“Want me to take it?” Jules asked as she and Ed gathered the necessary equipment from the back of the SUV. She was making sure one of the Teflon covered lock boxes in the back was securely locked as he pulled out and finished assembling the weapon.
He shook his head. “I think you know the answer to that.” He nodded toward the box she was pulling out, just a hint of a smile on his face despite the seriousness of the situation. “What’s that for?”
She gave him a mock glare, accustomed to the ribbing she took over her petite stature. “You know damn well what it’s for. That high railing might discourage jumpers but it’s hell to look over.”
“Not for me.”
“Laugh all you want. At least I have ways to make myself taller; not much you can do to make yourself smaller when the situation calls for it. I didn’t hear any complaints a couple of weeks ago when I was the only one small enough to fit in that hole to disarm that bomb timer that eco terrorist had planted.” Jules retorted as they made their way to the side of the bridge that would give them the advantage they needed for stopping the truck.
“Point taken.” Ed assured her and the moment of levity was replaced by the seriousness of the situation they had to prepare for. It might seem professional to an outsider for them to make little jokes while on a hot call but sometimes the seriousness had to be diffused ever so slightly in order for them to do their job efficiently. When it came down to it, all joking ceased and they got the job done.
Jules set the box down and stood on it, watching through her field scope as the approaching truck with its deadly cargo barreled closer and closer. They believed the driver who stole the truck knew what he was carrying but they couldn’t be sure. If he did, he certainly didn’t show any sign of caring about his own life earlier when he approached the roadblock they had set up.
Ed was beside her taking careful aim through the scope of the McMillan Tac-50. With a bullet and jacket bigger than the sharpie marker they used to label the different cabinets back at HQ, the gun and its shooter had the ability to take out a tank at long range. The eighteen wheeler didn’t stand a chance against the big guns. It’s headlong flight would come to an end after Ed pulled the trigger. It was a certainty.
What wasn’t as certain was what condition the truck would be in afterward. If the shot was spot on perfect, if it hit the intake manifold as Sam had suggested, the engine would stop and the truck would slow safely to a stop where the driver would be quickly taken into custody and the crisis would be over. If it was anything less than picture perfect precision, the truck would crash and a deadly fireball would result. It was a tremendous responsibility, not one most people would want to take let along be able to take if the need arose. That’s why only a select few made the cut for SRU and got to wear the cool pants.
Being a member of the Strategic Response Unit meant being able to make the difficult calls. But it seemed like Team One was called on more often than not to handle the toughest of the tough situations. That’s why they were the best of the best. And of the best, Jules knew of only two other people besides herself on Team One who could make this kind of impossible shot, Sam who was currently below the bridge with Sarge, and Ed who was holding the gun. How she wished she was the one in Ed’s position.
It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Ed to take the shot. In fact, of the three of them, he was probably the best. While Sam had speed on his side and Jules accuracy, Ed’s years of experience had given him both. He could and would make a perfect shot but he could only control the outcome so much. Outside factors would control the rest, and that is what made the situation so difficult. No, she wished she was the one looking down the scope of the Tac-50 instead of the high powered spotter scope for two reasons that had little to do with who would be the best at the job.
The first reason was that she wanted the detachment that came with being the marksman. If she was behind the weapon, her mind would zero in only on the target. Her sole thoughts would be on lining up the shot and making her aim true. She wouldn’t give a second thought about the fact that she probably looked like a little girl playing cop standing on the middle of a bridge standing on a box to make herself tall enough to see over the edge. She definitely wouldn’t be thinking about what would happen if the shot was off. And the fact that Sam was below the bridge directly in the oncoming path of an approaching time bomb would only have time for a passing mention.
The second reason and maybe more important than the other, was that she wanted to spare Ed this shot. This was going to be an impossible shot and Ed had already been forced to take an impossible shot already this year. The kind of shot a person would never feel right about no matter how justified it was. He shouldn’t have to take this one as well. It wasn’t fair. A positive outcome this time wouldn’t wash away the bad feeling she knew Ed was still dealing with over having to kill May but a shot gone bad would definitely make things worse.
