cell…it was like I lost him all over again.”

“I can get that,” he said.

He normally had simmering coils of jealousy within his chest regarding the other Zane and he felt the slightest embers of it igniting, but mostly he felt deep empathy for her grief and an understanding that this was no time to feel jealous. She was trying to share something with him, not any other Zane, and he would be the biggest jackass in the world if he tried to make it about him.

Even if it technically was all about him. Timelines were so confusing and annoying.

“I spent so much time the past couple of years, obsessively going back and forth over our relationship,” she said. “It didn’t help that I was trying to figure you out in the process. And I know we keep going changing our minds on whether or not you are him or if I’m really her, it’s all so confusing. But right now, it feels like you’re two separate people and I just lost the love of my life and I’ll never get him back and it’s all my fault.”

“Your fault,” he said, trying to keep his reactions to a minimum. “How do you mean?”

“For so long I wished I had just said yes then and there,” she said. “Then I wouldn’t have felt so guilty about his last few moments of cognition before being replaced, knowing they would have been of joy instead of rejection. It wouldn’t have mattered because he’d still be gone and you’d be here, but at least it would be out there, somewhere in the universe.”

“Somewhere out there, that particular pairing of Jo and Zane were engaged and happy,” he said.

“Yes,” she replied. “And it’s not something we could have helped. At least I don’t think so, but we…we murdered this whole town, we changed it. That’s not an easy thing to live with.”

“Oh, Jo,” he said, not sure how to respond to that.

He couldn’t deny her words. Like it or not, an entire town had changed forever and only five people knew what it had been. Maybe six now, including him, seven if you counted Grace, but still…sharing the memories could never be the same as living them. There were losses that had occurred, people whose lives had forever changed and they never even knew it. They weren’t given a chance to vote yes or no. Everything they were was just blown away in an instant. He’d felt that weird grief, something he couldn’t define, many times, because he hadn’t even known what he was grieving. He knew a little bit, and that man was more preserved than probably anyone else, but that version of Zane would never walk this earth again.

And what about the rest of the town? What about the people from his timeline who suddenly didn’t exist now? Zane thought they could all admit that this version of Fargo was better and, frankly, Zane though this Henry was probably better off, having not made the choice to turn traitor.

But Carter and Allison, those had been people he knew, who had been his friends, and they got replaced. He could flip back and forth on it all day. He wondered about the Vincent and the Zoe from Jo’s timeline. They had been perfectly happy, it seemed, and they had been erased. Would the original Zoe and Lucas have been happy together or was their breakup something to do with the timelines since Zane himself had been a catalyst in snagging Zoe’s attention away from Lucas?

He didn’t want to think about it anymore and he didn’t think about Lupo…his Jo. Not yet.

He tried to concentrate on this Jo and her grief.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “What happened wasn’t your fault, even if I know that won’t help much. You can’t help feeling what you feel.”

“No, I can’t,” she said, wiping at her face again. “I’m sorry though and remember I love you.”

“I’m not going to break because you’re grieving the other Zane,” he reassured her.

“Good,” she said. “Oddly enough I’m the one breaking down.”

“It’s really not like you,” he said.

“No, I don’t weep as a general rule,” she said and she took a deep breath. “It’s so funny, but I think I’m finally in a place where I can see what my relationship with him really was, who he really was. Because first I romanticized it because it was lost and then I trivialized it because I was afraid of getting hurt again and now I just lived it again.”

“And what’s your conclusion?” he asked, very curious.

“It was just…itself,” she said. “It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it wasn’t the train wreck I tried to make it out to be. We both were scared a lot of the time and sometimes we pushed each other away. But it…it could have worked. If things hadn’t changed, I think it could have worked.”

“Is that hard to think about?” he asked.

“Yes and no,” she said, pushing her hair back and sighing. “It’s hard because it sucks that I didn’t get to have that. I didn’t get to just see where it would have gone. That beautiful genius boy I loved never got to see where it would have gone and he…died thinking I didn’t want him.”

“But…” he said, hoping for more because it was getting harder not to feel jealous.

“But now I know it worked. Maybe the path we had to take was harder,” she said, squeezing his hand. “Maybe it took longer. But I’m living it, it’s still here. Broken, remade, but restored, I still get to have him, to have you. God gave you back to me and I don’t intend to waste this second chance.”

“Good,” he said. “Is it different? I mean, how is it different?”

“I think we both know what we want,” she said. “We both know no other alternative is worth it. I had a puppy love, a first crush, a passionate, reckless affair. But now…I have friendship, I have commitment, I have a love I choose rather than always feel.”

“A hot sex life,” he prompted.

She laughed and rolled her eyes.

“I have that. But I had that before, too.” She looked down at their joined hands and then in his eyes. “But can’t you feel it? I mean, you felt what I felt before and since you’re the closest thing to him, you could probably understand his side. It’s deeper, less rocky now.”

“I know what you mean,” he confirmed. “We…earned this. We fought for it and we took it back from whoever took it away from you before.”

“From us before,” she said. “I’ve been thinking and I…well, I know that you and the other Jo could have had something as well. It’s clear you both felt a connection, some kind of attraction, and hate is very close to love, they say.”

“Sometimes miles away,” he said.

“But you danced around each other for years,” she said. “And it was sad and I feel badly for her, but who knows what could have been?”

“I feel,” he said, hesitating to say, “now that you say it, a kind of…grief for her. But I don’t think she was happy, not truly. She didn’t make the right choices, whichever ones you made. So she…she’s gone, and we should consider the weight of that, but I don’t know if she’d regret it.”

“I think you’re right,” she said, shaking her head. “And I hate that.”

