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Observations and Insinuations

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“Does your boyfriend always have this short of a fuse?”

Jaz tried to keep her cool and not react to Hoffman’s words, but she couldn’t stop them from repeating constantly in her head.

“My what?” she snapped, crossing her arms to step closer to the cage. Dalton shifted slightly to stand in front of her. It was almost unnoticeable but by now they all knew this Hoffman guy didn’t miss a thing. And he didn’t miss Dalton’s movement.

“I think I know a little bit about crossing the line with coworkers,” he addressed Dalton, a jovial tone in his voice. Jaz stood stock still, trying to put up a strong front. Boyfriend. Boyfriend. Boyfriend. The word kept repeating itself and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Was she really that obvious in her feelings? She hadn’t spoken out loud about them to anyone, but somehow this man could read each and every one of their secrets and put them in his arsenal. That was extremely unnerving.

“Yeah, enough of the mind games,” Dalton growled, stepping towards the cage. Jaz could feel the anger rolling off him in waves. She wanted to reach out to him and pull him back, but she knew better.

Boyfriend. Boyfriend. Boyfriend.

“Come on, Adam. I haven’t even had a go at you yet,” Hoffman taunted, knowing that he was under Dalton’s skin. He was under all their skin. The team glared at this stranger locked in their cage, all trying to read him half as well as he seemed to read all of them.

Boyfriend. Boyfriend. Boyfriend.

“Oh, is that right?” Dalton responded, his frustration palpable.

“Top…” Amir muttered, trying to reign their guy in.

“Yeah, it’ll be fun. That one, I’m looking forward to,” Hoffman continued, leaning forward in his chair as if getting closer would bring that round sooner. The team continued to glare, McG and Amir coming to stand closer to flank Dalton and Jaz to face Hoffman together.

“Great, well then why wait? Let’s get at it right now,” Dalton pressed. He was itching for another reason and another chance to punch the man in the face. He didn’t know how Hoffman could read him and his feelings when he had worked so hard to keep them hidden, especially from Jaz. He knew Preach was aware, and he assumed McG and Amir had their guesses. But that this stranger could spend a few hours as their prisoner and be able to notice was disconcerting.

Noah and Hannah cut through the tension with a new problem. Another sub had gone offline. This was starting to seem a lot bigger than just one skilled girl in the wind. Noah updated the team on Deputy Director Campbell’s ETA and Dalton was hopeful that Patricia could get Hoffman to talk.

“Please don’t tell me you think Patricia’s coming here to help you find Verina,” Hoffman continued to push the team’s buttons. He grinned at Dalton, knowing exactly how he was affecting him.

“Shut the hell up,” Dalton growled, ready to make him if he had to.

“She’s coming here for me, to take me home. And in so doing, she’ll destroy not only her career but her entire life. The moment you found me, you destroyed her. And I’m not talking about some slap-on-the-wrist suspension like she got for Tehran. I’m talking about life in prison. Talking about her falling on her sword with you as accidental executioner.”

Jaz flinched slightly at the mention of Tehran, and then her brow furrowed in confusion. How the hell did he know about Tehran and the consequences of that mission? How did he know anything he was using against them? It was like he had researched them, used contacts and back channels to learn about them. It was like he had planned to end up in their cage on their base with their deputy director on her way to deal with him. She could feel the apprehension they heard in Amir’s voice when he broke through the comms to tell them he had a bad feeling. She shared that same feeling now, and she didn’t like it.

The team heard a vehicle on the dirt outside, alerting them to Deputy Director Campbell’s arrival. They hoped she could get what she needed, without ruining her career like Hoffman predicted. She gave the team a nod towards the door, motioning for them to leave her with Hoffman. Jaz could read the tension in her shoulders, and she could tell that Dalton wanted to stay.

“Come on guys, let’s get some air,” she muttered, pushing Dalton towards the door, listening for two sets of footsteps behind her. Once they got outside, Preach raised an eyebrow at her, looking at her hand still on Dalton’s shoulder. She immediately dropped her hand, shoving them in her pockets to avoid reaching out to him again.

Boyfriend. Boyfriend. Boyfriend.

She thought she had been subtle, and she had tried her hardest to stay on her side of the line they had silently drawn. McG, Amir and Preach moved away, muttering to each other about their concerns involving the situation inside. Dalton turned to face her, grabbing her elbow to lead her around the side of the building for some privacy.

Dalton wasn’t sure what his plan was, and why he had wanted to get Jaz on her own without listening ears. He had made sure to mute his comms so he could keep an ear out if they got a location on the girl, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to broadcast this conversation.

“Top,” Jaz whispered, looking over his shoulder to stare at the vast desert surrounding them. If she avoided eye contact, maybe they could both get out of this with minimal damage.