However, she’d made the offer and predictably, Ed had insisted on taking the Sierra position while she was the spotter. She didn’t take it personally. It had nothing to do with him not trusting her either. As she’d told Sam after the incident at the Royal York, Ed wanted to spare them the emotional fallout of such shots whenever he could no matter the toil they took on himself.
“Almost in range.” Jules reported calmly, her tone not betraying any of her inner thoughts.
Ed barely acknowledged her with the slightest of nods as he focused in on the shot he was about to make. There was not even a hint of nervousness in his expression or his stance. He was more than just a professional; it was like he was completely devoid of any emotion. Sometimes she teased him about being Robocop when he got into sniper mode but really she envied him that ability to be that completely focused on the moment.
Four heartbeats later and the familiar sound of a 50 caliber steel core round bullet exploding out of the end of the Tac-50 filled the bridge. For four more heartbeats time slowed down as the bullet sped at 80 miles per hour through the air along its aimed trajectory.
The shot was perfect. Ed was flawless in his execution and nobody could later even think of accusing him of the slightest fault. The physics of the shot and its accuracy could not be questioned. Yet on the sixth heartbeat the truck swerved slightly and the bullet missed it’s intended mark Missed the radiator that would have continued to let the truck speed on past until the radiator finally overheated and caused him to wreck possibly in a more populated area. It didn’t ricochet off the hood and hit the driver either. Instead the bullet ripped a whole in the tank itself adding an ignition source to a pressurized volatile mixture. It would only be heartbeats more before the world went to hell in a hand basket and the heartbeats that followed became critical.
Heartbeats in which she could hear Sarge’s voice through her headset screaming for everyone to pull back. Heartbeats in which Ed threw down the MacMillan Tac-50 like it was garbage and lifted her off the box she was standing on and carried her away from the bridge like she was the football in the last twelve seconds of the Super Bowl.
The concussive force of the explosion reached them before the heat and the sound. A force strong enough to tackle the strong quarterback to the ground and send his football fumbling away from him in a painful roll. The sound and heat reached them seconds later but Jules couldn’t pay them any attention. She was too focused on the horrifying sounds reaching her through headset and what they meant.
“Sam! No! Buddy, no!” Sarge’s voice cut through the static of the headset, the anguish as clear as if she were standing next to him.
Spike’s voice followed right on his heels with a pain she’d only heard once before from the normally affable computer expert, years ago when they’d lost Lew. Lost Lew as if he were just missing and waiting to be found again. “Damn it! No! Sam!”
And then Sam’s own voice added to the mix but the sound was so primal and pain filled that she shouldn’t have known it was his but she did with every fiber in her body. It overshadowed every other sound. Her world narrowed down to just that agonizing scream as she dimly realized it would be the last audible memory she’d ever have of him and as horrifying as it was wanted to hold on to it. Wanted to hold on to him and not let him go because if she did, she‘d never get him back again.
She shouldn’t be able to see under the bridge where Sam and the rest of the team were but she could. It was as if someone had recorded the moment and was now playing it back for her in slow motion replay. She saw the truck swerving in time for the bullet to seal its fate. Saw Sam looking horrified at the knowledge that they’d failed and pushing Sarge out of harm’s way. She could see his lips moving and could tell he was screaming for Spike and Leah to pull back but she didn’t hear any actual sound. As weird as it was that made sense to her because she hadn’t heard any such warning over the headset.
Then the truck exploded and all that filled the frame of her video camera mind was the fireball that seemed to completely engulf Sam. The scream that tore from her own throat rose up from the very tips of her toes and the very depth of her soul. It was intuitive, gut wrenching, and seemed to reverberate in her ears like a broken record.
At the same time her scream filled the air, she rose to her feet determined to get to him before it was too late. Even though she knew it already was. Feeling as if a huge chunk of the best part of herself had been torn away, leaving her with not much more than an empty shell, Jules took two faltering steps toward the embankment that would take her down to the road below.