“I’d be the same way,” he said. “You saw how reckless I was, how lost. You saved me, Jo. You might have technically caused my existence, but if you hadn’t come into my life…I don’t know where I’d be. So thank you, thank you for giving me more than just a relationship with you, but faith in myself, my pardon, a whole life.”

“I…um, you’re welcome,” she said, blinking a little bit.

“So, here we are,” he said, smiling at her. “The end.”

“The end,” she agreed. “Was it everything you thought it would be?”

“It was a lot more than I thought it would be,” he said. “I had no clue what I was getting myself into.”

“It’s like really intense therapy,” Jo agreed. “I almost feel like I lived two lives.”

“Me too,” he said. “I was…well, my motives weren’t entirely pure, but I wanted to understand you better, to feel more deserving of you, and my life.”

“That’s silly,” she said, but not in a judging way.

“Right,” he said. “But you know, I’m a scientist, I like knowledge, having all the facts. I feel like I do now.”

“Successful experiment then?” she asked.

“Yeah. And you?”

“Well, I know a lot more facts myself,” she said. “Enough to understand the world I live in a bit better. That’s really what I’d expected, to just find out enough about who she was so I could understand why people view me the way they do. And it’s still a bit of a mystery, I’ll never know who that Jo was entirely, probably not the way you can know that Zane, but I learned enough about who I want to be, does that make sense?”

“I think so,” he said.

“And, honestly,” she said, smiling up at him again. “I learned the truth about who I used to be. I couldn’t have remembered it on my own, so thanks for coming up with this idea.”

“I only live to serve,” he said.

“That’s the very opposite of truth,” she said, nudging him in the ribs.

“Ow, and rude,” he said. “So, what now?”

“Well, I guess we stop living in the past,” she said, ignoring his groan, “and start living our lives together.”

“And this?” he asked, gesturing to the device.

“Can go back to GD,” she suggested, shrugging.

“Are you sure we can’t keep it and just relive having sex over and over again?” he asked, somewhat hopefully.

“Wow,” she said. “I think we have enough chemistry to keep it hot ourselves, don’t you?”

“Never hurts to spice things up,” he said. “We are legally wed and morally allowed to fornicate, so we should, as often as possible.”

“You know I prayed every day as a little girl someday a man would say that to me,” she said.

“Really?” he asked, wiping away the last traces of her tears.

“Of course not,” she scoffed. “I prayed every day I could beat my brothers at everything we did.”

“And you did, of course,” he said, never doubting it.

“Of course,” she said. “And never forget it. Or what else I can do.”

“Impossible,” he said and meant it. “In any timeline.”

Chapter Text

“Of course, next time you’re in town,” said Zane, leaning back in his desk chair.

“You know, you could come to me sometimes,” said Fargo, his hologram freezing slightly. “You know, Mr. Free of all Federal Indictment.”

“Thanks for all you did on that, by the way,” said Zane. “Jo and I might be your way in a couple of months if you don’t move again, but don’t pretend Holly hasn’t been bugging you to come back to Eureka.”

“She might have mentioned it once or twice,” Fargo admitted.

“Okay, so then we’ll see you and get that rematch,” Zane said, steepling his fingers.

“You are so on,” said Fargo, scowling and his image vanished.

Zane laughed. So like Fargo to hang up on his best friend because he was bested in verbal contest.

“Zane, get in here,” Jo yelled from the other room.

Zane frowned and got up, walking into the living room.

“What is-” he started and then felt confused. Jo was clearly finishing getting the memory device set up. “I thought we were returning this today,” he said, pointing with both hands.

“We are,” said Jo, turning to face him. “But I was thinking, we spent a lot of time sharing memories with this thing, using it to understand each other’s lives before we met, so how about we use it to remember something we did together?”

“Well, as I recall we did use it for that once,” said Zane, stepping closer to her, reaching out to fiddle with the waistband of her pants. “It was a very…long night of sharing.”

Jo blushed, but swatted his hand away.

“I recall as well,” she said dryly. “No, I just meant, how about we remember something important to us? To our timeline? As a way to cap the whole thing off and remember how lucky we are everything culminated in us.”

“I’m game,” he said. “I assume you set it up with Henry?”

“Like I would risk being redacted for this,” she said.

“So what are we remembering?” he asked, checking the device.

“You’ll catch on,” she said, pulling him down on the couch with her.

***

Zane blinked and he was in a car, driving past the Eureka town line. Jo was driving and she was filled with anxiety and joy at the same time.

Jo kept herself from stepping too hard on the gas. She had waited a long time for this moment and she was not about to ruin it by killing herself in a car crash because she tried to make it happen a few minutes sooner.

She pulled up and put the car in park, scanning the crowd in front of her before spotting her quarry. She couldn’t help from smiling as she got out of the car and took long strides to the curb.

“Jo!”

“Hi!” she said, wrapping her arms around him. “You made it.”

“You think I’d miss my daughter’s wedding?” her dad asked, pulling back to look at her. “Never.”

“Well, I know you’re a busy man,” she said.

“Even busier because I had to pick up your present,” he said, gesturing behind him.

“What?” she asked. “I told you that wasn’t necessary.”

“I insisted,” said a new voice and Jo put her hands to her mouth.

She’d let her entire family know about the wedding, of course, but she’d known that even getting her dad there would be difficult. She’d never dreamed any of her brothers would be able to show up. They’d all called her on crackly overseas phone lines to tell her congrats and threaten to beat up Zane and she’d thought that was all she’d get. But Rico stepped out from behind her dad, taller than she remembered, wearing his uniform.

“Rico!” she yelled and flung her arms around him. He hugged her back, picking her up a little. “How are you here?”

“I got lucky,” he said, putting her down. “Someone else switched leave with me and it got approved.”