Boyfriend. Boyfriend. Boyfriend.

“Look, Jaz. There has been this imaginary line between us that I have tried to stay on my side of. I have tried to maintain our friendship, without letting my – my feelings affect our team or the mission. Obviously, I haven’t done a good job of burying my thoughts and feelings if everyone already seems to know,” Dalton began, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Dalton?” Jaz asked, surprised at his words. She wasn’t expecting for him to share her feelings, let alone be so forthcoming with them.

“When you were taken in Tehran, I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do if we weren’t able to rescue you. I snapped at the other three, and I argued with Campbell, and I kept planning ways to get the others out, but I wasn’t going with them until I had you back. I would have done everything I could to rescue any of the other three, but the panic I felt when it was you was something I had never experienced. And I can’t ever feel that way again. Whatever this is between us, having it pointed out by Hoffman after only a few hours, tells me that we need to address it,” Dalton finished, moving to sit with his back against the wall.

It took Jaz a minute to make the decision and sit next to him, her shoulder touching his. “Yeah. We should probably talk about this.”

Dalton huffed a laugh and leaned his head against the wall with a thud.

“In Ukraine, I wasn’t going to get on the helicopter with McG and Amir without you. During the Taliban prison break, I kept my cool but I was so worried when you were rattled by the second explosion. When you went down in that field in China, and you didn’t get up, my heart stopped. Seeing that blood on you, had me scared that you may not get back up. I was terrified when I was taken in Tehran, and when I saw that you couldn’t get that van started to get me back. But I could see that you would stop at nothing to get me back. And I know I would have done the exact same thing if it were me in your position.

“When I was captured, they tried to break me with photos. They said that you all had been captured, and you had been killed trying to rescue me. I believed it for half a second, but I knew that if they had really killed you, they would have brought me your head. And when the doors on the van blew open, and you were pulling me out, I felt like I was finally home. It didn’t matter that we were still in Tehran, and that we had to be smuggled into Turkey on a produce truck. I was back with you, and I wasn’t scared anymore. That feeling? That scares me,” Jaz whispered the last few words.

She shut her eyes and prepared herself for Dalton to put her in her place. She had heard stories in training about relationships on special ops teams tanking the whole team. There were rules and protocols about dating your superior. Part of the job was acting and maintaining a cover. When it came to Dalton, she had gotten good at acting like she wasn’t half in love with him. Somewhere along the way, she wasn’t fooling anyone but Dalton and herself.

“My feelings for you scare me too,” Dalton said quietly, turning his head to face Jaz. He watched her breath stutter and her eyes get a little wider in surprise. “I know you can handle yourself. You’re like a ninja and you’re a hell of a shot and you have protected each of us fiercely and without question. You’re strong and you’re loyal and you’re capable of anything. You’re kind, and humble and beautiful inside and out. I know I’m in trouble. And I know I’ll be in trouble whether we’re teammates or something else. I think I’m ready to find out what this something else could be.”

Boyfriend. Boyfriend. Boyfriend.

Jaz sucked in a breath and bit her lip. His words ran through her mind, weaving in and out with the words from Hoffman. This was probably not the time for them to make this kind of decision. There was a 16-year old girl in danger, not to mention the thousands in danger of a nuclear submarine in the wrong hands. Whoever this Hoffman guy was, there was certainly trouble following his arrival.

Boyfriend. Boyfriend. Boyfriend.

What was the team dynamic even going to be like if they decided to obliterate that imaginary line keeping them separated? Would they be able to work the same if they put a label on whatever was between them? Would she get reassigned to avoid tension among the team? Would their team even be okay with them addressing this? Questions continued to swirl around in her mind, tangling with Dalton’s words and Hoffman’s insinuations.

Jaz reached out and took Dalton’s hand in hers. She gave it a squeeze.

Dalton smiled, returning the squeeze and understanding what she was trying to say with her actions.

“What the hell. Let’s see where this takes us,” Jaz said, giving Dalton’s hand another squeeze.

“Dalton. We’ve got a possible location for Verina,” Noah’s voice cut in, pulling the pair to their feet. They made their way back around the corner, still held together by their hands. Preach gave a huge grin, holding his hand out to Amir and McG. They each placed a hundred-dollar bill in his outstretched hand, grumbling under their breath.

“Couldn’t wait another week? I was so close to winning!” McG complained. Jaz released Dalton’s hand to punch McG in the shoulder before they all followed Dalton inside to grab their gear. They had a job to do.

Chapter Text

The team stood outside the bunker, trying to keep busy while Deputy Director Campbell tried to get whatever information she needed out of Hoffman. So far there hadn’t been any alarming sounds or yells from within so the team were able to drop their guard slightly.