Two steps was all she got before Ed stepped in front of her blocking her path. She shoved at him trying to push him out of the way but it was a futile attempt to move a mountain as he dug his heels in. She knew he was trying to protect her, but she didn’t want protecting. Didn’t care what happened to her as long as she could get to Sam.
“Let me go; I’ve got to get to him. Let go!”
“Jules, stop. You can’t go down there. It’s too dangerous.” Now that same detachment she’d envied earlier made her want to punch him. Didn’t he realize that Sam was dying and that they had to save him? Didn’t he understand? Not deterred by his superior size and strength, she continued to struggle as he wrapped his arms around her to prevent her from getting past him.
“Ed, I have to save him. Sam’s down there. Let go of me.”
He crushed her against him and his façade of no emotions slipped, showing just how affected he was by the situation. “It’s too late Jules. He’s gone. I’m sorry, so sorry. There’s nothing you can do. He‘s gone and we can‘t lose you too.”
“NO!” Again the scream tore form her throat with a savage force. Didn’t he realize that without Sam she was lost anyway?
“Jules, calm down.” Ed urged. But he no longer sounded like Ed. His voice morphed to sound more and more like Sam’s. Not that that made any sense at all to her. “Sweetheart. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. Jules, come on baby. Open your eyes.”
-- FP -- FP -- FP --
Sam had been sleeping peacefully when the quiet of the night was pierced by a scream so horrific that it could have curled the toes of a deaf man. His eyes flew open and he instinctively reached for his Glock that was locked away at work. He recognized that it was Jules who had screamed and his blue eyes scanned the darkened room for any sign of what had upset his girlfriend so severely.
Seeing no sign of danger he turned his attention to Jules herself. She was tossing and turning beside him, obviously caught up in a nightmare. It wasn’t the first time he’d been woken up by the effects her dreams were having on her in the previous weeks. When he could finally drag out of her what the nightmares had consisted of, he wasn’t surprised to see her subconscious had taken her back to the rooftop of the Royal York and the guilt she still held on to for not realizing the danger May posed to herself and her father. But this seemed different than the other nightmares. This scream had seemed almost personal.
Suddenly she sat straight up in bed her eyes opened but still obviously in the throes of the nightmare. “Let me go; I’ve got to get to him. Let go!”
Sam sat up as well, turning on the lamp on the nightstand as he did. As the bedroom was bathed in soft light, he put his arms around her and pulled her close to him. He didn’t release her even as she struggled. He’d always heard conflicting theories about whether or not it was a good idea to wake up a person having a nightmare but he couldn’t stand to hear her sound so tortured. She was practically panting in distress from the dream. So he put his mouth to her ear and tried to gently reassure her that everything was okay.
“Jules, calm down. Sweetheart. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. Jules, come on baby. Open your eyes.” In the past it had never taken much more than just his touch to pull her out of the dream but this time it didn’t appear that even his words were having an effect.
“I’m right here, Jules. Everything is okay. Just open your eyes and leave the nightmare behind.” All he could do was to continue offer reassurances and hope he got through to her.
She whimpered but he could feel a little of the tension leaving her body. Her breathing pattern changed and he was sure she was waking up. He loosened his hold on her as she tried to twist in his arms. She was breathing hard and her eyes were slightly dilated. But he thought she was at least now awake. Her hand lifted to touch his face and he could see she was shaking. It must have been a hell of a nightmare. He smiled reassuringly.
She shook her head and collapsed in his arms, still trying to regulate her breathing. She hiccupped. He rubbed her back soothingly with one hand and with the other ran his fingers through her hair. He didn’t bother to ask her if she wanted to tell him about it. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to know what was troubling her so much; in fact the opposite was true. He knew if he made the offer he would get the same response she’d given him with all his attempts with previous dreams to find out what had upset her. She would tell him about it later. The first time she’d said it, he’d thought she was just putting him off and hoping he wouldn’t ask again. But when she’d finally shared the contents of the dream with him later that morning, he’d realized she’d been honest with him. He wasn’t sure if she needed to wait because she held on to the belief that dreams told before breakfast would come true or because she needed the time to get her emotions under control before she could talk about the dream that had upset her. Either way, if she needed to wait until she was ready to talk, he would give her that time.
