Home. Safe and Sound.
"Josie?" The manager called as he flipped the lock of the restaurant's front doors. "You mind getting the trash tonight?"
"Huh?" Josie's head popped up from the table she had been wiping down. She hesitantly pulled the hair that had fallen loose from a barrette behind her ear as she searched for who had called her name. "What's up?" She had been just a mite too caught up in her own head to catch what he had requested. After a long and busy day, Josie had no interest in dawdling with clean up or delaying the opportunity to get home, take a long relaxing bath, and curl into her warm bed for the night. Her regular day had quickly become a double when her manager had called her that morning with news that two of her coworkers had called out sick.
"You mind taking out the trash tonight?" He requested again like he didn't have her do it every other night.
"Uugh-" Josie's eyes jumped anxiously to her watch. "I, I really wanna get going before midnight.
"It'll just take a minute." He was lying and even he knew it. They had been working the whole place on their own for the last four hours, and even before that the only help they had was the part-time cook. Trash had been piling up all day and no one had taken it out. It would be a good five trips at least, and then they would still have to finish everything else up.
"You know I have to walk home through-" Josie tried to explain again, but she seemed to get cut off for the umpteenth time. Tired of getting lingering stares that made her want to ditch the heels and start sprinting home before something bad happened as she crossed the bad part of town, she sighed and shut up rather than letting the supervisor talk over her.
"I know. We'll have you out of here in no time! Just grab the trash, fix up the dishes, and then clean up the last of the tables and you'll be good to go as soon as I finish up the register and the safe."
Another lie, but there was not much that could be done for it. Josie yielded with a simple shrug and an "Oh, ok then. I, I just need to get going soon, alright? It's already half-past eleven." But she knew getting out before twelve-thirty was no more than a pipe dream anymore.
Surely enough, twelve forty-five rolled around and Josie was still waiting on the manager to finish up the counts on the till and deposit everything into the safe for, well, safekeeping. "Wow, Josie, I'm just so sorry." He finally emerged.
"Oh? You're done?" She perked like she hadn't been waiting idly with little to nothing left to clean or straighten up.
"Yup, that's it. Sorry, we ran late tho." He seemed somewhat disingenuous. "I lost count a couple of times and then we were short a fifty, so I had to redo the count." That, however, was much more believable for Josie.
"Oh, well, that's a shame. Glad you got it all together in the end tho." She put on a false smile and pulled at the hem of her dress uncomfortably. It was a hopeless signal to a blind man that she wished to get going already.
"Yup." He made a show of glancing at his watch like he had planned it. "Aww, geez! Almost one already?"
"Yeah, it's crazy. And I was hoping to get home before midnight. I, I know it is arbitrary, but I just feel safer walking home before twelve." She passively and politely attempted to reassert her limits and needs.
"Well, it can't really be helped when it is just the two of us closing up." He huffed and adjusted his pants on his hips like he was working his way up to saying something. "And there is something to that after all! I happen to know that the cops tend to vacate that area of town around midnight."
"Oh really, that's scary." Josie forced a fake giggle, knowing that he was wrong, but still feeling a little more creeped out about the walk.
"Well, you know, I just live across the way really, you could always come back to my place with me if you are too afraid to make the walk home."
Josie was mortified! Not only did he not, in fact, live just across the way! He drove a car to work and he also often happened to be late with some level of regularity! Even if he did live close! He had been the one to keep her beyond the time she had said she couldn't stay past. She was fuming and ready to snap before she calmed herself with a few ragged breaths. "Oh, no, I really think it is just best that I start heading home right now. Plus, I'm scheduled for tomorrow, so I have to do laundry and like take a shower and stuff to be presentable tomorrow."
"Oh, well, you could do all that stuff at my place." He leaned in, attempting to do his best impression of swave or smooth.
Josie's legs quickly backed her away, evading the man and his advances. "No, no, I think I should really just be going home tonight." Josie tried again politely, and thankfully he actually got the message.
"Ok, sorry about that. Just thought it would be a safer alternative for you." He tried to eschew his own inappropriate advances away.
"Yeah." She nodded back and averted her eyes awkwardly.