“You idiot,” she said, slugging his shoulder. “I can’t believe you did this.”

“You deserve some family at your wedding, Jo,” said her dad.

Jo appreciated the gesture, more than they knew. Of course, she already had family in Eureka, but this was her past. Even with the differing timeline, she hadn’t been able to find a single difference in anything to do with her life before Eureka so she felt safe with these men more than she sometimes felt safe in Eureka.

“Thank you,” she said. “Now let’s get out of here.”

They grabbed bags, nothing too heavy, soldiers knew how to travel light, and she got everything in her car.

“So, tomorrow is the big day,” said her dad as they sped down the highway toward Eureka. “I’m excited to finally visit and see this place you’ve been raving about for years.”

“Eureka is…unique,” said Jo, inwardly thinking that didn’t cover half of it.

She’d never been able to share half of what went on in Eureka with her family. Honestly, one of the biggest headaches of her wedding preparations had been getting visitor clearance from the DOD for their guests. Luckily, her family understood need to know better than most and her dad hadn’t even blinked at the forms he’d been asked to sign.

She’d have to get some for Rico, but that was okay.

“And Zane?” asked Rico from the backseat.

“Oh, he’s unique, too,” said Jo, laughing. “I’m glad you guys are going to meet finally.”

“Hopefully he makes my girl happy?” asked her dad.

Jo thought for a moment about the past couple of years of her life and had to chuckle about the whirlwind of life she’d gone through with Zane.

“He makes me happy,” she said quietly.

***

Jo sat on the lawn as Zane, sipping a beer and appreciating a quiet moment. It wouldn’t take long before chaos descended and he was determined to enjoy it.

Zane slipped his sunglasses on and set his beer on the table beside him.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

His mom came out of the house holding a tray and walked toward him.

“Just getting out some refreshments for your guests,” she said, setting it down and patting his cheek.

“Mom, you’re our guest,” he said, exasperated. “I told you to stop. Jo and I will take care of everything.”

“You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you the next couple of days,” she said, sitting down next to him. “And I want to help.”

Zane wanted to roll his eyes. Since his mom had arrived a couple of days ago, she’d done nothing but try to help. That including cooking and cleaning and running errands. It had amused Jo to no end and had probably helped her, but for Zane, it was reminding him of how much he’d run from her smothering attention as he was growing up.

It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate her trying to make up for his dad’s absence, but something inside of him had rebelled and after he started breaking the law…looking at her heartbroken face was too much guilt for him to bear. It was only since Eureka, since Jo, that he’d felt compelled to try.

“Mom, thank you for helping,” he finally said. “But try to relax. Jo’s grabbing her dad; we’ll have a casual sit down, nothing fancy.”

“Casual doesn’t have to mean an empty stomach,” she said and then tilted her head back as if enjoying the sun.

Zane studied her for a moment, realizing how much he’d missed by pushing her away. He’d done the same thing his dad had done. The thought hit him like a sucker punch and he grimaced.

“I, uh, I’m glad you came,” he said finally.

She opened her eyes and looked at him.

“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked, gently probing.

Zane shrugged; glad his glasses were on so she couldn’t see his eyes.

“Well, I haven’t exactly been the best son. Didn’t call, didn’t write. Barely stayed out of jail.”

“Maybe that’s true,” she said. “But I could’ve done more, too.”

“Or less,” he said, teasing.

“Or less,” she said. “I know I couldn’t make up for your father, Zane. I’m very sorry I didn’t do something about him sooner.”

“I didn’t blame you,” he said, “I just…didn’t trust anyone.”

“It looks like you do now,” she said, gesturing to the house. “This is all beautiful, Zane. And you’ve been here for longer than I can remember you being anywhere.”

“It took a while,” he said, laughing inside at exactly how long. “You have no idea. But this is home.”

“I’m proud of you,” she said. “And Jo is lovely.”

“Thanks,” he said, feeling something like a lump in his throat.

A car turning into the drive cut off any further conversation, but as they got up, he pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

Jo and two men got out of the car and even though Zane was surprised, he figured the younger one had to be a brother. He looked too much like Jo to be anyone else. Jo looked thrilled and he knew how much that surprise must mean to her.

He and his mom met them at the drive and introductions were made all around. He slid his arm around Jo and there was a moment of awkward silence.

“Uh, shall we,” Jo said, gesturing toward the house.

Zane grabbed the bags and took them into the house while Jo and his mom rearranged the food.

Zane showed Jo’s dad the room they had set up for him and then had Rico follow him down the hall.

“Well, we have a study,” he said, flicking on the lights. “There’s a rollout couch but we have these ridiculously comfortable cots over at GD I can snag.”

“Whatever will be fine,” said Rico, putting his stuff down. “I’m used to pretty limited.”

“I guess you are,” said Zane, running his hand through his hair. “Jo’s pretty happy to have you here.”

“I hope so,” said Rico. “That was the goal.”

“She is,” said Zane. “I know how much she loves you guys and to have even one of you here, well, it means the world, I can tell.”

Rico looked at Zane for a minute and while Zane usually didn’t back down from anyone, he had the sudden urge to run away. The feeling vanished as quickly as it had come so Zane figured he must have passed some kind of test.

“I’m gonna,” Rico said, gesturing toward the bathroom.

“Right,” said Zane. “See you downstairs, man.” Zane headed back down and whispered in Jo’s ear in the kitchen. “Lupo, your brother is terrifying.”

Jo laughed and he set about getting plates on the table.

***

Zane felt time shift and he was at Café Diem, Jo mingling with a crowd of people.

