Part Two: Jules
Jules is exhausted. Exhausted and annoyed. She did exactly what Sam wanted; she went to the hospital. Went even though she hates the place, she practically could choke on the smell of disinfectant and sterile air. It regurgitates memories. Makes her think of weeks spent trapped in that bed, recovering from one wrong step, one careless move that put it all in jeopardy- the life she had so painstakingly crafted for herself. Makes her think of her Aunt Marie and watching the cancer strip everything from the woman that was the closest thing to a mother she had ever known. Makes her recount the ways she has failed, continues to fail.
She should have seen that he was about the charge. Should have been prepared. Should have been quicker, better. The fall today should have never happened.
A few years ago it wouldn't have.
Part of her is worried that her reactions are slowing. It used to be blood and instinct, lightening fast. Now she second guesses herself. More and more these days. Her emotions won't ever clear, not like they used to, and her fingers are not as deft as they were before. Before that room. She couldn't get it under control, couldn't talk him down but couldn't put him down either. Just kept wanting time, wanting to give him a moment. He had a three year old waiting at home for her daddy. Never used to think about those things, never used to let it get to her.
It was a a stupid mistake. Nearly cost her her life.
She figures she is lucky; if she hadn't gotten out... If they hadn't been able to talk him down... She knows Sam would have never forgiven her. Would have hated her and himself and everyone. She is lucky; Sam never mentions that room. Never talks about any of it.
But she knows he thinks about it.
So she went to the hospital. Went for him. Went so he wouldn't have to worry. Went so he could see that she wouldn't put him in that place again. Never again- not if she could help it. And yet here he is- worrying.
So it was all for nothing. Just a sprain, like she thought. See if she even bothers next time.
It's not just about the actual hospital, about being poked and prodded in a place that always makes her worst memories swell to the surface. It's about all that comes after. It's about the report that accompanies a trip to the hospital, the one that goes into her file. It's about the concern.
They are always so concerned. It multiplies and spreads like a virus every time that another hospital report is slipped into her file, padding it with her mistakes.
They won't say anything, not directly, but she knows how they are. Sarge will pull her aside to ask once again if she is okay, how she is holding up, to remind her for the fourth time that if she needs to take it easy just to let him know. She is a watched pot, never allowed to boil. Placed under a microscope, searched for cracks.
Ed won't repeatedly ask her how she is doing but she will end up relegated to collecting intel, profiling, put in the truck or left to interview family. Left to check the suspect's home, place of work, the bench where he blew his nose last week- anything to keep her busy and out of the way. She won't even be on negotiation because he still is treating her with kid gloves after Xavier. The worst part is she can't even call him out on it, can't say a thing because she was the one that screwed up.
It's too much to hope for that they will let a hospital visit, even one that didn't find anything significant, slide. She has all that to look forward to; all over just a sprain.
"What did you want me to do?" It sounds more desperate than she intended. She is just exhausted and there is a twang of pain in her ribs whenever she breathes too hard and a constant throbbing in her ankle.
She watches as he rakes a hand through his hair."I don't know, Jules. I just don't know..."
Well, that makes two of them. She doesn't know what to say. Doesn't even know why they are fighting.
"Come on, Jules." He moves closer to her and she can see the peas perspiring in his hand. "We should get you in bed."
Jules wants to protest. To tell him she can do it on her own and he can let himself out. Her first instinct is always to push back, to pull away. It's grinding to fight against it. Goes against her grain, but she doesn't immediately tell him to just go. She doesn't say anything because she doesn't trust herself, just lets out a soft sigh, angling the air upward causing her bangs to dance across her forehead.
"Your ankle is giving a pretty good impression of a grapefruit." She rolls her eyes at him but she knows its a bridge, a way to hopefully crossover all of this mess. He smiles as he says it, that too-charming-for-his-own-good boyish grin and she is torn between wanting to kick him and kiss him. He moves closer to her, close enough that she feels the need to turn slightly, head tucked away under hair that falls in front of her face. "Jules..."
He is always doing that. Saying her name in a way that makes it sound sacred, like it's a secret, like it's precious. Like she is precious. The anger is ebbing, receding slowly, inch by inch. He doesn't move to help carry her upstairs for which she is unexpectedly grateful. Just waits patiently while she fumbles with her crutches, struggling to balance before she finds a rhythm.