"Oh! Let me get the front door for you!" He waved his hand in the air with the memory of locking it over an hour prior flooded back to him.
"You, you go ahead and take the front door, I'll just slip out the back. It locks on its own, so you don't have to worry about it. It's closer to my apartment anyways." Josie would have crawled through the bathroom window to evade having to stay near him one more second, but thankfully the back door made for just as good an excuse and a much better exit.
"Yes, yes, of course. Have a wonderful night then I guess." The manager backed away awkwardly.
"Yeah, goodnight." Josie waved back as she backed away. Quickly, she grabbed her purse and rushed off and away. Chunky heels clacked decisively on the kitchen and back room's tile floors as she rushed out, near running away simply wanting distance from the rather inappropriate supervisor. Dashing down the street, hopelessly praying that there was a bus running over an hour late, Josie crossed her fingers only to be let down. Of course, the bus hadn't been delayed that long! "Great, a half-hour walk through the bad part of town, in heels, after fourteen hours on my feet. Delightful." She sighed, pulling her purse up and fishing around in it for both her keys and pepper spray. It was the best defense she had if something went wrong, and she didn't trust herself with either of them individually but combined, they made for at least some vague semblance of comfort and reassurance.
Josie's grip tightened around both her improvised self-defense measures as she heard an errant police siren wailing off in the distance. Delightful, it was even somewhere off in the direction she was headed! "That's it! I'm putting my foot down! I am not staying this late anymore! Nope! No more!" Josie attempted to hype herself up with no actual hope of getting much of any progress if she even could manage to follow through on talking to the manager or owner.
Hazel eyes darted around each passerby or person placed stationary, doing whatever it is someone does in the city nearing one in the morning. She did her best attempt to evaluate each and every one of them, offering little more than a polite wave as she anxiously hoped that she could once more get by without running into any trouble. Regretfully, she turned the corner, attempting to avoid a man drunkenly stumbling his way out of a bar. It would add another three minutes to the walk, but it would also ensure she didn't have to worry about him quite as much. Distractedly, she turned her head back. Breathing a sigh of relief at the sight of no one following her, Josie whipped out her phone. It was only another ten minutes till she was home, but maybe some tunes would assist in soothing her nerves? Slipping in aging earbuds, Josie found something to throw on before slipping her phone back into her purse. A soft orchestral build began the song slowly. She hummed along, closing her eyes and allowing her legs to carry her away as she zoned out to the music.
The tension finally began to leave her shoulders as her music built to a crescendo. Maybe she should take this route home from now on? It would take an additional ten or twenty minutes total, but at least she would evade the bars and avoid drunkards getting pushed out after last call. It might be a good idea, at least for the next time that she was inevitably forced to stay late. Yes, this would be the route home when it was late from now on. That would certainly help! "Yeah that's i-" Josie's mumbling to herself was abruptly cut short at a firm hand yanking her back by her shoulder. She nearly hit the ground; for a moment there, she actually thought she had. But then she felt a warmth at her back as opposed to the cold hard ground she had expected. It was unexpected, but it was nice.
Alex yelled, but Josie heard nothing beyond the blaring climax of her music. She just saw the short-haired woman's mouth moving as she felt a blush coming to her face. Why had this woman stopped her, nearly thrown her to the ground, and then caught her? Suddenly any fantasies of the dark and attractive woman wearing a stern face were ripped out before they could really form with a rough tug at her earbuds. "Ouch-" She went to speak but was talked over.
"Idiot! What do you think you are doing!? Walking right into a crime scene with an active shooter! I yelled at you to stop!"
"Huh?" Josie was caught, still staring at Alex's eyes and the way that even from upside-down her asymmetrical haircut framed her face. She didn't notice or process the frustrated words correctly until well after Alex had rather roughly dropped her down onto the ground.
"Stay away from my crime scene before you get yourself killed!"
Josie was left dumbfounded, watching on as the determined officer walked off with such determination and self-assurance that she could feel her mouth go dry and all the air rush out of her chest. Then there was the feeling of the cold hard ground rushing back in on her. Suddenly police lights and sirens she hadn't noticed moments earlier seemed entirely unignorable. Sirens blared in her ears louder than the music had, lights spun, disorienting her and inducing a somewhat debilitating sense of vertigo. Josie's head spun as she fought to get back to her feet, or at least sit up. Gravity, however, didn't like those plans. In tandem with a sense of direction certain that true north was actively spinning around her in all different directions. "I-" She had just managed to begin finding her balance when Alex started yelling again.