Jo was starting to feel nervous. Her wedding wasn’t until tomorrow, but they were having a party at Café Diem to let everyone mingle and get to know each other and she realized she did not like this much attention on her. If it was this bad right now, she couldn’t imagine how bad tomorrow was going to feel.

“Jo, you still with us?” asked Zoe.

Jo smiled and nodded.

Zoe frowned in response and pulled Jo to a back table.

“Here, help me with Jenna,” she said, handing Jo the three year old. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t like crowds,” said Jo, shifting the sleeping girl on her hip.

“I guess that’s no surprise,” said Zoe. “But, Jo, they love you. Everyone is here for you.”

“That’s making it worse,” said Jo.

“You want me to get someone?” Zoe asked. “My dad? Allison? Zane?”

“I’m not going to freak out,” said Jo, exasperated. “I just realized I wanted a quiet moment.”

“I’m bad for quiet moments,” Zoe admitted. “I tend to fill them with idle chatter.”

“I like your chatter,” Jo said. “I don’t think I thanked you yet for being my maid of honor.”

“I think I’m supposed to thank you,” said Zoe. “That’s a huge honor. You see what I did there?”

“Yes, thank you,” said Jo. “I just meant…I don’t ever want things between us to be weird and since Zane was…”

“Let’s not even go there,” said Zoe. “I didn’t understand and since I didn’t come from your timeline, I doubt I ever will entirely. But Zane…Jo, it’s clear he loves you and I want whoever I end up with to love me that way. You guys are great and you’re my sister, Jo. I am excited beyond belief to be there with you tomorrow. Plus, it gives me an excuse to come back to Eureka, to come home.”

“There’s no place like it,” said Jo, looking around.

Vincent had outdone himself. The place looked like a wedding chapel and the food was perfect.

“So enjoy,” said Zoe.

Jo looked around and saw Zane talking to Fargo and Holly. He noticed her watching and pantomimed looking at his watch.

She laughed and shook her head and he grimaced at her.

***

Jo watched through Zane as Fargo demonstrated something ridiculous with his arms and Holly backed up his claims.

Fargo would never change, Zane thought. Which was interesting considering he’d technically already changed from the Douglas Fargo Zane had once known.

“Which is basically how I figured the whole thing out,” ended Fargo triumphantly.

“Well, we did,” said Holly.

“We did,” amended Fargo hastily. “My lovely lady led us all with grace and intelligence.”

“Oh,” said Holly, clearly pleased.

“Any idea where you’re headed next?” asked Zane, watching Jo watching him across the room.

“We can’t say,” said Fargo. “Clearance is not a joke, Zane.”

“No, of course not,” said Zane, somehow with a straight face.

He spied Carter talking to Jo’s dad and Rico and wondered what they were saying. Were they all having some kind of meeting about how to protect Jo from him? He wouldn’t put it past them, even when they all knew Jo was more than capable of handling herself and could put him in the hospital without even trying.

Then Taggart joined them and Zane knew that’s exactly what had to be happening. He would be scared but he also knew Jo would choose him and she’d protect him. All he had to do was not mess anything up.

He pantomimed to Jo with his watch and she shook her head at him. He made a face but put back the rest of his beer.

Andy approached them and congratulated Zane.

“My thanks, Deputy,” Zane said.

“SARAH also wanted me to congratulate you,” said Andy.

“Tell her we’re sorry she couldn’t make it,” said Zane, still a little amazed words like that were coming out of his mouth.

Andy beamed even brighter.

“I’ll be sure to do that.”

“I must stop by and chat with SARAH,” said Holly. “After all, when someone shares their hard drive with you, you get close.”

“All the memories back then?” Zane asked.

“I think so,” said Holly. “Unless there’s something nobody is telling me.”

Zane held up his hands.

“It’s not me,” he said.

“I do not recollect anything of that sort,” said Andy.

They both looked at Fargo who looked nervous.

“Of course not, honey,” he said. “But I don’t know all your memories. You can’t pin that responsibility on me.”

Holly laughed and linked her arm through his.

“That’s what I thought,” she said.

Zane excused himself and wandered past his mom talking with Grace and a very pregnant Allison to the corner where Henry was alone.

“Penny for your thoughts,” he said.

Henry smiled.

“Just remembering my wedding.”

“First or second?” asked Zane.

“Second,” said Henry. “Grace has shown me the first, but it’s still a little surreal.”

“I know the feeling,” said Zane.

“Yeah, I’m sure you do,” said Henry, clapping his hand on Zane’s shoulder. “You nervous?”

“Of course,” said Zane. “This is Jo we’re talking about. I don’t want to…ruin anything.”

“I don’t think she sees it that way,” said Henry, indicating Jo walking toward them.

“Henry, I think we’re headed out,” said Jo. “I need my beauty sleep.”

“I’ll see you both tomorrow,” said Henry. “You’ll do great.”

“You okay?” asked Zane, as they walked away.

“I hate crowds,” she said.

“Ah,” he responded because that made total sense.

They left their house guests to come later and walked down the street, stopping in front of the Sheriff’s station.

“Are you really staying here tonight?” she asked.

“Yup,” he said. “One last night in my old shackles before freedom in a new life.”

“At least you didn’t compare me to a ball and chain,” she said.

“I value all my limbs too much,” he responded, kissing her lightly.

“You could stay somewhere else, you know,” she said.

“Jo, you asked me for abstinence before our wedding,” he said, “and I don’t think you realize how little self-control I have. Locking me up is the only way,” he teased.

“That’s ridiculous,” she said.

“No, but SARAH is full up,” he said. “Fargo and Holly are staying with Henry and Grace and our own house is filled with relatives. I don’t want to sleep anywhere at GD or at Vincent’s, kind though he was to offer. And, you know, that cot has a lot of meaning in our relationship. It’s almost like a second home to me.”