There was a time when he carried her up those stairs. Jules hated that time. Still hates to think back to when her home still had walls that divided and separated all the space.
It was after the shooting. She had finally been released from the hospital, finally mastering enough PT to shuffle along the hospital corridors with her panda slippers on her feet and Sam on her arm. She had been so overjoyed at the prospect of coming home, of her bed and a room that did not constantly smell of sanitizer, that she had forgotten those monstrous steps. Jules had struggled so much on the three porch steps leading to her door. Leaning and clutching to Sam as she swore under her breath. Once finally inside she had to lay down on her sofa, beads of perspiration dotting her forehead. She had to stop and rest, stop and sit to even catch her breath. She, who had once not even batted an eyelash at hoofing it up twelve story buildings fully loaded down with gear, laid to waste by three steps.
Sam had to carry her up to her bedroom, something she could tell made him just as uneasy. He had spent twenty minutes bringing her pillows and blankets to the couch before finally acknowledging there was no way she was going to be able to sleep there. Might as well be the hospital bed all over again. She could tell he was afraid her incision. Still leery over sutures that had already dissolved, becoming one with her body. Sam had a ringside seat the night she tore them open. Angry red blood spilling out, drenching cotton dressing and soaking her hospital gown. Made her look like an extra in a horror movie, dead body number four. Something to give children nightmares; scary enough to make Sam Braddock fumble and sweat and go over and over how best to carry her.
He had never been like that. Never was fumbling and awkward with her. His hands always instinctively moved over her body; confident, assured, purposed driven digits. That trip up her stairs, he was so tense Jules could feel his chest hammering against her own. So much for sniper breathing.
"I'm sorry." She had to say it, hated to say it. Hated to be so damn helpless.
"Don't worry about it. You are going to be racing up and down those stairs in no time."
It was the right thing to say. Perfect. Utterly and annoyingly perfect even back then.
Tonight he makes sure to stand two steps behind her. He doesn't rush her. Doesn't offer to help. Doesn't say a word until she is on the bed and he is adjusting pillows under her balloon of an ankle. "Here."
Jules wants to tell him she can do it herself. That she can take of herself. She has been doing it since she was nine and her brothers were too busy to be bothered. They tossed her old magazines and ice packs on their way out the door. "Told you not to follow us, Squirt. Next time just stay put, would ya?" Trees too high, make shift bike paths that banked too sharply, a request to stay put- all of them challenges she could never resist meant a broken bone at least once a year. She knows how to do this. She has been taking care of herself for as long as she can remember. She doesn't need him fussing.
She doesn't want to need him at all.
She is about to tell him this, to mention that the pillows are stacked too high and it's going to bother her hip, anything to tarnish that halo he wears so well, when she notices the peas. He is wrapping them in a pillow case, the one with faded yellow flowers. The ones she doesn't care about, doesn't even like. The ones she never even bothers with unless her sister in-law comes to visit, if she ever comes to visit. She keeps them buried in the back of the linen closet. She knows Sam must have dug for them, careful to stay away from the blue ones she loves.
"Does it hurt?" He asks, oh-so-carefully placing the peas on the softball above her foot.
"A little." A lot.
He sits next to her but not close, not now, and she can tell his is gearing up to say something she doesn't want to hear. He must be on a streak. She has hated practically every other word out of his mouth since she took that tumble. "Any chance you will let me get you an Advil?"
Absolutely not. Doesn't even keep the stuff in the house. Keeps flushing the bottles that Sam brings like they are baggies filled with white powder. "It's not that bad." Nothing is that bad.
He sighs, that you're-impossible sigh. It makes her want to hurl things at his head. "I just don't like to see you hurt."
Annoyingly perfect and she finds herself squirming slightly, the way she always does when someone touches that part of her she has tried so hard to wall up.
He leans back, skull thumping against the headboard she whitewashed herself. His voice is low when he speaks, confessing to her ceiling. "I hate Steve."
"I just don't like that he knows all this stuff about you that I don't."