"Get! Get going, now get!" Alex huffed, waving her handoff in the opposite direction. She knew she was being harsh to the innocent woman. But sometimes a little roughness was necessary for a civilian to be safe.
"S- sorry!" Josie stammered in the face of the officer's demanding harsh tone.
"Just stay out of the way, we don't want you getting hurt Ma'am." Alex gestured like she was tipping a hat she wasn't even wearing off to the innocent woman.
"Yeah, I! Uugh, thanks, Officer." Josie suddenly redirected her attention to her appearance after feeling Alex's unyielding eyes on her. Quickly, the waitress rushed to straighten the dress which had, in all the commotion, ruffled a bit higher than she would usually have allowed. Once more, she neatly tucked a stray couple locks of auburn hair back behind her ear. She then struggled to rise back to her feet in as ladylike a manner as possible. The task, however, quickly proved itself near impossible as her balance failed her once more. She nearly toppled back over into a wall. Maybe allowing her manager to talk her into skipping lunch to take care of the dinner rush was a bad idea after all? Narrowly, she was able to pivot and avoid clonking her head hard on the brick wall she had been headed for, but by the time she came to a halt that no longer seemed to matter.
"He's coming out!" One of the officers shouted.
Josie could hear the rest of them unclip their gun and pull it out in unison.
"Get down, get down! He has a gun!" Josie could easily recognize that voice as belonging to the assertive officer whose arms she had literally fallen into. Consciously or not, she drifted closer towards the officer and her comforting presence.
"Gun!" The other officer screamed in surprise and distress.
"No! Adam!" Alex snapped, already knowing how the new recruit might respond.
His gunshots rang out first and loud. For the first time, Josie had a good handle on which direction was down, but she was near-certain her eardrums had been blown. She had never heard anything like that, just the loud bang and then the subtle ringing in her ears. Momentarily she was afraid she had gone completely deaf; a thought quickly corrected by the noise of the criminal shooting back at the officers. Josie's hands shook violently and tears seemed to spontaneously be streaming down her face. She was terrified. Was this really how she would die? All because she was willing to stay too late at work? After having made the same trek home dozens upon dozens of times before? Josie screamed when Alex touched her again, confident that it was the grim reaper, not the kind officer.
"It's ok. I got you, I got you." Alex firmly assured, pulling Josie softly but firmly into the cover of the police car's open door. It made for a makeshift barricade and shielded them enough from both the shooter and the rapid-fire of his gun.
"He's shooting at us! We're going to die! We're going to die!" Josie hyperventilated, filled with terror.
"Hey, hey, hey, it's all going to be ok." The officer showed a soft-hearted kindness Josie hadn't expected to see in her after the more gruff displays of character she had seen prior.
"I-" Alex's hand was warm on Josie's arm, gently rubbing up and down her exposed flesh.
"It's going to be ok… Josie?" Alex checked the waitress's name tag.
"Y- yeah." Josie struggled to reply, even her jaw still trembling at the sound of the shooter and Alex's partner still firing back at each other. "M- my name's Josie." She swallowed down abject terror as best she could.
"Good. It's good to meet you Josie. I'm sorry for grabbing you earlier, and just now, but I was trying to get you out of this." Alex's apology seemed beyond sincere even if Josie was certain the officer thought her to be no more than a nuisance.
"I- i- i- it's o- o- ok!" Josie stammered, shaking more.
"Shh, You are safe now." Alex rose her hand that wasn't actively calming Josie to the interior of the police car door they were hiding behind. "Bulletproof." She knocked two knuckles against the door. It was a lie, and she knew it, but it would help Josie. "We're perfectly safe." Alex pulled her hand down and used it to gingerly wipe the tears off of the young waitress's face. "No danger, it's all going to be ok."
Josie was still quivering but Alex's words and calming touch had done a lot to help calm her. The waitress was no longer shaking and she was actually almost able to control her breathing. "T- thank you." She shuttered, still scared, but feeling Alex's confidence reassuring.