“Many good things did happen there,” she agreed. “In both timelines.”

“So go home and don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll see you at the church and then, then you’re stuck with me.”

“I’ve been stuck to you before,” she said. “It wasn’t all bad.”

“Think cheerful thoughts,” he said, kissing her again and tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“Goodnight, Zane,” she said.

“Goodnight, JoJo,” he said.

***

Zane opened his eyes and he was staring up at their ceiling. Today was a really big day.

Jo didn’t really know how brides were supposed to feel but she was feeling almost sick. It was a good kind of anticipation but she was not happy with how it was manifesting in her body. She lay in bed looking up for fifteen minutes or so, trying to imagine how her life would be after today.

Likely not that different, after all she and Zane lived together now, worked together now. But maybe she would finally feel some kind of solid connection, knowing he was hers and could never be taken away from her. She knew marriage didn’t come with that kind of guarantee, but she felt that she at least was making that guarantee, that she wouldn’t do anything to lose him. He was making a promise to her at the same time.

It was those promises that got her out of bed and into the car and to the church. She went early, much earlier than she told Allison and Zoe to be there. It wasn’t because she had a lot to do, though she obviously did. Coordinating things appeared to be the doom of each bride, and Jo couldn’t deny she was a bit of a control freak and, despite being known as a tough woman, had had dreams of a beautiful wedding since she was young. No, it was because she wanted a bit of time to think and to remember and to be thankful.

She wandered down the aisle of the church she would soon walk down as a bride and sat down in the first pew, looking at the altar. The decorators had been there the day before and the sanctuary looked beautiful, almost exactly as she’d pictured it.

“You’re here early, Jo,” said Reverend Harper, coming out one of the side doors.

“Uh, yeah,” said Jo. “I hope that’s okay.”

“It’s fine,” said Reverend Harper. “Everything all right?”

“Just thinking,” said Jo. “This is a big day for me.”

“I suppose you’re right.”

“I’m not afraid,” said Jo after a moment or two of silence. “But I feel…solemn.”

“Marriage is a big thing,” said Reverend Harper, sitting next to her. “I’m glad you feel its importance.”

“Thank you,” Jo said, ducking her head. “I know, uh, when we first talked about it that you were a bit unsure about doing the ceremony.”

“Well, it’s also a big responsibility marrying two people,” she responded. “I have to believe that I’m sanctioning something right.”

“I can get that,” said Jo.

Reverend Harper looked at her for a moment.

“Jo, do you know what I thought when I saw you come in to my church for the second time?”

“No idea,” said Jo. “Hopefully not that you were disappointed to see me again.”

“No. No, I felt in my heart that the Lord was telling me He was bringing you home.”

“Really?” asked Jo.

“Really. And part of that, I don’t know how, it has to do with Zane. Just because he doesn’t believe now, doesn’t mean he can’t. No one is too far gone to save.”

“I want that for him more than anything,” Jo admitted. “But I feel like I’m setting a pretty poor example a lot of the time.”

“I’m afraid only you can see if that’s true,” said Reverend Harper. “But I can tell you’re committed to this relationship, Jo.”

“I am,” said Jo. “I’m, I’m fixing a mistake. I’m also making a future and one I can be proud of. God gave Zane back to me when I thought I’d lost him forever. So now, despite how terrified I am that I’ll make a mistake, I refuse to let that fear hold me back. Zane is part of my purpose in this life. I can’t even tell you how much I know that to be true.”

“Then I will be proud to marry the two of you,” said Reverend Harper. “However unconventional it may be.”

“Oh, that’s us,” said Jo, laughing. “That’s us.”

“Jo!” cried a voice and they turned to see Zoe hurrying in, a million bags in her hands.

Allison waddled more sedately afterwards.

“What?” asked Jo.

“There’s no time for this,” said Zoe, tugging her to her feet, despite all she was carrying. “We have to get ready.”

“I held her back as long as I could,” said Allison. “But she’s not wrong.”

“I might regret putting myself in your hands,” said Jo, grinning. “But I’m ready.”

They worked like crazy getting themselves ready to go and Jo had to appreciate all that went in to making a wedding what it was. She studied herself in the mirror while Zoe curled her hair. She wore more makeup than she normally did, but otherwise she still looked like herself. She’d wanted a veil and got one. Her dress was probably simpler than a lot of other brides, but way fancier than what Jo would usually wear in a dress. She felt beautiful, she realized, and that was one of the points of this. She listened with half an ear while Allison and Zoe talked and tried to keep reining in her nerves.

“Will you be okay for a few minutes?” Allison asked. “We’ll be right back.”

“I’ll be fine,” said Jo.

She stood and went to the full length mirror, twisting this way and that to make sure there wasn’t anything she wanted to fix. It was getting awfully close to curtain time.

A tap on the door sounded behind her and she called to come in without thinking about it.

Carter stuck his head in.

“Allison, do you kno-” he stopped when he saw just Jo and his jaw dropped open a little. “Jo, I’m sorry. I was looking for Allison; I didn’t stop to think you’d be in here. Uh, I’ll go, but you look, wow, you look…beautiful.”

“Thank you, Jack,” Jo said, suddenly very pleased to see him.

“A Jack, huh?” Carter said. “This must be a special day.”

“Will you come in for a second?” Jo said, realizing she would rather have him there, saying his awkward compliments than be alone.

“Of course,” he said, stepping inside. “You okay?”

“I’m really good,” she said. She smoothed the front of her dress and smiled at him in the mirror. “I’m getting married.”

“You guys made it,” said Carter, hands in his suit pocket, something which she knew both Zoe and Allison would get after him for later.