Amir and McG were closest to the door, tossing a football back and forth. Jaz was sitting on the hood of their car, scanning the perimeter every few minutes, while Preach and Dalton sat on a bench in conversation. She watched as Preach gave Dalton a pat on the shoulder before moving to join Amir and McG. Dalton moved from the bench as well, taking quick steps towards Jaz. He jumped up on the hood, bumping her shoulder with his.

“Doing okay Top?” She asked, fiddling with her fingers in her lap. Sure, they had decided to give whatever was between them a chance, but she wasn’t sure what was appropriate and not while on the base and during a mission.

Dalton took her hand in his, interrupting her anxious fingers. “Better,” He said, giving a small smile. “You?”

“I’m ready to find Verina and end this nightmare,” Jaz muttered, sending a scowl towards the doors to the bunker as if she could make Hoffman feel it. Dalton’s comm crackles to life, causing him to put off a response to Jaz.

“Dalton, are you on the line?” Hannah asked.

“Yeah, go for Dalton,” he says, tightening his hold on Jaz’s hand. Hannah breaks the news that the Wyoming is heading to Chinese waters, and she watches as the rest of their team gather around them, listening to command in DC. They discuss the possibilities of this turn in events. They’re given three hours until the Wyoming hits enemy waters.

“You guys stay here,” Dalton says sharply, stalking towards the barracks. The other three guys part to let him through as Jasmine slips off the hood of the car to follow. She stops herself, realizing that he was still her captain no matter what they may be to each other personally, and she had to listen when they were on mission.

They stand near the car for a few minutes, each in their own head. Jaz can feel eyes on her and looks up to stare at Preach. She raises her eyebrow in question. “What?”

“Nothing, it’s just really nice to see you both happy, even among all this,” Preach says, McG and Amir nodding their heads next to him. Jaz blushes, but smiles at him.

“Thanks, Preach. You guys are really okay with this? Whatever it is?” She has to double check, and she’ll probably ask a few more times if her guys are truly good with Dalton and her decision to be together. They’re her guys, and they’re on the team too. Their opinion matters to her.

“Hell yeah Jaz. We’ve been waiting for you guys to catch up,” McG affirmed.

“It took me two days to pick up on you two, it’s about time you’ve stopped tiptoeing that line. We really are happy for you two,” Amir offered a smile. Jaz grinned back at her guys and pulled the three of them into a hug.

“You’re amazing,” She says. They pull away as they hear Dalton yell to them from the barracks.

“Hey! We have a development. Get in here,” he says sharply, and they’re all back in their soldier modes.

~~~~~~~~~~

They decide to send Jaz and McG in to the bar to provoke Victor into playing hero. Jaz makes her way to her room to find something to wear. When she returns to the common room in fitted jeans and a black top with her hair straight, she watches as Dalton gives her a once over and forces himself to turn towards the rest of the group. She makes sure to stand in between Preach and Patricia to avoid giving Hoffman any more ammo.

Preach hands her the RFID card to put her fake name and number on to slip to Victor and she sticks it in her back pocket. She looks to McG and he slips on a flannel, giving her a wink.

“Ready babe?” he jokes, smirking at her.

“I broke up with you, remember sweetheart,” Jaz snaps back, a laugh in her words. The team leaves Preach and Patricia behind as they head to the car. They get to the bar quickly and send Jaz in first. They wait a few minutes and listen as she orders a drink and invites herself to play pool with the small group of men nearby.

McG is sent in about fifteen minutes later. Acting was part of their job sometimes, but it was always a little funny to the team when McG had to act like an ass because his team knew that while he was dangerous, he was also a big teddy bear.

Jaz and McG argue over their breakup, drawing the attention of the men at the pool table. All three advance in her defense, so McG knows he’s going to have to figure out which one is Victor. He pushes at each guy, and watches as the middle man takes a step forward. As soon as he speaks and his British accent comes through, Dalton orders McG to see if the man is trained without letting on that McG was.

The pool stick to his back knocks the wind out of him, and he knows he’s going to have a nice welt across his back. He forces himself up and turns to glare at Victor, “You want her? You can have her, man.” He stalks out the door, muttering into the comms, “For the record, I could have kicked that guy’s ass.”

“Alright, put a band-aid on it, sugar,” Dalton quips earning a huff of laughter from Jaz.

She turns to sit at the bar and watches as Victor approaches her with a bag of ice. She gives some attitude which causes him to retreat to his table. She waits a few minutes before she orders another beer and makes her way to his table. She sets the beer down and apologizes, “I’m sorry I was rude. You was just trying to be nice,” She gives a small smile and slips the RFID tag with a name and phone number across his table. With one more smile, she turns around to head out to the car, her eyes rolling as she moves. They get confirmation that the RFID tag is emitting as she is slipping back into the car. McG is still grumbling under his breath as they pull away to head back to the barracks.