"Here." Alex looked over Josie. Pulling a jacket out of the cruiser, Alex spoke up again, drawing forth all of the calming softness she could. "This is my jacket. It's cold out here, put it on and it should help calm you down a little." The officer's hand slipped up Josie's arm to her shoulder and then to her cheek so she could wipe away the new tears that had formed. "It's going to be ok. Just keep your head down and slip into the cruiser. When everything is safe, I'll come back to get you out. Sound good?"
Josie clung to the jacket, pulling it closer to her body without moving it from where Alex had draped it over her. It wasn't the police issue nylon one might expect, it must have been the officer's personal jacket. The rich leather was worn just to the point of being soft without having cracked at all. It's understated scent of rich leather and a lingering earthy floral perfume that Josie imagined the officer had worn on a date sometime in recent weeks or months. Eventually, she realized Alex actually wanted a response from the way the officer started her through her in just the way that made Josie think she might melt. "Oh! Yeah, yeah. I! I can get into the car." Josie sat up just enough to slip into the space where one's feet might normally rest in the cruiser. Realizing by the blush on the officer's face and the way Alex looked away that she had accidentally flashed the officer her panties in an effort to slip inside the car without exposing herself to the shooter. Josie yelped, terribly embarrassed and still striving to calm herself from the ongoing firefight. She rushed to push her dress back down and cover what was left of her legs with the coat.
Alex's eyes darted back to the innocent and embarrassed young woman once more, just to shoot her an encouraging wink. It was just enough to make Josie forget herself being a clutz and almost flashing the kind officer, and when combined with the sound of gunfire increasing as soon as Alex stepped away from the protection of the car's door, Josie forgot about it entirely.
The shots ended quickly after Alex rejoined the fray. All Josie knew was that a man far away hollered out some series of curse words. Initially, she wasn't sure if it had come from Alex's partner or the perpetrator, but the trigger happy police man's cheers quickly assuaged those fears. Josie could hear Alex yelling at the man to give himself up, that she and her partner would take him in and ensure he got medical treatment for the non-fatal wound. Josie was immeasurably relieved the firefight was over, but wrapping it up seemed to take centuries. Even in her dazed state where nothing seemed to be more than a rough blur in the rotating blue and red haze of lights. Worn leather with a storied character was her only homing beacon, keeping her grounded in only the loosest interpretation of the word. White knuckles clutched to the leather for dear life as she overheard the two applying the best in the field first aid they could.
Josie was still shaking in the nook of the car she had made her shire when Alex returned. The officer sighed worriedly for only a moment before she reached out with a calming hand once more. "All over. We got him. You are free to go home Josie.
The waitress's eyes drifted up, still stunned and tear-filled as she gawked at the officer.
"I'm right here. No more danger. He's in cuffs and my partner called in backup and an ambulance."
Josie's kind eyes flickered with fear for even the criminal who had been shooting in her direction.
"He's perfectly fine. He won't be winning any races any time soon, but he will be just fine. Night in the hospital to get stitched up, then off to the clink." Alex outstretched her hands. One went to wipe away the new tears and the other was simply offered as a hand up.
"T- thank you." Josie's throat and jaw had trouble maneuvering around encumbered words.
"All part of the job Ma'am." Alex smiled politely when the waitress finally took her hand and hesitantly emerged from the cruiser. "But what had you out so late at night? This really isn't the best part of town."
"B- busses don't run this late. Had to- I! I just got off work." Josie stammered, finding her footing wobbly under her.
"Geez, they had you working this late?" Alex looked around, locating her partner and the back up they had called in when they realized the perp had a gun.
"Yeah." Josie's gaze drifted down to her shoes embarrassed for allowing herself to be put in this position.
"Welp, I-" Alex went to speak but was cut off spontaneously. Josie had wrapped her arms around the officer so suddenly.
"Thank you." Josie clung tighter to Alex than she had been to the jacket before. "I, I was really scared. And… thank you. You helped so much."
Alex actually blushed. It surprised her, but she did. "Course, Josie." Alex found herself patting Josie on the back, soothing the woman as best she could. "It's all going to be ok. You are safe now."