“You know,” said Jo, turning to face him. “I wanted to thank you. You, um, well, you always really supported me when it came to Zane. Even, even when he was being…Zane. Even when I was running from getting hurt. Even when you had your own issues. So, thank you. I don’t know if we’d really be here without you giving him second chances and encouraging me to do the same.”

Carter’s head dropped and he shrugged.

“I think you’re not giving yourself enough of the credit,” he said. “Either of you. But you’re welcome. All I want, all I ever want is for you to be happy. And I think you guys will be just fine.”

“I also wanted to let you know that I’m glad you’re standing up with Zane,” said Jo, “but if my dad hadn’t made it, well, I would definitely have commandeered you to walk me down the aisle.”

His face crinkled up and he looked a little choked.

“That’s, that’s really nice of you,” he said. “I’m, uh, very proud of where you are at and it would have been, well, my honor.”

“I know,” she said.

“Need anything else?” he asked.

“I’m not sure you’re the best person to ask,” she said. “You got married while drowning.”

“True,” he said, guffawing. “But I’ll tell you something else; don’t surprise Zane with a honeymoon that involves doing remodel work.”

“Yeah, I already knew that,” she said, rolling her eyes.

The door opened and Allison and Zoe came back with Holly and Zane’s mom and the photographer.

“Jack, what are you doing in here?” asked Allison.

“I had to ask you about…” Carter said, his voice trailing off as he stepped closer to her.

Zoe came closer and inspected Jo from head to toe.

“I think you’ll do,” she said.

“Thanks to you,” Jo said.

“Don’t make me cry,” Zoe said, pointing at her. “It’s time. Are you ready?”

Jo took one look at herself and suddenly felt very light.

“I’m very ready,” she answered.

***

Jo felt very uncomfortable as Zane all of a sudden when she woke up and felt something digging into her back.

Zane swung his feet over the edge of the cot and stood up, stretching to get the kinks out of his back. He was beginning to realize that putting out his back may not have been the smartest move the night before his wedding. But he’d get through it. He’d both dreaded and looked forward to today for some time.

He quickly drove back to his house. When he let himself in the door, his mom was quietly reading at the table while Jo’s dad and Rico were getting themselves some coffee.

“Zane, you need to get showered and ready,” said his mom.

“Relax, I don’t take nearly as long to get ready as people think,” said Zane. It was true his hair did not looks as casually messy and good as it did without a little finagling, but he was fairly certain he would be done long before Jo was today. “I’m just gonna hop in the shower.”

“We’ll drive to the church when you’re done,” she said, actually shooing him up the stairs.

Zane was ready in record time; at least, he presumed so. He was grateful Jo had installed a full length mirror in their bedroom because he could look himself over carefully as he knew his mom would as soon as he got downstairs. He took a second to realize he was leaving his days of being single behind forever, but he was okay with that.

They drove to the church and Zane found himself cordoned off in a tiny room he was informed had something to do with parents and children. It was a bit stifling, but he quickly saw that someone had stocked it with food and that…that he could handle.

Fargo and Carter came not long after that.

“You nervous?” Carter asked him, adjusting his bow tie awkwardly.

“You look more nervous than I do,” said Zane. He turned to Fargo. “You have the ring, right? I’m pretty sure that’s really important.”

“I have it, never fear,” said Fargo, patting his pocket, before frowning and patting his other pocket, then sighing in relief. “Yup, never fear.”

Zane shook his head. It was amazing what his life had been reduced to.

“I think I’m more likely to die of boredom than anything,” Zane said. “I feel like I could have gotten here an hour before and been fine. Isn’t there anything else I should be doing?”

“Nope, I’m pretty sure that’s what you’re supposed to do,” said Carter. “Vincent and Zoe have taken care of everything else.”

“I’ve got some holo cards with me,” said Fargo, whipping a device out of his back pocket.

“Sure, that he knows exactly where it is,” muttered Zane. “Carter, do me a favor and figure out exactly how long we have?”

“I’ve got some inside pull with one of the bridesmaids,” said Carter. “I’ll be back.”

He left and Zane played cards with Fargo for another twenty minutes or so before Carter came back in.

“Well?” asked Zane.

“I think you’re ready to get married,” said Carter. “I saw Jo, she looks…you’re going to love it.”

“I’d expect nothing else,” said Zane, anticipation beginning to ignite in his bones.

He followed Fargo and Carter into the sanctuary.

There were many guests, half the town was there. Many of his staff from Section Five were seated on his side, though he knew most of them had known Jo first. His mom was there in the front row as well and she waved at him, already starting to cry. He smiled at her.

Reverend Harper joined them on the stage and Zane shook her hand a little nervously. He still felt a little leery of the woman, knowing she believed in something he couldn’t understand. She was also a huge influence on Jo, standing for something Zane didn’t think he could compete with if it came down to it. But she had agreed to marry them and Zane had agreed to get married in a church so he supposed they were each meeting somewhere in the middle.

“Zane,” she said. “Are you excited?”

“Sure am,” he said.

Music began to sound and Zane turned expectantly toward the back. Jenna walked up the aisle, guided by Kevin since she clearly didn’t know what she was supposed to do with her flower petals. Allison walked sedately if rather comically up the aisle, her dress a deep blue. Zoe followed, her dress a vibrant violet color. They reached the front, Allison stopping in front of the chair she’d been provided with in case she really needed to sit during the ceremony.