“Hold me.” Her plea was soft but urgent as she tightened her own hold on him. Her shaking hadn’t eased any and it was clear that even awake, the nightmare was still as fresh in her mind as it had been while she was asleep.
He kissed the top of her head. “I am holding you. Whatever it is, you’re safe now. I’ve got you. Nothing’s going to hurt you.” His words sounded ridiculous to his own ears. She didn’t need him to protect her from anything. But still the assurances flowed easily off his tongue. He could feel her heart beating wildly through the soft material of her pajamas.
“Tighter.” She begged.
Sam frowned. Jules never begged for anything. Her grip on him was already so tight that he bet her knuckles were completely white from the effort. Obediently however, he tightened his hold on her slightly. If anything she burrowed herself closer to him as if she couldn’t get close enough to suit herself. As if she was trying to climb completely inside him. With a sigh, he increased his grip even more and then warned. “Sweetheart, I’m going to hurt you if I hold you much tighter.”
“Can’t lose you.” She practically panted the words.
Her desperate words broke his heart and made him all the more curious about what fears her dream had produced. “You aren’t going to lose me, Baby. Not going to happen. Whatever it was, it’s over and it was just a dream. I’m right here with you and I’m not going anywhere.”
As he offered the reassurances with his words, he twisted on the bed to lay her down against the pillows. She whimpered slightly thinking he was pulling away. Instead, he kept his arms around her back as he laid down on top of her. Normally he was careful to keep his full weight off of her even when they made love but he sensed that for now at least she needed the comfort and reassurance of his weight pressing her body further into the mattress below her. Thought the position was highly sexual in appearance, there was nothing seductive in his intention only comfort and reassurance. He even wrapped his legs around her lower body so that she was completely trapped beneath him. Though he worried that he was crushing her since he had at least 60 pounds on her based on their last weigh-ins at work, she seemed to not only welcome but need the embrace.
His face hovered just above hers so that every time he exhaled, she couldn’t help but feel his warm breath on her face. Her own breathing was ragged but that was more from the remnants of the dream rather than from his weight crushing her so he held his position. Her eyes never left his as she seemed to take comfort in staring into the blue pools looking down at her. Neither spoke as he continued to hold and watch her. After about ten minutes of him lying fully on top of her, her pupils returned to the size they should be in the dim light and her breathing evened out. Slowly the shaking decreased and the rest of the tension left her body. Sensing the worst of the effects of the dream were over, he rolled slightly taking his full weight off of her but keeping her still locked tightly in his arms. Her legs remained trapped between his as he tucked her in close to his body and rested his head on the pillow. He kissed her nose.
“Better?” He asked again and this time she nodded.
“I’m sorry.” She offered quietly but he shook his head in protest.
“Don’t be. We’ve all had dreams that sometimes rock us. You’ve been there for me more than a few times when my own dreams have gotten too much.”
She squirmed just a little in his embrace, not wanting to be released but enough so that she could kiss him. There was an urgency in the kiss that had more than just desire in it. When she leaned back, she bit her lower lip before speaking. “If I lost you, I don’t think I could survive it.”
Her nightmare must have been about him leaving but he knew he’d never get her to give him the details right then. Whether dream Sam had left of his own free will or not, real Sam had to offer her reassurances without making promises he couldn’t keep. “I’m not planning on going anywhere, Jules. And if somehow the choice was taken away from me, you would survive because you are strong with or without me. And even if you couldn’t find that strength in yourself for awhile, our friends would offer you theirs until you found it again. Just like they would me if God forbid something happened to you. But we can’t let fear of what could happen dominate our lives. We’ve got to live each moment to the fullest so if something should happen, we have no regrets. Okay?”
She nodded. “Make love to me.”