~~~~~~~~~~

They all huddle around a map of the compound Verina is being held in, trying to come up with a way in and out. They trade ideas and plans, all of which are met with a no. Jaz takes a small enough step to her left, letting her arm brush against Dalton’s without raising suspicion in Patricia or Hoffman. They won’t give him any more reason to taunt them, and they don’t want to deal with the possible repercussion if Patricia were to realize they were together now.

Dalton tenses for half a second before he leans a little further into her, his warm body saying the thanks he can’t vocalize. Hoffman signs obnoxiously which causes the team gathered around the table to look at him. Jaz tries very hard to keep the exasperation off her face. Patricia moves towards him, their back and forth leading to the idea to have Preach stay behind and get Verina to help through her coding skills.

~~~~~~~~~~

 

The team successfully rescues Verina and the individuals on the “Wyoming” but find themselves sitting in the hospital with Preach and without Dalton. Amir sits next to Preach’s bed while Jaz stares out the window. She’s angry. Beyond angry. She’s angry at Hoffman for orchestrating this disaster and she’s angry at Dalton for going dark. As soon as he returned to them, they were sitting down so she could yell at him.

“God, I hate hospitals. The smells, all the machines,” She says softly, catching Amir’s attention. She had been in this same hospital after her capture in Tehran, needing fluids and some stitches. She had barely been here for two days before they had let her go back to her team. McG had hovered like she knew he would while Amir would cook and Preach would read in a nearby chair. Dalton had always been close by but never hovering like McG. Her stay in the hospital was the closest she was to Dalton during her healing process. Once she was home, he seemed to close off and watch the team quietly from afar.

“Has anyone contacted his wife?” Amir cut through her reminiscing, causing her to grimace as she turned to face him.

“I was waiting for Top to do it,” she said. That was his job as commanding officer after all.

“Uh, I think you should just go ahead,” Amir suggests. “He’s gonna be a while.” Jaz nods. She’s upset that she knows he’s right. And she’s upset that Dalton has gone after Hoffman on his own. She knew it had to be done, but she wished he had taken at least one of them with him for backup. She steps outside, getting the attention of a nurse to get the number for Preach’s wife.

The conversation is quick and uncomfortable, but Jaz tries her best to comfort her. They hang up quickly, and Jaz forwards the number to Hannah so she can work on flying the family out to be with him. She finds the admitting nurse and asks for Preach’s sidearm and other personal items.

“I’m sorry, there was no firearm with him when Chief Carter was brought in,” the nurse admits. Jaz curses under her breath and mutters a thank you before hurrying back to Preach’s room.

“Preach didn’t have his sidearm on him when he was brought it.”

“What are you talking about?” Amir questions, rising from the chair.

“When Preach was brought in. I just checked with admitting, he did not have his sidearm with him!” Jaz insists.

“Which means Hoffman has it,” Amir finishes her thought, running his fingers through his hair. They stare at each other, both now angry with Dalton for leaving his comms and phones with no way for them to warn him. Logically, Jaz knows he can handle himself and he will return to them in one piece. But they had just opened up to each other and hadn’t even gone on a date.

“Top needs to get back here so I can kill him,” Jaz groans, falling into the chair Amir had vacated. He laughed, leaning against the wall. McG finds his way in a few minutes later, joining the vigil. “It’s just weird. So quiet,” Jaz says after a while.

“You know he’d have something to say right now, right? He’d be like, ‘McGuire, baby, you know it’s always darkest before the dawn,” McG says, breaking the somber mood. Jaz huffs a laugh, rolling her eyes at him.

“No, he wouldn’t,” Dalton’s voice comes from behind them and she whips around. She’s out of her chair, pulling him further into the room as he continues talking, “It makes too much sense. It’d have to be, uh be a little more cryptic. You know, like, ‘the sun and the moon are twins…” he trails off, slipping into the chair and pulling Jaz close by the hand. She squeezes it tightly in relief.

“Trials are the precursors to triumph,” Amir suggests.

“The river of life runs through rapids we call adversity,” Jaz laughs, a real laugh that she hadn’t let out since Hoffman turned everything upside down.

“Man, where does he even come up with this stuff? Certainly, not from books.”

“Nope, he’s tapped into something else entirely,” Dalton says calmly. Jaz sits on the arm of his chair, slinging an arm across the back. She runs her fingers through the hair at the base of his neck on instinct, freezing when his arm comes to circle her waist. She looks down at him and is met with an easy smile. She grins back, returning her attention to running her fingers through his hair. The four of them quietly sit watch over their family, keeping him company.

Dalton knows he and Jaz have a lot to talk about, but for the rest of the night at least, Preach was the priority.