Zane kept his eyes on the back because that’s when Jo appeared, walking between her father and Rico, arms entwined with theirs. Her hair was down and curled and she had a frosty veil covering her dark hair, but it wasn’t over her face. He swallowed as he watched her, not really expecting to be overcome with emotion, but suddenly incredibly pleased and humbled that they’d managed to make it to this moment. Her dress was off white and he guessed satin. It had wide swaths of cloth that crisscrossed in front of her to form long straps on her shoulders. The material tightened at her waist and then poofed gently out all the way down to her feet. She was incredibly beautiful and he was beyond grateful.

Her father and Rico kissed her cheeks at the top of the aisle and then sat down. Zane held out his hand and she took it while he drew her to his side.

“Hi,” she whispered.

“Hi,” he responded as Reverend Harper began to speak.

Zane honestly couldn’t tell anyone what was being said so he really hoped there was some kind of recording happening. But before he knew it he was being handed a ring by Fargo and sliding it on to Jo’s finger where his grandmother’s engagement ring already sat. It was his grandmother’s ring, not the one she’d been given by the other Zane and carried with her into this timeline. That one she wore on a chain around her neck still and while sometimes he had problems with that, more and more, especially as they did their memory runs, he didn’t.

“Do you, Zane Donovan, take this woman to be your wife, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to respect and to honor, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part?”

“I do,” he said, licking his lips, hoping his voice wasn’t the quiet squeak he felt it was.

“Do you, Josefina Lupo, take this man to be your husband, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to respect and to honor, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do you part?”

“I do,” she said, and her own voice was as clear as a bell.

He grasped her one hand more tightly as she slid a ring on to his other hand and the cool metal felt strange on his skin. He wasn’t used to rings, but he was looking forward to getting used to this one.

“Then in the sight of God and in the presence of these witnesses,” said Reverend Harper, “I now pronounce you husband and wife. But before you kiss your bride, I understand Henry Deacon will say a few words.”

Zane wanted to kiss Jo, but he figured he had the rest of his life for that.

Henry stepped beside them and smiled at them both.

“It is my great privilege and honor to be asked to say something for these two special people. Jo and Zane have had an interesting journey to get where they are today. It would take too long to recount for you all and it probably won’t surprise some of you to know that a few of the details are actually classified.”

There was a chuckle from the audience and Zane grinned while Jo rolled her eyes. Yes, alternate timelines were very classified.

“But no matter what the details are, I think it’s obvious to anyone who has spent any time with the two of them that they were meant to be here now together. They fought long and hard against surprising circumstances to stay together. So, I urge you both to remember that struggle. Remember how hard you fought and what you had to go through. That will strengthen you in the days to come, in the hardships you will still face. Marriage isn’t easy and it isn’t something to be entered into lightly. You are making a commitment together and it’s a choice you make daily. I’ve gone through some of the same struggles you’ll face, so I can also tell you it’s worth it. It’s a rich and satisfying connection, an ongoing accomplishment that I would advise you cherish and work at every single day. I know you won’t regret it. I’m pleased to present to you Dr. and Mrs. Zane Donovan.” As applause started, Henry winked at Zane. “You can kiss her now.”

Zane needed no further urging. He slid his arms up Jo’s and wrapped them around her, touching her lips with his. They were surrounded by their friends and family, but as always, kissing Jo felt like he was alone with her and only her. She kissed him back and he would have been content to stay there, but Carter cleared his throat and Zane broke off the kiss amidst cheers.

“You can’t take it back now,” Zane whispered to Jo as they prepared to walk down the aisle.

“Fat chance, your ass is mine forever, Donovan,” she answered.

***

Time sped a little and Zane found himself dancing at a reception. Walking, let alone dancing in heels was something completely foreign to him and he was glad when Jo took them off as soon as they were in the reception.

Jo was trying to savor the moments she was being given. It was rather difficult because they seemed to be zipping all around her, little moments with one person here, little moments with that person here. She had to greet everyone, thank them all for coming, she had to arrange details with the reception, she had to keep her hair from sticking to her face, she tried to eat, but kept getting distracted. But mostly she had to keep from repeating the fact that she was married over and over in her head and jumping up and down in joy. She finally had Zane and this was all real. Plus, fingers crossed and prayers prayed, no Eureka disaster had befallen them as of yet.

She turned from a big hug with Vincent to a slightly more moist one with Zane’s mom to a hesitant, scared one with Larry. It was all so much and she was having trouble concentrating. In fact, all she wanted was to be alone with Zane and relish being married to him.

He was talking to her dad across the way and Jo walked determinedly toward them, catching a few words.

“Of course, sir,” Zane was saying.

“Is he threatening you?” Jo asked, putting her arm around his waist.

“Not exactly,” said Zane.

“I know you can make your own choices, Jo,” said her dad. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t reinforce those choices…gently.”

They all laughed and Jo kissed her dad on the cheek, still so happy to have both him and Rico here. Fargo’s voice suddenly filled the room announcing it was time for the first dance.

Jo and Zane looked at each other and made their way to the middle of the dance floor. The music started and Zane put his hands around her waist.

“Do we even know how to dance?” he whispered.

“Probably not,” she said. “But, hey, at least we’re alone.”

“With seventy-five pairs of eyes on us,” he muttered. “But I know what you mean.”

“Just sway,” said Jo, putting her head on his chest. “And let me get a quick nap.”

“Pretty sure that’s not how this works,” he said, chuckling. “Did you ever dance before, you know, with the other Zane?”

“Uh, once,” she said. “It was for Founder’s Day actually. The town had a big dance that night; Vincent put the whole thing on and got really into it. You know, like we normally do.”

“I hate that night,” said Zane, shuddering.

“Yeah, well, so did your other self,” said Jo wryly. “He refused to wear a costume and showed up in jeans and a t-shirt. We spent the first half of the dance yelling at each other in the parking lot before finally agreeing to disagree on the subjects of dancing and dressing up and came in for one dance.”