He knew her request was more about reassurance than desire but he slowly started undressing her. It wasn’t easy because while she wanted him to fulfill her request she didn’t want him to release her long enough to shed either of their clothes. When he’d finally divested them of any remaining cloth barriers, he once more pressed her into the mattress with his body fully covering hers. This time he planted his forearms on either side her shoulders so that they would take the brunt of his weight and his legs rested on the inside of her thighs gently spreading them out to give him better access. His face once more hovered scant millimeters above her face before lowering so that he could capture her mouth with his. His tongue made a slow explorative sweep of the interior of her mouth before embarking on an equally slow, noncompetitive duel with her own tongue. Once he was satisfied that every crevice of her luscious mouth had been explored, he released her mouth, gently tugging on her lower lips with his teeth before releasing it as well. He then blazed a trail down her chin and neck stopping at the pulse point at the base of her throat.
The whimper of desire she emitted as he alternated between licking and suckling on the indention sent waves of desire all the way down the to the tip of his manhood, causing it to twitch to life. Her fingernails dug into his back trying to pull him even closer. He allowed his weight to push down on her and he could feel her warm wet core against his throbbing manhood. Any other night, he’d probably would have already claimed her inviting entrance as his own. Tonight, however was different. There was nothing rushed or frantic about their lovemaking. He was going to take his time and love her as he’d never loved her before. Give her the reassurances she seemed almost desperate for.
He felt her leg skimming the back of his until she had it crooked behind his buttocks trying to encourage him to join their bodies together. She whimpered with need. “Please Sam. I need you inside me.”
He kissed his way up the side of her neck to her ear. “I will, Baby. There’s no hurry. We have all the time in the world. I’m not going anywhere.”
Again she whimpered but didn’t protest as he shifted his weight to one arm so he could lovingly explore her body with the other. He teased her nipple before his hand traveled south. There his thumb found her clit and he pressed in putting pressure on the button of nerves. She arched upward into his body and he gently pressed her back down and continued his slow ministrations.
Her whole body was flushed with heated desire. He blew lightly on her skin trying to cool her off but it only added to her desire. Once more her breathing became ragged but this time it was in a good way. Her body shuddered hard. She whimpered again, this time sounding completely desperate and on edge.
“Please, Sam. Please. I can’t take it much longer. Please don’t make me wait. I need you.”
Once again her begging had a profound effect on him. Without further argument he slid effortlessly inside her, filling her completely. She sighed deeply and her face took on an almost euphoric glow. It was as if he’d finally reached an itch she couldn’t possible have reached herself. He held himself still for several long moments letting her savor just the feel of him inside her. Then slowly he began to rock with a slow steady rhythm. Every careful, perfectly timed thrust caused the tip of his manhood to hit the far wall of her cervix and her g-spot before pulling almost completely out of her. Then he repeated the movement over and over again. After the first couple of times she figured out his rhythm and her hips rose up to meet him and the leg on his buttocks pressed in to hold him in place for several seconds before letting him pull back again.
Her nails no longer dug into his back but her fists kneaded the flesh and muscles of his upper back clenching and unclenching in perfect unison with his slow deep thrusts. It was gentle and drawn out and while maybe not as romantic as some of their other sexual experiences, perhaps the most loving. It was also exactly what she needed to banish the demon fears that had produced such a horrific nightmare to the far recesses of her mind where they wouldn’t be allowed to torment her, at least not for tonight.
The bubble of pure bliss slowly grew inside her from the very pit of core, getting bigger and bigger until finally at long last it was too large to contain and her whole body grew rigid before the bubble burst in waves of pleasure causing her to shake as much as she had during the worst of the nightmare. She pressed her face into his shoulder and bit her lip to keep from screaming out again, this time in pure unadulterated pleasure.
His own release followed directly behind hers. His arms which were supporting his weight were shaking so hard he wasn’t sure they would continue to hold him. So he lowered himself on top of her and once more pressed his full weight into her. They were both breathing hard. Then worried once more about hurting her rolled to his side, taking his weight off her.