"Thank you." Josie found all the world's comfort in Alex's arms, with her head nestled right there against Alex's head and shoulders. Finally, with Alex's warmth against her in the cold night, Josie felt safe again.
"It's nothing. Nothing at all." Alex went to pull away but didn't when she felt Josie still clinging back to her.
"It's not nothing. I, I just really appreciate it. Sorry about the random hug. I, just was scared and… sorry." Josie pulled back finally. She looked down and away, the awkward of her actions seeping in. "Uugh, here's your jacket." She pushed it out, offering it up as she looked away.
"Thanks." Alex looked around, checking to see that the backup was taking over and seemed to be doing well about it. "Look uugh-"
"I'll get out of your hair! I'm sure you have plenty of paperwork and valiant policing to do. I can't be the only girl you need to save today." Josie meant to get going, to start walking home, but her feet were not moving.
"No, no you aren't." Alex sighed. "But that doesn't mean that I am done just yet. Now get back here. It's cold out here. Start wearing a jacket, ok?!" Alex's rushed words came out more like an order than she had intended, but the gesture of holding the jacket back out seemed to do enough to soothe Josie despite her gruffer tone.
"Take it, It's cold out here. You are shaking." Alex pointed towards Josie's trembling fingers and near chittering jaw.
"What! No, that's such a nice jacket. I'm not taking it!" Josie shook her head vehemently.
"I'm not offering for you to keep it." Alex pulled at Josie's hand slipping the jacket on for her. "I'll walk you home."
"What? D- don't you have a crime scene to work on?"
"Nah, back up just arrived. They can handle it." Alex waived off in their direction before turning back to her partner and yelling to him. "Aye! Adam! This one's still a little scared, so I'm gonna walk her home. K?"
"Yeah, we got it from here." Adam hollered back.
"See, I'm all good. So, get the rest of that jacket on, and I'll walk you through the rest of the way home." Alex smiled.
"I'm sure." Alex's confidence was beyond charming or just so simply attractive. Certain of herself in a way that made saying no not only unappealing but feel near impossible to the tired waitress who wished for nothing more than to have the strong officer walk her home. It would be such a delightful relief to no longer worry about each passerby and what they might try.
"That, that sounds like it would be really nice." Josie blushed into the officer's coat, it's comfort draped around only her one shoulder but still feeling perfect.
"Then it's decided. I'll walk you home." Alex moved in close again. Close enough to bring the proximity back to the forefront of Josie's mind. The officer pulled at the free arm of the jacket, opening it up and coaxing it on.
"I, I, thank you." Josie slipped on the second arm.
Alex was quick to zip the jacket up to just about even with Josie's breasts. Certainly, the reason behind stopping just there was because it would be enough to ensure the cute young woman would get the warmth she needed. Absolutely not because Alex liked the modest amount of cleavage the waitress uniform showed or the way the jacket helped to accentuate it at that height. No! It was most certainly for a more moral reason than that!
"This, it's really sweet of you." Josie blushed and looked down, surprised to see that Alex hadn't zipped it all the way up. But she wasn't disappointed. She actually smiled a little prideful of how it made her chest look at that height. Not that she felt like there was all that much to be prideful about after a double's worth of grime and the shambles she assumed her makeup must have been in after that and all her crying.
"Happy to help. Serve and protect n' all." Alex smiled and offered an arm politely.
Josie's eyes jumped in between the arm and the officer's face. It looked like Alex was offering to walk her home with their arms interlocked. It only took Josie another moment to realize it looked like that because the officer, in fact, was offering to walk her home arm in arm.
"You are so sweet." Josie strived to believe she hadn't taken on the complexion of a tomato, but such frivolous hopes were long gone in the face of the beautiful officer her arm seemed to be interlocking with on its own.
"There we go. Now, let's get you home all safe and sound."
End of Chapter 1
Huge thanks to BraveVesperia01! They have been so kind as to commission this fic. It means alot to me, writing is the thing I love most in the world and it is an amazing feeling to get to do it in a professional sense! The original character of Josie was created by them, and they gave me the idea for this story! So if you enjoyed, definitely thank them for reaching out to me on my tumbler and commissioning me to get this story made.