“Sounds about right,” said Zane. “I can see us doing that.”

“You will see it, when we get there,” she said. “But let’s make tonight about us, okay?”

“I’m very fine with that,” said Zane, holding her tighter. “Because I’m really glad we’re married now.”

“Me too,” she said.

Before she knew it, the dance was over. She danced with her dad, with Rico, with Carter, with Fargo, with Vincent, with Henry, with Taggart, with Andy, with Zoe, with Jenna, with Kevin, with everyone in the town of Eureka it felt like. She was starving by the time she was through and they cut cake and ate it. She was also really tired, her nerves and adrenaline starting to fade.

“Folks, it’s time for the bride and groom to skedaddle,” said Fargo. “So wave them off, because they have a honeymoon to get to.”

Jo loved all of these people dearly, but she was more than ready to leave. She hugged everyone all over again. She spent an extra few minutes with her dad and Rico because they would both be gone by the time she and Zane got back. She tried not to cry as she thought about how she had no idea when she would see her brother again. She watched Zane hug his mom and then thanked Zoe and Allison and hugged Carter and Henry and Fargo and then grabbed Zane’s hand and dragged him out of the church. They had argued about whether to leave on his bike or in her cruiser but her practical argument had won the day. It was stuffed with their luggage and they were leaving town.

They kissed again for the benefit of everyone cheering them off and then Jo got into the car with her new husband and drove away.

***

Jo felt herself shift and she as Zane and herself were pulling up to a hotel outside of Eureka.

“I am glad that’s over with,” said Zane, unfolding himself from the car.

“Since I know exactly how you feel, I won’t take insult at that,” said Jo.

“I’m tired and I know you’re tired. I could eat our entire mini bar and our clothing isn’t exactly comfortable,” Zane replied.

“Would you rather be wearing nothing at all?” Jo asked, as he got the bags from the car.

He looked sharply at her over the trunk lid.

“You are a minx, Jo Donovan,” he said.

“Yeah, I know,” she said. “Now come on.”

They registered and headed for their room. Zane did insist on dropping all the bags and carrying her over the threshold and then she insisted he go and get everything he’d dropped.

They hadn’t gotten the honeymoon suite, but instead a normal suite. Zane was impressed and couldn’t wait to fall asleep in the bed he spied in the other room. Of course, it was also their wedding night. He ordered some champagne and food since Jo had made a beeline for the bathroom.

He busied himself getting out of the most uncomfortable parts of his suit and getting their meager belongings somewhere out of the way.

There was a knock on the door and he found the items he’d ordered waiting on the other side. He accepted the man’s congratulations and tipped him.

“Jo, I’m gonna start without you,” he called into the bathroom, bringing a sandwich to his mouth.

“What, eating or sex?” she called back and he almost choked on his food.

“The food, Lupo,” he said when he was sure he wouldn’t die.

“Just checking,” she said, humor in her voice.

When she came back out, she was wearing some lingerie, a Liza’s Lingerie box under her arm. His mouth hung open a bit and he was fairly certain it was most unattractive with half masticated food in there, but he couldn’t help it.

“You look exactly how a bride should look on her honeymoon,” he said finally and handed her a plate.

“Good,” she said. “Now, let’s eat, I’m starving.”

They enjoyed their food together, sharing stories of the wedding and things people had told them before they finished. She finally put down her plate and wiped her mouth with a napkin.

“They never tell you you won’t get to eat at your own wedding,” Zane said, pushing his plate away.

“I think you’re just expected to know,” she said and looked at him happily.

“What?” he asked.

“Well, I feel happy to be married to you,” she said.

“And if I were to write a list about today, I’d only be able to list pros,” he answered.

She laughed.

“Come on, married to me Zane, let’s try out the bed.”

“I’ll race you,” he offered.

“You’re on,” she said, and promptly tripped him.

When he’d managed to scramble up, she was already lying in the middle of the bed, waiting for him. He really didn’t mind at all.

He climbed on to the bed, anxious to touch her, and, while he still couldn’t really believe this was reality now, he wasn’t going to waste it. He lowered his head and kissed her and she kissed him back.

***

Zane opened his eyes and focused on Jo.

“That was a pretty good night,” he said. “Good idea, Mrs. Donovan.”

“You’re so welcome, Mr. Lupo,” she said, stretching and he admired the expanse of skin she suddenly showed him.

“Aren’t you glad we got married?” he asked, emulating her actions.

“I guess it’s okay,” she said, scooting closer and wrapping her arms around him.

“Yeah, just okay,” he said, fairly certain it was the best thing to ever happen to anyone.

“I’m glad I got to see how you felt that day, to see it through your eyes,” she said.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “It’s odd as all these memories are, but I think it’s even weirder when it’s a memory you already know, but now you’re seeing it as somebody else.”

“Our lives will never be normal,” she said, huffing a laugh.

“Not even a little,” he said, lightly kissing the back of her hand.

“I love you, Zane,” she said.

“I love you too, JoJo,” he said.

“And I’m glad we found each other,” she said.

“Me too.” After a few minutes of relaxed silence he asked. “You ready to take the device back?”

“It’s your idea, you take it back,” she said.

He laughed.

“Well, this marriage is a joint effort, so how about we both take it back?”

“You’re too sensible,” she said.

“Me, I’ve got my head in the clouds,” he said. “You’re the one who makes lists.”

“Oh, shut up about the lists,” she said, kissing his cheek before getting up and grabbing the container for the device.

They bickered all the way through packing it up and getting into the car.

Zane glanced back at the box as Jo drove them, one hand idly rubbing his on the seat between them. Yeah, he had some really great ideas sometimes.