It is so ludicrous that she doesn't even know where to start. Thinks for a second that she must have misheard, it's all gibberish to her, scribbles on a piece of paper. What does Steve know? Nothing. That she used to play in an all girl group; used to rock out and wore a leather mini skirt whenever she could sneak out without one of her brothers trying to force her to change? Knows glimpses of the girl she used to be.
Sam knows who she is. Knows so much about her it actually frightens her. Probably knows too damn much. In fact she is sure he know too damn much.
She doesn't want to play twenty questions, doesn't want anyone prodding at those skeletons that have long since been dead and buried. Doesn't want to fight anymore. She never wanted to fight to start to with, it's the whole reason she went to the damn hospital in the first place.
"You know you are kinda cute when you're jealous."
His reply is a grumble of a response. "Not jealous."
She holds back an 'are so' because it's clear that he is. Jules has to admit it is totally adorable, frustrating as all hell, but adorable. She lifts a single eyebrow and wonders if he is really going to try to stick with that. He can't lie for shit; it's what got them in trouble in the first place.
He pouts, arms folding over his chest. "I just didn't like how he kept joking around. 'Good to see at least one of you will listen to medical advice.' What sort of crack was that?"
"Because you and Sarge were so willing to get checked out?" She thinks the paramedics have a running bet, a challenge to actually get a member of SRU to the hospital. They are a stubborn lot. Wonders if Steve's coworkers will buy him a round of drinks tonight for finally getting a check in the team one column.
"That was completely different."
No, not different. Had to listen to that excruciating silence on the comm link. Had to sit by and pray that they would get him out, get them all out before the next bomb went off. The one that would have taken down an entire building and him with it. Only difference is she couldn't show it, couldn't be the panicked girlfriend. Couldn't react because of Sarge and Toth and the ax hanging over all of their heads. Couldn't because if she really thought about losing Sam she would have been useless, a shell of a person, just someone else in the way, the type of person the uniforms have to ask politely to stay back so SRU can do their job.
Watching him in danger is not different but it's part of the job. Part of the life they have chosen and bringing it up- that fear, that terror, it just leads to arguments. And Jules is sick to death of fighting. She can't fix the fact that their jobs are riddled with dangers but as far as Steve and that mess? That she can do something about.
"You don't have to worry, you know." Her eyes find his. "About Steve? You don't have to worry about him."
"Is that so?"
He is leaning closer and the gap of space is swallowed up. She turns her head slightly and studies her lap. She is not good at this, never was taught how to do any of this, her father and brothers didn't shower her with hugs and kind words. She takes a deep breath. "I'm not going to leave you."
It's like he has been waiting for that, starving for some sort of declaration, because the words are barely out of her mouth when his lips are covering her own. Not tender feathered kisses but hungry, bruising. He draws her lower lip into his mouth and she can't help the sharp gasp of air. His teeth nibbling and his hands on her face, fingertips threading through her hair. Possessive. Like he wants her to forget everything before this moment, and if he keeps it up she just might.
She arches her neck up to meet his attack. One hand through his hair that tickles against her palm and another on his shoulder blade pulling him closer. There is something nice about how he doesn't pull away, doesn't treat her like a china doll about to break. Just pours himself into her, pulling away when they both need air.
"I am beginning to see that." He is smirking at her and she can't resist rolling her eyes at his sudden bravado.
This time when they kiss it is softer, calmer; a blissful sense of belonging.
When they finally part, Jules can't erase the lazy smile from her face. "I can't believe you were so worried about Steve."
"Hey, you're the one who dated him."
"Yeah, well that's over. I'm with you now and besides," she says with a grin, "if I left you for anyone it wouldn't be Steve. It would be Scott McGillivray."
He stands so quickly that she starts. "That's it." He stalks towards her door.
"Where are you going? It was a joke."
"I am going downstairs to block HGTV. You want to watch some home improvement show you are going to have to settle for This Old House."
"You are kidding, right?"
"Not at all." And she can tell he isn't. Jules is about to say how completely ridiculous he is being when he adds on, "I finally got you and I'm not about to risk losing you. Especially to that pretty boy, Scott McGillivary. You are mine, Callaghan."
She tosses a pillow at him but doesn't reach for another when he ducks it. After all, how can she argue with that? She is his.