In the aftermath and once he‘d gotten his breath back, he snuggled her close to him and kissed her eye lids. She no longer seemed upset but he knew it would still be awhile before she surrendered to sleep and the possibility of dreams once more. No matter how much he might want to stay awake for her, his body would betray him if he just lay there. The lateness of the night and drowsiness that usually came over him after sex would work against him. He was starting to drift when her voice pulled him back to wakefulness.
He kissed the side of her head before answering. “Yeah?”
“You heard what Spike said to Stuart today, didn’t you? When he was talking him down?”
He knew she knew he had. It had gone out over the headset so the auto transcriber could pick it up as a matter of transcript. Her question went deeper than that. “What about it?”
She sighed. “I know he was talking about Stuart and Rebecca and maybe even himself but I couldn’t help but thinking his words fit us as well.”
Even though he was caught up with the rescue of Rebecca at the time, he had listened as Spike talked down Stuart. Their resident geek with combat skills didn’t often get to use his negotiation skills but he was definitely good at it when he did. “You mean about taking a chance?”
Jules nodded. “Yeah, we did that when we got back together. We knew it was against the rules and we could get ourselves and Sarge in big trouble but we knew doing nothing wasn’t going to work for us any more.”
He wasn’t completely following her and wasn’t sure if he was just that dense or if it was his sleepiness keeping him from seeing something. Then, his own heart rate quickened. Was her dream her subconscious way of telling her something? Did she feel something wasn’t right in their relationship. “Yeah, but that’s worked out pretty good for us, hasn’t it?”
“No, yeah, everything is fine.” She quickly reassured him. “I don’t know. I guess I’m just wondering what now? You know? I love what we have but, I don’t know, I’m just wondering if we’re back to doing nothing when we should be taking chances.” She stopped and sighed heavily. “Don’t listen to me. I’m babbling.”
But Sam was listening and he was hearing what she wasn’t saying. “Are you saying you want something more? We’ve talked about hypothetical honeymoons and hypothetical babies. Maybe you’re wanting something a little less hypothetical?”
Jules shrugged but her eyes said the answer was definitely yes. Sam kissed her again. “Jules, I promise you I’m in this for the long haul. I’m not going anywhere. And the time is going to come when I reach out for something even better with you. Just because I haven’t said anything about it, doesn’t mean I haven’t given it a lot of thought. The time will come and I promise you it will be special. But it‘ll be something I plan in my own time. Please trust me on that.”
“I wasn’t trying to hint…” Jules protested but Sam stopped her with a quick kiss.
“I know. I just don’t want you to get the idea I’m doing nothing. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life showing you how much.”
“I just want it to be a long and happy life of showing me.” Jules added, still thinking about the nightmare she had. They settled into silence and once more Sam felt himself drifting. Then once more Jules spoke. “I felt sorry for Spike tonight.”
Sam’s voice was huskier as he grew sleepier. “He took a chance, just like he told Stuart. It was a beginning at least.”
“She laughed at him.” There was a touch of sisterly protectiveness in her voice.
“She called him the perfect guy.” Sam reminded her. “Maybe I had a better angle of him as he left but I think he was holding on to that more than the fact that she turned him down. He’ll be okay. Besides, you turned me down plenty of times before we had that first kiss. Look at us.”
“Your ego can take rejection better than Spike’s can.” Jules reminded him, her own sleepiness starting to show in her voice as well. “Anyway, I may have put you off but I never laughed at you. That’s just mean. And this is Spike we’re talking about. Being mean to Spike is like being cruel to an innocent puppy.”
Sam chuckled and nuzzled her neck. “Weren’t you the one who changed the settings on the exercise bike the other day when he wasn’t looking so it would look like he couldn’t hack it?”
“Completely different. That was retaliation for him add weights to my gear during the obstacle course the day before.” Her eyes started to drift close.
Sam was glad to see the nightmare’s hold seemed to have lost its grip on her. He reached over and turned off the light. “Beating him in the race despite the weights wasn’t retaliation enough?”
“Shut up, Sam.” Then she kissed him again. “I love you.”
He smiled as she drifted back to sleep with those three words. He pressed another kiss to the side of her head and closed his own eyes. “I love you too.”